By Izak Oosthuizen, consultant at Exec Sys,
UK organisations now face a vast number of cloud options – private, public and hybrid, which is great if you know what to look for, but can spell disaster if you don’t. Here is my expert advice on questions to ask a cloud provider to make the best choice – and avoid the pitfalls:
1. Data location - Where is my data stored, do I have access to it when a system is down and what application will be affected? It’s also essential that your provider can prove it offers full UK data protection.
2. Backups – Will I have a local copy of all data and insight into where it’s stored? This knowledge will help avoid issues such as the Western Digital outage in April where users had no access to its personal cloud services for nearly a week.
3. Cloud anti-spam – Will I have full transparency, with alerts, on incoming and outgoing emails spam filters / blocked / quarantined email data? Having this visibility is a must, to ensure that no important mail data is missed or lost.
4. Speed – What is your expected internet speed, performance and latency expectations? A good provider will possess a fast and efficient internal network and plenty of capacity. Ensure that you understand how increased bandwidth usage will affect both the local ISP and cloud provider.
5. Surprising cost increases – Will I be charged extra if my requirements change - if so, what for? This is important as you need IT flexibility and will undoubtedly have to tweak storage space, data backup retention policies, use more bandwidth, change users and add additional applications.
6. Licensing agreement – Are you correctly licensed for all software I will use? You must establish your license rights and usage needs before using third-party software in the cloud, then effectively capture those in your contract with the cloud vendor.
7. Data centre credibility – Are your data centres certified to international standards including ISO 27001 for information security management, ISO 9001 for quality management and ISO 14001 for environmental management. This will ensure the cloud provider’s data centres are up to scratch and will provide a good insight into their operational qualities.
8. Cloud suitability - Which is the best cloud option for me – public, private or hybrid cloud? The key to a successful outcome is understanding what IT to place where. Most organisations currently want flexibility and access to additional services, combined with localised control and immediate usability. So, for the majority of organisations, the best solution tends to be a flexible, hybrid option of private on-premise cloud - bursting into the public cloud, for areas such as backup or disaster recovery, or as processing capacity increases.
9. Security - What encrypted, security technologies do you employ to enable user access? Even though most cloud providers’ security levels are far greater than most organisations’ in-house measures, you should still ensure they offer SLAs of at least 99.8%, or guarantees for security provision and audits. If in doubt, you may be wise to keep your proprietary data and critical business applications in-house, at this stage.
10. Continuity provision - What backup systems and disaster recovery plan do you employ? Your business can't afford downtime in an outrage, so ensure that the provider has the infrastructure in place that offers quick, guaranteed recovery. The cost of exiting the cloud should be identified - as well as having an exit strategy.