Five questions to ask when moving to the cloud
Article By: Rich Silva – Founder – Pain Point IT Solutions, Inc.
The trend in the IT industry is to move away from the traditional delivery model where a server in the data room provides services to client PC's in the office. Instead, servers are located in the cloud, which is just a trendy way of saying "on the internet" and those servers are owned or leased by software companies to run their services on for you, their clients. This became a realistic delivery model over the past few years as broadband (faster internet) speeds became readily available at a competitive cost for businesses.
The advantage of this delivery design is that you no longer need to maintain expensive hardware in your data closet, in general the burden of software and operating system maintenance on your server go away and the age-old responsibility of the customer to put countless CD's or DVD's into their server to do application updates has now been centralized with the responsibility of those now in the hands of the software developer.
The cloud has also allowed us to more easily share files on "cloud drives" so we can work more efficiently between locations.
All of this is very cool technology, and most of us reading this either have, are, or will be faced with a decision on whether to invest in new servers for your data center, or move to the cloud.
There is a lot of confusion about the cloud. How secure is it? Can people steal my information this way? Is my business at risk of non-compliance for the safekeeping of client information?
These are all legitimate questions. As you are approached by others and presented with a decision to make, here are a list of questions you should be be asking yourself and the person(s) making the suggestion to migrate to the cloud.
Q1: Is my data secure? How does your company protect my data and log in information?
Data stored on the cloud and applications that you access on the cloud (aka SaaS - Software as a Service) must be provided and transported over secure socket layer connections (SSL) to be encrypted and more difficult to read by interceptors. The company proposing you log in to their site to do business should also have a privacy statement that explains how your information is stored, used, and protected.
Q2: If I store my data on your systems, is it backed up and if so, what is the procedure and time frame that I can expect it to be available again if it is deleted or corrupt?
Typically speaking, unless you ask you won't know. Don't assume that this company you are relying on to store your data and provide your application will do as good a job as you did in making sure your data is backed up. In fact, most people that I have consulted and visited with are not doing a good job themselves. So be wary and ask them the question.
Q3: What compliance obligations (PCI, HIPAA, etc., etc.) do I have as a business that do not fit into the cloud based strategy?
If moving to the cloud will put you in violation of a obligatory requirement that you have by law to protect your clients data and personal information, you will not be happy when you are audited. So consider asking yourself and the people suggesting you go to the cloud this question.
Q4: What is our business continuity plan should we have an extended internet outage that prevents us from getting to the cloud or our data?
For the most part, the internet and broadband technology is pretty reliable (in most area's). As time goes on and more and more of your services, business processes, and data is pushed and stored in the cloud, it is absolutely critical that you have a plan of attack for the day that the internet becomes inaccessible for a period of time. Natural or man-made disasters happen. Have a plan. Should you get another internet service provider to your office for backup, or is the plan to meet at someone's house? It doesn't matter, just have a plan.
Q5: What can I expect a technical support call to your company to be like if I am having an issue getting my data in the cloud?
The days of running into the server room to "reboot the darn thing" and hope it comes back are now in the hands of the cloud service providers. You should take the time to understand and ask these companies questions about what you can expect your experience to be like. THEN TEST IT. Before going "all-in" on the cloud with a company, open a ticket with them. Do they provide a phone number, or do they only take e-mail or on-line support requests? Do they respond back quickly enough for your companies level of tolerance? What are their hours of operation? Remember, you can't just run in and reboot it anymore.
The Bottom Line
Migrating your data and software applications from the traditional data closet to the cloud has many cost and convenience benefits. If you have ever wondered whether the cloud is a match for your company or organization but have kicked the can instead of addressing it, keep in mind that some day soon you will be confronted with a decision to make. I hope that some of the questions that I have provided you above will help you to make an informed decision and provoke some thought about things you should consider when being overwhelmed by a sales person or techie trying to sell the cloud to you solely based on cost and convenience benefits.
If you wish to pick my brain, or talk one-on-one about the cloud, please click on the Take Action! button below and we'll set aside some time to talk.