30 Jan 2012

Five common cloud mistakes and how to avoid the hype

Something we can probably look forward to in 2012 is less hype around the cloud. That’s because the cloud has now become one of the mainstays of business computing, more an expectation than a novelty. If businesses aren’t already using it, then chances are it will be an integral part of their next technology upgrade in the coming year. With that in mind, here are some of the pitfalls I think businesses should watch out for when managing or making the move to the cloud.

1. Seeing the cloud as a commodity

The hype around the cloud has seen a lot of providers (especially the big telcos) offering cloud “services” that don’t include service. It’s not impossible that your needs will be well met by such products, but keep in mind the fact that just because you’re using cloud technology doesn’t mean that your need for management, service and support will cease. You’re still going to need IT help, especially when it comes to integration, and if your cloud provider doesn’t offer this, you’ll likely eventually have to turn to someone else.

2. Underestimating your bandwidth requirements

While the cloud offers flexible and scalable computing, it also requires a good deal of bandwidth. In the vast majority of cases, this won’t be a problem, but, so as not to interrupt your business, it is something to plan for well ahead of time. Web-based applications are usually efficient by design, but if you’re going to use more data intensive client/server systems, it’s important to consider whether you’ll need thin client systems, WAN accelerators or terminal services to beat your bandwidth constraints.

3. Failing to account for your compliance needs

Generally, the higher your security and compliance requirements, the more expensive your cloud solution will be. Make sure that you’re factoring in relevant PCI, ISO or other industry-specific standards from the outset. Your cloud solution should be based on a complete understanding of compliance needs, especially around agreements already held with customers.

4. Choosing the wrong provider

Not all providers of cloud services are equal and it’s vital that you evaluate your provider’s service and security regimes. You need to be satisfied that you and your business will be working with people you can trust. Consider the provider’s market experience and reputation, as well as their partnerships with vendors, and talk to some of their existing customers. Pay special attention to the provider’s service level agreement (SLA) and remember that you can negotiate if you’re not happy with its terms.

5. Choosing the wrong provider

Yes, I’m going to make this point twice because it really is vital to find the right match in a cloud provider. You’re going to be trusting them with the management of the systems and applications that your business needs to operate, after all. You must be sure that your business is going to matter to the provider in question. If you’re an SME, it may not be in your best interests to be a small customer of a big provider, for example. Likewise, if you’re a little larger, don’t get caught with a provider who won’t be able to meet your growing needs. If you’re considering the cloud in 2012, here are a few questions you might ask a prospective cloud provider:
  • How is physical access to systems controlled and do you vet staff?
  • What firewalls and secure appliances are in place?
  • How will I securely connect to the cloud, and what encryption and authentication systems will be in place?
  • How will my data be kept separate on shared resources?
  • What redundancies and backup systems are in place?
  • What should I be doing on my own network?
  • What SLAs are in place and do penalties exist?
Dave Stevens is MD, Brennan IT (This blog post was first published on the SmartCompany website on January 26 2011).