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Ask These 6 Important Questions of Your Cloud Providers

If you are considering workloads for the cloud or an entire cloud strategy or moving your entire datacenter into the cloud, I think you are already on the right path for success within your IT organization. The cloud, when properly leveraged, could be a huge cost cutter and a significant ally to deliver services in a timely manner to meet business expectations.

While the decision to offload certain workloads to the cloud is a good one, spotting and understanding the fine print of what each service provider offers can be the determining factor between a successful cloud project and a disappointing one. So what are the questions you should be asking your cloud service providers? Here are a few that are imperative:

1. Who can see my information, and how do you audit changes?
Data loss and leakage is a huge concern in internal IT, let alone the cloud. Typically, administrators have access to manipulate your data (copy, send, delete, etc.) and there might be a legitimate reason to empower these admins. So the question is, what are the processes and procedures that the cloud provider has implemented to monitor these elevated privileges and how are they being used?

2. What is your data protection strategy?
Knowing who can see your data is important, and it is even more important to know what the cloud provider is doing to protect the data. You are essentially trusting the cloud with your data and you should be well versed in how the cloud provider intends to protect it, back it up and restore when asked. Does the provider have full or incremental backups? If the latter, can they restore full images from these incrementals at any given time?

3. How do you handle multi-tenancy?
The cloud is all about economies of scale. It's all about shared infrastructures and that should be an acceptable notion going into this endeavor. So, what you should be asking is, how does the cloud provider enforce logical separation, how do they ensure security isolation? How do they ensure that your data is not mixed with other tenants' data? In some cases where you require your data to be completely isolated, you should be asking, what systems am I sharing, how much load do you put on these systems?

4. If I use your service, am I locked in?
Most of us don't like the idea of being locked in with one cloud provider, as that gives them too much leverage over us. It's also a barrier to agility and flexibility. A very valid question you should be asking your cloud provider is, how easy is it to migrate to another provider should the need come up?

5. What Service Level Agreements do you provide?
If you put your workloads in the cloud and these workloads do not perform up to or better than your expectations and requirements, the entire project can be rendered pointeless. As a result, it is crucial that you investigate the SLAs that the cloud provider offers, especially if your workload is a production one which can impact your company's primary income-generating process.

6. What is your financial status?
You are obligated to ask about the financial health of the provider you are trusting your data and workloads to. You need to know how they are funded, if they are profitable and who is behind the company. If individuals, you need to know who they are and what their history is. If they're venture capitaists, you want to investigate the companies and find out what other companies they have launched successfully.

These are just a sample of questions that you should be thinking about. How they address these questions will be a good indicator of your cloud provider's readiness. For example if you ask for their financials and they take two weeks to respond, you can easily detect that no serious customer has used its services before. It's the small things that will make a huge difference when you are investigating these providers.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 02/11/2013 at 12:49 PM


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