Introduction: 10 Issues to Consider When Switching to Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is very different from conventional forms of outsourcing. Conventional outsourcing involves either storing your server in someone else's data centre or having a service provider who manages your devices for you. Both methods mean that you know precisely where your data is, where your servers are stored, and what resources you have access to.

With cloud computing this is not the case. Your data is kept in virtual 'cloud' maintained by a range of virtual servers. This new practice comes with a several privacy and security issues. Compliance, auditing, and other complex legal issues have had to be re-evaluated. It will also affect your risk management practices.

There are many benefits to cloud computing. It is greener, more efficient, faster, and less expensive than its alternatives.

It will free you from worries about up keeping and updating your IT infrastructure and allow you to concentrate on the far more important task of running your business. To help you fully understand the process, the following is a checklist of concerns and issues that you should consider when evaluating a cloud service:

Step 1: Are Your Applications Ready?

The more up to date an application is, the more it can benefit from cloud computing. Some older applications may not be ideally suited to the technology. It is a good idea to carry out an assessment of your key applications to determine whether they are ready to run on the cloud. Ask questions like; is the application already web-based? Will cloud-based architecture benefit it? Will the present application scale up in the cloud? Do this in relation to potential suppliers so that you can gauge each supplier's suitability, i.e.  linux virtual private server or public cloud.

Step 2: Technical Support

Cloud-based services are renowned for being easy to use. Nevertheless, when working with such a new concept you are likely to need technical support at some point. All of your vital business data will be entrusted to the service, so having a solid technical support base is incredibly important. When considering a provider, ensure that the level of technical support you will receive is adequate for your needs.

Step 3: Data Access and Ownership

All data that you put into the cloud service is your intellectual property and this should be clearly stated in your contract. However, the operating systems, applications, and hardware are owned by your provider, and you simply have access to them. It is vital to ensure that if access to their services (applications etc.) are taken away, that you still have a way to retrieve your data. This basically means that your contract should allow you to access or export data even after you subscription has ended.

Step 4: Changes in Data Volumes

One of the key benefits of the cloud is its flexible nature. You can get additional resources like power or storage as soon as you need them. However, the time it takes to move data grows with the storage size. Migrating 1TB for example takes a lot longer than does 1GB. You may have to factor in downtime while the data is moved. If you think that your data storage needs may change, look carefully at any agreements for clauses about data volume charges.

Step 5: Security Legislation

Different countries have different legislation in regards to data security. This can be a problem particularly in Europe, as many cloud services involve chains of sub-processors. In some European countries controllers need to enter into direct contracts with processors and independently authorize any subcontracts. Other countries (including Italy and Spain) have security requirements in their legislation. Any customer from these countries who wants to put their data into the cloud will have to confirm that the service provider's security arrangements meet their country's laws.

Step 6: Compliance

When considering using a cloud service, you should compare the controls put in place by the cloud service provider with any other relevant regulations on your organization. If the applications you are using have regulations, then you will need a high level of transparency from the service provider in order to run them. To understand whether a provider is suitable you will need to review all of their service-level agreements and contracts, and look at how they comply with your own compliance requirements.

Step 7: Cost Effectiveness

The cost of cloud application migration varies greatly depending on the target cloud platform. If this isn't taken into account it can skew estimated savings. It is a good idea to carefully analyze the cost of moving each application compared to the return-on-investment you will get for moving it. Take operational expenditure, capital expenditure, and the overhead cost of migration into account.

Step 8: Strategy

Coming up with a strategy for moving you application onto a cloud platform is a must. It should detail how you will look at various cloud options available, work out your priorities, and balance those priorities with the cost. The main choice is between public or private cloud infrastructures. You will need to weigh up possible benefits to your marketing strategy and business model against feasibility, security, and cost.

Step 9: Dealing With Downtime

Since cloud computing services are run by multiple data centers they are able to guarantee nearly 100 % uptime. Any service that offers less than 99.9 % should be avoided. The agreements you make with a cloud computing vendor should specify how much uptime they can guarantee you. Find out what strategies they have put in place for dealing with downtime if it occurs.

Step 10: Data Migration

Your cloud computing service should explain to you very clearly how data migration will take place. Migration is the most important aspect of the service because it has a massive impact on the efficiency and security of each application.


thegeeke made it! (author)2012-04-20

Very well written, but I would take the link in step 1 out. I have been saying this ever since cloud computing started becoming popular. Aside from the link in step 1 (I wouldn't use it because it is too biased and some people could view it as spam) I think this ible should have been featured... I'm sad it wasn't. Keep up the good work.

Computothought made it! (author)2012-04-20

After what happened at Megaupload, I would be hesitant to use a cloud server.