Last week, I wrote a blog post highlighting a checklist of things you should consider when selecting a cloud partner. This week I’d like to turn your attention to a related topic—the risk factors associated with working with a cloud partner. Knowing what these potential risks are is the first step in being able to effectively mitigate them.
A recent study by Penton Research, sponsored by Microsoft, of those professionals using the cloud today or considering using the cloud, uncovered the factors cited here as risks when working with a cloud partner.
The seven potential risk factors you face when working with a cloud partner are shown in the figure and include:
- Downtime and outages. Like death and taxes, cloud outages are an inevitability. You can’t prevent them, but you can limit your risk by ensuring you use a cloud provider with excellent reliability. Also, ensure the vendor offers ample support should an outage occur. And, you’d be wise to find out what compensation, if any, you would receive for the downtime incurred as part of the vendor’s service level agreement (SLA).
- Regulations and/or compliance. There are a wide range of cloud computing regulations and requirements that both you as the cloud customer, and the cloud provider, have to address. But who bares the bulk of the responsibility and how do you, as the customer, ensure your data is in compliance when it’s with the provider? It is a stress-inducing, but necessary, task. Protect yourself first and foremost through education. Make sure you know what questions to ask your provider and clarify with them exactly what their role is in compliance. Also, draw up a good SLA, as it can go a long way in protecting you, should issues arise. Lastly, realize that breaking a compliance regulation can cost you greatly so your best option may just be to keep certain data on premises.
- Fluctuating cost. Cloud and data transmit prices constantly fluctuate, but so too may your needs. Unused storage space can end up costing you in the long run. To avoid this, make sure you are aggressively monitoring and on the lookout for cloud services that are going unused by you or your business and get rid of them as needed. Also, consider using applications that can be scaled up and down, and be sure you are monitoring those applications for resource provisioning.
- Lack of application support. The chances are that the applications you are using when you first move to the cloud will not be the same as a few years down the road. Unfortunately, if your cloud provider doesn’t support a wide range of diverse applications, you may be out of luck. Limit this risk by verifying the cloud vendor supports diverse applications before committing to a specific cloud provider.
- Infrastructure management. Managing the cloud solution can be a challenging task, especially if you don’t have the in-house resources trained to do so. A cloud solution that is not well managed will not works its best for you. You can minimize this risk by utilizing cloud management tool or using your vendor’s managed cloud services. However, before you commit to a cloud provider you should fully understand how those services work and what they will cost you.
- Inability to scale. A key benefit of going to the cloud, especially a hybrid cloud, is scalability. To avoid getting saddled with a solution that doesn’t easily scale to your needs, find one that offers proof of flexibility and ensure that it can be demonstrated prior to committing.
- Identity management. A key security issue for any cloud solution is identity management—the process of controlling access to resources within a system by associating users’ rights and restricting access to an established identity. To minimize the security risk, ensure that your cloud vendor has a good identity management strategy and that you are also deploying the right strategies and using the right services. Some good resources of how to handle this are available in this article and this webinar. A list of the best identity management services for 2015 is available here.
Hopefully this information will better arm you with the information you need to not only select the right cloud provider, but also to get more out of the cloud solution it provides once implemented. If you’ve faced any of these risks and have some best practices you’d like to share, drop me a line at [email protected]. In the meantime, don’t forget to check back here each week for more information on the hybrid cloud and other important IT-related topics.
This blog is sponsored by Microsoft.
Cheryl J. Ajluni is a freelance writer and editor based in California. She is the former Editor-in-Chief of Wireless Systems Design and served as the EDA/Advanced Technology editor for Electronic Design for over 10 years. She is also a published book author and patented engineer. Her work regularly appears in print and online publications. Contact her at [email protected] with your comments or story ideas.