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Six Keys to Setting Proper Expectations of Your Cloud Provider

By Special Guest
Matt Kingswood

For most U.K. businesses, the matter of adopting a cloud solution is not a question of if but rather which one. Research by the Cloud Industry Forum predicts that by the end of 2015, 90 per cent of U.K. enterprises will be using two or more cloud services. To prepare your organisation for a successful transition to a cloud environment, it’s important that you know what to expect and make sure potential cloud providers can meet your goals. By following the steps below, you can minimise the likelihood of unwelcome surprises and transition smoothly to the cloud.

1. Review your BC/DR plan and prepare your environment.

Before moving forward with a cloud solution, look at your business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plan, specifically the business impact analysis, to see if it’s up to date. Evaluate whether your business functions are lined up appropriately with systems and applications interdependencies. Also make sure you’ve assigned the appropriate recovery time objectives (RTOs) from business, client and compliance perspectives.

2. Make sure vendors can meet data security, availability and portability requirements.

When evaluating cloud vendors, make sure they’re able to meet your requirements for data backup and recovery. If a vendor has completed a third-party audit, that’s a good indication that the service adheres to data handling best practices. The Service Organization Controls (SOC) 2 attestation, for example, focuses on a business’s nonfinancial reporting controls, availability of service, process integrity, confidentiality and privacy. 

You should also know up-front how a vendor handles data migrations. When moving from one platform to another (e.g., physical to virtual), data needs to be both portable and recoverable in the new infrastructure.

3. Find out what the cloud provider is responsible for and what you’re responsible for. 

Vendors typically have standard service level agreements (SLAs) outlining what they’re responsible for in terms of uptime, redundancy, recoverability, etc. Review the SLA carefully to find out what the vendor handles and what you’re responsible for.

If you have an RTO tied to an application, validate the process and document the results to make sure the SLA will work with your business’s requirements.

4. Know how the cloud environment is maintained. 

Typically the cloud infrastructure is all handled by the vendor. In a traditional cloud model, the cloud vendor owns and operates the hypervisor down through the hardware stack on behalf of your company, while you control systems from the OS up. If you're using a replication technology, updates in production will replicate to the cloud. When recovering data, the systems will restore to the latest backup point.

5. Consider how software licenses are handled.

Be familiar with the provisions of your software application licenses. Some software applications allow you to run a secondary copy at time of event free of charge as part of the license. Others may require a separate license, sometimes at a reduced cost in the event of a disaster. Licensing considerations will also depend on the cloud vendor. Some include licensing as part of the service, but not all do.

6. Keep an open mind.

Look closely at the solutions the vendor provides. If you’re open-minded, you might be able to take advantage of cloud capabilities you didn’t know existed, opening up new opportunities for your business.

Conclusion

Whether you’re implementing a cloud service for the first time or moving more of your workload into the cloud, having the proper expectations is key. By using the steps above to perform your due diligence and select a vendor that meets your needs, you can help ensure a positive cloud migration experience.

Matt Kingswood is the Head of Managed Services of Midlands and London-based ITS, a provider of Managed IT services across the UK. ITS is part of the US Reynolds and Reynolds company which has a strong heritage in data backup and recovery services. In his position, Matt is responsible for developing Managed IT services within the UK and is currently focused on the next generation of cloud and recovery products. Matt has more than 20 years of experience in the information technology industry, and was formerly CEO of The IT Solution – a full service IT Supplier acquired by ITS. Since joining ITS, he has led efforts to introduce a range of managed services based on the new ITS cloud platform. Previously Matt had a career in technology for several top tier investment banks before founding and selling several companies in the IT services industry.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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