5 Questions For Your Cloud “Pre-nup”

Shadow IT is coming out of the shadows as more businesses are choosing cloud-based applications. It is now a multi-cloud world for most organizations. Simultaneously, most businesses have yet to consolidate with one cloud provider or define an official cloud strategy. According to RightScale, private cloud adoption has gone from 64% to 77% while hybrid adoption has gone from 58% to 71%.  Security is no longer a top challenge for the cloud – finding and building cloud expertise is. Without standardized certifications, choosing the right cloud provider can feel like a frustrating game of Russian roulette.
 With all this growth and shift, it's becoming increasingly important to read the fine print before selecting a cloud company as your trusted advisor.  (Additional details: [u]http://www.rightscale.com/blog/cloud-industry-insights/cloud-computing-trends-2016-state-cloud-survey[/u]) What happens if your cloud vendor doesn't deliver as expected? What if there is a security breach? Who owns the risk? Consider any solid service-level-agreement (SLA) as not only a warranty from the vendor, but also a pre-nuptial agreement that both parties agree too.
After migrating several hundred customers to a new cloud platform, my personal experience is that there are two reasons that organizations typically leave a cloud provider a) missed expectations or b) lack of follow-through. In other words, either two well-meaning parties didn't properly set expectations of who-does-what, or the cloud provider, along with its platform failed in some way.
To ensure your organization isn’t caught unaware, here are five important considerations to ensure exist in your "pre-nup" agreement with your cloud service provider:
1. Financial:  consider the financial backing of a warranty
There are really two parts to this and both are equally important:  
Part 1: In the event of a disagreement, breach of warranty, or separation, will the cloud platform financially back the agreement? You might be surprised how many warranties, or "SLA's" provide minimum commitments, that don't have any financial backing or "out" for you, if the warranty falls below that minimum.  
Part 2: How stable and established is the company making the warranty?  Are they small enough to where they can just close if they miss delivery? Too large or publicly traded to where you would have limited ability to put pressure on them? If you're planning to pay a vendor, make sure they plan to pay you back if they miss commitments.
2. Separate Clauses: Remember to un-stack the SLA 
This one is all-too easy to miss as many cloud-vendors will "stack" their SLA, meaning that they will commit to something such as 99.9% up-time, but then insist that that "up-time" is split across 3-5 different services. Instead of guaranteeing "23 hours a day of up-time", they secretly mean "23 hours for storage," "23 hours for network," and "23 hours for computer."  When they "stack" it, that translates to essentially a guarantee of "21 hours a day of uptime" instead of the "23 hours" that you thought. Ultimately, if your users can’t access their key applications, it makes no difference to them and their experience which service is down.
3. Assets: who owns the data?
Step 1 of moving to the cloud is migrating all your data. What happens when you decide to exit this partnership? Will the data still be owned by you, or them? Can you get it back in the same format that you sent it? In a usable format? Many years ago, I subscribed to a cloud-software-service for about a year. After the year, I canceled, and instead of sending me the data I had been using in a database, they emailed me 150 spreadsheets. The data was so unusable that we might as well not even got it at all.  Don't make the same mistake I did.
4. Credit & debt: financial solvency & contingency
Just because a cloud vendor is successful today, doesn't ensure they will be in the years to come.  For this pre-nup question, ensure that if there is any solvency or service issues, that it is clearly stipulated how you'll be able to transition.  As a risk prevention, consider having a regular, usable, backup taken monthly or quarterly for a back-up plan.
5. Consider the family: playing nice with others 
"The cloud" had a sometimes-correct but sometime-misconstrued aura that it is scalable, flexible and easy to integrate. The number one issue surpassing security concerns is lack of expertise in this multi-cloud world. Asking how your cloud solutions will integrate and about the expertise supporting these integrations will save you many head-aches later on. Can your platform deliver a solid site-to-site VPN solution? Can it integrate with other vendors or public clouds? And how proven are they in delivering hybrid cloud solutions?
Ask some great questions now, and you'll be much more likely to reduce your risk and satisfy the growth needs of your organization with reliable cloud services. The right cloud services provider can help take your business to new levels.

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