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The Small Print

By Phil Factor,

Steve is currently away on vacation. Today's guest editorial is by Phil Factor.

Cloud technologies can be adopted to advantage, but there’s more to it than signing a cheque and moving gracefully, tranquilly into the Cloud like some Greek god. You are entering a commercial relationship with a Cloud provider that may lock your company into long-term commitments. Those commitments could prove to be expensive if you don’t do the right checks.

I remember once chatting to a salesman for a large computer company who confided in me that most of the profit was in the ‘extras’. He had based his career on the trick of pitching a ‘bottom-line’ figure that belied the trail of extra requirements that only became apparent near launch.

Cloud services seem cheaper than in-house provision, but you have to check for ‘extra’ costs that emerge when the terms of service turn out not to meet your requirements. The service providers present you with a bewildering menu of  subscription plans, SLOs, and SLAs to meet different needs, but the menu is in Greek or perhaps Double Dutch.

How do the fees scale? The fee that you’re being quoted for a Cloud service may be based on particular volume of use or level of service. What happens if the volume of data or the level of access increases? Is the extra charge linear? Is there a volume discount, or a punitive increase?

Once you have that sorted, what service level should you select. Do regulations compel you to ensure that certain types of data are held in a particular legislative region? Does it cost extra?

You’ve got to be able to deploy your applications easily. Does the service provider offer the proper management tools? Is it easy to move data, applications, and VMs into the Cloud? Is it easy to get your data out? Is it all part of the basic service?  Can your data be retrieved should the service cease to exist?

Are your security requirements met? Does the service provider also give you the reports that are required for compliance and auditing?

Your disaster-recovery strategy may specify that your Cloud provider will automatically move your data away from any areas of risk, such as civil unrest, storm, or pandemic. Can they do this? Do they charge extra for this service?

You may find that, as your needs change, you require faster network access or data storage. You might need improved data resiliency. It is best to know beforehand what your prospective provider will charge for all of this.

I’m as open as anyone to the idea of Cloud services, but just don’t forget to read the small print.

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