Partnering with the Cloud

Partnering with the Cloud

The Cloud. Everyone knows what the Cloud is right? It’s cost effective. It’s reliable. It’s scalable. It’s secure. It’s global. It’s all of these things. It’s none of these things. Here’s what the Cloud is – it’s an extension of your business and as with all things, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

To effectively leverage the Cloud, you need to understand your business and more importantly your business requirements. While it’s critical to understand what your business does, understanding how it does it and what your responsibilities are as they relate to support, compliance, cost and the intersection of a myriad of other requirements is critical.

Managing Cloud Storage

  1. Location. As with all new things, the Cloud came with the promise of doing everything you do today only cheaper. Storage was the first major issue that the Cloud addressed. Following the law that says “nature abhors a vacuum,” storage always seems to get utilized. The trouble is no one can ever tell you why they need what’s in storage, just that they need it. In today’s world of compliance, litigation and discovery, not just storing all information, but knowing what you have and where it is becomes paramount. The only problem is that early Cloud storage providers kept costs down by not only aggregating storage across multiple clients, but by reducing operating costs around the environment by locating it in low cost labor geographies. Users did not know exactly where their data was, only that they could keep all of it and the cost was lower.
  2. Size & Cost. Then comes the challenge of changing providers because someone else is cheaper yet. Now you find you have terabytes or petabytes of data in the Cloud, but no means to quickly and easily move it. Your pipes aren’t big enough to mass move data that has trickled out over the span of several years.
  3. Compliance. Even worse, your inexpensive provider is closing their doors and you have little to no time to move your data. In addition, you find that your data is offshore. The government work your company or educational institution performs does not allow for that. PCI and PII require that you know where your data is and that it is secure in the event of a breach. Now you have company and customer information literally outside of your control.
  4. Business Requirements. Recently I was talking with a friend who runs the IT organization for a bio/pharma company. He confirmed anecdotal conversations I have had with other peers that when you wrap all of the controls, compliance, data migration, and ILM components around the Cloud, the cost becomes comparable to keeping it in house. That isn’t to say that there can’t be real beneficial uses of the Cloud in your business systems landscape, but it brings me back to my initial point – you need to understand your business requirements first, not just know how your business runs.

Today’s Industry Standards

We recently signed a multi-year deal with a private Cloud provider leveraging their SaaS solution for our global contact centers. We went through a diligent process of validating our business requirements against their service offering. In doing so, we entered into the agreement with our eyes wide open, knowing where our data was, how it was being handled and stored, who had access to it and finally how we could easily get to it.

The industry has matured significantly in the past several years since Cloud made its prime-time debut. Organizations are starting to do the diligence required that should be done with any supplier of critical services to an organization. Conversely, Cloud providers are realizing that cheap isn’t going to win your business. They need to have answers for all of these questions.

Ultimately – Be Prepared

Remember, cost isn’t always everything. You do get what you pay for and if you didn’t understand what you were getting into to save money, then the responsibility rests with you no matter how much you saved. Be prepared. Find vendors who understand your business. Validate that they are actually doing what they say they are. If compliance or data privacy are a concern (private or public company not withstanding) make sure you partner with someone who has a proven track record versus someone who says that they will go out and get those resources to meet your requirements. It ensures that they have a model that has been tested and shown to work versus a capability and a willingness to win your business.

You will be happy you did. And so will your customers.

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