8 Questions To Ask Before Going Live In The Cloud
Your boss has signed off on your cloud computing initiatives. Now what?
You've made the leap, fought the fight, took on the man--pick your catchphrase. You've won. The boss has signed off on your cloud computing initiatives. Now what?
Naturally, you'll be creating a full project plan, right? However, you'll need to tweak your standard practices to account for the unique characteristics (and flaws) of cloud computing. Let's run through eight questions you should have a good answer to before you pull the switch.
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ONE: Are you sure it's secure?
Security remains the No. 1 worry for those considering cloud computing, InformationWeek Analytics research finds. You should have vetted the security practices and policies of the particular vendors already, but now it's time to shake their cages. Turn your security team loose. They'll need to add your cloud platform to their regular security audits. At a minimum, this should include a general scan and penetration test, as well as your team's analysis of potential holes.
You'll be surprised what a fresh set of eyes can find. For example, a client switched to Zix services for delivery of confidential messages. Zix initially passed all the reviews and checks by the company's information security team. Once the company started using the system, the team noticed that the secure site where people were redirected to retrieve messages could be indexed by search engines.
The team demonstrated that it could generate a list of all Zix clients by Googling (can't bring myself to say "Binging" just yet) a specific search string. While it seems minor, it's small information leaks like this that professionals use when considering an attack. Zix quickly fixed the indexing error that previously had gone unnoticed.
TWO: What's your support plan?
Expanding your relationships beyond the sales team is a critical next step. We love tech salespeople like everyone else, but it's time to build up your own contact list and escalation points once you start using a cloud vendor on a regular basis.
This approach came in handy for a Midwest financial firm, which recently migrated its mail to a cloud provider and was suddenly facing a slew of rejected messages. The IT team naturally called the escalated support desk, but the problem wasn't resolved after two hours. The team kept hounding the help desk but also quickly worked through a list of additional contacts within the service provider. That side channel found the root cause: human error on the configuration compounded by a missed diagnosis of the problem during the initial call. Had the team not jumped the queue, it may have been a full day or more before the problem was resolved.
Make sure you also go outside the vendor's normal support channels. You may personally hate the world of social networking, but groups on LinkedIn and Facebook as well as within industry publications not only let you influence vendors with crowd-delivered feedback, they also give you groups with which to quickly validate problems or fixes.
Does community complaining work? When SalesNet was acquired by RightNow Technologies a few years ago, it laid out an 18-month road map to migrate companies to the RightNow platform. After a steady stream of requests and prodding by the user community, RightNow acquiesced and is actively pushing SalesNet as its own platform.
This type of influence underscores a major difference between cloud computing and conventional vendor relationships. Most companies have a software or hardware vendor's full attention only when they have a major purchase or renewal on the table. Cloud vendors live and die by their monthly cash flow. Make sure to remind them of that, and bring a high-tech mob if needed.