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Business of Cloud: Understanding the SLAs and the T&Cs and having a Plan B

 

 By John Garing

 

On February 19, I had the privilege of attending the Business of Cloud Custom Event co-sponsored by ViON.  Trust me, I have attended – and sponsored – more these types of events than my share, and have come away wondering if they were a good use of time.  But this one was different – for several reasons.

First, there was an open, collegial, and even casual mood in the rooms, not the stilted formality that typifies most of these events.

Second, the topic was finely targeted at the business of cloud, not cloud solutions and technologies.  The reason?  Cloud is basically a business strategy for acquiring IT.

Third, the speakers and panelists were good – good at the topic and good with the audience.

Here are some takeaways.

  • Indeed, cloud is a business strategy and model for acquiring IT; it’s not about the technology itself.  It is about getting an IT service that is on demand, elastic, self-service, and measurable. Since it’s a service, operating dollars are used, not capital funds.
  • Cloud means parking your data in someone else’s facility and hands.  One should be concerned that your data is always there, it is configured as you want it, and you can get it back in usable form - aka trust.  A serious trust relationship between the customer and provider has to exist for cloud to be effective.  In my opinion, trust is the most important ingredient in the relationship between a cloud provider and the customer.
  • The contracting world finds cloud to be different – because it is.  It doesn’t fit nicely into the contracting rules or into the procurement lexicon.  Therefore, it is hard to explain how to implement even if it sounds wonderful and fits the bill.
  • Convincing an agency or commercial entity to adopt cloud means engaging on two levels: the CIO and his/her supporting crew, and the contracting and financial leadership.  Why?  Because it is or should be the CIO’s responsibility, and the financial leadership because it is indeed a business strategy for acquiring IT.
  • Service levels for the cloud service have to be targeted to what is important to the success of the service, and they have to be few in number.  Be cautious of restrictive language. 
  • Watch the terms and conditions. Ideally there should be no minimums or maximums in the cloud service, you should be able to exit without penalty, and there should be no termination costs.

Participating in this session opened my eyes and reinforced some beliefs I learned as an honor graduate of the school of hard knocks.

  • Agencies and companies should adopt a cloud model for operational reasons, and not only – or mainly – to save money.  Saving money is a benefit.  But use of cloud should also make operational improvements, for example, better collaboration, more efficient data sharing, better security, etc.  To make a financial only argument may not persuade leadership to adopt, and quite honestly, may not be the best argument for cloud adoption.
  • Control of data is a fear because now there is another party storing my data.  Questions like, can I get my data back as I want it, and am I confident that it is always protected, do I know where it is, and others are important.  The cloud service agreement has to address these challenges.
  • Have a Plan B, or an exit plan.  What do I do when the contract ends?  What happens if management decides to bring the data back in house? Or, if there is some contracting or security issue that demands leaving the cloud?  Am I stuck?  What happens to my data then?   Bottom line: there must be an exit strategy.  And, it has to an essential component in the planning for adopting a cloud service.

In the end, with the demands seen today, moving into a cloud is inevitable.  There is an insatiable appetite for data in agencies and companies which demands the power of the cloud; new tools – and threats – emerge virtually every day; and the velocity of change makes it nearly impossible to keep up.  CIOs don’t have the time and resources to meet these challenges in house and still continue to add business advantage to their agency or company.  So, we owe it to our bosses to be astute buyers: being able to get into and out of the cloud smartly.

 

If you would like to learn more about what was discussed at the Business of Cloud event, please check out our Business of Cloud eBook.

 


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