9 questions everyone should ask before putting any data in the cloud

Cloud computing has been an industry buzzword for some time now, but has continued to evolve at quite a pace. Despite this, one of the predominant themes of discussion that remains is how to take advantage / avoid the risks of ‘the cloud’.

The hype surrounding software as a service (SaaS) combined with cloud computing has become almost deafening in recent times. Although it’s great for exposure and recognition, hype can also be a detriment to successful adoption of a solution or a technology. Prospective users can often find this is paired with unrealistic expectations, misunderstandings, and even disillusionment.

No doubt, on paper (or should that be virtual desktop, these days?), the proposition on offer from service providers and the Hyperscale companies, mainly public cloud providers, is tempting. Benefits include limitless compute power, cheaper to run, simple pricing, pay as you use, global access, end-user transparency amongst many more. It does indeed sound like a fabulous club to join.

However, there seems to be quite a few catches that need careful thought before heading lock, stock and two smoking barrels towards the cloud. And most of them have to do with your data. I recommend using the following checklist of nine major topics:

  1. Who in your business ‘owns’ overall data governance and what do they think? IT, Privacy Officer, Security Director, others?
  2. What happens if the NSA or GCHQ want to access your data? Is that a concern?
  3. What happens if you want to change suppliers – either in an emergency, think what happened with Nirvanix or 2E2, or simply because a newer service might be better for your needs – e.g. the recently announced Google Compute Engine or VMware Hybrid Cloud Service?
  4. What data structure(s) will you use? Open standards or otherwise?
  5. What level of performance guarantee and Quality of Service do you have? Like broadband, is your service level dependent on how others choose to use the same Cloud?
  6. Have you considered any network distances involving the speed of light and latency?
  7. Are you going to be breaking any laws - Data Privacy, Data location, etc. – by moving your data to the cloud?
  8. How will you audit your data in the Cloud, or across multiple Clouds, if you need to? If you have one, what does your regulator think?
  9. And, even if the cost for storing it is next to nothing, what does it cost to retrieve your data when you need it? How long will it take?

Laurence James is product alliances and solutions marketing manager at NetApp