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Clarifying the Cloud : A Few Things You Need To Know

If the hype surrounding the Cloud is timely, surely the question you should be asking yourself is not if you will be moving some or your entire IT infrastructure into the Cloud, but what, when and to where?

There are a number of key issues when considering a move to the Cloud: Which services are ‘core’ and which are ‘chore?’ Which will be off-loaded to a Cloud partner and which will remain in-house? What has front-line responsibility in the event of a problem? Who is the next contact in line if that person isn’t available?

The first step is defining concrete IT service requirements and definitions. Service level agreements cannot, and should not, be standardised. Performance that is acceptable for one service will not be for another. In each case, everyone must understand the performance target. There is no room for grey areas.

In an increasingly disparate IT infrastructure, a clear demarcation of services, roles and responsibilities is vital for effective relationships with Cloud service providers. Subjective opinion, conjecture and guesswork are likely to lead to misunderstandings, mistakes and missed opportunities.

This is why watertight service contracts are so critical - ones that detail deliverables and potential penalties - so there are no questions or misunderstandings in the event of service disruption. It is also essential to detail what constitutes acceptable up-time; and if an outage is reported, it must be clear how quickly it is to be resolved.

The next step is to stipulate ‘on-demand service status’ updates. It is critical that the customer has visibility into the performance of its Cloud services at all times. The sooner a business is alerted to an issue which may affect end-users, the faster it can act to mitigate the impact.

Many Cloud service providers offer customers access to real-time data via online portals. This details the performance and status of the managed infrastructure and services, giving customers the confidence that business needs and SLAs are being met – or otherwise!

The question that is often asked is: how should an organisation manage its Cloud services?

Having Cloud service providers on board does not mean that a business no longer needs to have to monitor the performance and availability of critical services. On the contrary, it actually becomes more important than ever to identify problems and hold service providers accountable.

Ideally, the monitoring solution will unify the entire operational IT infrastructure, bringing both internally and externally provisioned services under the umbrella of a single IT monitoring and management process. This unified approach is not only the most effective; it is the most cost-effective way to ensure that all IT services are performing and available.

Where Cloud computing comes into its own is focus, visibility and control of IT systems, however complex.