According to a Gartner report, the worldwide public cloud markets will top $131 billion by the end of 2013, an 18.5% increase from 2012. However, before your organization can join this cloud revolution, there are many considerations to discuss with your team. In today’s post we highlight five of the key points your business needs to consider before moving to the cloud.

1. Data Security

Research from OnlineTech states that 74% of cloud consumers believe their cloud provider is responsible for protecting their data. However, in the same report 63% of respondents admitted to not knowing what their providers were doing to protect their data. These conflicting stats illustrate that many of the organizations moving to the cloud do not have a clear grasp of the security considerations that come with a cloud migration.

By moving your data to the cloud you won’t necessarily be opening it up to new security threats. However, as more people have access to your data, the risks of data loss or tampering increase.  Be sure to consider how your data will be stored regardless of the system you are considering. Is the data encrypted? Make sure that only your team will have ready access to your data prior to making the move.

Takeaway: Ask your potential cloud provider how your data will be stored, is it encrypted and what is the process for retrieving data should there be a data loss?

2. Cost

One of the main benefits of moving to the cloud is the potential of reduced IT costs. While it’s true that costs can be lowered, don’t go into your migration assuming that will be the case. You have to take into account the costs of switching to a new system - something to plan for ahead of time. Speak to different vendors and ask them about their pricing, specifically:

  • Are there any hidden costs my organization should know about?
  • Will the architecture of the cloud cause me any additional costs in the future?
  • Often there can be a data migration cost to. Is this is included in the stated price quote?
  • Support time: Does 24/7 support come with the package or is that an added cost you need to plan for?

Takeaway: Dig into the potential for hidden costs associated with a move to the cloud and ensure all details are listed in your contract or SLA.

3. Uptime & Service Level Agreement (SLA)

A Service Level Agreement is part of your contract and formally details the services you are signing up for. You can think of it as the fine print on any contract. And like a contract, you should be sure to consider every detail of the SLA for each cloud provider.  Review the SLA with your team. Here are the basic areas that should be clearly stated:

  • Responsibilities of the provider and the consumer in the agreement.
  • A set of services with details about such things as guaranteed up time.
  • Metrics so you can identify if the cloud service provider is providing service that matches the agreed to SLA.

One key area to focus in on is the stated uptime of the provider. This is the stated amount of time that your data will be available to you. If your business plans to move mission critical data and systems to the cloud where you could not operate with a 5 minute outage, an SLA of 99.99% might sound perfect. However, 99.99% measured monthly has a very different effect than if it was 99.99% uptime measured over a 12 month period.

Takeaway: If your cloud provider’s SLA does not meet your requirements, you need to ask them to make edits or find a provider who is in line with the requirements of your business and your industry.

4. Which Apps & How to Decide?

Deciding which apps to move or not move to the cloud comes down to careful planning with your team, well before you speak to a salesperson. We suggest auditing all potential apps that you could move to the cloud. Are there any that have significant interaction with third party apps or services? These are good apps to consider moving because they may already be interacting with other services hosted within the cloud, making the transition smoother. Additionally, if you have an app that is not a clear differentiator between you and your competitor, you could consider moving it. Since it’s not critical to the business, any downtime would not be catastrophic.

Takeaway: Deciding on which data or apps to move to the cloud depends on your business needs. Consider moving apps that do not have a mission critical effect on your business, should they go down in the early days of the migration.

5. Compliance

Chances are you are already well aware of the compliance standards that govern your industry. Part of your due diligence when considering the cloud will be to research the compliance guidelines that need to be met on your company’s behalf. Some of the most common compliance requirements we see include: HIPAA, GAAP, SOX and PPI.

Takeaway: Know the compliance requirements of your industry and ask any potential cloud provider to confirm their services meet those requirements.

What other considerations should organizations consider before moving their data to the cloud? We would love to hear about the points you and your team have taken into consideration in the comments section below.