Sounds pretty cliché, but is nonetheless an important question given today’s preoccupation with “The Cloud.”
Very simply put, “The Cloud” is just a term that means your data and programs are running on a server somewhere other than your office — and you may or may not know where it is. It also means that you are connected to your data and/or programs via the Internet.
That server could be next door, in your own office, across the country, in another country — or perhaps even scattered among all these locations.
So now the question becomes, “To Cloud or Not to Cloud?” Before you make a decision to go to “The Cloud,” you need to consider some questions and get the straight answers from your “Cloud” provider before you continue.
Questions to ask:
- Is my data safe? Am I increasing my data security?
Ask your provider what type of security is being provided. What would happen in case of a successful hacking attempt, such as what happened to Target and Home Depot?
- Who has access to my data?
Does your partner, bank, wife, etc., have access to your data? Is that OK with you?
- How often is my data backed up?
If your data is not being backed up often enough, the cloud server could crash and your data will be gone.
- How redundant are your servers?
Redundancy means that your data is replicated in another location or onto other drives. Your provider may reply with answers such as: RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 60, or “geographically redundant.” Make sure you understand what they are saying before you sign up for the service.
- Who does my data belong to?
This may sound like an odd question to ask, but in some cases, the contract may include a small clause that turns over the ownership of your data to the provider. Make sure to thoroughly read any contract you sign with your provider.
- What happens if I terminate my agreement?
This leads to a number of other questions such as: How long until I get my data back? How will I get my data back? What happens to my data when I terminate my agreement? Again, be careful to ask this question before you sign on the bottom line.
- Who is liable in case of a data loss or a successful hacking attempt?
Cloud providers usually have insurance for this type of incident, but make sure that you are included in the insurance rider.
- How much is my data worth?
It might not be worth much to anyone else, but it can certainly be worth a considerable amount to you. Make sure you have a number in your mind before the provider tells you that they have $1M worth of insurance. You data could be worth more – much more.
- Where will my data be residing?
Make sure you ask this question because different states and countries have different laws that affect your data’s privacy and ownership. European laws, for instance, are much different than American laws.
- Does your cloud server ever go down? If it does, how do I get to my data?
This is a very important question because there is no computer in the world that runs 100% of the time. So please ask the cloud vendor what type of failover, redundancy, and/or alternate access they provide.
- How fast does my Internet connection have to be?
Since you are connected to your data via the Internet, the Internet speed between you and your provider’s cloud server will dictate how fast you can access your data. Over-worked servers can also slow down your access. Many other factors affect this question so be very specific when you ask your provider about this issue.
- Will there be any extra charges?
Access to your data may require certain programs such as SQL, Access, or other special program(s). Make sure that your provider answers this question clearly.
- Are you saving money by going to “The Cloud?”
If you are not simplifying your operations or saving money by moving to the “The Cloud,” there is no reason to do it. If you are doing it only because it’s the latest fad, you could be asking for a considerable amount of trouble, inconvenience, and expense that simply isn’t justified by your bottom line.
Lastly, be sure to get all of these questions answered in writing and on a contract. If you have any questions, be sure to consult an IT professional and an attorney who has knowledge about “The Cloud.” It’s also a good idea to consult one or two independent IT Cloud consultants who are not tied to any cloud provider. Just be sure to not rely solely on the information the cloud provider gives to you.
Brought to you by:
George M. Baldonado
President & CEO, Oasis Technology, Inc.