Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Reducing the risks of Cloud computing

A special article provided by Advanced 365 on the risks of Cloud Computing and carried by That's Technology as a service to our readers.

Advanced 365 highlights key issues for businesses looking to minimise the risk of moving to a cloud computing model

Cloud computing is accelerating into mainstream business life. According to a recent report released by market research firm Forrester Research, the global cloud computing market is expected to grow from $40.7 billion to $240 billion by 2020.

Despite this anticipated surge in interest many organisations remain cautious about moving their IT services to the Cloud. Recent high profile server problems that led to partial server downtime of Amazon’s Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) service have once again raised the topic of cloud computing security.

A survey conducted by network services provider Colt has revealed a surprising distrust of the Cloud. 45 per cent of the 500 senior IT executives surveyed stated that they saw security concerns as the biggest risk associated with moving to Cloud computing, while 42 per cent said they were concerned about damaging the reputation of their brands as a result of performance or security-related issues.

Neil Cross, managing director of leading managed services and cloud computing provider, Advanced 365, highlights five key points for consideration by organisations moving to Cloud computing.

Choose a reputable provider

Cloud computing is not necessarily a bigger risk than in-house IT, just a different risk. Previously, the responsibility of maintaining a secure and smooth running in-house IT infrastructure sat exclusively within your organisation. By moving into the Cloud you are now sharing this burden of control with another provider and whilst the safety of your data is of paramount importance to you, it is also vital to your Cloud provider’s business reputation too. Choosing a reputable Cloud provider who is willing to provide you with details of its uptime and performance records to alleviate any fears you have concerning their reliability is critical to the success of the project.

The devil is in the detail

Before you commence any IT outsourcing project it is vital that you agree tight service level agreements (SLAs) with your service provider in writing. Agreeing strict contractual terms will rubberstamp expectations around availability, downtime and maintenance as well as the penalties that would apply if these levels are not met.

It’s important to remember that SLAs do not have to be ‘one-size-fits-all’ agreements. Complex organisations typically have multiple SLAs to cover separate parts of the business at various times throughout the day. Ensure that your SLAs are tailored to your organisation’s needs so that your key systems are always available during business hours.

You can never plan too much

Just because the Cloud is quick and easy to deploy doesn’t mean you should make a hurried decision which could severely impact the day-to-day running of your business. Like any other major IT project, it is essential that you plan thoroughly before moving to the Cloud.

In particular, you should think carefully about who is going to manage the project, consider the potential risks of migration, how to maintain business continuity and ensure that testing is scheduled outside of business hours to minimise any disruption resulting from downtime. It’s also essential for you to make sure that you can quickly switch back to your previous systems if things aren’t working. A measured approach to the Cloud in the short-term will reap long-term dividends.

Talk to a services partner to determine which option is right for you

From public to private and from applications to infrastructure, there are a bewildering number of Cloud computing options. Take the time to fully understand the differences between the offerings of the major providers such as Amazon, Google or Microsoft or talk to a trusted services partner who clearly understands the Cloud and has relationships with all major IT Cloud suppliers. Your partner should be able to clearly demonstrate the costs of entering and withdrawing from the Cloud and advise which on-demand applications are best suited to your business.

Know where your data is going to be stored

Variation in data protection regulations mean that different territories have different data protection regimes so make sure you know where your data is going to be physically stored. During the initial negotiations with your cloud provider it’s essential to clarify if there is a regulatory requirement for your data to be held within a certain area, for example Europe, and if so make this a term of the contract. Leading Cloud providers will have a strong grasp on which information must be held in particular localities so double check that your provider understands the data demands of your sector.

By enabling rapid access to leading technology on-demand, Cloud computing is a cost effective and flexible alternative to inefficient, in-house IT systems. Cloud computing is the future; however the fear of potential security breaches is understandably making organisations question whether moving to the Cloud is worth the risk. By working with a specialist partner, organisations can minimise these risks and benefit from all that Cloud computing has to offer.

Advanced 365 designs, deploys, operates and improves IT services from the desktop to the data centre, helping customers to align their IT to their core business requirements. Advanced 365 aims to help IT departments free themselves from day to day operational activity to allow them to deliver strategic value back to their business by creating an agile and scalable infrastructure that is closely aligned to their core business operations.

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