To cloud or not to cloud

Many companies and government agencies are moving toward cloud computing. One of the key benefits of the cloud is its ability to offload complex application- and data-services to third parties for management or infrastructure, enabling data center managers to purchase compute cycles and storage capacity in a more cost-effective, granular way. Instead of bulk capital expenditures for large servers and storage arrays, you can purchase computer time based on actual usage of CPU cycles and storage by the number of gigabytes or terabytes used.

In essence, the cloud changes your cost and management structure for IT from buying equipment, hiring professionals and operating internal data centers to a services-oriented paradigm in which you buy just what you need when you need it. It becomes someone else's problem to make sure everything is secure, available and reliable.

However, there are always tradeoffs in handing control of your IT to someone else. You need to be sure it's worth it, and it works.

Here are ten items to check out before you leap to the cloud:

1) Is the cloud vendor's contract good enough to protect you no matter what happens?

2) What happens if and when the provider screws up?

3) How do you change vendors and move the data should you want to leave the service?

4) Do you know your current internal costs, and will moving to the cloud reduce them?

5) Is there any flexibility in the ability to choose specific vendor products, or are you stuck with what is offered

6) If your thinking of outsourcing storage, are there any performance concerns?

7) If there are concerns, are there any guarantees?

8) What about data security, and encryption?

9) If you will be in a multi-tenant environment, is there any logical or physical isolation?

10) What reliability aspects are implemented and available? Is there a sliding cost scale based on RAS reliability, availability, scalability, or does everyone get the same solution?

In my next post, I'll discuss how to do an internal assessment so you can determine whether cloud computing makes sense for your organization.

Christopher Poelker is the author of Storage Area Networks for Dummies, the vice president of enterprise solutions at FalconStor Software, and deputy commissioner of the TechAmerica Foundation Commission on the Leadership Opportunity in U.S. Deployment of the Cloud (CLOUD²).  

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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