The benefits of cloud computing are obvious — high availability, improved flexibility, reduced costs — but that doesn't mean that shifting from a conventional server architecture to a cloud environment is easy. What roadblocks stand in the way of companies shifting to the cloud, and what can be done about them?
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A recent survey of 250 current cloud computing users by the Cloud Security Alliance and ISACA identified the ten issues which were causing the most concern for cloud deployments. We've outlined them below, along with suggestions about how to deal with them in practice. Many are variations on a common theme: what's the legal status of data stored offshore? That's an issue which is much discussed, but which doesn't have an obvious resolution.
|Government regulations lagging||Cloud is a relatively new concept, and legal frameworks haven't necessarily shifted to reflect that. Industry associations lobbying government may help, but it seems unlikely better cloud enablement will be a major vote winner.|
|Exit strategies||Data portability is critical when using cloud providers. Ensure that there's a well-defined method for exporting and shifting data and apps if you decide to change providers.|
|International data privacy||Privacy laws vary widely from country to country, and many cloud providers won't tell you where data is located. If you're storing sensitive data, make sure that the location is specified and that you're happy with the legal framework that applies.|
|Legal issues||We're yet to see a major court brawl over cloud deployment. Check contracts carefully before signing.|
|Contract lock||In theory, cloud providers should be able to operate on a month-to-month contract, but many require a longer-term deal. That can have upsides for the business, since you have predictability for costs.|
|Data ownership and custodian responsibilities||Ultimately, the business is responsible for what happens with customer data; make sure you have safeguards in place.|
|Longevity of suppliers||Cloud is a relatively new market, but there are clearly established major players.|
|Integration of cloud with internal systems||Few (if any) businesses will operate exclusively in the cloud. Integrating data between cloud and on-premises systems can be complex; minimise the number of different platforms you run to reduce the issue.|
|Credibility of suppliers||Seek customer references before signing up.|
|Testing and assurance||Ensure that testing covers a range of network topologies and scenarios — what works well in HQ won't always function as well in branch offices with slower connections.|
Does that list match up with your own cloud concerns? Tell us in the comments.