5 Questions to Ask When Switching to Cloud Data Storage

Thursday, March 3, 2016 by Sam Wiltshire

Moving data from on-premise storage solutions to cloud based storage is an IT decision that's increasingly tempting to many small businesses. The technology can offer a wide range of benefits, from cost savings to boosting a company's agility, and it's particularly advantageous for companies that don't have a large IT department and have limited budget to spend in this area.

Moving to the cloud can enable these organizations to access tools that would otherwise be far beyond their financial reach, as well as enabling them to take advantage of expert support and quickly scale up their operations as their business grows.

There are a wide range of questions that small businesses need to ask before moving to the cloud in order to be sure their data is secure and accessible at all times. With this in mind, here are five of the most important things to consider before making a decision.

  1. Who is responsible for your cloud data storage?

One of the first steps needs to be determining who is responsible for any cloud data storage. Typically, even though the cloud provider owns the data center, ultimate responsibility for information remains with the customer. So if there is a breach or data loss incident, it will usually be the business, not the provider that is liable.

It's also vital to understand where data physically is, as this can have legal consequences. For instance, data on servers in the UK will fall under that country's jurisdiction and will be subject to different privacy standards than if it were in the US.

  1. What to expect with reliability?

Reliability should also be a top concern, particularly if mission-critical data is being stored in the cloud. Any amount of downtime will result in businesses losing money, so it's important that firms understand what level of uptime they can expect - and what contingencies are in place to ensure this.

Make sure you know what the promises made by a cloud provider will translate to in real terms. A guaranteed uptime of 99.9 percent may sound good on paper, but over the course of a year, this can leave you without service for nearly nine hours before the provider breaches its obligations. On the other hand, a 99.999 percent guarantee will equate to just five minutes of downtime a year.

  1. What security is in place? 

Understanding what protections are in place to keep your data safe is also crucial, particularly if sensitive information is being migrated to cloud services, or if firms work in regulated industries where standards such as PCI-DSS or ISO 27001 are critical.

Cloud providers must be able to provide adequate answers to these questions. If they do so, their services are likely to be just as secure as on-premises solutions, if not more so, as they will offer resources that small businesses cannot afford on their own.

  1. What level of support is available? 

Small businesses in particular may find themselves more dependent on the expert advice and support offered by cloud providers. While a large company may be able to set up a public or private solution and manage it on their own, this could prove very complex and time-consuming for less-sizeable competitors.

These companies therefore need to determine what help is available from their cloud service partner, such as maintenance and automatic upgrades. Making the right choice here could be the difference between a successful deployment and one where a business is unable to take full advantage of the tools offered.

  1. What's in the small print?

Businesses should ensure they take the time to read the fine print of any cloud service level agreement, as this will often detail key clauses that prove to be important further down the line. For example, it will often spell out what level of compensation a customer is entitled to if uptime guarantees are not met, as well as what the disaster recovery procedures are.

It should also explain what will happen to a business' data at the end of a contract. The last thing a firm needs is to discover much later that a cloud provider has failed to wipe its data fully; potentially leaving them open to problems.

Small businesses that get satisfactory answers to these five questions will be well on the way to a strong relationship with a cloud provider they can work with for years to come, safe in the knowledge that their data is secure and will always be there when they need it.