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3. What size solution do I need?
Customers may have a preconceived notion of what size solution should be cloud hosted. Some may not understand that these types of solutions aren't always implemented on a grand scale — the cloud isn't only for gigantic concerns. Determine the size and scope of what needs to be accomplished, and view the solution in steps. "What's the scale?" asks Irfan Saif, principal at Deloitte LLP. "Say your customer is a small company with a small IT outfit. You want to grow in scale…you could be well served by moving the customer to the cloud and giving people access to world-class apps in a manageable way. It's very attractive for the SMB because they can get robust security and controls at an affordable price point."
In addition, determine what the customer already has that can potentially be allocated more wisely. For example, said Saif, "Has your client already invested in data centers? How can you help them leverage what they already have?" While the cloud may be ethereal and seem difficult to explain, your job is to make it understandable.
4. Explain to me how my solution is going to work.
You must be able to explain the architecture of the cloud. Expect your customers to treat cloud computing as they would any other technology. They should want to look under the covers and have confidence in how the cloud is set up. It's up to you to be able to explain it to them in terms they can understand and feel comfortable with. Behind every cloud solution is still a data center, a place they are familiar with and that is tangible.
"A lot of concerns boil down to the customer having less control over their data. Today, they might have full control," said Saif. " If you outsource to one provider, you can still touch and feel the data, know all the details, in other words. When you put it in the cloud, part of the concern is that you don't necessarily know where the data physically resides. The abstraction the cloud offers is also a concern. You have no direct control over that."
5. So, what about that data center?
Despite the ethereal nature of cloud computing, in the end, it's all powered by nuts and bolts — and software. Customers will want to know how the data center is locked down. Who is allowed access? What are the personnel roles? "Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or an SMB, there are rules around your data center," said Dawson. "Do you follow the highest industry standards around security and access control rules?" You need to be answer questions about the physical security of the data center, the application layer security and what is the fail-safe in case of an outage or a breach. If you are partnering with a cloud provider, you are responsible for vouching for your contractor.