Marrying The Cloud? 7 Items To Include In A 'Cloud Prenup'

Before You Say 'I Do' To A Cloud Vendor

Selecting a cloud vendor is a lot like getting married. Everyone's excited and hopeful that the relationship is long and full of love. But everything that glitters isn't always gold, and relationships with cloud vendors can go south. A prenuptial agreement (or at least an iron-clad contract) may be required to ensure everyone involved knows what they're getting in to. CRN caught up with Matt Cicciari, product marketing manager of OpenEdge/SaaS platforms and cloud deployment, and Mike Ormerod, an architect within the SaaS and cloud division, at Boston-based software and cloud player Progress Software to break down some of the components that should be included in a cloud prenup before a prospective cloud customer says "I do" to their cloud vendor.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Straightforward)

According to Cicciari and Ormerod, cloud computing decisions can get bogged down by terms, acronyms and labels. It's important for prospective cloud customers to do their homework and get used to the terms which are specific to vendors before they walk down the aisle.

"You don't just jump right in head first if you don't understand some of the terms and technologies," Cicciari said.

"People need to understand what they're getting themselves into in the first place," Ormerod added.

Understand The Details Of Your SLA

If the recent spate of cloud outages has taught us anything, it's that a strong SLA (service-level agreement) could keep the cloud marriage happy and healthy.

Cicciari and Ormerod recommend cloud buyers review all SLA terms and conditions carefully to determine who is responsible for what in different circumstances. It's important to make certain that critical applications don't get a second change and a vendor's SLA doesn't protect your just reputation, but the vendor's as well.

"The wording of SLAs is key," Ormerod said.

"Like any contract, you need to understand and be absolutely sure about who does what, when and how," Cicciari said.

Know Your Operating Plan

Remember, cloud vendors aren't MSPs. Once you marry the cloud, you have the same responsibilities you had when the infrastructure was on premise. With that in mind, Progress Software sad the cloud is not a "file and forget" or "out of sight, out of mind" infrastructure. It's important to plan how day-to-day IT activities will be handled; who has access to what and when; and what are all of the security details. It's also necessary to understand the maintenance, whether it is bug fixes or upgrades.

"Just because you don't see it doesn't mean you're not responsible for it," Cicciari said.

Know Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Marriage is a work in progress and things can go wrong. It's imperative to plan out what happens when disaster strikes. Progress Software said to be prepared. Before taking the cloud plunge it's important to ensure a failover plan is in place and to determine a replication plan. High availability is the cloud vendor's job, but failover isn't, Cicciari cautioned.

"There's a perception that 'I move my stuff to the cloud and all of my worries go away,'" Ormerod said.

Know Where Your Data Is

When a marriage fails, who gets what? The same goes for the cloud. The Progress Software team said any cloud vendor contract should detail what happens to customer data should the customer or the vendor go out of business; what happens if there's a merger or acquisition for either party; and how long a cloud vendor will keep customer data.

According to Ormerod, data residency and how that relates to compliance are two important items on the cloud checklist.

Multi-Cloud Environments

It may sound like infidelity, but any cloud vendor prenup should have a provision for the support of multiple types of clouds and the ability to use more than one cloud vendor. Cicciari said that asking vendors if they support public, hybrid and private clouds and if it's OK to use more than one cloud vendor simultaneously for the same applications, systems and environments are imperative to ensuring a lasting cloud relationship.

"Why limit it to just one cloud?" he asked. "What if something happens on Amazon, GoGrid or Rackspace?"

Ormerod added that cloud buyers should ask: "How easy is it to move my app from one vendor to another?"

Have An Exit Strategy

And, lastly, what happens if the relationship doesn't work out and the two parties have to go their separate ways? When the cloud honeymoon is over, users have to determine what happens. Users must ask what happens if there's a problem and how do they recover data and re-launch cloud applications, Cicciari said. And what if the cloud customer changes their mind and doesn't want to be in the cloud anymore? What if the business and market changes and thus forces a change in strategy? A cloud prenup must have an exit strategy so both the cloud vendor and the customer can go their separate ways and avoid an ugly divorce.