5 things to consider before using cloud services

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Cloud application providers promise ease of use, cost savings and innovative solutions. Typically you are only a few mouse clicks away from getting a free trial account and with several more clicks you will be able to sign up for a license. But wait! There are a number of aspects to consider. Let’s discuss the most important ones (I am sure there are much more and depending on the scenario others might be more important – so please feel free to add your thoughts as a comment).

  AdaptabilityHeterogeneous usage contexts demand a certain amount of adaptability from a cloud solution. The way of accessing a solution, the platform that is used, and the way users are dealing with the system are diverse and are constantly changing. The latest trend in usage contexts is the transition to mobile computing. People become focused on mobile technologies and have adopted its concepts (for example. app stores, always-on, location-based services, and so on) in their private life. They have the same expectations for their business life. As an IT department, it becomes important to satisfy the demand for mobile technologies. The next generation of business leaders is used to accessing every service with their smartphone and is aware of the competitive advantages of mobile computing.

Is your solution flexible enough to provide access to mobile devices and ready for future platforms, users, and devices?

  SecurityOf course, security is always an aspect to consider when talking about cloud computing. Service providers promise that they can be more secure than physical data centers. Protection of expertise and assets is a key requirement. Cloud applications need to protect data being transferred over the net. This includes not only encryption of transmission data, but also encryption of stored data. Certificates, such as SAS 70 or ISO 27001, can be good indicators for good security measures. Customers should be aware of the physical location of their data and the available security features. This awareness facilitates a holistic security view of your cloud service provider.

Do the security technologies (encryption of transmission data and usage data) that are offered by your cloud provider fulfill your needs?

  IntegrationTypical applications rely on data from other applications. The worst case would be to have separate data pools with unsynchronized content, which can lead to redundancy and inconsistency across applications. Data from other applications can enrich cloud services and provide comprehensive insight. In general, most services offer web services interfaces. Some do also provide a REST interface. Complex interfaces require a tool to handle connectivity and transformation, and manage future challenges. The use of XML as a data format offers the best possibilities to make data handling comfortable.

Does your service provider offer sustainable access to all important data objects and methods?

  MigrationThe aspect of integration leads us to the next point: migration. What do you do, if your cloud provider goes out of business? Are you able to migrate your valuable business data to another platform or have you locked-in a particular vendor? These questions should be asked before the decision for a particular provider is made. The longer a cloud service is being used, the more important and valuable are the assets that have been developed. Common standards can help to make your resources reusable. A (potential) migration strategy sustains your possibilities to react on market changes and future innovations.

Can you keep all your data and assets, if you migrate to a new service provider?

  ScalabilityIt is not very common that providers offer information about the scalability of their solution. SaaS and PaaS offerings promise to scale automatically. IaaS offerings might provide additional tools to control scalability. In hybrid cloud environments, scalability becomes very important because the decision to provision new instances must be based on reliable data. Multi-tenancy is essential for most cloud applications to provide reasonable scalability.

Does your cloud service fulfill your needs regarding scalability?

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