The topic of Cloud Computing currently ranks in the top-five of IT articles published for IT professionals. Daily we hear about the benefits of this new world, the range of exciting new services now available, and of course how to make the transition.
Even with the valuable insights provided by these articles, there is one critical aspect given too little attention or even overlooked entirely. Specifically, how to plan for a breakup.
If one accepts the old dictum that change is the only universal constant, then ask yourself why most people do not plan as carefully for unwinding a cloud / SaaS arrangement as we do in setting one up. The details of ending an arrangement can be tricky and not immediately self-evident.
These issues are beyond standard legal provisions for exit clauses, terms/conditions, and related matters. It deals with practicality and preparedness.
Take this as an example, imagine you use a SaaS system to implement secure e-mail for corresponding with people outside your organization. Even in the world of TLS, many still have a need for such services which provide mailbox-to-mailbox encryption for both e-mails and attachments.
Should you decide to terminate this service, you might be in for some unexpected challenges. If your service provider does not provide bulk decrypt and export tools, you could be in for a painful process.
In a previous role, I ran into this exact situation. We had to write custom scripts to go through each mailbox e-mail-by-email to unencrypt and export; it was slow and costly.
Even without terminating the service, data exporting tools can be useful as a course of normal business. Consider the situation when your organization is involved in litigation. As part of the legal Discovery process, you might have to produce e-mails for individuals covering specific subjects and dates. Should the list be significant or the filters complex, you can again run into unexpected workloads.
Another example is data offloading. Many services, AWS included, offer excellent tools for migration / uploading large volumes into their cloud services. In some cases, particularly with large datasets, such approaches are the only feasible or timely solution.
But what happens when you elect to move those datasets to another Cloud Provider? Don’t assume the comprehensive set of options you have for bringing data into your provider’s cloud is symmetric. You might just find a long slow process to make a change.
In both examples, specific industry or regulatory requirements such as security, data location, and privacy can compound the challenge.
IT professionals have a lot of experience with managing proprietary solutions and data. The key is leveraging that knowledge when considering Cloud-Based solutions. Personally, I have found two methods for reducing these risks.
The first is to run some tabletop simulations on what happens in various scenarios, to develop and expand your punch list over time. Scenarios to consider might include migration, legal requests, disaster recovery or other matters specific to your industry.
My second approach is to network: it is a knowledge and experience multiplier that’s second to none. Check with colleagues; get their advice and listen to their own experiences.
Of course, you don’t know what you don’t know, but thinking of the end, as well as the beginning, should put you in a better spot.
If you would like to set up a conversation with Clint, please reach out.
By Clint Gilliam, Virtual CIO, GreenPages Technology Solutions