Thank you, Mary, for your excellent article Cloud Buyer Beware
- talking about cloud adoption from a user's perspective. Warning to all - Mary Allen interviewed me for this article, and, while I am uncomfortable referencing something I contributed to, it is really Mary's brilliance in interviewing that brought the article together.
That being said, I wanted to expand on the challenges of SMBs developing cloud contracts. Just think about missing SLA's - often, the compensation for non-compliance is nominal - just the cost of the missed service, rather than the true cost to the business of lost time, lost customers, and lost reputation through lost performance. And this is only one element of an outsourcing contract.
There is an excellent Information Week article - Cloud Contracts: 5 Questions SMBs Should Ask
, recommending questions SMBs should pose as they negotiate a cloud outsourcing agreement.
1. Where is My Data Stored? And your flexibility will likely depend on your industry, and associated government regulations, as well as your immediacy needs (think long-term archiving vs transaction-intensive processing)
2. Who is Responsible for My Data? Even though you have moved to the cloud, that doesn't mean that your vendor is responsible for taking care of everything - you still need resources within your company who have responsibility for day-to-day activities. As they say in the article: Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part...
3. What Happens if There's an Outage? Fine print usually means you get a lot less than you had expected. Have failover planning in place, beware vendor lock-in, and make sure that there is compatibility in case you want to use a secondary provider for backup.
4. What Happens if Your Vendor is Acquired or Goes Under? Make sure your agreement states clearly what happens if there are material changes (e.g. ownership) in your vendor's business.
5. Where's the Exit Sign? And this is vitally important - please, please make sure your agreement states clearly what happens to your data if you decide to disengage. You need to be able to recover your information immediately, not over months. Speed, format, and completeness are all important. Put your agreed-upon specs in writing up front. Think of it as a prenup agreement - the more that you specify up front, the easier it will be for everyone, if the relationship needs to end.
I hope this helps.