If you are selecting cloud computing services or if you want to improve your ROI in the cloud, here are 50 questions you’ll want to ask!
Business Objectives – Identifying Why You Are Moving Into The Cloud
1. There are as many business objectives for the cloud as there are shades of any color, such as capex to opex budgeting, flexibility, agility, high availability, etc. Why do you want to move to the cloud?
2. Saying that your objectives are important isn’t enough. How important are these outcomes to the success of your business? Are they all equally important, or can you rank them?
3. The real test of importance is the resources you are willing to allocate to achieve your objectives. What resources of time, money, and effort are you willing to put in?
Cloud Service Level Agreements (SLAs) – Guaranteeing Availability, Capacity, Performance, and More
4. SLAs can be narrow or broad, simple or complex. Check with each cloud service provider (CSP) you are considering: what is included in each SLA? Which best meets your needs?
5. Definitions can help or hurt you. Are the components of an SLA defined? If so, are the definitions publicly available? Do the definitions leave loopholes that could harm you?
6. You’d think that SLAs would be straightforward since they are all about numbers. But how are those numbers measured, and how often?
7. It would be nice if all SLAs were upheld all of the time. But what if an infraction occurs? What are the ramifications for your business?
8. Don’t make assumptions! What is considered an infraction of the SLA? You and your CSP had better agree!
9. And one more thing … is the CSP allowed a remediation period prior to the ‘SLA Clock’ beginning to tick?
Security – Guarding The Doors And The Windows
10. Choices, choices! Is the cloud infrastructure or any of its components single tenant, or is it fully multi-tenant in nature? And what do you want and need?
11. Speaking of choices, what type of network segmentation is available, and how does that compare to your needs?
12. Your data is your company’s lifeblood. Who is making sure that it is secure, both in-flight and at rest? You? The CSP? Both of you?
13. CSPs vary widely in how they monitor access (physically and virtually) to their cloud environments. What controls are acceptable to you? What would raise a red flag?
Cloud Automation – Deciding How To Streamline Operations
14. You can do it all! But do you really want to? What functions would you like to automate?
15. You may know what you’d like to automate, but what level of outside automation will the CSP allow? Does that jive with what you have planned?
16. Exposed application programming interfaces (APIs) will probably need to be addressed in your move to the cloud. Decide now: do you have the in-house development talent to handle this, or will you need to contract for outside help?
17. Not all apps can be migrated seamlessly into the cloud. Take a good look: have you written any of your applications for a specific orchestration platform, or are any vendor-specific in some way? If so, will you need to rewrite your applications to move to a new cloud platform, or does the CSP use the same APIs?
Business Continuity And Disaster Recovery – Keeping Your Business Running
18. CSPs vary across the map on their stance toward business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR). What stance do you have? What stance do you need your CSP to have?
19. Resiliency isn’t graded as “Pass/Fail.” It’s graded on a curve. So examine the primary cloud environment you are considering carefully: how would you grade its resiliency?
20. Some companies are comfortable with one DR facility. Others want multiple facilities. Only you know what is right for you. Ask your CSP: how many facilities are available for DR and where are their locations?
21. Disasters are a matter of “when,” not “if.” So when a disaster hits, how do you want recovery handled? Do you want automated recovery, managed recovery, or manual (DIY) recovery?
22. Back to those SLAs for a moment … be sure to probe your CSP on the SLAs provided for recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs). Do they meet your needs?
Governance, Risk Management, And Compliance – Keeping Law And Order In The Cloud
23. Take them one at a time … what kind of governance stance would you be comfortable with in a CSP?
24. What about risk management?
25. And compliance? What are your requirements, what are your clients’ requirements, what are the CSP’s requirements … and do they all sync up?
26. There’s no grey area when it comes to adhering to compliance standards! But which compliance standards does the CSP adhere to – and do they have audit results to prove it?
27. Ownership can defined – such as who owns the data that goes into the cloud? Who owns the infrastructure?
28. In ownership, who has the right to order additional services?
29. And don’t forget controls: are there controls in place in the cloud that you are considering that will allow you to maintain compliance?
30. If the controls are not in place, does the CSP allow you enough flexibility to install your own?
Migration Readiness – Preparing The Way To The Cloud
31. Cloud readiness is another area where you grade on a curve – but this time, you grade yourself. Have you performed a cloud readiness assessment? How “ready” are you?
32. Here’s a critical aspect of cloud readiness you must not overlook: do you know the technical requirements and interdependencies of your machines and the applications that drive them?
33. And the real kicker … will the new cloud platform support these requirements?
34. You also need to determine if you can you move the interdependent applications in bundles to the new platform to avoid outages. If “yes,” do you have the resources to complete the task in addition to the day-to-day operations of your IT team? If “no,” how will you augment the skillsets and/or manpower to complete the task?
35. Don’t forget to assess where you are coming from. Is this a greenfield application, or are you moving existing workload(s) into the cloud? If the latter, who will migrate your workloads onto the new cloud platform?
36. Status quo can be a good thing or a bad thing. It just depends on what the “status quo” is. Are you looking for a “lift and shift” migration, or will you take this as an opportunity to assess, optimize, and streamline your estate?
Migration – Making The Move And Making It Work
37. Now let’s talk about making the move. For instance, will you be performing the migration or will it be a shared effort?
38. If the migration will be a shared effort, what would you like the provider to do vs. what you would like to do?
39. Don’t forget to ask about the migration process. Does the CSP allow the import of virtual machines, or will the migration require you to move the data and applications to new machines, synchronize, and failover in stages?
40. If you need migration assistance, don’t be shy about asking for proof that the CSP has done it before. Does the CSP perform migrations on a regular basis? If so, what is their success rate for meeting contractual obligations regarding migration, downtime, and data integrity?
41. In fact, you should ask for documentation upfront. Can the CSP provide you with a comprehensive SOW in advance to show all of the components that they will care for? If components of the migration are absent from the SOW, who is responsible to fill the gap?
42. Migrations are never without hiccups. Can the provider give you their procedures for change orders during the migration?
Service Termination – Saying Good-bye
43. There may come a time when you have to say “good-bye.” If that time comes, who can terminate the service, and under what conditions?
44. What is sufficient to terminate service: a call, an email, or written notice?
45. Never make assumptions where money is concerned! If service is terminated, when will billing cease?
46. Just because you terminate service, it doesn’t mean your data just “goes away.” What happens to your data when service is terminated? How do you get your data out?
47. And one more thing: how are the disks scrubbed prior to being re-allocated to another tenant?
Billing – Paying For What You Need
48. You knew we’d get to the money aspect eventually! Ask some good questions upfront, such as, are there any upfront capital expenditures? Is the bill a set operational expense? How about if you need to take advantage of cloud bursting?
49. Make sure you understand the billing model. Is it a utility model? If so, how is it calculated and in what increments?
50. Many people assume that the cloud is automatically cheaper than what they are using now. Calculate your costs – for preparation, migration, and utilization. What is the bottom line? Is it acceptable to you?
The cloud is both complicated and rewarding. Taking the time to answer all the questions that are relevant to your business in the cloud will help bring you the ROI you’ve been looking for!
This article was also published on Forbes and Sungard Availability Services.