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CIO Corner: Know How to Exit Before You Enter the Cloud

I was sitting in the Delta Sky Club (formerly Crown Room) on Monday and overheard a conversation on Cloud Computing.   The conversation was "So David, if we move our systems to X Company and use their systems, what happens if things don't work out?"  The answer was, "That is a great question, I will have to get back to you."   The company was only a small company, but it makes you realize that many times people become enamored with an idea and relationship with no plans for when things don't work out.

Becoming glued or locked in to one vendor is one of the biggest issues that I have heard when discussing cloud computing.   Cloud computing has different levels and accompanying commitments for an organization.   Cloud computing is after all is choosing whether you consume resources on an owned system or through an internet service.

The biggest challenges are when using the Software As A Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).  It really is understanding the risk-reward-benefit tradeoff.    What is the risk that the vendor will not be around in the future?   What is the reward and benefit of having that application or service hosted in the cloud.

First, you have to do the same due diligence you do today in selecting other software and systems and obtain financial statements and if the company is in its early stages understanding the financial commitment of the investors.  It is also important to understand source code rights and the willingness for vendors to hold that source code in escrow.

You also need to detail in your contract the procedures for ending the contract and under what circumstances.

You need to know what data and in what form you will receive back your information.  You also need to understand how to replicate any reporting which may be vital to your business.

You also need to know how long they will keep the data and what is your timeframe for retrieving once the contract has ended.  

I have worked with a vendor in the past where we left them and moved to another company providing the same service.  We received the data necessary to move to the other system and they were willing to provide a read only version of the system for 6 months to ensure a timely transition.

Always remind your vendors, everyone is always a customer - current, future, or past. How you treat me now will determine my current status.

Dan WebberDan Webber is a CIO in Atlanta, GA.  He delivers his unique perspective as Chief Information Officer on technology, business, and the Atlanta IT industry. He is a recent recipient of Oracle's CIO of the quarter award.

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Unitiv, Inc., is a professional provider of enterprise IT solutions. Unitiv delivers its services from its headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, USA, and its regional office in Iselin, New Jersey, USA. Unitiv provides a strategic approach to its service delivery, focusing on three core components: People, Products, and Processes. The People to advise and support customers. The Products to design and build solutions. The Processes to govern and manage post-implementation operations.