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December 15, 2011

Cloud vendors promise the earth, but can you trust them?

Jonathan Gale, CEO of NewVoiceMedia, writes exclusively for CBR on why it is important for cloud vendors to be open and honest

By Cbr Rolling Blog

In a market populated with emerging, fast growing, but relatively young companies all fighting it out for business, some cloud vendors are making big, bold but somewhat unsubstantiated statements about their own performance and availability.

It’s vital that companies buying into the cloud market for the first time apply a level of due diligence to the availability and customer experience provided by the service they are considering, rather than getting lost in the mouth-watering blend of features, price and flexibility that cloud services offer.

There are a limited number of applicable standards out there which are relevant and very, very few new cloud vendors adhere to these standards (such as ISO27001 for Information Security or BS25999 for Business Continuity) and to make matters worse, there is no agreed industry framework for comparing the relative performance of different vendors in terms of availability.

Very few vendors even have SLAs with any real teeth and even fewer give the consumer the reporting tools to establish whether they are meeting them. In the current global financial climate, you would quite rightly think twice before sending your life savings off to a foreign bank offering a really high interest rate.

You would probably ask a few questions about how much of your savings are guaranteed in the event of the bank failing or how easily and quickly you can access them, so why be any less cautious about selecting a cloud vendor to handle your key business data or processes?

But the good news is that if you can find a cloud vendor to put your faith in, you really can use your IT to positively transform your business.

Here are three quick tips to consider:

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Is the vendor willing to disclose performance data?
If so that’s a great start. It sounds obvious, but many don’t disclose that information to anyone, let alone their customers. If there’s an outage you want to know if it’s just affecting you and how long its going to last. Afterwards you will want to know how and why it happened, what it means in terms of any SLA commitments and what are the steps that have been taken to prevent it happening again. Transparency is critical to putting trust in your vendor.

Look beyond the feature list and price tag.
All too often, key IT decisions are made based on a blend of features and price. Whilst budgeting is integral to sound business operation, you need to look at the expertise you’re getting for your money. Choose a vendor with a proven track record and knowledgeable staff whose attitude matches the people in your business as closely as possible.

Explore what happens if things go wrong.
The crucial thing here is that cloud vendors have the right disaster recovery procedures and technology in place. What’s more they need to demonstrate that they test their plans. Try asking the vendor for the internal report from the last time they tested their business continuity.

Jonathan Gale is CEO of NewVoiceMedia, a provider of cloud-based contact centres services. CBR spoke to Gale during the launch of his company’s performance visibility site.

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