If You Don't Read Anything Else, Read This
Before committing to the use of cloud services, you should consider the impact they will have on your available network resources, how responsive the vendor will be to your needs for support and alterations to the service, what university policies may apply to your use of the cloud service, training needs and user adoption issues, and finally, what the actual contract terms are.
Infrastructure (yours and theirs)
- Networking Requirements: Some cloud services charge for the bandwidth that is used when transferring data to and from their service. These costs should be clearly listed by the vendor. Some the networking costs associated with cloud service are not so evident.
- Bandwidth - One of the most overlooked impacts of using cloud services has to do with its effect on your network bandwidth. Will your network continue to operate as expected once the cloud service traffic is introduced? Any loss in network performance could severely affect productivity. If network performance is unacceptable, does your department have the necessary expertise, hardware, and funding to upgrade? In addition to local network bandwidth though, there may be issues with how much university bandwidth resources are required. Like the cloud vendors, the university has limits to the amount it can provide without additional resources.
- Redundancy - Contracting external cloud services now makes network availability more important than ever. Your productivity now depends on the network being available to reach your cloud services. Without a network connection, your ability to work is severely hindered. Your department may have to invest in making the network redundant in order to minimize any downtime that could lead to loss in productivity.
- Control: If something goes wrong with the service, for example it doesn’t scale efficiently, the user has little recourse to correct the problem. The service provider may not be responsive to your needs to quick to resolve issues.
- Multi-tenancy: Hardware, for example with platform virtualization, will be shared between tenants. Thus, it is possible that the other tenants' poor security/coding decisions could inadvertently affect your service. It’s up to the service provider to mitigate this, but is a potential risk. Dedicated resources may be available from the service provider, but will cost more.
Contracts and Lock-In
- Contracts: Making cloud service providers clearly define service level agreements can save you money and headaches. Cloud service vendors also experience network, hardware, and unexpected failures. Defined SLAs will force vendors to keep their outages to a minimum, which keeps your services running for longer periods. There may be substantial penalties for canceling contracts either for moving to a cloud service from an existing service provider or away from the cloud provider if non-SLA covered expectations aren’t met.
Integration and Training
- Integration and customization: Asking cloud services vendors to “tweak” their products can become an expensive endeavor. Vendors are more than willing to help integrate their cloud services into your current infrastructure, but special features or add-ons may come at an additional cost. Get these costs up front before it's too late.
- Technical resources: Moving certain services to the cloud may require skills your group may not currently have in house. For example, networking becomes more of an issue and problems more difficult to diagnose. Engaging the service provider for assistance may incur support charges.
- User training/acceptance: There will be costs associated with retraining employees to use/manage the cloud services and undoubtedly lost productivity related to this.
- Accessibility: It would be to your advantage to contact the Equal Opportunity Office (EOO) if you are considering a cloud service to meet a business need. Involving the EOO in the evaluation process is important in order to verify that the service meets the university’s accessibility requirements. Cloud services can charge a premium if they have to make changes on their end to meet university compliance.