Mitigating Risk When Implementing Cloud Computing Services

Updated: February 04, 2011

Smaller companies will leverage Cloud services more broadly and more quickly than their larger counterparts. This is mainly due to the fact that finding qualified IT personnel for smaller companies is difficult since the skillset must be broad and deep. However, using Cloud Services to complement a smaller IT team will probably make them more successful.

Larger enterprises should target areas of highest payback that fit into the overall Cloud Computing strategy and move those services to the Cloud first. Large enterprises will always have more IT skillsets than smaller businesses, which can help ensure the vendor negotiations, management and evolution of services happen in a manner most productive to the organization. However, the larger the enterprise the more risk associated with making a paradigm shift (and sometimes more reward when it offers a leg up on competitors).

Regardless of your company size, if you are implementing Cloud Computing services there is a risk that reality won't live up to the promises. In order to help avoid disappointment, here are five actions to take to help mitigate risk when implementing Cloud services:

  1. Strategy. Make sure the vendor you engage fits into your overall Cloud strategy. This is extremely important because moving from one Cloud vendor to another can cause unnecessary duplication of efforts.
  2. Phases. Don't plan a massive migration on the first try. Start small and phase in additional services over time. This is especially true with SaaS implementations. With PaaS or IaaS it might make sense to leave some redundant infrastructure or capabilities in place until you are absolutely sure that all systems are working to your satisfaction.
  3. Plan B. Make sure you have a plan B, or fall back plan, if the implementation doesn't go well at "go live" or shortly thereafter. Can you quickly move back to the previous service? How much help will the vendor be? Know exactly when it's time to move to Plan B.
  4. Communicate. This is the one area that is usually forgotten or glossed over. Communicate frequently, especially if you are moving from an internal application or functionality to external services. While IT shops are always trying to make transitions seamless and transparent the reality is transitions are hardly ever without incident. The other value in ongoing communication is the high likelihood that someone will raise a question that hadn't been considered before.
  5. References. It amazes me that many people will skip this step. Think about the fact that a 10-minute phone call could save you headaches and possibly your job. Talk with other clients who are using the service you will be implementing to understand what specific challenges might have tripped them up or slowed them down. Even those clients who had smooth implementations will have some words of caution specific to the service or vendor.
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