Stay independent. Stay flexible.

Have you flown recently? Remember the safety instructions? Some of those presentations may amuse you or bore you as much as they amuse and bore me. You certainly expect to disembark safely at your destination (and hopefully you did). But knowing how to exit may save your life. And on your first flight, that knowledge may also have given you more confidence. It is essential to know the way out in many other situations as well, whether it’s a party or a lengthy business meeting.

It may sound absurd, but I think having an exit strategy from the cloud BEFORE you enter it is a must. It saves money and soothes nerves. And knowing how to exit might even make the decision to enter less trying ( By “exit”, I mean two scenarios: First, the day might come when you want to have your data back home again for reasons we cannot even foresee. Secondly, if you look at it realistically, it is unlikely that you will stay with the same provider forever. You might also want to exchange data and services between private and trusted cloud or between cloud and on-premise services. Your requirements and needs may change with time or in light of legislation, and maybe your provider will no longer be able to meet them. Your service provider might even cease to exist or change its own business model, forcing you to migrate to another cloud service.

What we need is a comprehensive plan for future scenarios in order to stay flexible. After all, that is what cloud services are all about. At this point, I cannot stress enough how important it is to establish common standards for the cloud industry to ensure exactly that. We have come pretty far already at the technical level, with inter-operative standards for virtualization of machines and storage. It is a good starting point, but what we ultimately need are standards for licensing software on an as-needed basis, and common interfaces between different cloud services.

Until that happens, however, I can only advise any company that is considering cloud services to define appropriate SLAs and ensure that its contracts are not restrictive. Data has to be portable. Period. This sounds banal, but it is crucial that your data is not proprietary to the provider’s system and that you obtain it in a standardized format. There should be an open application programming interface available, easing access and portability.

Last, but not least, develop a migration plan. In order to assure a smooth process, keep some providers on file who can pitch in on short notice. This will speed up the whole process and will become even more important if your own IT staff cannot cover or master the services. Bear in mind that you will probably generate a large amount of data in the cloud – so get prepared for the process of extracting and migrating it. A good cloud provider will have appropriate answers to these challenges and will even provide services for them.

Once you’ve cleared all this up, you can stow your tray table in the seatback in front of you, put your seat in the upright position and relax. You’re ready for takeoff.

See you in the cloud(s),

Andre Kiehne

Author: Andre Kiehne

Director Solution Sales, Microsoft Germany GmbH

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