Cloud Computing? ... Hold on a Minute
Anyone that has been around the industry long enough is looking at cloud computing as a trip back to the mainframe days of pay-to-play. Executives, on the other hand, are looking at the concept as a new and exciting way to get rid of the headache of IT. Unfortunately, (no disrespect intended) they just dont get it.
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There is no magic bullet and the cloud is no exception. IT asset managers will have to roll up their sleeves and get ahead of the curve with this one, so we have decided to help out the IAITAM members by assembling a checklist for your use.
What is cloud computing? - Cloud computing simply means any subscription based, software as a service, or pay-as-you-go service that is real-time over the internet. There is also a concept of internal and external clouds. This article will concentrate on external clouds.
A word of caution: The cloud sounds intriguing but you also need to prepare so that your world does not get too, well, cloudy (sorry!). We all know what storms and the destructive power they can have when the clouds roll in too fast. In other words -- dont let the cloud rain on your parade. Cheesy I know, but the point is you must prepare.
What should we ask? - Recently Gartner came out with The Bill of Cloud Computing Rights, which includes many of the following requirements:
- Customer guarantees? What kind of guarantees does the company offer you as the consumer?
- Who owns the data? Can you retain your right to own your data? What happens if the company goes out of business or is sold?
- Recovery times?
- Legal requirements of jurisdiction?
- Security procedures?
Do not automatically assume that these questions have been addressed or even if they have, they need to be in the contract to be legally enforced. Here are a few more questions to start thinking about before signing any contracts which moves your information into the cloud:
Compliance issues (relevant to non subscription licenses, such as cloud storage clusters, on demand models):
- What are the license models and how do they relate to the technology?
- What documentation must you retain to remain compliant?
- What happens if there is a compliance dispute?
- In the event of a compliance dispute how do you retrieve your data?
- Who has the right to audit?
- How is the audit preformed?
- Does the license only include employees?
- What is the cost and are there any options (caps, sub-capacity, etc.)?
- What would the cost be to retrieve your data in the event you change providers?
- What is your cost if the provider has an outage and is it recoverable?
- What cost would the company incur in the event of an audit?
- What is the cost of changing employees?
- Can you analyze usage and make decisions for next years annual budget?
- In the event of an employee reduction can you immediately reduce the number of users?
- Are you forced to work with a percentage increase or decrease from the previous year?
- Notifications that affect your organization in a timely (what exactly is timely) fashion.
- Notification when your data is rerouted that may implicate or open your organization up to different laws, regulations or security breaches.
- Does your company have a mechanism in place to communicate outages to your employees?
What I've outlined above are just a few examples of the complexity of managing IT in a cloud computing environment. Weather (yes, cheesy again) you manage in the cloud or on the desktop/servers, you must have solid principals in place to manage your IT asset management program. Moving to the cloud does not alleviate the need for IT asset management it only increase it.
IT asset managers need to be proactive in managing cloud computing. Formulate the questions above and then compare them to the existing environment. Also document your IT organizations cloud SLA to your organizations employees. Its far too easy to only look at hard dollars -- cost of IT compared to cost of cloud. But if the SLA isnt documented, then there are for sure hidden hard dollar costs and dont forget the soft dollars, as well.
In those soft dollars also remember the flexibility of having your own IT staff. At IAITAM, we used a cloud service that was incredible but when it came time to make modifications to strengthen our business, we couldnt. The cloud was shared and therefore could not be modified without moving to a dedicated service and that meant more money. It is the ITAMs responsibility to know your organizations IT needs.
The marketing machines selling the cloud are in high gear so make sure your organization has a clear view of the horizon.
Before co-founding IAITAM, Barbara, Barbara Rembiesa was the CEO of Astria Software Services, a company dedicated to education and consultative services in the ITAM arena. Barbara has implemented and supervised asset tracking projects, discovery tool implementations and has been brought in as an industry expert to consult major savings and loans, universities, manufacturers and high tech industries throughout the United States. She has successfully represented corporations in negotiations with compliance agencies for software violations through IAITAM and Astria. As president and co-founder of IAITAM, Barbara brings over 20 years of industry knowledge and experience to the management of IAITAM, and provides key guidance to its members.