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Embrace Cloud Provider Lock-in


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IT silos are common and produce redundant solutions, increased budgets, and inefficiency for unified communications (UC) and contact center (CC) operations. Some view cloud solutions as the tool to break down silos. However, cloud solutions can also deliver cloud provider lock-in— something most will acknowledge as a poor situation.
Defining provider lock-in
Provider lock-in means an organization becomes dependent on a service provider and can’t change providers without incurring substantial costs as well as business disruption. This arrangement reigns true when the provider adopts proprietary IT implementations. The contracts may limit or even prevent the organization from making the change until the contract expires.
Causes of Cloud vendor lock-in
There’s a wide range of reasons that may contribute to provider lock-in. There’s no silver bullet that will avoid it, but if no issues were to occur while moving from one cloud vendor to another, all things being equal, then the price would be the only difference.
The following list of provider lock-in causes contains several technical and non-technical considerations that your enterprise must address when selecting a cloud provider. I have listed them in order of importance and recommend using this list as a means to prioritize vendor evaluation.
  • Contract issues – read the fine print and have your legal advisors point out the limitations for change and contract termination.
  • Licensing limitations –software licensing may prevent you from moving to another platform.
  • Data integration costs – are encountered when trying to move the existing data stored in the cloud service to another platform.
  • Proprietary services –may not be duplicable on another platform.
  • Special APIs – The APIs currently employed may not be available on another platform.
  • IT staff skills – current skills of IT staff may not translate to another platform, thereby requiring new training.
  • Provider solutions ease of use – your current cloud platform may be easy to use from a user and administrative viewpoint, but a new platform could be harder to adopt and deploy.
  • Specific backup solutions – existing ones may be specific to the existing provider. A new provider may have a different backup solution or cause you to find a separate one.
  • Non-standard archives – part of UC and CC cloud services require long-term storage to comply with regulations. Be sure your vendors comply, and ask what are the issues of transferring the archives to a new cloud service?
  • Data formats – there are multiple in existence plus proprietary ones. Are the data formats on the existing service compatible or translatable into the data format of another cloud service?
Can provider lock-in be a good thing?
IT depends more on software and its agility. Network and infrastructure are also important but less of a driver. To be competitive, organizations must focus on imagining how customers interact with the organization’s offerings and how they differentiate the organization. It’s about the apps, not the hardware.
If the provider can implement the apps that make the difference, then lock-in doesn’t look bad but is an advantage. There will always next-generation apps in UC and CC that can increase user productivity and enhance the customer experience for the contact center. A cloud provider can deliver and scale next-generation apps faster as organizations and their customers change.
Success requires stepping away from standard IT offerings and crafting new and agile solutions. IT needs to move beyond standard software packages and create sophisticated aggregations of software components without paying for their development and testing. Organizations need to customize what they need to provide a differentiated product or service to customers.
Working with the cloud provider allows the internal IT staff to focus on results and avoid the day-to-day business of maintaining IT infrastructure and apps. The cloud provider can also deliver data analytics and reporting beyond what IT cannot do because it’s s missing skills or doesn’t have enough budget available.
Limit vendor lock-in
If you’re working with a specific cloud provider, you must know if you can change direction even if there is a risk of costs, time, and business disruption.
My recommendations to avoid or limit cloud provider lock-in are to negotiate an entry and exit strategy upfront and have a backup provider when bargaining, be aware of automatic contract renewal, and ensure your apps are portable. Lastly, keep your on-premises solutions as options.