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Cloud Out

If you've moved to the cloud for your UC, contact center, and collaboration services, keeping your business operating means maintaining connectivity. But having this level of dependence on the cloud also means that you are depending on services that are out of your control.

There's always the risk that you could lose access to the cloud. The cloud service could be running on someone else's infrastructure such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Azure, and they could experience an outage. This has already happened and will happen again.

Your service provider could run into legal issues or security problems that lead to a shutdown of service. It could go bankrupt. Further, the federal government has the power to subpoena data stored on cloud services, which involves the confiscation of servers that could include your business's data, making that data unavailable to you as a result. If this happens, will you be informed?

You need to implement alternative plans in case cloud services become unavailable. Applying for service credits does not return the cloud service, nor do the credits cover the cost of the outage to your business.

Cloud Options

Many business have implemented cloud services for part, or all, of their business. Before making the move, it is essential that businesses do their due diligence, analyzing the service's reliability, security, locations (domestic/international), connectivity, scalability, cost, and support to make sure requirements are satisfied. There are multiple ways in which cloud services are commonly implemented:

  • All services are moved to the cloud
  • A hybrid solution is put into place, with only non-mission critical services residing in the cloud to keep your business operational should the cloud fail
  • A hybrid solution is implemented that has mission-critical services residing in the cloud
  • A cloud service is used as a backup to on-premises systems

Open Questions

Before subscribing to a cloud service, there are many open questions that should be investigated. Investigations may reveal that the cloud service agreement is weak when it comes to protecting the business.

If your business has discovered weaknesses, but still proceeds to use the service, there need to be plans in place for when problems arise. Some the most important questions to explore are:

  • What are the cloud provider's backup plans?
  • Where is the data stored? If it is outside the jurisdiction of the United States, what legal recourses do you have if there are problems?
  • What liabilities do you incur if data is located outside the US?
  • Who owns the data that is produced by the business?
  • When the relationship with the cloud service provider ends, what happens to the data?
  • Are you able to get your data out?
  • What are the procedures and methods for getting your data out?
  • If you move to the cloud backup, does the original cloud provider destroy all your data when the relationship ends?
  • How long do you have to wait with a service outage until you can legally terminate the service?

What If the Cloud Service is No Longer Available?

As I mentioned earlier, your business could permanently lose your service under many conditions such as bankruptcy, security problems, software licensing issues, a failure of the service provider to pay the public cloud provider (AWS or Azure), or federal subpoena of infrastructure.

Instead of waiting for an outage, you should already have a planned candidate and backup agreement in place. Understand that moving to another cloud does not mean you can move all your data. The data may be available, but not in a format that works with the new cloud provider. For every hour you are out, it can be thousands of dollars of lost business.

A Backup Cloud Service Provider

When an outage occurs, it is impossible to predict how long the outage will last. At some point, you have to make a decision to move to a backup cloud service provider. Not only will you be moving data, you will be moving your applications. You will also be encountering a different dashboard for managing these backup services. To minimize downtime related to this adjustment period, it's important to train your staff on the backup services before problems occur.

Disaster recovery and business continuity services can be expensive. Switchover will take a while even if the service is available to transfer the data and applications. Look for companies that offer cost effective solutions. These companies can store your source code and data at two different sites. They can have idle production servers available so you can go live quickly. Some of these companies allow the transfer of data at regular intervals so you can upload your data to the existing backup provider periodically and be prepared in case of failure with your primary provider.

Losing Connectivity

Connect to two ISPs and balance the traffic between them. By doing this, a connectivity loss of one ISP will not have a great impact except during the busiest time of the day. If you are using a session border controller, it can be used to automatically create business continuity connections with two ISPs.

Do you only have wired connections to the ISPs? Investigate companies that provide wireless ISP connectivity as a backup connection. You should balance the ISP traffic between wired and wireless services. There are also services for connecting to clouds from carriers and others that provide diversified routing and other capabilities (see the blog, "How Do You Connect to the Cloud?").

Keep Up Best Practices

Make sure you have the budget for your cloud backup. You need to identify which data and applications are critical and ensure that they are backed up safely so that they are ready for use immediately. During a switchover to a backup service, you may lose some of the capabilities of your data and applications. Choose wisely because you do not want to affect your internal operations or customers adversely.

Physical and technical security issues have become important. Are the cloud services vulnerable? How does a cloud service protect from people entering their facilities and stealing your data or accessing data online? Go through the backup procedures that are provided by a cloud service provider to ensure that they're easy-to-use and your staff knows how to use them. Question all the decisions, and don't make assumptions.