Oct 18 2013

Why Cloud Exit Plans Are a Critical IT Parachute

Things can change at any moment. Is your organization prepared to leap from the cloud at any given time?

What happens when the view from the cloud turns from awe-inspiring to plain old terrifying?

Customers of cloud-storage company Nirvanix recently learned the answer to this unpleasant question when the startup abruptly announced that it would be winding down its services by the end of September. The company made this earth-shattering announcement in mid-September, giving customers roughly two weeks to figure out how to shift all of their data from Nirvanix’s cloud to other cloud providers.

An article in The Wall Street Journal called the closure “a blow to cloud computing.” But one cloud provider dissipating into the atmosphere will hardly stop the larger trend of organizations moving IT services and resources to the cloud.

The Nirvanix meltdown does, however, provide an important lesson for companies relying on public cloud services: In case of emergency, build an escape route.

Kyle Hilgendorf, a research director at Gartner, wrote a blog post urging organizations to build cloud exit strategies into their cloud initiatives. He highlighted a few warning signs that should cause any company to sound the alarms:

If you are a customer of any other cloud service (that is basically all of us) – take some time and build a cloud exit strategy/plan for every service you depend upon. Cloud providers will continue to go out of business. It may not be a frequent occurrence, but it will happen. And even if your cloud provider does not go out of business, here is a list of many other factors which may signal you needing to exit a cloud service:

  • Provider’s services less reliable than advertised in SLAs, contracts or expressed expectations
  • Soured relationship with provider
  • Change in service levels
  • Change of provider ownership
  • Change of price
  • Change of terms and conditions
  • Expiration of enterprise agreement or contract
  • Lack of support
  • Data, security or privacy breach
  • Provider inability to stay competitive with industry features
  • Repeated or prolonged outages
  • Lack of remuneration for services lost
  • Change of internal leadership, strategy or corporate direction

Cloud customers, don’t delay. All the risk mitigation tasks you would do if one of your in-house application vendors suddenly went out of business, ideally should be done in advance before leveraging cloud services. Exit strategies are important and necessary insurance policies. Don’t be caught off guard.

In a recent blog post, Howard Marks, a blogger for Network Computing, made an even more salient point about the relationship between enterprise IT workers and cloud providers: “The primary lesson to learn is that you, as your organization's data custodian, can outsource the actual data to a cloud provider. But you, not the cloud provider, are ultimately responsible for your organization's data.”