What to do when your cloud implementation goes wrong

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If you’ve moved to the cloud, it’s important to keep on top of your implementation to make sure it’s doing what you want it to do and enabling staff rather than hindering their progress.

However, if you didn’t plan out the migration well or you didn’t assess your needs effectively before you decided to go ahead and migrate data and applications to the cloud, you may find you start experiencing problems, but how do you go about fixing these problems?

Noam Shendar, VP of service provider sales at Zadara Storage says there are many reasons why a cloud implementation can go wrong but many of these which can be avoided by setting up your service that is fit for your company’s needs before you start using it.

He says some of the most common complaints Zadara sees when dealing with problems along the road include not enough performance from a cloud implementation, not enough consistency of performance and not enough assurances of data privacy or custody from the vendor. He says customers are often confused about where their data is stored and whether all copies are deleted when they ask for it to be deleted.

Dave Packer, Druva’s director of product marketing agrees that this is one of the biggest complaints from customers.

“Companies do their due diligence in talking to vendors about how to migrate their data into the cloud but rarely is there a conversation about what happens when it is time to get the data back out.

“Your unstructured data is in the provider’s cloud and it becomes intertwined with all sorts of structured data that gives context to it (ie metadata). For instance, it’s often expected that if you want to get your data out of a file sharing service, the data will come back with the same file structure that you’re used to, but in reality it tends to be far more complicated.”

One problem some organisations have suffered from in the past is their cloud provider going out of business and in this case, it is more important than ever to ensure your data is stored in a way that means you can get it out quickly because the provider may not be hugely communicative. Many companies including Datalink, CCR Data and Talend can help you get your data from one company and migrate to another, so ensure you have at least knowledge of this even if you haven’t made steps to move your data.

Getting your data out isn’t the only problem companies can experience when moving to the cloud, although it is one of the biggest concerns.

Shendar says application incompatibility is a big problem if you’re looking to run applications - particularly legacy applications - in the cloud, especially when it comes to storage.

“This can force an expensive, lengthy and risky re-write of the application,” he explains.

Many of these problems can be avoided before you even migrate your data to the new cloud service, so it’s important that they are addressed at the beginning of the cycle.

Packer explains that you should always be upfront with your provider, discussing with them any potential problems there may be migrating to the cloud and while using the cloud service, especially if one concern is getting your data back out.

He says, “It’s possible to negotiate certain contract expectations to meet certain milestones. Sometimes it comes down to assuring that there are warranties in place and that the agreement signed with the cloud provider gives you rights and access to the data, including how quickly you can get your data back if you deprovision the provider’s service.”

There are key questions that you need to ask when you are assessing vendors. Ask them about a decommissioning plan:

  • How quickly can you get your data back out?
  • How much does it cost to get your data out? Some providers charge for this.
  • What is involved? It’s often not as simple as just getting a dump of your data. What format will the data be in? Will it be reusable? It might not just be the data itself that is retrieved - it might also have workflows, configurations, and different types of metadata. Can you ingest this same data into a new system if needed?

Shendar says that almost all cloud providers provide a free tier or one-offcredits for new customers. He advises that you use these free resources if you are planning to operate applications in the cloud to test them before you commit to a high-cost product or sign up to a long-term contract you won’t be able to end very easily.

You’ll also need to stress-test your cloud infrastructure, running it at high performance to see what happens and if the capacity meets your needs. “Make sure to test over the course of several days, to see if there are any intraday variations,” Shendar says.

If, after fully testing your cloud service, you find you’re experiencing problems, Shendar says it’s not always as easy as going straight to your cloud provider. Whether you should go straight to your provider depends on how the provider works.

Some providers are high-touch, in which case it’s best to always go there first to help fix any problems. If your service provider is low-touch, he suggests you head to discussion forums where experts respond to user requests. LinkedIn is a good place for finding these, under Groups, and Meetups are another good resource you should explore.

It would seem one of the best ways to ensure your cloud implementation doesn’t break down or go wrong is to ensure your needs are met before you enter in any kind of agreement. If possible, try the service out before committing and then if something does go wrong, you will either have to approach your service provider to help solve the problem, rebuild apps that can prove very costly, or find a solution on forums if your provider doesn’t provide support.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.