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For many of today’s businesses, cloud technology is as integral and commonplace as email. It’s a practical and convenient means of storing and sharing important data, and a great way to stretch your technology budget by eliminating expensive hardware and upkeep costs. The flexibility and accessibility the cloud offers are reason enough to consider making it a part of your IT infrastructure, but it’s the cloud’s capabilities as a data backup and disaster recovery resource that has made it invaluable to so many businesses.

However, before you jump into a contract with a public cloud provider, it’s important to take a look at the fine print. As with any business contract, your legal team should give the document a thorough once-over before you sign, but there is more to consider than just potential future issues buried under legalese. You need to make sure you’re signing up for a service that will give your business exactly what you need and that you’re working with a provider that will actually take care of your data.

There are three main concerns you should keep firmly in mind when shopping around for a public cloud provider, and take care to have them addressed well before you agree to a contract.

1) Where Will Your Important Business Data Be Stored?

While there are some legal safeguards in place to protect how and where your data is stored, particularly within the European Union, this is a question you’re going to want to ask very early on in your discussion with a potential provider. Unless it’s explicitly stated and agreed upon, many cloud providers can and will store their client’s data in data centers located throughout the world, and many won’t disclose the locations of their data centers at all. This means your mission-critical data could be housed on another continent – potential in an area with very lax regulations about how data within their borders can be used.

Many providers give you the option of choosing where you want your data to be housed, but typically only if you have the forethought to ask about it. For the sake of redundancy and failover, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have your data in multiple data centers. But you should have the right to decide where your information will be housed, and depending on your industry and the type of data you’re responsible for safeguarding, you may have hard limits on how and where that data can be stored. If this isn’t something your cloud provider is willing to negotiate with you, you’re much better off to keep looking.

2) Does Their Availability Guarantee Extend To Your Data?

Most providers are quick to advertise their uptime guarantee, with many boasting the gold standard “11 9’s” (99.999999999%) uptime guarantee as part of their service offerings. Essentially, what this guarantee means for your business is that if there is ever any issue that causes a service disruption, the provider will act very quickly to restore access to their services. However, that doesn’t mean that your data will still be there once your cloud access is back online. Many providers don’t accept responsibility for the integrity or even the security of your data in the event of a service failure of any kind, and in fact, place that responsibility back on you. Providing a redundant backup in case of data loss and the added security needed to keep your data safe is left to the business owner, often without said owner being aware of that fact until the worst has already happened.

Managing your own redundant backups is smart for a number of reasons, but you should be aware of how much your cloud provider is willing to do to help protect your mission-critical information before you decide to work with them.

3) What Happens To Your Data When Your Contract Is Terminated?

A user agreement will hold your business to certain standards, and if your cloud provider finds that you’ve failed to meet those standards, abused their services, or otherwise breached that agreement, they’re within their rights to terminate your contract. There are two things you need to be very, very clear on before signing a cloud contract – what the grounds for termination are, and what happens to your data if the contract is terminated.

Typical grounds for termination include non-payment, breach of acceptable use policies, or breach of intellectual property rights. Often, the actions of a single employee can jeopardize this agreement for your business as a whole and lead to the termination of your contract. If that were to happen, you’d need to know what will happen to your data. Some providers will erase your data immediately, while others will offer you the customary 30-day window in which to retrieve your data before it’s erased from their servers. Knowing whether or not you’ll have time to retrieve your data is critical.

The bottom line when it comes to negotiating a contract with a cloud provider is simple – go into the conversation with clear expectations with regards to service and support. If you find yourself going back and forth trying to come to an agreement with a potential provider, that’s a sign you should keep looking until you can find someone who is already on the same page as you. It could also be a sign that the public cloud just isn’t suited to your business’ needs, and a private cloud or other backup solution would be a better fit.

Want to learn more about the data backup solutions and other cloud-based services CPU, Inc. provides? Contact us at info@CPUonline.com or (419) 872-9119. We’re the trusted IT professionals for businesses nationwide.

Published on 1st September 2017 by Jeanne DeWitt.

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