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Untitled Document The cloud is all around us. End users are benefiting from the cloud with innovative applications such as photo sharing with Flickr and Picasa web albums, various Google applications such as Google Docs, and bookmarking services such as del.icio.us. IT shops, too, continue to be enamored by cloud computing because of the many benefits that include reduced upfront capital investment and ongoing maintenance costs, quicker software updates, and increased computing scalability (performance and storage).

But listen carefully and you might hear a thunderstorm brewing. Cloud computing has its share of problems as well. The most common concern is that around the security of the data stored in the cloud. As an example, consider the highly publicized data breach within Google Docs on March 7, 2009. Although the breach was fairly small, it got a lot of attention, so much so that the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the adequacy of Google's privacy and security safeguards. Availability of the cloud is another concern. Once again, consider the Google Docs one hour outage on July 8, 2008 and the Google Gmail two and a half hour outage on February 24, 2009.



Selecting a cloud

Given the above, it is not surprising that most discussions around selecting a cloud revolve around security and availability. These are, however, what I consider to be "level 2" decisions. "Level 1" decisions, on the other hand, are more strategic in nature. Think about it: entrusting your company data and the continuity of your company's operations to the cloud is a serious commitment. The question is "have you performed the due diligence to ensure that your cloud vendor is worthy of that commitment?" Here are six "level 1" strategic considerations to get you started in building that confidence:

Viability

Gartner puts the cloud services market at $46 billion last year, jumping to $56 billion this year and $150 billion by 2013. With so much to gain, it isn't any wonder that many vendors now offer cloud computing platforms to companies seeking to outsource their IT infrastructure and data storage/management. However, let the buyer beware, since many of these vendors are too niche-oriented and too small to expand significantly or act as consolidators. Simply put, will the vendor you select be in business several years from now? Answering this question requires careful examination of the vendor's financial assets, its size, cash flow, and stability (management and workforce).

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