5 ways to tell a cloud poser from a cloud pro

Buyer beware: There are plenty of companies vying for your business that claim to be cloud pros

Who would you trust more to fix your car, a licensed mechanic or a guy who once saw someone do an oil change? The choice should be simple. But surprisingly, the debate over trusting an expert versus someone who claims to be an expert happens every day across all industries, so it shouldn't be shocking that the debate rages in the cloud, too.

Cloud computing enables people and companies to access applications from any computer. But the cloud has created a new group of cloud posers -- inexperienced software developers who make bold (and often untrue) claims about the performance of the cloud-based applications they manage. While on the surface they may seem like a good choice to support your business, once you start asking smart questions, a cloud poser's true colors (and lack of expertise) will quickly be revealed.

To help steer clear of the storm clouds, here are five questions you can ask to distinguish a cloud poser from a cloud pro.

* Four 9s or five? Reliable access to your business' email, billing and other systems is essential to efficient business operations. As more companies transition important aspects of their businesses to the cloud, they'll want to know they'll have the same access in the cloud as if their systems were on-premises.

Cloud posers know this so, to reel you in, they often make unrealistic claims about uptime. If someone promises you "five 9s" (99.999%) of uptime which equates to only 5 minutes of downtime each year -- you're talking to a cloud poser. While 99.999% availability sounds appealing, it's just not realistic. A cloud pro never promises more than four 9s (99.99%) of network availability.

* Are you compliant with industry standards? Regulatory compliance is essential and so is being able to prove you're compliant. Cloud posers may not see the need to have their records validated by a third-party auditor, but cloud pros know it's a requirement and will make available third-party auditors' reports on their performance. It's part of doing business for legitimate cloud providers.

* Have you ever had a security breach? Transitioning to the cloud requires companies to hand over control and protection of their data to someone else, which can be scary. A cloud poser will claim to have never had a breach and will avoid talking about the steps they should be actively taking to prevent a breach. By contrast, cloud pros are eager to tell you about what they do to prevent a breach things like third party penetration tests. They know past performance doesn't predict future performance -- what's important are the measures the company continues to take as threat vectors continue to evolve.

* Was your app designed for the cloud? What would you prefer a solution that was created for the purpose at hand or one that can "do the job"? A cloud application's effectiveness depends largely on its underlying architecture. Cloud posers will claim that even though their applications weren't designed for the cloud, they've been adapted to perform in the cloud and will do just fine. On the other hand, cloud pros know that if a cloud application wasn't originally designed for the cloud, it probably can't scale (in more ways than one). Time to look for another provider.

* Can I talk with a customer? Cloud posers talk a big game about their successes and how much their customers love them. But claiming to have plenty of satisfied customers is one thing. Actually having satisfied customers who'll vouch for you? That's quite another. While cloud posers will be reluctant to provide customer references, cloud pros understand the power of a third-party endorsement. Not only will a cloud pro be happy to provide customer references, chances are the customers will be more than willing to talk about their experiences.

So now it's your turn. Whom would you trust a cloud poser or a cloud pro?

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