Q&A: Eric Thompson and Brandon Tanner on Cloud Services — Part 1

Cloud-shaped window in modern officeRecently we sponsored a Disaster Recovery Journal (DRJ) webinar, during which two of our associates — Eric Thompson, solutions architect, and Brandon Tanner, senior manager — talked about how cloud solutions can accelerate business recovery. (If you missed the webinar, you can check it out here.)

At the end of the session, attendees had some excellent questions about cloud solutions. If they’re asking these questions, we’re sure others are too, so we’ve compiled a two-part series highlighting some of the questions from the webinar.

Q: How do I know if my environment is ready for the cloud and where do I start?
A: Before making a decision about whether or not you’re ready for cloud, look at your business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plan, specifically the business impact analysis, to see if it’s up to date.

Evaluate if the business functions are lined up appropriately with the systems and applications interdependencies. Also make sure you’ve assigned the appropriate RTOs from business, client and compliance perspectives. Once you’ve identified those functions and system interdependencies, cloud solutions become viable options.

Q: How do you address requirements for security and segmentation of client data, as well as return of  data at the end of engagement?
A: If you’re evaluating cloud vendors, keep in mind that any vendor needs to have gone through the Service Organization Controls (SOC) 2 audit so you’ll have visibility into the provider’s services. The audit focuses on a business’s nonfinancial reporting controls, availability of service, process integrity, confidentiality and privacy.

In terms of getting data back, companies like Rentsys will work with you to move data to another location by exporting the data to some sort of media. When people move from one platform to another (e.g., physical to virtual), data needs to be both portable and recoverable in the new infrastructure. Know up-front how a vendor handles data migrations.

Q: How is the cloud environment maintained so that it’s current with my in-house production data center?
A: Typically the cloud infrastructure is all handled by the vendor. As far as maintenance, in a traditional cloud model, the cloud vendor owns and operates the hypervisor down through the hardware stack on behalf of your company. You control systems from the OS up. If you're using a replication technology, updates in production will replicate to the cloud. If you’re recovering data, the systems will restore to the latest backup point.

Q: Can you talk about licensing considerations when discussing cloud options?
A: It varies. There are certain software applications that allow you to run a secondary copy at time of event free of charge as part of license. Others may require a separate license, sometimes at a reduced cost in the event of a disaster. Licensing considerations will also depend on the cloud vendor. At Rentsys, for example, physical workstation recovery solutions include licensing as part of the service.

Q: What is the cloud provider responsible for and what is the customer responsible for?
A: The cloud provider’s responsibilities should be documented in a SOC 2 report, and the contracts should be specific about who’s responsible for what. We would also caution you to look closely at what the vendor actually provides, because things are done differently in the cloud. If you’re open-minded, you might be able to take advantage of something you didn’t know existed that’s better for the company.

Do you have any questions about the cloud? Share them in the comments below and stay tuned for Part 2 of our Q&A series!