How enterprises can cut the risk of cloud vendor lock in [Q&A]

cloud lock

While most CIOs have now identified the benefits cloud can have for their business, concerns over becoming locked in with a single vendor can still be a major barrier to rolling out projects.

We spoke to Richard Best, general manager at COMPAREX UK, to find out why this is the case and what companies can do to avoid vendor lock in.

BN: What are CIOs most pressing concerns over cloud?

RB: While most CIOs have now identified the benefits cloud can have on their business, worries over vendor lock-in can still be a major obstacle to adoption. Freedom of Information requests carried out this year found a third of UK local councils, for example, cite vendor lock-in as a barrier to adopting public cloud services.

BN: What is your view on the nature of cloud agreements and what effect do they have on customers?

RB: The cumbersome and confusing nature of cloud agreements can mean organizations opt to stay with a provider that doesn't meet their needs and find it difficult to exit at a later date. Many customers are simply stuck in a cycle of paying for a provider they are simply not getting the most out of. One of the biggest problems with cloud agreements is how quickly the cost of consumption spirals, resulting in large bills that the organization was not prepared for. Vendors can only ever have a vague idea of your organization's cloud consumption without accessing accurate usage data. If CIOs have an in-depth picture of their cloud consumption, they are infinitely better equipped to negotiate an agreement that better reflects their needs.

BN: Can organizations do more to avoid cloud vendor lock-in?

RB: Businesses need to have a back-up plan in place to proactively reduce the complexity of the exit process that will inevitably happen at some future point. While customizing your cloud solution is one of the greatest benefits of using cloud, CIOs must bear in mind that this also increases the difficulties of later moving to another provider. Many cloud vendors also make it difficult for businesses to re-access their data upon exiting the contract, with no clean way to extract data and migrate elsewhere. To mitigate these risks, businesses should define the data they will need in the exit process, and how to get it, before committing to any contract.

BN: How can CIOs best negotiate a cloud agreement?

RB: Understanding of your cloud environment is essential leverage for negotiation. Structured and controlled purchasing, with comprehensive management and reporting will help make sure customers get the best cloud agreement. CIOs must have complete visibility into their organization's use of cloud so they can make more informed decisions. Growth, consumption and reliance should all be considered to lessen the chance of surprisingly large bills. CIOs need to additionally make sure there is flexibility in their agreement so that changing in future is not so difficult -- whether that be portability of data, or factoring in a release clause or notice period.

BN: Finally, if companies are locked-in, what can they do about it?

RB: Providers are naturally nervous about customers changing supplier so make it as difficult as possible for companies to leave an agreement once set up. Whilst the process may be tedious, checking how one provider stores data against another is essential. Regular back-ups of data, in an easy to use format, can alleviate this stress. Unfortunately, for many organizations it may just come down to money and being forced to pay to get out of their contract with a cloud provider.

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