Don't get cloud conned: Five questions to catch out the cloud charlatans

Exposing the truth about cloud providers

With technology, distinguishing true statements from bogus claims can be difficult. As a buyer, you know you need certain features – like reliability and compliance from your cloud service provider. There's usually no shortage of companies claiming to be experts and seeming to have the right answers. But when you dig deeper, it becomes obvious some companies can't live up to their promises.

The key to finding a genuine, proficient cloud provider, rather than one who just tells you what you want to hear, is knowing which questions to ask…

1. What percentage of uptime do you guarantee?

In a way, this is a trick question. You'd think that a higher uptime percentage equals a better deal. In fact, a cloud pro knows what's possible in terms of network availability: 99.99%. Companies offering "five 9s" (99.999%) are trying to reel you in with a promise they can't keep. That percentage equates to only five minutes of downtime per year, and as appealing as that sounds in terms of reliable access to your critical business systems, it's not a realistic claim.

2. Can you prove your compliance with industry standards?

Legitimate cloud providers understand that their performance records must be validated by a third-party auditor and can demonstrate their compliance with standards such as SSAE 16. Any company not willing to prove its compliance through a third-party audit is definitely not a cloud pro.

3. Could you tell me about your security history?

Any cloud provider worth its salt is completely transparent about its security history. We all learn from our mistakes, and every security breach leads to preventive measures that ensure fewer future breaches. Be extremely wary of any cloud provider claiming to have never had a breach or downplaying the impact of past breaches. A cloud pro will never do this.

4. Was your app designed for the cloud?

This is one of the most harmful bait-and-switch tactics out there. Cloud pros only use applications that were designed for the cloud for maximum effectiveness. Companies that tell you their applications weren't designed for the cloud but have been adapted to work just as well as a native app are misleading you – a significant amount of a cloud application's effectiveness depends on its architecture.

5. Do you provide customer references?

A cloud pro will not only happily provide several customer references, but those customers will be willing to talk with you about their experience. Any company that claims big successes and satisfied patrons but cannot connect you with a current customer is not a cloud pro.

Armed with the right questions, you'll quickly be able to ascertain which companies are posing as cloud pros, and which are the real deal.

  • Jason Lehr is director of technology and infrastucture at Autotask