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Industry Demands Clarity on Cloud

Article date: Wed, 08 Jun 2011 09:51 GMT

Andrew Corbett joins UKFast's round table

The hype surrounding cloud technology may be raging now but its long term success could be hampered if users' concerns over transparency aren't addressed now.

A panel of IT experts gathered at the Manchester headquarters of hosting specialist UKFast to discuss the potential of cloud technology and the opportunities and drawbacks it presents to the market. The experts agreed that a Code of Practice would aid swifter adoption.

Panellists presented feedback from clients and peers in the industry that showed many firms are preventing a move to a cloud platform because of a lack of trust in vendors and suppliers.

The experts suggested that business owners and IT directors are worried about the popularity of cloud giving rise to "cowboy" companies without the reputation or expertise to manage the transition from a traditionally-hosted infrastructure.

Ian Moyse, IT security expert and EMEA channel director at Webroot said: "The key thing for businesses looking at cloud is that they know who they are dealing with. Like in any industry, there will be good and bad players out there. It's very easy to become a cloud vendor because of the nature of the technology. There will be lots of innovative companies springing up and customers will be dealing with someone they haven't heard of before."

Andrew Corbett of the UK IT Association felt that a code of practice would help businesses find reputable firms. He said: "Businesses want to see an easily recognisable badge that shows a supplier or vendor has met the demands of an independent external testing and verification process. The business owner doesn't have to know the ins and outs of what it all means, they just want to know that they should look for 'level A' for example."

Andy Burton, chair of the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) - set up in 2009 to promote trust in reputable cloud service providers - championed the CIF's code of practice and guidance from the Cloud Security Alliance, but reminded decision makers that they maintain responsibility even for outsourced projects.

He said: "There is this natural human behaviour that says when you put something out to a service you delegate responsibility subconsciously. You don't do your due diligence and you don't ask for validation on certain things. We need to educate the marketplace so customers know when they take on any service, they still have a responsibility to prescribe exactly what they require and take steps to monitor the service they are receiving."

The Cloud Industry Forum's code of practice addressed the concerns highlighted in its research amongst UK businesses. Asked about the most pertinent issues that would affect the long term success of cloud computing, 23 per cent cited the 'reliability of operations' as the most important issue.

Asked how they establish trust with an online provider, business owners cited a recommendation from a trusted source as one of the most important factors, second only to reputation.

Furthermore, an overwhelming 62 per cent said a code of practice would be "important" in determining their choice of supplier.

The CIF's code of practice aims to provide clarity and confidence to help in choosing a provider. Its members meet strict criteria on transparency - including details of financial stability - and capabilities, including their commitments to information security and customer service.

Moyse continued: "There is also an element of self policing that vendors have to do. If you are a cloud vendor and you get it wrong, everybody knows about it pretty quickly. If it happens to one customer, people on the same service will be asking questions. With most cloud services it's pretty easy to move, so get it wrong and you can lose thousands of customers overnight."

Lawrence Jones, managing director of UKFast, advised customers to spend time assessing the market and looking for a cloud vendor that suits their business.

"There are a lot of companies, old and new, that have a cloud offering. Work out who is best for you. Cloud is a heavily service-based offering so you need to work out which hosts or cloud vendors are the right fit for your business.

"The people that are building pretty and cheap sites are promising the same things that the best and most experienced vendors are offering. What substance is behind those claims?

Unfortunately, it's often not until you've had the experience yourself - and it's often a bad experience - that you find out there's very little backing it up."

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