5. Can I move an existing app from my private cloud to your public cloud without massive reconfiguration? This question is critical because your cloud vendor's infrastructure is likely completely different from yours, Claybrook says. Consequently, if you want to move an app out of your datacenter, there will likely be some conflicts. "The application has been built assuming the use of particular storage technologies, specific network configurations and specific management tools," says Claybrook. "You need to know if it's moved to a public cloud, where all of those things are probably different, how you can make it work."
The vendor may provide tools that can make the migration go more smoothly, Claybrook adds. It also helps to find a vendor whose technology ecosystem is similar to yours. "Some cloud vendors support multiple databases and various forms of networking," says Claybrook. "You'll want your applications to perform at least as well in the cloud after it's moved as it ran in your datacenter."
6. How do I get my data back? In the event you need to move your applications and data back into your data center (or to another cloud vendor), you need to know exactly where your data is stored and how to get it back, Claybrook says. You also need to be clear on your contractual obligations should you ever decide to terminate the relationship with the cloud vendor. For instance, you may owe the cloud vendor money if you terminate the contract, he adds.
"Getting the data back so you can use it is not always easy," says Claybrook. "Talk about this beforehand. That should be part of the contract negotiations."
7. How do you address government regulations? Many businesses have to comply with state or federal regulations regarding consumer privacy and data. With that in mind, it's critical to know how your cloud vendor is handling your data so you can be sure you are complying with all of the regulations that affect your business, Claybrook says. "There are cases, due to regulations, where you don't want your data stored outside of some particular area, maybe a specific state and certainly not outside your country," says Claybrook. "What kind of guarantee can you get from your cloud provider that your data stays within a certain place?"
Claybrook emphasizes that it's the customer's responsibility to comply with government regulations. "You have to be sure you are still in compliance once you move to the cloud," he says. "Make sure that this is part of your contract."
8. What will I really pay? "When Amazon EC2 and other public clouds came along, the assumption was that running your applications on a public cloud was going to be cheaper," Claybrook says. "Now some people are finding out that it's more expensive than they thought, and some are trying to move back and build out their own datacenters. So you need to have really good cost estimates for running apps on the cloud versus running them on your own premises."
Customers can get misled on price when cloud vendors leave details out of their cost estimates, says Claybrook. "Be sure to ask about everything you need. Don't assume anything," he says. "For example, ask if there are charges for transferring data over networks to the cloud. Ask a lot of questions. Ask the questions that you're hesitant to ask."
Todd R. Weiss covers ERP, CRM, BI, Oracle, SAP, virtualization and cloud computing for CIO.com. He's also interested in a wide range of other fascinating IT topics, from open source to data centers and more. Follow Todd on Twitter @TechManTalking. And don't forget to join Todd in the CIO Forum on LinkedIn.com to talk with CIOs and IT managers about the things that keep them up at night. Email Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about applications in CIO's Applications Drilldown.