Tag Archives: Cloud Vendor

Five Tested Ways to Improve Your Vendor Relationships

MSPs may provide IT cloud services of all kinds to other businesses, but they too often obtain hardware and related products from third party vendors. In order for MSPs to be successful, it is imperative that they nurture their vendor relationships, and strive for improvement, whenever possible.

The following are some of the best ways MSPs can improve their vendor relationships:

  1. First Things First – Select the Vendor Carefully

It goes without saying that choosing the right vendor is extremely important for a long lasting and healthy business relationship. Many MSPs focus too much on the pricing a vendor is offering, and make a selection on that basis. However, a vendor who is providing the best prices may not be the best vendor for you, especially, in the long run. Thus, you must take into account several other important factors, such as their expertise, terms and conditions, years of experience, customer support standard, etc. Finding and going through the reviews left by other MSPs on the Internet can also help you making the best decision.

  1. Paying Bills on Time

Profits and sales are at the core of every business. Thus, one of the best ways you can ensure you have a good relationship with your vendor is by paying your bills on time, without fail. Vendors often have to work on thin margins, and with a fluctuating cashflow managing the inventories can be a challenge for them. By paying your bills on time you can make it a lot easier for them to stay in business, and also bolster the relationship.

  1. Making Your Vision and Goals Clear

This is one of the things you must do first thing when you partner with a vendor. In fact, explaining them what you need exactly, and how you need it, is one of the best ways to find out if they are the right fit. If they understand your short-term and long-term goals, and reflect the same in the service, then they are perfect for you, without a doubt. Just keep them updated with where your business is headed, and you will have a lasting and bonding relationship with them.

  1. Keeping Your Calm When Things Go Wrong

We don’t live in a perfect world, and things go wrong. Your vendor could delay a delivery, or maybe send damaged products that you needed urgently. Issues like these may make you want to call them up right away and just give an earful. However, this can never be the best approach. Before you jump to conclusions, it is better to hear out their side first. It is rare when a vendor causes a problem on purpose. By keeping your calm, you can understand their perspective and prevent your business relationship from taking a blow.

  1. Helping Them Out

Going an extra mile doesn’t hurt to nurture your vendor relationships. For instance, you can offer your IT expertise to solve your vendor’s problems, if needed. Or you could also refer them to your other IT partners, who are looking for a reliable vendor themselves. You will be surprised how small gestures like these can go a long way.


Recognising Cloud Risks and Dealing with It

Cloud computing is not free from risks. Smart organisations recognise the risks and deal with them. If your organisation is migrating to the cloud and is worried about security, it is a healthy sign. You are gearing up to identify possible risks and deal with them. We have listed a few commonly talked about risks below for starting you off on your journey of discovery.

Risk #1 – Data security. This is a real concern. You are entrusting your data to a third party cloud vendor. You may or may not know where your data will actually be stored, who will be given access to your data and how many times and on to what servers it will be replicated for redundancy and high availability. You do not have to take this risk blindfolded. You can get your vendor to spell out the details for you. You can evaluate the level of risk involved and take steps to ensure that your data remains your intellectual property, and will not be compromised in any manner by the activities of your cloud vendor. The good news is that most cloud service providers are ready to provide you with any information you may want in this direction and even willing to commit to keeping your data secure from unauthorized entities. You can retain control over your data by employing “user defined” encryption keys to encrypt your data on their storage vaults.

Risk #2 – Integration APIs require validation. True. Cloud services provide standard APIs. Customers using the cloud service must evaluate these APIs for any flaws and understand the extent of risk involved. Ask your cloud service provider all the right questions about the APIs and also about the underlying infrastructure sharing protocols, so that you are fully aware of how and where your data is stored and how accessible it is to others who are sharing that same infrastructure over the cloud. With the right tools and technology, you should be able to address the risks involved.

Risk #3 – Cloud can complicate IT budgeting. True, if you have not centralised your cloud service purchases, your budget could get a bit complicated. If multiple branches of your organisation are purchasing services from multiple cloud vendors, the risk of disintegration is great. Budgeting can get complicated, and confusion can prevail. Ensure that cloud service purchase is centralised and all your branches ride the same cloud. Centralizing your cloud services could even safe you money as the provider could add additional services as a package for smaller fees. Centralised management is convenient as usage can be monitored and users can be tracked from a single window interface.

You Add Value to Public Clouds

Public clouds are suspect—irrespective of whether or not the suspicion is justified or otherwise. Hence, the adoption of the public cloud has been slow.  But, the change is becoming visible, as more and more concerns about the public cloud are addressed, and the public cloud assumes its rightful place as a mode of computing that adds value to the business.

What is the value add that is to be obtained from public clouds?  The value add from public clouds is in direct proportion to the commitment the organisation feels towards managing the cloud provider and employing the cloud solution responsibly and effectively.  In other words, the responsibility for the success of the public cloud rests with the organisation and not with the cloud vendor.

If this seems to be counter-intuitive and contrary to all that you have heard about the cloud, it is the truth. Public clouds do decrease costs and do deliver all kinds of benefits to the end user. But, it brings with it a number of responsibilities:

  1. IT professionals within the organisation must stay with the cloud and its implementation. They must make the effort to understand the terms and conditions of the contract and enforce any remedies that may be built into the contract to ensure efficient performance of contact by the cloud vendor.  If the public cloud performance is poor, the IT personnel within the organisation are to blame.
  2. The objective of the public cloud is not just backup and recovery. There is a whole gamut of activities that happen in between.  Establishing the metrics and monitoring performance is a business imperative for IT managers.  Unmonitored public clouds can cause untold difficulties for end users. Latency, seek time issues or even backup and recovery issues may plague the organisation and make the whole experience of the cloud unpleasant.
  3. Availability and security are promises of the cloud vendor. But, untested security can be dangerous. IT managers will have to repeatedly test the security systems and run disaster recovery exercises to ensure that everything promised is deliverable and can be delivered at the appropriate time and at the pace required.
  4. Nothing can be managed without appropriate tools. IT managers need to ensure that the cloud service provides the managers with the right tools for the right tasks. There should be tools for scheduling backups and recoveries. There should be tools for managing users, stores or archives. There should be tools for generating and analysing reports on user activity or system activity.  Finally, there should be tools for verifying service level agreements (SLAs) and implementations.

It should be remembered that Cloud service providers do not understand your business. They only understand their own business. It is up to you to make sure that their tools are used to your benefit.

Cloud Service Closures—How Does One Deal with it?

The Nirvanix shut down created panic. What if your cloud service provider follows suit? Is it safe to transfer data to the cloud? How does one recover huge amounts of data entrusted to the cloud service, if the service suddenly decides to close shop? Smart cloud adopters are never fazed by these shutdowns! They have learnt the tricks of the trade and know how to hit the ground running even when their cloud service provider goes out of business. What is their secret?

They do not wait for bandwidth constraints to jam up their systems and force them to give up on their data. Most cloud vendors have the facility of backing up your data to removable media directly from their servers. This data will be copied in the encrypted format and can be shipped back to you. Ask your cloud vendor whether such a facility is available with them. Get your data shipped back to you in removable disk drives at frequent intervals for secure storage in your storage vaults.

Alternately, set up a remote server with a high speed Internet connection and ample bandwidth for transferring your data at frequent intervals during the lifetime of your contract with your cloud service provider. Many service providers permit simultaneous streaming of information to the local backup repositories, even when the data is being streamed to the remote cloud server owned by the service provider.

A few service providers offer local backup appliances or devices (as part of their package) that can connect to your network and download / replicate and mirror information that is streamed from various locations to the remote server in the cloud. This appliance / device remains with you and will be available to you even when your service provider goes out of business.

Smart users do know where their data is stored and how they can get their vendor to purge the data before the shut down. First, they sign up for services that allow them to encrypt the data with a user-defined impregnable key that remains in their custody. Un-purged data will pose no danger, as it cannot be decrypted without the key, and if accessed, it will make no sense to the person accessing. Second, they study the Service Level Agreement (SLA) in great detail and insist on the inclusion of purge clauses. They know exactly how their data is shared or used by the cloud service vendor and have control over their data at all times. They may even insist on the facility to “Delete” data from their end from all or any of the servers that are maintained by the cloud service vendor and go in and delete the data themselves.

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