What if Your Cloud Application Provider Goes Away?

Originally published on the Neuralytix website.

On October 1, 2013, cloud storage provider Nirvanix declared bankruptcy. The company will shut down its IaaS storage platform on October 15th and customers will have to move to other platforms. That’s unfortunate for them. Moving data from one service provider to another when it’s not expected is disrupting and can potentially lead to temporary system downtime or inefficiencies.

Losing your cloud storage provider suddenly is the best of the worst. You have to move data and change your applications that point to it and that can ruin your day. Imagine, however, losing a service provider that was providing everything – processor, memory, storage, and networking. What then? Entire applications have to move which is much more complex. Perhaps several applications have to change their location to a service provider that has different capabilities and different rules. Depending on the programming language the applications are written in, it may not be possible to move all of them to the same provider. Talk about risk.

But wait. There’s more. What about a SaaS provider? Now only does the data have to move (and that’s if it can be exported in the first place) but an entirely new application has to be chosen. One that looks different, acts different, and has different capabilities. The disruption from this situation will last a long time as the people who actually use the system on a daily basis adjust to a new user interface, workflows, and reports. That assumes that all the data from the old system can even be imported into the new one. Between IT resources, both internal and external, and possibly having to pay more for subscriptions (and not getting back the money you already paid) the direct costs can be considerable. Add to that disruptions in the business and this is a dangerous problem to have.

All of this assumes customers can even get their data back. Depending on how sudden a shutdown is, there may not be time or means. If the vendor can’t pay people to help with the shutdown – or at least the right people – then getting back the data may be very difficult. Nirvanix only gave customers two weeks to move their data elsewhere. Finding a new SaaS application vendor and migrating to their platform in that timeframe would be pretty close to impossible.

It doesn’t take a dramatic event to shutter an important application, only a business decision. Vendors that cater to the SMB market such as Google and Zoho have been known to decommission applications or components of applications. The same is true of even large software vendors. Perhaps the product was unprofitable or couldn’t grow faster enough. Maybe a product is acquired and there is overlap with an existing product. In any event the application is shut down after a while, causing pain for customers.

So, ask “If my SaaS/PaaS/IaaS vendor gave me two weeks’ notice of a shutdown, what would I do?” What’s the plan? What’s the pain and how can it be avoided? Asking these questions starts the process of mitigating the risk involved in all outsourcing arrangement including IT cloud services.

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