Questions to Ask a Cloud Services Vendor

Brush Mountain Data Center, LLC, specializes in data security and remote data backup servicesFrom Doug Mauer, founder, President and CEO of Brush Mountain Data Center, LLC, a member company of technology incubator and business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks:

While backing up a company's data on its own infrastructure can be a good idea, storage space can be an issue.  Some companies try to allocate limited space based on what's "valuable."  For expanded space, others consider off-site storage - one specialty of Brush Mountain Data Center– and cloud services.  Here are some components to consider when determining what's "valuable" along with commentary:

1. Document management (DM), especially collaboration of projects which have work product that is the result of collaboration.

For cloud services, we must remember that the hosted application is proprietary to the vendor and whatever work product is produced by the client's efforts and use of that cloud app are stored and retrieved in their proprietary infrastructure, both hardware and software.

All would be good if one could count on the cloud service app being in existence  for the duration of your intended use, and that you are pleased with them forever. That seldom is the case. All the "costs" calculated in evaluating such a decision should include the cost of getting out of the service with your "work product" intact or at least recoverable. In document management, as long as you have projects that have deliverables in terms of documents, a company must make sure to have those final documents (the ones that are no longer actively built through collaboration)  archived somewhere. This will give you some portability away from the service should/when it comes to that.

All this means is that finished documents should be archived in your own infrastructure or some other that is independent of "the cloud service."

2. Understand that if Knowledge Management (KM) is part of this application, the relationships between the documents, the indexing, and search are all proprietary to the Service and not portable. If KM is a key part of the need here, most knowledge management solutions are NOT portable to other systems, mostly because there is no standard system for exportation. Exporting documents is easy, exporting KM functionality isn't.

Much of the work involved in KM systems is done by the users when they key word, classify and index the documents upon creation and must be re-done to change systems. Bottom line, you are somewhat stuck once you get into a KM dependency. The state of the Art of Artificial Intelligence to automatically and accurately read and index document stores intelligently with context remains the Holy Grail that is still missing. A lot of your hard work will be lost when you leave a KM system.  Best to get it right from the beginning.

Questions to ask a Cloud Services Vendor:

  1. What are the established vendor-supplied methods of getting your work products out of the application for backup or service termination?
  2. Are they legally obligated via contract to provide you with usable independent documents on termination and what is the cost of such provision to the parties?
  3. What are the backup facilities, particularly if you want to control and backup to a third party your own the usable work product that the service environment contains?

Essentially, you want to provide independent disaster recovery for yourself for your valuable IP that is produced with their asset. The cloud services company may tell you that they back up all their data. That is fine, but not enough. We must assume and consider all possible scenarios.

Co-locating your own servers in "the Cloud" and hosting your own applications means you don't have that Pain in extricating from a Service provider, however a company must balance that against the need and the cost to provide either custom or off-the-shelf application software.

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Doug Mauer, founder of BizNet Technologies, Inc. in 1993, began Brush Mountain Data Center to meet the expanding needs of his clients, many of whom were located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, as they grew from one-founder start-ups to established companies.  His clients were creating mission-critical data that would result in business-crippling results if it were lost.

Mauer coined the phrase, "your data vault in the mountains," to urge companies to envision a secure location for their data. 

Brush Mountain Data Center, LLC has top tier security specifications and specializes in services to small and medium-sized businesses.

Brush Mountain Data Center, LLC, specializes in data security and remote data back-up services.  Offering server co-location and offsite disaster recovery protection, Brush Mountain Data Center serves as your company’s “data vault in the mountains."  For more information about secure, offsite data storage, please contact Doug Mauer.

Brush Mountain Data Center, LLC is a sponsor of the New River Valley Triathlon which will benefit the Mental Health Association of the New River Valley, Inc.

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VT KnowledgeWorks, a regional business acceleration center that helps companies bring ideas to market, will present the Second Annual Entrepreneurship Summit on April 7-8, 2010 at the Inn at Virginia Tech & Skelton Conference Center in Blacksburg, Virginia. This two-day comprehensive workshop is for prospective company founders, entrepreneurs launching or re-vamping a business, growing companies seeking expansion capital, and individuals interested in investing in early-stage companies.

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VT KnowledgeWorks sponsors include Attaain, Inc., BB&T, Handshake 2.0, Harris Office Furniture, Hodges, Jones & Mabry, P.C., Hutchison Law Group, Latimer, Mayberry & Matthews IP Law, LeClairRyan, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and The Becher Agency (TBA).

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