5 Cloud Lessons from Louis Armstrong

Have you ever had a situation where you described something perfectly – let’s say to your wife, for example – and then some time later, you find out that they completely misinterpreted what you said? You explained it so carefully, but they just didn’t follow what you meant.

It reminds me a little bit of the classic Louis Armstrong song – “You say tomato” – two people saying exactly the same thing, just in different ways.


Unfortunately this happens all the time in IT. As a grizzled veteran of far too many IT projects, I know all too well how difficult it is to define anything in such detail that there is no misinterpretation possible. And even if you manage that, it has to be in a language that everyone from the CEO to the office secretary can understand. It’s not easy.

Oh, and did I mention that in the 99.9% of situations where you don’t  get this right, there tends to be complications – project overruns, blown budgets, stress and, sometimes, people getting fired?

Expand that thinking and it might explain why some people are a little wary of moving to the cloud for their enterprise content management (ECM). It’s difficult enough to get that all of the elements right in an on-premises installation. Surely, it’s going to be 10 times harder in the cloud, right?

It can certainly seem that way. For starters, you have additional things to worry about like security, availability of the service, ownership of the data and defining that dreaded service level agreement (SLA). Lots of potential tomatoes! And potatoes, come to think of it.

So before you “call the whole thing off,” let’s look at the five things that you and your provider absolutely need to agree on.

1. I might be asking you to hold this, but it’s still mine.

For any ECM solution in the cloud solution, it is vital that the ownership of the data remains with the customer. Not only are there legal considerations here, but consider the uproar if a bank “gave away” ownership of their customers’ personal details! This might seem obvious, but take a closer look at the Facebook terms and conditions as an example of a cloud provider who assumes ownership of everything that you store with it. This cannot happen to your corporate content.

2. Will my data be safe getting to you?

Before you even worry about securing the content that is stored in the cloud, you need to ensure that the transport mechanisms are secure. 256 bit SSL/TLS should do the trick for content uploads and downloads — but your situation may call for even more security. Getting this wrong is a bit like losing the winning lottery ticket on the journey to pick up your winnings.

3. I want to know what’s going on!

So your cloud service works perfectly, never has a problem, and is always working perfectly. Really? If observed over a sufficient period of time, any system will experience down time. Make sure you understand how your vendor handles this, including after-hours support, and how it integrates with your own company’s business continuity plans.

Also, measure the vendor’s performance when service failures do occur. Did you receive a complete and accurate assessment of what happened and what steps have been taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again? Did they answer your questions?

Being aware of any issues that have or may affect your cloud service should give you complete confidence in your cloud provider – unless it keeps breaking, in which case you’ll know as soon as possible that you need to jump off this particular ship.

4. If it breaks, fix it quickly.

Sometimes things break. Maybe a hard disk dies, maybe a server crashes – it happens. The important thing is that the time to recover is as short as possible. It will depend on your individual business requirements as to how short is short enough. Some organizations can live without their content for 24 hours, others cannot function after 30 minutes.

Make sure that your SLA includes specific recovery times that work for you.

5. I want compensation if it does break.

Finally, as with anything in life, if you are not getting the service you paid for, you deserve compensation. Compensation itself will vary but often involves a credit against future hosting. Ensure that the details of when and how this can be claimed are spelled out. Often, customers need to manually claim these credits, and lose them if they are not claimed within a certain period of time.

A cloud provider who provides detailed responses to each of the above points, and is prepared to include them all in an SLA, is a worthy counterpart on your cloud journey. And if both you and your cloud vendor are prepared to put the effort in upfront, it can work for you too.

That way, you won’t say “tomato,” while your cloud provider says “tomaaato.”


David Jones

Dave brings over 20 years’ experience of working across the globe on projects ranging from enterprise content management (ECM) to Big Data, and for clients ranging from the BBC to... read more about: David Jones