Everyone is talking about cloud computing these days. But they say you should look before you leap. In this case, you should ask plenty of questions before buying into any public cloud solution. Here are a few questions to get you started.

Can You Afford Business-Critical App Downtime?

Your public cloud service may be up, but that doesn’t mean that your application is. The service level agreement (SLA) of public cloud providers applies to the availability of the virtual machine (VM) on which it runs. A brief glitch or outage of the VM may bring down your service, and it might remain down even after the VM itself has recovered. Your cloud provider is not guaranteeing your app.

What if you rely on third-party APIs to process your data? Those outages or degradations of external services could affect the functioning of your application. That is another area that is not guaranteed by your public cloud provider.

Your internet connectivity also plays a part here. Your public cloud app may be up and running, but it does no good if you can’t access it. An in-house private cloud implementation would not have that problem. (For more on private cloud, see Public Cloud vs. Private On-Premise Cloud.)

Can You Guarantee Your App’s Performance?

When you use the public cloud, your application will likely be part of a multitenancy environment. Multitenancy is the backbone of public cloud computing. It allows for multiple customers to simultaneously use the same software. By using an instance of software in a shared environment, you can potentially save some money. But it could cost you in performance.

The problem could be with your neighbors. According to Michelle Davidson in her SilconAngle blog, “When the application is on a public cloud platform, however, developers have unique challenges. The biggest being the infrastructure the application runs on is shared with other applications, and high activity on one application can pull resources away from other applications – the noisy neighbor effect.”

Are You Ready for Cloud Costs?

Public cloud providers boast about their flexible services. But that could mean big surprises when you see the bill at the end of the month. Suppose you want to try out new services on virtual machines with a public cloud provider. You build them out the way you want them because the provider said it was free. What you didn’t realize is that it was free for only a certain number of hours. When that free time is used up, the company starts charging you at the normal rate whether you have used the virtual machines or not.

Pay-as-you-go can sound like a good thing until you find out what you’re paying. The costs are generally unpredictable, based on closely held formulas that are not transparent to the buyer. It may be wiser to pay set prices rather than a potential deceptive pay-as-you-go scheme.

It’s like ordering a taxi. Whether you’re driving around town, stuck in traffic or waiting for a friend to join you, the meter is always running. When you set up a virtual machine on the public cloud, the meter is always running. And it just might blow your budget.

Can the Cloud Meet Your Compliance Requirements?

Data protection is the responsibility of any company that retains consumers’ data. There are both state and federal standards that regulate how this information is handled. We continue to hear stories of companies whose websites have been hacked, breaching the privacy of millions of people. Government and oversight organizations work to tighten control to ensure security and prevent hacking.

Anyone who uses the public cloud should be concerned about cloud compliance. The financial and healthcare industries are particularly vulnerable, and there are stringent laws and guidelines in place to address outside threats. Even small companies that handle sensitive material may be subject to considerable oversight depending on the nature of the data they store, receive or transmit.

Is the Public Cloud the Right Business Decision for You?

The use of the public cloud is not without its risks. Sure, you may save money, but is it worth the cost in possible downtime or performance degradation? It may be the right choice for you if you can manage the costs and factor in the potential unreliability. But you should think long and hard about it, and there are other options. (For more, see 7 Limitations of the Public Cloud.)

With a private cloud solution, you have full control of your infrastructure. You can better secure your systems, and you can ensure reliability. And you’re not sharing it with anyone!

The benefits of cloud computing are clear, but it’s best not to rush into a public cloud solution before comparing the alternatives. There are advantages to hosting a private cloud on your own premises.

Conclusion

Whatever your decision, it’s best to take all things into account before taking action. Sound research and planning will benefit you in the end. Keep asking questions, and don’t stop investigating until you find the solution that is right for you and your organization.