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What to look for when choosing a Cloud provider?

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have recently expressed concerns that some Cloud providers are breaching consumer laws.

Whether this breach is a change to the price, the service or the support, recent changes to the Consumer Right Act detail that ‘providers who do not carry out work with the reasonable care, as agreed with the consumer, will be obliged to put things right.’

Areas of concern for the CMA include:

Unexpected price increases after a contract has been taken out.
Changes or reductions to unlimited storage capacity deals.
Data being lost or deleted.
Contracts being automatically renewed at the end of the period.
What happens to data when a service is cancelled?

I wanted to address these issues one by one, detailing what you need to watch out for, and also how Stream Networks consider and overcome these issues:

Unexpected price increases after a contract has been taken out

To make sure that price increases are either expected or do not happen, you need to know exactly what you have signed up to. Is it possible to go over your usage plan – if so how is this billed? Does your supplier have an Acceptable Usage Policy – what happens when you go over this? I’m sure we’re all guilty of agreeing to Terms and Conditions’ without giving them the time of the day, but it is crucial to read and understand them. Just because you didn’t bother to read something, does not make it unexpected.

With Stream Networks we will not alter the price of your service mid contract. What you see is what you get, we pride ourselves on being transparent. Whilst we do have an acceptable usage policy, we won’t charge you for going over it. If it is a continuous trend, we’ll have a chat with you to determine why and assess the options from there.

Changes or reductions to unlimited storage capacity deals

Something that you should consider is that unlimited storage is not always unlimited – check if there’s a fair usage policy and keep in mind what it is. Another element that worries me with unlimited storage capacity is how a provider can plan resources accordingly when they don’t know how much of the ‘unlimited’ capacity you’ll be using. Whereas one customer may be using 1GB on an unlimited plan, another may be using 1TB. Without understanding the needs of a customer, how does a provider stand a chance?

At Stream Networks we ensure that we know why someone is using the Cloud and what they are using it for. This way we can allocate the correct amount of resources and ensure that Cloud infrastructure as a whole performs efficiently.

Data being lost or deleted

It is absolutely imperative that you know and understand the infrastructure of the Cloud Computing platform you are joining. How long do they keep a backup of your data for? Is your data stored in one or more location? What is the Service Level Agreement for the platform? Is there a Business Continuity Plan in place for these unforeseen circumstances?

We realise that one of the biggest factors in using the Cloud is the added resilience that disaster recovery offers. In line with this, our customer’s data is stored in multiple data centres across the United Kingdom. Our SLA details business continuity plans to ensure that if disaster does happen, everyone is prepared.

Contracts being automatically renewed at end of term

Once again, I’m afraid you will have to read the Terms and Conditions of your contract. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you fully understand the contract you are signing.

At the end of a contract, your provider should detail what happens. At Stream networks, we clearly present from the outset of any agreement that customers are expected to honour the minimum contract term and will be liable to the minimum cancellation period from thereon in.

What happens to data when a service is cancelled?

Data security is one of the most crucial elements of Cloud Computing. I don’t think anyone would trust a provider without doing their due diligence on where that data is going to kept, how will it be encrypted, and what virtual security is included.

Not only is it in your best interests to know what is happening with your data during the term of an agreement, but also what will happen to it after the contract. A good provider will be transparent from the beginning. They will have a standard procedure of how to deal with cancellations, whether this is migrating data back to yourself, or to another Virtual Server provider.

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