We’ve said it before, but we’re happy to say it again: Migrating to the cloud benefits companies in a multitude of ways including flexibility, cost savings, and increased agility. While all of these benefits sound and are great, many organizations are still concerned about migrating to cloud storage. And one of the biggest fears of migration for any business is cloud vendor lock-in.
What Does Vendor Lock-In Mean?
Cloud vendor lock-in is a problematic situation where one becomes dependent on a single storage provider and is unable to migrate without serious constraints, costs, or incompatibilities. In other words, when locked-in to one cloud storage provider, it can feel impossible to escape these increasing costs or technological incompatibilities by simply moving to another provider.
By using a cloud migration tool that offers wide platform flexibility, institutions can stay agile. For instance, a company could utilize multiple cloud storage services and move content among them in the most cost-effective manner. Or if one cloud storage provider becomes too expensive, the tools already exist to easily migrate to a new one.
Why is Vendor Lock-In Bad?
So, just how can cloud vendor lock-in affect a business? Let’s say an organization retires its legacy hardware for cloud storage solutions. Great! The organization continues using the cloud service when unexpectedly, the cloud storage vendor no longer meets their needs. Not so great. As a result, the organization must consider migrating again to a new cloud storage provider and repeat the project. This can happen for several reasons:
Doesn’t Meet Business Needs
One reason is simply that the cloud provider doesn’t meet business needs. For example, the cloud storage provider may not offer as much security as believed. Consequently, the company is now at risk for an attack or breach.
Changes in Technology
Another similar reason would be that the cloud vendor’s technology has changed since it was acquired by the organization. Meaning now they are forced to deal with a cloud storage platform that no longer performs as required. Being so dependent on one cloud provider can be risky. Typically, the cloud provider is responsible for your data, user management, servers, networking, and often more. So if something goes wrong, it could have major repercussions.
Cloud-Vendor Goes Out of Business
As can happen to any company, sometimes they go out of business or get acquired by another, and this is still true for cloud storage vendors. It is possible to choose a cloud provider that then goes under, and now you’re stuck again with finding another platform.
But one of the most common reasons organizations can be locked into a cloud storage platform is costs. Occasionally, the chosen cloud provider will increase costs after it was acquired. And sometimes because of that, it becomes unaffordable for the organization, and they’re now forced to switch.
What is The Lock-In Effect?
The lock-in effect simply means when a company or provider makes it very difficult for customers to switch to a competitor. For software, sometimes that means more than just breaching a contract. If your company is all set up in Office 365 for instance, your employees likely know how to use it well, which adds another obstacle to switching providers too. There’s also the cost and time considerations of switching, making one feel even more locked in. Cloud vendor lock-in can even be reason enough to affect you from receiving funding, or funding from a superior, for your cloud migration project.
In the past, we’ve seen businesses secure funding for their migration projects by emphasizing platform flexibility to their board. At some point, an organization could move to Google Drive, but years later the organization decides to move to Office 365. By having a migration tool with flexible integration to multiple connectors, that organization would already have that option at its fingertips. The University of Miami leveraged this point to help them seal the deal on their funding, as they explained in this on-demand webinar.
How Do I Stop Vendor Lock-In?
Avoiding or stopping cloud vendor lock-in can be as simple as having the right migration tool with built-in flexibility. A migration tool that offers out-of-the-box integration with all major cloud vendors can make it easy to transition between them. This way, there’s no need to invest in multiple “one-off” solutions or rely on the vendor to help you get your content out of their platform. At SkySync, for example, we imagine ourselves as a moving company. We don’t care what house or which city you’re moving to, we just want to move your stuff safely.
The Five Ds of Cloud Vendor Lock-In
There are a lot of risks with relying so much on one cloud storage vendor. But here are five tips you can take to dodge cloud vendor lock-in:
As organizations consider migrating content to a cloud provider, it is important to understand that there are many business and technical considerations that can affect the quality and the duration of the migration. Migrations are most effective when customized for an organization’s particular needs, expectations, and limitations.
You should be conscious of what cloud storage providers have to offer and make sure they’re up to par. Review and compare pricing models, service level agreements, and how data will transfer. You may want to consider a cloud migration tool that offers migration simulations to ensure your migration will be successful ahead of time.
With experience completing incredibly complex file migrations for some of the world’s largest enterprises, our team has discovered some of the best practices that organizations of any size should employ for a successful project. Utilize this cloud migration checklist to ensure you don’t skip a step when planning your move to the cloud.
To learn more migration planning best practices, read our Intentional Migration: 7 Best Practices for a Successful Enterprise File Migration. In this whitepaper, we’ll dive into each of these seven steps to success.
Even as you’re choosing your cloud storage provider, also choose an exit plan. If any of the previously mentioned examples were to happen, it’s beneficial to be able to switch sooner than later. Also, consider the potential costs and time required if a switch to a new cloud provider becomes necessary.
You can significantly reduce your risk of cloud vendor lock-in by designing your applications to be built or migrated as flexibly as possible. For example, if you plan to use a multi-cloud strategy, consider designing your content landscape so the content is seamlessly accessible from anywhere. Or add a migration tool that is flexible among a multitude of cloud storage platforms so you’re ready to move wherever, whenever.
Data can be one of the largest obstacles during cloud migrations because different cloud providers accept and transfer content differently.
For instance, file permissions and file fidelity were common issues that came up during several cloud migrations for higher education institutions. “Permissions in the cloud are way different than your typical network file system or DFS model. So pay attention to what type of permissions you’re going to grant on the cloud,” explained a Senior System Administrator. Also, universities often need additional control over which departments or staff can access certain content, which made those permissions imperative.
Multi-cloud environments are becoming increasingly common. According to Microsoft MVP Erica Toelle, “Probably almost 100% of organizations are in a multi-cloud environment right now and don’t know it.” By taking a multi-cloud direction, an organization is naturally no longer completely dependent on one cloud storage provider, thus avoiding cloud vendor lock-in.
Some organizations even leverage different cloud storage providers for different types of content. Going back to our University of Miami example, UM planned to migrate about 30TB of content to Google Drive for specific types of data. Some of the university’s researchers and professors also required Google for department-driven reasons.
As the possibility of having a single repository for storage and collaboration becomes less and less likely, cloud synchronization is another way to keep files current, consistent, and accessible to users across multiple locations and platforms.
Cloud vendor lock-in is a fair and real concern that companies have about moving to the cloud. However, we believe the benefits are well worth the risk. Especially when a company can easily mitigate those risks by staying flexible and planning ahead.