Credit unions must sort through the “noise” that makes it difficult to separate static from substance when reviewing vendors to find reliable cloud services, disaster recovery and data backup.
“Your due diligence for backup systems, co-location, and cloud services is complicated because many vendors make claims they cannot back up,” says Jay Liebe, director, integration for Switch Communications Group, a CUNA Strategic Services provider.
Liebe says those claims create “noise” that makes it difficult to compare vendors based on crucial services and critical infrastructure. Credit unions must ask hard questions and listen carefully to the answers to learn what’s really being offered.
“Don’t settle for glib explanations about issues like where your data resides, how it’s protected, and even how it’s maintained, which is the element most likely to be overlooked,” Liebe advises.
Cloud computing is a relatively new service that demands greater scrutiny. Liebe says many vendors that provide cloud computing services are newcomers in serving financial institutions and providing infrastructures that deliver 100% uptime.
Inexperience can be risky. Even high-profile companies such as Amazon and Twitter have experienced outages in 2012 due to shortcomings in equipment or other infrastructure issues.
Liebe says high-profile outages should serve as a reminder of the importance of using experienced vendors with high-quality equipment in well-protected facilities. Liebe says those facilities should offer 100% uptime infrastructure that is “scalable,” which means it can grow with demand.
The need for both proven expertise and scalability is heightened by growing reliance on technology among both credit unions and their members.
Liebe suggests asking these questions to find the right cloud computing vendor:
►Where is data housed?He says many cloud providers are “coy” about specifying where data is kept. A good vendor should be able to specify exactly where data is housed, right down to the server and rack space.
►What type of equipment is offered?Some cloud vendors use repurposed equipment. Look for a modern facility with an up-to-date infrastructure designed to meet the clients’ needs.
►How is the data center protected from security threats? Physical and information security are both essential because threats can range from intruders to hackers.
►Does the vendor’s location protect your data? Back-up data should be at a location that is far enough from your primary site to be protected from power outages or severe weather. Seek a vendor located in an area with minimal exposure to natural disasters.
►Who owns the data center and what is their area of expertise? Cloud computing centers may be operated by companies that specialize in real estate rather than financial services, for example.
►How is the vendor preparing for growth? The vendor should be able to grow rapidly based on users’ demands. Multiple platforms and facilities should be offered for computing and storage to accommodate the use of analytics along with emerging technology.
►Is the company financially stable? It’s important to know whether the vendor has the resources required to remain in business.
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