A new guide promises to help SMBs detect the cowboys in a cloud services market that can still resemble the Wild West.
The white paper, from best practice body the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), covers a range of issues including contracting, liability, data location and ownership, SLAs, insurance and acceptable use policies. It also includes practical legal advice provided by DMH Stallard.
CIF, whose 30 or so members must comply with a code of conduct, claims there is a lack of common standards in cloud services contracts.
Conor Ward, a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells – who chairs the Cloud Industry Legal Forum (CILF) – told ChannelWeb that the issues SMBs face when procuring cloud services are often legal or contractual.
"A lot of SMEs that would greatly benefit from cloud cannot afford the cost of going to a specialist lawyer and quite often when they are acquiring cloud services it is a click-through licence," he said.
"We hope this at least gets financial or purchasing directors at small to mid-sized firms thinking about the issues or at the very least looking at the contracts, instead of clicking ‘I accept'."
The issue of liability is often the biggest bone of contention, said Ward.
"It is not unusual for a cloud service provider to say they take no responsibility at all if data is destroyed or lost," he added.
Ward said this is fine if the end user has agreed to it and taken steps to back up their data, but CIF's research suggested 37 per cent have no idea of where the liability lies.
Meanwhile, some 43 per cent of those questioned said they did not have a plan in place to migrate to another provider if the service is interrupted or terminated. Just 43 per cent had insurance in place in the event of a disaster.
Andy Burton, chief executive of CIF member Fasthosts and CIF chairman, said in a statement: "As with all new markets, there are entrants who are credible, well intentioned, capable and professional, and there are also unfortunately those who are looking to make a quick profit and whose public claims will not pass the test of scrutiny."
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