How to avoid vendor lock in

Written by:
Lucie Sadler
Date Posted:
6 July 2018
Category:
Blog

The cloud computing market is becoming increasingly dominated by a small number of IT giants aiming to be your one-stop services shop. From infrastructure to software, one vendor could provide an organisation’s entire IT system. Naturally, this is appealing to users that want to simplify their estate and partner with a well-established and reliable cloud host – but, do you really want to put all your eggs in one basket?

With risks like hacking and large-scale denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) on the rise, many organisations are now looking to keep their options open and spread their IT requirements across different service providers to improve redundancy and balance risk. However, some organisations already find themselves backed into a corner and locked into their primary, dominant vendor.

So, what causes vendor lock-in and how are the IT giants really driving this problem? How can organisations avoid becoming locked on to one cloud-computing provider?

The lock-in challenge

Many of the larger scale and legacy IT companies within the market have allowed their customers to become increasingly dependent on the single provider model by making their technologies incompatible with other systems – meaning these vendors can make it very hard for organisations to switch later on down the line. A range of issues, such as inefficient processes and extremely high costs, mean migration between cloud vendors can be a time-consuming and expensive pain point. The alternative is to stick with a cloud provider that doesn’t meet your business needs.

One of the biggest mistakes that can leave an organisation locked-in with a single vendor is a lack of planning in the initial stages of a deployment or migration. Before an organisation even looks to contact a cloud vendor, the IT team should do their homework and find out if the service providers they are considering are going to be able to meet their business needs. If they can, there shouldn’t be any reason for the organisation to leave later on down the line anyway.

Even once all the research is out of the way, though, it can never hurt to have an exit plan should you want to switch vendor in the future. Let’s draw a non-tech comparison; when entering into a marriage, some people choose to opt for a pre-nup to ensure the divide is clearly set out, and opting for a cloud provider should adopt an equivalent, objective approach. For this reason, organisations should have a detailed implementation plan in place when signing contracts with their chosen provider. This should include the option to easily and cost-effectively migrate data out and to a new provider if the need arises.

Keep your options open

Choosing the right vendor for your business should be based on a clear understanding of each individual cloud technology in the mix. An increasingly popular strategy is for organisations to opt for a multi-cloud approach that combines different types of cloud – private, public and hybrid – allowing them to reap the benefits of all of them without compromise. For this reason, organisations should be considering not just one cloud provider, but multiple ones to ensure the best provider for each need, such as backup, computing and disaster recovery.

This sort of approach should also be paired with keeping applications as flexible as possible – i.e. not vendor specific. For instance, you can keep cloud components linked with application components, rather than creating a lot of mess later on if you want to move providers. It’s also sensible to back up your data regularly in an easily useable format to eliminate any future mishaps. Similarly, having separate security and disaster recovery options could be important for business continuity – it could be the difference between disaster and recovery.

It’s also important to focus on the future and emerging tech trends, such as DevOps. Reconfiguring applications to run on a new platform is time consuming and expensive. But using open platforms, such as Docker containers, means organisations can isolate software and have them running on top of the infrastructure. They are also easy to relocate and rebuild, which saves a lot of hassle if and when you decide to move over to a new provider. Configuration management tools can also be utilised to automate the configuration of your infrastructure.

But if you do just one thing to avoid vendor lock-in, it should be to create that exit plan. The big market players are bound to come up with more products and services to entice businesses away from their competition, and vendor-lock-in has become an unfortunate side effect – good forward planning will need to go hand-in-hand with the future direction of the cloud industry.

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