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10 Things Your CSP Does Not Tell You

Cloud service providers have become the backbone of businesses, offering a vast array of services and solutions that simplify operations, enhance scalability, and foster innovation. There is also an expectation of seamless integration, cost savings, speed to go to market, and unmatched convenience, which means businesses are eager to embrace the cloud with open arms, without fully articulating business goals for cloud adoption or understanding their own responsibilities for successful, secure cloud adoption. An analogy that clarifies this: They have given you the locks, deadbolts, fence, and camera systems; it is now your responsibility to enable them, to turn them on based on your needs and the context of the assets in the cloud you need to protect. 

10 Things in the fine print

Cloud service providers typically provide a wide range of services and are generally transparent about the features and benefits they offer. However, there are some aspects that customers must be careful about:

1. Data Security and Compliance

Most customers fail to understand the shared responsibility model of cloud computing. Cloud service providers do meet various security standards and regulations, but it's essential to recognize that cloud customers still bear responsibility for specific aspects of data security and compliance. This can include encryption, access control, and auditing, depending on the chosen service and the nature of the data being stored.

In fact, while CSPs may provide security capabilities, such as Shared Access Signature (SAS) tokens, their misconfiguration can have a significant impact on cloud consumers. For instance, Microsoft, a cloud provider itself, exposed 38TB of confidential, private data when one of its employees shared the URL of a misconfigured Azure Blob storage bucket.

2. Data Loss Responsibility

Despite cloud service providers' backup and redundancy mechanisms, the ultimate responsibility for data loss may still rest with the customer. It's crucial for customers to comprehend the data recovery and backup options available to them, as well as their role in protecting their data from loss.

3. Resource Sharing

Cloud service providers use resource sharing to optimize costs and provide their services at competitive prices. While this is generally invisible to users, it means that user data and applications are sharing infrastructure with other customers. This requires greater diligence on behalf of the customer to ensure security and performance risks associated with co-location are addressed. While this shared model is a key reason for the cost-effectiveness of cloud services, it's essential to understand that the resources are not entirely isolated.

4. Data Ownership and Control

CSPs take security seriously, but customers who have residency requirements under applicable regulations must be careful in ensuring that data is located in the correct regions. This means ensuring resources are spun up only in the correct regions provided by the CSP. Understanding the nuances of data ownership and control is crucial, especially when compliance and data sovereignty issues come into play and mapping it to what CSPs provide is the customer’s responsibility.

5. Complexity and need for expertise

Cloud services can be highly complex, and need to understand the services and their fit for the company’s business purpose, particularly in large organizations with numerous workloads, applications, and data repositories will require hiring experts. Even small companies have to choose CSPs and CSP services after careful evaluation of similar or equivalent services across CSPs. Customers may underestimate the effort and expertise required to effectively manage, secure, and optimize their cloud resources. Without a solid cloud management strategy, complexity can lead to inefficiencies and increased costs.

6. Data Transfer Costs

One of the lesser-discussed aspects of cloud services is data transfer costs. While it's true that cloud service providers offer vast storage capacity and high-speed access to data, what's often not immediately apparent is the cost associated with moving data into and out of their platforms. As the user data scales, so do the data transfer expenses, which can catch customers off guard if they're not adequately prepared.

7. Cost Management

The flexibility of cloud services can lead to unexpected costs if resource sprawl is not managed effectively. Cloud billing can be complex, with charges for various services, storage, data transfer, and more. To avoid bill shock, customers need to actively manage and monitor their usage, potentially utilizing cost management tools provided by the cloud service provider.

8. Cloud-agnostic or cloud-native

Potential challenges and costs associated with migrating from one cloud to another or from cloud maybe even back to on-prem means customers can sometimes find themselves locked into a specific provider's ecosystem, which may limit their flexibility and choice. Having a clear understanding of business needs and mapping them to a cloud provider's services and strengths are necessary steps before choosing a CSP and determining a cloud-native or cloud agnostic strategy. 

9. Downtime and Availability Risks

CSPs pride themselves on high availability, but the reality is that no service is entirely immune to outages. It's essential to acknowledge that downtime can happen and that it can affect the user’s business operations. While providers offer Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that specify uptime guarantees and potential compensation, customers should thoroughly review the fine print to ensure they understand their rights and the provider's obligations.

Amazon experienced a large outage in AWS US-East due to which a number of popular websites faced an issue, one of them being Netflix. As a result of the outage, Netflix’s team of engineers had to manually make significant changes to their AWS configuration and balance load across regions. Planning for this configuration and understanding the cost implications are part of the customer's responsibilities.


​10. Pricing Changes

Cloud providers can and do change their pricing structures. While they typically notify customers in advance, these changes can still be disruptive. Staying informed about pricing updates is essential to budgeting and cost management.

Wrapping Up

Cloud computing has revolutionized how businesses operate and innovate, offering unprecedented convenience and scalability. However, beneath the allure of seamless cloud services lie a set of critical considerations that customers must grapple with. Understanding these nuances is pivotal for a successful cloud strategy and a resilient, cost-effective cloud infrastructure.

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