The Cloud - Is it simply all smoke and mirrors?

Published on: 06/11/2009

Over the recent montrhs we have been asked by several of our clients "What is the Cloud?". This latest development in IT architecture has been receiving significant publicity of the past year or so and yet virtually none of the people we talk to know what it is!

Put simply, it is a form of distributing an IT task across many servers.

As an example, let's consider your email. The Cloud will manage your email system. Do we need to say more about that? Probably not, because you probably didn't undestand how your old email system used to work. However, with your old email system you would perhaps have been able to understand that your email archive was stored on a particular server. In the Cloud you simply have no idea where it is. Does this worry you? ... because it should;

Who can see my information in the Cloud?

If this matters to you then firstly consider that a sizeable chunk of all data "loss" incidents are down to third-party providers. Your Cloud administrator / service provider will be able to see your data. ALL OF IT. --- still happy to use the Cloud?

What happens if the service provider lost some of my data?

You absolutely must ask your Cloud service provider what their data protection policy is? Furthermore, what are their audit procedures? And then you should perform due diligence on those procedures. Perhaps you have an IT guy who wants to shift to the Cloud. Ask him these questions and make sure you understand in plain English his reponse.

How does the Cloud handle data co-location?

Could your competitor - who is also using the service - get their hands on your data? Remember that, in the Cloud, you cannot tell whether your data is copied. So you really need to get this one answered!

What happens in the event of data corruption?

How many copies of your data does the third party have? Do they use incremental backups and can they reconstruct an image of your data at a given point in the past from these partial backups? How far back do their backups go in calendar terms?

How easy is it to migrate to another Cloud service provider?

This a question few companies ask - until it's too late. Porting data between Cloud service providers is a relatively new capability and only a small number of service providers have implemented what will become a very necessary service.