How can business have trust in the cloud?

I have been interested in the events over the past couple of weeks which has seen Google suffer problems on their network, and even the like of Vodafone loosing connectivity in the South East. With these big brands any outage, no matter how small, sends shockwaves across the industry as people quickly question their reliance on this kind of technology.

With many businesses turning to cloud based computing for increased levels of functionality, cost savings and increased levels of productivity, the impact of any outage can be significant. With Google for example, 3.4 million users woke up to find their Gmail inboxes empty after their accounts were accidently wiped clean by a software update. Luckily for Google it has a tape backup so by the end of the day most were back. But it proves the point that without any personal control, you can be at the mercy of other companies. Maybe not even one based in the UK subject to our own policies and law. I am sure a few businesses who use Gmail for their main day to day communications would question what recourse they would have had, if Google hadn’t been able to restore the data. Where is the service agreement? What steps are taken to ensure that the data is safe? How can they run their business on an ‘apology’ by Google?

I am not picking on Google, because it can happen to anyone, but the main problem with the cloud idea is that it takes data out of the control of the company or user and puts it into the ether. And there you have no visibility on how the application you are using is being delivered or supported. This is especially true with free services where no real contract or liability exists. So what can be done?

Well the new buzz word, especially for business, is the private cloud. Essentially creating the same benefits of a public cloud, but securing for their own users within a wide area network which they have full visibility of. I have seen a greater demand from our clients to not only provide hosting but also servers, firewalls and storage to create a solid base on which to run their cloud applications. By sharing these across multiple datacentres uptime can be guaranteed and the customer can also use their own sites as backup should it fail. Obviously it isn’t free, but with asset management everything can be paid for monthly, increasing affordability.

We have been doing it for a few years now in house and I can really see the benefits. This article for example, has been written by me sitting in my office using a remote connection to my virtual PC which actually exists in one of our datacentres. That PC (full standalone PC sitting on VMware) is running on a server with network RAID which means the actual data is floating between two datacentres simultaneously… all while I type away! Of course it wasn’t free; but we could afford it as a small business, and are certainly seeing a return on the investment as we grow. It also means I can sleep at night!

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