Sunday, August 18, 2013

Moving to the cloud -- all your eggs in someone else's basket
It may have taken three days, but Microsoft has officially resolved its outage -- and it has both explanations and long-term solutions for affected email users. Trouble began with the failure of a caching service for Exchange ActiveSync. The resulting deluge of reconnection attempts promptly overwhelmed company servers; a slow recovery was necessary to avoid another meltdown, Microsoft says. To prevent repeat incidents, the tech giant is both upgrading its network capacity and implementing a more elegant error handling system. While the fixes likely come too late for some users, they suggest that Microsoft has learned a hard lesson about the fragility of online services.

Yep. When you move your (company's) information you place that information in their care and become subject to their policies and practices. You are subject to their foibles. Dealing with these issues can be a major headache. If you are moving to the cloud to have the service provider tend to the equipment where you run your programs then security is an issue. If you're using software as a service (SAAS) then the performance of that software is the major issue. And, of course, network connectivity is always a major consideration.

So something goes wrong -- like the incident above. How do you handle it? When the software was in house, you used to call your support desk and get them on it. Now, you might still call your IT support desk, but THEY have to call the service provider's help desk. When the software was in house, it was the IT people's priority to keep it running. Now, IT needs to make sure that the contract with the cloud service makes it THEIR priority to keep YOUR software running. If you are a smaller client, this may not be the case. This means that your purchasing department and contract managers are as vital to the successful operation of your software as your IT department is. They need to make sure that the Cloud provider contract provides the same level of service as you were getting from your local IT department.

Of course, the network (Internet) connectivity becomes vital to your software in the Cloud. This is often controlled by others than you Cloud provider -- your IT department and your company's internet service provider (ISP). These contracts, too, become vital to your software operation. Again, the contracts group is very important to your software success. Don't skimp on your ISP if you are in the cloud. If they are out of service, you are, hopefully temporarily, out of business.

Security is a major consideration for cloud computing. The information in the cloud has to travel from your workstation to the cloud storage over the PUBLIC Internet. SSL, certificates, and other security measures become vital to your operation. Storage is also a security concern. You need to assure that your cloud provider secures your information on their storage as you would locally. Because you are now using a shared resource with other completely unrelated entities, breaches through those other entities can expost your information.

In short, moving to the cloud can have economic advantages, but it opens a completely different set of considerations with their own problems. You may be exchanging one set of costs for another as you move to the cloud.

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