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A risky cloud approach?

2. Cloud usage is fine, just plan ahead.

Andy Grove’s (author of Only the Paranoid Survive) style of "paranoia" is back when it comes to software delivered "out there" on the Internet. Even Business Week is cautious .

I no longer believe vendors that promise "anytime, anywhere" access. I feel as if someone wants me to jump off a bridge without a bungee cord. InfoWorld agrees, saying in August 2008: "If a company relies on Google Apps for its e-mail, its IT and business managers have little to do when a Gmail outage hits them, and with users demanding explanations, this waiting game can be a very stressful situation."

3. Security.

I do not know where my data are stored. Nor do I know who has access to the data. Do you? The server could be next door or it could be in Hong Kong. T.J. Maxx learned that 45 million customer records were in the hands of unknown parties (scmagazineuk.com/Hackers-target-TK-Maxx-customers/article/106025).

A handmaiden to security is the integrity of data storage. If an organization’s data are in the cloud, what happens when the cloud system experiences a lightning strike?

In an Amazon-sized nightmare in October 2007, a system outage resulted in the loss of customer data. After a flurry of complaints, Amazon started making recommendations for backup systems. On August 8, 2008, The Linkup (formerly MediaMax) shut down because an outage caused a hiccup in half the company’s customer data.

In January 2008, a blogger wrote at WebWorkerDaily: "Yet in a world of imperfect hardware and software, as well as regulatory and legal issues, choosing one company for storage is still ultimately a gamble ... No matter how carefully you choose, entrusting your data to a single online storage vendor is the equivalent to storing it on a single hard drive: It introduces a single point of failure into the system."

Net net

Cloud computing is the future. In my opinion, cloud computing can play a role, but it is not yet ready for prime time for most enterprise application and data needs. The risk is too high. But if you are comfortable with a free or low-cost service for a special application, have at it. When I lost access to Google Apps, I asked myself, "If Google can’t stay online, who can?"

Second, security remains under construction. That’s not news. We’re still trying to figure out how to keep hackers from breaking into our infrastructure. Keeping them off my cloud is unknown territory in my opinion.

Third, costs look good if an organization figures in savings from reducing headcount, licensing on-premises software and maintaining complex local installations. But if you have to keep staff and on-premises installations for security or regulatory reasons, you may not realize the savings you expect. Keep in mind that robust cloud services like Salesforce.com’s offerings can be expensive in their own right.

So, is cloud computing reliable enough and secure enough to support your business without increasing risk to an unacceptable level? Many people are now wondering if they started surfing the waves on a board of balsa wood. Seeking Alpha said, "Cloud computing requires a leap of faith. Its proponents, which include Google, Microsoft and Apple, are basically asking users—and businesses—to entrust them with valuable data."

Both IBM and Intel have joined Google in the race for the cloud. My view is that the Bard of Avon would take his own advice and cover up with a digital raincoat. The cloud is a convenience, not a replacement, for on-premises solutions at this time.

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