You'd think at this late date, we'd stop listening to people who say that Y2K is going to all but destroy the world as we know it, who say that the world will end in 2012 because of the Mayan calendar* and who say that Cloud-based services are inherently insecure or failure prone. I just took part in a Cloud storage Twitter chat where we discussed hybrid clouds, cloud storage and the viability of cloud computing for SMBs. There were some people in the chat session who were advising businesses to stay away from cloud storage. I'm shocked but not surprised.
I'm shocked because technical people shouldn't spread misinformation about a technology. Sure, you should be cautious but to bunk a technology just because you don't understand it, don't trust it or don't want it to compete with your solution borders on the absurd.
Here's a classic, historical example:
"How do you know that the sky is falling, Chicken Little?" asked Henny Penny.
"I saw it with my eyes, I heard it with my ears and a bit of it fell on my head," said Chicken Little.
Chicken Little clearly didn't understand what had happened to him but instead of investigating and doing some fact-gathering, he immediately went in search of the King to inform him of his discovery. Chicken Little also didn't think of another very important thing. If the sky were actually falling, wouldn't it be falling for everyone or was he such a narcissist that he assumed that he is the only one who could bring that message to the King and then to all the world?
Now, let's examine this scenario as it relates to the Cloud.
Do you really think that IBM, HP, Rackspace, Dropbox, Carbonite, Box, Amazon and others would try to sell you on something that is unsafe or unusable? If you still believe that they would, consider that these companies deal with hundreds of companies of all sizes and millions of individual users. That's an extreme liability to take on, don't you think? If I offered a service that I knew was unsafe for you, I'd be really stupid. It just doesn't make sense.
For those who assume that there's a monster out there coiled and waiting to strike at your data, consider the advice I gave during that chat session: Take a transitional approach to migrating to Cloud storage. The following bulleted list is in order of the steps to migrate from 100 percent local storage to 100 percent Cloud-based storage.
- Disaster Recovery
Begin with your archived data. This is data that you need but it isn't accessed very often. Build your confidence by storing this data in the Cloud. Sure, keep a backup of it for your own peace of mind. Next, try moving your backups to the Cloud. You'll find that Cloud-based backups, like all data in the Cloud, is available where ever you are. That's a huge advantage. And, it's agile.
Soon, you'll want to transition your DR solution to the Cloud. Great idea. By doing so, you'll find that your mean time to restore (MTTR) goes from days to hours. Remember, the data is everywhere you are.
Hybrid cloud solutions are taking off for SMBs because it takes the 'sting' out of a full non-local Cloud solution. Hybrid clouds, for most businesses, will be a transitional solution from full local to full Cloud. It's a great solution for those who can't shake the fear.
Finally, production data and computing in the Cloud. That's the most feared of all. However, if you're a startup business, the Cloud allows you to start without a huge amount of capital expenditures up front. You can acquire the computing resources you need at a small fraction of the cost.
The Cloud is elastic by nature. You pay for what you use. You can expand or contract storage and computing power. Try that with your own infrastructure. Sure, you can expand but what about when you need to contract? You're stuck with idle systems, rack space, investments in power and other infrastructure that you don't have with Cloud computing.
You don't purchase the Post Office when you want to mail a letter. You don't buy a railroad when you want to move product from one place to another. You don't buy a power company when you want to turn on a light switch. And, you don't need to buy or build a data center for your computing needs. Think of Cloud computing as a utility. Think of it as something else you need to use. It's a service. It's storage. It's computing power. It's the Cloud.
Buy your vegetables locally. But, you don't have to buy or build your own farm to do so.
The sky isn't falling. The world isn't going to end in 2012. And, Cloud computing isn't something to be feared.
One note of caution however. Be sure that your Cloud-stored assets have geographically diverse failover capacity in case of power outages or other localized mishaps. Nothing puts a damper on a sunny day like a dark cloud of disaster hanging over your head.
*Who knew that the fate of the entire world was in the hands of a primitive people in South America? Incidentally, their calendar far outlasted them. I'm just saying.