Prevailing Cloud fears mostly unfounded

Prevailing Cloud fears mostly unfounded

Summary: The sky isn't falling nor is the world ending. Proceed bravely into the Cloud but watch your step.


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.

  • Archives
  • Backups
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Hybrid
  • Production

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.

Topics: Servers, Cloud, Hardware, Virtualization


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Wrong catastrophe

    I'm not worried about failure or compliance or some such ... only that I will be locked into a facility controlled by a global corporation whose tendencies are towards monopolistic control and historical price maintenance ... as opposed to my requirement for orders of magnitude reduction (or at least halving in line with Moore's Law).

    Do you have any evidence that leopards like Microsoft and VMWare are about to change their spots? No? Me neither - I've just had a memo from WANOVA exulting in their absorbtion into VMWare. I'll construct a note of commiseration later, lamenting their assimilation into the BORG collective :-(
    • Nice Borg ref John... LOL... And you are so clueless ken....

      Back in the 90s I worked for an ISP and the employess used to amuse themselves by finding juicy customer emails to share with everyone... Some of these customers were high level business execs with secret enema fetishes and some of the emails were to arrange fetish parties. Some of them were into transvestites and all sorts of weird freaky stuff...

      My point is... What are you willing to trust to the seedy employees of the cloud? Do you really think you are the only one with access to your data? How do you feel about ex-cons snooping over your files? Are you willing to trust company secrets to the unknown emplyees of the cloud? How about pictures of your daughter and documents that may lead a bad person right to your suburban neighborhood and possibly give them enough info to know or quickly learn your habits?

      OH!!! ITS ALL SAFE BECAUSE YOU SAY IT IS!!! And how could all these high end companies offer something that isn't secure? Sheesh... It's not like there are huge companies that pay good money for data about people... Are there? And it's not like there is some crazy fad about clouds that would motivate them to jump into the fad pool and get in on some of the sucker cash while the getting is still good... Right??? And i'm sure they all have plenty of better things to offer like... um.... uh.... ummmmmmm.... hmmmmmmm... What else do they have to offer that they might be able to make a buck on?
      • Sorry, but you're wrong

        First, I'm sorry that you and your coworkers were so unethical that you read other people's emails. Second, you're absolutely wrong about being able to look at and take cloud data. It's encrypted. Your passwords are encrypted too. In other words, no employee of a cloud vendor can look at or steal your data.
        So, your antics in the 90s aren't applicable to today's data.
        It's people like you who give good technical people a bad name. Please go back to your 2nd Life session--that's the only reality you deserve.
        • Secure

          If you’re so sure that employees and such cannot and will not access information on the cloud for fun or evil fun, then put $5000 of your own personal money, better yet your kid’s college savings, in a bank account, put the account numbers, id and password on the cloud. Most important, announce it in a few blogs that anyone including employees of the cloud can have the money without repercussion if they can get the information. Only then will I believe anything is secure. Speaking of HIPPA and healthcare, I worked at twin cites hospital they preached constantly about medical records and privacy laws (HIPPA). The IT manager's wife was admitted in the hospital late at night by morning everyone knew what she what her diagnosis. It only takes ONE employee to have some sort of medical record access and then rest know quickly.
        • sorry but he was right..

          A Technical managers JOB is to consider everyone unethical AND incompetently stupid, and design around that..otherwise you have given your users too much benefit of the doubt and you WILL pay for it down the line
    • Compliance

      You should be worrying about compliance (assuming we are talking PUBLIC clouds). You can't legally have a medical firm and put patient data on a Google Docs or Dropbox. They claim they have no responsibility for your HIPAA compliance which carries very large penalties if you get caught. They also say they are NOT CJIS compliant, so watch out for criminal justice data. FACT Act? That has to do with credit card privacy. Do businesses that have credit card data up on a public cloud care if YOUR credit card info is seen by the cloud providers employees? including some in foreign nations? Have you really bothered to read the terms of service?
  • And then there is the MegaUpload problem

    Where some random R* decides to take the entire thing down for some arbitrary reason.

    "Denial of Service" used be limited to remote users. Now you make it global, and company wide. All that has to happen is an attack on your rather limited router.
  • Sorry, but I think it is worth worrying about

    Try to pin Carbonite or EMC on the warranty for cloud based backup, you will find it is pretty shallow if you get anything. Remember Carbonite were the folks who lost a ton of peoples data a few years ago and so gave them all an extension to their backups as compensation.

    Perosnally as a systems level consultant I have seen the code for some of the backup solutions. Calling it crap is an insult to sewage.

    Try getting any of these firms to explain their policy of who could examine your data, they wave their hands and say trust us.

    Bottom line your guys can't see reality, I guess you can't see through the cloud.
  • Legislatures are behind the curve and a big threat to cloud adoption

    You have the European Union writing laws against cookies and protectionist privacy laws. This has the effect of keeping some US companies out of the cloud to avoid the hassles of dealing with bad legislation.
    Your Non Advocate
  • The fear of writers dispensing the wrong information is "Real"

    Staying away from the cloud and working in your own private space is the best way to approach the wholly lacking security that exist in all public space, including of course the cloud.
    Banks, Government and private sector security is fraught with cost cutting and in some cases totally inadequate security.
    Everyday data loss and system intrusions occurring at increasing levels.
    The marketing of the new big money making "cloud" is a good news story for hackers worldwide.
    Of course you have the consumer cyber security firms waiting in the wings to sell you those useless protection packages.
  • Forced upgrades, downtime, loss of privacy

    Look, folks, this might be news to a few software designers out there, but most of us are comfortable with our workflows. We CHOOSE when we want to upgrade our software, and we base that decision in part on what it will do to our work habits and efficiency to have to relearn basic operations constantly.

    Using cloud software forces you to rely on someone ELSE for your upgrade decisions. MS Word '10 altered the structure and use of a dozen menus, and made templates I have used forever completely unusable. It took me HOURS of work to fix problems created by that upgrade-- and it was planned for and implemented by ME, not by some exec sitting in an office who decided Friday should be "upgrade day."

    Clouds also are single point of failure. Most business buildings have one primary internet connection to the physical structure. What happens when that goes down? Currently, some work can still get done-- documents can be written and printed, emails can be written and saved for later sending, etc.

    But when your whole friggin' system, software and documents, is on a server out in the 'cloud', what are you going to do? A low probability of an event is NOT a risk management strategy. Faults DO happen.

    Anyone remember the fiasco that was mainframe computing in the 1980's? Why did we go to desk tops in the first place if centralized file and software handling was such a brilliant idea? I'll tell you: because the idea fell apart in execution. Any time the server went down, no one could WORK!

    And what happens if your company uses, for example, Google Docs as their software loadout? No problem, reasonably priced, works well, right?

    So... your code designers are working on a new search algorithm that will make Google obsolete. HOW LONG DO YOU THINK GOOGLE WILL LET THAT SIT ON THEIR SERVERS BEFORE "ACCIDENTALLY" DELETING YOUR ENTIRE COMPANY?

    8.4 seconds? Come on, this company already parses your email and voicemail (If you use Google Voice) for advertising keywords. You're seriously going to trust them with your competing product information?

    Cloud computing is a BAD idea. There are some key components to it that are USEFUL, but to put ALL of your eggs in the cloud basket is stupidity breeding with insanity.

    Not ONE part of this article deviates from ad homonym attacks on cloud opponents such as myself. We are "chicken little" merely because we don't like the cloud. This is an intellectually dishonest debate tactic I don't expect to see in an article written by a professional tech consultant. Either provide rational reasons that refute our concerns, or admit that you cannot, but being worried about privacy and data loss does not make someone into chicken little. NOT being concerned makes someone an idiot.

    Like the cloud all you want, but I don't want my personal, OR my business computing done outside my immediate control. These decisions are MINE and no one else's. Deride my opinion if you must, but the choice is up to ME.

    What concerns me is that, since cloud computing is welfare-based (Google gives me free stuff!) and cheap for the developer (No risk of piracy, etc) we are gradually losing our ability to do ANYTHING on our own computers. We can't even play modern video games ALONE without an internet connection. Soon we won't be able to take our laptops to the park to write a frickin' letter to grandma on our word processor-- because it's in the cloud and the cloud only works when you're near a wifi.

    Any of those in Kodiak, Alaska? Schillingsford, Montana? There are places in the contiguous 48 states of America that don't even have cellular service, much less high speed internet. God forbid anyone there ever need to edit a photograph!

    Cloud computing is an awful idea only made worse by the way we users are being forced into it by the software companies that have made it their business to be in our business. I don't trust them to backup my files, protect my privacy, or provide me the software I need.
    • Caching

      I do not disagree with most of what you say. The long-period centralization-decentralization pendulum has swung back toward the centralization side again.

      But with each swing it is being damped by new insights on finding the right balance. Smart, local caching can cover most periods of disconnection. Some basic risk-management calculations can make that work. (Not always successful of course, as with all risks.)

      E.g., Distributed VCS keeps a local copy of all software source in the repo, so developers can be productive even when disconnected.

      Of course, those tools/services that do not offer smart-caching will have to get onboard, or become obsolete.
    • That is spot on.... NOT being concerned makes someone an idiot.

      "Either provide rational reasons that refute our concerns, or admit that you cannot, but being worried about privacy and data loss does not make someone into chicken little. NOT being concerned makes someone an idiot."

      Very well said Coach.
      • Worried vs. Paranoid

        You can be worried but it doesn't have to prevent productivity. You might be worried that you'll run out of gas or that you'll have an accident but you still travel cautiously. Not using something due to irrational fears makes you an idiot.
    • Wow, just wow.

      Paranoia may destroy ya...
    • well written CoachWade ...

      you stole all my words that i constantly use to bat down the use of cloud as a full alternative. I have to add one more; that by living in Australia, no-one here can afford the pipes needed to get the data into the cloud in the first place (oh, unless you're in metro Melb or Sydney)
  • A Grossly Slanted Article

    Comparing the concerns about the cloud with the Y2K, Mayan doomsday and Chicken Little is completely unfair. Numerous knowledgeable people are concerned about the security and reliability of the cloud, and lumping them into the same group who believe the world will end this December is illogical.

    I find your argument that companies would never offer something this is unsafe or unusable is also false. No one ever said the cloud was totally unusable. As to unsafe, just read the almost daily reports of power outages, hacked websites, and even government grabbing of any data they want. These are very real problems that exist today and will continue to exist.

    Your insistence on using terms with negative psychological implications, such as "monster out there coiled and waiting to strike," "the sky is falling," "the world is going to end," etc., instead of addressing the legitimate problems with the cloud is distracting and unfair.

    Some of your points are very valid, no question about that, but to totally claim that there is absolutely nothing to fear is just not true and misleading. There ARE problems with the cloud.
    • Slanted? Look who's writin'

      You slanting it the other way. Power outages? That's 'power outage' singular and I said to geographically diversify your data to prevent those localized problems, didn't I? Government grabbing of data? LOL, send me an article link about that. Hacked websites aren't a cloud problem. Seriously.
      • Power outages?

        I should not have to worry about power outages - I have outsourced my worries remember? That is what makes the cloud such a great way to run my infrastructure, my applications.

        As shown by the big power failures we had with last week those companies who failed haven't outsourced their worries then?
  • 1984 Was A Little Early

    But we're finally in it. We're searched like criminals when we want to travel. Our bags are opened, often with no regard or respect for the contents that they be repacked as they were; and so get damaged. Our daily communications are monitored in attempts to get early warning. I get the "We have to protect ourselves at any cost" mantra but Mr. Franklin wrote in 1775:

    [b][i][q]They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.[/q][/i][/b]

    As more and more of our activities are funneled through huge data centers looking for trigger terms, less and less of our liberty remains. Profiling can go very wrong when assumption builds upon assumption.

    That said, CoachWade hit the missing point on the head. Single point of failure. That being the connection between my workplace and the rest of the Internet; where my computing power has now been transferred. You can have all of the redundancy you like in the Cloud and not make one whit of difference in this simple, single fact.

    Big Iron has finally found a way back and is marketing [b]The Emperor's New Clothes[/b].