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What's with all the Cloud paranoia?

The Cloud conjures more paranoia than the federal government. The Cloud is computers. Computers are fallible. The Cloud is fallible.

I've noticed a very odd situation over the course of my time here at ZDNet: Cloud Paranoia. Every article that I write that even remotely touches on the topic of cloud computing, or the Cloud in general, meets with rancid anti-cloud commentary. It's as if someone were trying to steal your first born--or maybe more appropriately--someone is attempting to pull you away from World of Weirdcraft and wanting you to do something constructive for a change. Is there some sort of secret about cloud computing that the major vendors haven't made me aware of yet? Is there some anti-cloud group out there that has the corner on the market of what's appropriate to use? What is with all the Cloud paranoia?

I just don't get it.

It's almost as if  the same people who keep 10,000 rounds of ammunition, barrels of water, a few hundred rolls of duct tape and MREs at home are spreading this weird cloud paranoia.

Stop it.

I know I could probably gather a lot of fans by saying, "Oh, the Cloud is a horrible, stinky, unsafe place in which to put your data."

But, I just can't do that. Because it isn't--isn't any of those.

Sure, the Cloud isn't perfect but it also isn't the IT death knell that many would have you believe. It's not a panacea either. But, it comes a lot closer to problem solver than it does to problem creator.

I think most of the angst and paranoia over cloud computing is due, in part, to a general security paranoia. Well, to that I'd like to say, "The safest bet for secure computing is to unplug your computer." As Kevin Mitnick told me, "There's no secure operating system." And, the Cloud that everyone loves to bash is no exception to that.

Paranoia runs so high when it comes to cloud computing that someone actually referred me to an unrelated story for me to read as evidence that cloud computing is a failure. Shocking. Truly shocking.

There is also a story that describes seven areas that Gartner cited as being security issues that customers need to investigate prior to selecting a cloud vendor. They're pretty vague at best, in my opinion. There are some better questions to ask instead of those that are most probably conjured from the mind and haphazard research of a non-technical journalist. Here are my seven questions to ask a cloud provider--from a technical point-of-view and from someone who uses cloud services.

  • Does my data transfer to and from your site encrypted?
  • Is my data encrypted on your systems?
  • Can your employees look at my data?
  • Is my password the only one that can unencrypt my data?
  • Is my data stored in multiple locations to minimize loss in case of an outage?
  • What is the restore time for my data in case of loss or damage?
  • Do you offer data deduplication?

No paranoia there. Just good questions about a service. And, that is exactly what cloud computing is--a service.

And, before any of you cite Amazon's outage as an example of the failure of cloud computing, there's something that you should know about that outage. If Amazon cloud users had done as recommended (place their data into multiple locations) there wouldn't have been an outage for those customers.

It's actually kind of funny that techies will sing the praises of DR, multiple locations, backups and so on but when it comes to cloud computing, those same techies can't figure out why they experienced an outage, when they didn't follow their own great advice. Putting all of your data in a single location is just silly. Everyone knows that.

Everyone also knows, or should know, that outages are part of what happens in IT shops. No matter what you do or how careful you are--you can't control every variable--in the cloud, in the data center or in the 100 square foot server room next to your cubicle. SLAs exist to protect the customer but, if you're realistic, you realize that five minutes of downtime per year is pretty stupid. And, it's quite impossible. If you reboot a physical system, it takes more than five minutes.

We've set unrealistic expectations on the Cloud.

We've said that we expect 100% uptime. No exceptions. No excuses.

It's a good thing that Captain Kirk didn't hold Scotty to that same standard for transporter service aboard the Enterprise.

The Cloud isn't perfect people. Computers make up the Cloud. Computers are fallible. Therefore the Cloud is fallible. But, contrary to popular belief, it isn't more fallible just because we call it the Cloud.

Go shoot some targets. Water your lawn with some of that water. Feed your dogs those MREs. And, for goodness sake, get over your cloud paranoia. It's just weird. Stop it.

I now return you to your ongoing session of WoW. Beam me up, Scotty.