Don’t believe all the hype
It’s true that the cloud offers a lot of opportunities. These range from greater flexibility and the ability to scale to lower operating costs and less infrastructure. Transition to cloud services can bring many benefits.
It also brings a number of downsides that can range from inconvenient, to catastrophic.
One of the down-sides that can prove too much, especially for small businesses is the risk of “lock-in”.
Lock-in was always touted, by vendors, as something that wouldn’t happen. The promise of easy switching between cloud services from different vendors was always the marketing strategy card played by the cloud vendors as a way to fend off what was probably the single largest concern for users.
Well, easy migration is a service that hasn’t yet completely evolved and probably never will. Vendors that have gone to all the effort of setting up a cloud platform for you, and secured your business don’t want to lose your business, or the money you pay them.
Cloud services are a very lucrative offer. The organizations that offers these services can virtualize platforms, share resources, concentrate support needs and simultaneously outsource and offshore manpower.
This means they can rapidly scale their customer base, and income.
Additionally, most cloud services make it difficult to pull back to an in-house solution.
Anyone who has used products from Adobe, Sage Accounting or Quickbooks has realised that.
Once your information and applications are in the cloud, moving to any other platform is horribly complicated.
Worse still, if the cloud supplier decides to pull the plug on the platform they are providing, then, like real clouds, your I.T. infrastructure evaporates.
Again as an example I’ll use the Adobe Business Catalyst system. This was a fantastic, cloud based, web hosting service. It was developed outside of Adobe, and the acquired by them with promised to keep everything up to date an running. That was until the cost benefit to Adobe of running the service, keeping the infrastructure updated and providing support got too much.
Now, all users of Adobe Business Catalyst are having to look for another platform to move their web-sites and web applications to. No mean feat for those that really utilised the platform.
Sure there are a few companies out their that will help (for a cost) to move these sites onto other platforms, but at the end of the day is this not just jumping from the fire pan to the fire?
We ourselves used to use Quickbooks for accounting. For a number of years Quickbooks touted the Cloud model. No need to keep local copies of your accounts, software always up to date, blah, blah, blah.
Now Quickbook users are pretty much forced to go to the cloud service. The result? There is no easy way out.
For those small companies that want to keep control (and security) of their own business applications and data, there is very little choice.
Google “moving out of the cloud” and any piece of software (we used Quickbooks in our search) and you’ll find almost nothing that matches the search. Nearly everyone is offering you ways to move INTO the cloud. The reasons for which we’ve already made pretty clear above.
The Cloud is a huge money maker, especially for the large infrastructure suppliers like Amazon, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft.
Ever the hosting providers are offers “Cloud Hosting” suggesting it’s better for you. Trust is, we’ve built multiple websites on multiple different platforms and shared hosting sucks no matter where you put it.
If you really are considering moving to the cloud, because you do’nt want to buy equipment, or applications or emply support staff or have to do your own backups, you really do need to understand what the impact to your business and business model will be.
We can provide small businesses with the consultancy services they need to make the right decisions. We offer a fixed fee consultancy that will analyse your business, your current needs, your desires and the platforms that might fit them. Then we’ll tell you the advatages and disaavantages to making any switch.
We will also tell you the costs of being able to get out of the cloud, when things get too turbulent, or worse, the cloud starts to evaporate as it has done for Adobe Business Catalyst users.
The good news
No we’ve sown the seeds of doom and gloom about Cloud services, it’s time to tell you the upside.
The Cloud is just another name for “Stuff on the Web”. Not all “Cloud” services have serious risks.
For smaller businesses that just want a web-presence, and some sort of office collaboration, then the “Cloud” or more importantly the Internet can be of great help.
Building a website on a hosting platform is, technically, using the cloud. Using Web video services such as Skype, Zoom or GoToMeeting, is alsing using cloud services.
These are services that can very quickly be migrated to different platforms. For example, if you have a website built on WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or even in native HTML, it’s relatively easy to move from one hosting provider to another.
If you are using Skype, and like us you’ve decide it’s no longer secure or reliable enough for your needs, you can easily switch to another platform.
The worse news
If however, you are putting all your data into the cloud, such as dropbox, icloud, OneDrive or any other Cloud data store, then you have the same risk of losing data as any other tyoe of storage, plus the additional risks of losing data through mis-syncronization, hacking or internet outages.
Additionally, depending upon the service agreement you have with the cloud storage hosting provider, your data might not even remain yours.
Data residing in a cloud provider’s infrastructure do not guarantee owner rights. You cannot guarantee where physically your data is stored. If it is stored on U.S. systems anywhere in the world, regulations such as the Stored Communications Act (SCA) and Patriot Act, give the U.S. government the right to seize the data.
What these two Acts show us that data owned in the cloud, especially public cloud, is usually owned by the cloud providers and not by the people who put the data there.
What about your backups?
The final thing to remember is you only need a backup when you haven’t got one. Even if you’ve been successful in moving to the cloud, and you are happy with your services, you should still take backups of everything you need should your cloud service evaporate.
Remember that you need sufficient bandwidth, pipeline and storage resources and capacity to make these backups.
Without them, your business could evaporate along with your cloud service.
On an on a final note, it takes us over 3 hours to just back-up the 14Gb we’ve got on consumer facing websites to our local backup devices. That’s over 3 hours those servers are not providing up to date information.