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To cloud, or not to cloud, that is the question

One of the most used terms in the last couple of years has been “the cloud”. Many businesses are moving towards a cloud infrastructure to store and run their data and applications. But is using the cloud the way to go?

To cloud...

Certainly there are many advantages for using a cloud infrastructure. It's a low cost solution that allows for a quick deployment with a scalable path. You certainly save costs on buying hardware, licences and have a very short time for deployment as everything is ready to use. You don't need to worry about redundancy and scalability as all that is provided by default by your cloud provider.

These are some of the advantages that push businesses to use the cloud.

Not to cloud...

There have been countless articles written about the advantages and disadvantages of cloud hosting so I'll skip that part. However, as a medium sized IT provider I'd like to look at things from the practical side of things and how any piece of IT can help deliver the promises that we make to our clients.

At the moment there are two things that really stick in my mind when thinking about any cloud deployment. System outages and the legislative issues surrounding any cloud deployment as these are the two issues that can affect the delivery of our promises to our clients.

System outages are part of any IT system. They happen whether we like it or not. We can only do our best to minimise the impact to our clients. However, in the case of cloud deployments we have no control over it as we have handed control of everything to our cloud provider. If a problem occurs we're at the mercy of our cloud provider to fix the issue no matter how long that might take.

Outages in cloud platforms were featured in the news extensively in 2015. One of the big ones took down Netflix, Amazon, IMDB and many others. When that happens you have no choice but to wait. What's even worse is that the feedback on what has happened and how long it's going to take is more often non-existent.

So, as a service provider you have no way of keeping your clients informed or be able to provide any tangible proof that you can deliver on the promises you've laid out in your SLA. You just need to have patience and wait.

The second problem for me is the legal and regulatory landscape that surrounds cloud computing. Currently the legal framework for the cloud keeps changing. The common belief is that if your data is stored in a datacentre in a specific region then your data is protected by the laws of that region. So, if your data and applications reside in an EU datacentre then EU law should apply.

However, in a recent lawsuit Microsoft was ordered by the US government to hand over data that was stored in their Dublin datacentre. So where does this leave everyone? In a state of “flux” I would argue.

The cloud hosting legislation is neither mature nor stable enough for anyone to be able to give definite answers that will not challenged in court. Again, that means that as a service provider you are unable to provide SLAs or commitments that you can credibly deliver to your clients.

What is the solution?

I guess my line of thinking revolves around one single thing. How can a service provider honour its commitments to its clients when you are using a medium like cloud hosting?

If you have no control of the physical infrastructure and no control over what might happen to the data stored in that cloud infrastructure then how can you credibly honour the promises you've made to your clients?

Do you just hope that everything will be fine? That thought leaves me uneasy and worried.

I think there's a place and a purpose for hosting in the cloud but that would depend on the type of application and data you wish to deploy. Certainly the legislative framework needs to be clarified to ensure the peace of mind that many clients require.

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