Do You Know Where Your Cloud Data Lives?

by Brian on June 12, 2012

amazon cloud

Data in the Cloud

Unfortunately, today I’m going to rain on the cloud parade.  Yeah, that’s right I’m going to say something negative about the “Cloud”…you gotta a problem with that?  Right now it’s the worst thing I could do because it makes me look like I’m not in step with the times.  I mean everyone’s in the “Cloud”, right?  Well, it sure seems like it as more and more businesses find the ease of use and cost irresistible.  I can’t lie, I continue to use more services that live in a data center.  The question is: Where is your data, do you know?

Let me give you an example.  Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the largest (if not the largest) cloud hosting company on the planet.  They hold data for some of the fastest growing companies in the country.  For example, 37 Signals, PBS, Unilever, Jungle Disk and FourSquare are all leveraging AWS servers in one form or another.  I’m guessing that the people who run these companies have a pretty good working relationship with Amazon so if something went horribly wrong they’d recover.  However, I can’t say that a small business in Topeka, Kansas would have a direct line to AWS IT people.  So my point here is simple.   Companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Rackspace, etc. move data between multiple locations, many types of servers, and without you knowing.  For this reason it’s important that you and/or your IT people fully understand the ramifications of putting your information in the cloud.

You need to have a basic understanding of the technology along with the fine print.  I see so many people signing up for cloud-based services themselves (or by their provider) without fully understanding all the cost and benefits.  I’ll tell you from experience that the benefits are easily identified; however, the downside is hardly ever discussed.  So this post brings a couple interesting questions:

1. How can the complexity of all these virtual machines, physical servers, fail-over technology, synching between data centers and inability to peer into operations trump a properly configured on-premise server environment?

2. Everyone is sold on the benefits of the “cloud”; however, when are companies going to stop marketing and use those dollars to create portals that allow small companies more control over their data (cost-effectively)?    For example, AWS Health Dashboard and others like it are nothing more than a bunch of green check marks.  Customers should be able to drill down further and easily see where their data is located at any given moment in time.  Further, they should be able to quickly move the data between locations with a few clicks of the mouse.  Only then will you begin to have the same level of control as on-premise servers (and probably better).

Just my two cents!  -BW

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