“The Cloud” is something that is coming up for me, and my cohorts, in meetings, planning sessions and hosting discussions more and more all the time. As we talk about it more I’m noticing some really interesting ways that people respond to the idea of ‘The Cloud.’ This post isn’t about explaining what the cloud actually is because we’ve already done that twice, in a blog post and a podcast. Instead I’d like to debunk a few of the more common assumptions I’m hearing about the cloud in order to encourage people to be thoughtful about the cloud solutions they consider.
In an effort to keep things simple I’m just going to list some of the most common misperceptions about the cloud and my response to those inaccuracies:
1) Putting my software or web business in the cloud means I never have to think about it.
-Not really true. Yes, it’s true that by tapping into cloud infrastructure you don’t have to invest in hardware and software and infrastructure. But to think that by abdicating all control to some nameless, faceless entity without making yourself or any part of your organization responsible for some awareness of where things are or how they are managed or by whom and how often is just irresponsible. You wouldn’t leave a brick and mortar store open and unattended – why would you do it to your digital business?
2) The cloud never goes down – it is 100% reliable in terms of up-time.
-This is my favorite assumption. Cloud services aren’t magic. They run on the same kind of hardware that has always served as the backbone of the network we call the internet. Yes it may be more robust and of a much larger scale. But technology, by it’s very nature is fallible. It fails. Anyone who’s been using Gmail for the last year can recall at least one time when it was down for nearly an entire business day. Gmail is a service in the ‘cloud’ and it is owned and maintained by one of the largest, most magical technology companies on the planet. And yet – it went down – and in doing so it paralyzed business and panicked it’s users for a period of many hours. It happens. Understanding that the cloud is capable of failure going into it will save a lot of headache and disappointment when you’re confronted with that failure.
3) Big businesses trust the cloud and never have to worry — that’s enough for me.
-References are a good thing for any business. Being able to point to companies or brands that have good experiences with any service is a great way to feel more comfortable choosing a technology provider. But big companies suffer technology failures too. Case in point–recently customers (and not just any old customers) using Amazon cloud services experienced some significant down time. Some of the customers were so big that the outage made the news – both because of the business that was effected and the amount of time the services were down.
4) Cloud services are more secure than other options.
-This is probably pretty true – in that it is in the cloud provider’s best interest to significantly invest in securing their networks because protecting their client’s data is probably their single most critical responsibility. However, criminals think like criminals – and they are constantly exploring ways to exploit weaknesses in technology — which, as I’ve already mentioned, is not infallible. To assume that any service provider is 100% secure is not the way to consider their offering. Instead, care about the process they have in place for continued and rigorous evaluation of their security – do they have 3rd party scanning and audits of their systems to ensure they are always working to prevent exploits? And find out what the process is in response to a security vulnerability. If they get hacked – what happens? What procedures are in place to notify their administrators, and you, and then what happens to re-secure your date and prevent this sort of issue going forward?
5) Only giant global brands can offer cloud services or software in any sort of meaningful way.
-This is completely false. Cloud services can be offered by companies with names that are NOT Amazon or Microsoft and they can be just as reliable and secure. And, if service and accessibility are important to you – you might actually want to consider a smaller provider. Because we all know how hard it is to get through to giant, national service providers. As with any business service – thinking critically and strategically about your needs and expectations and mapping out a plan are the best ways to approach your business requirements. Think about what is important to you and make a list of those priorities – is it service with a smile? Is it a 24/7 help line? Is it price? Is it security and monitoring? Create a matrix of products and service guarantees and compare them by price and service level. In the end you’ll understand more about what it means to use cloud hosting and/or computing services – and you’ll have a better grasp of what it means for your business.
The important lesson in all of this is – just because the service is attached to a globally recognized brand like, say Verizon, for instance, doesn’t mean that you are without any responsibility and it certainly doesn’t mean the technology itself is flawless. There is no such thing as fail-proof technology. What you’re thinking of is magic.