Blogs & Articles

Tuesday, Aug 03, 2010

Get your head OUT of the cloud

Get your head out of the Cloud? One might think this is an odd Blog topic coming from the CEO of a Cloud-enabling company whose goal is to ensure that customers and the market as a whole are not only comfortable with storing data in the Cloud, but anxious to do so. Indeed, I couldn’t have imagined writing on such a topic until I had my eyes opened by a compelling research article by Diptarup Chakraborti, a Gartner Principal Research Analyst. 

Chakraborti writes, “By 2012, enterprise concerns over lock-in and standards will supplant security as the biggest objections to cloud computing.” That sentence floored me. Vendor “lock-in” was not something to be given serious consideration when exploring the options presented by the Cloud. I agree wholeheartedly with the Gartner analyst’s conclusion. The risk of vendor lock-in needs to be taken seriously, and failure to do so could lead to dire consequences for companies who don’t. 

Vendor lock-in occurs when a customer or user becomes fully dependant on a lone vendor’s product offering, whether it is proprietary or open standard. For example, if I use a specific vendor’s software to store backup data on my tape system, and I can only retrieve this data by using the same vendor’s software, I am “locked-in” to this supplier’s solution. In essence, I would have rendered my stored data useless if the vendor’s software was unavailable when retrieval was necessary. 

Today there are many companies providing Cloud Storage solutions in the form of Public Clouds as well as Recovery as a Service (RaaS) offerings that facilitate data backup in the Cloud. One popular service model has RaaS vendors offering customers the ability to backup or store their data in public clouds like Amazon or Iron Mountain. With thoughts of vendor lock-in top of mind, I assessed many of the available storage offerings, and arrived at the following question.

If I store my data in, say, Iron Mountain’s Archive Service Cloud and I’m not happy with the performance or price, am I able to switch to another Cloud provider? 

The answer of course is “yes, nothing is stopping you from switching to any vendor of your choice” – at least nothing is technically stopping you. Logistically and legally, however, you may just decide that the nightmarish process to get OUT of a particular cloud just isn’t worth the effort. Think about it. If you were using a solution that archived historical data to the cloud (which is in fact quite common) you could lose the entire historical archive when the switch needed to take place, on top of that you would have to pull all the data down and then push it back into another cloud – a brutal exercise that might lead you to the conclusion to just keep your data where it is, even if you’re not happy with the service. 

This of course just covers the technicalities of data movement, when it comes to compliance and the legal requirements to archive data while providing proof that it has not been modified adds a completely new concern. How can you pull all your data out of one cloud and push it to another when the act of actually accessing your data puts you into a non-compliant state? Welcome to the world of vendor lock-in. 

Here’s my conclusion: if you operate in an industry that has regulatory compliance standards for data retention (which just happens to be almost all industries), or any form of eDiscovery and Data Archiving requirement, you need to do some serious research into the vendors you select and the RaaS solutions you rely on. Ensure that you can easily and painlessly migrate your data in an auditable and compliant fashion from one cloud to another should you chose to do so down the road.

Look for cloud-neutral vendor solutions in 2010 that allow you to seamlessly move your data from one cloud to another without losing your index, archive or compliant data backup system.

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