Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, raised a media blitz when he talked about how worried he is about his data in the embrace of consumer-based cloud services, but he's not the only one who is concerned. Enterprise users have worries, too -- and these go beyond data security: what are the top three things you should be prepared for when choosing between available cloud services?
First, the current situation: CIOs and tech decision makers everywhere face great pressure to jump into the clouds. As Gartner reports: "Cloud computing's business model — the ability to rapidly provision IT services without large capital expenditures — is appealing to budget-minded executives."
Demanding cloud services now, now, now is easy for the rest of the board, but the ones at the sharp end of making these decisions will rapidly encounter three big problems:
what's the legal position?
Those attractive sounding cloud service deals are so tempting, but each enterprise signing a cloud service provider needs to ensure they're keeping to the spirit of local data protection rules, and know answers to the following three questions:
- where is the data stored?
- in which country? Are data protection laws in that country equal to your company policy requirements?
- What are the data protection laws and relationships between where your business is based and where your cloud services provider stashes your data?
This is particularly relevant in the US and EU, which both have laws regarding data compliancy. Where your company's data is kept has legal implications; as does the action of transferring the data to the new location.
This evolving question is largely untested, but raises a whole new series of problems for CIOs attempting to reach a long-term plan. In some cases you need to consider that your customer data doesn't solely belong to you, but also to the customer, and you're under strict legal obligation to ensure its integrity.
Some cloud services sound great. They offer infrastructure, modular SaaS models, the chance to upscale and downscale services. Before you sign on the dotted line, a pragmatic CIO will need to know the answer to three questions:
- can you use this provider's cloud services with those from other providers?
- can these services interoperate with other services and your firm's own in-house processes?
- if you choose to leave a service, how easy is it to transport your data to a new provider? No one wants their valuable business data assets stuck in a gulag of a no-longer-fit-for-purpose service.
Ultimately it's not asking too much for a company to be able to hire a cloud provider and expect to easily migrate that data elsewhere should they choose to use another service.
Talking about consumer cloud data services, Wozniak said: "I've come to a depressed state of feeling that I own nothing on the cloud and have no ability to keep things working the way they do."
That's an equal concern for CIOs ensuring they have a clean chain of corporate responsibility to ensure the probity of the data they have outsourced to their cloud provider.
Read part two of this report here.
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Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.