The cloud remains the trend of the moment. Almost every new technology product that launches is ‘based in the cloud’, ‘cloud ready’ or ‘cloud compatible’. The word is used by almost every technology company to describe how their product is now based in some far away data centre.
But while technology companies continue to promote their cloud offerings, whenever I chat with customers about the cloud, there remains a level of concern.
Some worry about data sovereignty (“If I store my data in the US, can I get access to it?”). Others worry about application compatibility (“Will I be stuck with a vendor? Is there a way for me to easily move between clouds?”). Others still are concerned about managing the costs associated with cloud computing (“How much will it cost for me to move across to a cloud service?”).
At this stage, there are mainly a lot of questions but not a lot of answers.
But for most businesses the big question should be “Who can I trust with my data?”
While most technical limitations can be overcome and costs can be changed or re-calculated to meet business needs, the issue of trust is one that isn’t as easily determined.
Recently, Commonwealth Bank announced that it will offer free cloud file storage to all customers to store all types of content (interestingly, not based on file size but on the amount of objects).
This sounds great in theory, but isn’t the primary focus of a bank to help consumers and businesses with their money?
Commonwealth Bank’s core business is finance – by branching out into areas such as cloud storage they are trying to keep customers from looking elsewhere for any other service. As a marketing strategy to increase their presence in the every-day lives of their customers it makes commercial sense. But given it’s not their core competency, should consumers actually trust them?
The same goes for many other new ‘cloud’ providers. If a provider that gave you great pricing on hardware and good turnaround times on delivery suddenly started discussing how they could also offer hosted services, why would you automatically trust them? Because someone has great references on their website would you start to move your business infrastructure (even your development and testing platforms) across to them?
In this modern world of cloud-enabled services you still need to ensure that you actually know your provider. It’s great to know that they have failover systems that span the globe and security that the US Government approves of. But if the system goes down, or you need access to a new feature, or you want to discuss cloud strategy and roadmaps, a local point of contact and technical resources on the ground will make the difference.
The point is this: when deciding on a cloud provider, have a detailed look at the company and how they model their business. Question whether their primary business is providing cloud services, or is it just a side project? Do they give you local support? Can you go and visit their offices? Do they give you local customer references who you can go and visit?
In the same way that you wouldn’t trust the bank with your online life – outside of banking – don’t trust your business to providers whose core business isn’t the cloud.
*Rhys Evans is national practice manager at Thomas Duryea Consulting, Enterprise Information Systems.*