Why I’m not supportive of “the cloud”.

I just got an email from Microsoft this morning advertising their new Office 365 product… the Microsoft Office version that’s “in the cloud”.

I will choose not to sign up for it, and retain my desktop version isntead.  Here is why:

“The Cloud” is just a neat buzz word for … “letting someone else have complete control over your data on a server somewhere that requires internet access to get at it, and over which you have ZERO control”.

For all the consternation over security and hacking these days, I don’t understand why any company or individual would want to move all their critical data OFF their computers and networks back OUT to what is essentially a re-packaged idea that was the only way to do computing 40 years ago… the mainframe.

I barely experienced the mainframe personally… with a little Nexus Lexus at my university library, but in my professional opinion (I keep having to remind my mother… this is what I do for a living Mom!) moving your mission critical OUT of your control into a place that requires an internet connection to get to it, is a BAD idea.

Why do VPN’s exist?  VPN (virtual private network) is a technology that came about so that remote workers could access their corporate networks through the internet through a secure tunnel, which apparently shielded them from prying eyes (hackers) or other threats related to doing sensitive things on the internet, like banking, accounting, project management etc. etc.   This came about because of the internet and public wifi’s… because these options for doing business are less secure than being safely inside your own corporate network behind a firewall.  Imagine if everyone in your company and I mean everyone had to sit in a cafe and use the cafe’s wifi to get to your accounting apps, timesheets, crm etc. to do business.  That’s essentially what you’re doing by moving your stuff out into “the cloud”.

So why would any rational thinking human want to move back out to a less secure architecture?

The pro argument for “the cloud” is two fold:

1. If you’re a small company the expenses of acquiring hardware, installing software, maintaining and supporting it can make it difficult if not impossible to have access to the more powerful ERP systems.  Thus, having a hosted solution or a cloud solution where someone else takes care of that expense (not to mention hiring the IT staff necessary to maintain the framework) is an attractive idea.

2. In a cloud environment, scaling up to a larger hardware set (number of servers) is easy if the cloud gives you that capability… this is great for high-traffic websites or biz apps that have bursts of bandwidth need at peak times but then scale down on average… meaning the cloud supposedly gives you an average cost rate that reflects your actual useage instead of having to buy to accommodate the maximum load.

However, the cons far out weight the pros for me.  Especially in the case of Office 365 (or any ERP app as well)… I don’t want to HAVE to have internet access to get to my resume to update it… or to any other office document for that matter… read spreadsheets, any word doc, pictures, slide shows, email etc. etc.

Same goes for mission critical business apps… letting someone else manage your servers and software for your mission critical business functions does not seem like a good idea to me… and requiring internet connectivity to run your business same.

Can you imagine if you’re trying to print payroll checks on Friday and for some reason the “cloud” accounting system you’re using is not accessible because Comcast or whoever supplies your internet pipe is having POP issues that day?  If you enjoy the idea of being the captain on the Bounty… then go for it.

As for me, I’ll pass.

If you want to know my idea about other ways to solve the issues in 1 and 2 above, the pro reasons for “the cloud” then comment below or contact me in some way.

Cheers!

3 thoughts on “Why I’m not supportive of “the cloud”.

  1. Hey Loren,

    I’ll bite and play devil’s advocate. As a long time IT Manager and manager of many information systems including ERPs (Vision), E-mail systems (Exchange) within the Engineering Consulting space I can add a different perspective.

    The best IT people don’t think about technology from a details perspective….they think and make business decisions – as they relate to IT. As such my job as an IT Manager is not to sell the business on the coolest new toys and apps, but sell them on the most logical solutions for their business which will add value over the long haul.

    One of the biggest reasons IT departments struggle to get funding and respect (especially in the engineering world) is because they focus on the nuts and bolts rather than selling business valule.

    So how does this tie into “the cloud”? Well the cloud answers a very fundamental question that all IT departments should be focusing on…..what is my company’s core business? Is it E-mail? Is it storage and backup? Is it databases? Most often not…..they are simply tools the business needs to function and compete. So to me the cloud represents a huge opportunity for IT departments, particularly in “non-tech” environments, to outsource commoditized functions to companies that specialize in delivering those services efficiently and cost-effectively.

    A perfect example is e-mail…..I was making the argument to move to Hosted Exchange 5 years ago before it became as commonplace as it is today. Why? Simple….I trust a company that specializes in e-mail to deliver that service to my user base more than I do myself or my Exchange Admin…..and I never have to worry about the SPAM, Viruses, DOS attacks, explosive storage growth, backup, system failures, licensing, etc. It’s one of the easiest business cases an IT person could ever make.

    IT people tend to hate the idea of the cloud or outsourcing in general because they perceive it to mean they are less important, less needed and more or less will lose their jobs. So they tend to horde and protect their legacy systems and build up their arsenal of techie things that only THEY know how to do as a form of job security. When in fact smart business people understand that an IT person that brings forth ideas that save the business money, increase their competetive advantage and allow them to focus on core business functions, are the most valuable employees of all. For every piece of technology that is not a core business function that I can offload to someone better equipped to manage it, the more time I have to focus on adding further value to the business and exploring new ideas.

    So back to the pros and cons of the cloud….yes there are concerns about security, control, availability, etc. but these concerns are constantly being addressed and improved on. Smart businesses have redundant internet connections and managed private networks. They use technologies like SSL VPN to access their private clouds and so on.

    We also can’t paint “the cloud” with a single brush stroke…..the cloud comes in many flavours. Many companies choose to move their e-mail systems to the cloud but still want control….so they deploy and Exchange Server infrasturcture with a hosting provider. They gain all of the benefits such as scalability, securioty, reliability, but still manage the Exchange system themselves……not so bad right?

    A 30+ year engineer here asked me if I “really trust this cloud thing?”….my response: “More than I trust myself to maintain everything with a small crew of IT people”. His retort: “What about when Hezbollah takes out Microsoft?”. Does anyone really believe Microsoft or Google with their acres of server farms and multi-continent redundancy will be that vulnerable? Yes there will be glitches and growing pains but to simply dimiss the cloud is foolish….but then again maybe iTunes and the whole digital music fad will fail and we can all go back to records and tapes right? Right? Who’s with me?

    Feel free to slam me now Loren!

    Cheers,

    Kevin Coles

    • Kevin,

      As a trusted colleague of mine, you always pleasantly surprise me. What a well written and thorough comment. Thank you.

      I agree with about everything you’ve written in this comment, especially:
      1. it’s important for businesses to focus on their core competency
      2. IT guys tend to silo themselves and use obscure technologies in order to “shore up” their job security (in vain)
      3. It’s “better” to “let the professionals handle it” when it comes to certain things like email, web hosting etc.
      4. you can’t paint “the cloud” or anything for that matter with a huge brush and always be right.

      While I myself use a lot of cloud-based services…
      1. gmail
      2. freshbooks
      3. Verio Web Hosting
      4. wordpress (where my site and blog live now)

      This is because I am just one guy… having to do all things related to my business all by myself.

      However,

      I am only one person, and I happen to be an IT department all by myself, so having technological glitches like a lack of internet access… while frustrating, tend to be less dramatic than for a larger firm of say… 400+ employees with 5 offices worldwide all trying to bill hours every day to about 150 active projects. Furthermore, the exposure of sensitive, mission critical data to outside parties (not just ssl hacking but also the trust of the employees at whatever data center I happen to be hosting my data at) is less of a problem on my side than it would be for this theoretical client with 5 offices.

      So just like the architecture of computing has been evolving back and forth over the past 4 decades from single pc to mainframe to single pc to internet to cloud… it’s important for the IT guys at any company to analyse each business data application and make a decision in each case… some will be appropriate out in the cloud, and some not. It just depends on the risk tolerance for that business in those two critical areas… data sensitivity, and uptime sensitivity.

      Conclusion… treat “the cloud” decision on a case by case basis… it’s actually parallel to the “build or buy” decision that companies face when considering apps to run their enterprise.

      Cheers!

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