After a few high profile cloud outages – Amazon and Microsoft – in the past few months, some may be wondering, will cloud adoption slow down as a result? The short answer: probably not. But let’s back up a bit and look at this white hot, newer trend of “the cloud.”
In the realm of today’s burgeoning technologies, there’s a lot of talk about the cloud. There are huge proponents and plenty of skeptics, but there is no denying it, there is a ton of interest in the cloud. Even the heavy hitters are onboard, including Microsoft (BPOS and Office 365), Google (Google Apps), Symantec (Enterprise Vault.cloud) and Salesforce.com (CRM and Chatter). Then there are all the startups, almost too many too count.
According to IT analyst and business strategy consultant Enterprise Strategy Group, cloud computing adoption is widespread … more than three-quarters (82 percent) of organizations have plans to leverage cloud-based services to some extent over the next five years. In addition, a Gartner forecast predicts that cloud computing services sales will surge to more than $148 billion by 2014. Although we’ve seen a lot of trends in technology come and go, the cloud has clear staying power. Sure, it will expand and morph along the way, but I don’t see it going anywhere other than up in adoption with increased usage as more and more services move to the cloud.
One of the biggest drivers of cloud adoption is reducing the burden on IT resources. Cloud-based services save IT organizations the expense and time of dealing with storage, servers, databases, backups, etc. The cloud also allows companies to turn a capital expense into a more balance sheet-friendly operating expense, scale more easily as they grow and reduce their data center footprints.
But what does happen when the cloud service your organization relies on goes down? The reality is you can’t totally forget about risk in the cloud. With its many benefits, the cloud isn’t foolproof. Just like the on-premise world, where you had to build lots of processes and procedures to protect against security breaches, data loss and disasters, you need to have similar policies and plans in place for your cloud-based services. As we’ve seen, even the big guys aren’t immune to hiccups along the way.
For example, let’s look at cloud email. How will your employees send and receive email if your service is down? How can you recover data in the event of an employee error or service provider data loss? What are you doing to retain, search and produce data for compliance or legal needs? Do you know how you can get your data back if you want to switch service providers or bring your email system back in house? These are all very important questions not only to ask, but also to be able to answer when you are choosing your cloud service providers.
What we’ve learned over the past few years as a provider of hosted IT services is that archiving answers all of these questions. In fact, we’ve built our business on this knowledge. First, depending on the type of archiving solution you choose, your users can continue to send and receive email when your mail server is unavailable. Second, your valuable data is protected and readily available in an offsite archive (ideally with redundancy in multiple data centers), so no matter what kind of data loss or breach you experience, you can get it back. Next, the right kind of archive ensures that you are prepared for compliance needs and e-discovery requests. Finally, if you have an archive, you don’t have to worry about having data returned if you want to move your cloud email to a new service provider or back in house – it’s all there at your fingertips.
Cloud archiving is also a good way for organizations to test the cloud overall and take a step toward other cloud-based services, like email. Not only does it give companies time to get comfortable with the technology, it also offers convenience, cost savings and other efficiencies that win out over the fear of downtime.
Ultimately the cloud offers a number of benefits to help you streamline processes and get a better view of your business. You just need to understand how to protect your assets in the cloud. The recent Amazon and Microsoft outages underline the importance of backing up valuable data in the cloud, but these isolated incidents by no means suggest that anyone should run from the cloud. I’m not sure you can anyway. However, you should do your due diligence and understand what you are buying into, so you are prepared for all possible scenarios.