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Cloud Computing is becoming more and more common and some of the pitfalls are being highlighted by painful experience. There have been a number of significant events that have highlighted some of the risks in Cloud Computing.
So what have been the problems and how do you protect yourself?
In October last year many users of SideKick mobile phones lost data through a “technical problem”. This illustrated that Cloud providers, can, and do lose data. In order to protect their clients many Cloud providers now recommend that clients perform their own downloads of data. This seems odd given that one of the supposed benefits of Cloud Computing is that the client does not have to worry about backups!
The only effective way to ensure that your backups are successful is to test that the back up has worked and that it can be restored. Depending on your assessment of risk, you may trust your Cloud provider to perform the backup testing, or you may not.
To minimise the risk of losing data you must understand how and where your data is stored and how you can recover it, and most important of all you must test that what is supposed to happen actually does happen and that you can recover your data in a usable form.
Access to data is another key component of the Cloud service chain. This is often over the Internet, and that always works, right? The Internet is often experiencing outages as cable are cut and equipment fails. There are often multiple routes and so the impact is usually small. However there are some areas of the world where there are a limited number of cables and limited redundancy. India, for example has experienced significant Internet disruption as demand has grown rapidly and the Internet has struggled to cope.
To ensure you minimise the risk of access problems you need to understand the routes you use to access the service and identify if there are any single points of failure that could provide significant disruption to your service. To do this you of course need to know where you Cloud provider is storing your data. Most Cloud providers will not provide an SLA for access, so the access risk is yours.
So, it is clear that you can not just rely on the robustness of “the Cloud”. Problems do occur and you must understand the risks you are taking when joining a Cloud service.
Mike Hill – Head of Commercial Services – Itica Consulting – September 2010