Thursday, December 29, 2011

Episode 17: When the cloud goes bust & you're up a river without paddles

2011 has not been a kind year for Irish business. Five small businesses failed every day this year. 2011 has also seen a huge increase in the number of cloud service companies open for business in Ireland across SAAS/IAAS/PAAS areas. A burning question for many about taking their trip into the cloud is; what happens if my provider goes bust? How do I get my data back?

Browsing through vast majority of the terms & conditions belonging to many cloud services providers operating in the Irish market, there are absolutely no provisions in there about what happens to your data, or how you can access your data in the event your provider of choice goes bust.

When companies are touting for your business to move what are key systems from inside your business into theirs, & there are no provisos for what becomes of access to your data in the event they go into receivership, or go out of business when your business depends on that data, there is a much bigger issue at play.

An oft-quoted comic book theme is that 'with great power comes great responsibility'. This is true, & an even more crucial truth for the Cloud, & something the cloud industry must do to win faith from would-be converts. It is not good enough to say 'but we won't be going bust'. Provide your customers with explicit details of how in the event of the company going out of business what happens to their access, & more importantly than their data. In this current period of time, un-necessary costs to wrangle access to your property as a small business is unhelpful, & undermines any pro-cloud arguments.

Small businesses more than anyone else today cannot afford risk. If you offer a cloud service, you better provide a better form of risk than the data in or on their premises. The 'savings' argument is no longer enough. In a world where assurity carries a greater premium, this must be a tenet for the cloud service provider.

Sure, big cloud companies servicing big business will make sure that in the fine lines of the contracts there's provisions for these kind of what-if's. But, this really has got to also become part & parcel of offerings to small businesses by default, not something they should be paying a premium for, afterall - you are being charged with holding onto their data; which in today's world is the real asset in any business, not the bricks & mortar.

If you are currently being courted by a cloud services company, ask them what their provisions are for access & retrieval of your data from them in the event they go bust, & if these provisions are in the contract or agreement for your services from them. If they're not, I would suggest walking away. Someone's word is no substitute for your business being dead in the water because you can't access your data when you need it.

One thing that we have learned in 2011 is that data capture, analysis & actions arising from those activities is absolutely paramount. Take supermarkets. The data being collected on each shopper is shaping your shopping experience; what special offers get put where, aisle layout, how to drive people through the store to essentials to encourage people to buy more than was intended. We are long past the 'if you build it they will come' routine, & businesses today need access to their data on demand; no delays, no hiccups, no impediments.

So, as you shop around for your cloud service needs, ask your friendly cloud sales rep about contingencies for access & retrieval of your data if they should for any reason 'go bust', & more improtantly, how quickly your data can be exported back to you.