With the growing popularity of cloud computing services, companies seeking to gain a foothold in the industry are increasingly jumping on the cloud computing bandwagon. But presence does not equal proficiency, and some companies are simply unprepared to provide reliable service to customers for the long term. Knowledge Center contributor David Barley offers recommendations for selecting a stable and trustworthy cloud computing vendor.
Cloud computing may sound like a pie-in-the-sky phenomenon, but despite any
initial impressions you may have about it, the technology is one phenomenon
that has not only landed but has also firmly staked its claim in the future of
computer technology. After all, what industry exists that does not employ some
form of cloud computing-be it software-as-a-service applications, basic e-mail,
or data storage and archiving services? Indeed, cloud computing is here to
Even so, some companies touting ownership of this technology are merely
squatters in experts' clothing, and consumers need be vigilant to avoid
investing their trust-and resources-in a company that may wind up being gone
with the wind. And perhaps nowhere does this ring truer than in the area of
The Benefits of Cloud Computing
From major corporations to small, independent consulting shops, successful
companies understand the critical importance of securing and safeguarding their
data against loss due to natural disaster or human error. No doubt we have all
witnessed or heard of the tragedy of a computer crash, flood or fire destroying
not only equipment but also an entire enterprise. Cloud computing allows
companies to avoid such catastrophes by backing up and archiving their data
online through a third-party provider.
The benefits of this technology are numerous, ranging from business security
and legal compliance to simple, yet priceless peace of mind. However, the
technology can also be risky, since some providers jump on the cloud computing
bandwagon without making proper preparations for long-term viability.
Hard Lessons Learned
Unfortunately, many companies recently learned this reality the hard way
when their online storage provider simply shut down. The Linkup, a cloud computing
data storage service, closed its virtual doors on Aug. 8, 2008, leaving as many as 20,000 paying
subscribers with no access to the files they had paid the company to store and
protect for them. While the company's collapse began months before its final
closure, many customers still found themselves stranded up the proverbial creek
without a paddle.
The reason, while difficult to swallow, is easy to understand. The Linkup
may have provided backup services, but it failed to back up its own backup. Indeed,
while claiming to protect customer data, the company failed to protect itself.
That's the bad news. And, unfortunately for The Linkup's subscribers, they will
now have to attempt to rebuild the information, files, music and videos lost on
Amid the meltdown, however, there is good news: Cloud computing companies do
exist that are prepared not only for external disasters but also for internal
challenges. These are the companies that not only ask for the public's trust,
but also prove that they merit that trust, and these are the companies that
customers should look to as their data backup and storage partners.
Finding these companies all comes down to knowing what questions to ask. And
three questions, in particular, are indispensable:
Question No. 1: Is the company financially stable?
Prior to entrusting critical data to any third-party backup provider,
consumers should research the company's financial standing. While this may
prove easier to do with publicly traded companies, it is still possible-and
perhaps even more important-to do with smaller private firms. Look for any
indicators of potential financial instability, be it a lack of investors, a
spotty history of service or a past financial crisis.
Question No. 2: Does the company have a backup strategy?
What happens in the unfortunate event that a vendor does go out of business?
Are there provisions in place to ensure data would still be preserved and
accessible to service subscribers? Check whether providers have a trust fund
that would enable the company to continue operating-and consumers to continue
accessing their files-for a period of time, even in the event something did
happen that forced the company out of business.
Question No. 3: What are other users saying?
No paid promotion can be as effective or as trustworthy as word-of-mouth
advertising. Friends, colleagues and associates with no vested interest in a
particular company will be the first to tell you honestly which backup
providers work and which simply do not. Take the time to ask others with
storage needs similar to your own which company or companies they have found to
be the most effective and reliable.
Selecting a backup provider does not have to be a "shot in
the dark." And, while it takes a bit of time and research to validate the
security and reliability of any cloud computing company, it is time well-spent
to ensure that you are investing your valuable resources and invaluable company
data in a provider worthy of your trust. David Barley is chief technology officer at Casdex. With over nine years of experience in
the technology sector, he has a track record of encouraging growth at startup
companies through the development of new products and systems. His areas of
expertise include business development, commercializing technology
advancements, facilitating operations, and designing and developing key storage
infrastructure. At Casdex, he is responsible for spearheading
development and implementation of the company's IT systems, while also
providing a technical voice in the overall strategic planning for the company.
He previously served as the vice president of systems architecture for TD
Waterhouse, charged with determining the methodologies to be used to develop
backup system procedures scaled to meet the growing demands of both the
corporate and branch infrastructure of the company. Before that, he was the
manager of Massachusetts-based startup Storage Networks, a leading provider of
data and network storage services. While there, he was instrumental in the
expansion of the firm to the Asia Pacific
region by providing strategic direction for both product development and
marketing plans, ultimately attracting clients such as Yahoo, Ford Motor Co.,
Hitachi and Cisco Systems.
A resident of San Pedro, Calif., David attended the University of
Chicago, with concentrations in business and IT. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.