Monday, July 12, 2010

Cloud storage-as-a-service

Triggered by an article by Phil Jaenke.

You probably saw the announcement about EMC's Atmos Online shutting down. ArsTechnica had an article about it too. The short and sweet: if you were using Atmos Online directly, they aren't guaranteeing anything (including you being able to get your data back out). If you're an enterprise thinking about cloud storage as an alternative to maintaining expensive disk and/or tape in-house to hold all your archival data, this gives you something to think about.

Now, frankly, you should've been thinking about this anyway from the moment you started thinking about contracting with a vendor to store your data. Putting the magic word "cloud" in the name doesn't change the basic fact: you're putting your data in someone else's hands. When you do that you always, always account for things like "How do I get my data back from them?", "What happens if their facilities suffer damage?" and "What happens if they decide to shut down?". And you don't depend entirely on contract terms and penalties. Knowing that you can take your vendor to court and force them to pay up eventually, maybe, assuming they haven't declared bankruptcy, doesn't get you the archival data you need, and the IRS and the financial auditors and the rest won't really care whose fault it is that you can't get at data you're legally required to have available because it's your responsibility regardless.

There's also another question: how about security and privacy? Yes, against hackers attacking your supplier's network, but not just against them. What happens when your supplier gets served with a court order demanding they turn over your data to the other party in a lawsuit you're involved in? Some of that data might be e-mails between you and your legal department or outside attorneys, and reasonably subject to attorney-client privilege. But your attorneys won't get a chance to review anything before it's turned over, because you won't know it's been turned over until after the fact. How does your supplier handle this kind of situation? What steps are you taking to insure that you can't be bypassed when it comes to getting at your data?

So when IT or management asks about cloud storage, make them answer those sorts of questions first. Or at least make them think about those sorts of questions.

Oh, and the service Phil wrote about? Notice that it uses standard NAS protocols to talk to it's device, and standard formats for the stored data. That makes the question of "How do I get my data back?" a lot easier to answer.

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