Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lost In The Clouds

Ah! Lost in the clouds again.

Sounds nice right, unless you're a T-Mobile customer. In that case, lost in the clouds means your data was lost during an upgrade. Too bad. Most of the attention in the blogsphere has been centered on how stupid this appears. A lot of folks are railing against how avoidable this was, how best practices for data protection are well known, how unfortunately common this sort of thing is, etc. I wrote a book on that stuff years ago and it was not new then. Well, some of it was new but the basic blocking and tackling wasn't.

The central issue is being avoided though. It's uncomfortable to address if your company is involved in any type of outsourcing, and what major computer company isn't these days. In all the moaning about how Hitachi Data Systems and Microsoft (T-Mobile partners in this fiasco) should have done better, in all the technical details, in all the posturing about best practices, the core problem with outsourcing is being ignored.


I don't care if it is Cloud Computing, call centers, data centers, or overnight delivery. When you outsource you have to trust the outsourcer to do as good or better a job as you would. You can't be looking over their shoulder 24/7. They can't have you in their shorts either. For the relationship to work there needs to be a lot of trust.

I have been on both sides of the outsourcing game. When you hand over a mission critical functions to someone else you have to do your homework. You have a duty to make sure that the outsourcer has the capabilities, best practices, and determination to do your business the way you need it done. They have to look out for your interests. It's a relationship that needs attention.

This is the problem with outsourced Cloud Computing. You have to have the expertise to evaluate your outsourcing partners, the time to conduct appraisals and look at references, and people to monitor performance and deal with problems. I'm not saying that T-Mobile didn't do this. Bad things happen to good companies. But with the hype around outsourced clouds, a lot of trust is being handed over to folks whose abilities are barely known. It's like getting married after the first date. And in this case, what happens in Vegas ends up all over the Internet. Like Paris Hilton, but I digress...

What worries me is that a lot of folks will get sucked in by the Cloud Computing hype who are not ready to do it right. I especially worry about smaller outfits with fewer resources. To them, Amazon S3 is a god send (not to pick on Amazon). Or Mozy for that matter. Solves a problem cheap and quick. Just what everyone wants. Don't worry. They're big companies. We can trust them, right? Right...

Trust takes time and effort. Any type of outsourcing, Cloud Computing or otherwise, requires a lot of trust. Go slow, take your time, and get to know each other first. You have the rest of your lives together. No need to rush.

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