Recently the press in New Zealand and around the globe have been all over a man called Kim Dotcom and his case relating to the “Mega conspiracy” and the Megaupload site. The press the world over love the fact that Megaupload was widely regarded as the place to store your illegally downloaded movies and music.
More recently I watched a discussion on TVNZ Breakfast between Petra Baghurst (presenter) and the editor of Computerworld magazine (journalist) about the Megaupload case and more generally the topic of cloud computing. I watched in disbelief as the editor of Computerworld, Sarah Putt, managed to give what I consider a poor explanation of cloud computing and its associated risks. When I considered people with little or no knowledge of cloud computing would be watching I became concerned that the Megaupload fiasco would have a negative impact on cloud computing uptake within businesses in NZ.
Having built and then sold cloud computing solutions now for over 10 years I thought I would spell out the reasons why Megaupload and its issues couldn’t be further from the truth behind cloud computing.
When Sarah talked about the FBI in the USA deleting the user data from the Megaupload website she failed to talk about a couple of key aspects which would put someones mind at ease. Instead she made a statement which left the impression that everyone’s data could be deleted at any stage by the FBI or any government agency without notice from ANY cloud service. This simply isn’t true.
Lets get one thing straight, cloud computing is a BIG bet for most technology companies and we aren’t talking small companies either. Microsoft, Google, Amazon are some of the leaders in the cloud computing push with many others following. The big companies all have big legal teams, these teams have been working with governments for years to better understand the regulatory requirements when it comes to hosting customer data and understanding complications that arise when its hosted offshore. In short, if there was ANY risk that any of the big players would end up having their customer data deleted by the FBI overnight, they simply wouldn’t have attempted to provide the service in the first place. Furthermore these service providers all spell out in plain english the regulatory requirements for their customers:
I liken it to an owner of a Gallardo holding Lamborghini responsible when they break the speed limit. When was the last time you posted a speeding ticket to the manufacturer of your car?
Understanding your legal requirements as a consumer of cloud services is the first thing you should do before deciding to move.
The other very important thing I was amazed Sarah Putt missed was the fact that in most cloud scenarios a user is able to gain access to their data when they aren’t connected to the internet. Google may currently fall short in this area, however when using the likes of Office365 in conjunction with Sharepoint workspace, a user has an offline cache of their data from which they are able to make a local backup at any time. There are many more cloud services that provide an offline cache such as Dropbox etc. And lets not forget the fact that Outlook provides the ability to work offline, giving users access to their email, contacts and calendars when they aren’t connected to the internet/email service. This serves as piece of mind rather than a requirement of a cloud service and I use the term “dis-mount strategy” to talk about the ability to recall your company data from the cloud should your situation change. Another great product that allows seamless “dis-mount” from the cloud is Exchange 2010. Exchange 2010 has been architected to co-exist with Office 365, allowing customers to maintain a local Exchange server for email while utilizing the cloud for additional email capacity.
At the end of the day as with any business decision due-diligence needs to be undertaken before using a cloud service and this includes what to do in the event that you need to recall your data from the cloud. In most cases the risks will be mitigated especially when choosing to use a product from a reputable brand with a strong market presence and a good roadmap for future releases.