The words “cloud computing” are being thrown around today by almost every technology company on the planet. Many are slapping the cloud label on their offerings, hoping to get some free publicity, while others spend their time declaiming the dangers and risks that everyone faces by placing their data in the hands of a few providers. With all the discussion and hype surrounding the cloud, many persistent myths have sprung up over the past few years.
Perhaps the most insidious of these myths is the idea that by moving to the cloud, companies won’t ever have to worry about IT issues ever again. People have somehow gotten into their minds that since their data or their servers or their applications are somewhere else, all their conventional technology issues are magically solved: cloud providers will back up the data, update software, deal with security issues, and so on. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
For every layer of the cloud (Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service or Software-as-a-Service), the limits of the responsibility of the provider are clearly defined. In the case of infrastructure (IaaS), this limit is the hardware environment: the provider will guarantee network and hardware availability, and nothing else. Any other functionality is the sole responsibility of the user. You must set up backup for your servers, define and enforce any security policies, keep the systems updated, and do any other conventional server management task.
On the platform layer (PaaS), their responsibility is expanded: vendors offer a computing platform, roughly equivalent to an operating system, on the cloud. Their responsibility, therefore, goes as far as the functionality they make available. If you’re using a platform’s storage services, they will take responsibility for the availability of the data, replicating it as necessary, as well as for the performance of storage operations, and so on.
Finally, on the software-as-a-service layer (SaaS), vendors will take full responsibility for the entire application environment. This means not only the availability of the application and the underlying data, but also all the necessary infrastructure to make sure that they don’t lose your data, are hacked, or suffer any other issues that compromise your ability to access and operate the software.
On the IaaS layer, it’s easy to see how “no more IT” is only a myth. This is true for all layers, though, because the reasons for IT worries are much less technical than you’d think. Password management, for instance, is fundamental to maintaining the security of an environment; if your users don’t have strong passwords, their accounts are vulnerable to being hijacked and compromised. At the same time, if left to their own devices, many users will simply repeat the username as the password for the account, or use “password” (or “p@ssw0rd”) as their credentials.
Backup is another sensitive area. First, there is the technical side. If you have a Google Apps account, Google probably won’t lose your data (though it’s been known to happen to other providers, such as Microsoft); for some applications, though, “probably” isn’t enough. Having a backup is fundamental in case of disaster. The service provider may go out of business, shut down the service, or simply not take the appropriate care with the data, and no one wants to take that risk. Finally, there is the issue of user error – arguably the leading cause of data loss in the cloud. Users sometimes delete data they shouldn’t have, or didn’t want to. Here, no amount of “cloud” can help. Only a proper backup routine can recover data that was lost this way.
So there we have it: even in the cloud the worries of IT remain the same. If you are moving to the cloud now, or already use cloud services, don’t fall into the trap of forgetting about the conventional IT tasks, such as updating servers, managing passwords and backing up you data. You still need to perform all these tasks, and this is where tools such as Backupify can come in really handy. They make these jobs much easier, reducing the hassle and further delivering on the cost-reduction promises of cloud solutions.