from the pay-attention dept
With everything going on with the NSA and other intelligence agencies relying on being able to reach out to third parties for data, we've pointed out a few times now that this may do serious harm to the tech industry. But what about from the consumer (or business buyer) perspective? It seems likely that companies (especially) should really start rethinking how they make use of certain cloud services. There are, clearly, tremendous potential benefits from cloud providers, which is why it's become so popular lately. But, there are certain downsides as well, and the whole concept of government access (or government demands, a la Lavabit) has really woken people up to some additional potential hazards they may not have paid close attention to in the past.
It also means that a lot of users of cloud services are suddenly reviewing their options a lot more carefully. We've talked about how this may be a boon for private cloud offerings, but there are still plenty of benefits to remote cloud offerings as well. But, suddenly the exact terms that are associated with those offerings, and the potential liability you might face for using those services becomes much more important. In the past, people may have grumbled about the terms of service or potential liabilities they were taking on, but the threats seemed more theoretical. That's now changed.
Over at OpenSource.com, Georg Greve has a good post that looks into questions that need to be asked before using a cloud service these days in light of the revelations about government snooping. For example, in the past, while many people might not have cared what country their service was hosted in, now it becomes critically important. He also highlights the importance of open source software and open source expertise -- both of which provide benefits on mulitple levels, including a higher likelihood of standardization and, frankly, probably a stronger interest in not just caving to government snooping.But the biggest one is the final point: having a way out.
Know your escape plan.Indeed. As I've argued a few times in the past, so many "cloud" services available today aren't fulfilling the real power of the cloud. Instead, they're little more than locked-in silos, where you're stuck with that particular vendor. The switching costs are incredibly high in those cases, which may not matter when everything's going great, but when you're suddenly worried about the privacy of all of your users (or yourself!) these things suddenly matter quite a bit. And yet, many who are jumping on the cloud bandwagon don't take the time to explore the amount of lock-in and what it means for their own flexibility and liability as well.
Solutions that are provided to you as fully open source have an elegant escape hatch built into them by their design. Read: You can take the entire stack and host it yourself without losing productivity or data. This backup plan protects you against legislative changes, company restructuring, and much more. The other side to this is provided by open standards.
The Takeaway: Choose solutions that have the most complete open standards approach to go with open source, because if your escape plan fails for whatever reason, there is a backup. Beware of "Open Core" offers masquerading as open source, though. Gartner called them the "emperor's new clothes" for a reason.
Part of the problem, of course, is that many users of cloud services just haven't put a premium on having such control and freedoms. Hopefully, with the growing recognition of why this is an issue, more cloud providers will recognize that not locking people in, and providing more open and flexible solutions is a powerful selling point.
This post is sponsored by The Hartford.