Leaving the cloud – A few important points

Dec 22, 2011

Leaving the cloud – A few important points

The industrial association BITKOM is predicting that the total revenue made by cloud computing in Germany will rise to EUR 13 billion by 2015. After a brief period of hesitation, more and more companies here in Germany are starting to adapt. The new service model has made its way onto the agenda of many responsible persons within the IT sector.

Yet there is one question which, for many companies, remains unanswered: Is it possible to return to the ground after a journey to the clouds? Sceptics fear that they will store their data in the cloud, only to find they can no longer access it in the event of a fundamental change in strategy.

I'm in the cloud, get me out of here!

Is this just an exaggerated need for security or a reasonable doubt? If a company claims that they may wish to extract their data from the cloud in the future, surely the appropriate question is ‘why?’ The amount of data circulating globally is rising rapidly. IDC predicts that by 2020 there will be 35 zettabytes of information saved to different memory devices around the world. In 2009, the number was still only 800,000 petabytes. In light of this, it is clear that a retreat from the cloud makes little sense, even from a purely infrastructural standpoint. Generally, those switching to a cloud system are attempting to save on storage costs. If they remove their data after a few years, however, they will be faced with new, expensive investments in storage resources. This process could be likened to an end user who, after saving his data on a 500-GB hard drive for years, suddenly decides to get rid of it and save his data to the old and familiar 3.5-inch diskette – almost impossible and hardly modern!

Whoe'er would form eternal bonds

Therefore, it does not make much sense to wonder what would happen should one wish to quit the cloud. However, it is certainly worth wondering what would happen if the company wished to change providers in the event that they should become unhappy with the services on offer. The option of changing providers should be kept open by every company if they don't wish to form those eternal bonds mentioned above. Another provider may seem more attractive at a later time due to a better price model or service offer. Perhaps the current provider will disappoint with technical problems or contractual difficulties. Companies must prepare themselves in good time for such eventualities in order to remain flexible later on. Responsible parties should therefore ask themselves the following questions even before they decide on a concrete cloud provider: Does the provider offer the necessary latitude and allow the customer to switch services, even right at the beginning of the service? In a worst case scenario, will the provider offer information and support? Are there white paper's and best practices available for support in the event of a provider switch? Are the necessary interfaces for accessing data from the provider and automatically exporting it available? And above all else: Which data formats are in use, and are standards used that support moving data from one provider to the other if necessary?

This list alone can be a great initial help for separating the wheat from the chaff. If these questions are answered to your satisfaction, it shows that the provider is willing to give support even in the event of a switch. This qualifies the provider as a potential business partner, in comparison to companies that are closed off and uncooperative and that will win only a small number of customers. Because the most important argument in support of the cloud is flexibility. And this should influence your choice of provider as much as any other factor.

Rainer Zeitler, Vice President Enterprise Solutions Engineers EMEA, ASG Group




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