Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology


More cloud disasters

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I can't stand it...

What is so hard for people to understand? Hosted services are a greater security and stability risk than applications and data maintained in-house.

There, I've said it. Please feel free to disagree and provide examples.

I own a car because it's simply not economical or reliable enough for me to depend on a taxi every time I need to go somewhere.

There are exceptions, of course. I use a commercial airliner because frankly, I can't afford my own plane and pilot. Likewise, I accept the risk of doing so, whether it be a risk due to safety and security in the passenger cabin, one of mechanical malfunction, pilot error, or some luggage mishap. But if I could afford my own plane - and had a regular need to use one (i.e., there must e some value to the investment) - I would consider such an option.

Yet companies are increasingly (it seems) taken in by this whole concept of "the Cloud," which is nothing more than hosted services (services hosted on someone else's box or boxes).

I know what it's like for me as a consultant when a client's systems go down. We build in redundancies when we can (disk drives, power supplies, fans, even whole servers - clusters - and broadband connections), yet people continue to be hoodwinked into putting their critical applications and data on some remote system (call it what you will: we were doing the same thing in the 1960's and 1970's; when the Personal Computer came into being, it was supposed to be the end of all of that). When that system fails, either due to some connectivity outage or some other internal mess (and I'm not even considering at this point the risk of data security to people and companies who/which are essentially unknown to - and should therefore be untrusted by-  their clients), it makes the headlines.

Amazon's EC2 (sexy monicker for "a bunch of servers sitting somewhere else on someone else's network, accessible by someone else's staff"), Microsoft's Azure (sounds "lofty and poetic," as George Carlin would say), and all the others suffer from the same set of unknown quantities.

What is so hard about this?

Pick a stable OS with a stable filesystem. Put that on stable hardware with a reasonable number of redundancies for power, cooling, storage, connectivity, and processing. Put that/them behind a locked door, and limit circulation of the key or combination. Either hire competent staff or outsource to a reputable consultancy (and get to know the consultant(s) working on your systems). Done. Your data is your own. Grow at your own pace. Run the apps you choose. If performance isn't to your liking, then examine the problem and transition to another platform or address the shortcomings of your current configuration. It's yours.

I also predict that as more of these nonsensical cloud formations become commonplace, they will become bigger targets for attacks by unscrupulous individuals and hostile governments.

As a one-time avid amateur photographer, I used to keep up with a lot of the photo rags. One of the oft-used terms for signature (logo-bearing) gadget bags was (and still is, as far as I know) "steal-me bags." That's because if you have a large, black camera case with NIKON emblazoned on it in big, bold, bright yellow letters, that was/is certainly more apt to be snatched than a dull, grey bag (like my Tamarak bag, which is quite nondescript and neatly conceals all of my Nikon equipment).

I think I'm going to start calling "the Cloud" "steal-me hosting" or "maybe this time" or even "McCloud."

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