Folks know that with Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and Live (aka Hotmail) accounts, you get what you pay for. The same goes for Twitter, Facebook, and the like. If the services are down, so be it. Just check the company site for more information about the outage or use a service like downrightnow.com to see your consumer service's status, or report a problem.
But when we slip from free to paid-for cloud-based solutions like Office 365, our expectations are raised, especially when jobs depend on it. Unfortunately it's very challenging to change a first impression. By now, the words "cloud" and "unreliable" are paired forever in people's minds.
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As IT pros, we've all heard or experienced firsthand the woeful tales of failures and data breaches in the cloud. Amazon, for one, has experierenced some high-profile outages. One of the more recent outages on Dec. 24, 2012, at its northern Virginia data center, its most heavily trafficked facility, prompted an apology from the company (again) because a developer accidentally deleted some key data. Here, Amazon isn't alone in suffering outages and breaches. Apple's iCloud was compromised in mid-2012, right on the heels of a Dropbox hack, and the list goes on.
My InfoWorld colleague Ted Samson noted this was a major concern at this year's RSA Conference in San Francisco, reporting on the nine top threats to cloud computing security, according to the CSA (Cloud Security Alliance). First on the list? Data breaches.
Hosting your own is no silver bullet
Data breaches and outages are by no means limited to the cloud. On-premises deployments have their share and then some. The Open Securities Foundation keeps track of global data loss -- and it is substantial. Of course, not all data breaches are reported, and some victims may not even realize they've been compromised, as IBM notes in its informational resource for data breach prevention and response.
It comes down to the kind of organization you work with, the sensitivity of your data, and the necessity of ensuring total control over your data. That isn't to say you'll be able to provide a more secure environment than a cloud-based solution, but your organization may feel it has a better shot. And decision makers may feel more comfortable putting the security of their data in the hands of someone they know and can interview, shake hands with, look in the eye, and ultimately hold accountable (and fire) should there be a problem.