Dirty IT jobs: Partners in slime

Carcasses, garter belts, and anthrax -- techs get nasty in the name of IT

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Dirty job No. 5: Cloud data jockey

It's all the rage. The route to IT nirvana is to outsource your data to a cloud provider and let their servers do the heavy lifting while you kick back and enjoy life on easy street. Right?

Not exactly, says Jason Wisdom, an IT consultant who's served as a DBA for several clients and discovered there's a darker side to every silver-lined cloud. When you're administering data that lives in the cloud, your troubles are only just beginning.

In the cloud you're still responsible for data integrity and security, but with almost no control over the hardware where it lives. Performance slowed to a crawl? System crashes? Failed backups? It may not be your fault, but it is your problem.

"With one of my clients their entire cloud farm just collapsed due to a failed motherboard," he says. "The disk array was ruined as well. All the servers, including the database, had to rebuilt from scratch. The entire IT infrastructure was down for a week as servers were reinstalled and the data was being recovered."

Fortunately, says Wisdom, the company has backed up the data to a stand-alone machine, or it really would have been in trouble.

There are other clouds on the data horizon. Portability of data between different systems, legal issues about where sensitive data can reside, even just knowing that data has been "destroyed" and is not still sitting on some hard drive somewhere -- all of these grow far more complex in the cloud, which Wisdom says most service providers are loathe to admit. 

"When the cloud is a managed third-party service, the third party now has control of the data, not the DBA," he says. "There is no way to guarantee safety of that data from prying eyes, malicious intent, or accidental, third-party-caused data loss. Even in a local cloud environment, there are still more hands that can get to highly sensitive data, which is one of the DBA's most important concerns."

Dirty jobs survival tip: The cloud is great for many things, but database management isn't necessarily one of them. Keep your data close and your DBAs closer.

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