Yahoo's offloading of Delicious a reminder of cloud risks

Even well-established cloud providers might pull the plug on services your organization needs

The blogosphere is abuzz over Yahoo's decision to dump its social tagging and bookmarking service Delicious, not to mention several other services, including Yahoo Buzz, AltaVista, MyBlogLog, Yahoo Bookmarks, and Yahoo Picks. The death of these services certainly comes as a disappointment to its users and an inconvenience to those who have to search for a replacement service. (In the case of Delicious, Yahoo says it is not killing Delicious, but intends to sell it to another company and will not delete user data in the meantime.)

But in the grand scheme of things, the new fate of Delicious and its sister Yahoo services yields a lesson about cloud computing that is likely familiar to anyone who tracked the rise of SaaS (software as a service) a few years back: If you decide to turn to a third party to host a service for your business, you run the risk of your provider pulling the plug on that service at any moment.

In this case, said lesson is all the more jarring in that we aren't talking about a fly-by-night provider no one has ever heard of. We're talking about Yahoo, a well-established Internet denizen. Sure, the company has had its share of struggles in the market in recent years, but surely few -- if any -- Delicious users expected the company to address financial problems by preparing it for sale and thus an uncertain fate.

In a way, though, Delicious users are fortunate. The service is almost certainly isn't mission-critical to any organization's day-to-day workings, for example. Further, there are alternatives services to which you can migrate your Delicious bookmarks should you need to; WebProNews has a handy guide to help.

But with the rise of cloud computing, organizations are turning to third-party providers for services that are far more important than tagging and bookmarking. In addition to a wide array of hosted applications, companies are providing various heavy-duty computing and storage services, the likes of which customers depend on to earn their daily bread.

What happens if Business X or Institution Y suddenly finds out its upstart cloud computing provider has declared bankruptcy and dropped off the map overnight? Or what if an organization discovers that a (relatively) well-established cloud provider such as Amazon or Google decided, "Hey, we don't want to host some or all of our cloud services anymore. It's just not lucrative enough"? As we've just learned from Yahoo, even the big names can't be relied upon entirely. Almost certainly, your organization is looking at costly downtime as you race to find another provider to take over the workload.

The future of cloud computing is promising, but organizations would be well served to proceed into the haze with caution. Vetting your would-be cloud provider with the utmost care is a no-brainer. But it's also important to have a contingency plan should the day arrive when your provider abruptly pulls the plug on a service you've come to depend on.

This article, "Yahoo's offing of Delicious a reminder of cloud risks," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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