Confessions of a cloud skeptic

'The cloud' has gotten way more attention than it deserves. Can we finally move on?

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So I suppose the really new thing is that, instead of just offloading something relatively simple like your Web presence or email to a hosting provider, you can now conceivably shove your entire IT infrastructure -- support and all -- out the door. But does anyone really think that's a good idea right now? Honestly?

I don't know about you, but I've learned not to trust almost anybody in this business farther than I can throw them. Can anyone who has run moderately complex IT infrastructure for a few years say that they haven't been seriously let down by an IT vendor (hardware, software, service) at some point along the way? Usually, it's just a single piece of equipment or application that might be affected, but in this case you're potentially talking about the whole basket of eggs.

The key to navigating the cloud -- just as with any other service or technology -- is to approach it in a careful, balanced way. Just as with an externally hosted Web presence, IaaS and SaaS (software as a service) will be the right answer in some cases. It will very rarely be the right answer for everything, sometimes because the cost model isn't there and sometimes because the security or availability risks may be too much for your organization to bear.

My bottom-line advice for potential cloud customers: Never get so dug in that you can't quickly pull up stakes and move things to a different provider or back internally if you need to.

As time goes on and "the cloud" matures, the technology and standardization required to move an entire multiterabyte enterprise infrastructure from one cloud provider to another may well emerge -- eventually. Until then, hapless folks who hope to turn their entire IT infrastructure into an operational line item will be sorely disappointed. Fortunately, I think the number of suckers who fit that description have dwindled. The hype has peaked.

This article, "Confessions of a cloud skeptic," originally appeared at Read more of Matt Prigge's Information Overload blog and follow the latest developments in data storage and information management at

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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