Stuart Lauchlan is the editor of BusinessCloud9.com delivering topical, practical content to purchasers, vendors and analysts in the Cloud Computing industry. He has recently written the foreward for our whitepaper "Cloud Contact Centres - Who Can You Trust?, which you can download here.
In this guest post he further considers the subject of trust in cloud computing.
In Cloud we trust - In the end, it all revolves around that one little word - trust.
Proponents of Cloud Computing talk about the cost benefits, the scalability and the agility of the Cloud delivery model. All of these can be proven by real world instances of organisations, large and small, successfully putting Cloud Computing into practice.
But while more and more organisations have Cloud as a top-ranking agenda item, there is still a tangible air of suspicion that hangs over us – a dark Cloud perhaps, threatening a downpour.
The objections typically cited have become increasingly familiar as Cloud has become more mainstream. Security is top of the list in many manifestations – technological security, data security, data transfer, governance, compliance and so on.
Then there are fears surrounding lack of skills or the need for a changed corporate culture to make Cloud adoption successful.
Or there’s just the basic ‘fear of the unknown’ that should never be overlooked.
But whatever form it takes, it’s all about trust at the end of the day, whether it be questioning of Cloud Computing’s general capabilities or questioning specific promises from Cloud service providers.
It was ever thus of course. Just as Cloud Computing isn’t really the ‘new technology silver bullet’ that too many have talked of it as, but simply a new and better delivery model for computing services, so too the trust issues surrounding the Cloud are hardly new either.
The most common example we hear from providers and Cloud evangelists to counter Cloud trust concerns is to point to early end user reactions to withdrawing money from an ATM or to the idea of using your credit card to buy goods over the internet – both actions that we now take entirely for granted.
But in fact it goes back further than that. Once upon a time, the camera was a device that many feared stole part of a person’s soul when taking a picture, while concerns about catching something nasty down the telephone line held back adoption of the phone. Trust issues accompany every major technological shift – Cloud is only the latest.
It should also be noted that while we talk airily about trust as some universal idea – guilty as charged on that count! – there is in fact no absolute when it comes to the concept. The trust issues that you have will vary and will depend on your role within an organisation or the sector in which you work.
So a CIO might have trust issues that revolve around technical security concerns. A CFO needs to trust that the cost savings and new licensing models offered by Cloud will deliver their promised benefits. A public sector executive needs to trust that a chosen Cloud service provider can meet the local legislative and data governance requirements demanded of it.
Cloud providers need to play their part in addressing such questions of trust. The ‘trust me I know what I’m doing’ argument is only going to get any provider so far, dependent as it is on a central leap of faith by the buyer. And when there are hugely publicised service outages such as those suffered by Amazon and Microsoft of late, that leap of faith is going to face perception challenges.
Of course, in the overwhelming majority of instances ‘trust me, I know what I’m doing’ is in fact entirely correct. Take security. If as a Cloud services provider your entire business hinges on being able to guarantee the highest possible levels of security, then it stands to reason that the operational practices put in place by such firms will be of the highest level – certainly as high, most likely higher than any individual organisation can rise to. However, ‘trust me, I know what I’m doing and can demonstrate it’, would, no doubt, be a more compelling argument.
But the Cloud services providers need to ensure that they have provided as much information as possible to reassure or convince the wary adopter. Transparency is critical. Publish uptime and performance statistics and be honest about any downtime. Put as much infrastructure and architectural information into the hands of the Cloud adopter as possible. Offer up service level agreements that are built upon your conviction in your own services. Don’t get carried away by the temptation to hype up the Cloud. Keep it real and relevant.
Do you trust your provider? Do you believe that it can deliver on the promises and commitments it’s making you? It’s up to you to be sure. Check out the SLAs on offer from your service provider. Ensure that your technical and security people are comfortable with the behind-the-scenes infrastructure and architecture considerations. Check out customer references – others have gone before you, sound out their experiences, learn from their lessons.
And most of all, check out the business continuity and availability contingency plans that are in place from your provider. If your service does go down, how quickly is your provider likely to be able to restore it? Are there plans in place to deal with unscheduled downtime that you can trust in the context of your specific business needs? Are you comfortable?
At the end of the day trust is a two-way street – and both buyers and sellers of Cloud services need to play their part in getting over trust issues that might still inhibit adoption. The demonstrable benefits of the Cloud are visible all around and on offer to organisations of all sizes and in all sectors.
No-one should miss out.
Cloud is there for the taking – you can trust me on that.
Stuart Lauchlan - Editor, BusinessCloud9.com