I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday and enjoyed time with family and friends.

Upon returning to work this morning, I found an article about Netflix, the popular video streaming service.  Their service was offline for many customer on Christmas Eve and Day.  This was due to an outage at Amazon's data hosting center in Virginia.  Although the article did not say how many customers were affected, if you were one of those customers wanting to watch their favorite Christmas movie on Netflix and couldn't, I am sure you were upset.

This article brings to light some of the dangers of cloud based computing.  Many people believe that putting your data and programs in the cloud means that there is really no hardware associated with your programs anymore.  That is not true at all.  Actually putting everything in the cloud complicates computer services.

First, you are usually relying on a third party for your services.  That third party usually runs a data center or has their computer systems hosted in a data center.  For the most part, data centers have a high uptime, due to the fact they have many redundant Internet connections, backup power systems, and physical security.  All these features lure administrators to host their systems in these centers.

On the other hand, data centers can be big targets for hackers and others that want interrupt services.  A major outage can be a big payday for the ego of the hacker, or stolen data can provide a cash payday for them.

Weather and natural disasters can also be a problem for data centers, although many are located in places, like Las Vegas or Phoenix, that aren't susceptible to those issues as other places.

Additionally, because you are connected to your data through the Internet, an outage on your end can take your whole company down.  Because you don't physically have the computers onsite, an extended Internet outage can bring your company down.

Finally, there is the question of who owns and manages the data.  We recently had an issue with a hosted system.  The service provider performed an update that corrupted some of our data that we had input into their system.  Because we weren't directly in charge of the backups of the system, we had to rely on them to correct the issue.  It took several weeks to get the data back, and we aren't guaranteed that it is all back.  Moreover, if we ever wanted to leave that company, getting our data from them isn't free and is somewhat of a hassle.

Although I am not discouraging the use of cloud based services, there are considerations companies need to take into account before making the decision to use the cloud.  Cloud based services are becoming more ubiquitous, and many companies are pushing all their services into the clouds.  Before making the change, ask questions and make sure you have a backup plan in case systems aren't available one day.  A good discussion with your technology consultant is important before moving into the cloud.