Just when you thought it was safe to move over to Cloud computing a number of warning flashes have appeared from industry experts that may raise concerns.  I’m never sure if these reports are based on real concerns or just headline grabbers that lead to detailed reports that must be purchased to get the full story. Nevertheless, the points raised in the UK and Australia over the last week should probably be considered objectively.

The first, reported in Computing.co.uk comes from Steve Prentice a VP and fellow at Gartner. He questions the probability and issues raised if your Cloud service provider happens to fail. Indeed, a frightening thought and as Prentice states, “we are not trying to say that Google, Amazon or Microsoft are going to fail, and the probability of any individual cloud provider failing is in fact very low. But if we have learned anything, it is that no company is too big to fail: it could happen. And as more companies use cloud services, more cloud providers will emerge and, as with any industry, a percentage of those will almost certainly fail. It is just a question of trying to spot which one – some are more susceptible than others.”

Wise words indeed, and surely an issue that any corporation would take into account as part of any risk assessment when selecting a Cloud services vendor, especially with something as critical as the company’s data storage and mission critical processing. After all, don’t they already have fall back plans if their existing infrastructure should fail?

In order to mitigate such risk, Prentice suggests, “all the usual risk management procedures – escrow type agreements, due diligence, making sure the contract can be renegotiated if there is an ownership change, and just investigating the cloud provider’s financial circumstances beforehand. This is not rocket science, it is just normal business. The difference is that the cloud is so hot right now, and everybody is getting so hyped up about the prospect of reducing their capital and operational expenses, they think everything is going to be wonderful and it is just going to work. Occasionally, things will go wrong, and it is important to know what will happen next if it does.”

One wonders if internal IT operations offer any greater level of security, especially if the company severs are located in third party data centers, which is highly probable.  Don’t the same risks exist there?

In Australia, legal issues around the jurisdiction of data when using cloud computing services are pushing organizations to consider the use of ‘private Cloud’ infrastructure, according to Mike Andrea, director of Queensland-based consultancy Strategic Directions Group.  In the story, reported by Commsday, Andrea said that there is a lack of awareness about using public cloud services. “In reality the data could be stored in any country, so you might be then subject to the laws of another country, and companies are just starting to realize that.”

The solution here is apparently to look at establishing in-country ‘private Clouds’. All well and good if the corporation is big-enough and that a country has sufficient data centers and bandwidth on hand. This is not often the case and off-shore locations often provide better and cheaper services. In this case, even ‘private clouds’ could be affected by the laws of the hosting country. And what happens if it is a multi-national corporation with operations in multiple countries?

Both are issues definitely worth mentioning but will they stem the growth of Cloud services in the short term? Unlikely!