Know what the cloud is – and ask the right questions

taskmasterEarlier today, an entrepreneur attempted to explain to the Taskmaster what “cloud computing” is.


“Well, it’s where your data is stored off in the clouds, in the sky somewhere – on a satellite or something I guess – and you can access it from anywhere!” says the entrepreneur.


Old Taskmaster was somewhat amused by this “off in the clouds” explanation of what “the cloud” is.


For the record, the cloud is when your data is stored on a hard disk in someone else’s data centre. Usually on Earth. You access your data in someone else’s data centre over the internet.


Cloud computing includes – for example – online email services like Gmail or Hotmail, online app services like Google Apps, website hosting services and social media services such as Twitter and Facebook. In each of these cases, your data lives on someone else’s computer – “in the cloud”.


Of course, this set-up can sometimes pose some risks.


Now imagine this hypothetical situation: Old Taskmaster arrives at your office with a blank hard drive and copies all of your computer files on to it.


That hard disk will live in a back room of Taskmaster Towers, but you will be able access your data over the internet by logging on to the computer it’s hooked up to. You cannot visit that office, nor see that hard disk, nor that computer. Ever.


There are a few questions I’d imagine you’d probably want to ask Old Taskmaster before you agreed to such an arrangement.


For example, you would probably ask if you can access your data on that computer, who else can? Will I have access to your files? What precautions am I taking in preventing my office getting flooded or damaged, and what backup plans do I have in case it happens? What happens to your data if my company goes out of business?


Then there’s the issue of trust. Whether or not you’d trust such an arrangement might also depend on what company I worked for. Perhaps you’d trust a major multinational corporation like Apple more than you’d trust a small company like Taskmaster Enterprises?


If you were smart, you might also keep your own copy of all of your files on your own computers, just as a precaution.


Well, guess what. If you use cloud-based services in your business, all of your data is on someone else’s hard disk in someone else’s office. Which means you really should be asking them some of these key questions.


So do you have any data stored “in the cloud” on someone else’s computers or website?


If so, have you asked them the right questions?


If you haven’t, Old Taskmaster says you need to start thinking about the risks – and you need to pester you cloud storage providers for answers!


Get it done – today.


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