Trusting the Cloud

The cloud computing industry looks ready for some industry standards. This was highlighted last week when UK accounting vendor ClearBooks had its worst nightmares come true when it had database errors which led to both an unscheduled downtime and a significant loss of data for customers. First alerted to he problem via ClearBooks’ GetSatisfaction page, customers were told that:

Worst case scenario as it currently stands is that we will have to set up a new db server and restore backups from two days ago.

The GetSatisfaction thread about the outage details massive anger and disappointment from ClearBooks customers – not so much that the outage happened, but that backup procedures were sufficiently lax that two days of data were to be lost.

Since the outage, a number of vendors have written posts detailing their particular operational procedures with regards redundancy and backups, but this may all be a little to late.

While the move to the cloud is undeniably positive in terms of abstracting non-core activities onto a specialist party, if that specialist party in fact turns out to have processes that are sub standard, some very real concerns are raised. Can users in fact trust their cloud vendors to ensure their data is safe?

The issue here is that there is no industry group that sets and oversees standards. While many would argue that a standards body is both an impediment to innovation and overly bureaucratic at this early stage of the cloud, data losses like those suffered by ClearBooks customers pose much larger a risk to the industry as a whole.

Collectively the industry is trying to prove that cloud is a safe, reliable and attractive way to move. Problems for one vendor reflect on the industry as a whole, the time is then ripe for a standards body to set some minimum levels for redundancy and backup.

As Kashflow CEO Duane Jackson said:

Makes accreditation schemes more appealing. I was a skeptic until today…

It’s time for the industry to sit up and take notice. While we may consider there to be few commonalities between SaaS, PaaS and IaaS, from a consumer perspective it’s all cloud. We need a body to come together to act in the best interests of both the industry, and its customers.

4 Comments
  • Accreditation isn’t the problem – poor design is. At the risk of sounding like an old fart, cloud apps designers are making the same mistakes PC apps designers made, and which steam computing application designers solved in the 1970s. The gold standard was ZERO loss of completed interactions and data; ie. you had to design the system so that you could roll back to a known clean data point, repair the code or hardware, and then roll forward again to the point of failure, without re-entry of completed interactions, within an hour or less (be much faster today). That needs to be designed into the app and the underlying platform right from the start. Too many designers rely on a data backup and users to reenter; that isn’t acceptable for a high volume production environment recovery.

    • Jim – Welcome back!
      I guess the difference is that today the barriers to entry for a startup are so much lower that some kind of intervention (as inefficient as it may sound) might be warranted to stop users being burnt….

      • As a second order solution, an independent time-limited QA rating has merit: for users choosing a service, and to encourage better design and operational management.
        Getting early stage services. to pay for the assessment is another matter, of course!

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  • We use Clearbooks as our accounting software at Market Dojo. We offer software as well, albeit for business-to-business online auctions and I would be very happy if our software was ever as easy-to-use and intuitive as the Clearbooks offering.

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