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Wise warnings for the Cloud
Tuesday, 25th October 2011
Tim Buckley Owen
Do we need servers, or IT staff, or even an office? Those were some of the questions that delegates may have been pondering as they left TFPL’s recent cloud event, Sharing Information Re-defined.
It’s very difficult to make someone understand something if their salary is dependent on them not understanding it, suggested Tim Taylor of McLaren Software, who chaired the Hitachi-sponsored event. And with the Cloud, that “someone” more often than not was the IT team.
Richard Costillo of property firm EFM Management had to let his entire IT team go before implementing a cloud-based solution that provided uniform services across 27 offices in four countries, and ironed out the IT cashflow peaks and troughs. Charles Kennelly of geographic information systems specialist ESRI (UK) used to persuade customers to buy servers and pay a licence fee, and needed really good IT staff to make the systems work – but the simple, browser-based cloud solution meant the idea of a system being “hard to use because we make it so” was no longer viable.
Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook are selling direct to consumers, “not to the mother ship of professionals and support people”, pointed out Roger James of Computiv Ltd. Consumers of IT now expect self service and pay-for-use, agreed Jez Hoppe of Hitachi – and, just like electricity, they expect to be able to switch services on and off as they need them.
“You can switch it off now” was exactly the final instruction given to risk management company Extrinsica Global after the cloud-based file store it had provided to the FIFA security team during the 2010 World Cup – complete with encrypted self-destruct USB cache device when no internet access was available – was no longer required (explained the company’s Simon Smith).
But what if you need to keep it forever? Digital preservation is about more than just back-up, explained Frieda Midgley of records management consultancy Audata. It’s too late to think about preservation at the end of the process, when your documents may already be in an unsupportable format; it needs to be planned in when you first migrate them to the Cloud.
Then there’s your exit strategy, added Nicole Convery, whose research at Aberystwyth University has led to the development of a toolkit for cloud-based document management. Can you be sure the cloud provider will destroy your data safely if required?
So it was no surprise that the seminar ended with some warnings, offered by Sille Jygert of Logica. If you hand your data over to a cloud vendor it’s no longer customisable, although it may be widely configurable, she explained. So make sure your vendor uses industry standards, and have an independent audit.
Oh – and plan your way out.
By Tim Buckley Owen
Tim is an information skills trainer and writer on the information industry with over 40 years' experience in the profession. His career has encompassed information management, writing, editing, training, government policy advice and corporate media & marketing.
Besides writing for FreePint, Tim runs courses for training providers and private clients on enquiry handling, abstracting & summarising, information packaging & presentation and information management. The sixth edition of his classic handbook Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time is published by Facet Publishing. You can find details of Tim's training services at www.buckleyowen.com.
Tim can also be reached at email@example.com
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