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Moving Your I.T. And Data Into the Cloud

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One of the biggest advantages of the cloud is on the development side, Teague says. If a company wants to explore new software or new solutions, it does not have to grab expensive hardware; it can simply jump up on the cloud.

Top-scale “farms” of servers located in Hawaii or elsewhere are not the only model. Peter Kay, an early advocate and promoter of the Internet in Hawaii, is about to launch a cloud company that takes a different approach. OpCloud.com will piggyback on the massive computing power of Google and Kay’s role will be to advise clients on how to use it. In effect, he will become an authorized Google reseller.

“I’ve been living this myself for the past 10 years and I realized there was a need to sell this to others,” Kay says. “What cloud computing represents to me, finally, is more of a movement, the ability of people to be free to work wherever, whenever and however they wish, using whatever device they want. It’s a tremendously liberating thing.”

Kay’s business model would rest on providing professional services and consulting, and receiving commissions from Google when customers join its cloud. “What we want to do is provide a space where businesses can join and share expertise and experiences. It’s something different.”

Burt Lum, well-known Honolulu technology consultant, commentator and self-described “digital Ronin,” sees great potential for cloud computing but retains a bit of skepticism.

“You know, it is a bit of a marketing thing,” he says. “If you use Google Docs, you are using the cloud. But, on the upside, the whole idea of shrink-wrapped software is long gone. It is all up there now.”

The downside, Lum says, beyond the usual questions of security, is that you are ultimately dependent on whatever software your cloud host offers or is willing to service. He has run into this problem, finding that spreadsheets he has developed do not function properly on the cloud server he uses.

“If you are dependent on something that is not physically available to you, you can be in trouble,” Lum says.

Also, no matter how robust the security wall is at the server farm you use, there is always the potential for hackers. “The more you rely on these cloud services, the more the potential for some of these hackers to get in.

“You have to decide: Do you want to go in that direction or do you want to isolate yourself?”

 

Security And Legal Issues

The top-of-mind issue for most people considering moving their IT activities to a remote “cloud” is security. Will there be a firewall? Who has access to your data? What happens if it goes down for any reason?

 Good questions, and most providers have answers. But there are other questions to consider. Jason Bloomberg, managing partner with Zap Think, an IT consulting firm based in Baltimore, Md., laid out some legal issues in a recent blog post:

• Where is your cloud provider physically located? The legal rules about access to information and regulatory rules might be different from the place where you do business.

• If you need to arbitrate or sue, whose rules will apply?

• Moving data can be tricky. Some jurisdictions have rules about the movement of information, just as they have rules about the movement of physical goods across borders.

• The Patriot Act gives enforcement officials wide access to data stored wherever it might be. You might be totally uninvolved, but enforcement officials could access your data.

• You may have important data that is attorney-client privileged. What if a third party, the cloud provider, is in between? What are the legal ramifications?

 

Bottom line: This is something for you and your lawyer to discuss. Some thinking can be found at www.zapthink.com.

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