The Dark Side of Cloud Services and How MSPs Can Help

dark cloudsCloud services are being hailed as the bright spot in the IT industry of the future. Big IT vendors are buying cloud computing startups. Every few months there's a rumor about a bigger company buying Rackspace (NYSE:RAX). Cloud computing is put forth as the answer to declining IT capital budgets, declining IT labor budgets, declining reseller sales margins and more. Why manage your own Exchange server when you can outsource it? Why keep that server room on-premise when you get all the same services in the cloud?

On top of that, layer natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and other storms. Companies with a solid backup and disaster recovery plan can spin up new servers in the cloud and continue operations. The trick here, however, is that you are putting all your trust in another organization to guard your data and your computing. Who are they? How long have they been in business? Can you trust them? Those are some of the questions that should be on business owners' minds as they look for the right company to deal with in the cloud.

Here's a case in point, albeit a consumer-focused one. Recently, Google announced it would pull the plug on its free Google Reader service from Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).  (This is Google's service for aggregating and presenting RSS feeds in a simple user interface.) While this service has not enjoyed mass appeal the way technologies like the iPhone and Twitter have, it does have a large number of devoted users and fans who rely on it.  I am one of those users.

At almost the same time, Google announced the launch of Google Keep, the company's answer to Evernote. This is a service that lets users clip articles from the web, take photos to save, and basically collect all the info they want to gather and remember in one place for future reference and searching via tags and categories.  I love the idea of having a service like this integrated with Google Drive, which I use as well. But how do I know that Google won't pull the plug on this, too, in a few years, after I've saved everything important in my life on it, just as they are doing with Google Reader? I'm extremely reluctant to depend on Google to save my information, as is Om Malik at GigaOm, who took Google to task for it all here.

Given the ephemeral quality of clouds, cloud vendors and the services they create, any business would be wise to carefully vet who trust as a caretaker for their IT and data.

And yet, managed service providers are absolutely positioned to be the hero in all of this. MSPs are in a position to vet cloud providers for customers. They are also positioned to help businesses mitigate the risks of putting data in the cloud. Who better to migrate data from one cloud service provider to another in an age of shifting clouds? O'Reilly Radar coins the phrase "Stability as a service" in this headline about Google's recent moves. Consider using this example and this phrase in your discussions with customer business leaders. That's one more thing that MSPs can offer their customers that vendors can't.

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