Revisiting – Cloud Computing – Head in the Sand on Governance

I originally wrote this post over at Posterous and copied it to Blogger as a back-up, just in case. Well Posterous died in 2013, and at least I had a copy in Blogger – now I am revisiting as I back posts up in WordPress. And coincidentally I also attended a seminar recently where Cloud Computing was presented – and it was a case of “the same old .. same old”  … security, file recovery, backups, control, what happens if the The Cloud goes down  … not to mention when links morph into “Zombie Links” according to Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers. … so it’s time to run Linkvalet over some of my sites like Thomas MacEntee recommended .. and make that real soon !

From 2008 … As the Hype on Cloud started to ramp up in the social media universe …

It started as a trickle, but like a dripping tap, the flow kept up … for the last few weeks Cloud Computing keeps dropping into my email inbox. Probably something to do with Microsoft’s Blue Sky Horizon, then recently announced, venture into the field, with Windows Azure.

Like the dripping tap, I tried to ignore it as just more IT geek jargon. Finally curious enough, I clicked on one of the email hyperlinks … a new unintelligible taxonomy aka jargon emerged. It meant turning to Wikipedia, to get a plain English understanding of “Cloud Computing“….and a bit more at “How Stuff Works“. Funny how many Orgs frown on using Wikipedia, just like my old uni professor frowned on the Plain English style metallurgy textbook, used at the TAFE across the road, despite its friendlier “Gunning Fog” readibility ranking. In the end I found Robin Hastings‘ (Missouri River Regional Library) slideshare presentation & the Cloud Computing Glossary the most non-geek friendly.

Pic …. Although sometimes seen as threatening … The Cloud doesn’t have to be 

Realisation dawned .. I’d been a fledgling Cloud Computing user for a few years without realising … as I paid my EBay bills using PayPal, used Amazon Books payment system, Google maps, Blogger, Google Reader for RSS feeds (now it’s gone too, so I use Feedly !), LinkedIn, Yahoo Groups, Web based email, etc etc. Many say Cloud Computing is the next disruptive computing technology, just like the IBM Mainframe, Apple 2 computer and internet – Web 1.0/Web 2.0.

And why did I go to Google Reader back then for RSS feeds ? Probably because my Org didn’t seem to provide Readers for RSS feeds, or it was too hard to find out how, or its use was discouraged. Many other employees looked at me blankly when I asked about RSS feed? So it was easier just to go outside the system. If I found anything worthwhile, then I’d just archive it, email it around internally or capture really useful bits onto a Sharepoint Wiki Page.

Another stage for the Microsoft vs Sun Microsystems paradigm debacle, with Microsoft’s catch up commercialisation plans in offering a fee per use. “Cloud Computing” seems headed to SME’s, so they don’t have to outlay the capital for huge IT systems. Some commentators liken it to electricity and water utilities access and usage charging – where you don’t need your own generator, windmill or well. Consumers expect reliable and safe supply at rates that are not exorbitant. But what about governance ? After all it was a utility, Enron, that led to the Sarbanes Oxley legislation in the USA.

It was dawning that, like the rest of Web 2.0 applications, rather than head in the sand, avoiding Cloud Computing issues, those with governance roles, need to be asking questions of those with their heads in the clouds, looking to blue sky horizon possibilities. Those questions need to be fully answered, and not treated dismissively.

Starting with … Will Cloud Computing storage providers guarantee access to your information & records for as long as statutory regulations require, regardless of whether done in house or outsourced … sometimes decades ? A good question and one being posed on How Stuff Works – Cloud Computing Security Concerns page. Very pertinent in an era of increased regulatory constraints, following the financial global meltdown. But then Key IT decision makers fret about the cost of software licensing and what they may perceive to be excessive and unnecessary data storage, … forgetting the ramifications of not having data storage. Systems, which businesses need in order to operate, ie QMS, EMS, OHSMS, CRMS, FMS, have requirements to keep records for a very long time. Breach those and it could be a very costly threat to your business’s longevity. Some commentators seem to be recognising this concern.

What about production history systems – no matter if managed in-house or via “Cloud Computing” applications ? If your product identity codes are re-used in a “wrap around” situation, it might be tempting to cut costs and not archive the records of each wrap around sequence separately. But how do you know if the data is for item “Awxyz” produced in 2006 or for item “Awxyz” from 2009. 3rd Party quality auditors certifying your Quality Management Systems, and Factory Production Control Systems, could take a dim view of your cost cutting – not good, especially if you plan to export into the EU in Europe.

There’s the challenge – in line with James Robertson’s view of two uses for a wiki – to ensure governance, “command and control” rules where they’re needed – as well as to encourage collaborative environments with enabling support, hints and tips, to capture lessons learned, preventing key knowledge loss (refer egov.vic) . I decided to ask the “significant other”, one of the aforementioned IT geeks, about his exposure to Cloud Computing & governance issues, a pause, then he explained how it was being adopted by some organizations, as a Virtual Private Cloud to enable collaboration with external users, and yet maintain security. Gartnerpredicts a future in Private Clouds/Virtual Private Clouds approaches for large organizations.

If IT departments were worried about managing security concerns with Web 2.0’s Microsoft Sharepoint, they must be agonising over Governance and the full ramifications of Cloud Computing applications, eg Chieftech.blogspot. And again, despite all the proclamations, it will be a behavioural issue. Perhaps, looking at it from Web 2.0 experiences, if companies & quality management professionals have their heads in the sand, then the horses will bolt.

2014 Postscript – Tips from Thomas MacEntee

– check your terms of service – check if your files will be wiped if you don’t use them for 30 or 90 days – have an exit strategy if your provider drops out of the game …

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