When the clouds disappear...not always a sunny day

I build, maintain and pay for hosting for my friend's charity web site, Play for a Heart. For the past several years I've had a host provider where I would deploy the very simple web site I constructed for her. The host had become my "cloud" in the stormy skies of Cloud Computing.

This cloud kept drifting along, the price was right, it was somewhat reliable, it was ... easy.

I went to the web site on a Saturday morning, it was gone. Somewhere over the course of the last few months the company had turned into a shell of the host provider it formerly was. There was no tech response over the weekend and the forums were more or less ghost towns. I made a post and the only responses were "Leave this host as fast as you can". The outage continued on through the weekend and extended to a large percentage of the host's own sales and marketing sites.

Finally, late Sunday I couldn't take it anymore, I pulled the plug and moved to GoDaddy. The move had nothing to do with Danica Patrick. Here was my very simple logic:

  • Java Support / PHP Support / MySQL Support
  • Able to host multiple domains with a single hosting account
  • Resilient enough to support the onslaught after a Super Bowl commercial
  • Good recommendations and community
  • Great price

And I switched...

Lucky for me I made my friend's site as basic as I could.

  • Very simple HTML
  • Slideshow objects embedded from another Cloud Application (SmugMug so that the links moved right over (and I only put these on after she had enough sponsors that I couldn't figure out how to keep the sponsor page clean)
  • No applications embedded directly from my low-budget hosting solution
  • Domain Names purchased from Yahoo and GoDaddy (this became a HUGE win as the host records would have been locked had I purchased the domain names with this smaller company)

My web site was moved to GoDaddy and back up and running in, literally, 1.5 hours and my exit was complete from my previous host.

Still, the entire experience left me very shaken over Cloud Computing. I've come up with the following set of thoughts when it comes to attaching my digital life to the clouds:

  • Many companies literally own the information you create or have very liberal rights to that information (Always read the License Agreements)
  • Many companies have no exit strategy for your information (once your data is captured or created in the online application it cannot be extracted...this is especially the case in social networking infrastructure)
  • Because of the nature of the cloud, you have no guarantees that many companies that host the applications you depend on are even viable (check the business model and financials if you are tying your life to the cloud)
  • Several companies entire business models are centered on analyzing the information you give to them and monetizing it (in many cases "personalization" in your eyes is really "targeting and demographics" in the company's eyes)
  • Standard Platforms, Standard APIs, Standard Information Models are at the heart of a successful cloud (not fog), this allows you a better chance at having tools to import / export information and interact with that information...and in the case of building an application, it is critical that these standards are the core of the application so that you can get out of your cloud as quickly as you got into it and at the first sign of turbulence
  • In lieu of standards (even defacto), Open APIs, Open Source, Open Architecture, and a good open license can be a huge help...especially with a robust developer community. This assures infrastructure can live beyond the life of any individual cloud if it should disappear.
  • Buyer beware

Well...I'm a huge, huge advocate of Cloud Computing. Our own network.com site, Amazon EC3 and S3, SalesForce.com, they are all leading the wave...and in 10 years it will just be the way it is done. But until then, there will certainly be some growing pains, probably more in the small-company space than in the enterprise space...but they will be there.

Standard's groups, defacto standards, open source cloud infrastructure, entry and exit for information, information licensing, information security and transparent motivation for collection of your information will go a long way to determining whether there is longevity in the sunny skies for cloud computing.


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