The new rage is the “Cloud”. Well as many have stated there is nothing new under the sun and the “Cloud” certainly counts as one of those. The idea of paying a third party to run your computing applications is nothing new. The days when companies rented time on Main Frames and Mini’s is not that long ago so the mechanics of that have not really changed.
In my opinion what has changed is the cavalier attitude that has come along with it along with the notion that things are “Unlimited” or that there is somehow such a good deal that a company is going to sell you storage and applications for less then it costs them to provide the service(s).
I find nothing wrong with a company providing a service as long as that company stands firmly behind what it sells and has the cash reserves to unravel your data and to be able to give it to you, along with the application and supporting software that makes that application work should something in their business model go “slipsy”. In the early 80′s I worked for a company that had its main application running on an HP-3000 that was owned by a company that provided SAAS before the name was popular.
The company wasn’t very well run. They went out of business. Fortunately the company I worked for made sure that the agreement to subscribe to that service also included a daily tape dump that was inclusive of the data and the applications that made their stuff work, eg: payroll, accounting and inventory. that could be loaded up onto another HP-3000 and keep the ball rolling.
So you have to ask yourself if any of the companies now providing the same thing eg: SalesForce, Amazon EC2 etc. etc. will give you that kind of comfort and even if they do can they do it legally? Salesforce is a big Oracle shop. Can sales force give you a tape with all your data and the applications that make it usable? Can they give you a copy or Oracle? Can they give you a copy of the underlying code that make the thing work? Can you even put up the hardware stack to restore it to without bankrupting your company in the process?
And really what will happen if you choose to go with a company that has a contract with Amazon that provides data storage in the “cloud” and then Amazon alters their TOS, how will that effect you? How will it effect your data? How will it effect your business and your employees?
You have to ask these questions because a lot of this stuff is reliant on third parties. I have written web sites for clients that due to their desire to have it quickly and inexpensively have required me to use things like the Google charting API. I have no idea what will happen to them if Google suddenly changes their policy regarding that code, I really don’t..
No one really knows because one of these have not hit the skids yet. We know what happened when Inuit’s on-line QuickBooks service dumped, a whole boat load of people scrapped it, and I know of at least two law firms and a couple of construction companies, demanded their data and a copy of Quickbooks that would run it and so far at least one law firm threatened legal action and they received what they demanded.
The point is this. You as CEO, CFO or CIO had better damn well have your lawyers read over the document(s) eg: TOS and then sit down with an IT guy that is savvy about what you need to do and make double damn sure that you know exactly what you are getting and exactly what your exit strategy is before you give them your data because in the end that data is the life blood of your company.