The cloud can be great but it isn’t for everything or everyone, regardless of what picture these large cloud providers try and paint. The internet was designed as a distributed network made up of many individual ‘nodes’ with the intention of making it impossible to disrupt. While it has it’s flaws, like the DNS DDoS attack that happened in October of 2016, yet it’s central tenant of decentralization is the complete opposite of what is happening with the cloud. The cloud is centralizing all the computing resources throughout the world into Microsoft/Amazon/etc. datacenters. The result is that these datacenters, providers, and their customers are now high value targets and poised for malware, breach, or disruptive chaos.
Take, for example, that time in March 2017 when Amazon Web Services (AWS) brought down the entire AWS cloud for 5 hours (which according to The Wallstreet Journal cost companies up to $150 million) because of a typo by one of Amazon’s engineers. Similarly, because of the way the cloud works a single security flaw or accidental misconfiguration can cause the infection/breach/downtime that could potentially affect every customer. Especially, when some customers share servers in the backend datacenter where their data lives.
A decentralized internet infrastructure does no good when these cloud providers decide that centralization of infrastructure is better for their bottom lines. Microsoft actually came out and stated that this was their goal in a July 2018 announcement to their partners, “On October 1, 2018, we will adjust pricing for our licensing programs and make price adjustments to on-premises and cloud products. These changes will highlight the benefits of our pricing for a cloud-first world…”. That month they started raised prices for on-premises licensing, and provided steep discounts for cloud-based solutions/licensing in an attempt to force people to adopt the cloud or pay – literally. Others in the IT industry are also recognizing this frightening trend – this article by Steven Vaughan-Nichols outlines the real-world concerns with a centralized cloud-based infrastructure.
“Just as an example: Suppose the United States government decides you can’t use software from a U.S.-based cloud. If you had Windows on a desktop, you just keep going, but if it’s a cloud service, you’re dead in the water. That’s not a made-up example. Adobe is shutting down its application service for Venezuelan users to comply with a U.S. executive order that prohibits trade with that country. If you live in Caracas, you soon won’t be able to use Acrobat, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop or Premiere. The exact same thing could happen if you relied on Azure for your desktop.”Steven Vaughan-Nichols; https://www.computerworld.com/article/3444606/with-windows-virtual-desktop-the-bad-old-days-are-coming-back.html
When all your data lives somewhere you cannot physically access. And when you access and work with your data through a web portal or a desktop that lives in the cloud – you have lost all control of your data, and in some ways, your autonomy. An old Devo song lyric comes to mind, “freedom of choice is what you got, freedom from choice is what you want.”. A hallmark of American small business has always been the entrepreneurial spirit, that of independent thought, self-reliance, responsibility, innovation, and determination. Unfortunately, the cloud is antithetical to this hallmark in a profound way.
Do you really want freedom FROM choice?
Questions to ask yourself:
- If Microsoft/Amazon/Adobe/etc was out of business tomorrow, could I still get all my data? Could my business still operate?
- If I go bankrupt or have a really bad year and cannot pay the cloud provider, what happens to my data? Does it get deleted? Can I still access it?
- If my internet goes down, can I still operate my business?
- Does my data get stored with other customer’s data? What happens if they get infected with Ransomware?