The talk and interest of the “cloud” and “cloud services” is still mainstream and with data centers and hosting providers popping up daily, options are in abundant. When I think about the cloud and storing my data, I’m going to be honest, I have never questioned where my data is “physically” stored as long as I have access to it when I want it. Personally, most of what I put in the cloud are personal pictures and my music. However, over the years, I have slowing been migrating several work related documents to the cloud. My main reasons for using the cloud is for access across multiple devices and so I don’t have to carry thumb drives around with me anymore. (I have probably lost more of those things than I actually used.)
I’m going to take us back to the tech boom of the early 2000’s (yes, going to show my age a little) when data centers, or colocations, were really just starting to pop up. If you have never had the opportunity to visit a data center, they are a sight to see. And, this might be why I am so comfortable with not knowing where my data information is being physically stored. These facilities are extremely secure and persons entering must be expected and have direct reason for being there. Having doors close and lock behind me was actually refreshing, and the entire time I was there, I knew that there wasn’t a time I wasn’t on camera. Everything is locked down. You are only granted access for area’s you are to be at including your “cage” where your servers were housed. Looking around, you could see the redundancy of electricity, power, telecom, heating and cooling, and internet. I passed generator after generator just waiting to fire up at the first sign of trouble. Most of this redundancy can just automatically happen through the use of technology with minimal human intervention. Systems are designed to take over when needed and when they do, most of the time end users/customers do not even know it happened.
At that time, most of my customers were looking to use the data center as part of their disaster recovery plans and to also back up their business data. Slowly over time, several more began to migrate their business applications to these centers as they were now considered operational applications that needed high availability access. Most of the data centers being used were local (within driving) distance to my customers, but what they gained was security and the trust that their business applications would be available when they needed.
Being a part of that era, seeing my own clients evolve, and having the opportunity to be inside several data centers, gives me a sense of security for my data.
Fast-forward to 2014 and the question of, “Does it really matter where my (our) data is?” I have not been in a data center in many years, but I can only imagine that these new facilities are even more secure when you consider how far technology has come. I was recently asked by one of my prospects where we were going to be physically putting their data. In my mind it didn’t matter, but to them they were concerned with the centers location so it wasn’t in a natural disaster prone area. I could understand their concern on the surface, but a natural disaster can happen anywhere at any time. And the companies that I work with all have redundant facilities (multiple locations in fact) that replicate and back up to. For this particular customer, we are moving a business application from on-premise to the hosting facility (data center). I took the time to then discuss at length, the technologies involved in securing the data to give them a better sense of security. Added to that, I reminded them that they would have access to their application and data 24/7 from any device. In the end, they felt good about their decision to move to the application to the “cloud.”
Even after explaining the many security reasons, backup examples, and sharing my confidence in these data center, it still got me thinking about this issue of where my data actually is, more and more. I wonder, when customers consider a “cloud hosted” business application such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM or SalesForce.com, do they care where it is physically hosted as long as they have access to it when they need it? What about services like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive (formally Microsoft SkyDrive), or Dropbox; do you or would you consider physical location as part of your decision?
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