Cloud Computing Goes Disaster-Friendly in Australia--But Are Expectations Too High a Watermark?

By | Aug 28, 2012

Chief among cloud computing's benefits is its redundancy. Companies are often enamored with the ability of a cloud solution to backup data across multiple servers and ensure that under power loss or other disaster conditions no information is lost. While private businesses were early adopters of this technology for noncritical application data, governments are now getting on board as well; 10 Queensland councils in Australia will soon be set up to access cloud infrastructure in the event that flooding once again knocks out local technology access. But are authorities expecting too much, too soon from a cloud solution?

Above the Waterline

Recent flooding in Queensland and difficulties in coordinating local relief efforts led to the 10-council deal, according to an article at Government News. It is an agreement well ahead of others being hammered out at the state and federal levels in Australia, whose agencies are having trouble agreeing on common cloud standards for access and use. Already, five of 10 local councils have completed their implementations, which are provided by GOVCLOUD, a commercial service venture. Key to the deployment is the Redundant Systems for Disaster Scenarios (RSDS) project, aimed at not only increasing resilience but disaster recovery abilities during a crisis. According to GOVCLOUD's chief executive, Scott Wilkie, the Queensland councils will be able to operate "anytime and anyplace before, during, and after a disaster."

This is the ideal; this is what midsize business IT and government IT officials want to hear when they choose a cloud provider--backup recovery of everything from data, web hosting, app hosting, and email. But is it always so simple or are businesses getting more than they bargain for when they sign on for a cloud solution? Security problems, app headaches, and even power outages seem to be par for the course. Do great expectations cloud solid IT judgment?

Not That Myth-terious

A recent InformationWeek article talks about two prevalent cloud myths that can seriously impact the performance of a virtual solution for companies or governments. The first is that cloud applications can't be customized, that a provider will offer stock solutions which can't be changed. Often, this keeps companies off of the cloud for fear of having to wade through cycle after cycle of development and internal testing, and many worry that the costs will be prohibitive. In fact, the recent software-as-a-service (SaaS) trend, championed by companies like Salesforce and Netsuite, is starting to offer customization options along with standard configuration wizards. This leads to the second prevailing cloud myth: that configuration is easy.

This is often a backbone of cloud-computing sales pitches, with companies imagining the many ways in which a solution could be tailored to their needs. In fact, an InformationWeek survey found that more than half of the IT professionals asked said that "changing, upgrading, or optimizing existing applications" was their most time-consuming challenge. These two myths sum up the cloud experience nicely; it is both easier to customize than many companies believe but more difficult to configure than they are promised. For the Queensland councils, this may mean a slightly harder uphill battle than they've anticipated even with the bulk of their systems installed, but the potential benefits of even a partial disaster recovery far outweigh any issues surrounding implementation.

For midsize IT, this consideration is key in any cloud deployment: not if a cloud should be deployed, but to what extent. The ease of cloud function is often overreported by providers in an effort woo customers, and IT pros get the often tricky task of navigating what's essential to implement, what would be of benefit, and what's just "nice to have."

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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