Cloud providers could be gambling with your data

Symantec recently made an announcement that sent chills down IT pros’ spines: It decided to shutter a cloud backup service.

The provider will stop offering annual subscriptions to Backup on January 6, 2014, and end the service altogether on January 6, 2015.

That means the service’s users − mostly businesses with no IT staff looking to store data off-site – only have about a year at the most to find a new provider and to back up their data.

A short, happy life

Backup was in many ways an outdated service.

It was a backup-only service that didn’t allow for synching with mobile or remote users or collaboration. That’s decidedly last-generation technology.

But even by most standards, Backup was shortlived. It was released less than two years ago in Februrary of 2012.

And it’s also not the only cloud provider to shut up shop recently. Nirvanix, a cloud storage provider, announced it would close last September and was bankrupt and gone two weeks later.

Imagine having 14 days to:

  • Find a new backup provider
  • Get approval for a new contract
  • Move sensitive information to that provider’s cloud, and
  • Make sure all the sensitive information you had stored with the closing cloud provider was secure.
That’s a recipe for some late nights in the office and serious headaches for you and your team.

Always plan an exit

While IT and business as a whole trust the cloud more than ever before, cases like this might make you wonder: Am I nuts for entrusting so much data to an outside vendor?

No one who has gone to the cloud is going to give it up altogether. The benefits are just too great in many cases.

But there are some steps you can take to protect your company before you find yourself forced to switch providers:

  • Examine contracts carefully. Before you sign onto a deal with a provider, check out all its out clauses. Some won’t just cancel your account if they’re going out of business – they may actually have language that says they can cancel any time for any reason. Negotiate these out clauses away.
  • Keep a wandering eye. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to cloud services. Two-thirds of companies have two to five cloud providers and some have more than ten. Spreading out may seem inefficient, but it also protects you from getting burned by surprise cancellations.
  • Make them win you over. Overpromises abound in IT. If you want to see if a provider is really in it for the long haul, ask for proof. At the 2013 CITE conference in San Francisco, one IT manager said he had a simple test for any potential provider: He’d ask them to have their CEO contact him. If the sales rep hemmed and hawed about why that wasn’t possible, he didn’t give the provider the benefit of the doubt that they’d still be around in a year.
  • Standard licensing agreements are for suckers. If you’re agreeing to whatever terms and conditions are put in front of every customer, you’re surrendering all your power from the get-go. Most contracts as written aren’t meant to be mutual win-wins. They’re designed for providers to cover their butts and shift the risk onto their end users.
  • Beware of changes. Once you’ve found a cloud vendor that works for you, that’s not the end of the story. When it comes time to renew the contract, they’ll probably send over new terms of agreement. Examine those carefully to make sure there’s no major changes – or just give the vendor a call and ask what has changed in plain English. Get it in writing, too.


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