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What is cloud computing, and can it be trusted?

FAQ: Cloud computing, demystified

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How can I make sure my data is safe?

Data safety in the cloud is not a trivial concern. Online storage vendors such as The Linkup and Carbonite have lost data, and were unable to recover it for customers. Secondly, there is the danger that sensitive data could fall into the wrong hands. Before signing up with any cloud vendor, customers should demand information about data security practices, scrutinise SLAs, and make sure they have the ability to encrypt data both in transit and at rest.

How can I make sure that my applications run with the same level of performance if I go with a cloud vendor?

Before choosing a cloud vendor, do your due diligence by examining the SLA to understand what it guarantees and what it doesn't, and scour through any publicly accessible availability data. Amazon, for example, maintains a "Service Health Dashboard" that shows current and historical uptime status of its various services.

There will always be some network latency with a cloud service, possibly making it slower than an application that runs in your local data center. But a new crop of third-party vendors are building services on top of the cloud to make sure applications can scale and perform well, such as RightScale.

By and large, the performance hit related to latency "is pretty negligible these days," RightScale CTO Thorsten von Eicken. The largest enterprises are distributed throughout the country or world, he notes, so many users will experience a latency-caused performance hit whether an application is running in the cloud or in the corporate data centre.


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