When cloud services disappear

When Nest decided to brick all Revolv devices they gave us a strong reminder: sometimes cloud services disappear! When the once search giant Altavista petered out, no one cared and few noticed. The users had already moved on to Bing, Yahoo or Google. Perhaps a few young people reacted, reminded or even surprised that there were search engines before Google. You are using many other cloud services which will be hard to do without. Read on to find six actions you need to take to protect yourself before your cloud services disappear.

Change is the only constant

A slow silent rain, that is how some cloud services disappear...Source: Splitshire via Pexels | CC0 1.0

A light rain seen through the windshield of a car. That is how some cloud services disappear. The feeling is more refreshing than anything else.

It is natural that cloud services disappear. Usually it is no big deal. As you know, change is the only constant. Throughout the years, I have gotten my webmail from different providers. Many of them have moved on and so have I. I used to have to do it often but the market has settled down. I’ve had the same provider for many years now. I have given two examples of cloud services that disappear. Search and mail are commodity services. Changing providers is relatively easy.

The new generation of cloud based services are more innovative and more unique. They are also harder to replace. Many business services include cloud services. How do you book an appointment with the dentist? Many devices come with a cloud backend: toys, home automation and cars. When the cloud service dies, the device becomes crippled or even bricked.

Prepare to be disrupted

When cloud services disappear, it can be in the form of a torrential downpour.Source: Walter Siegmund via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.5

Clouds have a tendency to disappear through raining. It is not always nice. A torrential downpour is nothing to play with.

You can protect yourself from cloud services that disappear. You can lower the probability that it happens. Select a successful service from a reputable provider. The chance that they disappear will be smaller. This is not a water tight strategy. Even successful cloud services are disrupted. It happens all the time. You can decrease the consequences when it happens. Make sure that you can easily switch to a new service without losing business continuity. Google were early adopters of this with their “data liberation front“. Their idea was that users would be more amenable to start using cloud services if it was easy to stop using them.

Avoid problems when cloud services disappear

It has happened before, it will happen again. Here is what you should do to avoid problems when your cloud services disappear:

  • Realize that many modern devices are hard linked with their supporting cloud services. It doesn’t have to look like a cloud service to be a cloud service.
  • Make sure you enter a win-win relationship with your provider. Your provider cannot survive without profit. The revolv service was based on a one time payment. Would monthly payments have been better for the customers?
  • Make sure that you have independent backups of your data. This will protect you not only from the cloud service disappearing but also from your own mistakes, viruses and more.
  • Make sure you can find a replacement service. Prefer cloud services based on open standards and protocols. If possible choose a solution based on open source.
  • Make sure that your contract has reasonable provisions for how the relationship between you and the provider shall be ended — because it will end, sooner or later
  • Keep scanning the market for new emerging better services. A proactive approach beats a reactive approach.

That kind of commitment is a good example of a provider commiting to a graceful exit. No matter how well you protect yourself, there will be problems. This is not unique for cloud services — it is a fact of life. The question you have to ask yourself is “if the high was worth the pain” or in other words, manage your risks.

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About Greger Wikstrand

Greger Wikstrand, Ph.D. M.Sc. is a TOGAF 9 certified enterprise architect with an interest in e-heatlh, m-health and all things agile as well as processes, methods and tools. Greger Wikstrand works as a consultant at Capgemini where he alternates between enterprise agile coaching, problem solving and designing large scale e-health services ...

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