Thoughts on what businesses actually need from the Cloud, not what vendors wish they needed.

Chris Bliss

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The Dreadful Data Problem

#1 You shall Backup (1/365)
Image by a•Andres via Flickr

You run a small business. As the head honcho, you understand more than anyone else just how valuable all your company’s folders, files and documents are. And chances are, the accumulation of all this data on your computer(s) is a source of some major anxiety.

Sure, backups are feasible – but how many of us actually do it, and do it right? Even with the best possible setup, we’re always left wondering if it’s actually working.

And then they fail. So you get another backup to back up your backup… Welcome to the dreadful data problem!

Whether it’s too much data, or not enough, or never where you need it to be, or never safe enough, the dreadful data problem is not going anywhere. And it’s only going to get worse.  As our businesses become even more tightly tied to our computers, the idea of being “down” because of data corruption or loss even for an afternoon seems catastrophic.

But what is data, really? Traditionally, we imagine our data as little virtual pieces of paper that sit in virtual  folders (just like in real life!). And for a long time, this was the case. But is that what data is today? Data, to me, seems like a stream of information, stuff that changes constantly and is constantly in demand. It gets updated – your contacts change their email addresses, templates get new logos, invoices get re-edited etc.

Simply put, data is a lot more than it used to be because we’re demanding that it do more for us and a system to properly maintain this in-demand data far exceeds what many businesses can deal with, either with manpower or time.

With this in mind, maybe the dreadful data problem isn’t about keeping your files in the right folders (and properly backed up). Instead, maybe it’s about developing a system that treats data like the powerful fluid resource that it has become.

Resource management isn’t anything new, in fact, people have been struggling with this very problem since the dawn of civilization. The question is always the same: how do we protect, maintain and distribute one of our most important resources?

For many people, these essential resources, like water, electricity and gas are a part of our daily lives and yet (for the most part) we don’t spend too much time worrying about how they get to our home or office.

I’m not going to get into environmental issues, I’m focusing on the business model. The service oriented way that we get things like electricity, water, and natural gas are clearly efficient ways to deliver these goods. These resources are at the center of our daily lives, and yet we trust an outsourced company to take care of all the necessary security, infrastructure and maintenence needs in exchange for a service fee.

Cloud computing and SaaS are opening the doors for data to be delivered in a similar model. With the right service partners, your data can be more securely maintained and delivered than any solution in-house.

The dreadful data problem isn’t going away, but these new SaaS providers do give you a viable partner to pass the problem on to. Now, finding the right SaaS provider? That’s where the new business development frontier is emerging.

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Chris Bliss works at VM Associates, an end-user consultancy for businesses looking to move to the cloud from pre-existing legacy systems.