Forum: Server huggers

Recent events show security concerns over cloud computing are not entirely unfounded

Who would want to be called a server hugger? It suggests you are old fashioned, fuddy duddy, out of touch. Like those people who think the earth is flat. Clinging onto the data, demanding the server room be housed on site or very nearby.

Server huggers are endlessly tinkering with upgrades on software and hardware that should have been replaced long ago. Protecting their jobs by running the line that virtualisation – or, gasp — a fully-fledged cloud computing solution, will put vital company data at risk from nasty hackers and nosey foreign governments.

Let the data go server huggers. The big guns in cloud computing have more security measures in place then you’ve had hot dinners.

The users in your organisation are already flinging company data to the four corners of the globe with their fancy new devices which they insist on using for business. Especially those in the mobile manufacturers’ target market (18-35 year olds) who simply will not put up with a standard issue device any longer.

You are what you call on (bet all server huggers still use a Blackberry Pearl). You can’t control the end-points any longer, server huggers.

As for the idea that all applications need to somehow be vetted by the IT department, well that horse bolted with the introduction of Software as a Service. Even the folk in the marketing department can work out how to download these applications and the very cool thing about SaaS is that its OPEX, not CAPEX. So no sign off from the CFO required.

Yep, being called a server hugger – often said disdainfully with nose pointed in the air – is not the most career enhancing term these days.

But, let us not write off the server hugger completely.

To every trendspotting analyst, every cool dude mobile company rep, and every smart-talking SaaS start-up company director, the server hugger can counter with the following recent stories.

• VMware’s new Cloud Foundry service, which is still in beta, suffered two outages. The first was due to a power outage, the second to human error.

Sony was forced to take its PlayStation Network and Qriocity services offline after an intrusion was detected on the network’s servers, which are housed in an AT&T datacentre in San Diego. Potentially 77 million accounts could be at risk from scammers.

• A major outage on Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud service – the most serious in its five-year history — took popular websites such as FourSquare and Reddit offline.

OK, so the fact that these three events all occurred in the space of a fortnight won’t spell the death of the cloud.

It doesn’t mean server huggers are right to cling to the old ways of managing data. That only the server room next door can keep data safe (what if there’s a fire?, what if there’s an earthquake?).

But the next time an organisation enthuses about moving to the cloud or enabling company data on multiple devices or being unconcerned about the random adoption of SaaS applications in their business, don’t dismiss the server hugger completely.

They may be old fashioned, they may be clinging to their job, they may even be uninformed but – as recent headlines demonstrate – when they raise the spectre of the security of data, they may have a point.

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