Friday, May 29, 2009

SMBs relying on free web services? I don't agree

Recently there were so many articles related to cloud computing. One of which encourages Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) to go for free web services as it is a more reliable choice. I disagree.

Again the crux of the matter is not about reliability. It's all about security.

Let's say for example you're using a free email account to conduct your business. What's stopping from someone to hack your email account to gain access to your emails? Your emails may contain confidential information about your clients. Are you willing to have this possibility of your business information being exposed out into the web? Worst still... Being posted publicly in the web for all to see? There were already a few incidents where supposedly protected information appeared in Google. People can argue this can happen if you have your own email server. This is true, but it's significantly more difficult as you first need to gain access to the company's internal network.

The writers of the article also argued that reliability is about the same if you host it internally in your own premises. However, it neglected to bring up one point. The response time to bring up the service if it goes down.

I used to do this for my company previously. Whenever a service goes down, I just pop into the server room, do a little diagnostic and I can usually get everything up in a few minutes. That's how fast my up-time is, unless the server crashed beyond recovery. If that happens, I'll usually just activate the backup contingency planning which will take at most half a day.

Just imagine if this happens to your free web service. What's your backup contingency planning? Is this service essential? What happens if it's not due to the provider, but due to your ISP connection to the Internet? What happens if there is a contention between your ISP provider and the free web service provider, where both blame each other for the problem?

I've encountered these problems before... You'll be lucky if you can get it resolved in a week's time. You cannot even figure out what's the problem in the first place because you're just a subscriber.

I do agree though that free web services are a stepping stone for those very small SMEs to hit the ground running. However, once you've grown, please invest in your own IT infrastructure. It'll be worth it. In business, it's all about fast response to the changing business environment. If you use free web services that can be accessed by anybody, how do you differentiate yourself from your competition?

Accessing the Intranet for your web services is quite different from access your web services through the Internet. Weigh your pros and cons carefully before deciding.

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