Is cloud computing good for your company?

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On Friday, my new computer arrived in the mail. And it is awesome –467 gig hard drive, 8 gigs of RAM, 3D NVIDIA screen resolution, an Intel 2.5 GHz processor … I couldn’t wait to set it up. So Friday night I tore open the box and started uploading all of the files from my old machine to my new one.

Being an Internet weirdo, I have all of my files and data stored in the cloud. I believe I’ve recommended it to everyone as an awesome way to store data securely and a cheap way to back up computers. Here’s where the surprise came in: To restore my old data onto my new computer, I had to download 136 GIGABYTES. The poor router in my living room chugged away for more than twelve hours to get that much through the not-so-tiny pipes into my house.

Is cloud computing a good idea for small-mid-sized company data?

I have to admit that the “restore from the cloud” exercise was incredibly eye opening for two reasons;

First, the restoration was one of the best I’ve ever been through. The cloud backup (Via MOZY.com) was thorough, and maintained my file structure with perfect integrity. I can’t rave about this enough — it stored and transferred everything except the .pst data files for Outlook and the data file for my accounting software.

Second, if my company was 30 or 50 employees strong and I had to restore everyone’s desktop machines (and my servers), full restoration could take over a week. And when I say a week, I mean just for the download time — day and night, weekends included. And after the download, we’d still want to check for file structure integrity. This is a jaw-dropping amount of time.

So to temper my earlier enthusiasm for the cloud, let me instead encourage you all to have a conversation with your IT manager or your outsourced IS Management Company about the cloud, and what a restoration would look like.

There are other options you can take advantage of, where the full backup would go to the cloud, and periodic downloads to a physical disk that you can use to restore quickly while waiting for your cloud data. I’m sure you’ll get good advice from your vendors, and your vendors will breathe a huge sigh of relief because some of them have been saying this all along; that cloud computing is only good for limited restoration and better for mass storage when you don’t have to retrieve everything all at once.

I admit that I was caught up in the hype about the cloud, for sure. And the fact that it’s so easy to get data INTO the cloud didn’t help me temper my enthusiasm. When working with the cloud, only the files updated since the last backup go into the cloud, so each day my backup took about 5 minutes. I didn’t at all consider how long it would take to get everything back down.

In my mind, I thought “5 minutes up…probably 20 minutes down.” Not so much.

At any rate, learn from my experience and be forewarned — cloud restorations are awesome, if you have the patience for it.

Marci De Vries is president of MDV Interactive, a web consulting firm in Baltimore. Reach her at marci@mdvinteractive.com.