Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Slightly grey swan ....

Well Apple have been upgrading to MobileMe recently. So this morning I was surprised to discover that my entire email account with a mere 7,540 messages in it had disappeared (note: they did reappear later).

Fortunately I don't trust vendor promises in the SaaS world, even promises on email hosting, so I always make my own backups. Now I use a MacBook with MacOSX and I accept James Governor's point on the gorgeousness of walled gardens. However, I'm careful to ensure that either my applications and data are portable, hence I use open office, or that I'm aware of the consequences. Hence whilst I use keynote, I always export to other formats before backing up.

That said, I do rely on my mac.com address, so I better get that sorted.

Despite my careful tendency, I was concerned to read the following forum post from someone who has lost all of their email. Apparently 1% (of which I'm guessing I am one of the lucky few) have experienced a problem. Though I'm sure this is a major headache to some people, this is still a relatively minor scare.

But what happens if you lose more than just access to your email. What if it's your CRM system or your storage service.

Without easy switching between providers (including interoperability and portability) in a cloud computing world and the ability to chose one provider as primary and another as synced backup, then this will happen again and again. One day, some company is going to wake up and discover that all its accounting information has gone or worse still some forward thinking Government department will find itself with a lot of explaining to do.

"Yes Mr Jones, I know we had your detailed medical history stretching over the last five decades, but that was yesterday. So can we start again please ... date of birth?"

"Didn't you have a backup?"

"Yes Mr Jones, it was with the original data at our service provider. So unfortunately we don't have either, but we do have a copy of the SLA."

"Will it help with my treatment?"

"No, not really ... date of birth please?"

Somebody, somewhere should really start an independent business consumer association to provide interoperability and portability information for different service providers. These providers will need to be pressurised towards open sourced standards, easy switching between each other, competitive marketplaces and compliance to the appropriate standard. You will need this for all the usual reasons of second sourcing including competitive pricing, reducing security concerns over vendor lock-in and to enable the use of one provider as primary and another as backup.

It's in business users interest to do this, because none of these ubiquitous activities are a source of competitive advantage to a business user. Your interests are in price and quality of service, not product differentiation for common processes. Vendors and some of their favoured pundits will tell you all sorts of reasons why you don't need this and how feature differentiation provided to tens of thousands of businesses somehow does create you a competitive advantage and that standardisation will just stifle innovation. For a common process, this is just poppycock. Instead standardisation of common processes as services should accelerate business innovation through componentisation.

Some will just do their best to muddy the water but be aware, that black swan event is just around the corner.