Practical Technology

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Falling through clouds


Everyone knows the big virtues of using cloud computing services: They’re cheap, you can scale them on demand, and they’re fault-tolerant. Everyone also thinks they know cloud computing’s vices: a variety of security and management concerns. What a lot of people have been missing, though, is that there’s another real problem with cloud computing: legal liability.

You see, the default contract from Amazon Web Services and the other major public cloud providers puts the onus for any privacy trouble that might develop on you, the customer, not them. So, say that 100,000 of your best customers’ records end up on WikiLeaks because your cloud provider’s security is breached. Who do you think is going to be legally and financially responsible for the leak and any damages it causes? You can probably guess, but I’ll tell you anyway: If you signed the standard cloud contract, you are. Never mind that it was the cloud provider’s security failure; you’re the one who will be stuck with the bills. Lucky you.

According to one report from SearchCloudComputing, Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant, is fighting with Amazon over just these kinds of issues. Amazon’s Werner Vogels denied the story’s contention that Eli Lilly had walked away from AWS. “Eli Lilly is still very much a customer and has not dropped their use of AWS,” wrote Vogels. Be that as it may, not everyone is content with Amazon’s contract policies. Burton Group analyst Drue Reeves said at the Burton Group’s Catalyst conference, “We don’t feel like there’s enough transparency in Amazon. We would like to trust you [but need more information].”

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