The discussions about cloud computing and business continuity are reminiscent of similar ones a few years back about the use of software as a service (SaaS). The similarities are all the more striking following the recent outages of certain well-known cloud computing services and the questions raised about the viability of cloud computing for strategically sensitive or critical computing requirements. Like SaaS, cloud computing is hailed by some as “next practice” and beyond just “best practice”. On the other hand, unlike SaaS, cloud computing for business continuity may provide more flexibility in that it allows for dynamic redistribution of computing activity. As far as SaaS goes, you either run your application in-house or you pay an SaaS provider to run it for you, but you probably wouldn’t do both just to be able to switch between the two at the very moment any problems start.
Yet the conclusions that were reached then about SaaS might apply now to cloud computing. The first one was that any application that was strategic or critical for a company should not be outsourced to an SaaS provider, but should be run in-house. The equivalent in a cloud computing context would be that fail-over for strategic systems would still be done on dedicated (remote) systems as part of an in-house, distributed solution. On the other hand, for non-strategic systems, SaaS could demonstrate cost advantages by running the applications for the client and freeing up the client’s resources from support and maintenance effort. The condition was that the right service level agreements were in place and that the SaaS provider respected them. The parallel in cloud computing version would be for cloud resources to replace dedicated, non-strategic hardware with SLA’s as available (a more complex matter than for SaaS). Looking at the recent past for SaaS may therefore give clues about the near future for cloud computing and business continuity.