It’s a fairly well known rule of technological history that the cheapest and most technologically advanced solution isn’t necessarily the one that is most widely adopted. Public perceptions also play a substantial part. If a community doesn’t trust a technology or simply doesn’t like it, they are less than likely to adopt it.
IT Pros have been skittish about adopting “The Cloud” for some time. Primarily this has been framed as an employment issue. If services migrate off premises, then why keep IT Pros around? The messaging around this from the public cloud providers hasn’t been particularly reassuring – often taking more of an adversarial “sink or swim buddy” approach. “The Cloud” is often framed as something that developers will love and that IT Pros are being luddites about. The retirement of IT Pro specific benefits such as TechNet and the cancellation of IT Pro specific conferences such as MMS feeds into this perception that certain parts of Microsoft conceive of IT Pros as “buggy-whip” manufacturers who aren’t really a part of the brave new world. (this is a perception, it doesn’t need to be within shouting distance of the truth)
Along comes the revelations/suppositions/wild speculations that intelligence services have their tentacles and tendrils woven throughout the fabric of the public cloud. To the besieged IT Pro this offers an opportunity to reframe the debate about the cloud from being one of price and efficiency to being one of privacy and of exposing secret company information to the nefarious organs of state. The rebuttal that the IT Pro doesn’t like the cloud because of what it does to their job prospects is harder to make when intelligence services seem to be maniacally scooping up data to the point of intercepting the phone conversations of friendly heads of state. Stories about intelligence services scooping data on firms that compete with multinationals appear in the reputable press morph into speculation about the same intelligence services accessing data and services run in public clouds.
The Cloud – something that IT Pros weren’t particularly enamored with, has been (unfairly) saddled with the millstone related to the behavior of the intelligence services. Intelligence services which appear to be out of control and less than forthcoming when it comes to informing their political masters of the exact extent and reach of their activities.
When speaking recently at TechEd Australia and New Zealand about backing up to the cloud, the main objection I heard from people wasn’t technical. The main objection was that people didn’t feel their data was secure. It wasn’t safety from hackers that they were concerned about, but safety from the prying tendrils of intelligence services.
A lot of this is more about paranoia than it is a rational assessment of the risks of using cloud services. But as I mentioned at the start of the post, history is replete with examples where ephemeral concerns about a technology hampered its adoption.