Many people worry about the security of data while it's in the cloud. However, an even greater threat to cloud engagements may not be data theft, but the possibility of the cloud provider changing business models, being acquired or going out of business altogether.

In a recent article, Network World's Brandon Butler explored the issues that arise around cloud vendor shutdowns.

There are actual recent instances of cloud vendors shutting down without warning, leaving customers stranded without access to their data. It could happen more often: Gartner, for one, says that one in four cloud providers will be acquired or forced out of business within a year, mainly though mergers and acquisitions.

The same care needs to be taken with cloud data that has been with disaster recovery preparation, Butler states in his article. Service-level agreements are key as well, and should be negotiated with great care. There needs to be clear terms that spell out what happens with data in the event of contract termination by either party.

Also, some cloud providers maintain data in proprietary file types.

Perhaps the best rule of thumb is to always have copies of data stored somewhere else. If you’re storing data onsite, back it up with a cloud service, and if you’re storing data in the cloud, back it up onsite.

“Even if the user is able to get data out from their defunct cloud provider, the end user may not have the ability to run those applications or data on their internal systems,” Butler explains. One way around this is to ask the vendor, during contract negotiations to “have the vendor supply the most up to date version of the data software into a locked account.” 

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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