The Missing Link in the Cloud: sysadmins

Cloud Image by Chris BetcherAggravating though it may be, it seems the big question on IT Managers’ minds right now is whether to move various operations to “the cloud.” You can’t swing a cat without hitting stuff like Paul Venezia’s article exploring some of the hidden costs of cloud outsourcing, this article regarding the death of a cloud service, or an interesting conversation I recently had on LinkedIn that became almost heated.

In all of these, I notice the following:

  1. There is some super-duper resistance to any suggestion that beloved SaaS services might have flaws.
  2. Lots of managers think that creating backup systems, et. al. is some magical process that shouldn’t be done in-house if it can be avoided.

I attribute the first of these to (a) brand loyalty (b) a “cool factor” and (c) the fun experience that services like DropBox often provide. But (2) is confounding. Backups and file storage are so super-simple! rsync and samba, et. al. are your friend!

More to the point: we managers have to remember to talk to our sysadmins. The way I put it in my book, Information Age Management, “devising subtle-yet-powerful technical solutions to networking problems is what [your sysadmin] does for a living and if you give him the opportunity, he’ll probably find a way to meet your security requirements
more effectively, less intrusively, and for less money than you would otherwise.”

The place for a question about whether DropBox – or any other service – is appropriate for a given company isn’t LinkedIn but in a meeting between the manager who has to make the decision and the sysadmin he hired to keep The Machines running.