Poll: Should you really trust the cloud with your valuable data?

Cloud computing is the latest, hottest thing right now, but should you really trust Microsoft, Google, Amazon, or anyone else with your valuable data?

OK, I am declaring it right here, right now: 2011 is the Year of the Cloud. This buzzword "cloud" is wielded by just about any company that sells a server or an operating system these days. But what exactly are they talking about? What does "cloud" mean and should you trust companies like Microsoft, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon, et al. when they say they can save you money and keep your data safe?

I am no Luddite when it comes to technology. If something comes along that makes sense and makes my life easier, I will adopt it as soon as it is practical. However, the people selling cloud computing and other web-based services have yet to convince me that the merits of their products and services outweigh the liabilities.

I understand the potential of these services and I am willing to entertain the idea, but there are so many questions unanswered or, worse, glossed over. Just in the past month or so we've seen examples of security breakdowns and outages that were very costly for companies that had placed their critical functions in the cloud. (Google, Amazon)

Earlier this week, Deb Shinder discussed Microsoft Azure, which is the company's "cloud services" platform. The striking thing about the post, and the discussion that followed it, was the confounding way Microsoft has presented the product. Much of the discussion reflected confusion, uncertainty, and mistrust about security, uptime, and benefits. And these are IT professionals expressing those concerns.

Is it any wonder that a survey by The Small Business Authority shows that 71% of small business owners had never heard of cloud computing? For those of us in information technology, that number may seem staggering since we have been talking about the general concept for years, but it shows that the companies selling cloud services have not been communicating effectively.

All this uncertainty needs to be addressed before we get the mass adoption of cloud computing services that many are predicting. And the first uncertainty that needs to be addressed is trust. So I am asking TechRepublic members, do you trust cloud computing services? Do you trust that your data is safe in these systems? And, as an IT professional, can you (should you) convince decision makers to also trust these services?