Yale concerns with cloud computing

Early lessons learned when planning a transition to cloud computing – do not focus solely on the technical capability, there are always external social and economic factors to consider

Reported by the Yale Daily News, Yale University has put its planned switch to Google Apps for Education on hold. It seems IT went ahead with the decision to switch without first consulting their customers – the students and teachers who will be using the system. When they notified people, concerns were raised.

“People were mainly interested in technical questions like the mechanics of moving, wondering ‘Could we do it?’ But nobody asked the question of ‘Should we do it?’ ” Michael Fischer, computer science professor.

Some of the concerns raised should be a lesson to all providers of cloud computing, given the key players are operating globally and facing different government challenges around the world. The arguments range from technical issues to business risks and ideological concerns:

  • The transfer of information between virtual servers on the Internet – Google was not willing to provide a list of countries to which the University’s data could be sent
  • Susceptibility of information to attack from hackers and company insiders, given the size and visibility of Google
  • Risk to the university’s reputation from being seen to endorse Google’s corporate policies and carbon footprint
  • Risk from creating a “monoculture” among email users should Google experience downtime or crashes

Understandably the biggest concern lies with security of communications:

“Yale is an international, multicultural community of scholars. Students deserve to have rights to their information while on campus.”

The article is well worth a read by anyone interested in the future of cloud computing.