For decades vendor lock-in has been one of the fears that businesses, large and small, have faced. The problem frequently occurs when a company invests a great deal of money in a proprietary software product that only one vendor develops and supports. As long as the company intends to keep using the software and paying for support, it must go through the same vendor.
Problems arise when the company becomes unsatisfied with the vendor or simply wants to switch to another software package with better features or lower cost. Suddenly, your IT people realize that everything, including all of your data, is locked in a proprietary system that the vendor will not reveal to you. Moreover, if that vendor stops supporting the software or even goes out of business, you have no way of recovering your data.
Cloud computing has eliminated many problems related to software vendors, but the problem of vendor lock-in persists. In fact, one could argue that it may even be worse with cloud systems since the vendor keeps all of your data on their servers. There are, however, some practical ways to avoid cloud vendor lock-in.
- Use an open cloud platform – The strength of the cloud is that the provider offers its data center facilities, IT expertise, maintenance, and tech support. The software itself is not necessarily any better than the alternatives. Therefore, using open software does no damage to the provider but helps the customer.
- Have a backup plan – Some cloud providers will actually send you physical disks with your data on them, upon your request. Others may even give you access to off-site backups that you control. Keep your options open, and always prepare for the worst.
Ultimately, your business and your data is and always will be yours. Make sure you do not sign it away to anyone else, even a cloud provider you trust. Play smart and keep your investments safe.