April 25, 2012, 9:36 AM — If your data is in the cloud, do you know where it really is?
When enterprises use a public cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider to store their data offsite, they're basically sending the data off into a service provider's data center. But just where is that data center?
Many IaaS providers are hush about the location of their data centers, and some for good reason related to security. But in some cases customers want to know where their data is being stored to ensure low latency connections to it, or in some cases for compliance reasons. So can customers know where their data is?
THE RANKINGS: 10 Most powerful IaaS companies
MORE POWER: 'High performance' emerges in cloud offerings
It's a concern that Michael Dickson, director of business and technology group at GBQ, an IT consultancy, says he hears all the time. "Customers are always asking that question, and I think it's a valid one," he says. "But I don't think it should be a negative that a provider spreads customer data around to various hosting sites." The best service providers, he says, have a network of data centers that work in tandem to provide high availability and security of customer data. Sometimes that means data will be moved around the country based on disasters, service levels, demand of resources and cost, among other factors.
For those who do want to know where the data lives, most of the major IaaS providers outline in a service-level agreement (SLA) or on the providers' website where the data will be stored and in some cases, customers even have a choice.
"Most of the largest providers have data center operations fairly well dispersed globally," says Michael Crandell of RightScale, which helps businesses migrate data to various cloud providers. "For the most part, it's pretty explicit where the data is."
At least to a point.