If the Facebook CTO trusts the cloud, should everyone else?

While I was attending the recent RSA Conference in San Francisco, I was accosted in the street by the marketing team from Trend Micro.

There was nothing physical you should understand, however they asked me about ‘the cloud' and ‘was it secure'? Answer in ten words or less. A tricky one for any security expert let alone this journalist!

However this endless debate did lead me back to one recent interview that I read on the BBC business page earlier this month. In this case it was with Facebook CTO Bret Taylor, also co-founder and former chief executive of FriendFeed, which was acquired by Facebook in August 2009.

Among his comments was a very interesting statement on FriendFeed. He said at its start it had to choose with whether to purchase its own servers or use one of the many cloud hosting providers.

He said: “At the time we chose to purchase our own servers. I think that was a big mistake in retrospect. The reason for that is despite the fact it cost much less in terms of dollars spent to purchase our own, it meant we had to maintain them ourselves and there were times where I would have to wake up in the middle of the night and drive down to a data centre to fix a problem.

“What I realised was that you can't measure the quality of your life in dollars alone. I think that most of the people that worked at FriendFeed would agree that if that part of the company were just taken care of, it would have been worth all of the extra money we would have spent on it.”

So, if the CTO of the world's largest social network with the data of 600 million people on his database trusts the cloud, should we? Well, perhaps.

After all he did say that this would have been a better solution for his start-up FriendFeed. While Facebook is a cloud-based operation now, I wonder what Taylor or Zuckerberg would have chosen in hindsight – eternal patch management or outsourcing?

He concluded: “Very few of the start-ups I know in Silicon Valley actually purchase their own servers now, they're using these cloud hosting providers and I wish we had as well.” In other words, everyone else is using the cloud, so why don't you?

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