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SLA protection

Gartner's Valdis Filks, research director for Storage Technologies and Strategies, was asked how can the industry communicate to customers that a provider can be trusted and that it won't lose their data? He's with RSA regarding SLAs and contracts.

There should be "Availability and integrity guarantees or assurances" such as "standards or RTO, RPO assurances", backed up by contract terms and conditions.

Does there need to be independent verification or self-certification against standards, with peer group review as with SPEC benchmarks? "[It] would be nice, but we cannot even do it for the storage arrays that have been in the market for 10 years, e.g. many do not take part in the SPEC benchmarks."

This is not helpful to those of us looking for a CSP verification framework. Gartner is, practically speaking, saying nothing can be done and users should look to contracts and contract law for recompense if data gets lost.

Trade body and/or code of conduct

Professionals such as lawyers, doctors and engineers belong to and are certified directly or indirectly by professional bodies, such as the UK's Gerneral Medical Council (GMC). These trade organisations help ensure that practitioners are competent and reliable. They also police their members and eject them if they are found to be unfit to practice. We have a trade body police and threat model here.

There not currently any signs of such bodies emerging, but we do have a possibility for a cloud IT service suppliers' code of conduct in the UK. There is a newly formed wannabe self-regulatory body called the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF). It is a sub-group of FAST (the software licensing protection people), and Investors in Software (FAST IiS) that has been set up to develop a public-facing Code of Conduct, to standardise and certify Cloud Computing service providers.

Andy Burton, chief executive at web-hosting company Fasthosts, and FAST IiS’s chairman of the CIF Group, said:

The role of CIF is to... work alongside this fast-evolving industry, making sure it follows certain standards and therefore deters potential cowboy operators from misleading customers and thereby bringing the industry into disrepute. If we can develop a standard that users trust, much like the padlock symbol has done in the browser relating to website security, then it will be an asset not only to the user but also to the... companies operating in this space.

CIF will shortly announce the formation of a working group made up, it says, of informed industry leaders to drive the creation and launch of a Code of Conduct in the UK, with a possible brand or icon to signify adherence by suppliers to it. Let’s hope it succeeds and the code has teeth.

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