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Table 1 Risks, concerns, and responses regarding cloud-based services

From: Cloud-based services for electronic civil registration and vital statistics systems

Risk or concern Response
We will be losing control; we will not know what we have and cannot guarantee anything. Cloud providers provide extensive tools and consoles, so it is easy to see what is happening at all times, which can be better than using one’s own data center.
We will be totally changing the skills we need; detailed technical work will no longer be needed, and the focus will be more on the architecture. This is a shift, and it means that you do not need to worry about many of the technical details, but the client or the vendor must make sure the architecture and design are right. Because hardware is now more like software, it is easier to change everything.
Surely the security cannot be as good as if we do it ourselves; the system is running in a big data center somewhere else. Cloud providers have excellent security at all levels and have the volume to ensure that they do it right. They use automated tools and see and handle many different attacks and scenarios every day.
Once we go into this, we cannot come back; there will be serious vendor lock-in. It is possible to not use cloud provider-specific features, so that it is easy to move between vendors. You could commission a proof of concept of the system running on a different cloud if desired.
It looks hard to get everything right upfront; you really need to design everything properly before it will work. You would need to do the same with a data center, but working in the virtual world provides more flexibility, and the way the cloud works means that everything needs to be set up explicitly, which is a good thing.
This is a major change to how we do things, and it will cause more disruption than it is worth. The cloud and associated support partners take a lot of the server-related work away and allow you to focus on core CRVS challenges that make a difference. There can be a short adjustment period, and some people may need to be reassigned. It will no longer be necessary to maintain large amounts of hardware, or large groups of support and security specialists for the long term, and this change can save a significant amount of money and human resources for the country.
The cloud can fail, and then we will be totally out of action. That is true, but it does not happen often, and the period of disruption is normally short. Given that a cloud provider uses multiple centers, there is no single point of failure, although in an extreme case, the system could be unavailable for up to a few hours—which a CRVS system can tolerate.
We are just not convinced it is going to end up being cheaper; servers do not cost that much these days. They do not cost much, but cloud vendors buy their own specialized servers by the tens of thousands, so they can buy them less expensively. They can ensure that they have high utilization and can amortize the housing, cooling, power, management, and support costs.
There must be hidden costs or pricing bands that will catch up with us at some point. The cloud is a mature marketplace in 2019, and there is enough competition that providers will be transparent with the pricing. All costs are stated on their websites, and they provide calculators to help; one needs to check not just on computing and storage costs, but also things such as data flows, domain name servers, and directories. The biggest challenge with costs is managing accounts and knowing what is happening. It is easy to have many environments—some overprovisioned—and to leave them running all the time.
We need to be flexible; right now, we can do anything we like with the hardware and the networks. Cloud providers are always developing new services to allow clients to do exactly what they need. It is a big market, and they have millions of customers, so things are evolving rapidly.
Customer support could be slow, because the providers are large companies that handle many customers. There have been concerns raised about customer support, but providers all have partner programs for software developers and support organizations that they work with, and there are specific support channels that help. In most cases, you do not need support because the systems and tools provided do what they say they do.
Performance in the cloud could be poor. In the past, there have been issues with legacy systems not performing well in the cloud. But the services offered by cloud providers have been improved to allow a broader range of legacy systems to be run unchanged in the cloud. In addition, the increasing number of modern systems which have been built to run in distributed dynamically scalable environments means that in practice it is much less of an issue.