Recent political events in the United States have seen organizations and people “canceled” or de-platformed. While one can look at these as situations a business should avoid at all costs (getting swept into politics), it is an excellent cautionary tale. The Achilles heel of many of these organizations is a reliance on a single vendor for a key facet of their business. No one provider will ever give you the flexibility of multiple vendors.
The concept of vendor lock-in is not new. However, it has gotten fuzzy in areas like Cloud computing and businesses that are “too big to fail.” The Parler example falls exactly in this zone. They relied on Amazon AWS for their data infrastructure and went dark when Amazon decided that there was a breach of the user agreement. Your thoughts on Amazon’s actions do not save the folks at Parler from making a critical mistake. They put all of their eggs in the Amazon basket. They had vendor lock-in even though I bet they never considered it as such.
Yes, you can point to this as a case of letting politics guide a business. However, this could happen if Amazon sold off the AWS products, or even if someone at Amazon (or within your organization) hit the wrong switch. There are countless tales of sites that went down for a period of time because of spam-blocking or other automated processes triggered by a simple mistake. You do not have to be in the news to have something shut down your access to a product.
Multiple Vendors And Disaster Recovery
The whole purpose of creating a DR plan is to consider what happens if you lose a key vendor or resource for any reason. It could be a natural disaster, one of Public Relations, or any other reason. The point is to address the problem of losing that resource. A good disaster recovery plan considers these events and looks to multiple vendors and their locations. Some DR plans rely on the stability a cloud provider gives you. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and other providers have multiple data centers spread across the globe with redundancies built to avoid downtime. In some cases, that is sufficient. We pay these vendors money to handle our DR headaches. However, that does lock us into those vendors when we choose only one.
Cloud To The Rescue
One of the benefits of cloud providers is that they allow us to scale up our usage. We can have a tiny server at minimal cost and powerful ones that are costly but drive our business. Thus, smaller businesses can get some of the Cloud’s enterprise features without a high cost up-front. This same benefit should lead us to look at multiple vendors, even with the smallest of businesses. This concept also extends out beyond our server needs. We can embrace the cloud to handle many of our needs. For most businesses, this includes things like payment providers, customer communications, billing, and payroll. Many vendors want you to rely on them and will even provide attractive packages. However, make sure you understand the risks involved.
It Is Your Data
First and foremost, make sure any vendor agreement includes a way for you to get your data. The Parler case included Amazon, stating they would allow access to the application data and even help Parler migrate off their platform. That may save the business from immediate death. Think of what would happen if you lost all of your financial or customer data. You should ensure that any licensing includes your ability to own your data and content. There should also be language that restricts a vendor from being able to leverage or use the same. Content platforms are famous for this, including many social networks. They have language that allows them to share or use your content to promote their platform. If you get paid for that usage, then that is good. However, you could find yourself effectively funding a vendor’s marketing campaign or at least providing essential content.
Finally, make sure you test your access to data early and often. Exports and APIs are excellent tools. On the other hand, they can change and cause data loss or impact recovery times. You might also find that you need a tool or solution to do something with that data. If you can not afford to have the migration tools in place or it is not practical to migrate data regularly, at least ensure you have a reasonable estimate of the time and cost in a DR situation.