Stories by Robert L. Scheier

Busting the nine myths of cloud computing

Wherever you turn, someone's ready to tell (or sell) you something related to cloud computing. Cutting through the myths is essential to deciding whether, when, and how the cloud is right for you. Here's our top list of myths; we welcome your suggestions and feedback in our cloud myths discussion area**URL TK**:

What to do if your cloud provider disappears

Software developer Christopher Shockey saw the first signs of trouble in late 2008. A sales rep who had always represented Web application development provider Coghead was now calling on behalf of Coghead's much larger rival

Your next data center

About 15 miles from its medical center in downtown San Antonio, Christus Health is building a US$23 million data center to house a flood of digital information ranging from patient insurance records to CT scans.

Encryption key management worries loom

As long as IT managers encrypt data using only one vendor's products, the keys used to decrypt that data can be relatively easy to manage. But it will likely become much more complicated as more vendors build encryption into more and different types of storage devices, each with their own key management system, and as users need to move encrypted data among devices for disaster recovery, legal discovery or simply everyday business communications.

Study: Disk drive failures 13 times what vendors say

Customers are replacing disk drives at rates far higher than those suggested by the estimated mean time between failure (MTBF) supplied by drive vendors, according to a study of about 100,000 drives conducted by Carnegie Mellon University.

The 64-bit evolution

Eric Foote is considering 64-bit Windows servers for his growing base of 4,500 users. But he's in no big rush to make the shift from 32-bit computing. His first target application is Presentation Server 4.0 from Citrix Systems, thin-client software that performs most application processing on the server, sending only changes in the user interface to the client's PC.

Building up database defenses

Chief Security Officer Barak Engel doesn't store many customer credit card numbers at San Francisco-based Loyalty Lab, which runs customer loyalty programs for retailers. But he protects those numbers fiercely.

ILM: The real deal

While vendors and analysts argue the fine points of what information lifecycle management (ILM) means, some customers are just doing it and seeing impressive cost savings and productivity improvements as a result.

The price of e-payment

Imagine that you have to find the fraudulent calls in a 100,000-page phone bill. Or that an invoice for employee health insurance offers little more than a guess as to who is covered in a given month. Or that four out of 10 checks you receive require human assistance to figure out what the customer bought. That's reality for many business-to-business transactions today, and that's why there's so much interest in electronic invoice presentment and payment (EIPP) systems.

Know thy customer

When Web-based self-service is good, it's really good. Customer satisfaction soars and call center costs plummet as customers answer their own questions, enter their own credit card numbers and change their own passwords without expensive live help.

Moving to mainframe Linux

Mainframe Linux can boost application uptime and reduce support costs. But users and analysts recommend acting carefully when choosing which applications to move to the open-source operating system and when training staff in the required skills.

Opinion: Mother of all standards

What do Saddam Hussein and networked storage have in common? They're both the subject of intense negotiation and coalition building as competing parties try to find a common approach to a big problem. With Saddam, the problem is neutralizing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. With networked storage, the problem is getting devices of mass storage (pardon the poetic license) from different vendors to work together.

Locking the data store

Cathy Gilbert at American Electric Powe isn't too worried about security on her 2-year-old storage-area network (SAN). There are "very few people in our building that would actually know what to do" to reconfigure her Fibre Channel SAN -- assuming they could reach it on its internal private network, which can be administered only from a locked room, says Gilbert, a senior IT architect at the Columbus, Ohio, energy producer.