Thursday, October 24, 2013

There's a reason they call it "The Cloud"

Image credit: flickr/Jackie Tranter
Over on IT WorldDan Tynan tells the story of how his cloud storage on was deleted. By a stranger. With no notification to him.

The short version is that allows enterprise customers to "roll in" accounts of their employees or "external collaborators". This allows the company to manage them all and (apparently) adds additional functionality to the accounts.

Some six months prior to his account deletion, Tynan's account was "rolled in" to a PR firm's account because of a single business exchange with the firm conducted by his wife via On this basis someone at the firm decided to put his account under their corporate umbrella.

Tynan received no notice of this action. Ever.

So long as the PR firm didn't do anything to affect his account Tynan had no idea anything had changed. Then someone at the PR firm was looking at the list of accounts and didn't recognize his wife's name. So they deleted the account.

Tynan received no notice of this action. His first indication of a problem was when he had no access to his account. Because it had been deleted.

This illustrates in vivid detail some of the hazards of relying on "the cloud" to store your data:

  • You have to trust a third party to safeguard your data. This might work with banks and safety deposit boxes, but cloud-based "boxes" are nothing like that.
  • You are at the mercy of a third party's terms of service. By this account, followed its processes. Its system worked as designed. I am sure buried somewhere the the terms everyone blindly clicks the "Accept" button on was some mention of this "convenience feature".
  • You have to trust a third party will notify you of adverse actions affecting your data.

There are plenty of others.

The bottom line is that you have to trust a third party to protect the data you want to keep safe. Do you really think trusting data in the cloud is safe?

Personally, I use the cloud only to share non-sensitive data (mainly photos) between devices. But all of that data is stored permanently on devices I own.

Oh, and Tynan's story had a happy ending. Once customer support failed to help him he pulled the journalist card and suddenly paid attention. His data was restored.

What card do you have to play when something similar happens to you?


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Textbook Project Management Failure

So the much-ballyhooed unveiling of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, AKA Obamacare) web sign-up occurred about three weeks ago. It was an utter failure. Does this mean that the ACA therefore also fails? Not necessarily.

What it really represents is a textbook failure of project management. Granted, I am saying this based on sketchy (and often biased) news reports, but this much seems clear:

Requirements creep? Check. Testing involved too late in the process? Check. Goldplating? Probably check.

The chart pictured here is titled "Periodic Table of FEPS I.T. Work Streams" (so FEPS has no periods in the abbreviation but I.T. does. Schizo). You can see a zoomable version of the chart at the link. First, periodic table? Someone had a cute idea that didn't make sense. The "key milestones" were missed and probably the schedule was unreasonable even if it was followed.

And speaking of that "periodic table of work streams" - The fact that the contractors' names are more prominent than their tasks/responsibilities indicates a fundamental lack of focus in the project. What needs to be done is more important than who is doing it. At least it has names so we know who to fire.

At a minimum, in Key Federal IT Staff I would fire Henry Chao (Executive Oversight), Monique Outerbridge (Program Oversight), and Tina Nguyen (Program Oversight). Although everyone named in that section should be sweating right now. Not that anything is really going to happen to them.

A Blog In Search Of Its Purpose

There's a Farside cartoon I like. The caption is "Edgar finds his purpose."* The picture shows a nerdy guy kneeling on an overturned sofa cushion, holding a oddly shaped ball with various things protruding. Including a whisk broom. I guess you can find your purpose anywhere and it can take any shape. Just accept it.

Well, this blog is still searching for its purpose. Maybe one day it will find it behind the sofa or under the bed.

Meanwhile, enjoy the search.

* I won't post the actual cartoon here because I am concerned about copyright violations. I will, however, link to a Google search which take you right to the picture.