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Cloud Computing: Solving The Backup Problem

New York's famed Museum of Modern Art and its 750 employees recently transitioned to Google Apps and deployed Backupify's cloud backup and archiving platform to ensure data integrity.

Even Jackson Pollock is moving to the cloud.

New York City's Museum of Modern Art, or MOMA, recently kicked off a broad initiative to move much of its technology into hosted infrastructure and applications. It started with Google Apps: all of MOMA's 750 employees recently moved to Gmail accounts from a physical Exchange server.

While MOMA might deal in Picassos and Warhols, IT there still looks a lot like it does at other midsize organizations. The 50-person department supports a rapidly increasing load of external business requirements such as online media and other customer-facing functions; internally, the renowned museum should look and sound familiar to tech execs in any industry.

"It's just like any other business," MOMA CIO Steven Peltzman said in an interview. "We have financial systems, HR systems, email, and everything else."

MOMA will deploy Salesforce.com in a month or so, and Peltzman said other systems will soon follow suit as part of a multi-year cloud project that will transform the museum's technology approach.

"We're out there trying to engage people and educate and share the collection in terms of modern art," Peltzman said. "We're not out there to run email and do all those other things. Just in terms of the economics of cloud, it totally fits us. All of the hang-ups of cloud that most people have, we've gotten over."

One of those hang-ups did induce significant anxiety, however: While Peltzman's pleased with Google and said it was the clear winner in the vendor selection process, he wasn't comfortable with relying on the same company to protect MOMA's data. That concern was amplified by the fact that MOMA's employees have begun adopting other Google Apps for productivity and collaboration. (Like this SMB, they'll continue using Microsoft Office as well.)

"You're giving your precious data to someone else," Peltzman. "There is a downside of course to having, no matter who they are, another entity be the sole owner and holder of all your stuff."

Enter Backupify: itself a cloud provider, the firm on Tuesday released the latest version of its backup and archiving service for Google Apps. The platform enables automated backup and archiving for an entire Google Apps domain for redundancy and other purposes. The new edition adds enhanced dashboards, notifications, search, and a full account download feature. MOMA became a Backupify customer to ease its fears around relying entirely on Google for data protection.

"Having a third company hold on to a copy and protect that data just made us a feel a whole lot better," Peltzman said. "That was very critical for the adoption [of Google Apps] up and down the chain, not just with the executives but with the average staff person as well."

Organization-wide buy-in is crucial to a cloud transition, according to Peltzman. He recommends peer IT executives pursuing similar projects pay particular attention to partnering with the appropriate business units to ensure everyone's on board. Peltzman said that was relatively easy with the Google Apps deployment. At a MOMA-wide staff meeting, he asked how many employees already had personal Gmail accounts; roughly 90% raised their hand.

"The consumerization piece of it was big," Peltzman said. "The technical challenge of flipping over is not tremendous. The cultural challenge was bigger, and knowing that there were many people already using [Gmail] and comfortable with it was important as well."

Peltzman also notes that going cloud is no excuse for dumping IT best practices. In a sense, that mindset drove his decision to sign on with Backupify: It's not that he doesn't trust Google. On the contrary, he thinks the security and data integrity fears of some SMBs are misplaced--Peltzman simply believes redundancy is smart business.

"I actually think the total risk picture with the cloud is far, far less than with keeping your data," Peltzman said. "Yes, there's a bigger target on the Googles of the world. But the amount of money and resources they can put towards protecting that data, and the same could be said of Backupify, is always going to beat me."

Interesting coda: While the timing of MOMA's cloud kickoff and Microsoft's rollout of Office 365 didn't quite match, Peltzman said he'd still consider the suite for certain functions--and that wouldn't mean dumping Google Apps.

"I don't necessarily think that one precludes the other," Peltzman said. "Certainly from the email point of view you can't mesh. We're going to look at [Office 365] and if there's a fit there I won't hesitate to use that, either. I don't necessarily think you've got to make a hard decision there."

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