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All politics aside, America woke up to the news early in the New Year that an emerging social network was pulled from the Web with little or no warning, leaving the social network without access to its platform, including its members. The surprisingly whimsical move by one of the largest cloud service providers (CSP) in the world was stunning to both businesses and organizations alike, since the notion of having one’s business yanked from the Internet in an instant had most likely never crossed their minds.

Specifically, the social media network’s access to its infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications were denied or shut down at the flip of a switch. Tertiary apps used by the social network were also eventually denied access or support by several third-party vendors, following the CSP’s lead. This was an extraordinary action by a CSP and outside independent software vendors, as much as it was outrageous.

For a group companies or IaaS and SaaS providers to impulsively shut down a business with essentially little notice based on their corporate values or belief systems is truly remarkable, if not absurd.    

The question one must ask themselves is, could my business or organization be targeted next? As is typical in any highly politicized environment, business or otherwise, taking an action based on one’s beliefs or ideology can indeed be a very slippery slope. That is, where or when do the actions stop? Could they be construed as anti-competitive behavior in disguise, let alone political?

The courts will soon decide just how far these cloud service providers can go with this seemingly erratic behavior. The social network has filed a lawsuit charging contract breach and anti-competitive behavior, but that is little comfort to the social network given their access, hosting and apps support have all been turned off. Fortunately for others that haven’t been hit by these circumstances, this can be prevented, if you act prudently.

From a business or organizational perspective, an entity can indeed protect itself from rogue actors in the cloud services space, such as the one described above. Unfortunately, for the social network mentioned above, it was too late. Essentially, given their somewhat partisan nature, they did not take into consideration that were essentially hosting their platform in what could be considered “enemy” or competitor territory. Shame on them.

To be fair, and Monday morning quarter backing aside, this was a first of its kind attack or Terms of Service (ToS) breach in decades. No one Millennial based operator (or younger) could have seen this virtual freight train coming, so to speak, but there were some steps the social network could have taken to prevent the complete shutdown of its social platform, had they had the foresight.

The subscription services or pay-as-you-go model supporting both IaaS and SaaS allows for the near immediate termination of a contract. That is, a company or organization can quit the cloud services provider just as easily as they can terminate you as a customer, which is due in large part to the nature of its short-term contract basis. In fact, that is why many SaaS providers have huge Customer Success departments to encourage customers to take full advantage of their services, and of course, not to discontinue use of their wares.

The crux of the matter is that you have more choices or buyer power when dealing with subscription service providers than you may think. For one, both IaaS and SaaS service providers abound on the Internet providing more competition than ever, and many of their subscriptions are inexpensive and incremental by design. These factors equate to a rich number of options and buyer power over your domain or infrastructure and applications unimaginable a decade ago. But some research and planning are required.     

Another powerful or more expensive tactic would be to host previously Web based subscription services in house or private in a hybrid configured computing environment. Several major IaaS providers accommodate this type of hosting of their software, whereby a business or organization can maintain greater control over their platform virtually eliminating short-term interruptions in service caused by rogue or unorthodox vendors. Ditto for SaaS applications.

Furthermore, a company can request that a contract rider be added as an addendum to a cloud services provider ToS that would prevent the termination of services under any circumstance within reason. While it is longshot, it never hurts to ask and by doing so a company or organization can force the vendor to show their hand or true intentions, so to speak.    

In summary, business or organizations should begin to review their subscription-based software services and related contracts to determine whether or not they are vulnerable to the whims of unconventional cloud services businesses based in Silicon Valley and elsewhere around the globe. Moreover, this matter should be a serious concern for businesses or organizations that manufacture, distribute and sell legacy products and services. You could easily become the next victim of arbitrary and capricious website shutdowns by rogue vendors that could devastate your business or organization overnight.

Will Jeansonne is founder and CEO of IT Specialist Advisory Services. The company provides tech advisory services in the form of management consulting and data driven research for businesses and organizations worldwide. It also offers vendor contract review support, policy management tools and disaster recovery planning, among other consulting services.

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