When the cloud goes down

 In Cloud

Imagine one of your critical business systems being unavailable to you for 72 hours. This is what happened to many businesses recently when Webcity, a provider of hosting services, suffered a major outage. Thousands of people had no website or email during the outage and, for many of them, there was little they could do about.

This outage obviously had a devastating impact to the businesses involved; particularly ones that relied on their website to generate revenue. It lead me to ponder the risks involved with using cloud services that most of us don’t give a second thought to.

Your cloud services make you reliant on others

Many businesses have their entire IT infrastructure in the cloud. This can include financial systems, CRM, email, file storage, project management, and more. The problem is as more and more businesses move their IT to the cloud, we become increasing reliant on cloud providers.

Unlike services that you host at your premises, when something goes wrong with a cloud service you’re powerless to do anything about it. You simply have to wait for the provider to fix the problem and get your services back up and running. In most cases, you wont even be able to access your data until the outage is fixed.

Plan for the worst, hope for the best

If you use a cloud service it pays think about the likelihood of an outage – or something worse – occurring.

While this is a rare event, back in 2011, hosting provider Distribute.IT got hacked which resulted in over 4000 websites being lost without any chance of recovery.

With big providers like Amazon, Google, Dropbox and Microsoft, a major outage or incident is fairly unlikely given the size of their infrastructure. For smaller providers, having a rapid migration plan in place is recommended.

For hosting services this is relatively simple. Keep a backup of your website and have access to your domain records. For other services, such as CRM and accounting, your plan will be more complex.

As a general rule I would still recommend having third-party backups of data for all cloud services – even those with ‘big’ providers.

There are third-party backup products available for most cloud services which are easy to set up and reasonably priced. In the event of a major problem you at least know that your data will be safe.

If you use cloud services, and most Australian small businesses do, I highly recommend reviewing your risks and ensuring your business is covered if one of your cloud providers suffers an outage.

If you need help assessing and planning for this, drop me a line and I’ll work with you to ensure you don’t suffer losses like so many did when Webcity had their problems.

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