Protect your organization against a cloud outage
Develop | Posted June 28, 2011

Cloud computing. It's more than just a buzz word. It's the future of business. Increasingly, organizations of various sizes and industries are moving their systems and platforms to the cloud, eager to give up the reigns over their technology and take advantage of the value propositions (cost reduction, scalability, operational efficiency) it affords.

There is no doubt that the cloud offers organizations certain efficiencies. However, questions about its reliability and vulnerability threaten to negate these benefits. I recently spoke with syndicated reporter JR Raphael for an InfoWorld article about the 10 worst cloud outages and the key lessons businesses should have taken away from these incidents. What are they?

Perhaps one of the biggest things to remember when moving any aspect of your business to the cloud (and I'm glad JR picked up on this) is that just because it's in the cloud doesn't mean all responsibility over it transfers over to the cloud provider. Organizations must still follow the same operational rules and procedures that govern business continuity planning and testing as they would if they maintained that function of their business in-house.

Specifically, businesses need to consider multi-region failover mechanisms. The most common data center failures come as a result of power-related issues or outages. This vulnerability exists whenever your systems are stored in a single geography. First off, make sure you have your own backup system in place. Secondly, if your cloud provider does not have redundancy in place, consider it on your own across multiple cloud providers. This way, if your primary provider goes down, you have back-ups in place to ensure your systems (and your customers) are not affected.

A second piece of advice to consider as you shift your systems to the cloud is to mind your SLAs. Service level agreements (SLAs) often tend to favor the provider in that they hone in on the question, "Is the service available?" and not on the more relevant question, "How well is the service working for my customers?" The provisions established in these agreements revolve almost exclusively around availability and do not take into account the more pressing metric for your end users, response time.

If possible, try adding language about the speed and responsiveness of your cloud service into your cloud service provider's SLA. And once the SLA has been created, make sure you monitor your service closely to make sure the provider is living up to its promises.


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