The primary concerns over Cloud Computing have revolved around privacy, security, and reliability issues. Last month’s Amazon outage brought the reliability issue front and center, and brought it home for some Sage SalesLogix Cloud customers. With service down for 4 business days, the initial reaction was to question the feasibility of Cloud Computing. However, we have a different take on it and feel that Cloud Computing, as a whole, will be stronger for it. There are also lessons that can be learned from the Amazon outage for any company – on the Cloud or not.

Lesson One: Servers can and will go down. If it can happen to Amazon, it can (and will likely) happen to you. What is your plan? Is it feasible to have a backup server? If not, what will you do until the downed server can be fixed or replaced? This seemingly small hiccup has caused companies to go out of business, all due to lack of planning. Amazon’s initial response was that it released a set of disaster recovery recommendations for users.

Lesson Two: Back up, back up, back up! Amazon was able to restore data back to the day it went down with limited data losses (however, the extent of those loses isn’t clear yet). Pretty incredible considering the volume of customers impacted. Are you 100% sure your back up system works the way you think it does?

Lesson Three: Don’t over react or panic. The initial gut reaction to the Amazon outage was “we need to get off the cloud”. That is an understandable reaction for companies who lost access to their business systems for 4 days. But, in reality, the cloud is a better alternative for many companies – despite risks like these. In most cases, the cloud provider has a better disaster recovery plan than the user company has for its own on-premise system. Our prediction is that the Amazon outage will serve as an example for all hosting companies. Realizing what can happen will spur better prevention techniques and improve preparedness, so that if it happens again, they will be able to get their customers back on line faster.

Lesson Four: Every system has risk. If you understand the risk, you can plan for it. Determine how much risk you can afford and then plan accordingly. Do you value low cost more important than high reliability? On the other hand, will you sleep better with a highly reliable system with quick recovery that has a higher cost? Disaster Recovery or Business Continuity Planning is like the deductible on your health insurance. The higher the deductible you have the lower the monthly cost. However, when you get sick or hurt, your cost will be much higher. Your business system, whether in the cloud or in your office, has a risk of failure. You choose how much reliability to build in.

An analogy in a New York Times article by Lew Moorman is very appropriate: “The Amazon interruption was the computing equivalent of an airplane crash. It is a major episode with widespread damage. But airline travel is still safer than traveling in a car — analogous to cloud computing being safer than data centers run by individual companies. Every day, inside companies all over the world, there are technology outages, each episode is smaller, but they add up to far more lost time, money and business.”

If you would like help evaluating Cloud Computing for your company, check out the comparison chart we have put together. This chart shows the benefits and drawbacks of On-Premise, Hosted and Cloud (or SaaS) systems. Contact us for a copy or click here for your electronic copy.