Monday, November 19, 2012

Cloud-Based Services Passed the "Sandy" Test

Cloud Downtime is Not The Issue; Brick and Mortar Downtime Is

One of the standard questions people have about The Cloud is downtime. What do we do if the Internet goes down? What do we do if our cloud service goes down? More and more, businesses are addicted to connectivity - not just for their servers, but for all their devices and communications that are business related. If downtime is costly and inconvenient, then outages become a major concern.

I believe we've reached the point where this question needs to be turned upside down. Hurricane Sandy made that point very clear. Many people and many businesses were visited by Sandy. The flooding in some areas affected millions. Many buildings cannot be occupied - and won't be rebuilt for some time.

While talking to some of the vendors at IT Nation, it became clear that our industry has - almost without intention - made our own businesses extremely reliant on The Cloud. We rely on hosted services, hosted backups, and virtualization to make our lives easier. I can't say we're disaster-proof, but most of us can keep chugging along no matter what happens because we have much of our business in the cloud.

Luckily for our clients, our comfort level with cloud services has given us a higher level of confidence as well. Today I posted two interesting interviews over at SMB Community Podcast. In each of them a vendor is talking about how their services were tested during (and after) Hurricane Sandy.

In fact, many IT Pros took the initiative to spin up client servers in the cloud, just in case they were needed. Well, many of those servers are still running in the cloud, so it turned out to be a good move. You've probably seen hundreds of presentations and webinars on "spinning up machines in the cloud" or "failing over to an image in the cloud."

Sandy was the big test. And apparently we (the tech support industry) passed.

One of the interviews is with Dan Wensley from Level Platforms on how their NOC services were affected by Hurricane Sandy. And of course their remote monitoring service is essentially unaffected. One of their partners did ten cloud installations in the last few weeks in order to prepare for or respond to Sandy. I asked whether Level's NOC would be ready for another disaster right away and Dan said "Absolutely."

In another interview with Raymond Vrabel and Joe Consolmagno from Continuum, the story was similar. They were able to redirect phone calls and email alerts for partners who were affected. Then we talked about Continuum Vault, a service they provide with Datto. From preparation until well after the hurricane, about 3,000 servers were spun up in the cloud.

That sudden need for services and bandwidth went off very successfully. Ray said that some of those servers are still in the cloud. In businesses that were flooded, those servers will probably stay in the cloud for some time.

Listen to both of these podcasts at

Do You Have a Cloud Strategy?

So, with this little test behind us, it will be interesting to see the report cards from DR, help desk, and NOC vendors, as well as hosting and fail-over services. Trials like this can help you determine who your partners will be going forward.

If you were in an affected area, you should also evaluate your own performance. Did your solutions work as advertised? Where were the week spots? How can you improve that? Did you know how to execute the plan? When the servers were not available, did you know who to call, who to email, and who needs to do what? Did DNS get moved in a timely manner? What changes, if any, did employees need to make in order to stay connected? Did they know the steps in advance?

Even if you didn't personally have to respond to this disaster, walk through the process and verify that you actually know how to execute your roll. It's great to sell BDRs and failover services, but make sure you and your team execute properly when the time comes.

This is a great opportunity to talk to clients about disaster recovery. Everyone saw it on the news and on the Internet. So it's a great time to push the message: This could happen to you!

It turns out that the real issue with downtime is not whether you can get to the Internet. The real issue is whether your clients' customers can get to your client's business. The real issue is whether your clients will be IN business when a disaster happens.

On September 12, 2001, hundreds of businesses that were located in the Twin Towers had their disaster recovery plans tested. Many of those businesses were large financial institutions that literally could not afford downtime during business hours. It cost them millions of dollars for disaster recovery plans that put them back in business the day after the World Trade Center was attacked.

Most of our clients cannot afford millions of dollars. But now, just eleven years later, it is CHEAP to create a system that allows client systems to be built in the cloud, or transferred to the cloud, or to fail-over to the cloud. The technology we have available to the average small business is absolutely amazing - and puts near-Zero Downtime disaster recovery within the grasp of every small business.

Thanks to Sandy for testing us. Thanks to all the cloud providers for proving that we are absolutely on the right path.


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