I love ‘the cloud’! It’s really great! But there is one thing you shouldn’t forget: you always need a plan B…
When Office 365 became available, we switched our e-mail server off for eternity. A few years later, when both prices and maximum storage amounts became reasonable, we planned to do the same with the file server and move everything to DropBox. The advantages are clear: no more investments in servers, a fixed cost per user per month, no IT staff in house. But moving everything to the cloud comes with a risk. Even with SLA’s and guaranteed uptimes over 99,99%, the cloud can fail. E.g. when there is a perfect storm coming its way…
An unbelievable ‘perfect storm’…
That happened to the data center of a large bank in Europe early September 2016. During a fire drill – yes, they were preparing for worst case scenarios – the sound of the gas based fire extinguisher was so loud (over 130 dB) that it destroyed dozens of hard drives… As you know, sound means vibrations and hard drives (with real drives in them, not SSD’s) are vulnerable to strong vibrations. But it was a surprise to the IT staff, and probably the rest of the IT world, that a sound this loud would literally crash hard drives.
Fortunately, the bank had a complete backup in a separate location. After 10 hours everything was back online.
This, however, isn’t the only case of a cloud service going down for some time. Just one week later Gmail for Work was down for over 12 hours. And others have gone down also, e.g. in May 2014 the Adobe Creative Cloud was down over 24 hours.
What’s your plan B?
What does this mean for you? Well, you always have to have a plan B. Especially if you really rely on cloud based services. Especially for the time sensitive work. I have always configured my e-mail client (Microsoft Outlook) the way that all e-mails are downloaded to my computer, meaning that I have a complete local copy of my mail account. So if my e-mail server is unreachable, in case the internet is down, I can still search and read all the e-mails I’ve ever received. I can still write new e-mails, they will be sent when the service is back online.
The same accounts for documents. You can configure online storage (think OneDrive, DropBox, …) the way that you have everything locally on your hard drive and this folder is synchronized with the cloud. This way, if the internet is down, you can still work on your local copies. Once the internet is back alive, everything will be synchronized again.
So please think about this! What is your plan B when the internet, when your cloud services go down? Make sure your business can still work when there is no internet connection. It does happen. And always at the wrong moment. Be prepared!
PS: in case you didn’t check prices lately, cloud storage is quite cheap these days. DropBox Pro for individuals is at this moment (September 2016) 8,25 euro/user/month for 1 TB of storage. If you use Microsoft Office, you should check Office 365. You can get the complete Office suite, plus 1 TB of storage for 8,80 euro/user/month. These are just two examples, there are a lot more offerings out there.
UPDATE 26/10/2016: last week there was a huge cyberattack, making a number of big websites (including Paypall and Box.com) unavailable. This clearly shows why you need a plan B. That cyberattack also involved hacked printers… Read more!
UPDATE 30/11/2016: earlier this week nearly 1 million (!) routers from Deutsche Telekom had problems connecting to the internet, probably due to a cyber attack. The problems lasted up to two days… Imagine what would happen to your company if you would be without internet connection for two days… Read more!
UPDATE /30/03/2018: here is a great resource if you want to compare different cloud storage systems.