Even Big Cloud Providers Fail

The Keys to Understanding Your Risk

While Amazon’s massive S3 service outage on Feb. 28 didn’t exactly kill the internet, it did cause a lot of problems for the 148K websites and applications that it hosts. Known to most as a giant online shopping site, Amazon also offers cloud-based storage services to some of the biggest names in business along with tens of thousands of smaller businesses across the United States. Sites and applications such as Netflix, Gotomeeting, Dotloop and BuzzFeed right down to small mom and pop shops use Amazons S3 cloud services to power their businesses. So when a widespread outage like the one earlier this week occurs, it can cause a lot of headaches.

The failure occurred at Amazon’s oldest – and probably largest — data center in northern Virginia, which raises concerns about managing and upgrading equipment at such a large-scale operation. The service went offline at 12:35 p.m. and took a little over four hours to fully restore. This incident is similar to the global computer outage that Delta Airlines experienced in August 2016 causing the company to cancel about 1,000 flights on the day of the outages and another 1,000 the next couple of days. Delta’s network failure, which cost the company $150 million, also occurred at one of its oldest and largest data centers.

What you, as an owner of a business, need to know is there are unavoidable risks that go along with using a large cloud provider such as Amazon. For example, when an enterprise cloud provider experiences a failure, it’s difficult to get updates on the scope of the outage and how long it will take to restore service. This makes it more than difficult to operate your business. Interestingly, the website Is It Down Right Now, a site that monitors the status of websites around the world was down because of the S3 outage.

It’s important to remember that even though there have been great strides in cloud computing and there are far fewer failures in data centers than stand-alone networks at small or medium companies, failures do happen so you should be prepared. Keep in mind that computers are not perfect, so even if they are hosted on enterprise equipment with multiple layers of redundancy in highly secure data centers, there’s a risk of downtime and you should expect it. Equipment ages and upgrades are necessary. Sometimes things break even before their mean time between failure. After all, this is physical equipment and imperfect software. You might want to consider business interruption insurance based on the cost to have an interruption similar to the Amazon S3 outage.

When considering a cloud provider, it’s important to ask about their strategy to mitigate downtime. You should also ask them how much unexpected downtime they’ve experienced in the past two years and ask them to provide references from their cloud customers. Anyone who can hang out a shingle can promote themselves as a “cloud expert.” Even if they are honestly trying to do a good job for you, their inexperience can cost you dearly in your network’s speed and performance or in lost or corrupt data files. It’s so important for you to diligently research the company or person you are considering to be certain they have the experience to set up, migrate and support your network to the cloud. An operationally mature cloud provider will be able to provide you with all the pros and cons of cloud computing and help you determine if it’s right for your business.

If you have questions about cloud computing or want help assessing your risk, don’t stress – call MIS.

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