Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cloud storage carries real risk

In February, Amazon.com's Simple Storage Service (S3) suffered an eight-hour failure on July 20, 2008. In February, the S3 system was down for two hours. For enterprises that have outsourced 100% of their data storage to services like this one, this is a nightmare scenario.

When you cannot get to any of your data, you are effectively out of business. Your customer-facing websites will not function. Your accounting systems and personnel applications are useless. Depending on how your email system is configured, you might have no ability to send or respond to electronic correspondence.

For most situations, one day in the grand scheme of things isn't the end of the world. It will likely become the subject of jokes within a few short weeks. Although health-care institutions and stock traders cannot afford that kind of downtime, a real estate firm, software development company, or consulting firm will quickly recover from losing less than 0.5% of a their annual productivity. Even web-based services, like Smug-Mug, can handle these kinds of reliability rates ... CEO Don MacAskill wrote in a blog post last month, "No customers reported issues, and our systems were all showing typically low and acceptable error rates."

Considering the ridiculous costs associated with in-house mass storage solutions, your firm may find that storing data with Amazon, Microsoft or some other cloud-based vendor is a good risk. You'll be paying far, far less for high-quality, high-capacity data storage than you would with just about any in-house SAN solution. And I believe you will have more-than-acceptable reliability over the long run.

But, be prepared for the "nightmare" scenario. Eventually, everyone will laugh about it. But it will be highly unpleasant while you're in the middle of it.

Don MacAskill's Blog: S3 outage - We weren’t affected

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