The cloud is an increasingly popular tool for companies. Rather than keep data in on-site systems, companies put it in the hands of third-party cloud providers. However, the cloud technology is not yet perfect, and outages though rare can occur. During a cloud outage, any data kept on the cloud becomes inaccessible, and entire businesses can be forced into a nonfunctional period as a result. One need only remember the five-hour Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage in February, which affected millions of customers on multiple applications, including Quora and GitHub, to see what can happen when the cloud fails.
While the chance of an outage is small (.1% according to AWS), businesses should be prepared to mitigate that risk. Here are some strategies companies can use to reduce problems caused by cloud outages.
1. Putting in Research On Cloud Providers
All cloud platforms may go out at some point, but this does not mean that all cloud platforms are created in the same way, nor do they all follow the same guidelines in the event of an outage. Third-party cloud providers provide a service level agreement (SLA) that outlines the level of accessibility to the cloud that they will claim responsibility for. To pre-empt potentially harmful periods of lack of access to the cloud, be sure to read different cloud providers’ SLAs, make sure that you understand what kind of solutions and penalties the provider promises in case of a cloud outage, and find an SLA that fits the needs of your specific business. No single provider will provide the service that every kind of company needs, so it is important to know if a specific cloud provider’s SLA is the most appropriate kind for your company’s applications.
2. Using Multiple Platforms
A company that uses a single cloud provider, even one with an appropriate SLA, may find themselves unable to access vital data when that provider experiences an outage. To avoid this lack of access, some companies are using a hybrid cloud computing approach. This can mean keeping some data in on-premise databases and other data in the cloud, or it can mean using multiple cloud platforms at once. In hybrid cloud approaches, if one system experiences an outage, staff and customers would still be able to access the data they need by using the other system. Though it can be a challenge to use multiple platforms, since each platform is likely to have its own features, user interface, and terminology, you may find that the benefits outweigh the complexity. When data is kept in multiple places, it remains accessible during outages and is overall less likely to be lost.
3. Investing in In-House Expertise
Though cloud services are often third-party, it is important to have someone on-site who knows how cloud platforms work. This person can monitor your company’s services and catch performance issues sooner, potentially avoiding a cloud outage. When an outage does happen, the in-house expert can help the rest of the company understand what is going on and communicate with customers, providing updates about both problems and solutions to increase transparency to the public and avoid frustration for all.
4. Utilizing Container Management Platforms
Companies are increasingly using containers in conjunction with their cloud platforms to mitigate the impact of cloud outages. Containers are an emerging technology that runs lightweight operating systems which carry only the immediately relevant data for an application, making them quick and simple to deploy. Rather than a place that data directly onto the cloud, putting it at risk of being lost to a cloud outage, the data remains accessible to customers, who can connect the container to any cloud that is currently functioning.
As companies come to rely more and more on the cloud to store their data, it is vital that we take precautions to avoid the negative impact of cloud outages on businesses. Fortunately, many tools are available, from utilizing multiple platforms and new technologies like containers, to hiring one or more cloud-savvy employees, to the simple act of reviewing cloud providers’ SLAs before taking on their services. While the chances of an outage are slim, it can happen, and your business will benefit from the precautions you take to keep that 0.1% chance from happening.