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4 min read

What To Do When The Cloud Goes Down

Technology is a great enabler.

Think of all the ways that your business is able to thrive, grow and serve your customers better – ways that didn’t even exist 18 to 24 months ago.

That being said, technology isn’t perfect. For all of the power that these systems bring, software will have bugs, hardware will fail, and the Internet will go down. Having a plan for when that inevitably happens is what separates the companies that are able to continue business as usual when the unexpected occurs, versus those that lose productive time due to IT problems.

More and more businesses are choosing to leverage powerful cloud technologies.

Business systems delivered over high-speed Internet connections are an amazing thing, but there is an important question business leaders need to ask and create a plan for:

“What do I do when the cloud goes down?”

Yes, it’s a rare event – but it does happen.

A report from CloudHarmony detailed downtime during 2014 from each of the major cloud services providers, such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace. The amount of downtime each provider reported over the period of one year ranged from 2.41 hours to 39.77 hours.

For many businesses, two hours without system or email access is annoying, but not devastating. But what would you do if you were down for 40 hours? This is nearly two days without access to things like email, accounting, and financial information, customer data, etc.

The cloud services provider being down is an issue, but downtime due to other connectivity troubles is actually much more common.

In many instances, losing connectivity is the result of a problem somewhere between you and your cloud provider’s data center or centers.

As users, we tend to forget the immense amount of infrastructure that sits between these applications and us. There are so many opportunities for something to go wrong. It could be that your Internet service provider (ISP) is experiencing an outage, that a line connecting your office to the ISP has been damaged, that a piece of equipment is malfunctioning somewhere in between, or even that thunderstorms in Kansas caused traffic to stop routing properly.

Regardless of where the issue lies, businesses need to plan for possible scenarios so they can continue their operations as normally as possible.

Here are some ideas for how you can make that happen if your cloud goes down.

One way to mitigate the risk of Internet connectivity loss at your office is to have multiple bandwidth sources – such as both a wireless and a terrestrial (wired) connection. That way if the main one fails, you’ll still be connected. Your backup connection may be slow, but at least you’re able to continue mission-critical business operations.

Is the problem just at your office? One of the coolest things about cloud technology is that if you’re in a pinch, you can always go to a Starbucks or other hotspot to get connected. Talk to your cell phone provider about the option to share your connection with your computer if you need to.

What if your VoIP phones go down? Start thinking about a plan to route them to employees’ cellphones or a call center if you have an agreement with one.

If email is affected, consider creating an alternate email address, with a provider like Yahoo or Gmail, so you can still communicate with your employees and customers in the event of an outage.

What if your hosted line of business application, like Quickbooks or Oracle, goes down? This one’s tricky because, in many cases, you just have to put up with it. They could be down for minutes, or in some rare and unfortunate cases, they could be down forever. If your provider closes its doors, the only way you’ll be able to get your data is to restore it from your own backup.

It is important to remember that just because your data is in the cloud does not mean that it’s automatically backed up for you.

And even if it is, it may not be in an accessible format. You should be keeping backups of your data that you can open, whether it’s in the cloud or not.

Security plays a huge role in computing today, especially with more data going to the cloud. There are more devices and sources getting connected than ever before; having the appropriate security measures in place will be key to making sure you don’t suffer downtime caused by malware, phishing scams, and viruses.

Attackers are getting really good and infections are finding their way back to the cloud. The only way to recover from many of these scams is to restore from a backup. Again, backups of cloud data are important. You can’t restore what you don’t have. Make sure you have backups and make sure they are backups you can use.

Having the right IT team guide your business through the complicated world of cloud, backup, and security strategies can mean the difference between a minor annoyance when you have to switch to Plan B, and being down for the count.

Have a conversation with your trusted IT team, whether they’re internal or outsourced, to make sure your “what-ifs” are covered.

As featured in the August 2 issue of The Press-Enterprise

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