5 Tips to Mitigate Cloud Outages

By CIOReview | Monday, July 18, 2016
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For many of us, 2015 reached the point when Applied Science and Cloud Computing matured together. Cloud Computing & Storage facility incited new trends from revolutionizing how you store your memories, how you organize your workforce and collaborate on projects. Today, the three most preferable cloud computing services—Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) (also commonly known as XaaS)acts as a lifeline to any business and its consumers.

At Google I/O 2016 event, among most awaited announcements, Google presented ‘Android Instant Apps’ that let you run wide range of apps without impacting the memory of your device. Imagine utmostness of cloud service required by billions of devices, running those apps, demanding uninterrupted service to meet the need of jaw-dropping invention.

An enterprise’s IT outage may touch on numerous internal applications, but a cloud outage may affect multiple applications at thousands of businesses. The resolution to these interruptions cannot be entirely curbed as it goes beyond the control of any of authority. Hybrid cloud adoption has grown significantly as enterprises today are hastening to virtualize their on-premise infrastructure to create dynamic, private clouds that can rapidly scale into public infrastructure, decimating risks of service intermission. At times, the situation even gets aggravated by a short service interruption—amplified by the burgeoning number of mission-critical workloads migrating to cloud infrastructure.

Throughout the recent history, planning ahead for this contingency has been a crucial step to look out for. Even best of the players weren’t so lucky to avert themselves from the clutches of a cloud outage and their best-laid plans proved ineffective in those dark hours. All that leads to one rule: If you plan on using a cloud service, you need a comprehensive approach of:

1) What transformation could it bring to your organization? And,

2) How ready are you to defend yourself in the event of cloud outage?

"Put your risk-mitigation strategy firmly in place before moving into the cloud environment," says Phil Fersht, founder, HfS Research.

Here are five tips to mitigate the risk of cloud outage and help you and your customers in ousting the consequences:

 • Ask Right Questions From Vendors

What is your pricing structure? Pricing structure for cloud computing can vary significantly depending upon the needs. Be wary of large upfront costs, which aren't the norm for reputable cloud service providers.

How secure is your cloud? For e.g. if your business is in the healthcare industry, vendor should be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)—deals with the patient’s data privacy and security.

How safe is the data and what if you lose it? Ask for Industry security measures for customer access and privacy, data center physical security and data redundancy.  What data redundancies does it have in place to palliate the risks of data loss?

Can your cloud scale up to meet business needs? As growth in business and your cloud storage needs go hand-in-hand, know about what additional storage capacity and other services can be offered to you over time.

What's your downtime history? Normally, the straightway answer to this question is never. However, best-known cloud providers occasionally go through downtime.

 • Skirt Your Cloud Bets

In a cloud environment, data accessed from one common space could be an impediment if cloud outage happens. You need to divide customer's cloud business across multiple service providers leveraging services ensuring backup as, in case, there is an outage with one of the cloud service, the other service provider may co-operate. For e.g., consider you have edged the customer's email system with one provider then, its VoIP system should be on other cloud with someone else. This way, your customer will still be having a mode to communicate with its clients and colleagues, mitigating the risk in the event of damage occurred with one of the system.

 • Cloud to Cloud Back Up

Cloud-to-Cloud backup is backing up your cloud data to another safe and secure cloud environment. It is different from cloud backup, as it deals with the data stored in the cloud and not with the one in your system. It is comforting to know that there is a secondary copy of your customer's data and your primary provider has nothing to do with it. The most appealing part about this solution is its high scalability and zero downtime while improving productivity.

Furthermore, try drilling down into today's new backup approaches. Backups can do so much more—including snapshot management, DR elements, cloud support, VM protection—than simply restoring data in the event of a storage or server failure. 

 • If It's in the Cloud, Get It on Paper

Having a legal agreement with your provider specifies your rights and cost to continue and discontinue using the service. This would affirm your institution's ownership of its data stored on the service provider's system, and specify your rights to get it back.

The contract must include service level agreements (SLAs) stating specific parameters and minimum levels for each element—uptime, performance and response time, error correction time, infrastructure/security—of the service provided. The SLAs must be enforceable and state specific remedies to be applied when they are not met.

 • Create an escrow account

Before moving into a contract with a provider, negotiate an escrow account with the vendor that obligates him to supply present-day version of the data software into a locked account. Some cloud vendors can be found with proprietary software systems where you cannot do anything with customer's data even if the data is out. One can negotiate with vendors to have the proprietary software locked into the escrow account. Following the terms of agreement, access to the locked software would only come into play if the provider declares bankruptcy or goes out of business.

With time, our dependency on cloud storage and cloud computing will only increase. Cloud isn’t exact, more outages will occur out-and-out. However, the benefits of the cloud outweigh the risks. In any event, a CIO should approach the use of cloud-based platforms—or any new platforms—with a clear understanding of how much an outage can cost to their business.