Technology, Security

Disasters, your business and cloud computing

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We tend to not think about the possibility of disasters, but in reality, unpredictable and sometimes even unthinkable things happen. The recent earthquake followed closely by a 10-metre tsunami in Japan is a vivid reminder of how quickly circumstances can change in the wake of a disaster.

And while most of us are busy just trying to keep up with our day-to-day tasks, the impact of disasters on our enterprises can be devastating if we’re not prepared for it. The cost of downtime goes beyond just the lost dollars:

  • 93% of companies that suffer a significant data loss are out of business within five years (U.S. Bureau of Labor).
  • 43% of U.S. businesses never reopen after a major disaster and 29% (more) close within two years (University of Wisconsin).
  • Two out of five companies that experience a catastrophe or an extended system outage never resume operations and of those that do, one-third go out of business within two years (Gartner Group).

Your mission critical IT systems require mission critical protection, no matter the platform or the supplier who may be operating the underlying hardware. It’s not just a matter of the systems, but also the network connections and the integrated applications that are important. No one cares if the lights are flashing and the disks are spinning if the end-to-end transactions can’t take place.

When moving to cloud computing, this level of system interaction needs to be understood and your failover or business continuity options need to be tested. And Cloud vendors will need to participate in these tests too, at least to some degree.

If your enterprise isn’t protected, you won’t have a chance for quick recovery. The result - your business will be deeply impacted in unpredictable ways.

To learn more about protecting your enterprise in the cloud, you can listen to a replay of the recent webcast by HP Distinguished Technologist Ghassem Ahmadinia called “Disasters happen: Is your enterprise protected in the cloud?” At 40 minutes plus Q&A, it’s a bit long but well worth the time to help you understand what you’re up against and the alternatives to overcome the disaster/cloud issues before you need them. Because no one wants to go down with the ship!

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John Dodge 1535 Points | Fri, 08/19/2011 - 14:32

Hi Charles and welcome to the Enterprise CIO Forum.

I know California has been heavily mapped by cloud and data center companies for fault lines etc. They assure reliability and plenty of backup. Of course, these are vendor promises and have not been born out by something on the scale of the disaster in Japan earlier this year. But the thought is Japanese data centers survived quite well through preparedness.

The mission critical nature of healthcare data is clear (see link below)...especially in an emergency (I am a volunteer firefighter so I really understand your point!). Only you can evaluate whether your data would be more or less secure/available in the cloud during a disaster. It could well be the former. 

Charles Lindell 1 Point | Thu, 08/18/2011 - 22:36


One thing I have noticed missing in most discussions regarding Health Care and the cloud is disaster preparedness.

Living on the west coast there will be a major earthquake someday. When it happens there will be major disruptions in communications and many hospitals or clinics would not be able to access patient records if they are in the cloud. With the current model of paper and/or electronic records at least the facility will be able to conduct business and or operate because they actually have the necessary records and systems on site with generator backups when the power transmission fails as well. These local systems are also subject to failure and that's another items for discussion.

John Dodge 1535 Points | Tue, 05/03/2011 - 16:59

When it comes to disaster recovery, do you think the cloud has any inherent advantages over building your capabilities (i.e. your own data center)? 

Charles Bess 93 Points | Wed, 05/04/2011 - 20:35

It depends on how your applications are written. The cloud could have some inherent advantages if you have the agreements in place with vendors who support the standards needed to support failover capabilities. With that you've essentially outsourced some of the capital intensive redundancies into someone else's hands.

On the other hand, this may mean you need to understand their environment and policies well -- so you can take advantage of the flexibility. Definitely not something you'd want to try for the first time during a disaster.

Just like with any traditional system or private cloud, you'll need to test it periodically (and not just a paper/verbal test). On the other hand if the system is written to automatically migrate around the cloud environment, you'll likely test it all the time, since that kind of flexibility is hard to resist.

John Dodge 1535 Points | Wed, 05/04/2011 - 20:39

I was also wondering how the cloud changes SLAs and whether the cloud is more resistant to software piracy.