What happens when the public cloud goes down?

Datto Inc

By Shaun Witherden, Senior Channel Development Manager at Datto
Tuesday, 09 November, 2021

What happens when the public cloud goes down?

On Tuesday, 8 June 2021 many Australians found they were unable to access their favourite websites for a short period. The culprit? A content delivery network (CDN) went down, and took a good portion of the internet with it.

Fortunately, the outage was short-lived, and wasn’t because the CDN was hacked. However, it did highlight a significant challenge with cloud computing: as businesses continue to increase their reliance on cloud infrastructure for their computing needs (which could be anything from virtual desktops, online applications and data storage), they face business continuity issues if their cloud provider goes down.

Australian business is reliant on cloud

Research firm Gartner says Australian businesses are on track to spend $13.8 billion on cloud services in 2021, before growing a further 23.4% next year to $16.6 billion.

Clearly, cloud computing has struck a chord with Australian organisations looking to shift their IT spend from CAPEX to OPEX. The big question is what happens when those cloud resources aren’t available?

Depending on the size of the organisation, the cost per hour of downtime is anywhere from $10,000 to over $5 million. Factor in the time it can take to get everything back up and running again and the costs are astronomical. Some businesses, particularly SMBs, might not survive an extended outage.

Cloud downtime — how to avoid it

Every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated, and 90% of all data ever created was in the last few years. SMBs account for a large proportion of that figure, and it’s SMBs (along with enterprise) who are the most ardent adopters of cloud for their data backup and recovery.

But as the recent global outage shows, the cloud can go down. Big service providers might have high uptimes, but data on those services is just as vulnerable to being hacked or attacked by ransomware as it is if a business kept everything in-house.

Cloud-only backup is also risky because a business can’t control the bandwidth and restores are often difficult and time-consuming.

This is where a hybrid-cloud solution becomes invaluable. In essence, you’re getting the best of both on-premise and cloud backups, one covering for the other. With a hybrid system, your data is first copied and stored on a local backup. If something happens, you can do a fast and easy restore.

In addition, your data is also replicated in the cloud. That way if anything happens to the local copy, you’ve got off-site cloud copies of your data without having to worry about moving it off-site physically by old-fashioned means like a tape backup.

Backup is just one component of business continuity

Business continuity is all about approaching disaster recovery at a higher level, asking the question of how the organisation can get up and running again in the event of a total system failure.

Again, this is where a hybrid plan comes into effect. If your local server dies, you rely on the cloud. If the cloud goes down for any reason, you’re relying on the local servers to keep the business running.

When talking about business continuity, there are two metrics which need consideration. The first is recovery time objective (RTO) and the second is recovery point objective (RPO).

The RTO is the duration of time a business needs after a disruption to avoid unacceptable consequences. RPO, on the other hand, is the maximum tolerable period in which data might be lost because of a disaster.

By calculating your desired RTO, you have determined the maximum time that you can be without your data before your business is at risk. Alternatively, by specifying the RPO, you know how often you need to perform backups. You may have an RTO of a day and an RPO of an hour, depending on what your business requires. But calculating these numbers will help you understand what type of data backup solution you need.

It’s also critical to have an image-based backup, which is when an image of your data, including OS, configuration and settings, are all captured in their working environment. This way you can restore faster if your cloud environment goes down.

The reality is that Australian business is reliant on the cloud. And the other reality is that the cloud can go down. By using a hybrid solution, you have a best of both worlds solution ensuring your business can continue if there is an outage. As we’ve seen in the past, all business is at risk from the cloud going down — but there are ways to keep going and minimising risk to the business.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Touchr

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