Cloud
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6/22/2010
08:32 PM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
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When Thinking Cloud, Think Reliable-ish

The recent Intuit outage provided the press with a good example of what happens when cloud computing fails. "Intuit's service outage this week affected Quickbase.com, Quicken, Quickbooks and TurboTax, leaving more than 300,000 largely SMB customers in a bind..."

The recent Intuit outage provided the press with a good example of what happens when cloud computing fails. "Intuit's service outage this week affected Quickbase.com, Quicken, Quickbooks and TurboTax, leaving more than 300,000 largely SMB customers in a bind -- unable to access critical data like employee payrolls, databases and other financial and business services." These are mostly small businesses who cannot afford large enterprise packages, now leveraging SaaS-based solutions for just a few bucks a day.Even though most Intuit users are small businesses, I suspect that outage ran into many millions of dollars when you consider the loss of productivity, and many businesses that are dependent upon Intuit supporting their core business processes having to stop altogether. I'm not sure how to make those guys whole. Perhaps all they will get is a lesson learned.

The fact of the matter is that cloud computing providers are not perfect, and they do have outages. Google's new storage service had recent troubles in keeping up with demand. Google Mail (Gmail) outages are as common as thunderstorms, and many other cloud providers have reported downtime over the last several months. Should you care?

I don't think you should consider this a huge problem, but a risk that needs to be addressed. Cloud computing providers are all pretty new at this, and have not yet created the mother-of-all-cloud-architectures with so much redundancy and resiliency built in that outages will become a thing of the past. Moreover, things go wrong. Power is lost to data centers, networks fail, and while you've created contingency plans, those can go wrong as well.

If this bothers you, don't go to the cloud yet. Or, if you have to go to the cloud, then make sure you take precautions such as syncing data to an on-premise system that will allow you to continue supporting the business if your cloud provider goes down. Or, perhaps leverage more than one cloud computing provider for the same functions. After all, you are paying for only what you use.

Those who view this as a clear sign that cloud computing is not the direction for you, first take a look at your internal IT. You'll see hard drives crashing, networks down, and core system outages on a monthly basis. There is no reliability there either, and those who use these incidents as a way to push back on the cloud versus using on-premise systems typically don't have a good track record to show for their on-premise IT systems either. At that point it's just a matter of control, and those who want to hug their servers are going to find a way to hug their servers no matter if Intuit has outages or not.

On-premise systems are reliable-ish, and so is the cloud. Nothing is perfect yet, but cloud computing is an option that should always be considered as we drive IT forward into this next decade.The recent Intuit outage provided the press with a good example of what happens when cloud computing fails. "Intuit's service outage this week affected Quickbase.com, Quicken, Quickbooks and TurboTax, leaving more than 300,000 largely SMB customers in a bind..."

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