Cloud Outages: Causes, Consequences, Prevention, Recovery

Despite best efforts by CIOs to avoid cloud outages, the inevitable happens. Safe recovery is possible, and efforts are less stressful with proper planning.

Dhaval Soni, Cloud Solutions Architect, Apexon

October 7, 2022

4 Min Read
abstract of cloud that looks like it's been zapped

Whether a cloud vendor's servers are down, or inadequate service performance violates a customer's SLA, a cloud outage can have serious impact on a business. Some or all cloud-based apps may be unavailable, making it impossible for organizations to access their data and apps. Clearly, outages are an undesirable side effect of cloud servers -- and an unavoidable one at that. Even the most dependable cloud service providers occasionally face service interruptions. A recent article about the biggest cloud outages so far in 2022 includes Apple iCloud, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, among others.

The causes of cloud outages are many, and the damage can be severe and long-lasting. There are several measures CIOs can take to guard against cloud outages. When one inevitably occurs, it pays to have strategies for recovery.

Cloud Outage Causes

Cloud outages are caused by several different factors. Maybe a particular piece of malware took down some crucial systems, or perhaps a DDoS overloaded your servers. Cloud outages can even be seen as a subset of cybercrime, which is an increasingly popular cause of unplanned data center downtown. But the most common hardware-based cause of cloud outages -- as with most IT systems -- is a power failure. This can include hardware failure, network outage, power outage, among others.

Other common causes of cloud outages include:

  • Natural calamities

  • Cyber threats (DDoS, hacking, harmful viruses, etc.)

  • Human error

  • Application defects

  • Poorly designed architecture

  • Inability of the organization to stay prepared for failure

Understanding the Damage from a Cloud Outage

Even the most dependable cloud service providers occasionally face service interruptions. Furthermore, the longer you use the cloud, the more likely it is that you may have a service interruption at some point. The most common effects of cloud outage include:

  • Outage of business applications to the end customers and the business users

  • Revenue loss due to transactional failures

  • Loss of customer trust

  • Loss of data

  • Challenges in bringing up the business applications due to data inconsistencies

Guarding Against an Outage

To prevent a cloud outage from occurring, a CIO can quickly assess cloud readiness and come up with a transformation plan. They can also build a team to architect and engineer the implementation and support. Along with that, the CIO can also look after the due-diligence of tooling and cloud-native services, adopt agile methodologies and practices, and enable DevOps and site reliability engineering. If you run your own cloud, it’s important to secure your IT infrastructure and ensure it has failover capabilities.

Identifying and deciding on the right cloud partners is also remarkably essential in warding off outages. A cloud vendor outage is probably only going to affect one location. To lessen the effects of an outage, select a different cloud region. The region nearest to your users will perform better when everything is working smoothly, but an alternative region gives you access to services in case of issues.

Additional preventive measures CIOs can employ include:

  • Supervising the due-diligence of tooling and cloud-native services

  • Automating manual processes

  • Planning and implementing disaster recovery (DR) strategies

  • Conducting DR drills for critical applications

  • Deciding on an error budget

The Road to Recovery for CIOs

Cloud outages are uncommon but do occur. In fact, IDC reports 80% of small businesses have experienced downtime at some point in the past, with costs ranging from $82,200 to $256,000 for a single event. There are several actions CIOs can take to safely recover from a cloud outage. A critical first step is to back up your data. Important cloud-native data and services should make sure that backups are planned for, across, and from the cloud to keep your data accessible. In these instances, automated backups and the capacity to check those backups alleviate stress.

A data resilience strategy is also imperative. Knowing that recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives can be achieved is key. Further, understanding important metrics including MTTR and MTTF will help determine how quickly your team can get back on track from an incident. Activating disaster recovery strategies and leveraging error budgets will also help CIOs recover from cloud outages.

The truth is cloud outages happen to the best of us. The causes vary from power failures and natural disasters to cyberattacks and human error. Cloud outages cost enterprises significant capital, time, and often the trust of their customers. Being proactive can help lessen the chances of unplanned downtime. These prevention strategies include building a cloud support team, adopting agile methodologies, automating manual tasks, and choosing an exceptional cloud vendor. But despite best efforts, outages can still happen. And with cybersecurity threats on the rise, knowing vulnerabilities, being on guard, and having a recovery plan are essential for a strong cloud outage recovery.

What to Read Next:

Special Report: How Fragile is the Cloud, Really?

Emerging Tech to Help Guard Against the Malevolence of Cloud Outages

15 Years of Cloud Outages: A Look Back at the InformationWeek Archives

About the Author(s)

Dhaval Soni

Cloud Solutions Architect, Apexon

Dhaval Soni is Cloud Solutions Architect at Apexon, a Silicon Valley digital engineering professional services company. He is also an AWS APN Ambassador and AWS Community Builder.

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