Friday, October 29, 2010

Into every cloud a little rain may fall

One of NZ's leading ISPs has suffered an embarrassing failure which serves to highlight the risks associated with cloud computing

An unspecified number (believed to be in the hundreds) of Orcon customers have discovered that all the emails they believed were safely stored on the ISP's servers have vanished.

Despite the "best efforts" of the ISPs technical staff, it appears that recovering of the missing emails is not possible.

Perhaps the most common form of cloud-computing is web-based email and this incident serves to show just how vulnerable cloud users can be if the provider's backup and disaster-management strategies are flawed.

Although to most people, the loss of their archived web-based email is more of an inconvenience than a major problem, it is claimed that a number of the affected Orcon customers were businesses that now face losses as a result of the missing material.

With the concept of cloud computing infiltrating ever-more areas that were previously the domain of in-house systems, it is crucial that any data stored on the cloud is also backed-up locally "just in case".

While a loss of email messages may be an inconvenience, the loss (for instance) of a year's accounting information, including current invoices, could be crippling for any business forced to face such a disaster.

It would seem prudent to remind those who rely on cloud-based solutions that they should carefully read the contracts under which those services are provided and check that there is compensation available for losses that may result if the service or the data it contains becomes unavailable.

Even better, it would pay to choose a cloud-based provider who also delivers the ability to back up your own data in a format that can be exported to other systems, should the unthinkable happen.

In the meantime, at least some of Orcon's email users will be wishing they had worn their raincoats today.

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