How to keep things up when the cloud goes down

Bob Petrocelli, CTO, Datto

Last December, many consumers suddenly found themselves unable to watch their favourite shows on popular streaming networks and unable to purchase goods from an e-commerce giant. These sites, hosted on the cloud, were likely out due to API issues, or application programming interface, a set of protocols for building and integrating application software.  

Though the outage was short-lived, this highlighted a key concern with cloud computing. As companies and businesses worldwide increasingly turn to cloud infrastructure for their computing needs, for anything from virtual desktops, online applications to data storage, it could be a real business continuity nightmare for them if their cloud provider goes down.

APAC businesses are increasingly reliant on cloud

According to Cisco and the BCG Consulting group, cloud spending is expected to hit US$200 billion in the Asia-Pacific region by 2024, with investments into cloud growing steadily over the years.

A survey by Crowdstrike also found that three in five Singapore businesses no longer trust legacy vendors due to the rise in cyber-attacks, which could signal a shift towards cloud solutions for these frustrated businesses.

The appetite for cloud computing is present in APAC, but what happens when cloud services aren’t available?

Not only does it result in business downtime, with the cost per hour of downtime being anywhere from $10,000 to over $5million, but businesses may also spend significant budgets trying to get their services back up or on service recovery to placate unhappy customers and clients.

Costs aside, add in the time taken to get everything back up and running, and you may have businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), that might not survive extended cloud outages.

Cloud downtime – how to avoid it

Every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated, and 90 per cent 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 goes down, 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 can rely on the local servers to keep the business running. 

When talking about business continuity, there are two metrics that need consideration. The first is Recovery Time Objective (RTO); 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, businesses in Asia-Pacific and elsewhere are not only increasingly embracing the cloud, but also getting more reliant on it. However, what keeps their businesses afloat and thriving could also sink them if the cloud goes down. 

A hybrid cloud solution can help businesses, big and small, have the best of both worlds and allow things to run even if there is an outage. Outages are unavoidable, but if businesses opt for a hybrid approach, they can reduce the risk of business downtimes and minimise losses to the business. Planning for continuity and recovery must and should start right now.