I’ve decided to trust the cloud for my business, but I’m still concerned about reliability. What can I do to make sure I can still access my data and applications if the cloud fails?
Great question, Jessica! In the grand scheme of things, the cloud is usually quite reliable. Still, downtime and outages do happen. Just last week, Instagram experienced downtime right before the VMAs because Amazon — which powers much of its cloud infrastructure — was having problems.
There are steps you can take to make the chances of cloud-based disaster much less likely.
1. Back Up Your Data
If you’re storing important information in the cloud, make sure you have it backed up.
The first rule of data backups is, always have more than one.
The first rule of data backups is, always have more than one.The second rule of data backups is, always have more than one. Backup, backup, backup. And when in doubt, backup again.
Not only is it important to maintain up-to-date backups of your data, it’s also important to routinely test those backups for data integrity. Also, make sure you keep those backups stored in a location that is different from the source.
The great thing about backups is that it not only protects your data in case of disaster — if a cloud instance goes down, you can use that data to spin up another server someplace else.
When it doubt backup. And then backup again. And then test that backup.
2. Plan For Disaster
Along with death and taxes, one of life’s other guarantees is that at some point in time, your web server will go down. This is as true for individuals who use consumer web hosts such asBluehost and the bigger companies such as Instagram.
During Hurricane Sandy, dozens of prominent websites were knocked offline because of flooding at data centers in New York City.
Amazon has had several issues at its northern Virginia data center, which accounts for much of its AWS (Amazon Web Services) traffic. In 2011, major sites such as HootSuite, Foursquare and Reddit were taken down by an AWS outage in northern Virginia for nearly 24 hours.
Last summer, a major heat wave and violent storm zapped power from that data center, taking Instagram down with it.
Careful planning before a disaster can save a lot of headache later. Let’s revisit the great Amazon AWS outage of 2011. One prominent AWS customer, SmugMug, didn’t experience downtime. Why?
Because rather than relying completely on Amazon’s northern Viriginia data center, the company made the decision to use a number of different availability zones (think of this like data locations).
The company explained how its infrastructure was designed for failure from the very beginning in a very informative blog post.
Check out some of this great advice from that article:
If your stuff is truly mission critical (banking, government, health, serious money maker, etc.), spread across as many regions as you can. This is difficult, time consuming and expensive, so it doesn’t make sense for most of us. But for some of us, it’s a requirement. This might not even be live — just for Disaster Recovery (DR)
3. Use More Than One Cloud Service
If your budget can handle it — and if you want to have the best chance of surviving a cloud outage — consider using more than one cloud provider for your infrastructure. So instead of using just AWS, you can also use Microsoft Azure or Rackspace.