Disasters just as likely in the cloud - experts

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Kiwi businesses should assume things will go wrong in the cloud and develop a disaster management plan accordingly.
Kiwi businesses should assume things will go wrong in the cloud and develop a disaster management plan accordingly.

Too many New Zealand businesses are failing to recognise the risks involved in shifting data into the cloud, says an Auckland IT company.

Speaking at Microsoft's TechEd conference this week, Tony Weston and Gareth Fletcher from OneNet said moving to the cloud did not mean businesses could sit back and relax.

"Whether you outsource it to the cloud or carry on running it in-house, there is no real difference. It's still IT and shit happens," Weston said.

"The advantage of sending it to the cloud is that you know if there is an outage you've got some really smart people looking at it and they've got all the expertise to solve the problem."

Fletcher said businesses should assume things would go wrong in the cloud and develop a disaster management plan accordingly.

"It could just be that your local internet goes down and then what do you do? Maybe you just send people to work from home. Or you get a 3G phone that plugs into your wireless router."

If being able to contact clients was crucial, one staff member could be put in charge of printing out the client contact list every day.

There were many ways to ensure businesses could continue operating but they needed to have thought about it to eliminate the "surprise factor", Fletcher said.

Earlier this year, a two-day outage to IBM's $80 million data centre in Auckland left many businesses and schools stranded, unable to function without access to email and other applications.

Weston said one way of preparing for such outages was to consider adopting a "hybrid" approach to using cloud services.

Rather than putting everything in the same place, those applications which needed to be available most frequently should be stored somewhere more secure.

"So, if email's really important to you then maybe you need to think about putting that with a cloud provider or solution that's highly available compared to the rest of your stuff," Weston said.

"And if it's an application that you only use once a week, why pay for it to be in this highly available solution?"

Better solutions would be more expensive than the standard offering but meant the business had added security.

"There are options to get far more highly available stuff if you're willing to pay for it."

Fletcher said businesses often made the mistake of getting rid of their entire IT team as soon as they move everything into the cloud.

"But they really need someone within the business that understands what happens when things go wrong and take a leadership role. Having an internal champion is absolutely critical."

Weston is chief technology officer and Fletcher a solutions architect at OneNet, which helps clients store their business data in the cloud.

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