CloudHard questions for your cloud service provider in a power-scarce environment.

It’s very easy to think that data and/ or systems that are in the cloud are necessarily disaster-proof. After all, a professionally run data centre would have state-of-the-art disaster recovery in place, right?

Not necessarily, and its processes might not cover its clients’ data adequately. Scrutinise the fine print very carefully. In our experience, it’s usually the client’s obligation to perform backups. Clients also have to rely on the data centre’s virtualisation, which might not be mirrored to a backup site. If it is—it’s usually an add-on purchase—it’s wise to be very vigilant about how and when your system is mirrored.

Another point to make is that clients cannot specify where in the cloud their data is housed—it might be physically located in the same region and thus subject to the same power problems.

This might not have been much of an issue in the past when power outages were typically just a few hours long. Now, however, one’s plans must take into account the possibility of outages running into days. The problem is that the typical cloud contract does not stipulate in which of the cloud provider’s data centres your particular data will be housed. From a disaster recovery point of view, relinquishing control over where your application actually is means compromising your survival capability in an era of power instability.

Imagine the frustration of not being able to request your provider to host your application in another province or even country to reduce the risk of power outages—simply because the contractual terms do not allow it.

In fact, we challenge cloud providers to make public the diesel reserves they hold at each of their data centres.

Another related challenge that affects all network-based ICT, including cloud, is the fact that many of the telcos’ relay stations do not themselves have adequate contingencies in place to deal with a prolonged power outage.

Next time, we’ll consider how to put in place a disaster recovery plan that includes a practical response to the current power environment, and that does not cost too much.

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