Hurricane Irene: The Cloud Is Safest Place for Customer Data
It’s time to turn the tables on the media. Each time there’s a major cloud computing outage, the darkness makes headlines. Yes, we certainly track cloud computing failures here. But we also point out that, generally speaking, cloud services are far more reliable than individual PC storage. And as Hurricane Irene storms forward, I think the safest place for SMB data on the U.S. east coast is up in the cloud. Here’s why.
Over the next 48 hours, there’s a reasonably high probability that hundreds — thousands? — of small businesses will lose power, network access and maybe even their physical gear. Servers could float away. Meanwhile, data centers around the globe are designed to withstand major hurricanes, earthquakes and acts of God. Rewind to the tragic Japan earthquake this year, and cloud computing centers in that region performed remarkably well.
So how will U.S.-based cloud and SaaS applications hold up during Hurricane Irene? I heard from a few sources — mostly MSP software providers and SaaS providers — about their business continuity efforts today. Among the voices worth noting…
Hosted Email and Business Applications in the Cloud
Intermedia, the hosted Exchange and Office 365 partner, has eight data centers spread across New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, the U.S. West Coast and the U.K.
Looking at the New Jersey facility specifically, it has more than 20 megawatts of power with full N+1 redundancy for its UPS, generator and cooling infrastructure. “The datacenter has some of the best network connectivity on the East Coast,” asserted Manlio Carrelli, Intemedia’s chief marketing officer. “Connections to more than 400 networks make it one of the most densely-interconnected data centers in North America.”
In preparation for Hurricane Irene, Intermedia’s New Jersey generators have been tested, fuel levels verified, and backup fuel vendors have been placed on standby in the event of extended power interruption. “Special arrangements have been made to make sure staff are available on site as necessary to maintain operability standards,” added Carrelli.
To ensure cloud redundancy, Intermedia offers:
- Cross-data center replication which replicates a customer’s entire environment to another geographically diverse datacenter
- Archiving enablement that stores users’ Exchange data in another datacenter
- Outlook backup tool (user controlled to manage and restore all the data stored within Outlook – available to users of our Exchange service and soon the market at large)
- Tape backups
- PC and server backup to protect local hardware
Intermedia is issuing a service notification to MSP partners that have accounts housed in the company’s East Coast facilities. “We are issuing a service notification to our MSP partners that have accounts housed in our East Coast facilities,” said Carrelli. “We are advising them on the potential impact of the storm, as well as proactive steps we are taking to minimize the impact to them and their customers. We are also advising MSPs proactively inform their own customers. Along with Intermedia’s 24×7 support staff, our partner development team will be accessible over the weekend to answer partner questions.”
Cloud Backup and Online Storage
Intronis, the cloud backup specialist, has data centers in Boston and Los Angeles, offering redundant access to partners and customers. Intronis plans to send free data drives to partners whose customers experience a total server or local data loss during the hurricane, according to Carol Ferrari, VP of marketing and customer success at Intronis.
Meanwhile Zenith Infotech has a primary data center in Hagerstown, Md. It’s replicated to Denver, Colo. and one data center in Lenoir, N.C., which is used for Zenith’s MirrorCloud solution.
“We give the partners an option to use one or two data centers with that product line,” said Maurice Saluan, senior VP of sales at Zenith Infotech. “All data centers are used strictly for backup. The Data Centers are independently owned. They are set up to withstand turbulent weather. They have power generators and redundant internet connections and are physically hardened to stand up to these storms. If connectivity is lost and they go offline, once they power up again the backup data at the client’s site start streaming to us. The data is not lost — just waiting to take the Internet journey. Also with our set up, there is a local copy of the data at the client site as well.”
MSPs can check the progress of back up files in a Zenith Infotech management portal. “So they will be aware if we start to fall behind with images being pushed offsite,” said Saluan. “In addition if they need an emergency replacement of their server we ship within 24 hours of being notified — so we have enough time to copy the entire volume and send it out on a functioning BDR.”
Zenith Infotech was involved in the data recovery efforts following tornadoes earlier this year in Joplin, Mo. “As in the case of Joplin where the business experienced a total loss, we overnighted BDR devices which were imaged with the entire backup image and it was plug and play when it arrived at the partner or client site,” said Saluan. “That’s the benefit of doing a block level backup vs. just a file level backup. The new BDR comes in with all the original server’s attributes and data and it is recognized as the server once it is virtualized.”
Remote Monitoring and Management
Level Platforms‘ remote monitoring and management software is available both on-premise and in the cloud. CEO Peter Sandiford sounds confident that the Level Platforms cloud deployments will stand tall during the hurricane.
Sandiford notes that Level Platforms’ hosted deployments run in SAS 70 Type 2 compliant data centers. The company leverages roughly 10 data centers across the US and UK, linked with high-speed dedicated connections to ensure operational continuity.
The entire infrastructure — application servers and database servers — is monitored by 24×7 NOC service. Level Platforms leverages enterprise-class backup and disaster recovery from a third-party, and multiple cloud domain controllers for backup redundancy. Backups of the servers and databases are stored offsite, while base infrastructure like SQL failover, RAID 10 SAN storage and N+1 redundancy is in place across the solutions, said Sandiford.
Business Continuity: Build vs. Partner
I’m not trying to jinx anyone with this blog. And I’m not trying to suggest that cloud applications are 100 percent foolproof. Certainly, we could hear and read about some minor (or major) cloud outages amid Hurricane Irene.
But think of it this way: Hurricane Irene could also blow away — or wash away — thousands of small business networks over the next two days.
For VARs and MSPs — where would you rather have your customers’ data:
- On-premise at a waterfront office?
- Or backed up to the cloud?
It’s easy to guess my answer.