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Widespread outages underline the need for IT backup plans

27 Jul 2012
A man staring into a stack of racks in frustration

On Thursday Twitter, Microsoft's Azure platform, Google Talk and the government's CloudStore all went offline for extended periods, leaving million of users without access to these key services.

The fact this all took place during the annual Black Hat conference in Las Vegas is pure coincidence (right?) but the widespread outages underline how reliant businesses are on tools that, when they disappear, can cause huge upheavals.

Google Talk, for example, may only be a free chat service, but for millions of office workers it's a quick, easy and free tool to communicate across an organisation that has a clear productivity benefit.

Laurent Lachal, a senior analyst at Ovum, told V3 that for many firms the benefits of using free cloud-hosted tools outweighs the risk.

"Many are not ready to pay as they understand that they won't get a level of service if anything does go down, but if you're using Google Docs and you can't access it for a few hours, it's not the end of the world," he said.

"Of course if you're working on something on a tight deadline and it has to be completed you may not want to use a free tool, but for many it's an acceptable risk."

However, for many others, if these services to drop offline, from Google Talk to Skype to Google Documents - problems can become immediately obvious.

"If you demand 100 per cent - or as close as possible - uptime, then a free model is not for you," Quocirca analyst Clive Longbottom told V3.

Instead, Longbottom said that businesses must assess their requirements and plan accordingly to their specific requirements, even if that does mean spending some money.

"Once the level of availability for a business process to be carried out is understood, the business can make better informed decisions. A process that has to happen, come hell or high water, needs multiple levels of redundancy built in, from the technical to the task", he said.

"So, if public cloud models are being used, they should be implemented in an abstracted way so that should the free/public service suddenly go down, plan B can be brought in so that a similar function can ensure that the overall process still works."

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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