The 10 Worst Cloud Outages: Lessons Learned

cloud outageCloud computing is proven to be able to help businesses to increase productivity and cut costs – not mentioning to help them to be greener businesses. However, cloud computing also poses risks to businesses; those who are unaware about the risks will suffer from disrupted business operations, as well as damaged business reputation.

One of the most notable cloud computing risks is cloud outages. Cloud service disruptions affect those whose applications and business operations are stored in the cloud – and the impact is not minimal.

InfoWorld has compiled the 10 worst cloud outages for us to learn – so we will be ready when the next outage hits the cloud solutions we use:

1. Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud outage

A network update started off series of events that disrupt services to the Amazon cloud clients for four days. You can learn about the details of the outage from Amazon’s lengthy explanation.

Lesson learned: Many businesses struggled, but some thrive, such as Netflix. What did the company do to survive the outage: Design your IT systems so they can handle such types of failure.

2. Microsoft’s Sidekick cloud outage

T-Mobile Sidekick outage back in 2009 last for a week-long, leaving users with no access to email, calendar and the other personal data. To add to the fiasco, Microsoft confessed that it lost cloud-stored data bits and were not be able to restore them; and they had no backups!

Lesson learned: Just because you store your data in the cloud, that doesn’t mean you can assume that your cloud provider will take all the responsibility to take care for your businesses important data and information.

3. Google Gmail cloud outage

Gmail experienced some outages, most notably the most recent one: 150,000 Gmail users finding blank page when logging into their Gmail account. Google promised a quick fix, but to some users, services go back on after four days of outage. What has happened: Software bugs have affected several copies of the data.

Lesson learned: Set up a backup or offline access solution before it’s all too late.

4. Hotmail cloud outage

Microsoft’s Hotmail experienced database errors at the end of 2010 – the result: Thousands – 17,000 users to be exact – of empty email inboxes entering 2011. Fixing things up lasted for 3 days but not all users will have their account restored – the other 8 percent of users have to wait for 3 days more.

Lesson learned: Similar to #3 – backup your email accounts and contact list.

5. Intuit cloud outage

The Intuit network, consisting of financial services, such as Quicken and TurboTax, that are interconnected in the cloud were having two outages in a month. The worst outage was a 36 hours outage on June 2010. The outages were caused by power failures. Customers were outraged by poor communication during the outages.

Lesson learned: For cloud business – when outages happen, your customer service will make or break your business; do it right – communicate, communicate and communicate. For end user – again, backup your crucial data.

6. Microsoft BPOS cloud outage

Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity suite experiences, the Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, experience an outage on May 2011. Emails were delayed up to 9 hours, and some stuck emails happen a bit later. To rub salt on open wound, Microsoft also have to deal with another unrelated error that hinders users to log on to web-based Outlook.

Lesson learned: Backup your important data on-premise. Also, just like Intuit’s case, Microsoft need to do better jobs in communicating issues with its users.

7. Salesforce cloud outage

Salesforce cloud went down for an hour, affecting tens of thousands of businesses’ customer service operations – the impact is devastating, as those 60 minutes potentially lose you potential customers. The culprit: A data center was shut down.

Lesson learned: When choosing a cloud provider, you need to know whether it can offer you better backup via redundancy than yourself. If it’s not better, then why bother signing up with the provider?

8. Terremark cloud outage

Terremark experience a big outage early on 2010. It’s Miami-based data center went offline for 7 hours or so, causing users not to be able to access data stored in the data center.

Lesson learned: In minimizing the risks of outage, cloud business need to have its data centers that stored important clients’ data to be located in different regions. Moreover, cloud businesses need to partner with different cloud partners to share the workload.

9. Paypal cloud outage

Paypal, the widely accepted payment methods, experienced a one-day outage back in the summer of 2009. The impact: Million of merchants worldwide can’t receive money and do business.

Lesson learned: Consider partnering with several online payment solutions.

10. Rackspace cloud outage

Rackspace, one of the leading cloud providers, experience several huge outages – 4 times, actually – throughout 2009. One outage cost Rackspace almost $3 million in service credits to the users as a compensation.

Lesson learned: Just like the rest, you need to find a way to backup your own data on-premise.

The biggest lesson of all

Despite logically possible, 100 percent reliable cloud services are not possible.

You need to understand that cloud computing is rapidly evolving; so you should expect hiccups to happen along the way. Be sure you have a way or two as your safety net – something that can help you thrive when your chosen cloud services go wrong.

The magic word of the day is: Backup. For every business operation you migrate to the cloud, you need to have at least on-premise copies of your important data.

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  • This article provides a great historical perspective of what can go wrong in a cloud deployment leveraging highly publicized case studies. Great research in putting this post together. 

    • Ivan


      Thanks for the kind words!