Cloud failure and the flight to Amazon

Cloud failure and the flight to Amazon

Summary: Your cloud data: how fast can you get it out? A failed cloud storage company reminds us that yes, we can lose data in the cloud. Now what?


Premium cloud service provider Nirvanix announced last week that it was closing up shop. It gave its customers, including resellers, only two weeks to get their data off of the Nirvanix cloud.

Hardly a premium exit.

Evidently the company needed more capital and, at the last moment, investors balked. That may say more about their investors than it does about their business model.

But it points out the risk of putting large amounts of data into a service when getting it out again can take days or even weeks. Especially when we don't know if we're getting what was promised

Storage is cheap; bandwidth expensive
Our capacity to store data in the cloud far exceeds our ability to move it quickly. And if that data is business-critical or subject to regulation – think HIPPA – we may face special requirements and legal liability.

Nirvanix customers and resellers are scrambling to get their data out before the company closes this month. Remaining Nirvanix staff are probably scrambling to help them in between cruising job sites and polishing resumes.

What happened?
Gartner claims that Amazon Web Services is five times the size of the rest of the cloud service industry combined. But they probably didn't count our friends at the NSA.

The Nirvanix business model was based on optimizing its infrastructure to meet strict enterprise standards. This made it more costly than Amazon and less simple to scale.

The higher cost of their infrastructure – combined with much lower scale – put them in a corner. While Amazon uptime is less than 100%, the market seems to have concluded that it is good enough.

The Storage Bits take
A basic storage truth is that any single device can and will fail - usually at the worst possible time. Careful engineering can reduce failures, but there is no single device - disk drive, SSD, storage array or cloud service provider - that can guarantee 100% data availability.

The only strategy that works is to make copies - and to keep those copies in different places on different devices.

Can I safely store my data on a non-Amazon public cloud service provider? Yes - if you keep a local copy too. Storage is cheap: use lots!

That’s the only way.

Comments welcome, as always. I maintain 5 copies of critical business data. Paranoid? Maybe, but I've probably been in the storage industry a lot longer than you!

Topics: Storage, Cloud Computing: Moving to IaaS

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Paranoia works

    My backups have backups and because I don't trust them, I create more backups and they get backed up elsewhere.

    Yes, I utilize the cloud, but for me the cloud is either a) a last stop attempt at rescuing my data or b) a handy way to have access to the data anywhere I am.

    My first backups hit local servers, second range hit a NAS and only after that does stuff start hitting the cloud.

    Even my phone has backups of everything that is replicated. Linux, Android, Windows - it's all backed up everywhere.

    I've been in the situation where I had no backups and lost a whole load of stuff. Don't want to be there again.
    Lost In Clouds of Data
    • I think you need more backups.

      I think you need more backups.
      I think you need more backups.
      I think you need more backups.
      I think you need more backups.
      I think you need more backups.
      I think you need more backups.
      Producto Endorsair
  • The Clouds

    The most stupid epic lock in failure to be floated since Main frames were all the rage.
    With terabytes of data available why would anyone deliberately compromise their data on some server god knows where. Do you think they will actually tell you they've been breached?
    Get smart build your own data storage and don't be fooled, you can run your own cloud.
    Stay safe, stay away from the cloud!
    Home Grown IT
    • Nothing wrong with using the cloud...

      it's very handy .... but don't depend on it as your *only* backup.
    • History will not be kind to your advice

      I remember when there was no way on God's green Earth I'd use a automated bank teller.

      It just takes a generation or two to shake out the flat earthers.
      Harry Seaward
  • Repeating history

    How did IBM (and others) sell so many mainframes and later minicomputers? Issues just like this back in the day when all but very large businesses used "service firms" to provide facilities and development to run their businesses since they didn't think they needed to run their own computer systems. When these bureaus failed, these dependent businesses were down (and often) out.

    Later, the PC snuck in when the centralized IT departments were either unable to, refused to, or took too long to, meet a department (or more appropriately, department head's) needs. IT since then has been desperately trying to get the cats back in the bag. First it was outsourcing to make it cheaper and "more responsive" (it often did not) and then now, the "cloud" which is supposed to solve all ills because now other than a staff to manage the link to it, the expense would be the cost of the service agreement, and someone would be there all the time. Oh, and the data would be safer than if kept by the company itself.

    Now we find out otherwise. And what will happen where there are a few cloud players left (not counting the NSA) and they realize they hold the keys and can dictate the terms to their "clients" (or is that captives)? Will we go backwards and start this cycle all over again?

    What do you think??? You betcha!
  • Microsoft and amazon are the only ones you can count on

    to be there long term. No one else falls into the premium category, not even google who kills a new handful of their services on short notice every year. Once more android device makers figure out there are alternatives and they don't need to pay for google services google may change its mind about which ones it keeps running.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Agreed. I don't know why any business would... business critical information / services with anything but the largest providers. The largest providers have the necessary capital to continue operations and if that should change we'd hear about it well in advance so there's sufficient time to pull that information back.
      • Luddite

        Enjoy your 9-5 job while you have it. ... I'd guess you spend most of your workday striving to maintain the status quo.

        Tell me -- do the pointy locks of hair on your head make it difficult to sleep at night?
        • You sounds like someone on lunch break

          at Google.
        • It's funny because he makes an ANALogy.

          See above
          Harry Seaward
    • I'd trust Google if they were making money on the service

      Yes, Google has killed many services - usually labeled "beta" - over the years, but they've almost all been free services. And with free you get what you pay for.

      I think Chromebook users are pretty safe, though I'd still like to have local backups of Google docs.

      R Harris
      • We Can't Use Google Docs

        Because of their Terms of Service (TOS) we can't place our "customer's" data on Google anything. Especially regulated/governed data such as CJIS and HIPAA.
  • Is This Astroturfing for Amazon?

    To say that Amazon is the only reliable cloud services company is not only incorrect, it is ridiculous. Companies like Rackspace and Terremark are just as viable as Amazon, no matter that they are not the same size.
    Charles Boyer
    • Thanks for pointing that out

      Charles, I didn't mean to imply that Amazon is the only "safe" cloud provider, and I've edited the post to reflect that.

      R Harris
    • Cloud storage

      I personally use A Drive for my cloud storage. It is 50Gb free and I can pull everything off in a short time.
  • If You Don't Mind Everyone Accessing Your Data

    Go ahead and use the "cloud", but the model is inherently insecure. I would not recommend putting data there you dont mind the world seeing and accessing.
    • Agreed

      Especially since Google says on their websites that they READ (either electronically or by humans) everything you upload.
  • LOL.

    Hey, hey you get off of my cloud...

    What happens if the cloud disperses has been going through my mind since they started bubbling up. The joke is in the title usually used, "THE cloud", sounds omnipotent and invulnerable, wonder how many will get stung?
    dumb blonde
  • So is the cloud just for backup?

    Well of course keeping a mirror of your cloud data locally raises the question of which is the backup data, the local copy or the cloud copy. And unless the cloud location you are using also provides processing of the data at the same location where the data is stored, your observation of cheap storage expensive bandwidth, would suggest it is better to process your copy of the data on your machines. In that case the cloud is clearly just remote backup. Nothing too revolutionary there.