Cloud failure and the flight to Amazon

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?
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor on

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!

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