Michael Jackson, of course, isn't telling us much of anything anymore. However, when news of his death brought Internet news sites to a crawl and hurt traffic Internet-wide, one has to worry about the effects of serious traffic spikes on cloud-based, mission-critical applications.
A fire at a data center in Seattle shut down key Bing sites and credit card processing for my favorite coffee company. I can live with Bing sites being down, but again, we're reminded that, despite a lot of built-in redundancy, the Internet is not fool-proof and doesn't come with a 99.999% uptime guarantee.
So what does that mean for folks like me who just rolled out Google Apps? I won't say the rollout came off without a hitch, but the few hitches were remarkably minor. I've made drastic upgrades to Internet service across the board at all of our schools, but we're still not in a position to afford redundancy. What happens when I train the heck out of teachers, staff, and students; get everyone collaborating brilliantly using Google Apps; convince my users that it's the best thing since sliced bread; and then a Michael-Jackson-death-scale event brings said communication/collaboration to a crawl?
I'll tell you what happens. Life goes on. Systems fail, whether they're cloud-based or not. The Internet isn't going anywhere. Our access to web resources may be throttled at times, but the benefits of letting our applications and data live in the cloud (in many cases) can far outweigh the risks. In fact, for smaller schools, districts, and organizations, the cloud may represent far greater uptime for our users than poorly-supported local applications.
Spikes in traffic and local disasters aside, Michael Jackson isn't telling us to skip cloud-based tools like Google Apps or our remotely-hosted SIS. He's telling us to set reasonable expectations for our users and ensure that everyone understands both the strengths and weaknesses of the cloud.