You better hope these servers keep working. Photo courtesy Berkeley Lab.

You better hope these servers keep working. Photo courtesy Berkeley Lab.

I was an early adopter of cloud computing. I purchased a Samsung Chromebook waay back in 2012, and often bragged about the practicality of cloud storage: I could toss the laptop in a lake, all of my friends have heard me say, and still have access to all my files.

That reliability, though, depends on one major caveat: I must have access to the cloud. This is not a given. Microsoft Azure customers in Europe and Asia have been suffering through widespread outages the last week. It’s frustrating when Twitter or Facebook has an outage; imagine that frustration if you suddenly couldn’t access the data that is critical to your business.

Cloud computing is tremendously practical. Compared to traditional server management, it’s cheaper, easier, and often more effective — outages like Microsoft’s are pretty rare (I’ve never been denied access to my Google Drive). But using Azure or Amazon Web Services places an immense amount of trust in a single entity, which can undergo glitches, and in a private company, which can go out of business.

Amazon and Microsoft won’t die off any time soon, but smaller cloud providers do fail or get purchased. Safeguarding your cloud files is an important discussion among network professionals, but the average cloud user (like me) probably doesn’t think about Google’s demise or a widespread outage. Hey, if enough companies use the same cloud providers, then a big outage could function as a de facto holiday. Maybe unreliability isn’t such a bad thing.

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