How reliable are cloud-based business platforms?

Entrepreneur and technology expert Will Lovegrove addresses the question of reliability of Cloud-based business platforms

If we can assume, and verify independently, that cloud technology providers know a thing or two about security then what about reliability? No one is perfect I hear you say. It’s impossible to rule out human error, isn’t it? I agree.

The issue occurred to me when Amazon Web Services suffered a failure (Wednesday 24th October 2012). When something like this happens so many companies and businesses are affected in such a high profile and public way that it inevitably causes headlines, and questions are asked.

But companies such as Amazon are quick to point out that if their customers (who are the companies who make cloud apps which in turn you use in your business) engineer their applications according to Amazon Web Services best practices (of spreading their application workloads over multiple hosting zones) then they would be less susceptible to catastrophic failure.

The trouble is that you and I just don’t know how cloud applications (such as Dropbox) are actually engineered. Whether we like it or not when we adopt a cloud technology solution we are relying on decisions made by engineers and people outside our immediate control.

My counter argument is that businesses have always done this. We operate our businesses in networks of trading partnerships. If our business partners consistently fail then we move our trade away from them to a competitor. Our business partners understand this. It’s a rule of business that is as true to cloud technology companies as it is to any other business sector.

When dealing with technology it’s impossible to rule out problems. But in my experience the frequency of outage in cloud providers is less frequent than with private data centre hosting solutions.

Cloud infrastructure means I can focus my time and energy (as a technology entrepreneur) working to build a great product or service which is going to add value to your business and not spend too much time or money building out secure and robust IT infrastructure.

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That’s good for me and it’s good for you too because as the barriers to good IT infrastructure drop there will be an increase in the choice and diversity of business applications in the cloud that can help your business. That increase in choice is happening right now.

The bottom line is that cloud apps can dramatically help your business get off the ground quickly, easily and with a flexible and scalable capability that many much larger organisations do not yet possess. The benefits of cloud apps massively outweigh the risks, and nearly all the risks to your business processes can be mitigated.

As a small business owner you are able to make and implement your technology decisions much faster than larger established companies. Your decision making speed plus the effectiveness of cloud applications combined are a competitive advantage that you should exploit.

So open a browser and start squeezing every drop of value from the cloud. And don’t be afraid to take a chance on a new tech start-up. You may just find there are some amazing services out there which give you a real edge on your competition.

This article is part five of five. You can read part one – Squeezing every drop from the Cloud – here.

Will Lovegrove runs an award-winning mobile app software company called Release Mobile. He has just launched a new cloud-based data sharing platform, Datownia, aimed at helping small to medium-sized businesses connect their data to mobile apps and business systems.


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