Hurricane Sandy brought the threat of downed power lines and flooding  to our area this past month.  While we fared pretty well compared to others along the New Jersey coast, we did lose power to our office.  We’ve lost power before, the most memorable being a day of outage due to a drunk driver taking out the pole at the end of our street that carries power and telecommunications to our office complex.  That outage prompted our purchase of a generator for those situations, and with the recent hurricane related outage, the generator was put to use.  But as day 1 without power came to a close and power was not back on, it became evident that phone, email, and web hosting services would rely on the uptime of our generator.  We had plenty of fuel, but the thought of a small generator keeping the communication lines of our company – phone and email – running was becoming unsettling.  Fortunately, that evening, power was restored, and all of our services were restored.

With this loss of service, I thought I’d look at whether this setup for our core communication services makes sense.  At Allied Pixel, we have an onsite Microsoft Exchange server, and a Lucent PBX.  We’re using a number of Cloud Services – AWS for webcasting, Basecamp for Project Management, Moz for SEO services.  Is it time to consider the cloud for hosting our PBX, and GMail for hosting our email?  Are these services better options than our current in house deployment?

With the service outage at Amazon Web Services (AWS) earlier this summer from an epic thunderstorm in the northeast,  it seems that cloud services might be as vulnerable as in house servers.  In February of 2008, an AWS outage knocked out some Web 2.0 companies. In 2011, service to sites like Reddit, and Heroku were knocked out due to a failed network device at AWS.    But even with these outages, AWS has been within an annual uptime of 99.98%.  Gmail has had some similar outages but within the past year edited their Service Level Agreement to include standard outages for maintenance to be counted towards downtime, indicating a higher level of commitment to uptime for its users.  It seems the climate is ripe to move these systems to the cloud.

Outages are a reality of this online business.  But selecting an architecture that minimizes downtime, at an affordable price, has always been the goal.  Cloud services with their inherent low costs, seem to be the right choice for Allied Pixel.  With confidence in uptime, the next question regarding cloud services is security, or lack thereof.  More on that with my next post.