Hurricane Sandy Proves in Every Silver Lining There is a Cloud

By Peter Bernstein October 31, 2012

It may be that working remotely in the midst of the chaos that is ‘the devastation zone’ in the New York City area thanks to Hurricane Sandy, has gotten to me.  The headline above, which originally was constructed as a play on words, actually makes a lot of sense to me upon reflection.

The post-script to wide-scale catastrophes, rightfully always centers on:

  • What went wrong?
  • Were we prepared?
  • Why weren’t we prepared?
  • What do we need to do better?
  • When do we need to do it?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Etc.

While those of us in the impact area are still living this somewhat surreal nightmare, it is not too early to look at what this ‘Storm of the Century’ has already taught us about disaster preparedness, business continuity, the need for backup and redundancy, disaster recovery at a high level and overall risk management. It may seem in fact a bit morbid to be focusing in on what technology did not do for us in this instance, and what it can and should do better going forward this early, but maybe not.

The case for the cloud becomes more compelling 

A lot of vendor hype and blogosphere virtual ink has been spilled over the virtues of moving to the cloud, particularly if you are a small to medium-sized business (SMB). Well there is an old saying that, “seeing is believing,” that is very relevant here. Looking at the pictures of flooded main streets in this part of the country, such as the darkened and flooded one of Westport CT below  says it all.



My suspicion is that despite many of them being local franchises of large chains, most probably they did not have an appropriate disaster recovery plan in place. That is where the cloud does come in, and in a big and important way.

Indeed, if you are an SMB if for no other reason than having all of your critical data not just backed up, but out of harm’s way and accessible from anywhere (with of course the proper enforcement of your policies and rules as to who can have access and what they can do once they get it), mirroring at a minimum your ‘mission critical’ data in the cloud would seem to be a no brainer. In fact, it might be called a ‘killer app’ with the double entendre intended.

However, what Sandy also demonstrates is that it is not just data that SMBs should think about putting in the cloud. Business tools like hosted E-mail and basic voice communications, unified communications capabilities and collaboration tools, etc., in short obtaining almost “E”verything as a service (aka XaaS), now should come into sharp focus as you look to the future.

It is amazing how the laundry list of cloud benefits that we have all seen or recited so often suddenly seem so fresh and pertinent:

  • No expensive on-premises equipment investments, telecom and computing
  • Extremely limited risk of damage to physical media or the critical information it contains
  • No more backup hassles – hard backups, transfers to portable media, or even being paranoid and emailing documents to several devices.
  • Access to the latest version of every document
  • Operations on the latest business software suites
  • Enhanced (yes you read that word correctly) security since modern data centers are likely much more secure than your premises and accessing your specific information can be made ultra-secure based on the level of protection you desire
  • Decreased need for dedicated in-house IT people

These selling points are the reason why the SMB market has been the sweet spot for cloud service providers. It is why the predictions that all SMBs in the not too distant future are likely to at a minimum backup their businesses on the cloud - are likely to be accurate. An article I saw on the subject of a certain vendor said it succinctly in saying they did not understand why, “So many businesses seem to be playing Russian roulette with their critical data…”

But wait there is more

The other thing that Sandy has pointed out is that making sure you have geo-diversity in your cloud service providers is also important. In fact, doing the proper due diligence about any cloud service provider you may choose is important. Certain large news organizations in the New York area found out first-hand the dangers of either relying on one provider or at least one that did not have the proper geo-diversity.

It is a well known fact in most industries that company loves company. Hence, there are now growing data center concentration areas. It is only natural that the industry congregate in places where land and power are inexpensive, access to several fiber networks is easy, a skilled workforce and major metro area is nearby, and a host of other variables including local zoning laws, proximity to fault lines and known tornado alleys or places with frequent lightening strikes, and more. Already, data center farms have sprouted in the suburbs of several major metropolitan areas, and some major web service companies have learned the hard way as a result that Mother Nature can be a hard taskmaster if you don’t take appropriate physical location precautions.

At the end of the day, you need to have a checklist when talking with data center service providers, and cloud services companies. And, also remember that because this is about the future of your businesses continuity and success, there are no dumb questions.

Finally, I would be absolutely remiss, and with a tip of the hat to our friends at, if I did not include a video they did on emergency apps for either iOS or Android for helping you get ready for the next big storm, real not virtual.

It is interesting on two fronts. Not just because of the useful information provided, but because of the Adobe ad that fronts it which has gone viral in its own right because of the fun it makes of techno hype and ends with the tag line, “Buzzwords are painful. Get real results. Adobe Marketing Cloud.”

Let’s just say that if the message is to get rid of buzzwords, using the word “real” in your marketing is a real mistake. As in, who wants to load up on unreal results? That is a subject for a sunny day. In the meantime, and more seriously, if you are an SMB it is sincerely wished that you have learned an important lesson from Hurricane Sandy about the cloud being the silver lining that could literally and figuratively save your business.  

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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