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Why the Cloud Is More Reliable than Onsite IT

Cloud computing is generally more reliable than traditional in-house, onsite IT. By “reliable” we mean that it experiences less downtime and is more consistently accessible.

For the most part, the cloud is more reliable than in-house, onsite IT because cloud providers can afford to implement more advanced “high availability” measures. The main benefit of the increased reliability of the cloud is that it prevents expensive and highly-disruptive downtime incidents.

It’s important for IT assets and services to be reliable, especially when they are or involve shared, centralized assets or services that many people at a business depend on, such as networking equipment, file servers, and VoIP, CRM, PoS, and e-commerce systems.

If a critical asset or service like this becomes unavailable for an extended period, it can result in significant amounts of lost sales, lost customers, and/or lost productivity.

IT downtime reportedly costs businesses an average of $7,900 per minute, or more than $450,000 per hour, and results in losses of $700 billion per year for North American businesses, according to one estimate.

One way to decrease the likelihood of significant downtime is to select IT assets and services that are themselves fairly reliable. For example, you’ll want to select routers, switches, storage devices, servers, software, Internet service providers, and cloud services that are known for being stable and reliable, with low failure rates or high uptime percentages.

The best way to do this would be to look up the product or the service provider on Google to see if there is any info out there about it related to reliability. You can find lists of the hard drive models with the highest annual failure rates this way, for instance.

Two other ways to decrease the likelihood of significant downtime are with backups and fault tolerance. Some examples of using backups to prevent downtime include:

  • Keeping spare IT hardware (including PCs, monitors, keyboards, mice, thin clients, routers, switches, and servers) in a storeroom, so that failed IT hardware can be replaced relatively quickly

  • Backing up all of your important data

  • Signing up for Internet service from two or more different ISPs

  • Signing up for electrical power from two or more different power companies

  • Purchasing and setting up uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) and diesel backup generators

A fault-tolerant IT setup, meanwhile, is one that is capable of continuing to work despite the failure of one or more of its components.

The difference between this and having backups of certain aspects of your IT setup is that a fault-tolerant IT setup redirects workloads from malfunctioning assets to functioning assets automatically, which allows you to avoid the downtime associated with installing and setting up backup hardware and/or restoring backup data.

A primitive example of such a fault-tolerant setup would be one that had two servers, two storage devices or SANs (which would contain the same data and continually sync with each other), and two routers.

If any one of these pairs of components failed, the still-functioning component would temporarily shoulder the workloads of both components until the failed one could be replaced.

The problem for a lot of businesses with an in-house, onsite IT setup that want to maximize their reliability is that backing up their IT and/or making it fault-tolerant can be expensive and complicated, and many of them can’t afford or don’t have the internal expertise to implement the measures that are most effective at preventing downtime.

However, these same businesses can afford to sign up for hosting services from cloud providers that implement those measures, since when they sign up for these services they’re sharing the costs of the provider’s downtime prevention measures with all of the provider’s other clients—and also, because cloud providers can get favorable deals on hardware, software, Internet, and power since they purchase them in bulk.

In addition, cloud providers have highly-experienced and -skilled on-staff engineers that know how to set up and maintain advanced, dependable backup systems and fault-tolerant infrastructures.

Cloud providers are also better at protecting their solutions from downtime that occurs as a result of security breaches or from damage to or the physical theft of IT hardware, since, again, they can afford to implement more advanced measures (including enterprise-level firewalls, IDS/IPS, and antivirus and 24x7x365 onsite security guards and fully-redundant temperature and humidity control systems at their datacenters) and have the personnel with the experience and skill to implement and maintain them.