Email Continuity: Hiding from the weather, in a cloud

For many it's a case of board up and move out. Everything grinds to a halt for a few days until the threat has passed. If you're running a business this is not good, but you may have already thought about a way to keep your essential services like email up and running. I know of IT managers who simply turn off their Exchange Servers, unplug them and drive them away - and that works, but leaves your users and customers with nothing.

Mike Vizard mentioned something on his blog a few weeks ago, that I thought had been missed by many. I had been thinking about a series of posts for this blog under the umbrella of email continuity and was putting together a list of common outages businesses have to deal with; here in the US, for Gulf States in particular, the hurricane is the biggie.

Vizard, like me, had spotted that NOAA are predicting an "above-normal hurricane season" - but he does go on to warn that;

The predictions are rarely on target, but the havoc wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew prompts people to take the issue seriously.

Which is quite true. Of course the Weather is an archetypal example of Chaos Theory at work, and that makes predicting its patterns and movement almost impossible; but what we do know is that if Danielle, Earl, Fiona or Gaston make landfall this year everything in their path will be subject to a new type of Chaos.

And this is where a cloud based email continuity service would step in. Vizard's points out that advances in cloud computing can help you mitigate the impact of any disaster, not just a hurricane. Vizard;

The key thing to remember is that servers in the cloud are usually thousands of miles away from the actual disaster, and as long as you can provide people with access to them, you can be back in business...

Admittedly if I were facing down a large enough threat, I would be telling my users to collect their things and go, and it's likely all my local services such email, Internet and power would be unusable anyway. But relying on a continuity solution based, as Vizard points out, thousands of miles away means that once we're safely inland we can get back on the air.

And that's the important part, getting back on the air! Telling my customers we're still in business and we're still able to respond to, them regardless of the situation outside, means I don't loose business or worse, simply vanish.

Keeping a weather eye out is always a challenge, but the last thing you need to do is vanish.