You’ve embraced cloud – you’ve been persuaded by the flexibility, scalability and affordability and you’ve overcome your concerns over data security and sovereignty. You’ve moved your IT requirements and data into a cloud solution and everything is going well, better than expected in fact. Then suddenly, your cloud provider withdraws from the market or it goes bust. What do you do now? 

With more customers adopting cloud, this kind of story is on the increase. Power issues caused a service outage at Salesforce.com over the Summer and Netflix, Pinterest and Instagram users were unable to access the services for a short while due to an outage at Amazon’s EC2 following violent storms in Virginia.  In these examples, service was restored afterwards. Recently, after a brief foray into the UK market, US disaster recovery provider Doyenz closed its UK business. It gave notice to users to find an alternative backup solution. The situation was even worse for 3:AM Magazine which nearly lost 12 years of its archives recently. The cloud provider had apparently shut down his web hosting business in 2008 and did not realise it was still hosting the magazine who were paying (someone) for the service each month. When the provider finally pulled the plug the magazine disappeared. Through a combination of the Internet Archive, some intrepid sleuthing and assistance from sympathetic web users, most of the content was restored.

Not every cloud customer will be as lucky as 3:AM Magazine and certainly it is no substitute for planning ahead. So, what can a cloud customer do to avoid losing everything if its provider shuts down? Or if there is a server failure?

Frank Jennings, cloud law specialist at DMH Stallard LLP and co-author of the Cloud Industry Forum’s contract best practice recommendations says “It’s all about planning ahead. You need to get your SLA and contract right. But, remember, when the service is down you need a practical response from the provider, not one who will hide behind their SLA and the contract.”

Andrew Hookway, managing director at award winning IT managed services provider Extech comments “The bigger provider isn’t always necessarily better; as naturally we are all very keen to see where our data is held and how secure it is. By opting for a smaller provider, customers can visit the data centre, see firsthand the security checks and backups in place and reassure themselves that their business critical data is in safe hands.”