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Jonny Evans: Adobe CS and the dangerous cloud

Adobe's Creative Cloud outage inconvenienced its users, but future cloud failures could damage the global economy

By Jonny Evans
June 5, 2014 07:16 AM ET

Computerworld - Adobe was in the spotlight recently when its Adobe CS cloud service, Creative Cloud, went offline for 48 hours, leaving users in the dark and preventing publication of the mobile edition of Britain's Daily Mail. This was a disaster for the company and a much bigger disaster for thousands of Creative Cloud users trying to meet urgent deadlines -- but in future failure in cloud services could damage the global economy.

You see, cloud services sometimes fail:

- Microsoft Azure, an essential component of that company's plans, suffered two significant outages last year, one of which left some users locked out completely and others unable to manage applications for eight hours.

- Apple's consumer-focused iCloud service saw numerous outages last year, with iMessages lost and email inaccessible for many hours.

- Amazon in September saw a two-hour outage at one of its data services, during which all services hosted there were unavailable.

- Dropbox suffered a 15-hour outage in January 2013.

These short outages are perhaps less significant than the failure of Adobe Creative Cloud, but they are serious problems for anyone for whom time literally is money.

Continuity software company Neverfail warns enterprise users who have become reliant on cloud services to ensure that they have backup plans for cloud infrastructure in case such problems happen. These plans should include at least some access to key data and applications -- though Adobe's 48-hour failure also meant its desktop users experienced problems.

Users shouldn't simply be wary of cloud service failures -- reliance on these services exposes them to real problems in the event their service shuts down. That's what happened to Nirvanix customers last year when the company closed shop and gave them just two weeks to move all their data out of its facilities. Customers had little time to get that data back, and no guarantee the data would be destroyed.

Cloud services are billed as being always-available solutions that enable business efficiency and flexibility for a fee -- but the need to prepare for unexpected service outages and the risk of service closure mean CIOs considering such deployments need to budget for additional costs -- not something you'll generally see in the promotional literature.

Additional cloud costs also include the need to secure data privacy and security; preserving the flexibility to move data between services and defining data nationality (where it is stored).

Enterprise customers can protect themselves by insisting that their service-level agreements include mechanisms to safeguard against outages. "This is a fundamental duty of due diligence in commercial and organizational terms," Experton analyst Alex Oppermann told CIO.com.



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