Amazon's EC2 is broadly recognized as one of the best engineered cloud computing solutions on the planet, and when it went down for nearly three days, it left many pundits questioning whether Cloud Computing was actually safe. In the days and weeks that followed, there was no shortage of speculation and newsworthy soundbites, but I think that one quote in particular stands above the others.
Simon Crosby, the CTO for Data Center and Cloud and Citrix Systems framed the outage like this, "It is like an airplane crash. It is very bad because a lot of people are hit hard. But you are actually safer in an airplane than in a car. Broadly speaking, you are better off in the cloud."
This is an interesting analogy because on any given day, the World Health Organization estimates that between 3000 and 3200 individuals die in auto accidents. Over the past three years, the worldwide fatality rate for airline travel was an average of 1034 individuals - PER YEAR. When the death rate per vehicle mile traveled is compared between automobiles and aircraft, the safety margin tilts even more heavily toward air travel.
With that in mind, I believe that Simon is right. If it were possible to add up the number of small and medium businesses that suffered system failures, data loss, inaccessibility or other "issues" with their IT infrastructure during the three day period that Amazon was down, I am sure this number would dwarf the number of businesses that were impacted by the Amazon outage. Unfortunately, the lack of a central figure in those failures makes for a far less interesting news article!
The takeaway here is to not let one isolated failure distract you from the fact that Cloud Computing, leveraged properly, can provide your organization with cost savings, increased mobility, enhanced productivity, embedded disaster recovery and business continuity features, and flexibility that is simply not possible with physical hardware. A reputable Cloud Computing provider is also far more secure, reliable and resilient than all but the most sophisticated and costly private systems.