Cloud backup could have prevented Delta's meltdown

Traditional disaster recovery can be too expensive to implement, but cheaper cloud options render that risk unacceptable

Cloud backup could have prevented Delta's meltdown
Credit: Reuters/George Frey

I hope you weren't flying Delta this week. If you were, you know that Delta's systems experienced an outage, and of course passengers bore the brunt of it in hundreds of canceled and delayed flights.

When Delta performs a postmortem on this outage, it will likely find that the outage was caused by a common occurrence: network failure. However, Delta could not recover or switch to backup systems. As my InfoWorld colleague Andrew C. Oliver wrote, Delta neglected the four pillars of high availability.

Delta's CEO admitted as much, telling the Wall Street Journal that "it's not clear the priorities in our investment have been in the right place. It has caused us to ask a lot of questions which candidly we don't have a lot of answers for."

Although cloud computing is not always the answer, the absence of effective business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) is normally due to a lack of funds. Traditional backup sites cost many millions of dollars to establish and many more to operate as a hot standby.

That's why the use of IaaS clouds as redundant analogs to primary systems is becoming a common practice. More and more, organizations are placing copies of their processing and data in the cloud, which run constantly paired with their primary systems. When the primary goes down, the secondary (cloud) system takes over automatically. That is, they fail over to the cloud.

Unlike traditional BC/DR approaches, public cloud services don't require hardware and software, they don't require many operators, and they have their own BC/DR mechanisms in place. They're not that hard to set up either; I could show Delta how to do it in an afternoon.

I suspect that, at Delta, the lack of effective BC/DR was a money issue, and the company considered it an acceptable risk. But with cloud resources now available for a fraction of the price of traditional backup systems, it's no longer a risk you can take.

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