Goodnight, Irene

Purposeful View on Hurricane Irene and why disaster recovery belongs in the Clouds (by Walt Lapinsky, 26 September 2011)


There is a line in the song Goodnight, Irene that goes “I’ll see you in my dreams.” For many business folk, that dream is a nightmare. Hurricane Irene killed at least 18 people from Puerto Rico to Connecticut, caused an estimated $7-10 billion in damages and cut electrical power to more than four million homes and businesses in the eastern United States. In some cases, that power outage lasted for several days. There were towns in Vermont, which never sees a hurricane up close and personal, which were completely inaccessible for days. Virginia had the second largest power outage in its history. Many businesses were completely flooded and will take weeks to full return to operations in their facility.

The media hype was probably justified: Irene will rank in the top 10 hurricanes in terms of insurance loss. Like its earlier sister, Katrina, Irene was at times causing damage over a 500-mile wide swath. Most companies that even have a separate disaster recovery facility have it much closer than that.

Some organizations have been reluctant to move to the Cloud because of issues like security, performance, and availability. In many cases, the organization is also concerned about losing control of their data and their processes. But when compared with the alternative of shutting down your business for days or weeks, these issues become less important.

Some thoughts:

  1. Determine what are the really critical applications – those that you need to keep the business running.
  2. Consider the risk of moving them temporarily to a Public Cloud compared to the cost of not having those applications available at all.
  3. Determine whether Platform as a Service is required, or if you can operate in an Infrastructure as a Service model. IaaS providers will make sure that the basic infrastructure has all of the latest security patches; in PaaS you need to worry about that.
  4. Determine the set of data you need in the Cloud to operate those applications, get a set of that data into the Cloud and determine the most effective way to periodically keep it updated.

Most Cloud Service Providers have multiple sites separated by hundreds or thousands of miles, and are capable of maintaining operations through an event like Irene.

With a Public Cloud you will only pay the compute resources when you need them. You will have access to an always available and almost infinitely scalable disaster recovery capability for possibly a set up charge and a probably very low monthly data storage fee.

One very important consideration: test. Make sure you actually know how to switch to your disaster recovery in the Cloud, and you can do it even if you cannot physically get to your existing facility at all. The best test: you can do it with a laptop in a hotel room.

Our view: if your business would be impacted by the loss of your IT for more than a day, the Cloud may offer you a fairly low cost disaster recovery capability.

Comments? Questions? Contrary views? Some event we missed?
We welcome your feedback at

Purposeful Clouds helps companies assess and plan their best options for Cloud technology adoption, with before-the-fact consideration of contingencies, ROI, and further migration strategies. To discuss how we would be able to help you make the best decisions, contact us at

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