Will the Christchurch Earthquake Lead to Greater Cloud Adoption?

The Christchurch earthquake of February 22nd, 2011 has had, and will continue to have a significant impacts on New Zealand. With over 100 dead and much of the Central Business District (CBD) flattened some of those impacts are obvious, others are less so. Elsewhere I have discussed the potential impact on attitudes to disaster recovery. As I am interested in business technology trends , another of the questions that I ask myself is “will the earthquake have an impact of New Zealanders’ use of cloud computing?” And I believe that it will.

We are seeing Christchurch businesses queuing up to go into the red zone (the cordoned off CBD) in order to retrieve servers and desktop machines so that they can continue to operate as a business. We are hearing of companies failing as they cannot operate outside of their traditional premises. Any sensible New Zealand business will be looking at this situation and thinking about how they can prepare themselves to avoid the same fate. Individuals are also suffering from similar issues- some people have lost personal computers along with all of the personal information stored on them such as digital photos. One way businesses and individuals can and will avoid these issues is by using cloud computing services such as box.net, dropbox, GoogleApps, Gmail, Microsoft Office Web Apps, and Flickr.

With cloud services, the application runs, and data is stored, “in the cloud” (i.e. somewhere else in the world, accessed over the internet) and can therefore be accessed from almost any device that can access the internet. People and businesses can still get at their data even if they lose both their premise or home, and even their computers.

In addition cloud computing gives businesses a way to get computing services up and running with minimal initial outlay. Most cloud computing services run on a “pay-as-you-go” model. That is, you pay month-by-month (or whatever the period is), up-front, and often on a sliding scale based on how much you use (whether that is number of users, or amount of data stored).

I believe that these factors will drive increased adoption of cloud computing in both the business and consumer markets. I think that what we will see is:

  • Christchurch businesses who survive may not have the money needed for the initial outlay required for replacement on-premise solutions and so may turn to the cloud for storage and business applications.
  • Businesses that are created to replace ones that have collapsed (due to the quake) will find initial capital scarce given the overall economic situation and so may also use the cloud for storage and business applications.
  • Businesses in New Zealand in general will see how Christchurch businesses are unable to function without their on-premise servers and desktops and will look to ways of avoiding that risk. This could involve traditional off-site backup, but for some organisations will definitely include cloud computing for storage and business applications.
  • Individuals around New Zealand see what has happened when other people have lost their computers – even if they backed things up they may have still lost it if it was stored in their home. These people will look to personal cloud based back-up solutions.

This leaves me with a few questions: is this a good thing? Is cloud adoption good for a New Zealand business or individual consumer?I am already seeing people recommending using the cloud for backing important family information, and small businesses talking about using the cloud for similar purposes. Overall this is a natural reaction, and quite a sensible one. I think the cloud should be used or considered more often both for individual consumers and for businesses. I will add one note of caution: before using a cloud service you should make sure that you understand the real costs and risks associated with using those cloud services: understand what could happen to your information, and understand how much this will really cost you in the long term.

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