Earthquakes and Cloud Computing

Earthquakes and Cloud Computing

“We learn geology the morning after the earthquake.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American poet and lecturer.

Switch on the television, and there’s only one news item grabbing headlines around the globe – the earthquake in Japan. Unless you have been meditating in the Himalayas, you must know that Japan has been hit by the strongest earthquake in 140 years, measuring a massive 8.9 on the Richter scale.

Although the epicenter was hundreds of miles from the mainland, the resultant tsunami has resulted in extensive loss of life and material damages. The official death toll stands at 574, while local media reports put fatality totals closer to 1,300 people. With thousands unaccounted for, that number is expected to rise. Damages are expected to exceed $50 billion.

What is causing consternation among people is the threat of nuclear radiation. A nuclear power plant exploded on Saturday 12 March, triggering a nationwide atomic alert. Being the only country to have witnessed the horrific nature of nuclear fallout on civilian populations following the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in World War II, the events at the Fukushima nuclear plant in northern Japan, 250 kilometers north of Tokyo, has caused panic among the people.

So, what do all these have to do with cloud computing?

It may seem heartless talking about business when there’s so much death and destruction, but it’s a proven fact of life that life goes on, and for that to happen, building up businesses is a necessary requirement. And in this, cloud computing can lead the way.

I have argued that one of the advantages of cloud computing, quite contrary to popular perception, is security. This is the security of redundancy, the knowledge that if data in one location is lost to natural disasters like earthquakes and fires, there’s data still available at locations far away. (See: Computing Without Borders – What Works, What Doesn’t and Is Cloud Computing Secure? Yes, Another Perspective)

In my opinion, the ability of a business to recover from such calamities and return to one’s feet can be one of the major attractions of cloud computing. And there has been actual research to back up this argument. According to a recent report by Enterprise Strategy Group, disaster recovery is the prime reason for adopting cloud computing solutions.

It may see uncanny, but only days before the Japan earthquake, IDC Research country manager Ulrich Loeffler spoke about how cloud computing can help with disaster recovery after an earthquake. IDC or Industrial Data Corporation is a premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications and consumer technology markets.

Although Loeffler was speaking in a different context, the earthquake that hit New Zealand on 22 February earlier this year, his words seems strangely prophetic in retrospect. “I think a lot of them will consider the cloud option. For businesses that have had their offices or systems destroyed, you would have to think whether you invested to build up your own infrastructure again,” Loeffler had been quoted as saying. With Japan’s much larger knowledge-based economy and much more severe earthquake, his words are even more relevant here.

On a more immediate note, cloud-based solutions can be effectively used to coordinate relief efforts. With traditional IT infrastructure damaged, relief agencies can draw upon resources on the cloud for their needs. It’s our fervent hope that Japan recovers from this blow as soon as possible and regains its position as a leading light of human and technological achievement.

By Sourya Biswas

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