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Raining Clouds of Pain: 2014's Top Five Cloud Fails

16/12/2014 06:54 GMT | Updated 14/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Cloud-based services are popping up every day and although they offer a plethora of advantages, the data centres behind them aren't immune to failure.

While their outages aren't usually any more frequent than locally run operations they tend to draw more attention.

However, if businesses prepare fully, consumers shouldn't have to bear the burden of service outages. In no particular order, below are five of some of the worst cloud outages from this year:

Microsoft Exchange Online Outage

Back in June, tech giant Microsoft experienced one of its biggest outages when its Exchange Online service stopped working for nine hours. Users were unable to get into their email between the core hours of the working day 9am - 6pm. The outage happened because a 'portion of [its] networking infrastructure entered into a degraded state.'

Dropbox drop out

In January, file-sharing giant Dropbox suffered a massive three-day black out. Dropbox fessed up to the 'glitch' despite hackers trying to claim credit for the crash. According to the company, a scripting glitch caused OS upgrades to be applied on actively running machines during routine maintenance. Even though attempts were made to restore the systems from back ups, Dropbox's databases were so large it took a few days to get the service back to normal.

Adobe grinds to a halt

May saw Adobe experience a slight glitch when it moved into the cloud...and its software stopped working. More than a million subscribers were affected when the company's Creative Cloud service shut down for a day, leaving users with no way to access the Web-centric versions of apps such as Photoshop and Premiere. According to Adobe, an issue during 'database maintenance activity' caused the outage.

Google glitch

At the beginning of the year some of Google's services went offline for an hour. When any of the online giant's products fail, people notice. So when some of Google's services shut down there was uproar despite most users having access to their accounts and services within half an hour of the glitch as all the data was backed up. According to Google, a software bug caused the problem whereby the system controlling the services sent faulty configurations to a variety of servers, which resulted in widespread errors.

Google goes down, again

In March Google suffered another outage, this time for a whole three hours. This doesn't seem very long but when you understand the global reach of Google's services this probably felt like a lifetime for the business. Google Hangouts, Google Voice, and some areas of Google Drive were among the services that went offline for the majority of the morning. Yet again, this was apportioned to maintenance going wrong. Apparently routine procedures redirected traffic to the wrong set of servers, so servers were trying to handle more requests than they could handle.

So what does that tell us? No matter what cloud service you use there is always a chance the system could crash - even the likes of Google are not immune to data centre outages so it is best practice to ensure your info is stored as safely as possible.

Anyone who has suffered data loss or lack of access to certain services -- be it via the blue screen of death, network failure or cloud service outages -- knows the importance of reliable access to critical data, and the value of a suitable backup and recovery plan.

As we become increasingly dependent on cloud services it is worth understanding the options available to you. That large businesses rely on high quality data centres helps as there are systems in place to ensure back-up processes automatically kick in when an outage occurs so any services reliant on this data don't suffer from downtime.

Of course, even the strongest data centre provider is susceptible to failure and any operator which claims it has never had an outage is either too new to have a track record or isn't training its staff to be honest. However, the work of these data centres should ensure consumers never feel the strain of cloud outages.