Clouds will ground you, so be prepared

Key takeaway: To be prepared for cloud disruption risks, CEOs and corporate directors have critical roles to play. Practice them.

Last week I was waiting at Washington National to board a plane to Boston. After the first few passengers boarded, an announcement was made that all computers were down in the airport. I suspect that not all were down, but something was clearly affecting the passenger reservation systems. All boarding stopped in my terminal and I noticed that the number of planes taking off had dropped considerably. Thirty minutes later, boarding resumed.

Monday, this episode repeated itself, but on a larger scale, and seven airlines halted flights throughout the United States. The fault lay with a small but critical third party provider, Aerodata, that many airlines use to determine aircraft weight and balance.

As we move more and more data processing and applications to the cloud, it is important to keep continuity of operations in mind. A third party cloud provider presents a special challenge in this regard since not only can a fault affect the operations of one company, it can affect many. In critical infrastructure applications like air transportation, government regulators will take an interest in the disruption risks of cloud computing.

CISOs and CIOs know what to do to mitigate cloud disruptions, and there’s no need to repeat that here.  However mitigated, the risks remain and disruptions are inevitable. Senior corporate executives and board members can stay ahead of this problem by asking the CISO to report periodically on the potential disruptive impact of cloud solutions and the plans to manage through any disruption and recover; then they themselves should participate in exercises to test the plans.