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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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When the sun shines

14 March 2019

We all know where clouds live... in the sky.

As I type this right now, it would appear that the sky is falling -- or at least one very important cloud is down and out: Google.

I noticed that the videos I uploaded to YouTube this afternoon (Wednesday) failed to process -- usually a pretty good sign that there's a knot in one of Google's pipes, somewhere within its network.

Two hours later -- things still weren't working properly and I saw that I was not alone in my frustrations. Reddit users were bitching about the "broken Youtube" as well.

Then I checked the local news sites and found...

It wasn't just YouTube's video processing that had 'sploded... GMail and Google Drive were also spitting the dummy.

Clouds are great -- when they're working properly.

A nice fluffy white cloud can provide refreshing relief from the blistering heat of the sun's rays in mid-summer -- and a properly functioning Internet cloud can offload all those pesky costs and routines associated with managing your data on your own computer.

Just use the cloud and companies such as Google, Amazon or whoever -- will make sure your data and emails are safely cosseted away. They'll be backed up regularly, accessible anywhere in the world and be protected by world-class security.

What's not to like?

Well apparently, when the clouds actually start dumping rain on our heads... there's plenty not to like.

This stuff piece contains some of the wailings and protestations of those affected by the cloud failure.

Now I'm wondering if there isn't some potential in the market for a "backup" service that would automatically kick in and mitigate (at least to some degree) the loss of key services when the cloud turns to custard. Perhaps software that could run locally and mirror the last two days of email, file upload/download operations etc -- and then kick in to replace the cloud functionality (at least at a basic level) when needed. This software could utilise internet connectivity to perhaps provide peer-to-peer connectivity between parties to the original cloud service and help to reduce the impact of such failure.

I guess it's the entrepreneur in me... always looking for an opportunity to turn disaster or misfortune into a chance to create something new and valuable.

Of course, as you would expect, things seem to have returned to normal within a couple of hours... this time. However, one can't help but wonder what would be the outcome if a major catastrophe hit and the Net was cloud-free for a protracted period.

What's more, with various nations now employing armies of hackers, might it not be prudent to consider that providing an automated fall-back system for cloud operations to be a matter of national security?

Right now, if China, Russia , North Korea or any other well-organised cyber-force decided to, they could probably cripple a huge chunk of the Western economy by simply launching well designed, widely distributed attacks on key pieces of cloud infrastructure. Instead of getting all paranoid about terrorists and enemy states strapping small amounts of explosives to recreational drones, how about they start organising defenses against what will almost certainly turn out to be a far bigger threat?

Oh the humanity... how would we cope if the internet-sun shone all day because the clouds were gone?

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