The 99.9% vs. 0.1% Cloud Uptime Dilemma

It’s obvious that the topic of the cloud is of high interest. Hence, with the fame comes the blame – the blame being on cloud service downtime. For any of you that have used a cloud provider, you’ve probably perused their SLA (Service Level Agreement) which includes their uptime guarantee. Of course, you’d like it to be 100% but in reality it is inevitable that short-term downtimes will happen. In a recent article featured on, author Lauren Carlson explained that, “most cloud companies can still quote about 99.9% up-time. […] Unfortunately, naysayers still like to harp on that .1%,” hence the title of this blog post.

The naysayers aren’t wrong. That 0.01% of downtime can still have serious financial consequences, and it should be addressed. The false conclusion drawn from common cloud downtime is that online systems are consistently less reliable than on-premises systems. This is patently false.

Those naysayers of the cloud believe that to be in control of their system data, they need their services to be located on-premise. The cloud makes them wonder about all the “what-ifs”. What they don’t realize is that, “cloud based solution vendors not only have the latest technology, the latest firewalls, the best data centers, and the highest levels of redundancy possible but they will apply multiple layers of [in-depth defense] that your average business (a Fortune 500 company may be an exception) can never have,” explained Walter Scott, CEO of FGI Software.

As explained in this article, on-premise systems make up-time promises just like their cloud service counterparts. The reasons why cloud outages receive mainstream coverage and criticism are that these services are newer and have more skeptics. With an on-premise system, one single company may experience an outage and the news in relation to that will be minimal to none. This leads to the perception that the cloud is not as reliable as a local system, which is generally false.

Although published in 2008, the Radicati Group published the below chart comparing cloud-based email versus on-premise systems.

Cloud vs On Premise Downtime

As you can see, unscheduled downtime for on-premise email systems such as Microsoft Exchange was between 30 and 60 minutes. There was an additional 36-90 minute period of scheduled downtime. In comparison, Gmails’ downtime was only 10-15 minutes (not including its most recent outage).

To be fair, any system will fail or go down at one point or another. The focus should not solely be on cloud systems just because they are brand new. On-premise downtime should also be considered and evaluated, especially when cloud downtime is significantly less common, is far more easily recoverable and can save businesses time and money. This also demonstrates that “cloud providers” are more efficient at getting back online than companies that host their own servers” stated Lauren Carlson of

Now, this brings to light the importance of avoiding a single point of failure. If you are solely dependent on one service, and it goes down, your business and personal risk rises. However, if you have an alternate way to access this data to achieve near 100% uptime, you are in the ideal position. Denis Pombriant of Beagle Research Group points out that, “If you’re going to have a truly robust and reliable infrastructure, you’re going to have to build much greater reliability into your systems.”

This reliability can be in the form of a third-party redundant backup and archiving system. For on-premise systems, backup providers include Dropbox, Mozy and Carbonite. For online backups, Backupify serves to archive both social media and Google Apps data to safeguard against the 0.01% downtime risk of services like Gmail.