Disaster and the Cloud

About a dozen years ago, the Gotham Gal and I purchased a townhouse in Greenwich Village and did a gut renovation on it. Down in the basement, we built a large data room. There were racks and racks of equipment in this room. There was a home audio system with mp3 servers. There were network attached storage devices for family photos and videos. There was even an exchange server that I had taken from the offices of Flatiron Partners which ran our mail and related systems. It was an impressive room that would raise oohs and aahs from geeks who like that sort of thing. When we sold that house in 2007, we decided to decommission all of that equipment and put everything into the cloud.

The home audio system became Sonos units connected to Rhapsody, last.fm, and a number of other cloud based music systems that were available at the time. The family photos and videos went into cloud based file storage systems. The exchange server was scrapped and we all got onto Google Apps.

I thought of that room when we went back to visit our building on Tuesday in the aftermath of the storm. Our basement was filled with the Hudson River and I shivered to think about that townhouse data room filled with water to the ceiling. Of course that never happened. But what if it did?

We do have a data room in the basement of our building which was filled to the ceiling with water this week. But that data room mostly has network switches, routers, cable and DSL modems, and patch panels in it. We have redundant data networks in our home. When we get our basement cleaned up and dry, we will pull all of these switches, routers, amd modems out and replace them with new ones. And we will be back up and running. Because all of our systems are now up in the cloud. And I know they are operating fine. Because all week while we have been displaced from our home, I have been accessing all of them from our friend's home.

But it goes even deeper than that. For the next couple months, the Gotham Gal and I and our son will be living somewhere else. I have a home office that for over twenty years has had a windows desktop machine running Quicken on it. I am a bit obsessive about keeping good financial records and files. I thought briefly this week, "how am I going to manage all this stuff while we are displaced?" But then I remembered that we moved everything to Quickbooks Online a while back and I can make any place my home office because my data is in the cloud now.

And this applies to our portfolio companies as well. One of the companies I work with went down this week because their primary data center was flooded and has not come back online yet. Their engineering team worked pretty much around the clock to move their primary application to Amazon's cloud so they could get back up and running. As the CEO and I were emailing about this disaster, I mentioned that one good outcome of all of this is that our application is now redundant. We can run it in a data center and/or the cloud. Which of course is a good thing.

Whether it is a company or a family, moving your applications and your data to the cloud is a great disaster preparation effort. Most companies deal with disaster planning and redundancy when they "grow up". But many families do not. This week was an eye opening experience for me about the value of putting your applications and data in the cloud. We did that a while back and it has made being flooded and displaced a lot easier. I cringe to think about what would happen if we had replicated that big data room in the basement of our building. Thankfully we did not.