Shifting apps to the cloud has many advantages, but there's one obvious challenge that keeps some managers wary: how can you get any work done if your internet provider has an outage? As Cash Converters' recent shift to a cloud-based system demonstrates, that's not an insurmountable problem, but it does require careful planning.
As we detailed last week when discussing whether or not latency really mattered to all Australian cloud users, Cash Converters is upgrading 700 store sites to use an Azure-based point-of-sale system. As software development manager James Miles explained at TechEd 2013 Australia, that required planning for what would happen if the main line connected to a store dropped out.
"We've done a lot of analysis in this area and we've tackled it in a number of ways," he said. "The first thing we've done to mitigate the risk is to put redundant internet connections in the store." In some cases, that has been a 3G or 4G hotspot that can be used for emergencies. Many stores already have dual phone lines from different providers, with the second often utilised for video surveillance.
"Step two is to ask the store what happens when the power goes out. The answer is: when the power goes out, we pull out this piece of paper from under the desk and we move to a manual mode. Sales occur but we keep a manual receipt and once it comes back online, we punch it in. We already had to deal with that problem [with our previous system]," Miles said.
The widespread availability and relatively low cost of hotspots means this problem is less of a challenge than it would have been a decade ago. No system is absolutely bulletproof, but avoiding cloud purely because of a potential connectivity risk seems a limited viewpoint.
Disclosure: Angus Kidman travelled to TechEd Australia as a guest of Microsoft.