The government shutdown in the US means that many agencies are being forced to 'bring down' their web sites, even though actually leaving them in place would probably be cheaper. Those unusual circumstances deliver a lesson for everyone: using a demand-based cloud service can ensure you don't end up stuck with excessive bills if you are forced to stop running sites or applications.
Picture: Orange Steeler
Very few organisations are likely to be placed in the odd position where US government agencies currently find themselves: forced to take down their web sites because appropriations funding (needed for day-to-day operations) has not been approved. As our sibling title Business Insider notes, what's especially strange about this is that individual agencies are being forced into this position even though leaving sites in place would often be cheaper.
As the Office of Management and Budget explains:
What of the cost of shutting down a website exceeds the cost of maintaining services? The determination of which services continue during an appropriations lapse is not affected by whether the costs of shutdown exceed the costs of maintaining services.
Nothing much about the US shutdown seems rational, so this is hardly surprising. Nor is it particularly difficult to imagine situations in which the cost of shutting down might exceed the cost of staying online, even if there was no active content updating. The most obvious one? Sites which are paying a fixed price for hosting based on their expected traffic are going to be hit with that bill no matter what.
And this brings us back to one of the chief selling points for a cloud architecture: if you're paying based on the actual bandwidth and processing power you use, then during any kind of shutdown or hiatus you won't be paying the same amount as during business-as-usual. It's an argument for ensuring flexibility in your contracts, rather than committing to minimum usage levels in return for a discounted rate.
The US Federal government has quite aggressively pursued cloud strategies, so it's likely that some of the affected agencies are in this position. But the very fact that an FAQ document spelling out that cost savings are not an argument for keeping sites in their active format exists suggests strongly that it isn't the case for all of them.
In a world where we strive for 99.9 per cent uptime, deliberately shutting down a site for an extended period feels odd and perverse, and it's definitely a scenario more commonly seen in the government sector. Following the recent election, for instance, this was the home page for the main Prime Minister's home page:
How very 1996. Let's hope the hosting bill reflected its complexity.