While researching on DR best practices, I uncovered a statistic from Bank of Japan 2012 survey on business continuity. When asked how many days can a bank’s power generator runs on fuel ? The answer is surprising low. Look at this chart on page 25.
stockpiles of generator fuel
I remember in 2003 New York Blackout, I was working for a bank and their New York data centre staff was forced to drive a long distance and wait for hours to buy generator fuel. When over 40% of from JP banks do not have fuel supply over 1 day, this number is quite worrying. Japan banks and professionals are well aware of large scale of catastrophes and yet their risk assessment/impact analysis arrive in one day fuel stockpiles.
Think deeper, there are some reasons for not able to store extra fuels. First, fire safety issues. Storage of a large amount of fuel permanently will require extra safety measures. Industrial buildings or data centre location may not allow such storage of inflammable substances. Second would be cost. What else? Third is the estimation of recovery time is not directly link to fuel supply. Within 24 hours, most people would believe they can replenish fuel with confidence. However, the 2003 large scale blackout in New York lasts for 2 days. All generators were put into use and thus supply are going to be tight, you should expecting a long queue. The assumption of continuous fuel supply when disaster or large scale blackout happened simply does not hold.
One better approach is to secure priority access to fuel supply when disaster strikes, So in your next data centre audit , you should ask “Show me the contract?” Auditor are paid to ask tough questions.
Still remember when I was introducing cloud security to a Hong Kong journalists back in 2011 winter at WanChai (HKSAR), we were having a lunch meeting and she was researching on cloud computing. At that time, running servers at a remote site was still a wired idea. As always, the question “Is it safe ?” was asked. This question was asked spontaneously (if not involuntarily) when I mentioned the data is processes at an outsourced data centre. The person asking this question actually do not distinguish if they are referring to unauthorised access while transmuting, physical risk of remote data centre or availability. Like commercial airplane first appears, when only 1% of the population flew, 99% asked “Is it safe?”
Fast forward to 2015, TechCrunch has an article on this issues “The Cloud Could Be Your Best Security Bet” and Ron Miller explained that major data breaches are from company with on-permises servers :” Yet if you think about every major data breach over the last two years, whether Anthem, Sony, JPMorgan or Target, all involved on-premises datacenters, not the cloud.”
Ron made it clear that knowledge is the real differentiator, when protecting data. Company like Sony Pictures are not technology firm and their investment, staff recruitment and intelligence gathering capability is not able to match with company like Salesforce, Google, AWS etc.
There is another consideration, I like to complement his argument. For non-technology enterprise or company do not offer cloud computing product/services, investment in security controls is usually regarded as a cost centre, in term means cheaper is better. For company, like Google security is a product that they can sell. When evaluating security control investments, cloud services providers are able to invest much more than a bank or an airline company.
Although I agree with Ron’s observations, I have to point out that not all cloud services offering are the same. Again referring to the airline industry metaphor, running secure cloud computing platform is costly and bigger players has the economic of scales. Budget airlines usually operate flights to less visited airport and has a niche market. We are going to see similar trends in cloud computing.