We had wondered, however, whether this was a function of our age. Perhaps we just had too many memories of unreliable service bureaus, noisy telephone lines, and faulty modems. As such, we were suspicious of this latest trend until we realized: today's technology is so reliable and has so much built-in redundancy that our fears were clearly unfounded.
And then came last night's weather. While the Toronto area avoided the severity of a tornado, the strong winds and driving rain, coupled with it being a slow moving storm, caused massive problems. According to this morning's news broadcast, we exceeded, in six hours, the amount of rainfall that we would normally get in six weeks. You can see the storm's impact here. In our home town of Mississauga, over 80% of the city was without power; in Toronto, we were off the grid for over three hours and a large portion of the subway system is still out of action.
No power? No problem, we have a fall-back UPS. First hiccup: the batteries in the UPS were dead, so there was no help here. Yes, we should probably check the batteries in the UPS more regularly. That said, we haven't used the desktop machine it was originally intended to back up in over a year.
No problem, our MacBooks can run for 5-7 hours on a full charge. We should still be able to get plenty of work done. Second stumbling block: no internet service. We use a cloud service for our IBM i, and we had a lot of coding to do. We fortunately had some of the code we were working on in the editor in RDP, so we could keep working on that code, but we eventually needed to compile and run it.
No problem, we figured - our iPhone has data service and is enabled as a hot-spot, which should allow us to at least upload/download some essential files, keeping us working. Fat chance. The power loss was so widespread that our local towers had apparently been knocked out and the little signal we could get was so weak, or maybe the tower so overloaded, that our phone couldn't connect to the internet, much less our laptops.
So we worked on what we had available, which wasn't what we really needed to get done, but beggars can't be choosers. We broke out the candles, found a battery for the battery-operated radio, and tuned in to the local radio station.
After we eventually regained power, we began to wonder: what if we lived in the parts of Toronto that are still without power today? What if our experience of the storm was not merely the inconvenience of being unable to get the source files we needed, but rather a mission critical app that would have a logjam effect on the rest of our business?
The cloud is a wonderful idea, but this incident convinced us that there are major elements to take into account when committing a business to this path. With an in-house IBM i and a small emergency generator, we could have been up and running in minutes. Our business requirements are such that we probably won't give up the benefits of working in the cloud, but we will think more about what kind of backup plans we could put in place for when the clouds get in our way of using the cloud.