Vendors of any application or service deliv-
ered via the cloud realize that they are often
held to a higher standard than on-premise
software providers, but in the wake of recent
outages at Intuit, the issue of what vendors
in the space must do to address downtime
events — planned or otherwise — has been
pushed into the spotlight.
As included in cloud-vendor service-level agreements (SLAs), “uptime” is a critical metric and there are few vendors, if any,
who promise less than 98 percent uptime.
Should those levels dip or in the event of
any unplanned or sudden downtime or outages, there’s usually some level of compensation on the part of the vendor — monetary
This is usually standard practice, since
most vendors offer a subscription model for
hosted or pure cloud-based services.
Most cloud vendors will admit that 100 percent uptime, while ideal, is not likely for the
foreseeable future, as most schedule several
hours of downtime over the course of a year
for periodic maintenance and upgrades.
In the case of QuickBooks parent Intuit,
the company experienced unplanned service outages in June that made headlines,
and another in July that was more short-lived.
For two days in June, Intuit.com and some of
its major Web sites, including QuickBooks
Online, Intuit Online Payroll, Quicken and
QuickBase, were down for two days following
a power outage.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Intuit has
more than 300,000 customers using its online
network of small-business applications, and
has been moving more of its products online
as part of its Connected Services strategy.
The company explained that the outage
occurred during routine maintenance. An
accidental power failure at that time affected
Intuit’s primary and backup systems, taking
a number of Intuit corporate Web sites and
Intuit president and chief executive Brad
Smith apologized on the company’s blog for
the outage, saying, “There is simply no excuse
for having such a negative impact on you.”
In July the company experienced another,
albeit shorter, outage that knocked out ser-
vice for a few hours.
During that time, company spokesman
Rich Walker said that customer communi-
Shadows on the cloud
Service outages spotlight downtime issues for cloud providers
BY SETH FINEBERG
cation was key. “Over the past month, we’ve
PLAN OF ACTION
communicated the news of our outages, up-
dated our customers when we restored ser-
vices and re-assured them that their data was
not lost. Details have been available through
various communications from our execu-
tives and on our community sites,” he said.
“The outages were not related, and we have
learned that we need to accelerate our con-
tinuous journey to re-architect our products,
modernize our technology to host them, and
build or lease state-of-the-art data centers to
house our online services.”
As to their efforts to help prevent such
downtime events going forward, Smith stat-
ed: “Efforts are already underway. Many of
our new online products are architected and
designed with 24-7, high-availability and di-
saster recovery in mind. We’ve already invest-
ed more than $300 million in new facilities,
including two state-of-the-art data centers in
Quincy, Wash., and Las Vegas. We are aggres-
sively migrating our existing applications to
these data centers.”
Other online providers to the accounting
space realize that they too are not immune to
outages, but between proper communication
and detailed SLAs, they are confident that
they can retain customer loyalty and faith in
Also in June, San Jose, Calif.-based cloud
accounting and financial management ser-
vice Intacct Corp. experienced a hardware
error that brought down one of its databas-
es. The downed database housed demo ac-
counts, not paying accounts, but a portion of
customers were offline for 24 minutes.
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