Cloud Computing Questioned After Amazon Fizzle

April 25, 2011



Late last week, Amazon's cloud computing hub malfunctioned, sending a myraid of sites who relied on the data and recovery service provided by Amazon, crashing down.

Sites from Pfizer to Netflix to SearchMedica (owned, as is ConsultantLive.com, by UBM) were down for up to two days.

The breakdown sent ripples across a technology and business communities increasingly wed to the idea of cloud computing.

SeeMyRadiology.com, AgmaMedical.com, and a new imaging center at Microsoft's consumer-focused HealthVault, are but a few of the players in radiology making much of their "cloud" capabilities.

In "the cloud," companies outsource the sofware and data capture they need to run their sites to a third party. Why host it yourself? If it sits on a server accesisble from anywhere, it can be easily acessed as needed and, the argument goes, have more thoourgh rendundnacies and protection against breakdowns.

The logic is sound. There are very few hospitals, imaging centers or private practices with the technology chops to provide the kind of security and redunancies most cloud hosts offer. The catch is that companies using those services actually have to invest in the top-of-the-line safety nets offered, instead of going cheap and hoping for the best. (See the cogent article on the topic at The New York Times, for example.)

The breakdown at Amazon may be of special concern to radiologists, who need constant access to images for patient safety. The key to peace of mind: Know what kind of backup you've got. It's probabaly better on the cloud than in the over-heated server room at the hospital.