Zoho Experiences Outage, Points the Finger at Equinix

Zoho, a provider of online business, productivity, and collaboration applications, experienced a brief power outage Friday, taking its products and services offline for several hours. According to Zoho’s blog, the outage began at 8:25am PST, and even when power was restored by 9:15am, the company had a lot of work to do to get its service back up and running.

Various applications were restored throughout the day, beginning with its Accounts service at 10:55am, and by 6:12pm, all of Zoho’s services and applications were back up and running.

Sample shot of Zoho Docs

Apparently, the cause of the downtime was a power outage in California at Equinix, a colocation provider. Zoho described the issues at play:
Services have multiple database clusters – like 8-12 database clusters per each service. Each cluster having a Master-Slave combination. Power failure caused inconsistencies in some of these clusters. But to restore these services fully, we need to make sure all these database clusters are consistent. This database consistency check and sync is what is taking time.
Occasional downtime is part of the deal with moving to the cloud, but it’s still alarming that this occurred. It seems odd that a simple power outage would knock out an entire data center, as there are plenty of ways to ensure continuous power.

Zoho has about 5 million customers, and it follows, many more that directly or indirectly rely on Zoho’s 22 different online applications for business and personal use. Losing an entire day of work, not to mention access to previous work, contacts, calendars, and more, is not just inconvenient, but disastrous for many. Zoho isn’t exactly the first online services provider to have this problem, but its customers nevertheless have every right to be furious.

Outages to cloud and online services like these, though relatively few and far between, highlight some of the problems inherent in relying on providers like Zoho, including relinquishing so much control to a third party and also trusting that anyone that party contracts with will provide the level of service users expect.

The cloud offers tremendous benefits to individuals and companies of all sizes and with all manner of needs, but this is one of the potential pitfalls.