Is a cloud provider unsinkable? This piece from CNN shows an image of the Titanic as it talks about Amazon's recent Amazon Web Services outage, which took down parts of many sites, including Reddit, FourSquare and the New York Times.
While I think Amazon has done an amazing job of building technology well, they are no different than any large provider. Google has had issues with their services and Hotmail recently had a failure that lost data for some people. Salesforce.com has gone down and Oracle's "unbreakable" moniker has proven to be untrue, and the unsinkable Titanic wasn't the first large endeavor to fail.
What's interesting to me is that AWS wasn't down for me. I didn't use any of the services mentioned at the time of the outage, so as far as I was concerned, nothing happened. That's the luck of the draw and as we move to a more connected world, with our systems reaching people all across the globe, we have a large variety of customers who will never notice our issue. The flip side is that it's more likely at least someone will notice any of our issues.
There isn't a foolproof way to build a computer system that runs 100% of the time. As much as every large provider in the "cloud" will try to convince you otherwise, there will be issues. If the cloud is right for you, and fits your business, make sure that you have good backup plans in place, consider architecting your systems to work across different providers, and ensure that you always, always, always have good backups.
More than ever I think this mantra applies to people managing data in the cloud: good backup, good resume. You need one of them.
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