Blake Dowling: Is the cloud clouding your cybersecurity plans?

Cloud computing
The next outage is coming; it is not a matter of if, but when. Will you be ready?

When I talk to an organization about their technology for the first time, a lot of the conversations begin with statements like, “I don’t’ need extra cybersecurity” as our systems are in the cloud.

Or “we don’t need backups as our data is in the cloud.” In most circumstances these thoughts are incorrect.

The “cloud” is just a server somewhere else; servers must be backed up regardless of where they are housed.

The responsibility is yours to make sure you back up email and files, securing them whether in your office or the cloud. This hit home this week for a very large number of people in Florida (and around the world) as cloud giant Rackspace was hit with a cyberattack, specifically ransomware.

They disclosed the full nature of the attack on Day Five of the outage (this past Tuesday)

The short, dire recommendation on their website should be motivation for you to take a fresh look at your technology if you have not done so lately.

A screenshot from the public-facing Rackspace website Monday morning, Dec. 5 at 10:53 a.m.

I had just finished a column on how the elections went smoothly (from a technological standpoint) with a minimum of interference from hackers. Then this happens.

Another “cyber incident” involving an industry powerhouse. From a financial standpoint, Wall Street does not like hacking. Shares of Rackspace were down 8% according to Market Watch (and dropping more as the week goes on).

I am a big fan of Rackspace; in the wild west days of cloud computing — 12+ years ago — they were one of our first cloud partners.

We offered web hosting, servers in the cloud, and email options; they were super easy to work with. Those days have come and gone as better options presented themselves to our clients, but I remember them as excellent partners.

It pains me to see them in this predicament, as this is bad for all of us.

This incident looks grimmer than most attacks for the following reason. Usually, a company involved with a problem like this would say we are down, and we will be back up soon (a short non-PR version of a crisis statement).

In this case, they are not saying that; in fact, they say to go elsewhere and start over, do not wait for them.

Their recommendation is to open new email accounts with Microsoft 365.

New — meaning no old email.

I received several emails (from newly created Gmail accounts in most cases) over the weekend from organizations in Tallahassee that were affected.

The first asked my opinion on when they will be back up. The answer was I have no way of knowing, but a week or two would be my guess.

The second question was what about my old emails? Based on the scenario they are describing, your old emails are not on the table for discussion now.

The goal of getting you into Microsoft 365 will just give you the ability to send and receive new emails.

Do you see why it is important to back up email? What happens if it vanishes as it did with Rackspace? Granted, in the coming days and weeks they should be able to offer their clients their archives and historical email back but what if they can’t?

The bottom line is Rackspace will recover, but it will take time and it will be messy.

They are projecting large losses as their hosted exchange business does about 30 million in revenue and thousands of users are impacted.

If you use their service for email, follow their advice and set up a new email account (365 or other) so you can resume email communications; we have done this for those who have asked for our help — and it is a fast process.

Affected or not, it’s time to sharpen the blade. Ask your IT person to back up your email. Same for SharePoint, One Drive and other cloud services.

Also, as we close, I offer you a tool that I use about every week.

Want to know if something is down? Comcast? Zoom? Rackspace? Check out Downdetector and you can keep yourself and your team in the loop. Be safe out there and have redundancy and backup at every level including internet connections (have a primary and a secondary), email, files, and even your pictures.

The next outage is coming; it is not a matter of if, but when. The only question remaining is — will you be ready?


Blake Dowling is the CEO of Aegis Business Technologies, and he can be reached at [email protected].

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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