Could the cloud save your business when disaster strikes?


When the first earthquake hit on Sept 4th, I was in Christchurch doing some routine maintenance at a client’s head-office. Aside from a pretty scary near-miss involving a million-year-old chimney, it was a relatively minor event as far their IT went and they were back to work within a couple of weeks. In the February 22nd earthquake however, their office was totaled.

The costs to Christchurch in terms of lives lost or uprooted and frayed nerves has been given heaps of coverage since the quake. It’s been an enormously traumatic six months for our second-biggest city and in the business sector we’re hearing about owners who have survived with lives and staff intact but with offices and IT systems un-reachable or even, completely destroyed.

Many of these businesses are rallying together – larger corporations are re-locating staff to other centres, while smaller guys are, in some cases, working off laptops at the CEO’s house. We’ve seen organizations like Melanie Morris’s Christchurch Business Recovery Centre open to help SMEs get back on their feet by providing services ranging from access to office equipment like stationary and computers, right through to boardrooms and a place to have your mail delivered.

One of the major problems facing many of these businesses though is data-retrieval or loss. This is a crippling problem that, for many, will spell the end of a business they’ve poured their heart and soul into.

The client I was visiting in September was saved this issue because a few months ago, they converted to a cloud hosted service for their email and data storage. For so many other businesses I’ve helped out over the past few weeks though, the picture is much more grim. Many of them were running off a physical server, stored in their building, which is now completely unreachable. All their project, job information, financial records, client contacts, staff records and business information are lost or, at best, only as up to date as their last back-up. In many cases, this means more than a month of data lost.

We’ve been helping out some of our IT mates down in Christchurch by restoring the most recent back-up of their clients’ data on virtual machines hosted in the cloud which, in most cases, means these businesses can get back up and running within a day. Being hosted in the cloud means that if something happens to the computer system they’re working on – an aftershock causes more damage or a laptop simply breaks down for some reason – their data is current and safe, with a number of back-ups stored around the country. Hopefully meaning one less thing for these frazzled business owners to worry about.

Until recently, Microsoft’s Small Business Server was really the only option for most growing businesses. Data costs were astronomical if you were using the cloud for everyday server storage. Now though, the cost of sending all that information back and forth to off-site servers is so low it often works out cheaper than installing an on-site server. One of the big benefits to this is that your data is being backed-up in real-time at a number of different server storage locations around the country. This means, even if something was to happen to your office, there are duplicate copies of your data, heavily encrypted and safely stored in units elsewhere in NZ.

We’re doing as much as we can to help businesses get back on their feet until their regular Christchurch based IT providers can take over again. Then we’re going to be systematically making sure our own clients are protected if this sort of event happens again.

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...


  1. Jochen Reply

    The problem with the amount of data in the past is not because of costs, but because mass scale Office applications contain so much fluff in the files. Further, they store everything in duplicate and make it harder to store everything in a single place.

    We moved a client from MS Word/Outlook into a cloud system 5 years ago and their whole database since is still below 10MB compressed! Plus about 2MB of source code that encompasses their whole business.

    1. Jamie Nelson Reply

      That is because you are very good at systems automation Jochen. Not every business has the luxury of using your wonderful services.

      An “unlimited bandwidth” internet plan starts at around $170 per month.
      And online storage in New Zealand starts at around $1 per 1GB of data per month, but can become much much cheaper if buying in bulk. (eg: we do 6TB of online storage for $4000 as a one off cost, then $100 dollars per month after that).

      The hosting cost of a hosted server, and an internet connection with fast unlimited bandwidth for your own office can be as little as $400 dollars a month.
      Meaning your server is in an offsite, secure, heat regulated, earthquake stabilised, Battery and Generator power, 24/7 accessible environment.

      If you move into the next grade up from fixed location hosting into an actual “cloud” (where your server is actually simultaniously running in multiple parts of New Zealand), then you are looking at about $750 + GST per month, for a Dual core Xeon Server, with 100GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM, With Any version of microsoft or linux server, with 7 days of nightly backups, and management/updates/monitoring/patching.

      Just to give you an idea of entry level pricing.


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