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Few years ago I was in charge of marketing and selling services to Telecom providers. It was a business that generated tens of millions of dollars, with one guarantee – Uptime of “Five  nines” – 99.999%. To those of you that are not familiar with this terminology, it simply suggests that a system can have no more than 5.26 minutes of unscheduled downtime a Year!  Yes, in a world that tolerates 3-5 minutes of PC boot, 2 minutes of smartphone boot and more, this requirement  suggests  that the system should  never go down. Many noted  that this requirement actually generates cost with no clear value. Deloitte for example called for “Nixing the nines” with the argument that even traditional cloud services can perform well at 99.9% (43.2 minutes/month) of downtime saving significant amounts of money on infrastructure and services.

In the mobile world, lack of access to services is part of the territory. I am not suggesting that the issue is with Wireless Networks coverage, rather than the reality of mobile medium. Simply said, having slow or no connectivity is part of the mobile landscape.  In this reality, what is the value of guaranteeing  service availability of 5.26 minutes/year, when individual users have more than that in slow or no access minutes  in any given day?  Indeed, when examining the key quality criteria for mobile services, most users will point out to different set of requirements that are important to them. Gomez as example found out that 71% of users expect the mobile web will load as fast as desktop web or 60% of users will wait no more than 3 seconds for a web page to load. Obviously for applications that are installed on the device the connectivity issue can be mitigated by clever software design, but still, if users  are searching for an item on eBay or Amazon they  would like to see similar response for applications as well. One other important consideration is the value to the user while there is no connectivity, specifically what the client application or web service provides and what does the back-end on behalf of the user, when the user is not connected or experiencing slow connection.

So here are some important criteria that can be measured and are more relevant to mobile cloud experience than always on:

  1. Response time – how  fast the cloud service responds to user requests.
  2. Task completion – what percentage of users completed key task on the cloud service.
  3. Uptime by component  – Back-end Cloud/Mobile Network /Client application.

Obviously all of these have to be measured on various devices, since these performance factors dramatically change for different devices. This important issue deserves a separate post..

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