See also: Trinity Mirror CIO profile

News International has outlined the pros and cons of using the Amazon public cloud and advised potential users to make sure they architect for failure.

The media company, which publishes The Times, The Sun and The Sunday Times, has put 200 of its 1,200 servers on Amazon so far. While it recognises the benefits of using Amazon's cloud services, News International has also highlighted some of the issues it has experienced.

"You get disk corruption once a month. You've got to back up your VMs (virtual machines) in the cloud," Ian McDonald, head of infrastructure and cloud at News International, told the 451 Research Group's HCTS conference in London yesterday.

"The thing with Amazon is you can't just pick up a VM and put it on Amazon. You've got to work on the basis that anything can fail."

He added, however, that the good points about Amazon were that it was innovative, cheap and that the company can use it to "spin things up very quickly".

"The stuff is out there, it works," said McDonald. "But it is a pretty ugly underlying design."

McDonald revealed that while News International can put about 80 percent of its infrastructure into the cloud, it is currently only about 30 percent in the cloud.

It uses Google Mail, Google Apps, Salesforce CRM, FinancialForce and last week introduced Salesforce's enterprise social network Chatter across the business. It is in the process of moving from VMware vSphere 4.1 to vSphere 5.

The main constraint to moving to the cloud is that the company did a hardware refresh – including the purchase of new server blades – two years ago.

"We've got some headroom in existing kit. When that comes to end-of-life, I will shift out to the cloud," said McDonald.

News International is moving systems into the cloud on a service-by-service basis, and its editorial systems, which are currently being upgraded, will be some of the last to go into the cloud.

To decide that services are moved, the company has a 'cloud hierarchy', moving from 'do we need this application anymore? To 'can it be delivered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), then Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), then Infrastructure-as-a-Service, to VMware.

"If they say [it must be] physical, we don't do it unless it is absolutely critical," said McDonald.