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5 Key Questions to Ask Before a Cloud Migration

By | Cloud

As businesses strive to keep pace with the demands of the digital age, many are capitalizing on the efficiency and scalability advantages of cloud computing. While operational speed and efficiency are critical, migrating to the cloud is about determining what is best for the business―not solely about cutting costs.

Every cloud deployment has its own unique risks and limitations. However, these risks can be minimized by following a carefully planned migration strategy that details precisely which workloads are best suited for the cloud; what specific business value your organization hopes to gain from the cloud; and how success will be defined and measured.

Cloud migration is never simple, but with proper planning and the right approach, you can minimize your risk and optimize your return on investment. Following are five important questions you should ask to help ensure you migrate to a cloud environment that best aligns with your business needs.

 

  1. What is your core business reason for migrating to the cloud?

 

The first step to effective cloud planning is to identify your business goals and understand how the cloud will support those goals. Work with your internal team to carefully evaluate your business priorities, internal processes, operational requirements, and long term strategy.

Be sure to clearly define why you are moving to the cloud and consider the resources and infrastructure you need to make that happen. What does your organization truly require from a cloud environment? What shift in strategy do you expect your business to make in the next few years? What new or emerging technologies should you consider in your migration plans?

While the benefits of cloud computing are attractive, be realistic and realize that not all workloads are a good fit for the cloud. Consider your infrastructure constraints and business priorities. Evaluate and prioritize each workload or application since this will help drive core migration decisions, including cost and timing. How will ongoing market pressures and economic uncertainties impact your IT systems and infrastructure needs?

With a better understanding of how applications and workloads are being utilized, accessed, and created, you can more easily determine the ideal cloud architecture and deployment model. In some cases, a hybrid cloud approach may be the best option. This will allow you to optimally balance data and applications between public and private cloud environments while improving your ability to respond to shifts in workload demands, supply chain weaknesses, and changing market dynamics.

Ultimately, your cloud environment should reliably and efficiently meet the performance requirements of your business, including the need for ongoing sustainability, information security, regulatory compliance, as well as operation efficiency and technology optimization.

 

2.      How will you accurately estimate migration costs?

 

While the cloud offers the potential for substantial cost savings, without proper planning, costs can quickly spiral out of control. It’s important to understand the rate structure and how you will be charged for the proposed cloud services you are migrating to.

Be sure to take into account the cost of software licensing, infrastructure upgrades, outside contractors and the cost of initial and ongoing technical support. Keep in mind that costs typically increase as you scale your workloads or user count. These figures need to be as realistic as possible to ensure reliable budget forecasting.

Estimating the cost of a cloud migration project can be difficult even for the most seasoned professional. Be careful not to stretch your resources too thin. Some applications function differently in a cloud environment cloud. On-premises performance metrics―while a suitable reference― aren’t always correct. Therefore, you’ll want to incorporate a backup plan in your budget to support extra resources if required.

Having a clear picture of your project needs and budget requirements upfront will help minimize the chance of surprises and migration delays. Often a safer approach is to focus first on a single cloud migration effort and prepare a budget with room to spare as opposed to trying to execute multiple projects in a rapid fashion and come up short if costs shift higher than expected.

To help minimize the chance of cost overruns and project delays, consider working with an experienced cloud consultant who already has a reliable and proven migration methodology. Utilizing the latest virtual technology platforms combined with a modern approach to cloud planning and deployment will help ensure you get a tailored, ROI-focused solution.

 

 

3.      Do you the resources and expertise needed for an effective migration?

 

From security and troubleshooting to backup and recovery, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to planning and deployment. To avoid missteps, make sure you have a knowledgeable implementation team in place early in the decision-making process. Expert planning and advice can mean the different between success and failure.

Your in-house IT team may be best positioned to move your internally developed applications and files to the cloud, but may be less equipped to manage other migration tasks such as moving e-mail systems or file shares. As skill gaps are uncovered, asses the cost-benefit advantages of training your team to handle the task. Be sure that critical areas like security and compliance, managing costs, and governance are properly addressed.

When choosing an outside consultant, look for one with an established record of success in your industry, demonstrated skill in your particular type of project, and equipped with the resources and tools needed to ensure the project is a success. Make certain that your service-level agreements have defined timelines for each stage of the project..

Keep in mind that a delay or failure of your cloud migration project can cost you substantially in lost opportunity and competitive positioning. Teaming with the right cloud partner can help ensure that critical elements stay on track, including go-live schedules, project costs, and business-aligned outcomes.

 

4.      How will you manage data security?

 

One major advantage of cloud computing―flexible data access―can become a huge liability if security is not effectively factored into the equation. That’s why security concerns should be addressed early in your cloud migration project.

Building a solid security foundation requires an IT infrastructure and operating culture that not only safeguards data and mitigates risk, but helps make the business more agile, responsive, and transparent. Although there is no way to defend against all threats, new tools and techniques for detecting and malware and securing networks and endpoints can help protect data without hindering  mobility or productivity.

Technology plays a critical role, but equally important is the need to create an informed and educated security culture. Bad actors and cybercriminals s are continuously exploring new ways to penetrate your defenses, which underpins your need to create a solid culture built around knowledge, awareness and responsiveness.

User policies define acceptable and unacceptable behavior and actions.  You’ll want to work with your IT team to outline and enforce practices and policies based on user preferences and business requirements unique to your specific market.

Regulatory compliance is another important consideration. Based on your unique requirements, you might need to store certain types of data particular region or some data may be best suited for on-premises storage.

Strong application controls like encryption and authentication can help safeguard information across networks and on endpoint devices, helping to thwart attackers from transferring or copying critical business data. Your cloud provider should be able to provide documentation that shows a separation of duties for administrative functions, disclosing the level of access that each user has and how those levels are maintained.

 

5.      How will you recover if data is lost or stolen?

 

Data security and business recovery are among the top critical factors to consider in cloud planning decisions, particularly if your business operates in a regulated environment. In the event of a security breach, you need to be able to restore information and recover quickly.

After identifying and prioritizing the data and applications and you’ve defined your recovery time objectives, your business can establish a solid foundation for a cloud-based disaster recovery solution.

At the center of any good disaster recovery plan is a strategic guidebook that defines processes and outlines procedures to be followed in event of a security breach. This guiding document includes potential scenarios with detailed steps and actions to be taken to minimize the business impact of data loss and allow vital business applications and systems and to be restored and recovered quickly.

The primary goal of disaster planning and recovery is to minimize the impact of a security breach or data loss on business operations and performance. With a properly designed cloud-based disaster recovery plan, mission-critical workloads will failover to a recovery site. Once data is restored, systems can failback from the cloud, and applications and workloads can be restored and re-established to their original condition ―while downtime and disruption are minimized.

Although there is no perfect model or ideal configuration backup and recovery, a smart best practice is to make sure you have employed effective failover measures for all connected devices. A frequent entry point of many attackers is through out-of-date firmware on endpoint devices. That’s why it’s imperative to make sure all of your networks and devices are effectively hardened and capable of protecting against today’s increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

 

Establishing a Solid Foundation

As with any IT investment, certain risks come with cloud migration. Minimizing those risks and capitalizing on the full potential of cloud requires a strategic, pragmatic approach, evaluating essential infrastructure requirements, risk factors, performance needs, and cost considerations.

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Cloud Computing Frequently Asked Questions

By | Cloud

New technologies continue to move the business world forward. Simultaneously, they create a lot of confusion and apprehension among business people and owners who tend to get intimidated by new business concepts.

While cloud computing had been growing in popularity over the last few years, it’s still a reasonably new concept to most people. Perhaps, you have thought about transitioning your company’s software, and computing needs to a cloud environment. If so, it’s very likely that you would have questions about the transition process and how cloud computing works.

To help you move closer to making the right decision about your company’s data needs, it makes sense to offer you a few answers to some common questions about this concept. The following question/answer format should help provide you with the answers you seek.

 

Question:

What does the transition process encompass, and how long will it be before my data servicing is fully operational offsite?

Answer:

The transition process requires some level of participation by company employees. However, hiring an IT professional consultant with related experience could help remove a lot of the burden off of your employees’ shoulders. Your company’s employees could focus on their everyday responsibilities while the IT consultant concentrates on implementing a parallel system with the cloud-computing facility.

As for time requirements, experts claim the entire transition process will usually take 10 to 14 days, depending on business size, the amount of data involved, and the services required.

 

Question:

How will my company’s data access be affected should there be a complete loss of Internet connectivity?

Answer:

The answer to this question is complicated. If you maintain updated synchronized copies of your data in-house, your employees might be able to continue working off of your local server. If not, your company would face one of two possible scenarios.

First, you could be out of luck if your service provider was a single office environment. You would have to wait until they were able to restore access. Under the second scenario, your primary facility’s location might be one of many sites your provider maintains. If that’s the case, it’s doubtful that all of their facilities will experience the same issue simultaneously. If the provider supports substantial redundancy, you might be able to access your cloud-computing environment through an alternative location.

 

Question:

How will a slow Internet connection affect our company’s work productivity?

Answer:

Data connection issues are hit and miss. Some days, the connection speed is adequate, while other days, it might be unbearably slow. The most feasible solution for this type of problem is the simultaneous synchronizing of data between the cloud-computing facility’s data servers and your in-house data server.

Here is how that might work. Most operating systems, Microsoft’s Windows included, offer a feature that can facilitate this kind of synchronization process. Somebody can do work on either server, with the data updated on the opposite server within seconds. Suppose your company is experiencing a slow period of connectivity. In that case, your employees could easily switch to working from the in-house server, knowing the data input will hit the cloud-computing server in short order.

 

Question:

How secure are cloud environments? Will we need to sacrifice some of the protection we have in-House?

Answer:

Of course, your number one concern will focus on security and the protection of your data. You need to understand that there is nothing about your ability to protect data in-house that can’t be replicated in a cloud environment. Your cloud-computing provider probably has access to substantial financial resources they can use to create multiple layers of security.

Another issue worth considering is that your employees are likely to make errors that could compromise the security located around your in-house server. That might include downloading files with viruses or forgetting to use secure passwords. For a cloud-computing provider, their reputation often rests on their ability to keep the client’s data safe. It’s a good bet they have procedures in place to protect against potential errors.

 

Question:

How easy is it to reclaim data should our company go out of business?

Answer:

At the point of implementation, you should receive information about how to proceed in case of an emergency. The information should include detailed instructions on how to recover all of your data without assistance from the facility’s personnel. If you were to encounter any problems, you should also have access to the emergency contact information that would put you directly in touch with someone who could help you proceed.

Ensure you receive copies of the facility’s disaster recovery plans, corporate insurance policy information, specific information about backup procedures, the exact location of your secured data, and any software licensing information you might need.

The bottom line is your provider is your data partner. They should be there to help you under any circumstance, even if your company is going out of business. Never settle on a provider that is unwilling to offer total transparency.

 

Question:

Will there be any special hardware requirements placed on our company?

Answer:

There is lots of good news here. By committing to a cloud-computing solution, you would need to invest less money in your data infrastructure. At most, you would only need one server to use as a backup, plus the workstations and printers you would need for your employees. You would also benefit by not needing to purchase state-of-the-art components because the real thrust of your computing power would be residing with the cloud-computing facility. The money saved could be quite substantial, depending on the size of your company.

 

Question:

Is there adequate protection against disasters, viruses, and errors that could affect our data?

Answer:

Again, cloud computing providers rely on reputation. Through economies of scale, they can provide all clients with a protection level that each client would have trouble providing for themselves.

 

Question:

Will training be available for my employees?

Answer:

Yes, your employees would get ample training related to accessing data and monitoring backup procedures. The training would come in the form of face-to-face live training sessions or through online webinars. Nothing would be permitted to go live until you feel your employees are up to speed and ready to go.

 

Question:

Is this the best data solution for a company with limited financial resources?

Answer:

The short answer is an emphatic yes. Your company would likely experience substantial annual savings in a lot of areas.

 

First, this data option offers the benefit of workforce savings. You would likely need less emphasis on hiring an IT professional because the biggest hardware concerns would fall under the cloud-computing provider’s responsibilities. You would not be responsible for hardware installations, maintenance of updates, and software licensing.

Second, you could save a lot of money on software if you were to choose a generic software system that’s already available on the cloud’s servers. Custom software programs can get quite expensive.

Finally, you could save money in the form of higher productivity among your employees. Instead of worrying about IT issues, they can focus on doing the jobs for which they are getting paid.

 

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Different Types of Cloud Solutions and How to Decide Which One is Best For You

By | Cloud

Businesses worldwide have started implementing the use of cloud solutions for handling the storage of their technology needs. These solutions allow for off-site servers and hardware that is easy to access via the internet. There’s no doubt that this off-site setup allows for reduced business expenses in housing physical infrastructure and paying staff to manage it.

Considering moving to a cloud solution? You’ve likely been overwhelmed with all the options out there. From public clouds to hybrid clouds, which one is best for you? The truth is that each cloud computing solution offers different benefits for different businesses. We’re going to define each type of solution and explain when it’s best used.

1. Public Clouds

The most popular solution offered is public. The providers of this solution provide infrastructure and services for a large group of customers. This type of solution works best for collaborative projects and software development. Due to the easy scalability and pay-as-you-go structure, public clouds are an excellent option for developers to create and test their applications before switching to a private option.

The major pitfalls of public clouds are that users are under the full control of the solution provider. The solution provider could decide to change its platform at any moment or even shut down its operations. This situation requires consistent monitoring and quick response times from your business regularly. Public networks are also susceptible to more security issues as users don’t have any control over the security measures implemented for the network.

Pros

  • A massive amount of space offers easy scalability
  • Pay as you go structure
  • Quickly managed through a self-service web portal

Cons

  • Under full control of solution provider
  • Must-follow terms and conditions of solution provider
  • Susceptible to significant platform changes and provider shut down at any time
  • Unpatched security issues

 

Recommended For: Public clouds are best for those businesses that are not looking for a high level of data security or for companies that are just starting and have minimal investment funds. Public clouds tend to be preferred by software developers who need the convenience of easily scaling up their space without the massive infrastructure investment at first. Many developers, once finished, will switch from public to private for a more secure application.

2. Private Clouds

Private cloud computing offers a more secure solution for businesses that want their data to be accessible only by authorized users of a single organization. The actual infrastructure can be positioned on-site or accessed via a colocation provider. Since private clouds are under the full control of an organization, there is no threat of sudden changes or shutdowns.

While private clouds can be an ideal option for businesses with strict data collection and storage regulations, they can be very costly. Unlike public clouds, where you can use the massive amount of available space to expand easily, private clouds require more infrastructure and software to expand, making scalability time-consuming and expensive for any organization, big or small.

Pros

  • Can only be accessed by one organization
  • Customizable security and system control
  • No-risk of sudden changes
  • Can be hosted on-site or accessed online

Cons

  • Must pay for software and infrastructure
  • Expensive scalability

Recommended For: Private clouds are highly sought-after by businesses who work in industries with highly-restricted data regulations. These include financial organizations, government agencies, healthcare providers, and schools.

3. Hybrid Clouds

As the name suggests, hybrid clouds are both private and public clouds where businesses can utilize public clouds for some aspects of their business and private clouds for others. The hybrid model allows for seamless interaction between both private and public platforms. There are typically two ways to utilize hybrid clouds.

The first is cloud bursting when private clouds are used as a primary solution to store data and house exclusive business applications in a secure environment. In the cloud bursting model, public clouds are used as a backup resource to ensure exclusive applications’ seamless operation when the user demand increases beyond the private solution’s limits. This solution helps to save the business money as they don’t have to buy more infrastructure and servers to handle high demand times.

The second hybrid model is based on using public clouds for outsourcing non-critical business applications. Those deemed non-critical are applications like basic productivity tools. However, most applications and data storage is housed in private clouds for more secure access. This multi-cloud architecture allows businesses to take advantage of private security for regulatory needs while still enjoying cheaper public computing for basic tasks.

Pros

  • Allows for a cost-effective solution
  • Ensures a business can always meet user demand

Cons

  • Can be more difficult to setup
  • Can make business data more susceptible to threat when user demand is high

 

Recommended For: Businesses who deal with frequent spikes in demand. Some well-known businesses that use this hybrid model include Airbnb, Uber, and Netflix.

 

4. Community Clouds

 

Community clouds are commonly shared among businesses within the same industry. They work essentially as private clouds but shared among a handful of companies. This model allows for a multi-tenant environment that reduces the high cost of infrastructure and software for private clouds. Each community solution is jointly managed by members of the various businesses that utilize it. Community clouds can be housed on-premises, such as in a shared industrial building or at a chosen data center.

 

Pros

  • Much cheaper than a single organization private solution
  • Allows for optimal data security at more affordable costs

Cons

  • Network security depends on effective management of infrastructure
  • Relies heavily on other solution partners staying in operation

 

Recommended For: Common users of community clouds include those in the financial services sector, healthcare organizations, and government agencies.

As you’ve discovered, you need to choose from these four cloud solutions. These include public, private, hybrid, and community clouds. Picking the right one for your business to use comes down to a few main factors.

  1. Price plays a significant role in your ability to choose the ideal solution for your business. You may not have the money in your budget to use any private solution if you’re just getting started.
  2. Security Requirements vary depending on your industry. Some government regulations may require your business to have a private solution for data storage.
  3. User Demand, for some businesses, fluctuates tremendously. Having the available infrastructure to handle high times of demand is a must to keep customers coming back.
  4. Industry Partners can be a great asset to save money on data storage and operation solutions. Those with many industry partners may opt for community clouds instead of footing the large private clouds bill.

Choosing a cloud solution requires diligence and understanding of your business’s various options and the many benefits that those options can provide. By analyzing the factors above, you should be fully capable of selecting the right type of solution for your business.

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Best Practices for Building a High Availability Cloud Architecture

By | Cloud

The critical nature of today’s cloud workloads has made choosing the right cloud architecture more important than ever. To reduce the potential for system failures and hold downtime to a minimum, building your cloud environment on high availability architecture is a smart approach, particularly for critical business applications and workloads.

High availability is a design approach that configures modules, components, and services within a system in a way that helps ensure optimal reliability and performance, even under high workload demands. To ensure your design meets the requirements of a high availability system, its components and supporting infrastructure should be strategically designed and thoroughly tested.

While high availability can provide improved reliability it typically comes at a higher cost. Therefore, you must consider whether the increased resilience and improved reliability is worth the larger investment that goes along with it. Choosing the right design approach can be a tedious process and often involves tradeoffs and careful balancing of competing priorities to achieve the required performance.

Although there are no hard rules of implementing a high availability cloud architecture, there are several best practice measures that can help ensure you reap maximum return on your infrastructure investment.

 

Load balancing:

Modern cloud designs allow for the automated balancing of workloads across multiple servers, networks or clusters. More efficient workload distribution helps optimize resources and increases application availability. When instances of server failure are detected, workloads are automatically redistributed to servers or other resources that continue to operate. Load balancing not only helps improve availability, but it helps provide incremental scalability and supports increased levels of fault tolerance. With network load balancers installed in front of servers or applications, traffic or users will be routed to multiple servers, improving performance by splitting the workload across all available servers.  The load balancer will analyze certain parameters before distributing the load, checking the applications that need to be served, as well as the status of your corporate network. Some load balancers will also check the health of your servers, using specific algorithms to find the best server for a particular workload.

 

Clustering:

Should a system failure occur, clustering can provide instant failover capabilities by summoning resources from additional servers. If the primary server fails, a secondary server takes over. High availability clusters include several nodes that exchange data using shared memory grids. The upshot is that should any node be shut down or disconnected from the network, the remaining cluster will continue operation―as long as one node is fully functioning. Individual nodes can be upgraded as needed and reintegrated while the cluster continues to run. The additional cost of implementing extra hardware to build a cluster can be offset by creating a virtualized cluster that uses the available hardware resources. For best results, deploy clustered servers that both share storage and applications, and can take over for one another if one fails. These cluster servers are aware of each other’s status, often sending updates back and forth to ensure all systems and components are online.

 

Failover:

Failover is a method of operational backup where the functions of a component are assumed by a secondary system or component in the event of a failure or unexpected downtime. In the event of a business disruption, tasks are offloaded automatically to a standby system so the process remains seamless for end-users. Cloud-based environments offer highly reliable failback capabilities. Workload transfers and backup restoration is also faster than traditional disaster recovery methods. After problems at the initial site or primary server are solved, the application and workloads can be transferred back to the original location or primary system. Conventional recovery techniques typically take longer as the migration uses physical servers deployed in a separate location. Depending on the volume of data you are backing up, you might consider migrating your data in a phased approach. While backup and failover processes are often automated in cloud-based systems, you still want to regularly test the operation on specific network sites to ensure critical production data is not impacted or corrupted.

 

Redundancy:

Redundancy helps ensure you can recover critical information at any given time, regardless of the type of event or how the data was lost. Redundancy is achieved through a combination of hardware and/or software with the goal of ensuring continuous operation in the event of a failure or catastrophic event. Should a primary component fail for any reason, the secondary systems are already online and take over seamlessly. Examples of redundant components include multiple cooling or power modules within a server or a secondary network switch ready to take over if the primary switch falters. A cloud environment can provide a level of redundancy that would be cost-prohibitive to create with on-premises infrastructure. This redundancy is achieved through additional hardware and data center infrastructure equipped with multiple fail-safe measures. In the case of geographic redundancy, multiple servers are deployed at geographically distinct sites. By capitalizing on specialized services and economies of scale, cloud solutions can provide much simpler and cost-efficient backup capabilities than on-premises systems.

 

Backup and recovery:

Thanks to its virtualization capabilities, cloud computing takes a wholly different approach to disaster recovery. With infrastructure encapsulated into a single software or virtual server bundle, when a disaster occurs, the virtual server can be easily duplicated or backed up to a separate data center and quickly loaded onto a virtual host. This can substantially cut recovery time compared to traditional (physical hardware) methods where servers are loaded with the application software and operating system and updated to the last configuration before restoring the data. For many businesses, cloud-based disaster recovery offers the only viable solution for helping to ensure business continuity and long-term survival.

 

Business continuity:

Even with the best high availability practices and architecture in place, IT-related emergencies and system failures can strike at any moment. That’s why it’s vital to have a well-designed business continuity plan in place as part of your cloud strategy. Your business continuity and recovery plan should be well-documented and regularly tested regularly to help ensure its viability when confronting unplanned interruptions. In-house training on recovery practices will help improve internal technical skills in designing, deploying, and maintaining high availability architectures while well-defined security policies can help curb incidences of system outages due to security breaches. Additional practices involve defining the roles and responsibilities of support staff. If you must failover to a secondary data center, how will you effectively manage your cloud environment? Will your staff be able to work remotely if the primary office or data center location is compromised? In addition to the hardware and infrastructure, the fundamental business continuity logistics and procedures are an important part of your high availability cloud design.

 

 

Building a Solid Cloud Foundation

Cloud environments have helped make high availability and disaster recovery designs supremely efficient compared to traditional methods. Despite many highly publicized examples of security breaches and system failures, many organizations effectively run critical workloads in the cloud when they are built on the right architecture and employ the appropriate management tools.

While high availability techniques can help improve uptime and aid in recovery, it’s important to maintain and test your systems and processes on a regular basis. It’s better to uncover any issues early on rather than have them emerge during a crisis. Determine what needs to be corrected and continue to test the processes until they are perfected.

While putting together all the pieces in place to achieve a highly available cloud environment can be complex and time-consuming, the effort will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.

 

 

 

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Gaining an Edge with Effective Virtualization Management  

By | Cloud, IT Support

Virtualization offers businesses a supremely agile infrastructure framework that allows services and applications to be deployed quickly and efficiently for greater competitive advantage. Not surprisingly, virtualization continues to grow in popularity due to its ease of scalability and its ability to reduce the need for dedicated infrastructure.

 

As businesses move toward more on-demand services, many are recognizing ―and capitalizing―on the benefits of virtualized infrastructure. Built-in abstraction capabilities inherent with virtualization allow you to manage servers, storage and other computing resources in pools no matter where they are physically located. The result: lower operating costs, increased application flexibility, and better resource optimization.

 

Although organizations can gain quick value by upgrading a single component or area of infrastructure, more substantial benefits can be gained by implementing a more comprehensive approach across an array of applications, devices and systems.  But like any technology deployment, the convenience enabled by virtualization doesn’t negate the need to effectively manage the underlying infrastructure.

 

While many businesses are leveraging the advantages of virtualization, some are not fully capitalizing on its potential. One challenge is the accelerated rate of technology advancements. An additional obstacle is a lack of planning and along with poor management practices.   

 

Businesses often launch virtualization projects in a disorganized, haphazard fashion. Over time, virtual servers begin to propagate throughout the infrastructure while IT struggles to manage two distinct environments―the virtual and the physical.  

 

Effective Planning

Every virtualization project has its own set of advantages and limitations. While resource optimization is important, transitioning to virtualized infrastructure is about choosing what is best for the enterprise―not entirely about reducing costs. Creating a purpose-focused strategy should be a chief priority. 

You can implement the optimum plan for your present needs, but your results will fall short of expectations if you don’t integrate flexibility and agility into your approach. Virtualized and cloud environments are evolving rapidly, therefore, it’s important to design and build virtual environments that can scale and adapt  to meet changing priorities and evolving business needs.   

 

At the core of an effective virtualization plan is gaining a clear understanding of the requirements and capabilities of your existing infrastructure. This requires evaluating your workloads and applications, where hardware and software components are installed, the amount of resources they require, and their role and function in supporting your business objectives. 

 

Inventory Tracking

Gaining clear insight into your current infrastructure and how it’s configured and used will provide a framework for determining the optimum approach forward. One you’ve transitioned to a virtual environment, you’ll also want to conduct a thorough inventory your virtual infrastructure, as well as a running inventory, which requires updating and recording changes in every instance. It’s difficult to effectively monitor performance and execute troubleshooting without a clear inventory of the infrastructure you currently have in place.  

 

Technology planning should take into account the present, along with the future, so it’s important to build hybrid scenarios into your virtualized deployments. Your virtualized infrastructure should be able to scale up and down as necessary, reduce administrative costs, and eliminate vendor lock-in.  

 

In planning your virtualized approach, it’s important to look beyond the potential cost savings and make decisions in the context of an actual business case. That means carefully considering your goals, computing needs, resources, and many other factors. It’s complicated, and often involves trade-offs with significant strategic impact.  

 

Management Tools

While virtualization can help boost business performance, navigating and implementing the right management approach isn’t always easy. Virtualization adds complexity at multiple points in your IT infrastructure, which can complicate troubleshooting compared to physical environments.

Consolidating resources and applications across a virtualized environment requires the migration and movement of workloads. This is where automated software tools can play a vital role, helping to balance capacity demands, avoid bottlenecks, and optimize performance.  In addition to easing the burden of your IT staff by eliminating a multitude of manual tasks, virtualization management software helps simplify a number of processes such as conducting inventory checks and analyzing virtual server correlations. 

 

Customizable, interactive dashboards display performance metric and reveal how virtual machines are mapped to their associated storage, host, and related components, which allows you to quickly identify and resolve any underlying cause of performance issues. You can also review and track storage performance, including parameters related to hardware condition, historical operating data, and configuration updates.

 

The right virtualization management tool can help simplify resource administration, enhance data analyses, and optimize capacity. Capacity planning entails looking at the baseline performance and needs of your system to determine where you might experience spikes in need, and where you might need more (or fewer) virtual servers or VMs. 

 

With effective capacity planning and testing, you can shore up your system against bottlenecks and other performance problems. When issues occur, you will be equipped to troubleshoot the problem and identify the root cause.  

 

Each management tool is different, but most will allow you to effectively monitor virtual infrastructure, compile reports, assign resources, and automatically enforce rules. Some systems are even compatible across different software and hardware brands—allowing you to select the management tool that is best suited for your environment.

 

Security safeguards

Data protection and security are chief considerations in virtualized deployments, particularly in regulated environments. Safeguarding systems and processes needs to be carefully balanced against long-term business goals and objectives.  

Leveraging virtualization’s full potential requires a careful, balanced approach, taking into consideration cost savings advantages, performance requirements, and potential risk factors. Although virtual machines can offer users a practical, more convenient experience, it’s critical to carefully control user access to applications and data. 

 

The more access points and connections there are to a single device, the greater the potential for data to be compromised, lost or stolen. The challenge is creating policies that provide an optimum balance between flexibility and security. Ultimately you want to provide users with a certain level of infrastructure control while making sure virtualized benefits do not compromise defined security controls.

Although virtualization can help improve and strengthen data protection efforts, an IT security disaster can hit at any time. That’s why it’s critical to have a disaster recovery plan in place to help make sure your business can continue to operate, meet compliance mandates, and minimize business disruption and downtime.  

One advantage of virtualization is its ability to help streamline data backup and recovery. For optimum results, consider working with an expert consultant who can help you develop a disaster recovery and business continuity strategy that protects assets and defends against ongoing threats. The consultant will assess your security needs and determine an optimum balance of storing your most sensitive data on more secure infrastructure, providing an extra layer of protection.

 

 

Building a Solid Virtualization Framework

Virtualization offers substantial business advantages. By abstracting and encapsulating applications from physical hardware, you create virtual machines that are simpler to manage, easier to move and scale, and can be quickly implemented on physical hardware. Nevertheless, with virtualized technology, you still have a new set of infrastructure management challenges, including hardware configuration and server proliferation.

 

Making the right decisions about how to best leverage virtualized infrastructure can be confusing. It often involves tradeoffs with significant strategic impact. Your best bet: Don’t go it alone. Work with an experienced virtualization expert whose core focus is on improving your technology and optimizing your return on investment. By outsourcing ongoing support tasks to a trusted partner, you can focus on more strategic activities with greater peace of mind knowing that your virtualized systems and processes are running smoothly and efficiently.

Data-Backup-and-Recovery-Reaping-the-Benefits-of-the-Cloud

Data Backup and Recovery: Reaping the Benefits of the Cloud

By | Business Continuity, Cloud, IT Support

While some data loss is inevitable, how you respond to a data breach or business disruption can have a significant impact on your bottom line, or even your survival. With security threats coming from all directions―from malicious code and hackers to natural disasters―data loss is not a matter of if, but when.

Although most companies and their IT departments are aware of the risks, few make an effort to implement disaster recovery until it’s too late. With cyberattacks and internal security failures becoming more commonplace, companies are increasingly turning to disaster recovery in the cloud.

Data protection and recovery capabilities weigh heavily in cloud planning decisions, particularly in regulated environments. While it’s important to safeguard systems and infrastructure against unauthorized access or malicious threats, at the same time, it’s essential to balance these risks with the unique goals and long term objectives of your business.

The fundamental goal of disaster recovery is to reduce the impact of data loss or security breach on business performance. Cloud-based disaster recovery offers an effective way to do just that. In case of a data breach or loss, vital workloads can be failed over to a recovery site to enable business operations to resume. As soon as data is restored, you can fall back from the cloud and re-establish your applications and infrastructure to their original condition ―reducing downtime and minimizing disruption.

Disaster recovery in the cloud offers a particularly attractive option for small and mid-sized businesses that often lack sufficient budget or resources to build and maintain their own disaster recovery site.

 

Gaining a performance advantage

Compared to traditional methods, cloud computing disaster recovery is relatively straightforward to configure and manage. It can eliminate many hours of time moving backup data from tape drives or on-premises servers to recover following a disaster. Automated cloud processes help ensure rapid and trouble-free data recovery.

With the right configuration and a reliable provider, cloud-based disaster recovery can deliver a number of important benefits:

• Fast recovery

Thanks to its virtualization capabilities, cloud computing takes a wholly different approach to disaster recovery. With infrastructure encapsulated into a single software or virtual server bundle, when a disaster occurs, the virtual server can be easily duplicated or backed up to a separate data center and quickly loaded onto a virtual host. This can substantially cut recovery time compared to traditional (physical hardware) methods where servers are loaded with the application software and operating system and updated to the last configuration before restoring the data. For many businesses, cloud-based disaster recovery offers the only viable solution for helping to ensure business continuity and long-term survival.

• Cost savings

One of the biggest advantages of cloud-based data recovery over standard techniques is its lower cost. Traditional data backup requires deploying physical servers at a separate location, which can be expensive. Cloud configurations, however, enable you to outsource the amount of hardware and software you need while paying only for the resources you use. Without capital costs to worry about, the “pay-as-you-need” model helps keep your total cost of ownership low. You can also eliminate the need to store volumes of backup tapes that could be cumbersome and time consuming to access during an emergency. Smaller business can select a service plan that suits their budget. Managing the data doesn’t require hiring extra IT staff. Your service provider manages the technical details and tasks, allowing your team to focus on other priorities.

 

• Scalability

Relying on the cloud for your disaster recovery provides substantial operational flexibility advantages, allowing you to easily scale your capacity as workloads shift and business needs change. Instead of locking yourself into a certain amount of storage for a specific timeframe and stressing about whether you are exceeding those limits, you can scale your capacity as needed, with assurance that your recovery processes will meet your requirements. Cloud backup provides a high level of scalability, with the ability to easily add whatever capacity you need. As your business grows, your backup systems can scale along with them. You simply adjust your service plan from your provider and request additional resources as your needs shift.

 

• Security.

Despite the security concerns of cloud infrastructure, implementing a cloud-based disaster recovery plan is quite safe and reliable with the right service provider. Most providers offer comparable, if not better security protection than many on-premises environments. Still, in the area of disaster recovery and business continuity, there is little room for error. Be sure to perform your due diligence and ask the difficult questions when evaluating the provider who will be backing up your critical business data.

 

• Redundant capabilities.

A cloud environment can provide a level of redundancy that would be cost prohibitive to create with on-premises infrastructure. This redundancy is achieved through additional hardware and data center infrastructure equipped with multiple fail-safe measures. By capitalizing on specialized services and economies of scale, cloud solutions can provide much simpler and cost efficient backup capabilities than on-premises systems. Redundancy helps ensure you can recover critical information at any given time, regardless of type of event or how the data was lost. This redundancy extends to other cloud components from power to connectivity to hosts and storage.

• Reliability.

In terms of vital business data, cloud-based data recovery offers a highly reliable failback and business continuity solution. In the event of a business disruption, workloads are shifted automatically to a separate location and resumed from there. The failover process helps ensure maximum data availability. After the problems at the initial site are solved, the applications and workloads can be transferred back to original location. It also enables faster backup restoration than traditional disaster recovery methods. Workload transfer and failover require only a few minutes. Conventional recovery techniques typically take longer as the migration uses physical servers deployed in a separate location. You might also decide to migrate your data in a phase approach, depending on the volume of data you are backing. While backup and failover processes are often automated in cloud-based systems, you still want to regularly test the operation on specific network sites to ensure critical production data is not impacted or corrupted in any way.

 

Building an effective backup and recovery strategy

Most businesses today are benefitting from the inherent efficiency advantages of cloud infrastructure of and its ability to help scale resources, and optimize assets and improve backup and recovery performance. As market demands fluctuate and businesses seek greater agility, cloud-based recovery is expected to continue to expand across industry sectors.

While there is no magic blueprint for the perfect back up and recovery configuration, a good first step is making sure you have implemented failover measures for all your connected devices. A common point of entry of many attacks is through outdated firmware on connected devices. Therefore, you’ll want to make you’re your devices and networks are hardened effectively equipped to protect against cyberattacks.

At the heart of any good disaster recovery plan is a guiding document that defines specific procedures and processes to be carried out in event of a disaster. This detailed action plan factors in multiple scenarios with defined steps to mitigate the impact of an event and enables critical business systems and processes to be recovered and restored quickly and efficiently.

After identifying and prioritizing the data and applications and you’ve defined your recovery time objectives, your business can establish a solid foundation for a cloud-based disaster recovery solution.

Depending on the extent of your need and availability of resources, closing the gaps between business needs and disaster recovery capabilities can be an extended, protracted process. No matter how long it takes, the effort to create a solid, well-crafted plan will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.

Benefits-of-cloud-computing

Reaping the Benefits of Cloud Computing

By | Cloud

Businesses seeking greater operational flexibility are finding the cloud to be an increasingly attractive solution due to its flexible deployment options and its ability to help reduce the need for costly dedicated infrastructure. That is especially true for small and mid-size businesses, which often require reliable, high-performance computing infrastructure but are hampered by limited IT budgets that prohibit a large in-house data center.

Not surprisingly, cloud adoption is on the rise. According to Gartner, by 2021, over 75 percent of midsize and large organizations will have adopted a multi-cloud and/or hybrid IT strategy.

Like with any technology investment, there are certain risks that come along with the benefits of cloud computing. Mitigating those risks requires a careful, pragmatic approach, factoring in core business needs, risk elements, performance requirements, and budget constraints.

Essential to developing a smart cloud strategy is understanding the capabilities and requirements of your current IT environment. This means identifying the types of workloads your run and anticipated shifts in capacity demands and resources.

With diligent planning and the right approach, you can reap a number of performance and efficiency benefits from the cloud, including:

 

  • Cost efficiency. One attractive benefit of the cloud is its potential to reduce costs over the long term. By relying on cloud infrastructure, you reduce capital costs associated with purchasing hardware, equipment, and building space. You simply choose the amount of capacity you need and pay on a month-to-month basis. With responsibility for operating, maintaining, and updating the infrastructure delegated to an outside provider, overhead costs are kept to a minimum. Meanwhile, your business can preserve its in-house talent and resources for more strategic business priorities.
  • Rapid scalability. Changes in local IT networks and infrastructure can require substantial in-house development and testing, adding to your cost every time your needs change―even if it’s only temporary. With cloud-based solutions, your business can scale capacity up or down quickly to meet shifting demands. Flexible deployment models help accelerate time to market, providing greater workload elasticity to match available resources while minimizing cost. One appealing attribute of the cloud is its ease of scaling, allowing you to meet changing workload requirements and only paying for the capacity you use. Automated load balancing can help achieve scalability on-demand while workflow management tools can monitor application performance to help prevent disruptions that could impact users.

 

  • Disaster recovery. Cloud-based infrastructure is flexibly configured to enable rapid data recovery in the event of a natural disaster or malicious attack―from power outages to a security breach. To help ensure reliable data access and recovery, cloud providers frequently distribute their backups among multiple data center sites in different locations. This multi-site data redundancy allows cloud providers to deliver a highly reliable recovery solution. The ability to access your data and recover your operations quickly can minimize downtime and help ensure ongoing business continuity.

Cloud Services

  • Efficient collaboration. Cloud environments help support collaboration by allowing multiple teams in disparate locations to share files in real-time and work together more efficiently from anywhere in the world. You can give contractors, employees and third parties working on a project access to the same files while maintaining control over which documents can be edited, viewed and shared. With cloud’s flexible computing models you can easily share records with your accountants or other business advisers. More flexible collaboration and work practices also allow you to more easily transition your hiring to offer remote positions, helping to reduce office size and expand the reach of your potential applicant pool.

 

  • Reliable performance. While cloud infrastructure has a lot of moving parts to manage and maintain, it actually has a solid track record for reliable performance. Because their livelihood depends on providing reliable, trouble-free infrastructure, cloud providers are diligent in the effort to make their services efficient and bug-free. In many cases, their data centers are more reliable than your on-premises infrastructure. In fact, whenever an issue arises, your cloud provider is likely already working on a solution. If this were your on-premises equipment, you would have to alert your IT team and schedule a repair. Cloud infrastructure can also help with loss prevention. With your data stored in the cloud, that data remains accessible and available. Even if something happens to your end device, such as a lost or stolen notebook or PC, your data remains accessible from any computer with an internet connection.

 

  • Document control. Cloud provides superb visibility and control over your data. With document control capabilities, you can determine which users have access to your data and the level they are granted. You retain control but also are able to streamline work flow since team members can readily see what documents are authorized to them. Since one version of the document can be worked on by different people, and there’s no need to have copies of the same document in circulation. Cloud computing also allows you to easily pick out which documents can be edited, viewed and shared by which users.

 

  • Enhanced security. A data breach or ransomware attack can prove devastating to your company’s finances and reputation. Cloud offers a number of advanced security features that can help safeguard against data loss. Cloud providers implement a number of baseline protections such as authentication, access control, and encryption that help prevent attackers from gaining access to critical business applications and data. Cloud providers are also more diligent about conducting regular security audits than most on-premises infrastructure environments. Safeguarding systems and assets against rising threats is crucial, but levels of protection should be carefully balanced against your unique business objectives.

 

  • Improved productivity. One major advantage of cloud computing is the potential for improved productivity and efficiency. On-premises IT teams are often short-staffed and resource-limited, which can hamper their ability to respond to employee demands and IT issues in a timely manner. Cloud computing can give your employees immediate access to advanced tools and resources to perform their best work without the drag of outdated technology. Employees can quickly access the latest productivity tools like file sharing, instant messaging, web conferencing, and live streaming in the office or remotely, helping to accelerate performance on a more consistent basis. Cloud resources can be easily stored, accessed, and recovered with just a few clicks. In addition, all system updates and upgrades are performed automatically, off-site by the cloud provider, saving time and effort, and reducing the workload demand on your internal IT team.

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Gaining a performance advantage

Cloud strategies can vary greatly from one business to the next, depending on workload demands, security and compliance needs, and existing IT capabilities and resources. For optimum results, begin with the long-term vision. Consider the level of performance and functionality you need your cloud environment to have; your internal resources and budget constraints; and the existing infrastructure you have in place and how you plan to manage it.

As businesses move toward more on-demand resources, many are capitalizing on flexible cloud infrastructures that can adapt and scale to meet shifting market demands and fast-changing business needs. Whether you’re looking to make an initial move to the cloud or planning a major shift in strategy, the cloud provides a solid technology framework that enables you to launch applications quickly, efficiently, and securely.

A cloud environment provides computing resources where you need them with minimal business disruption―keeping your operation running around the clock. While designing and implementing an efficient, high-performance cloud environment can be time-intensive, when deployed correctly, the effort will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Premise vs Cloud

Choosing the Best IT Approach: On-Premises vs. Cloud

By | Cloud

As organizations upgrade and expand their IT infrastructure, one key decision they must make is whether to keep their data infrastructure on-premises or move it to the cloud. It’s a decision that can have lasting implications in their ongoing effort to balance operational flexibility and efficiency with the need for greater data control and security.

Determining the right IT approach can be confusing and often involves tradeoffs and balancing competing priorities to deliver the business impact you desire. Whether you choose to move your applications to a cloud environment or decide to keep them on-premises, data protection and security will always be a top priority.

Along with the security component, a number of other critical issues factor into the equation. Some advantages may outweigh the disadvantages. Some shortcomings may be too significant to ignore. The future-readiness of your business and making sure your decisions align with your core business goals are what matter most. With that in mind, here’s a review of some of the pros and cons of on-premises versus cloud solutions.

On-Premises―Key Advantages

• Tighter control. Keeping your servers, software and other dedicated equipment on-site gives you tighter control of your data and how it can be accessed. You also have more flexibility to upgrade or customize infrastructure and applications to meet shifting business needs―without relying on the responsiveness or competence of a third-party provider. With your servers and storage on-site, you know where your data is and can set your maintenance schedules according to workflow demands. With a deep knowledge of your IT environment, your internal team can work closely with users to deliver personalized support and are better equipped to identify and solve issues quickly and efficiently.

• Enhanced security. Unlike cloud storage, access to an on-premises system is restricted to authorized personnel. For businesses that operate in regulated industries, like financial services, it is vital that they stay compliant with regulatory mandates and know who has access to their data and where it is at any given time. Banks, government agencies and other private institutions whose primary concern is data security and consumer privacy often need the enhanced protection and control that an on-premises environment enables.

• Reliable access. One important upside of on-premises infrastructure is its use of an internal network that enables anytime access, which eliminates the need for users to have an internet connection to access data. Internet speed also becomes a non-issue since on-premises systems can operate without it. In a properly configured on-premises environment, access to applications and resources is quick and inherently reliable.

On-Premises―Key Disadvantages

• Cost. Installing on-premises infrastructure requires a substantial capital investment in storage, servers and other hardware to get the operation running. For businesses just starting out, this amount of capital expense can often be a deal-breaker. Along with the upfront costs, you’ll need to ensure the infrastructure is properly installed and maintained. Since you are relying on your internal resources to troubleshoot and solve problems, you may need a larger IT team. This would require hiring additional staff or reallocating existing IT resources to infrastructure maintenance and support. This extra support can increase your long-term costs and reduce overall IT efficiency.
• Potential for data loss. Having your data in one place is convenient, but if disaster strikes, you can lose it―which could be crippling to your business and its reputation. With on-premises infrastructure, a breach or compromise of your system through a malicious attack like ransomware could result in permanent data loss. While backup capabilities are common in cloud-based systems, on-premises environments typically rely on an on-site server to store all data, significantly elevating your level of risk. One way to mitigate this risk is to implement a backup service offsite that reproduces your data to different media or another site.

• Limited scalability. When purchasing storage and server infrastructure, you get exactly what you purchase. If you don’t use all of it, it’s a sunk cost. If your business experiences dramatic shifts in workload demands, it becomes more challenging to quickly scale on-premises infrastructure. Unlike cloud deployments where you can simply opt for a larger capacity plan, on-premises solutions require more hardware and more manpower to install and maintain the new infrastructure. Plus, on-site hardware and equipment consume physical space, so you’ll need to make sure you have sufficient real estate to grow and add more equipment if needed.

Cloud―Key Advantages

• Cost Efficiency. Without the need to purchase, install, and maintain equipment on-site, moving to the cloud can help eliminate capital expenses. This allows you to pay on an as-needed basis, typically on a monthly subscription. Since your cloud storage is hosted by an outside provider, your IT staff is relieved of the routine tasks of installing new software patches and other updates, freeing them to focus on more strategic priorities. The server and storage features can be adjusted to meet your budget demands. You only pay for the resources you use, without the maintenance and upkeep costs.

• Scalability. Cloud-based infrastructure is designed to scale, making it easy to add new server and storage capacity on-demand. Need more processing power or extra storage space? Simply update your plan with the capacity you need. Unlike on-site servers that require the installation of additional hardware, cloud-based servers allow you to scale up your computing power as needed without having to purchase more equipment. This puts you in a better position to accommodate temporary spikes in traffic or build-out capacity for permanent increases in workloads.

• Redundant capabilities. A cloud environment can provide a level of redundancy that would be cost-prohibitive to create with on-premises infrastructure. This redundancy is achieved through additional hardware and data center infrastructure equipped with multiple fail-safe measures. By capitalizing on specialized services and economies of scale, cloud solutions can provide much simpler and cost-efficient backup capabilities than on-premises systems. Redundancy helps ensure you can recover critical information at any given time, regardless of type of event or how the data was lost. This redundancy extends to other cloud components from power to connectivity to hosts and storage.

Cloud―Key Disadvantages

• Control. Cloud operation and management functions are mostly outside your control, which can be a positive if you lack the necessary in-house capabilities. But when issues arise, your only choice is to work with your cloud provider’s support team. In the event of a security breach, the onus is on the service provider to resolve the issue, but the potential impact and consequences rest with you. While you retain control over your applications, data and services, you don’t have the same level of control over the backend infrastructure. The scope of service and the degree of responsiveness you receive from your cloud provider depends on what you agreed to in your SLA. Therefore, make sure you understand the details of your service agreement; particularly concerning the infrastructure and services you’re going to use and how that will impact your business reliability and performance.

• Security. Storing critical business data and files with an external provider always presents certain risks. While cloud providers are expected to implement the best security standards and comply with industry certifications, it’s your responsibility to carefully weigh all the risk scenarios. You’ll want to inquire about security procedures and data encryption practices. While your cloud provider may take extra precautions, you many need additional security measures such as firewalls and access controls, to further protect your data.

• Access. Potential downtime and unreliable access to your data is a major concern when considering a move to the cloud. Since cloud systems are internet-based, a reliable, high-speed internet connection is crucial. If your connection is slow or unreliable, accessing or downloading files can be a frustrating experience. Though internet reliability has improved in recent years, you’ll want to ensure you have complete confidence in your connection before moving files to the cloud. For critical workloads, you might want to consider implementing a redundant internet. Service outages are always a possibility and can occur at any time. If your organization has a low tolerance for downtime, you may want to consider multi-availability zones with your infrastructure, or even multi-region deployments with automated failover to help ensure optimum business continuity.

Align Your Strategy with Your Business Goals

Every cloud deployment has its own unique capabilities and limitations. Although agility and cost savings are vital, moving to the cloud is more about deciding what is best for the organization―not exclusively about reducing costs. Creating a purposed-focused, business-aligned cloud approach should be your top priority.

While the cloud offers a multitude of potential advantages, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to move all your workloads completely to a cloud environment. In fact, one of cloud’s most appealing attributes is that it doesn’t require a complete all-or-nothing decision.

Cloud strategies continue to evolve, and many cloud deployments are already shifting to a hybrid approach. As that proportion continues to shift, organizations must design and build infrastructures that can easily scale and adapt to shifting business needs and application demands.

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Choosing the Right Cloud Architecture

By | Cloud

Migrating to the cloud offers numerous advantages, but for many organizations, making the right decisions about how to best leverage cloud technology can be confusing. What is the right delivery model? Is public cloud the best option or is private cloud better? How do you select the right approach for your long-term business needs?

Like with any technology, there is no one size fits all approach to cloud computing. Every business has unique application and service requirements. While cost efficiency is essential, migrating to the cloud is more about identifying what is best for the organization―not only about reducing costs. 

Cloud strategies can vary greatly from one business to the next, depending on workload demands, security needs, and existing IT capabilities and resources. For optimum results, begin with a long-term vision. Consider the level of performance and functionality you need your cloud environment to have; your internal resources and budget constraints; and the existing infrastructure you have in place and how you plan to manage it.   

Cloud deployment defines the way in which a cloud platform is configured and implemented, the hosting arrangement, and who can access it. All cloud deployments function in essentially the same way by virtualizing server processing power into separate, software-driven applications. When looking at today’s various cloud configurations and use cases, we can distinguish four different types of clouds:

 

  • Private cloud: Cloud infrastructure is assigned for exclusive use by a single business encompassing multiple users or business units. The infrastructure may be owned, operated and managed by the enterprise, a third party provider, or a combination, and it may be deployed on or off-premises.
  • Public cloud: Infrastructure and services are outsourced and provisioned through a third-party cloud provider for open use by the public. The infrastructure resides on the premises of the cloud provider.
  • Hybrid cloud: Integrates private and public cloud environments that remain distinct entities but are linked by standard or proprietary technology that supports application and data portability for optimum load balancing between clouds.
  • Multi-cloud: Services are delivered from multiple cloud vendors, including private, public, and hybrid cloud providers. Interoperability advantages and best-of-breed capabilities offer greater flexibility in pricing, capabilities, service offerings, and geographic locations. 

Establishing a clear picture of your current infrastructure, along with insight into the ideal use cases, will help identify the best approach for your needs―whether it’s private cloud, public cloud or a hybrid model.  

Private Cloud

Suitable for sensitive data storage, private clouds typically operate behind the protection of a firewall and serve a single user. On-premises private clouds work well for organizations with changing business models or those that must comply with strict regulatory requirements. Unlike the public cloud, access and utilization of computing resources is reserved for use only by authorized users. While private cloud offers both control and security, these advantages come with a cost. 

The private cloud owner is responsible for software and infrastructure management, making this model less economical than a public cloud. On the flip side, because a private cloud environment is not managed by an outside vendor, there’s little risk that sudden changes could disrupt your entire infrastructure. Scaling operations are inherently more difficult with a private cloud since the only way to expand is to add more physical computing and storage capacity. 

 

Public Cloud

Public cloud vendors provide both infrastructure and services, which are shared among all customers. Scalability is substantially easier since public clouds generally have vast amounts of available capacity. The public cloud environment is ideal for collaborative projects like software development as applications can be tested in a public cloud and moved to a private cloud for final production. Because they use a shared infrastructure and serve multiple customers, public clouds are better suited for storing non-sensitive data. 

One important advantage of a public cloud is its flexible cost structure, which allows businesses to provision more capacity on demand and only pay for what they use. A disadvantage is that the core infrastructure and public cloud operating system remain under control of the cloud vendor. In the event that the cloud provider decides to close shop and make substantial platform changes, the customer could be pushed to make major infrastructure changes in short order.

 

Hybrid Cloud

A hybrid cloud combines the best features of public and private clouds, allowing the two environments to interact seamlessly, with applications and data efficiently moving from one platform to another. With a hybrid configuration you can easily scale on-premises infrastructure to off-premises resources, improving your ability to respond to shifting workload demands and changing business dynamics.  Since hybrid clouds only involve integration between two environments, set up and scaling is much easier. By reserving the private cloud for more sensitive data, businesses can minimize their potential exposure to security threats and maintain closer supervision over activity within their cloud environment. 

Information can be securely stored behind the firewall and protected through the private cloud’s encryption protocols, then safely moved into a public cloud when needed. This capability is particularly helpful in the era of big data, where organizations in regulated markets must comply with strict consumer privacy requirements while relying on advanced analytical tools to drive insights from volumes of unstructured data. Thanks to the public cloud’s inherent “pay as you use” feature, a hybrid cloud can help reduce overall IT costs while still enabling fast and easy processing power scalability when needed.

Multi-Cloud  

In cases where a single public cloud isn’t sufficient to meet a company’s computing needs, multi-clouds offer an attractive solution. While similar to a hybrid cloud, a multi-cloud model is more complex, combining a private cloud with multiple public cloud services. While IT infrastructure includes several public clouds from multiple vendors, organizations can access those clouds using a single software-defined network. Private clouds can be part of a multi-cloud environment, but typically are more isolated from their associated public cloud counterparts.

Multi-cloud offers an ideal solution for organizations seeking to accommodate conflicting infrastructure demands among internal departments. Rather than attempting to force all users onto a single platform, companies can choose the optimum match from existing public cloud providers, providing each department with a solution that caters to their unique needs. Since the business isn’t relying on a single cloud vendor, it can benefit from greater flexibility and lower costs, while avoiding vendor lock-in. When combined with the performance attributes of a private cloud, multi-cloud environments deliver the ultimate in use case versatility―allowing organizations to solve multiple needs at one time without having to drastically reconfigure or expand their existing infrastructure. 

 

Building a Framework for the Future

Central to developing a sound cloud strategy is understanding the capabilities and requirements of your current IT environment. This means identifying the types of applications you run and anticipated shifts in capacity demands and resources.  With better insight into how applications and services are being created, accessed, and altered, you can better determine the optimum configuration for your business needs.

Choosing the right hybrid configuration also requires carefully considering what you want to accomplish with your system, your unique data security and compliance requirements, and the existing infrastructure you have in place. One major challenge is figuring out which systems should remain locked-down and controlled in a private cloud and which ones might benefit from a more accessible public cloud environment.  

As cloud strategies continue to evolve, many organizations are already shifting to hybrid multi-cloud configurations. As that proportion continues to shift, organizations must design, configure and maintain cloud environments that can scale and grow to meet fast-changing market needs and unpredictable business demands.

 

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Choosing the Right Cloud Delivery Model

Choosing the Right Cloud Delivery Model

By | Cloud

As businesses move toward more on-demand services, many are taking advantage of the scalability benefits of cloud computing. Although workload flexibility is important, your top priority should be creating a purpose-fit, business-aligned cloud approach. This is especially true when it comes to selecting the right cloud delivery model.

Central to developing an intelligent cloud strategy is understanding your core business needs and what you want to accomplish by moving to the cloud. This requires identifying the specific level of performance and functionality your workloads require; your data security and compliance requirements; and the existing infrastructure you have in place and how you plan to manage it.

While cloud deployment options vary widely, there are three main types of cloud service delivery options.

Each model has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. By gaining deeper insight into the pros and cons of each model and the ideal use cases, you can determine which configuration will best meet your application demands.

  • Saas―As one of the most widely used cloud service models, SaaS uses the cloud to deliver software to users, which is then accessed through a Web browser. Unlike on-premise software, SaaS does not require you to install or download anything into your computing infrastructure. A key advantage of SaaS is the ability to scale your level of services as your business grows. It is also highly affordable since it eliminates the expenses involved in the purchase, installation, maintenance, and upgrades of computing hardware.

Most SaaS vendors allow you to add new features with just a few clicks, enabling efficient software updates and continuous improvement to the user interface. SaaS delivery models range from subscription-based software to full business process outsourcing. Like with any technology deployment, security is critical. Therefore extensive, up-front due diligence is recommended when evaluating any SaaS provider.

Pros:

  • Cost-efficient. SaaS solutions are hosted on the provider’s servers, which means the provider is responsible for software maintenance and updates. SaaS is an attractive option for small businesses that might not have the necessary budget and resources to deploy on-premise hardware.
  • Easy access. Unlike on-premise software, SaaS has few access limitations. With service available through the Internet, you can easily access software from anywhere you have connectivity.
  • Fast start-up. You can launch SaaS services and take advantage of software functional quickly. In most cases, you can simply register for the service and gain fast access to the software application and resources.

Cons:

  • Lack of control. The inherent nature of a SaaS-based application leaves users with minimal or no control over service delivery functions and reliability. The vendor controls and owns the SaaS software and hardware.
  • Connectivity issues. While the vendor may give you an up-time guarantee, poor network connectivity and slow speed can also affect the performance of your SaaS application.
  • SaaS requires you to share sensitive business information with an outside vendor, creating a few security concerns. You can, however, use specific access management tools to make your application more secure.
  • IaaS― IaaS provides on-demand access to ready-to-use computing infrastructures such as storage, servers, and networking resources. For businesses looking to virtualize their system via the cloud, IaaS offers a logical starting place, since it allows you to move existing support systems to the cloud with other solutions migrated or introduced as needed.

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Businesses are increasingly turning to IaaS for specific, highly variable or fast-growing computing needs. Infrastructure can be scaled or reconfigured on-demand to meet shifting business needs. Since you only pay for what you use, this model frees you from the cost and responsibility of managing the infrastructure and operating environment.

Pros:

  • Affordable. IaaS provides a cost-effective way to scale rapidly and accommodate growth without significantly increasing overall IT costs. Businesses benefit from affordable access to enterprise-class solutions, while the pay-as-you-go IaaS model allows you to pay only for what you use.
  • Quick deployment. IaaS allows you to quickly deploy servers, processing, and storage resources and get them online and operational rapidly without having to invest in each one individually.
  • Scalability –IaaS is suited for fast-growing small and mid-sized businesses as it is considerably scalable. The ability to quickly add new products or features to your IaaS can help accelerate your time to market.

Cons:

  • The IaaS-based model may have data security concerns due to its multitenant architecture. The security risk can be minimized in some cases if the vendor adheres to specific industry standards.
  • Upgrades and maintenance. You are typically responsible for maintaining and updating the hardware, software, and databases you‘ve developed. The vendor will maintain and upgrade only its designated infrastructure.
  • You control the infrastructure and applications you have developed. However, you do not have control over the vendor-owned infrastructure or data center.
  • PaaS―With PaaS, the vendor provides you with the cloud infrastructure you need to build, test, and deploy business applications. You get access to the combined cloud infrastructure without the underlying complexity of managing it. Developers can concentrate on creating new applications without stressing about time-intensive infrastructure tasks like configuring storage, servers or backup.


PaaS typically comes with operating servers, database servers, and programming languages for developing cloud-based applications from scratch. Accessed through a web browser, the subscription-based model gives you flexible pricing options based on your business requirements. With its ability to ease IT management burdens and reduce costs, the scale-on-demand capabilities of PaaS can help remove the barriers to innovation and growth.

Although PaaS originated as a platform, it has since expanded to represent a range of different technology types. This means specific offerings target distinct roles and users. As companies continue to move to the PaaS option for strategic and challenging innovation projects, the industry continues to mature and evolve.

Pros:

  • Streamline development. PaaS can help accelerate application development since all computing resources are provided by the vendor, minimizing distractions and streamlining processes for the development team.
  • Programming support. PaaS generally supports multiple programming languages, helping businesses ease application development for a wide range of projects.
  • Automated updates. With most PaaS vendors providing automated updates, users don’t have to worry about updating infrastructure with the latest security patches.

Cons:

  • Single vendor–Platform architecture, programming language, and resource configuration is unique to each vendor. As such, moving from one vendor to can be cumbersome. Switching vendors will require you to essentially rebuild the entire application from scratch.
  • Escalating Costs –In most, the cost of running a PaaS application is directly proportional to its size, which means running large applications can result in increasingly higher costs.
  • Security –PaaS vendors typical use a public or multi-tenant environment for database and application storage and other resources. Therefore, running PaaS apps containing confidential information or under strict compliance mandates not be the best approach.

 

Maintaining a value-centered focus  

While the cloud has the potential to deliver substantial business benefits, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily the best option for every workload. While agility and efficiency are important, moving to the cloud is more about deciding what is best for the business.

As with any IT investment, certain risks come with the territory. Minimizing those risks and capitalizing on the full potential of cloud requires a strategic, pragmatic approach, evaluating essential infrastructure requirements, risk factors, performance needs, and cost considerations.

When evaluating potential workloads and their viability for cloud adoption, initial questions revolve around business value. What is the real cost-benefit of moving those workloads to the cloud? From there, you will need to evaluate the technical characteristics of the application. Is it technically feasible to move the workload to the cloud? How will that migration impact the overall IT environment? What is the potential risk exposure?

While the cloud can offer a wide variety of business benefits, choosing the right delivery model can be tricky. For best results, work with an experienced IT consultant who can help tailor a solution that best accomplishes your business and technical objectives and optimizes your return on investment

 

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