Category

Cloud

Security Protocols

Mitigating Potential Threats with Sound Security Protocols

By | Cloud, Data Protection, IT Support, managed It services, Networking, Security
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As cybersecurity becomes increasingly more complex, many organizations lack the resources or knowledge they need to create an effective security strategy. That’s why you need a trusted expert who not only understands the latest security trends but can accurately define your business requirements and implement a plan that aligns with your current and long term needs.  This is especially critical as companies move toward more hybrid cloud environments.  

 

One of the biggest advantages of the cloud―flexible data access―can also be a major weakness if security isn’t effectively factored into the equation. Safeguarding systems and assets against rising threats is crucial, but levels of protection should be carefully balanced against your unique business objectives.  

 

Technology plays a critical role, but equally important is the need to work with an experienced security expert capable of creating and maintaining effective security practices. Bad actors and cybercriminals s are continuously exploring new ways to penetrate your defenses, which underpins your need to develop and implement sound policies based on defined user preferences and your unique business needs.

 

Your managed service provider should be capable of implementing advanced security techniques and practices, including strong access controls, the latest malware protection, and proactive security scanning. You’ll want to make sure the provider you work with can adapt to change and growth and remains on the cutting edge of technology innovation.  

 

Your service provider’s security operations team should be able to clearly demonstrate the practices and processes it uses to safeguard vital business assets. To protect sensitive data, IT policy controls should be automatically enforced through technical elements, such as authorization, authentication, access controls, password complexity, alerting, and system monitoring. 

 

Your security provider should be clear about its procedures for keeping you informed about the ongoing performance and support issues. Your service provider should be able to clearly outline and define its response capabilities. What is the expertise level of support staff? What is the standard response time? What are your protocols for data access? 

 

Most managed security teams operate 24/7, with staff working in shifts to continually track and record activity and mitigate potential threats. Among the core operational protocols and security responsibilities include: 

 

 

Manage access. 

 

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. 

 

 

Define policies and procedures

 

Usage policies define what behaviors are and aren’t acceptable. You most likely have some protective measures in place to address internal threats. To help bolster this vital layer of defense, your security provider will work with you to define and implement policies and practices based on your usage preferences and requirements or mandates specific to your particular market.

 

Data protection. 

 

Data encryption is critical for organizations operating in a cloud environment, helping to make sure critical data remains protected while in use, at rest, or in transit. For even greater protection, consider full-disk encryption, which it encrypts the complete hard drive, safeguarding the data as well as the applications and operating system.  

 

Manage deleted data. 

 

Within a typical cloud environment, sensitive data can easily find its way into uncontrolled and hidden systems and services. When it’s time to delete confidential data, or remove resources storing sensitive data, it’s important to consider the potential spread or replication that often occurs during normal IT operations. Your service provider will analyze your cloud environment to determine where confidential data may have been cached or copied and decide the proper steps to help ensure successful deletion of the data.   

 

Preventative measures

 

To help potential threats, effective security protocols include preventative measures designed to keep team members up to date on the latest cybersecurity trends, recent advances in security techniques, and updates on new emerging threats. This knowledge can help shape your security roadmap and improve disaster recovery planning, helping to guide and prioritize your response in the event of a data breach. Preventative measures and protocols also include actions to mitigate potential, including regular updates to existing systems; modernizing firewall policies; identifying and correcting vulnerabilities.

 

Continuous monitoring

 

Security controls define the methods and protocols used by the operations team to monitor the network to identify anomalies or suspicious activity. Continuous network monitoring helps ensure your security team is immediately informed of potential or impending threats, putting them in the best position to prevent or mitigate impact. Continuous monitoring enables security teams to strike and optimum balance between proactive and reactive measures as any abnormality in activity is immediately detected.  

 

Effective recovery. 

 

In the event of a disaster, security protocols will be executed to recover systems and restore compromised or lost data. Actions may include wiping endpoint devices, reconfiguring and testing security systems, or implementing effective backups to circumvent the attack. Effective recovery execution will return your cloud infrastructure to its original state. Procedures and steps should also be in place to figure out what happened and how it happened. The security team will use event and log data to track the problem and identify the source.

 

Ensure compliance

 

Many cloud security processes are shaped by established protocols and best practices, but some are guided by compliance requirements. Your managed service provider is tasked with regularly auditing of enterprise systems to help ensure consistent regulatory compliance. Following regulatory protocols not only helps safeguard confidential data, it can also protect your organization from legal challenges and reputational damage resulting from a data breach.

 

A strategic approach to cloud security

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

it network assessment

Everything You Need To Know About Network Assessments

By | Cloud, IT Support, Networking, Security

Some businesses may think that once your network is set up you no longer need to invest any time or resources in it, but that is simply not the case. Your business’s network is constantly evolving and changing. Your network needs to be able to handle the growth of your business to ensure that there are no disruptions. One way to make sure your network goals and business goals align is by performing a network assessment

Unfortunately, assessing a network is often one task that is left at the bottom of any team’s to do list. This can create a number of problems that will send shockwaves throughout any organization. Any organization’s network can quickly become too complex and tangled to secure and manage if not properly managed. Companies that do not perform network planning and management miss out on optimization opportunities that could drive quality improvements and cut costs. 

Understanding the importance of a network assessment starts with a basic understanding of what a network assessment entails. 

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What Is A Network Assessment?

 

A network assessment is a comprehensive analysis of your organization’s entire IT infrastructure, management, security capabilities, and overall network performance. Network assessments are powerful tools that can be utilized to identify performance gaps, areas for improvement, and network functionality. The knowledge obtained during a network assessment can help executives make key decisions around IT infrastructure and strategy going forward. 

 

Often organizations will order network assessments when their IT systems become too big or too complex. There may be issues popping up that are difficult to pinpoint through standard IT analysis. At this point, it can be difficult for organizations to gain a full understanding of what is happening throughout their network. Companies should be performing network assessments often to ensure that their systems are never out of control. 

 

What Does A Network Assessment Include?

Every organization’s network is different, which means that every network assessment will also be unique. A majority of network assessments have a few commonalities that organizations can use to build their own network assessment strategy. 

 

Take A Physical Inventory

Any network assessment has to include accounting for all IT inventory that your organization has. If your organization has no idea how many servers and users have, then you will certainly have a difficult time understanding all of your IT infrastructure. Accounting for all of your physical assets can help your organization properly assess your network. For some organizations accounting for all IT assets could take weeks or even months. Identifying all of the physical IT assets can help teams identify which assets are being underutilized and what infrastructure needs are being neglected. 

 

Cybersecurity Evaluation

Another key part of any network assessment is identifying any vulnerabilities present in your IT systems. The cybersecurity assessment portion of a network assessment examines current security controls and how effective they are in reducing overall cybersecurity risk. This portion can identify any vulnerability in a network, such as an inefficient firewall or outdated software applications. 

 

A cybersecurity assessment does not just involve hardware and software; a proper network assessment will also look at how users interact with the network. Employees and customers are often the greatest risk in regards to cybersecurity. Understanding how big of a risk human error is in the context of a network can help an organization reduce that risk. 

 

Network Performance Evaluation

Assessing your network will also involve evaluating the overall performance of your network. A slow network can frustrate not only employees, but potential clients and customers using your network as well. Poor network performance can lead to lost revenue and missed opportunities. 

 

Network performance can suffer due to a number of causes, such as faulty software configurations or a high number of users. Identifying bottlenecks can help your organization resolve any network performance issues. A performance evaluation will help your organization identify the root causes of slow network functionality. 

 

Potential Network Assessment Benefits

Network assessments are not just for show; they provide a number of advantages to organizations who put the time and effort into performing them correctly. Companies who invest in network assessments will have an edge over competitors who neglect their networks. 

 

Patching Security Holes

A network assessment can help your organization find security vulnerabilities throughout your IT network. A network assessment that is properly done will uncover risks throughout a network. Typically, a network assessment will rank risks based on their threat level and likelihood of occuring. Decision makers can then take the appropriate measures to prevent the risks from turning into reality. Organizations can utilize the cybersecurity assessment to prevent catastrophic IT events, such as data hacks. A data leak can result in the loss of customer trust and hefty government fines. 

 

Identify Cost-Savings Opportunities

Another advantage that network assessments offer organizations is the chance to identify inefficiencies in IT infrastructure. A majority of organizations have networks that are ripe with inefficiencies. Even the simplest network assessment can identify low-hanging fruit that teams can easily work on. Executives can then capitalize on these opportunities and drive down costs and improve efficiencies. 

 

If your organization does not have the capabilities to properly conduct a network assessment, you may want to consider hiring some outside help. BACS has worked with various organizations to help them perform network assessments.  

 

BACS Helps Organizations Optimize Their Networks

The experienced team at BACS can help your organization perform a proper network assessment that will give you the big picture of your IT infrastructure. No matter how complex or simple your network is, BACS will ensure that you make the right IT infrastructure decisions going forward. From identifying security flaws to creating cost savings, network assessments can help drive your business grow. 

 

The BASC team is here to help you and answer any questions you may have regarding network assessments. Reach out to BACS today to learn more about network assessments and how a network assessment can help you drive business growth. We can develop a customized network assessment plan that meets your business needs. 

ent plan that meets your business needs.

Virtual Desktop Deployment

Benefits of Virtual Desktop Deployment

By | Business Continuity, Cloud, IT Support, Networking, Technology

Implementing virtualized desktops across your enterprise environment can provide users with a high-definition desktop experience while helping to improve security and reduce costs. While the potential benefits are compelling, implementing an effective virtual desktop environment requires more than installing and configuring software.

In planning your virtualized desktop deployment, 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. 

While no single strategy can cover every possible need or scenario, a sound implementation plan should take into consideration potential risk factors and adhere to best practice methods and procedures for optimum performance and return on investment.

 

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Define business needs.

 Virtual desktop deployment projects can rapidly expand in scope and complexity. That’s why it’s important to be clear about why you want to move to desktop virtualization. Understanding which capabilities and which performance requirements are most critical will help ensure you choose the optimum mix of infrastructure for your unique business needs. If you’re starting with just a few applications, determining performance and infrastructure requirements is easier because you’re not transferring every desktop to the cloud, but rather just a few applications to certain end users. You can use this initial scoping exercise to begin capacity planning. What are your current processing and storage needs? How many users will you be extending desktop services to? What will your virtual environment look like in a year or two years? 

 

Create a server plan. 

Servers are at the core of your virtualized desktop infrastructure, so it’s vital that I/O, memory, and other resources are available to support the processing requirement of desktop users. This requires having a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of your existing server environment. What applications and workloads run on which servers? What level of performance and availability do these workloads require? One drawback with creating multiple virtual machines from a single piece of hardware is that if that hardware fails, the entire configuration can be compromised. One remedy is to distribute virtual desktops across several servers so that a failure in one server won’t shut down all users. A more advanced approach is to implement a server cluster for virtual desktops, which spreads workload processing across all servers and can transfer the load to other servers in event of a fault. 

 

 

Implement access controls.

Although virtual desktops can provide users with a more flexible experience, it’s critical to closely manage which users are allowed access to specific applications and data. The more connections linking to a single device, the greater the risk of data exposure or compromise. The challenge is creating policies that aren’t overly restrictive. Ideally you want users to be able to maintain control of their devices while making sure operational flexibility does not undermine existing security policies and controls. Also, be sure to sure you include virtual desktop servers and endpoint data storage in your overall backup and disaster recovery plan.

 

 

Check compatibility. 

Make sure the hardware you select is compatible with the software you intend to virtualize. Many virtualization packages will support a standard set of hardware regardless of where that software resides. This will help ensure you have a standard hardware design template for each virtual machine, helping to reduce the time and effort in managing different driver versions across your virtualized environment. Consider what components are needed for a successful scale-up. IT teams often overlook the components needed to scale up to a virtualized environment, including host hardware, storage, networks, and hypervisor.

Allocate sufficient resources.

Virtualization increases the hardware requirements for your environment. So in the process of scoping out your ideal virtual system configuration, it’s important to makes sure you have sufficient storage and processing power for your virtual machines and software. This means your host servers must first have enough resources to support your virtualization software of choice, plus the operating system and software used within the virtual machines. How many users do you anticipate using the service at the same time? Is your network infrastructure capable of supporting this new client-server communication load?  An inadequately powered virtual machine or server diminishes the benefits of desktop virtualization. 

 

Train users.

The shift to desktop virtualization will alter the way users manage their endpoint devices, so training is often an integral part of the deployment effort. The resource sharing capabilities that virtualization enables can presents a number of issues that will need to be addressed. Which users will have control? What new skills will be required?  Training doesn’t need to be extensive since the desktop user experience should not change substantially. However, users should be aware of changes to their access controls and rights concerning their desktop privileges.   

With the right virtual desktop deployment strategy, you’ll be able to reap several important benefits:

Better productivity. 

Virtualized components can be configured and implemented quickly, reducing the time and complexity involved with provisioning new servers, storage or other resources. Fewer physical components also reduces the time and expense needed for ongoing management and support. 

 

 

Lower costs. 

The ability to create virtual versions of computers allows you to significantly reduce hardware costs. Less hardware to install reduces space requirements along with power and cooling expenses, allowing you to reinvest this savings into more strategic initiatives.    

 

Enhanced data protection. 

Virtualization helps simplify data protection processes. With consistent and automated data backups, meeting your recovery time objectives becomes a more reliable process.

 

 

Improved scalability. 

A core benefit of a virtualized environment is the ability to quickly configure the infrastructure to meet shifting business requirements. Virtual desktop machines can be rapidly reconfigured to enhance their “hardware” performance capabilities ‘on-the-fly”.

 

 

Better disaster recovery. 

Automated failover capabilities inherent in most virtualization platforms helps improve recovery so that if a disaster hits, your infrastructure is already preconfigured with the proper backup and recovery steps to ensure systems are brought back online quickly and securely. 

Charting a path to success

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 virtualized expert whose core focus is improving your technology and optimizing your return on investment. Implementing an effective, smooth-running virtualized desktop environment can be challenging and time-intensive, but when done correctly, the effort will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.  

cloud computing and business

Four Ways Cloud Can Help Transform Your Business

By | Cloud

For organizations seeking greater efficiency and agility, the cloud offers an increasingly appealing option. This is especially the case for smaller businesses, which are often seeking to scale resources quickly but are hindered by reduced IT budgets.

Whether you’re looking to make an initial move to the cloud or planning a major shift in strategy, cloud provides a solid technology framework that enables you to launch applications quickly, efficiently and securely. With smart planning and the right approach, the cloud can help transform your business on multiple levels, including:  

 

  1. More Effective Customer Support

Not only can cloud help drive innovation and speed time to market, it can elevate the customer experience with more responsive support capabilities. The cloud’s flexible information sharing framework connects customers to resource across multiple channels and devices, enabling fast, timely response and quick access to information. 

Hosting how-to videos or support tools is as simple as scaling cloud bandwidth. With flexible deployment options and pay-as-you-go pricing, businesses can cost efficiently impress customers with high quality web content, online forums, webinars, personalized applications, and interactive engagement.  

With the ability to access data that’s cached on servers closer to them, interaction with data is faster and more reliable. Automated load balancing capabilities enable fast and efficient scalability on-demand while workflow monitoring tools can track application performance to help prevent interruptions or downtime that could impact users.  

Services and applications can be released to customers sooner, thanks to regular, automatic updates to the cloud infrastructure and more condensed release cycles for upgraded features and functionality. You can take advantage of the latest technology advances and innovations much quicker and rest easy knowing your cloud provider’s technical specialists are safeguarding your infrastructure with the latest protective techniques and security measures.  

 

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  • Improved Productivity

Cloud computing can give your employees immediate access to advanced tools and resources like file sharing, instant messaging, web conferencing ,and live streaming in the office or remotely, helping to accelerate performance on a more consistent basis. Mobile workers become more productive since they no longer have to worry and struggle to maintain paper copies of spreadsheets, documents, and forms. 

With mobile technologyremote employees can access the same enterprise applications and files as their on-site coworkers, while enjoying the flexibility to work on their own terms. Even travel interruptions can be converted from downtime to productive opportunities. 

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. Meanwhile, companies cut space and utility costs by housing fewer employees on-site. 

 

  1. Flexible Collaboration

The resilient, high availability of cloud environments helps ensure fully location-independent access to protected resources and applications. Team members are no longer tied to their workstations, but instead can collaborate and access data from any location on the mobile device of their choice.

Cloud helps improve collaboration by allowing multiple teams in disparate locations to share files in real-time and work together more efficiently. With integrated document control capabilities, you maintain control but also are able to improve workflow as team members can instantly see which documents they are authorized to access and view. 

Team members can easily share records and files while maintaining control over which documents can be edited, viewed and shared. You can determine which users have access to your data and the level they are granted. Since one document version can be worked on by different users, there’s no need to have copies of the same document in circulation.  

 

  1. Enhanced Data Security

Today’s cloud providers offer a number of advanced security features, ranging from encryption and authentication techniques, to application-centered security such as role-level access. At the same time, automated monitoring tools can track data access and usage and provide critical insight into areas of vulnerability and risk, helping to reduce the potential for a network intrusion or data breach.   

Another important advantage with cloud is that your approach doesn’t have to be an all-or nothing proposition. You can choose the degree to which you want to move each business application or workload to the cloud and assign different operational requirements to the appropriate operating model.  

A hybrid cloud environment allows you to manage applications and workloads so that confidential data has the greatest security with on-site protections, while less sensitive data is stored elsewhere in the cloud. Meanwhile, shorter, more frequent delivery cycles enable the latest security protections to be incorporated into services and applications much sooner.

Thanks to its virtualization capabilities, cloud also offers a number of important backup and disaster recovery advantages. 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. 

 

 

Gaining A Competitive Edge In The Age Of Digital

Cloud computing provides data infrastructure and resources where you need them with without a large capital expense. While configuring and implementing an reliable, high-performance cloud environment can be challenging and time-intensive, when deployed properly, the effort can provide a number of performance-enhancing benefits, helping to improve operational agility and transforming how you do business.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cloud migration

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.

 

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  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.

Cloud computing - cloud manged IT services

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

It is our goal here at BACS IT to keep our information relevant to our customers and our readers. We updated the information in this blog to provide you with more value and insight as to the types of cloud solutions we have available as of August, 2021. Please read through our blog and contact us if you have any questions! 

Businesses worldwide have started implementing the use of cloud solutions for handling their technology storage 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 that come from paying for on-site housing physical infrastructure and staff to manage it.

Are you considering moving to a cloud solution? If you have done even some rudimentary research, you may have been overwhelmed with all the options that are available. From public clouds to hybrid clouds, there are a variety of cloud solutions available. Which one is right for your company? The truth is that each cloud computing solution offers different benefits for different businesses. Not all of these solutions will be right for you, which is why it’s vital to compare your options before selecting one. Before looking at your options, here are the features that all cloud solutions offer.

 

What All Cloud Solutions Have in Common

All types of cloud solutions do have many features in common. By using a cloud instead of a single server or even a farm of servers, you are able to take advantage of the shared processing power, storage capacity, and other resources. Server loads can be distributed among all servers in the cloud, reducing the amount of pressure a single server is under. Servers can automatically balance these loads, too, so one server never experiences a high load. This prevents servers from being overtaxed, plus users do not experience any slowdown or other issues related to a lack of resources.

All cloud solutions offer outstanding backup and continuity. You may back up your data locally, but should a disaster affect your business, that backup may be lost. By backing your data up to the cloud, it is stored off-site. Ideally, your cloud will contain servers located in various physical locations. You can back up data to servers in each of these locations. This means that even if one location goes offline, servers from other locations have a copy of your data.

 

Cloud Services

In addition to sharing benefits, all cloud solutions can offer the same cloud services. Typically, these services fall under three categories: software, infrastructure, and platform. You may need to make use of one, two, or all three of these services.

  • Software-as-a-Service: Instead of installing copies of every piece of software on individual computers, cloud servers can provide software-as-a-service (SaaS). This allows any individual with the correct login credentials to access software without downloading or installing it on their computer. Businesses pay a licensing fee or subscription rather than buying multiple copies of software. This allows you to quickly scale your business by adding or removing licenses as needed.
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service: If you plan on using the cloud, you will likely take advantage of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). It includes the virtual servers, data storage, and operating systems that allow businesses to fully benefit from the cloud’s scalability, reliability, and flexibility. You will not need to purchase server hardware or dedicate employees to its upkeep. This is cost-effective for smaller businesses, but it is also effective for larger corporations.
  • Platform-as-a-Service: If your business needs more than IaaS and SaaS offers, you can opt to make use of platform-as-a-service (PaaS). This option allows you to develop applications yourself, personalizing them to your unique needs. You can scale these solutions to fit your business or for testing. This is ideal if your business has multiple developments in progress or a large number of developers working together on a project.

All cloud options allow you to make use of these three types of solutions, either individually or in combination. This means you will want to look at the other benefits before you decide if you’re looking for a public, private, hybrid, or community cloud solution.

Cloud Services

 

1. Public Clouds

The most popular and common cloud solution is the public cloud. Public cloud providers 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. Developers can create and test applications on a public cloud, then later move them to their private cloud if needed. This allows developers from other locations to collaborate on the project.

The major downside of public clouds is the lack of control. You rent the servers rather than own them. This means that the solution provider has full control over the hardware. They could also decide to change their platform at any moment or even shut down operations. This situation requires consistent monitoring and the ability to quickly respond to any changes made by the provider.

Public networks are also susceptible to more security issues as users don’t have any control over the security measures implemented for the network. You may always request specific hardware updates or security solutions, but the provider is typically not obligated to provide those solutions.

Because multiple businesses use the servers in a public cloud, you may not have the option to add specific services. This includes operating systems and hardware that are uncommon or that would affect the other businesses that are renting space in the public cloud.

Pros

  • A massive amount of space offers easy scalability
  • The pay as you go structure fits the needs of smaller businesses
  • You can easily manage your cloud’s services through a self-service web portal
  • You can move projects to a private cloud as needed

Cons

  • The solution provider has full control over the hardware and other features
  • You must follow the provider’s terms and services
  • The cloud is susceptible to significant platform changes and provider shut down at any time
  • You could experience more unpatched security issues or vulnerabilities

Recommended For: Public clouds are best for those businesses that are not looking for a high level of data security. They are also ideal for companies that are just starting and have minimal investment funds. Small to medium business owners may find that public clouds fit their budget where other options don’t. 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 solutions, on the other hand, offer a more secure solution for businesses that need their data to be accessible only by authorized users of a single organization. No other business or organization uses this private cloud. The actual infrastructure can be positioned on-site or accessed via a partner provider. Since private clouds are under your full control, there is no threat of sudden changes or shutdowns. You can also determine the hardware solutions, when maintenance is done, and much more.

However, there is a downside: the cost. While private clouds can be an ideal option for businesses with strict data collection and storage regulations, they can be very costly. This is because, unlike public clouds, your company is assuming the full cost of maintaining the servers in your private cloud. With public clouds, the maintenance and upkeep cost are shared between every business that has rented server space.

Another factor that affects the cost of a private cloud is scalability. With public clouds, you can use the massive amount of available space to expand easily. With private clouds, though, you will need to add more infrastructure and software to expand. This cost makes scalability time-consuming and expensive for any organization regardless of size. The trade-off of having full control of your private cloud is that you also are completely responsible for all costs, upgrades, maintenance, and security.

Pros

  • Only your business and those you allow can access your private cloud
  • Take advantage of customizable security and other features
  • You have full control over the hardware and software used in the cloud
  • There is no risk of sudden changes or of the provider shutting down
  • Private clouds can be hosted on-site or accessed online

Cons

  • Because the financial responsibility for the private cloud all falls on you, the cost is higher
  • Private clouds are expensive to quickly scale
  • Small or medium-size businesses may not have the budget for this option.

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. These businesses do need to have a large budget, however, because private clouds are costly. This is especially true if your business is on the verge of scaling up and will need to expand its cloud.

 

Top Cloud Computing Frequently Asked Questions

Types of Cloud Solutions BACS IT

3. Hybrid Clouds

As the name suggests, hybrid clouds offer features of both private and public clouds. In this solution, 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 called cloud bursting. In this configuration, private clouds are used as a primary solution to store data and house exclusive business applications in a secure environment. Public clouds are used as a backup resource to ensure that these exclusive applications operate seamlessly when user demand increases beyond the private solution’s limits. This solution helps save your business money because you don’t have to buy more infrastructure or servers to handle high demand. If you did buy more private servers, you would then have more infrastructure than you need during less busy times. It wouldn’t be an efficient use of resources.

The second hybrid model is based on using public clouds for outsourcing non-critical business applications. These non-critical applications include basic productivity tools and other applications or CRM tools. However, your exclusive applications and data storage are 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. For example, you likely do not need to house Microsoft Office 365 or Adobe Lightroom on a private server, so those SaaS solutions could reside on public clouds.

Pros

  • Allows for a cost-effective solution that combines private and public clouds
  • Ensures a business can always meet user demand
  • You can customize your private cloud’s security to fit your needs
  • Secure data is more protected, while common applications can be more easily shared

Cons

  • Can be more difficult to set up and maintain
  • Can make business data more susceptible to threat when user demand is high
  • The cost of setting up a private cloud still applies

Recommended For: Businesses who deal with frequent spikes in demand. Some well-known businesses that use this hybrid model include Airbnb, Uber, and Netflix. Small and medium-sized businesses may not need this capability. The high cost of setting up a private cloud is also a factor for those with restricted budgets. While they are not as common as public or private clouds, hybrid clouds do have their uses. You may find that this solution offers you the best of both worlds.

 

 

4. Community Clouds

While the first three cloud solutions are the most common, there is a fourth option: community clouds. This solution is commonly used by businesses within the same industry. They work essentially as private clouds, but they are shared among a handful of companies. This model creates a multi-tenant environment similar to that of a public cloud. You share the cloud and its resources with other companies, but you also share the cost. This reduces the high cost of infrastructure and software that come with private clouds. The members of the business that use the community cloud jointly manage it. Community clouds can be housed on-site, such as in a shared industrial building, or at a data center.

Pros

  • Much cheaper than a single organization private solution
  • Allows for optimal data security at more affordable costs
  • Combines the scalability of a public cloud with the customization of a private cloud
  • Decisions are collaborative rather than controlled by the cloud provider

Cons

  • Network security depends on effective management of infrastructure
  • You do rely on the other businesses sharing the community cloud to share in the cost

Recommended For: Common users of community clouds include those in the financial services sector, healthcare organizations, and government agencies. Any company that feels comfortable sharing a cloud with other businesses and needs the benefits of a private cloud may want to consider this option.

 

Selecting the Right Cloud Option

Now that you understand the basics of these four options, you need to select one. There are benefits and drawbacks to public, private, hybrid, and community clouds. That’s why selecting the right one for your business is vital. There are several factors you can use to eliminate some of your options:

  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 for a private or hybrid solution. Smaller or new businesses may need to pay especially close attention to the cost of their cloud.
  2. Security Requirements vary depending on your industry. Some government regulations may require your business to have a private solution for data storage. Make certain you understand what data regulations your industry must follow and select a solution that meets those requirements.
  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. If your business has this fluctuation, you will need a solution that offers scalability and flexibility without additional costs.
  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 bearing the full cost of a private cloud. However, you want to select partners who are stable and will be reliable for many years.

You will need to fully analyze your business and your needs as well. Once you have a good understanding of what you need in a cloud, you will be able to see which options can be discarded.

However, the cloud solution that is right for you today may not be right five or ten years from now. Fortunately, migrating from public to private or hybrid solutions is easy. You will want to re-evaluate your cloud solution annually or every few years to make certain that it still meets your needs. If it does not, it may be time to consider moving to a different option.

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Let BACS IT Help You Find the Type of Cloud Solutions That Will Work Best for You

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 benefits and your needs, you should be fully capable of selecting the right type of solution for your business.

BACS IT Best Practices for Building a High Availability Cloud Architecture

Best Practices for Building a High Availability Cloud Architecture

By | Cloud

This blog was updated August of 2021 to provide more useful information to our readers. We hope you enjoy! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us

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 cloud architecture is a smart approach, particularly for critical business applications and workloads. There are several reasons why this approach ensures high uptime. By following the current industry best practices for building a high availability cloud architecture, you reduce or eliminate threats to your productivity and profitability.

Many businesses face a decision: do you keep your systems at the 99.99% level or better? If so, you must design your system with redundancy and high availability in mind. Otherwise, you may face a lesser service level agreement where disaster recovery or standby systems are enough, but that comes with the potential risk of your website crashing.

 

How High Availability Cloud Architecture Works

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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 require strategic design and testing.

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 are worth the larger investment that goes along with it. Choosing the right design approach often involves tradeoffs and careful balancing of competing priorities to achieve the required performance.

However, in the end, the improved reliability often prevents network downtime and the loss of productivity that comes with it. The costs associated with this downtime may quickly add up to more than the initial investment. Luckily, the higher costs associated with building a high availability architecture may pay for themselves more quickly than you might think.

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

 

Why Do You Need High Availability Cloud Architecture?

High availability cloud architecture protects against three major issues: server failure, zone failure, and cloud failure. It also allows you to automate and test everything in your network. While the last feature is useful, this type of cloud network architecture is mainly used to prevent failures and reduce downtime.

 

Protects Against Server Failure

Server failure is more of a “when” situation than an “if” situation. Servers are eventually going to fail due to age, if nothing else. Preparing for server failures is a must, no matter what type of cloud architecture you use. High availability cloud architecture protects against server failure by making use of automated balancing of workloads across multiple servers, networks, or clusters.

Auto-scaling will allow your system to monitor active traffic in real-time. It uses various metrics to determine the overall load on each server and shift that load as necessary to prevent one server from becoming overworked. Should a server fail, the system will shift all users to another server seamlessly.

In addition to traffic monitoring and shifting, high availability cloud architecture also mirrors databases to ensure that information is available from more than a single source. This architecture also uses static IP addresses and dynamic DNS to reduce downtimes.

 

Protects Against Zone Failure

Zone failure occurs when an entire server farm or zone fails. This occurs when there is a massive power failure, natural disaster, or network outage that takes down backups as well as primary power sources and network connections. The result is that an entire zone of servers becomes unreachable.

High availability cloud architecture addresses this zone failure by spreading its servers across multiple zones. The architecture replicates data and databases across zones. If one zone fails, there is at least one other zone the system can route users to without losing access to any applications or data. Typically, these zones are not physically near each other. One server cluster may be in Europe, while another is located in North America. This helps avoid issues where a single natural disaster could affect both zones at once.

 

Protects Against Cloud Failure

While it is rare for two zones to fail, there is always the risk that this will occur. Total cloud failure, while rare, can happen. To handle such an outage, high availability cloud architecture requires modules that can be moved and used across different providers and infrastructures. By creating and storing data backups across providers or regions, it is possible to quickly restore access to this information. This may only be regional access, but it is still a way to retrieve data when the cloud is unavailable.

Another way high availability cloud architecture prepares for cloud failure is by creating sufficient storage space and server capability to absorb the loss of a zone or the entire cloud. You may not need to use these reserve servers and backup drives often, but they are available in case of a large-scale disaster.

Top Cloud Computing Frequently Asked Questions

 

Automate and Test Everything in Your Network

In addition to providing backup for server, zone, and total cloud failures, high availability cloud architecture automates processes and allows for full testing of those processes. For example, you can simulate a server, zone, or cloud failure at any time to watch how your system reacts. This allows you to create processes to save and restore data, automatically adjust workloads, and much more.

By automating processes, you ensure that your disaster recovery plan is implemented immediately. These processes back up your data regularly, ensuring you always have the latest information available. The system immediately detects problems, moves users away from the identified servers, and sends out maintenance alerts as needed.

Testing your plan allows you to make certain it works exactly as intended. High-level cloud disasters can cripple a business, so testing is mandatory to avoid downtime. By running multiple tests, you can detect your architecture’s weak areas and take steps to improve them.

 

What Goes into Building a High Availability Cloud Architecture?

Creating a high availability cloud architecture begins with design. Many may assume that the more redundant systems and backups you have, the more stable the system is. However, that’s not always the case. In fact, too many components can create a very complex system that does not operate effectively or efficiently. The key is to optimize resources, minimize response times, and prevent one part of the system from becoming overloaded.

Here are some of the components of a high availability cloud architecture that you will need to build, maintain, and scale your system:

 

Multiple Application Servers

The first step to building a cloud architecture is to make use of multiple servers or server zones. These zones ensure that your user load is distributed so that no single server is overloaded. It also allows for backup servers and redundancy.

 

Scalable Databases

You will need to design your databases to scale from the onset. You will also want to create backups of these databases on a very regular basis. Every database should have a backup that exists on another server, and ideally, in another geographical location.

 

Recurring Automated Backups

Automatic backups reduce the chance of human error and prevent data loss. You will want to determine the exact timing of these backups based on how often new data is introduced to your database. In some instances, you may need to have your databases backed up in real-time.

 

Requirements of High Availability Cloud Architecture

There are four main requirements for high availability cloud architecture.

 

Load Balancing

More efficient workload distribution helps optimize resources and increases application availability. When the system detects server failure, it automatically redistributed workloads to servers or other resources that continue to operate. Load balancing not only helps improve availability, but it also helps provide incremental scalability and supports increased levels of fault tolerance.

Overall, automatically rebalancing of workloads seamlessly shifts users to other servers when one fails. This rebalancing also means there is less strain on a server, meaning there is less risk of unexpected failure.

 

Scalability

A cloud architecture that cannot scale up or down as needed is ineffective. Your architecture needs to be easily scalable. You can achieve this in several ways. Users can access a centralized database. The server housing this database needs to be able to handle a large number of requests, especially if you expect your business to grow soon. Having at least one backup for this database is also vital. Another option is to allow every application instance to maintain its own data. The system will need to regularly sync this data with other applications or servers to ensure that all users have the same information.

 

Geographic Diversity

As mentioned earlier, a high availability cloud architecture requires servers located in at least two geographical locations to avoid failure from losing one server zone. While having two locations is the minimum, ideally you will have servers located in three or more.

 

Recovery and Continuity Plans

The fourth key element of a high availability cloud architecture is a backup and recovery plan. While backup servers and databases combined with different geographical locations can greatly decrease the risk of failure, that risk is never going to be zero. Having a backup and recovery plan is necessary to reduce downtime.

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Your business continuity and recovery plan should be well-documented and regularly tested to ensure it’s still viable. You should provide in-house training on recovery practices to help improve internal technical skills in designing, deploying, and maintaining high availability architectures. Additionally, well-defined security policies can help curb incidences of system outages due to security breaches.

You will also need to define the roles and responsibilities of support staff. If you must move 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.

 

Types of Cloud Clusters

There are three different types of high availability cloud architecture. Each of these concepts has its pros and cons. However, by planning out your server cluster in advance, you reduce your risks of failure and keep your data, along with your server, much safer.

 

Active/Passive

In this type of cluster, the system recognizes when the active server fails and automatically transfers the user to another server at the same location. The system automatically sets the IP address of the failed server to standby and alerts the system operator of the issue.

In this model, the user works on the active server only. When that server fails, the system moves them to the passive or backup server. The system shifts the load to the backup server, making it the active server and chooses another as the passive or backup.

 

Active/Active

Active/active cluster is the second type of cloud cluster. In this model, there are at least two servers with the exact same configuration. Users access both servers, and the system attempts to keep the workload evenly distributed between the two. When a server fails, it automatically shifts all users to the other server. When the failed server is repaired or replaced, the system balances users between the two again.

In this model, there are no true backup servers like there are in the Active/Passive model. All servers are regularly in use. This means you have more servers to distribute the workload. However, on the downside, when one server fails, its paired server takes on its users. This doubles the number of users accessing that server’s resources and can cause some issues.

Note that it is possible to run both active/active and active/passive models on the same cloud architecture. Adding a single passive backup server allows the system to bring that server in to replace a failed active server. One server is always out of rotation, making it easier to schedule maintenance time. Should multiple servers fail, the passive server will step in for one, while the others will take on additional users until the servers are repaired or replaced.

 

Shared vs Not Shared

Shared vs not shared is the third model. This cluster concept is based on the idea that there should always be redundant or replacement resources available. One failure should never result in loss of service. For example, if there are multiple nodes that need to access a single database, that database becomes a point of failure. This shared cluster presents a risk of losing productivity should the server hosting the database fail.

A system that does not share resources, sometimes called a shared-nothing cluster, does not have a single point of failure. Instead, every server has its own database. These databases are synced and updated in real-time, so all data is consistent across the node. One server failure will not affect the other servers.

High availability cloud architecture must avoid single points of failure. One of the best ways of ensuring 99.99% uptime is to combine the active/active and active/passive concepts as mentioned above. Combine this with a shared-nothing approach to databases and other resources to eliminate single points of failure. The result will be a highly redundant system that will only fail in very extreme circumstances.

 

Best Practices for a Cloud Architecture

There are several different best practices you can make use of when implementing high availability cloud architecture. They each have amazing benefits that can help you do more with your business when used properly.

 

Upfront Load Balancers:

With network load balancers installed in front of servers or applications, traffic or users will be routed to multiple servers, improving network performance by splitting the workload across all available servers.  The load balancer will analyze certain parameters before distributing the load, check the applications that need to be served, as well as update 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. By doing so, no single server is put under unnecessary strain.

 

Clustering:

Should a system failure occur, clustering can provide instant recovery by drawing on 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 benefit here is that should any server or zone be shut down or disconnected from the network, the remaining cluster will continue operating 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, you should deploy clustered servers that share storage and applications. Each should be able to 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 one component are taken up by a backup component in the event of a failure or unexpected downtime. If a disruption occurs, tasks are seamlessly offloaded automatically to a standby system so the process continues without interruption for users.

Cloud-based environments offer highly reliable failback capabilities. The system handles workload transfers and backup restoration faster than traditional disaster recovery methods. After solving problems at the primary server, the application and workloads can be transferred back to the original location or primary system.

Other 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 servers and zones to ensure data is not impacted or corrupted. Do you want to learn more about cloud migrations? Then check out our blog showing the top five questions to ask before migrating your data.

You can also download those questions here!

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Redundancy:

Redundancy ensures you can recover critical information at any given time, regardless of the type of event or how the data was lost. You can achieve this through a combination of hardware and software. The goal is to ensure continuous operation in the event of a failure or catastrophic event.

If a main server or system fails 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 very expensive to create using an on-site server farm or other system.

The environment achieves this level of redundancy with additional hardware and by having the data center infrastructure equipped with multiple fail-safe and backup measures. By making use of specialized services and economies of scale, cloud solutions can provide much simpler and more cost-efficient backup capabilities than other options.

 

Backup and Recovery:

Thanks to its virtualization capabilities, cloud computing takes a completely different approach to disaster recovery. This approach encapsulates infrastructure into a single software or virtual server bundle. When a disaster occurs, the system duplicates the virtual server to a separate data center and loads it onto a virtual host. This can substantially decrease recovery time compared to traditional (physical hardware) methods. For many businesses, cloud-based disaster recovery offers the only viable solution for ensuring business continuity and long-term survival.

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Keeping a Cloud Architecture Safe

Security, of course, is a major concern when it comes to the cloud and the data stored in it. You have an obligation to protect any data your store in the cloud. This includes both protecting it from outside sources and from internal users who should not have access to it.

To safeguard your cloud architecture, you will need to deploy a number of different best practices.

Access Management

You should assign the appropriate role to all users on the system. You will need to define each role and give it access to only the applications and data needed to fulfill that role. When an employee leaves or no longer needs access, that access should be revoked immediately.

Two-Factor Authentication

Deploying two-factor authentication across the infrastructure will help prevent attacks from outside factors. This method helps reduce unauthorized logins as well as identify compromised accounts.

Deletion Policies

The system should delete data that is no longer needed promptly. It should also be permanently removed. You need to ensure that this is done across all backup databases as well as the active database to prevent any trace of this data from remaining and being re-introduced.

Threat Monitoring

Your cloud architecture may be routinely under attack by various threats, but if you have no monitoring software in place, you may never know it. These automated tools constantly scan the system for irregular access, viruses, and compromised accounts. You will be able to take a more proactive stance against these threats by monitoring for them.

Regularly Test for Weaknesses

Creating a defensive system for your cloud architecture is not a one-time process. You need to regularly test those defenses for weaknesses using penetration tests. These tests need to take into account the most recent attacks that have been launched against cloud architecture. By performing regular testing, you can discover gaps in your security and address them before they are used against you.

 

Are These Architecture Worth the Money?

Is it worth spending the upfront cost associated with building a high availability cloud architecture? It depends on your overall goals, but in many cases, absolutely.

If you need a system with 99.99% or better uptime, then the high redundancy and availability that this type of cloud architecture provides is a requirement. The seamless transition to backup servers, databases, and zones cannot be achieved otherwise. However, if you are simply looking for a disaster recovery or backup system, another option may meet those needs without the cost. No matter what type of cloud architecture you need, BACS IT is here to help.

BACS IT can help you determine if a high availability cloud architecture is right for your business or not. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

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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.

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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.

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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.