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Is Your Head in the Cloud?

News > Is Your Head in the Cloud?

Is Your Head in the Cloud?

 

Cloud computing is revolutionizing IT and many other fundamental aspects of business. Whatever industry you're in, you probably can reduce costs and increase efficiency with some level of cloud service. But like most revolutions, the transition has been chaotic and uncertainty abounds. If you're considering a cloud migration, here are some things to keep in mind.

The single most important piece of advice we can offer is not to rush into anything. An uninformed decision is likely to result in wasted time and money, and possibly to security risks. There is a wide range of factors to consider, starting with the type of cloud that best suits your immediate and projected future needs.

  • Public clouds are available to any organization, and a variety of well-known vendors, including Microsoft, Rackspace, Symantec, and Amazon, provide these public cloud environments. They are designed to provide scalability, flexibility, reliability and a variety of payment models (subscription- or transaction-based). Of course, you would be wise to be concerned about security. While many cloud providers have extensive security measures deployed in their data centers, it is important to research providers and fully vet their data security practices. The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) can provide guidance. You also want to be wary of vendor lock-in; ask about the process for extracting data to expedite a possible future transition to another provider if necessary. If you operate in an industry with data-related regulations - healthcare, law, finance, etc. - confirm that a prospective provider's infrastructure, processes, data access and storage policies meet your compliance requirements.
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  • Private clouds are visible and accessible only to the organizations that create them. A private cloud is essentially a private data center that an organization creates with stacks of servers all running virtual environments, providing a consolidated, efficient platform on which to run applications and store data, without exposing any of your organization's assets to the public Internet. Concerns about vendor lock-in and regulatory compliance are minimized. However, private clouds usually require a significant investment in hardware and software, additional help desk resources, specialized IT skills (on-site or through a vendor), and redundancy and disaster-recovery infrastructure.
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  • Hybrid and Community clouds incorporate components of private and public clouds. A hybrid clouds is composed of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures that are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability. A community cloud is provisioned for exclusive use by a specific community of consumers from organizations that have shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be owned, managed, and operated by one or more of the organizations in the community, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.

 

There are also different ways to use a cloud - data storage is just one option. The "cloud stack," as it's called, consists of Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). For a detailed explanation of the differences, click here.

You might need only one of these types of services, or elements of all three, depending on your goals. Whatever the case, "it is wise to start simple," advises Business2Community.com. "A trial run can give you an idea of what works and what doesn't regarding this technology. If you find that the changes that such implementation brings to your business processes are beneficial, you can move forward with it."

You'll also need to determine well in advance what's involved in the actual transfer of data. "You cannot simply upload terabytes and petabytes to public clouds," InfoWorld warns. "You need to consider shipping physical drives to the cloud provider for the initial data loads. This is a huge headache and takes close coordination between you and the cloud provider, so start early and put a plan in place."

It's also important to recognize that relying on a cloud means relying even more heavily on your Internet service provider. We call this the Rule of Two: If you can't afford to lose your Internet connection, you can't afford just one. Fortunately, redundancy costs less than you might think.

Unless otherwise noted, the information in this article is from a recent white paper from our partner Fortinet, a leader in online security. We encourage you to read the whole thing. We also highly recommend this upcoming free webinar on cloud migration from another partner, US Signal.

If you're ready to start planning for a cloud migration, or just want to discuss options, contact Concord Technology Group at 440-210-3200.