Thursday, September 10, 2015

Got Cloud?

Clouds, those white billowy puffs of moisture, challenge our imaginations into by delivering perceived images to our brains. They have existed since the beginning of time, constantly moving and changing, and can appear differently to each individual person. Some people would look at this picture on the right and see a heart; however, I look at it and see a heart on fire with flames shooting out the back.
So, you can imagine how surprised I was when I started receiving calls from my customers asking if I had a cloud they could use.

While the concept of cloud computing as we know today dates back to the ‘90’s, the actual adoption of that concept into mainstream business practice has been a slow one. In recent years, however, the cloud has matured from that emerging technology into a proven delivery platform used widely throughout enterprises. Customers are clamoring to get their head in the cloud, as well as their applications, their data, and sometime, even their workforce!

Simply put, my favorite definition of the cloud is that it’s just someone else’s computer. But, here comes the tricky part- deciphering what being in the cloud means to each customer. Just like with the cloud image, we both see the same heart but have slightly different interpretations of it.

Virtualization technology is at the heart of the cloud,  giving customers the ability to use a shared proxy of compute resources that allows them to move away from solely footing the bill of expensive CAPEX investments to using more agile OPEX dollars and sharing the expense of owning hardware assets with other businesses. However, handing over control of any aspect of your business to another entity should not be taken lightly. After all, nobody cares about your business as much as you do. In order to successfully utilize cloud computing, companies need to have serious conversations between the management, finance, and IT teams to layout each crucial piece of the puzzle before shopping for a cloud provider, or even a business partner to assist them in utilizing this type of resource.

Security is the primary hurdle faced in cloud use, same as the privacy, compliance, and business SLA’s. Some considerations to discuss when implementing a cloud strategy are:

1. Rate the applications and functions of the business in terms of their cost, manpower to manage, critical uptime, and security or privacy risk. This will give you a clear picture of what could be put outside of your datacenter and into someone else’s hands.

2. Understand what internal products are in place or would need to be purchased in order for the business to do their part to secure sensitive data before sending it outside their doors. Organizations should not automatically assume that a cloud deployment will be any more or less secure than their own internal data center and need to proactively help to assist their provider in managing security.

3. Keep in mind that access to your applications and data is dependent on your internet connection.   Given the items you have identified as candidates to put with an MSP or cloud provider, how will your business function if the connection is unavailable for an hour? 12 hours? 24 hours? What is the loss to the business? Customers who implement cloud computing on a large scale should consider purchasing a backup internet circuit

4. Putting data into the cloud is relatively easy but what SLA’s need to be met if you need to bring your data back? And what will the cost to do that look like? This factor is especially important if you are using cloud resources in a disaster recovery plan versus just housing offsite copies of your backup for long term retention, which most likely won’t need to be accessed often, if ever.

Obviously, this list is not all encompassing. It’s meant to drive thought and conversation internally, and prepare you for questions that partners like Great Lakes Computer will need to know when working with you to develop the best possible use of cloud computing to fit your business.    


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  2. smmheart , I have read your article couple of times because your views are on my own for the most part. It is great content for every reader
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