Tag Archives: Cloud Services

Why the Cloud has Become an Integral Part of a Company’s Business Strategy

For many companies and individuals, the cloud is no longer a luxury. It has become an integral part of their business strategy. Every day, more and more companies are realising the benefits of cloud based technology. So, why are these companies making the change to the cloud? What has helped shift their thinking? There are many reasons.

Cloud based technological innovations have not happened overnight. They have been years in the making. Like any cutting edge technology, companies tend to be cautious before making the switch to a new technology that they are not familiar with. However, as time has gone, many end users have been accessing cloud technology without even realising it. Increasing familiarity with the technology might be one reason why cloud technology is becoming more prevalent.

Cloud based email, videos, cloud based e-readers, financial services, and so on … the list is constantly growing. People use these services in their day to day lives and have begun to realise the advantages to having access to data in one place instead of having it scattered in a variety of locations. Businesses, too, realise the value of having their data stored in one location. This allows their employees to access data wherever they are.

The ability to store unlimited amounts of data safely and securely is one of the reasons that the cloud is becoming indispensable to businesses today. Being able to store data in one place and access it instantaneously through an Internet connection on a laptop, Netbook, Tablet, Chromebook or Smarphone not only makes a company more portable, but more efficient. This allows a company to streamline its operations. Data, which is the lifeblood of many companies, is easily stored and made accessible.

Accessing the cloud is also increasingly becoming a part of a company’s business strategy because it can save a company money. Anyone considering starting a new venture, or expanding their current operation must take this into consideration. It will not cost a company an arm and a leg to access cloud based services as they don’t have to undertake any major capital expenditures. They can easily incorporate the cost of purchasing cloud services into their budget. Adopting a cloud based strategy could help a company not only to save money, but also to make money, as well. In fact, cloud technology through the use of data analytics, can help a company maximise the use of its data. It can help companies profit from the data that they possess. Therefore, accessing the cloud can be a money saving and money making proposition.

There are many reasons why many companies today consider the cloud as an integral part of their business strategy. Those numbers will only grow in the future as more and more companies realise what the cloud has to offer them.

“Right” Cloud Services—The Identification Problem

Every business considers itself unique, with a unique set of problems and concerns. The cloud considers every business generic, and builds its services around the “generic” needs of the business. Therefore, it is no wonder that businesses find it extremely hard to find a cloud solution that fits in with their every need!

Given the fact, how does a business identify the “right” cloud solution?

The nature of a particular business has a very important bearing on the kind of cloud services that the business should select. Businesses that deal with large volumes of confidential information (government bodies, health care units or advocates) cannot afford to lodge their information in a public cloud. They would do well to consider a private cloud or at best a hybrid cloud that enables them, create data repositories online and offline simultaneously for instantaneous recovery.

Businesses that cannot afford downtime (e-shops, travel agents or service centres) without huge loss of revenue should go in for hybrid clouds that permit them to switch from onsite data repositories to online repositories, and vice versa, quickly and seamlessly. Small and medium businesses that generate large volumes of data (that are neither private nor confidential) and would like to store them for data mining and data analysis purposes may consider public cloud stores.

But, whatever the nature of the business and type of data generated, no business likes to have its information hijacked by malicious elements. Data security protocols implemented by the cloud vendor can influence” right” choices. All types of businessmen want to be sure that their data is protected during transmission and in storage. They want to be assured that the data cannot be accessed by anyone other than those authorised to access the data. They want to know that the remote server is physically secured against intruders. They make the effort to scrutinise data encryption algorithms, user management systems, Log maintenance systems or activity monitoring and reporting systems. Certifications received, market reputation, past history of breaches or even word of mouth can have an impact on the selection process.

Aspiring cloud users like to know that they can retain control over their data even though it resides in a third party repository. They may like to implement the enterprise specific policies in the cloud. The customisation options and administrative flexibility provided in the cloud will have a positive impact on the vendor selection process. Points that may be taken in to consideration include: disaster recovery, failover architecture and availability of fully functional trial versions for testing.

Of course, costs make all the difference. Cost comparisons will be made and will be used to clinch the selection of the successful cloud service vendor.

We, at Backup Technology, are on standby to help our potential customers understand their requirements and match it with the features we offer. A fully functional trial version can be set up for you to test drive our services before you sign up. We can help you get a feel of our services before you firmly commit yourselves to a service. Our support team is ever ready to handhold you and guide you through the process of trying out our services via telephone or email.

Predictive Process Analytics for Cloud Computing

Predictive process analytics assumes greater importance in cloud computing scenarios. This is especially so, as processes are executed over the Internet and they are accessed by users from multiple locations with varying levels of bandwidth and connectivity.

It is important to find answers to all of the following questions:

• How well do these processes execute?
• What are the problems being experienced by users?
• What glitches can we expect to face in the future with these same processes in place?
• What needs to be done to ensure that the processes execute as desired?

Predictive process analysis uses statistical models in the analysis of how processes are executed and uses simulations to predict how the process will behave under different constraints. Since the exercise uses historical data, it is necessarily a post mortem exercise. The constraints used during the simulation exercise are locational constraints, time constraints, and process constraints that are derived from process data available with the organisation and recorded during the execution of the process.

Process analytics helps organisations improve process designs and reduce the latency of processes as they execute over the Internet. For instance, if deadlines are being missed due to execution of standard processes today, predictive analytics will predict possible future misses given the current speed of execution. This is because predictive process analytics can use ‘what if’ scenarios and future-state-scenarios to simulate business situations that may occur at some distant date in the future time. Organisations will be able to predict whether they need to change or improve their processes to meet future demands on the process or fine-tune the current process to compensate for any network latencies that may be occurring due to variations in Internet connectivity that is being experienced by its mobile users or branch offices.

Are predictive process analytical tools included in cloud service offerings today? The answer is not yet. The good news is that it will be. Cloud services that are first to provide their users with predictive process analysis tools will be able to corner a large share in the market. They will be able to distinguish themselves from the competition and help their users create processes that are cloud ready and resource efficient. The future of cloud computing lies in being able to predict how a process will perform when it is accessed from multiple locations and time zones by multiple users working with diverse devices.

Business Process Re-engineering for Cloud Computing

Obviously your manual processes and offline processes will not work just as efficiently in the cloud. There are both technological and configuration issues that need to be addressed when your data moves from local data repositories to remote servers and is accessed by many more people from many more locations. Your processes will have to be re-engineered with intelligence and understanding of the factors involved in the transformation that is brought by cloud computing. Cloud service vendors understand this and tailor their systems to take the right inputs from their customers and create the right delivery mechanisms, so that cloud based issues do not degrade user experience of the network.

The first step in the direction of cloud migration lies in your understanding your business process. Obviously, you are expected to know the process you use. So, you need to drill down to individual processes and understand the logic of it all, before you migrate it to the cloud. The exercise will make each individual process more visible to you, and will help you understand how it contributes to the entire value chain. Once you have the grasp of the process logic for every process, it is a simple matter of modelling the entire business value chain by linking together the different contributing processes without losing sight of the measurement of systems and activities within each process. The monitoring mechanism that is built in parallel will give you a clear view of the process chain and its functioning from start to finish. Migrating all this to the cloud keeping an eye on latency and configuration issues will be simplified by cloud vendors using GUIs (graphical user interfaces) that are user friendly and interactive.

Cloud services distinguish their services from other similar offerings in the niche by extending expert help to their customers in specific directions. A few cloud services use Wizards and agent user interfaces to guide their users through the process of setting up their applications and analytical systems or customising their cloud. They allow business rules to be integrated into the process logic even before the data is fed into the storage repository. The database is then automatically organised (in accordance with business logic and rules) and decision-making is simplified, automated by policies translated and integrated into the systems as rules. The system then guides human activities and initiates corrective actions for exceptions that may occur when users access data and attempt to manipulate it for business uses. You can certainly use these services to your advantage while migrating to the cloud!

Other cloud services that you can use in your re-engineering efforts are: archival services, de-duplication and compression services, and disaster recovery services.

VMware for Cloud Computing

Continuous availability is the promise of the cloud. Tech refreshes sans downtime is a part of this promise. One of the factors that enable cloud services to deliver this promise is the use of VMware as part of their service offering.

VMware comes with a number of computing kits. VMware vSphere enables scalable server consolidation and functions as a high performance virtualisation layer.

vSphere abstracts server hardware resources and makes servers sharable across virtual machines . It consolidates workloads, automates business continuity, and facilitates centralised management of all applications.

VMware vCenter Site Recovery manager is a disaster recovery solution for multi-site environments. The Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) aligns computing resources to business needs and orchestrates load balancing across host machines, and optimises power consumption during peaks and troughs in the business.

vMotion eliminates the need for planned downtime by allowing live virtual migrations between machines.

Hadoop workloads can be run with vSphere to enhance utilisation, reliability and agility of the data center.

VMware delivers greater control over the network to the end user. It allows users define priority access to network resources in synchronisation with business policies. Network provisioning can be centralised and administration / monitoring of the data centre can be achieved by a process of network aggregation.

High availability is the foundation on which VMware promises are made. But, VMware does not confront the IT Administrator with the complexities of traditional clustering and builds in a fault tolerance that promises zero data loss in the event of server failures. It automatically detects and recovers systems even when the operating system fails. The agentless disk backup (with data de-duplication) reduces the amount of disk space consumed and eliminates any third party costs that may be incurred by users for replication of data.

VMware was designed to automate common tasks. The technology allows users deploy and patch vSphere hosts in minutes or create / configure profiles instantly. The update manager performs most tasks in the background non-intrusively.

Interestingly, security is never compromised even when performance is enhanced by eliminating anti-virus footprints. Security is offloaded to a virtual appliance called vShield Endpoint provided by partner organisations. vShield Endpoint is designed to eliminate anti-virus storms, implement end user access policies, and manage custom access configurations while facilitating compliance with existing legal mandates.

Test the Cloud—Trials are for Free—Part I

You do not have to buy anything before you convince yourself that the cloud is ‘just what you need’.  Download trial versions of different cloud services and see how your applications and workloads perform before you take the next step of accepting or rejecting cloud computing.

Getting the best out of the trial version of cloud software (any software for that matter) requires some effort and hard work on your part.  You need to have an exact and accurate idea of your data loads, workflows, backup and recovery requirements, time frames, reporting requirements, disaster recovery compulsions, recovery point objectives (RPO), recovery time objectives (RTO) and so on.  Without this information, launching on a trial is as good as useless.

If you have ascertained all of the above, you are ready for your trial.  You need to use simulated or actual data to create the right computing environment you are likely to use.  You may like to replicate the effort by downloading trials from more than one cloud service provider, so that you have the data for comparison. You may like to conduct extensive research in parallel on what the cloud service offers you—the enterprise—in the service level agreement (SLA) and what kind of reputation does the service provider have, etc., while you are busy simulating your computing environment over the Internet hands-on.

Experts recommend that it is best to start small and then go full hog.  They would rightly advise you to migrate non-critical systems first and then a few critical systems to see what kind of performance metrics you get.  Appointing a test group for the purpose of the test is generally a very good idea.  They can keep a record of the performance and the problems experienced during the trial.

Ideally, the trial should be a three to six-month trial.  Many cloud vendors will allow you the luxury if they think you are a big customer—they cannot afford to lose—or you are a very serious customer, who will ultimately subscribe to their services.   Otherwise, most trial versions are available for free for a period of 30 days.

Make sure, that the trial versions you are downloading are fully functional. A few vendors bar some features from the trial version and this can be very annoying. You may not be able to fully test the potential of the software during the trial.

Part II of this article is found here: Testing the Cloud –Trials, are for Free— Part II

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