Tag Archives: Public Cloud

“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.

Hybridisation for Business Advantage

Hybrid clouds straddle the chasm between public and private clouds. The conceptualisation is highly recommended for small and medium organisations as–will be admitted—not all business data is mission-critical warranting the use of highly expensive private storage facilities that small organisations can ill afford. Most of these businesses may draw upon and use repeatedly, bits of information that may exist in the public domain or can comfortably exist in the public domain without compromising the security, integrity, and privacy of the enterprise customers. Storing such data in the public cloud is a reasonable and cost effective option.

When questioned, almost all small and medium enterprises agree that a hybrid cloud strategy is what they would like to look at. The hybrid cloud can be built up from either end—the public end or the private end. If the enterprise has been using a wholly private solution, change can be efficiently managed by gradually migrating non-mission critical information to the public cloud while continuing to operate the purely private bits as before. If end users have been working with the public cloud, more private, mission-critical information can be gradually privatised without creating unnecessary ripples in the production environment.

From the above discussion, it is clear that there is a need for a closer look at how the small and medium organisation works across cloud boundaries. The relationship across the public-private cloud boundaries will determine how they will proceed with the hybridisation of your cloud.

If most of the enterprise applications burst across private to public cloud boundaries, hybrid cloud solutions will have to begin at the SMB data centre and pan out to the remote cloud server. They will have to look at public cloud resources that will run these applications on similar configurations even when the operating system used is different.

If the enterprise applications are designed to permanently reside in a public cloud, but are expected to burst through the private cloud, it is imperative that the SMB start the cloud saga by focusing on the public cloud end and then integrating it across the boundary with the help of the cloud service provider.

Moving on to a discussion of the economics of hybridisation, it must be pointed out that the SMB budget has a deterministic role to play in decision making in context. Organisations with a large budget, can afford to splurge on a private cloud and move out to the public cloud in stages. Organisations that are budget constrained may prefer to reverse the option with an emphasis on consolidation and cost effective redeployment of existing resources. A validation exercise with budgetary focus is a must in strategy formulation. Detailed planning will reduce risks involved in migrating data across cloud boundaries, and making appropriate hosting choices for their applications.

Management Oversight—Cloud Tools

There was a felt need for standardised practices in cloud management as public, private and hybrid clouds gained popularity.  Over the decades, a few standards have emerged and there are many more in the pipeline.  Reputed cloud service developers and enablers like Asigra constantly update their software to include new tools that help IT managers and CIOs retain control over their data, maintain security of the systems, and manage their users efficiently.  Here are a few cloud tools that help IT managers in their quest for data control.

The cloud democratises computing. While this is good for business, it creates a few headaches for the management. For instance, mobile and remote users can upload or download data from wherever they are, with whatever device they have on hand without obtaining permissions from the IT Administrator.  The security of the information, the type of applications in use on the connecting device, and so forth, can create security problems that the Administrator must anticipate and provide for. It follows that there is an urgent need for policies and procedures that enforce access boundaries and user permissions, and for tools that enable the Administrator implement these policies and procedures.

A number of cloud service providers use software agents with administrative dashboards that equip the manager with the necessary tools for creating and managing users, who have the necessary company-defined rights and permissions to access the network, and perform some or all operations on the data that they access.

The cloud entrusts data to third party servers.  As a consequence, IT managers worry about security.  The cloud addresses a few of these issues by provisioning for layered data security.  Most cloud service providers use third party (FIPS-140-2) certified cryptographic algorithms to encrypt data. These algorithms are often described as bank grade or military grade and generally use AES 128,192 or 256 or Blowfish that have proven to be impregnable to date.  The symmetric keys that are used are often user defined and private keys that can remain secure with the data owner.

The third party service provider does not have access to the content of the data store that is hosted on their cloud server as a result of the encryption.  Security and availability of data is further strengthened with the institution of “as is” replication and disaster recovery systems and guarantees that the information will not be accessed by the service provider or their associates at any time.  Managers can recover or purge the information contained in the cloud service stores at any time they wish to rescind from the contract using tools provided for the purpose.

You Add Value to Public Clouds

Public clouds are suspect—irrespective of whether or not the suspicion is justified or otherwise. Hence, the adoption of the public cloud has been slow.  But, the change is becoming visible, as more and more concerns about the public cloud are addressed, and the public cloud assumes its rightful place as a mode of computing that adds value to the business.

What is the value add that is to be obtained from public clouds?  The value add from public clouds is in direct proportion to the commitment the organisation feels towards managing the cloud provider and employing the cloud solution responsibly and effectively.  In other words, the responsibility for the success of the public cloud rests with the organisation and not with the cloud vendor.

If this seems to be counter-intuitive and contrary to all that you have heard about the cloud, it is the truth. Public clouds do decrease costs and do deliver all kinds of benefits to the end user. But, it brings with it a number of responsibilities:

  1. IT professionals within the organisation must stay with the cloud and its implementation. They must make the effort to understand the terms and conditions of the contract and enforce any remedies that may be built into the contract to ensure efficient performance of contact by the cloud vendor.  If the public cloud performance is poor, the IT personnel within the organisation are to blame.
  2. The objective of the public cloud is not just backup and recovery. There is a whole gamut of activities that happen in between.  Establishing the metrics and monitoring performance is a business imperative for IT managers.  Unmonitored public clouds can cause untold difficulties for end users. Latency, seek time issues or even backup and recovery issues may plague the organisation and make the whole experience of the cloud unpleasant.
  3. Availability and security are promises of the cloud vendor. But, untested security can be dangerous. IT managers will have to repeatedly test the security systems and run disaster recovery exercises to ensure that everything promised is deliverable and can be delivered at the appropriate time and at the pace required.
  4. Nothing can be managed without appropriate tools. IT managers need to ensure that the cloud service provides the managers with the right tools for the right tasks. There should be tools for scheduling backups and recoveries. There should be tools for managing users, stores or archives. There should be tools for generating and analysing reports on user activity or system activity.  Finally, there should be tools for verifying service level agreements (SLAs) and implementations.

It should be remembered that Cloud service providers do not understand your business. They only understand their own business. It is up to you to make sure that their tools are used to your benefit.

Flexible Computing—Cloud Advantages

The cloud adopts a consumption service approach to computing. The cloud separates the application layer from the underlying resource layer and introduces an extraordinary level of flexibility to computing.  Resources can be requisitioned on the fly and resource utilisation can be maximised. Resource capacity levels can be set to meet aggregate needs and utilisation levels can be maximised to reduce the cost of infrastructure deployment. Business users can ask for and use the right amount of technology at the right time for the right activity.

This is true irrespective of the fact that, cloud computing is delivered through a variety of configurations on demand.  The cloud can be a private cloud that resides inside a firewall.  The cloud can be a public cloud that is hosted on infrastructures owned and managed by the service provider and used by multiple enterprises collectively. Hybrid clouds are clouds that bridge public and private resources and use resources that exist inside and outside the enterprise firewall.  Each of these models allow users acquire or discard additional resources on demand.

However, this promised flexibility has not been achieved overnight. It has evolved gradually, with a lot of interaction between the provider and the end user and an extraordinary understanding of the needs of the other.  Three decades of intense efforts that have paid off.  Organisations and cloud vendors that were initially focused on cost efficiency moved on to focus their attention on quality and then on to business agility and further reduction of operating and capital costs.  Vitalisation has enabled the aggregation and consolidation of data centres and promoted the creation of large elastic pools of computing resources.

Standardisation and automation of applications and services have given the users freedom to deploy or use applications when wanted.  Simplification and centralisation have freed administrators from repetitive troubleshooting, patching, and change management.  Policy based workflows empower the workforce access and use information from wherever they are , and on whatever device they may choose to use. All this translates into cost savings on an extraordinary scale and opportunities for businesses by reducing time to service.

In short, the flexible computing paradigm will create a revolution in the way people work.  The cloud may enforce standardisation, pre-packaging of services and evolution of “no-touch” concepts. Management will no longer avoid change, but embrace it and work with it, so that business flexibility and agility is exploited effectively and efficiently.

Awards at the Double for Backup Technology

We’re delighted to have picked up two major awards at the Asigra Partner Summit in Toronto last night. We came away with the awards for Unsung Cloud Backup Hero and Brand Advocate.

The Asigra Partner Summit recognises the ability to drive innovation and deliver business value to a range of organisations including Fortune 500 Companies through successful public, private and hybrid cloud backup and recovery deployments.

David Farajun, CEO of Asigra, said: “2014 has been an excellent year for cloud-based data protection as businesses of every calibre are challenged with protecting more data than ever spread across an increasing number of computing endpoints. As our service providers prove on a daily basis, these challenges are easily overcome with the right technology and team in place.

The Asigra 2014 Partner Awards Program is a showcase of those partners who have demonstrated exceptional prowess in the market and we applaud their efforts as we ensure business uptime for our mutual customers.”

Rob Mackle, Sales Manager EMEA for BTL, said: “This is fantastic recognition for the work we do with Asigra to provide secure and reliable protection for the huge amounts of data being created by enterprise business.”

Asigra is the world’s leading Cloud Backup software developer and BTL is its largest global partner.

BTL’s Cloud Backup offering based on Asigra software fits the Private Cloud, Public Cloud and Hybrid Cloud requirements for any size of environment, on and offsite. It provides an Enterprise and WAN optimised solution, allowing large amounts of data to be protected over small bandwidth connections.  BTL’s proprietary portal enables centralised web-based monitoring and consolidated daily emails giving customers full transparency of backups on a real time basis.

For more information email sales@backup-technology.co.ukor Tweet us @backuptech

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