As businesses become more and more dependent on access to their digital assets, there is a growing intolerance to outages and down times. Continuous availability and high availability anywhere, anytime with any kind of device is the mantra of the age. Businesses struggling to meet this demand turn to cloud services to fulfil these expectations. Cloud service providers too, in keeping with their promise, are making an all out effort to bring the right technologies to the table so that their customers are never offline and their data never becomes inaccessible, whatever the circumstances.
Continuous availability of information requires planning. Once the customer has identified the applications that are mission-critical and must be continuously available, cloud service providers will recommend continuous backup of these applications. The backup process is orchestrated quietly in the background with no disruption to the production systems. Technologies such as bandwidth throttling, are used to ensure that the backup process consumes only redundant bandwidth or a minimal bandwidth. Data transmitted to the remote server is then continuously replicated on to one or more geographically dispersed servers to create redundant stores of the same information for future recovery.
The cloud service provider is very disaster conscious and has the responsibility of ensuring that disasters that impact the cloud data centre do not get passed on to individual customers using the services in the cloud. As part of the disaster recovery plan for the data centre, the cloud service provider links together the primary and secondary servers (that are geographically dispersed) in failover configurations. Secondary servers kick start their activity the moment the primary server develops a glitch or fails in any manner. Customers accessing or updating information are seamlessly shifted over from the primary server to the secondary server. The operations are so smooth that customers may not even realise that they have switched servers during a production operation. In the process, the cloud service provider creates a time-pocket in which the primary server can be set right and brought back into operation. High availability is an automatic outcome of this operation.
Customers who have geographically dispersed activities can also take advantage of cloud services multi-site data storage functions. If the enterprise has branches in the local area where a replication server is housed, the enterprise can configure the local replication server to service the requests of the branch. This will cut down on any latency that may be experienced by the branch in accessing and working with data stored on the centralised remote primary server. Any updates or operations on the enterprise data can be reverse-replicated from the secondary server to the primary server continuously.
It is no wonder that high availability is the guarantee of cloud service providers.
Complete automation is a myth. Absolute agility is a dream. But, the cloud makes it possible to automate those routine processes and activities that would otherwise consume considerable amount of time and deprive the organisation of the precious time that can be spent innovating, communicating, and building up their business.
The first step towards smarter computing is to spell out your rules and policies. These are triggers and frames for intelligent process definitions. For instance, if you want only certain section of your employees to have access to a specified set of data, it is important to have a user management policy. Each employee who can be authorised for access must be given a user id and password that allows access to the data set. The authentication server database must contain the information that is required for authenticating and permitting such employees to access the information. Any other person attempting to access the information will then be automatically rejected and denied access to the data set. Once the policy is in place and the rules of access have been spelled out, the system will take care of the process intelligently.
The cloud allows enmeshing of heterogeneous systems into a single system to increase enterprise reach and improve the agility of the business. This may involve transfer of data and information between these systems across time zones over the Internet. Security during the process of data transfer, and security at the point of data use become a major concern. Cloud service providers use encryption and user management protocols in innovative ways to ensure security of the information passing through the network. Data is encrypted at source and remains encrypted at rest. Only authorised users, who are authenticated by the authentication server, are given access to decrypted information. All others attempting to listen in will be unable to access the decrypted information in any manner. Attempts to listen in also generates alerts that can be tracked to the source.
Organisations that have migrated to the cloud can let go their tight hold on the amount of server / storage resources consumed by individual users. Users will consume only as much resources as they need for the present. The scalability of the cloud precludes the need to provision for and hoard resources against possible future needs. Moreover, users cannot store duplicate pieces of information, indiscriminately consuming space. The backup and recovery software automatically detects duplicate pieces of information and eliminates them during the data transfer to storage repositories.
Interesting? It seems smart! Smart organisations get smarter with cloud computing!
The greatest worry about Bring your own device (BYOD) strategy is security. With larger cloud service providers and hardware device manufacturers giving a serious thought to acquiring and consolidating mobile device management services, the problem of security may get resolved in unexpected ways. However, for the present and perhaps for all time, cloud users are advised to focus on data protection and security management and leave mobile device management technologies and integration efforts to the professionals and cloud technology developers.
Traditional data management services assume that data resides on the devices from which it is accessed. With the advent of the cloud, data no longer resides on devices, but in the cloud. The device is merely the access gateway and not the storage repository. Users no longer need to store the information for ease of access or email it to themselves for their use. The data can be accessed from anywhere, anytime and form any device with a simple browser based application and an Internet connection. As a result, administrators need to focus their attention on the institution of data and user governance policies and implementation of these policies enterprise wide, rather than on the technologies that make it possible for them to manage mobile devices connecting to the enterprise network.
Collaborators operating on the same network are freed from the burden of providing their team with the latest versions of the documents. All versions of the document are stored in the enterprise cloud and are available to them at all times. The documents can be accessed and viewed by multiple users and even modified collaboratively, using sophisticated tools that are made available with the cloud software. None of the users need to grapple with technicalities of file sharing protocols or file synchronisation, etc. These activities are abstracted to the cloud software, and the end users are left free to work with the files in real time over the Internet.
The key to effective mobile device management lies in acceptance of the changed reality. Enterprises, launching into mobile device management technologies must begin their journey with a complete understanding that they are creating a new paradigm in technology management. They must get ready to abstract almost all technology related managerial tasks to the cloud service provider while retaining the core of their business data management with themselves. They should focus on the task of setting up a policy driven user management system, creating security awareness among their employees, and instituting policies for monitoring and reporting on the quality of cloud services they receive.