Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Important Concerns When Moving Your Apps to the Cloud

Internet-based services have been around for more than a decade. Believe it or not, many of us already have a foot in the cloud. For instance, if you use Gmail you are in the cloud allowing Google to handle your email (and Hotmail, and Yahoo). There are also a growing number of tools and applications for businesses available online. More and more businesses are exploring options of moving one or more of their applications to the cloud. If you are thinking of moving to a cloud based solution, there are a few things to consider. Here I will explore the issues of security, reliability, cost, and data backup.

With the recent Amazon Web Services security breach, many companies are concerned about security with cloud providers. Creating a secure environment in-house is typically something businesses invest heavily in. Ultimately, security and management of an organization’s data remains the responsibility of the organization. In order to alleviate these security concerns, companies will need to seek the right provider that will provide assurances for adequate data security. Along these same lines, cloud providers need to be transparent in regards to a security breach and notify their customers immediately. IT departments should have a direct hand in reviewing the cloud provider’s processes in handling problems such as these.

When there is downtime or outages with a cloud based solution, typically many companies are affected. And these periods of downtime become public knowledge, therefore creating a perception that cloud computing is unreliable. Cloud providers typically have Service Level Agreements which state that they will commit to a percentage of time the system can be expected to run without interruption, also known as uptime . Of course, we’d love for it to be 100%, but hiccups are inevitable. When coming up with this percentage, cloud providers typically take into account times for regularly scheduled maintenance as well as unplanned downtime. Most of the time, the percentage shakes out to be somewhere around 99.9%. To be fair, in-house systems make promises on uptime percentages as well. Although, when an outage occurs inside a company the public doesn’t typically hear about it. Moreover, servers can and will fail occasionally, whether they are hosted in-house or in the cloud. If an outage occurs, cloud service providers can usually resolve problems more quickly than small businesses because they typically have multiple data centers to help ensure that a business’ information is always available so as to minimize downtime. Reliability considerations are important for any organization’s ongoing performance and therefore businesses should review a cloud provider’s reliability practices.

The simplest benefit of cloud computing is the lower total cost of ownership. Moving to the cloud means less physical hardware, software purchases and maintenance. The cloud is changing the way people buy software. Many software products use the traditional seat licensing model that can become costly because the minimum number of users required is sometimes greater that what an organizations’ needs are. Cloud based software services use a subscription based model . This allows companies to buy whatever level of service they need and can afford, and many times there is no set-up fee. It enables companies to start cloud services with a small budget and grow as quickly as necessary. Usually companies pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee. Cloud based software can be cost-effective when it comes to application upgrades within a company as well. Upgrades and new features are provided seamlessly on a regular basis with cloud based services. No longer do businesses have to concern themselves with maintaining specific software applications nor pieces of hardware. Furthermore, businesses tend to no longer need a large IT staff to maintain and upgrade these applications across a network.

Data Backup:
It has been said that the most useful feature of cloud computing is its use to backup data. There are many cloud computing providers that will backup and restore your data in the event of a disaster. Many of these providers can also enable you to work through the disaster via the cloud without requiring the need to restore the data. If you are currently using a cloud computing service, it is likely that you are guaranteed redundant backups of your data in real time. Regular data backups are usually built into a service level agreement which helps to lessen disaster recovery concerns. In most cases, recovering data is as good or better via the cloud versus a company’s own IT infrastructure. Still, businesses should find out where the cloud provider stores the data and whether it is backed up in real-time, and how often, to limit loss of data.
The cloud is inexpensive, adaptable, and scalable, but it can also be daunting to move your critical data and applications outside your organization. Security, reliability, cost and data backup are just a few factors that warrant consideration when moving pieces of your organization to the cloud. If you are new to cloud computing but are interested in using some cloud services, maybe a good starting point is email or some productivity applications such as word processing, maintaining your critical applications and sensitive data in-house. Ultimately, use common sense. Find your cloud comfort level.

If you'd like assistance with comparing the options or discussing whether the cloud is right for your environment, contact Kardon Technology!

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