Cloud computing is internet-based computing that helps in storing and accessing data and programs over the net instead of using local computer resources. No matter how large or complex your business projects are, cloud hosting is a reasonable and flexible tool that can be beneficial for all sorts of businesses.
As many businesses have now decided to move their data into the cloud, choosing the right cloud provider is a must; you cannot just randomly select any cloud provider. There should be a few fundamental criteria to be kept in mind while evaluating the right cloud service provider.
The services a cloud provider offers
Cloud service providers offer you an array of services with an extensive description of each. A cloud service provider may provide a single service for numerous business needs or offer multiple services for specific requirements.
• Security is the most important feature that a company should look for in a cloud service. You must check and ensure what steps are being taken and implemented to protect your data. How swift is your provider in detecting and reacting to different types of security problems; security is one thing that cannot be compromised!
• Also, you need to see how flexible your cloud service is. Does it meet the different and evolving needs of the various workloads it is expected to support? If yes, you need to know the expenditure towards it.
• There’s also the aspect of interoperability; that is how seamlessly your applications can run on a public cloud while its data is stored on a private cloud. Your cloud service provider should be able to offer an effortless exchange of data between cloud platforms.
Three Forms of Cloud
Cloud computing can completely change the way companies use technology to service customers, partners and suppliers.
Some larger businesses, such as Google and Amazon, already have most of their IT resources in the cloud. They have found that it can eliminate many of the complex constraints from the traditional computing environment including space, time, power and cost.
Cloud computing comes in 3 forms:
1. Public clouds (Shared applications like Gmail, Office365 and Hotmail. Information is stored on the same virtual servers as other clients.)
2. Private clouds (Dedicated virtual servers, private to the organization whether onsite or hosted in a Datacentre.)
3. Hybrid clouds (Mix of the two. Some servers hosted locally in a private cloud, some servers shared, some may be onsite.)
Depending on the requirement you’ll need to compare public, private and hybrid clouds in terms of the different levels of security and management required.
In general terms, a “public cloud” typically provides services and infrastructure that is not owned by the business itself (such as applications, storage capacity and processor power) and delivers them over the Internet via a third party provider.
Public clouds offer the greatest level of efficiency in shared resources however; they are also more vulnerable than private clouds. A public cloud is considered feasible where:-
• Your standardized workload for applications is used by many people (such as e-mail)
• You only test and develop application code
• Your company run SaaS (Software as a Service) applications from a vendor who already has a well-implemented security strategy
• Your workforce requires scalable capacity (the ability to add or remove computer capacity during peak times)
• You’re only engaged in collaboration projects
• You’re performing an ad-hoc software development project using a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering cloud
Public cloud typically raises many concerns about security and reliability.
When considering this technology, it is important to ensure that security and governance issues are addressed or any short-term cost saving could turn into a longer-term nightmare.
A “private cloud” maintains services and infrastructure on a private network; it is essentially an extension of an enterprise’s traditional datacentre that is optimized to provide storage capacity and processor power for a variety of functions.
A private cloud offers the greatest level of security and control, but requires the purchase and maintenance of all software and infrastructure, which in many cases reduces anticipated cost savings. A private cloud is considered feasible where:-
• Your data and your applications is your business; control and security are paramount
• Your business is part of an industry that must conform to strict security and data privacy issues (PCI, SOX, HIPA, etc.)
• Your company is large enough to run and maintain a next generation cloud data centre efficiently and effectively on its own.
To complicate this further, the lines between private and public clouds are blurring. For example, some public cloud companies are now offering private versions of their public clouds. And some companies that only offered private cloud technologies are now offering public versions of those same capabilities.
A “hybrid cloud” typically includes a variety of public and private options with multiple providers.
By spreading the infrastructure over a hybrid cloud, you can keep each aspect of your business in the most efficient environment possible.
Often more suitable for most organizations, the challenge is to manage multiple and often very different security platforms and most importantly, ensure that all aspects the business can communicate effectively.
Examples of scenarios where a hybrid environment may be best suited:-
• Your company wants to use a SaaS application but is concerned about security. Your SaaS vendor can create a private cloud just for your company inside their firewall. They provide you with a virtual private network (VPN) for additional security.
• Your company offers services that are tailored for different vertical markets. You can use a public cloud to interact with the clients but keep their data secured within a private cloud.
The management requirements of cloud computing becomes even more complex when you need to manage private, public, and traditional data centres all together.
Three Key Considerations
1. It is extremely important to understand the benefits and limitations of different cloud solutions.
2. Determine whether your business is suited to the cloud; each business requirement is different.
3. Always partner with an experienced team that will:-
a. Determine whether a cloud strategy is right for your business
b. Assist with a suitable design and implementation (if suitable)
c. Most importantly, support your business post deployment