What is “The cloud”?
“The cloud” is a generic and ambiguous term that can have many meanings. The general consensus is that simply the cloud is the internet and when an organisation accesses their IT services or infrastructure over the internet, then those infrastructure and/or services are “in the cloud”. When we do online banking, we are banking “in the cloud”. When a person stores photos on Flickr as opposed to the hard drive on their PC, they are storing data “in the cloud”. When an organisation has their data on servers located at a data centre off site then their servers are “in the cloud”.
If a business wants to move some or all of their IT to the cloud, then you need to understand what their motivation is in going this route, what cloud services are available, which ones suit their needs, and how to migrate them to that solution.
Common reasons why businesses want to move to the cloud
- Reduce overheads
Replacing hardware, paying in-house IT staff, training in-house IT staff, paying a 3rd party tech to break-fix, they all cost money. Many companies don’t want an in house IT person, or they don’t want to have to pay a 3rd party tech every time something breaks.
- Reduce IT headaches
Some cloud providers guarantee as much as 99.99% uptime. That means if their IT is on the cloud and they can be guaranteed 99.99% uptime then they don’t have to worry about downtime, or troubleshooting a problem, or organising a 3rd party tech to come out and break-fix. It means their IT just runs in the background and they can just concentrate on their business. A good cloud services provider will support, patch, manage, backup and look after all components of their hosted solution for the user, all from the cloud.
- Enable remote working
If a business is looking to utilise flexible working, or has distributed staff members, building an IT system to cope can be very expensive and difficult. If a business has hosted desktops then all they need is an internet connection to be able to work. Logging in with VPN via expensive firewalls is not necessary.
- Increase Security
Security is often very expensive for many businesses and many just don’t have the technical know-how of how to properly secure their IT. A good cloud solution will host their services in secure data centres that have the technology and resources to properly secure that data.
- Disaster recovery
Backup and disaster recovery is another headache for many businesses. 9 out of 10 businesses do not have adequate disaster recovery plans. Many understand its importance but many don’t have the money or resources to implement a proper solution. Going to cloud means businesses can have an adequate backup/recovery solution.
Common cloud solutions
- No need for an email server with exchange sitting on it in your office, you just have exchange sitting in a secure datacentre
- You manage your email accounts and setup from a control panel
- You don’t have to worry about managing backups, DR, and making sure it’s available 24×7.
- You can access it from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection
- A good cloud provider should guarantee 99.99% uptime so email is always available. You don’t have to worry about your Exchange Server going down.
- No need for your server sitting in a rack in your office, you use virtual servers that are hosted at a secure data centre
- A good cloud services provider will allow you to change what your needs are on the fly. Let’s say you are an online business that has peak times at Christmas, or Easter, or Valentine’s day etc, or a project based business and the size of the projects fluctuate. During times of high volume you may need extra server space, RAM etc and during low volume periods you need the opposite. If you have physical servers you have to go and buy more RAM, CPU cores, more boxes etc and during slow periods you can’t get a refund on that kit. If your servers are hosted on the cloud you can access extra resources as needed and reduce what resources you are using on the fly. You don’t have to pay for hardware that you don’t need.
- Usually means being able to back up your servers and computers to the cloud. Rather than having on onsite SAN, you back it up to a SAN at a secure data centre
- You generally pay for how many users you want to be able to backup and how many Gb you want to backup.
- Good cloud services providers will provide at least 128bit encryption when backup over the internet
- Data should be distributed so if one site goes down you will still have access. Look for a 99.99% guarantee of availability of data.
- A hosted desktop looks and behaves like a regular desktop PC, but the software and data you use are hosted in a data centres and streamed securely to where ever you are.
- A good cloud services provider will host each desktop as a dedicated VM meaning performance is always guaranteed. Some hosted desktop vendors use a shared environment so when multiple people log in or are active, performance is affected.
- You just need an internet connection and a thin client (or old computer) to access a hosted desktop. Everything else is on the cloud
- A good cloud provider will give the ability to each user to be able to install any application they want onto the cloud (of course permissions can be set if the customer wants). You will find that some cloud providers won’t allow this because their cloud is a shared environment and other users will be affected. If you’re going to go a hosted desktop you each desktop to be a dedicated VM.
- Generally you will need 128Kb up and 128Kb down to be able to run a hosted desktop.
For more information about Cloud Services
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