Cloudy With a Chance of Even More Clouds
What do weather forecasts and predicting trends in IT have in common? There's a lot of talk about clouds. Really a lot. Believe me when I say I'm not a fan of chasing trends. Besides Big Data and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) especially the cloud has been squeezed dry by IT media. No drop of rain left. That being said, I do believe in sensible adoption of technology: At Paessler we are already using a lot of cloud services and even have set up our own cloud to provide push notifications to our users.
At the end of last year I had the chance to attend the Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2014, "the world's most important gathering of CIOs and senior IT executives" as Gartner puts it. While I was waiting at Nuremberg airport to board the plane to Barcelona, I was still a bit skeptical. Would this be just another marketing-driven congress with IT buzzwords being thrown around? After one week and 46 sessions, meetings and workshops with really smart and technology-focused people I came back exhausted, but most importantly excited about the challenges ahead of us. Having gained a fresh perspective on hot topics, like IoT (Internet of Things) or the cloud, I brought home a bag full of ideas and thoughts, some of which I still have to refine and evaluate, and some of which I want to share with you in this blog post.
What to Do and What Not to Do in the Cloud
Companies are moving their data storage, applications and services more and more into the cloud-and this is just the beginning. The cloud has exceeded its hype status and reached the business world. It is coming, whether you like it or not. So don't hide in your storm shelter, but embrace it and be prepared. It will always come down to an evaluation whether it's the sensible choice to shift one certain application or task into the cloud. You should ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it cheaper than doing it in-house?
- Does it scale better than the solutions you can provide in-house?
- Is the service faster, or would the service be slower when being served from the cloud?
- Will moving be simple, or a huge task (for example, Exchange Server migration)?
If you can answer these questions in favor of the cloud, moving forward is the next logical step. Of course there are other concerns to be taken into account. Especially security is a topic you should address when it comes to making a decision. Being the CEO of a German company I'm very aware of data regulations and concerns about data safety. It's an important aspect of business, and you should find the right balance in order to not stop you from innovating while maintaining the right level of data security. The following checklist can help you determine, if a specific cloud solution fits your requirements:
- Is the vendor trustworthy? Will its cloud service still be around in 12, 36 or 72 months? The relevant timeframe is directly linked to the task you require.
- Is personal data of your customers used and/or stored in the cloud? Are the provided security levels compliant with your country's data protection regulations?
- Where are the servers located? When you are dealing with personal data, you should only consider vendors with servers in countries that meet your own country's data protection regulations like, for example, businesses based in the European Union (EU) should consider vendors with servers located in the EU.
- How does the vendor manage backups and provide stability of its service? If the data is important and valuable over a longer period of time, does the vendor offer the option to export/download copies of the stored data?
This checklist should give you a first set of questions for your journey into the cloud. Of course it might be different for your specific kind of business, and you should adapt and expand it accordingly.
Monitoring Is a Vital Part of Your Cloud Policy
When you are shifting parts of your IT and/or services into the cloud, you might think this eases up on your in-house IT—and in certain aspects (like, for example, hardware costs) that may be absolutely true, but not when it comes to the foundation. Guaranteeing the uptime of your network's individual components becomes even more vital when your users rely on a flawlessly functioning connection to the cloud.
Imagine the following scenario: A company has shifted their data storage and office software into the cloud. It's really convenient for all employees and the admins don't have to deal with disk space and software updates anymore. Then suddenly the internet connection fails and no one can get any work done until the connection is up again. Without a monitoring solution in place, it can take hours to find the source of the problem, for example, a specific switch or router which is not working properly. In a non-cloud world the temporary loss of the WAN connection wouldn't have such a severe impact, because the employees could still access their locally installed office software and the local data storage. In either scenario, with a monitoring solution in place, the failing component can easily be identified and exchanged/repaired. Downtime can be minimized and in most cases even pro-actively eliminated, as the admins can identify first warning signals and execute measures before emergencies occur.
Before you enter the cloud, you must have monitoring in your LAN first. It is a prerequisite of moving work and important data into the cloud—otherwise you'd actually increase your risks instead of lowering them. With a safe and sound local monitoring solution in place, you can reap all the benefits of a cloud solution—without having to be afraid to be swept away by the effects of unplanned thunderstorms.