Designing a Cloud Environment that Meets Your Specific Needs.

Since the cloud has matured and proven itself as a viable, secure, and cost-effective IT resource and management tool, the question is no longer if your business should have a cloud strategy but what type of cloud strategy would be the correct one for your business?

Following that train of thought, the next question is how do you decide on the right combination of cloud services? This is a question which should be taken very seriously and given considerable thought since making the wrong decision could be disastrous.

Here is a quick checklist of items to consider when developing the correct cloud environment for your business. This should not just be a onetime assessment but should be done each time you are considering implementing a new cloud service or renewing an existing service.

To fully understand what is involved in developing a custom cloud solution, read our Evocative white paper, Designing a Cloud Environment that Fits Your Business.

Requirements Analysis

  • Identify the technology needs of your business.
  • Justify the purchase of both existing services and new services. (Don’t just use a specific technology because everyone else is.)

Resource Assessment

  • Are your IT staff members available to manage the service?
  • What are each of their skill-sets?
  • What does your existing infrastructure consist of?
  • What projects is your team currently working on? Is it feasible and financially viable to pull them off those projects and onto cloud-focused projects?

Potential Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Cloud services will enable you to free up internal IT resources by outsourcing some day to day setup and maintenance requirements.
  • There can be significant cost savings when transitioning to cloud services.
  • If you require a more sophisticated system or proprietary tools to meet your business needs, a more experienced team of in-house IT professionals may be a better option than outsourcing your IT.
  • Is your equipment working properly but your server room is no longer adequate to store your data and maintain a near 100% uptime? A hybrid cloud solution may be the perfect solution.
  • Determine the human and technology resources you have on hand as well as your business’ priorities and make an assessment as to what is right for you.

Multiple Cloud Vendors vs. A Single Cloud Vendor

  • Multiple Cloud Vendor Benefits
    • Decreased risk of service outage, security risks and other service issues.
    • Select the best-of-breed services and vendors for your specific needs to maximize productivity.
  • Single Cloud Vendor Benefits
    • One number to call for support and questions, reducing time and resources required to manage multiple vendors.
    • Single exposure to security risks rather than across multiple vendors.

Hybrid Cloud Option

  • Allows for various vendors, architectures and platforms to deliver a best-in-class cloud solution for a company’s individual needs.
  • Can provide a more practical and efficient solution which takes into consideration existing systems, legacy environments and physical location constraints.
  • Hybrid cloud can provide a more practical and efficient solution which takes into consideration existing systems, legacy environments and physical location constraints.
  • Do you need a large amount of new storage space close to your office?
  • Do you have high speed data transfer requirements?
  • Is there a need for public cloud-based web services to access your corporate data?

Learn more from Evocative: Designing a Cloud Environment that Fits Your Business

What Really Causes Network Outages and What You Can Do to Stop It.

Electronic data is one of the most valuable assets of any company. It propels business, connects colleagues, clients and vendors, and drives growth.

The cost of any unplanned corporate outage is high, resulting in business interruption and distraction, lost revenue, decreased productivity, and lost business. In some cases, it can result in a total shutdown and business failure.

You might guess that the single biggest reason for an outage is a broken server, but you would be wrong. Surprisingly, IT industry research firm The Ponemon Institute reports that only 4 percent of outages are the result of a faulty server.

So, what are the causes of most outages?

  • Inadequate or No Backup Power
    The Ponemon Institute reports that loss of power is the number one reason for outages – at 24%. This may include an outage where the electricity goes out and equipment goes down immediately or where a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) device fails. If a generator or other redundant source of power is not available and you are unable to switch to an alternative power source before UPS device batteries runs out, you will be down for the count.
  • Cyber-Crime
    Close behind loss of power, the second biggest reason for outages at 22% is cyber-crime. This should be no surprise to anyone as it seems like we hear about a new cyber-attack every day. With the proliferation of malware and targeted phishing attacks perpetrated by sophisticated hackers, modern cyber-attacks can compromise entire networks. The recent WannaCry attack shut down businesses around the globe and caused many hospitals to scramble to recover critical patient data and resume ambulance and other emergency services.
  • Water
    We are not talking about water from a natural disaster such as flooding but water from leaking pipes or a building’s sprinkler system. Large server rooms are sometimes located in corporate office buildings which may be decades old and built to house offices and people first and servers and other hardware second. Water, rather than chemicals, is frequently used to suppress fires in these older buildings. Improper maintenance or accidental triggering of the system can cause major water damage and a large outage which could continue for hours or days if the equipment is destroyed.
  • Insufficient Cooling
    The cooling system is another component of a building’s infrastructure that is often installed with a focus on keeping employees cool rather than cooling a server room which can generate an incredible amount of heat. In addition to ensuring that the facility is sufficiently cooled, it is also important that you have extra equipment on hand to replace broken components as they fail and a plan in place to fail over to a backup system while you quickly repair the air conditioning before all the racks of equipment shut down.
  • A Failover System that Doesn’t Fail Over
    Whether your company has two servers or a whole room full of servers, you most likely have a failover system that starts up automatically in the event of an outage. The goal is to is to have all user traffic automatically transferred to the backup equipment without employees or clients ever aware that there was a problem. Unfortunately, these backup systems are often installed and then rarely thought of again until they are needed. Without regular testing, you won’t know if there is a problem until it is too late.
  • Running on Old Hardware
    When hardware is running properly, we tend to forget about. We ignore its age and spend our time on more urgent IT needs rather than working on a migration plan to replace outdated equipment with new hardware. Whether it is simply lack of planning or budgetary constraints, you are playing Russian roulette with your business. Eventually, equipment will fail.
  • Trying to Do Too Much
    Regularly scheduled maintenance usually has a standard list of updates, upgrades, patches and changes which need to be made but the To Do list for each maintenance window often gets longer and longer as unexpected or last-minute requests are submitted. Businesses routinely inform their employees and clients as to when the maintenance will take place but to stay within that window of time and provide the least amount of disruption to their users, administrators may rush through the process, overlooking important components or taking shortcuts to get the job done on time. This can result in server- or network-wide errors and outages which can take a long time to uncover and fix because of all the different changes which have been made at the same time.

Advantage of a Dedicated Data Center

Most system administrators, IT managers and directors of IT are focused in two specific areas:

  1. Management of day to day tactical IT activities such as on-boarding new employees and putting out the proverbial fire.
  2. Implementation of strategic corporate technology initiatives that will help the business achieve its future goals.

The challenge is to somehow accomplish daily responsibilities, put out unexpected fires, conduct continuous network monitoring, regularly maintain equipment, anticipate possible points of failure and maintain the server room’s physical structure, which is not one of their primary responsibilities, all at the same time.

Whether your business has 3 servers in a closet or multiple racks in a large server room, these challenges are the same. Traditional corporate office space does not contain the infrastructure required to consistently maintain 100% uptime and most IT teams do not have the resources to proactively monitor and maintain their facilities and equipment 24×7.

By choosing to move your IT infrastructure to a free-standing, purpose built data center, not only can you free up your team to focus on more long-term initiatives but also significantly reduce and even eliminate downtime.

Besides the cost savings that comes with the multi-tenant environment, data centers can take over all maintenance responsibilities and monitor your equipment around the clock. Built from the ground up with technology and data protection top of mind, data centers also have redundant backup systems for network access, sophisticated climate control, and their own power generators to ensure that all equipment stays up and running in the event of a storm or outage at the electric utility’s facility.

If your goal is to eliminate outages but continue to have your own IT team maintain your company’s equipment, a data center provider which offers colocation services may be the perfect solution. You can house your hardware in the data center’s facility and manage it yourself, while also taking advantage of the redundant resources they can provide.

Discover how Evocative maintains a continuous 100% uptime for all our data center clients. Call us at 888-365-COLO and take a tour of our facilities.

What Walmart’s Move from the Amazon Cloud Means for You.

It was recently revealed that Walmart is putting significant pressure on some of its technology vendors by informing them that if they want to do business with Walmart, they will not be able to run applications on the cloud computing service of Walmart’s arch rival, Amazon.com.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the leader in on-demand, web-based computing power and storage which has put competitors like Walmart and Netflix in the dubious position of having to depend on a direct competitor as they shift to the cloud. Although Walmart stores most of its data on its own servers and uses services from the number two player in the public cloud, Microsoft Azure, they are still using some cloud applications that run on AWS. Other large retailers are also requesting that their service providers transition from Amazon’s cloud solution.

We believe companies of all sizes should have the right and choice in selecting the vendors and partners they want to work with. We are not surprised that Walmart is taking this stance nor are we shocked that Amazon is complaining about it. We find it ironic that Amazon, who is known to drive change and kill competitors (Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster, etc.), is complaining when its business interests and ethics are challenged. Microsoft was once touted as the “evil empire” and Google’s motto was “don’t be evil”. Yesterday’s underdogs become today’s tyrants. The good thing about computing is that it goes in cycles.

This posturing for which public cloud solution to choose makes it appear like an either/or choice is required by businesses looking to move to the cloud – AWS or Azure. Which one should you choose? Whether your company is a small business or a large enterprise, it is important to know that this does not have to be an “all or nothing” or a “one or the other” choice for you.

When Amazon first delivered its AWS public cloud offering back in 2007, small businesses jumped on board embracing the cost savings and enterprise-grade benefits it delivered. Enterprises, however, questioning Amazon’s expertise in IT and cloud computing, were less eager to sign up and opted instead for Microsoft which had a solid reputation, long history in technology and established personal relationships with enterprise CIOs.

Over time, the landscape has changed. Microsoft’s reputation as the technology provider of choice has shifted as Amazon has proved its expertise and the true value of cloud computing has come into view.

The cloud has enabled all businesses to work on their terms – using the specific devices and applications which are uniquely suited for them to improve productivity, increase efficiencies, and reduce costs across their whole organization. And, the competitive nature of both Amazon and Microsoft have been a benefit to us all, driving innovation as well as new features and functionality. However, both systems tend to be homogeneous in that you get locked into their system and migration from one to the other is difficult and cumbersome.

At Evocative, we embrace competition and innovation, providing both Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure public cloud solutions. We are the guardians of our clients’ Internet infrastructure and, as a trusted advisor, we believe in providing the right solution for the right need which may mean using both AWS and Azure at the same time for different applications. In some cases, the best decision an IT manager can make is to look at the facts and figures before deciding on a technology fad. Many times, the right solution might be colocation or private cloud hosting.

Don’t let the news of Walmart’s cloud transition make you question which public cloud solution is better and which you should choose for your IT needs. It doesn’t have to be a mutually exclusive choice.