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 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.

Cloud Computing or Colocation: Understanding Which One is Best for You.

cloud computing colocation

One of the most valuable assets of any company is its electronic data. Whether you are looking for a safe and secure place to store your files, achieve business continuity, or comply with regulatory requirements cloud computing and colocation have become two of the primary means of modern data storage, management and usage.

To select the solution which is best for you, it is important to understand the benefits and differences of each option. The needs, challenges, goals, and resources of every company are different so the correct technology solution for you may be very different than another business.

Cloud Computing and Colocation Defined

Although you are most likely familiar with the terms cloud computing and colocation, let’s define them to ensure that we are on the same page.

Cloud Computing or Cloud Hosting
Cloud computing, in its most simple terms, refers to the delivery of computing services via the internet. It can also be referred to as cloud hosting because of the way computing resources such as applications and virtual machines are stored and managed, or “hosted” in a third-party data center and provided to companies over the internet. These cloud services are used on an as needed basis and are paid for monthly, similar to a utility like electricity.

Colocation Data Center
Colocation refers to a third-party data center facility which enables companies to rent space for their servers and other IT resources. In a colocation environment, a business owns their computing technology and the data center provides the infrastructure including the physical space, electricity, air conditioning, bandwidth, and security. Because the data center contains state-of-the-art resources, organizations can utilize a best-in-class infrastructure at less cost than it would take them to build a similar facility themselves.

Cloud Computing vs. Colocation – Considerations for Each

As you can see, both cloud computing and colocation involve the storage of IT resources and data in a secure data center, enabling you to access that data remotely over the internet. Now we will look at the benefits of each service and some things you will want to take into consideration when evaluating cloud computing and colocation data center providers.

Cloud Computing
The cloud has been embraced by many businesses for the cost savings, efficiencies and productivity benefits that it brings to both their organization and their employees. Although used by companies of all sizes, cloud computing is often used by small and mid-size companies who have no or limited technical resources in house. The cloud enables them to utilize IT resources that were traditionally only available to large enterprises without the need to have a large team of technical professionals on staff.

Benefits of cloud computing include:

  • No Upfront Expenses:  Since cloud services do not require you to purchase any hardware there are no upfront expenses, just a monthly fee based on the resources and services used. From a financial perspective, this turns a capital expense for technology into an operating expense.
  • Cost Savings:  In addition to not having any upfront expenses, cloud computing can also deliver a significant cost savings using the economies of scale. Not only is the cost of computing resources spread across multiple companies but those companies are only required to pay for the services used at any given time. For example, there is no need to purchase additional server hardware in anticipation of future business expansion. It can be purchase on an as needed basis.
  • No IT Worries for Small Businesses:  All hardware, software and infrastructure resources are controlled and managed by the service provider. They store, monitor and maintain all equipment, applications, and data so you don’t have to. This is useful for businesses with no in-house IT expertise.
  • Offload Daily IT Workloads:  Larger companies with an in-house IT team can offload tactical IT responsibilities like daily email management to a cloud solution provider, enabling the company’s IT team to focus on more strategic technology initiatives.
  • On-Demand Access: Since company data, applications, and other resources are stored in the cloud making them available at any time, users have on-demand access from any device with an Internet connection. This dramatically increases productivity and ensures users are working with the most up to date computing tools.
  • Scalability and Elasticity:  Because the cloud enables you to use only the services you need, you can start small and add more services as your business grows.  Alternatively, you can just as easily scale back the number and types of services needed if your business demands decrease. For example, companies that grow their business over the holidays can quickly and easily enable additional IT resources for many new seasonal employees and then just as quickly and easily remove those same resources after the holidays are over.

When evaluating a provider of cloud hosting services, here are two additional items to take into consideration.

Is your business in an industry such as healthcare, legal, or financial services where you are required to comply with strict government regulations? If so, it is critical that the cloud hosting provider you select is certified to meet rigorous security and protocol standards such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, SSAE 16, SOC 2 and ISAE 3402. These certifications confirm that the provider has been audited for compliance and demonstrated a high level of organizational controls and operational capabilities. The provider’s audit reports should be available for you to review and should be provided to you upon request.

Your electronic data is vital to the operation of your business. So, you need a cloud solution which delivers “always on” availability. Unfortunately, not all clouds are created equal. Most standard cloud computing providers offer between a 99.8% and 99.99% uptime guarantee. That sounds pretty good until you realize that settling for a 99.8% uptime means that you will have 17.52 hours of unplanned downtime over the next year. That is more than two days of being unable to access critical files, communicate with colleagues and clients, close deals and support customers. Consider how much revenue and potential business could be lost during that time.

Data centers like Evocative provide cloud computing services in an enterprise-grade environment. This means that all clients, whether cloud or colocation, receive the same guarantee of high availability at 100%.

Colocation
More and more companies are embracing colocation due to its low latency, high availability, increased security measures and rigorous compliance standards. These are important components of enterprise technology which most organizations cannot achieve within their own facilities.

Benefits of colocation include:

  • Maintain Total IT Control:  Colocation is a great option if you want to take advantage of data center infrastructure and security but continue to monitor, maintain, upgrade, and replace your own equipment as if it was installed in-house.   Maintain Total IT Control:  Colocation is a great option if you want to take advantage of data center infrastructure and security but continue to monitor, maintain, upgrade, and replace your own equipment as if it was installed in-house.
  • Renting is Cheaper than Building:  If you were to build your own server room or standalone data center, all the costs associated with the facility would be the sole responsibility of your company. In a colocation data center, all companies share the facility’s costs by “renting” electricity, air conditioning, floor space and other items. This is a more cost-effective option and quicker to deploy than building your own facility.
  • Supplement to Your Facility: If you already have a dedicated server room or data center which your company has outgrown, colocation can supplement the facility that you already have. There is no need to incur the time and expense to expand an existing facility or move your entire network infrastructure to a new location. Colocation provides a state-of-the-art facility which can work seamlessly with your current IT infrastructure.
  • Greater Bandwidth, Greater Performance: A colocation data center can provide greater levels of bandwidth and performance than most businesses can achieve in their own facility and at a reduced cost.
  • Flexible Computing: Since a colocation solution involves the purchase and management of all hardware, software and other resources by you, it enables you to purchase and install any IT tools you need for your business, such as specialized line of business applications or a proprietary CRM system. Unlike cloud computing where businesses are limited to using the applications and hardware the provider is selling, with no modifications or additions, colocation delivers endless flexibility.

When evaluating a colocation data center, here are three additional items to take into consideration.

As we discussed above, not all cloud or colocation providers are created equal. A superior colocation data center should have greater defenses against power outages, disaster recovery safeguards, a low latency infrastructure and meet the rigorous security and protocol standards for regulatory compliance. When selecting a colocation data center, be sure to choose a facility which has also consistently achieved 100% uptime – not just over a period of a few months or a year but over many years.

Although the issue of where your company’s data is physically stored is not as important when you are considering cloud computing, geography is important when you are considering colocation. Because your company will own the hardware, software and other IT resources, and you will need to install and maintain them, you should consider the physical distance between your office and the colocation data center. How quickly can you get to the facility if there is a hardware failure?

A colocation data center can provide a greater level of physical security than almost any company’s dedicated server room. It has multiple layers of security including key cards and biometric access, video surveillance and recording, contractor background checks, 24/7 onsite staff, and strict visitor policies, just to name a few. The decision to transfer your physical hardware and mission-critical data to a third-party data center requires that you scrutinize their security policies and procedures to maximize your protection and eliminate unauthorized access or damage to your IT assets.

The Bottom Line

While both cloud computing and colocation utilize a third-party data center for data storage and delivery, how that data is managed is the key differentiator.

So, which solution is better? Each has its pros and cons and the final decision will be based on your specific requirements and priorities. Are you looking to cut IT costs and have someone else manage your computing resources? Are regulatory compliance and an always-on, high availability infrastructure critical to your success?

Never let a provider pressure you into one solution or the other. It is important that they partner with you as a trusted advocate, build an individual solution that will work well for you today and help you achieve your future goals.

Understanding the differences between cloud computing and colocation and then evaluating data center providers based on your individual needs will help you determine which solution and provider is right for you.