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5 Considerations When ‘Moving to the Cloud’

‘The Cloud’ has been a buzz word across the IT industry for a number of years now with most SME’s adopting or at least considering this approach to their IT strategy. Disaster recovery, additional flexibility and reduced capital expenditure are just a few of the benefits businesses can expect when migrating to the cloud.  However the migration to the cloud needs to be managed properly in order for businesses to fully benefit and Spitfire can help with this process.

 

1.  Where is your cloud service located ?
‘The Cloud’ provides endless opportunities for storing data, servers, applications etc however it is important to know where your Cloud service is located. Is it based in a single Data Centre (DC) or is it part of a cluster of data centres? A cluster of DCs will offer more resiliency to your service but is the cluster spread across locations outside the UK or even beyond the EU? If so, where will your data be stored? If your data is not stored in the UK or EU you need to check if this fulfils any compliance issues your business may have. Compliance can specify data must be stored in the UK or EU in some circumstances. What about the data protection in a non UK based data centre? How do you meet Data Protection regulations?  The data may not be protected with the same regulations depending on where it is stored. So again will this impact where your data can be stored and therefore what cloud service to take?

 

Consideration of where the DC is located stretches beyond the realms of compliance and can also affect your use of key business applications.   Any large geographical separation between your office and the service will introduce delay in how your applications respond (known as latency).  If you are deploying applications reliant on low latency then how will this impact the day to day operation of your business? At Spitfire we can help design well engineered data solutions that are tailored specifically to your business needs and ensure you make the most of the benefits offered by The Cloud without the drawbacks which come from a poorly designed solution.

 

2.  How will you and your users connect to the service?
How you connect to a Cloud based service will ultimately determine how efficiently and how securely the data will be transferred between the cloud and your network.  Broadly speaking there are two ways of connecting:

 

Using a Broadband or an Ethernet Internet connection with a VPN:

 

Broadband:  this is cheap and can be secure using a VPN but will offer variable performance, can be unreliable and there will be no Service Level Agreement (SLA) on the delivery of the data between the cloud and your network.
Ethernet:  Ethernet is a high quality connection type with good SLAs but if a conventional Internet circuit is used then as with Broadband data flows via the Internet with no guarantees as to performance.
Whilst using an Internet circuit provides flexibility, it can’t provide any form of performance guarantee to your cloud provider.  In addition the use of VPNs (which must be used to provide security) leads to additional overheads which also impact the performance of your application and ultimately affect the productivity of the user.

 

Using some form of “direct” connection to the cloud provider, bypassing the Internet and negating the need for a VPN:

 

Private Circuit/Leased Line:  using a point to point circuit to connect to the Cloud is reliable, secure and offers guaranteed performance but is very expensive and inflexible as it ties you into using that particular cloud provider.
Interconnect between your ISP and the Cloud Provider:  a direct connection between your ISP and the Cloud service offers the performance and security of a private circuit but without the cost and inflexibility since it allows you to use a conventional Ethernet circuit (or even Broadband for home workers or small offices).   For mission critical cloud applications Spitfire provides such circuits using CloudConnect technology which allows you to connect multiple offices into all leading Cloud providers such as Amazon, Google & Microsoft in a highly secure, cost effective manner without the drawbacks of using the Internet and VPNs.  This ensures a consistent and efficient user experience leading to a more productive user.

 

3.  Is your application suitable for Cloud deployment?
While applications such as email lend themselves to Cloud deployment, many applications are simply not designed for easy Cloud deployment. For example, a “traditional” client/server application will most likely need a low latency, high bandwidth network between the server and the client. While this is rarely a problem on a local network, by moving the server component to the cloud the network connection is likely to produce higher latency and lower bandwidth. This architecture may simply prevent the application from working effectively. There are numerous mechanisms to overcome this issue, for example by using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, but these mechanisms may themselves introduce complexity and costs that outweigh the benefits of cloud. If you are considering deploying applications in the cloud please speak with Spitfire who can help engineer a solution in conjunction with your IT department/external IT company or cloud provider that will ensure you have a suitable connection and thus performance of the cloud application.

 

4.  What SLA does the Cloud service provide?
Performance and availability SLAs may be key to an effective solution – what happens to your business if the service goes offline or you cannot connect to them – does the service provider offer a work round, a resilient solution or even warrant against this? It is highly likely that your Cloud provider’s service SLA will include an element of acceptable downtime and may only provide a small credit against service fees in an extended outage. In any event the service provider will limit any liability to factors within their control. This will immediately eliminate any issues caused by connectivity over the internet which are themselves the most likely cause of a service disruption.

Businesses which rely on their cloud applications will ensure that the cloud provider offers resilience whilst many will choose to go for a hybrid solution with servers running both in the cloud and on-site to protect against a cloud failure.   Spitfire will work with you to ensure that your WAN connectivity supports your network set-up and provides the correct balance between cost and resilience.

 

5.  What is the backup plan if you cannot connect to your cloud service?
There are a huge number of benefits of moving data and applications to the cloud however this move also comes with risk. Your link to this data is now reliant on some form of external IP circuit rather than just internal cabling (with an onsite server) and therefore without this connectivity you have no access to the cloud and no access to this data. With this in mind, you must consider a backup option. We discussed briefly a clustered cloud service which provides resiliency against a DC issue however you need to also consider a backup IP circuit for resiliency. You also need to ensure this backup IP circuit is suitable to run the applications you wish to run in the cloud (has the appropriate bandwidth, SLAs and performance guarantees). Spitfire can help design and engineer backup resiliency options with a cost effective solution providing the business with stability and business continuity in the event of an outage on your office’s primary internet connection.

In addition to providing resiliency at your office you also need to consider how you will maximise the benefits of Cloud computing in the event of not being able to access your office location. Business Continuity Planning (BCP) has become one of IT & Operation departments’ key strategic functions – with cloud computing sitting at the heart of this. However, the act of just moving to the cloud does not in itself solve issues in the event of disaster. Further questions need to be asked and steps need to be taken in order to ensure your business runs smoothly during adverse scenarios. Where are the workforce going to be located if not in the office? How will the workforce remain connected to mission critical applications in the cloud? How will clients & suppliers remain in contact?  Spitfire can work with your business help design and engineer a BCP to minimise disruption and ensure continued business continuity.

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