Get Your Head Out of the Cloud Part 1: Our Take on Cloud Computing

September 1, 2011 – When we open our browsers in the morning for the latest news from the tech world, there is one topic that constantly follows us around. The Cloud.

The Cloud has opened the door to many new services that we have come to love, and that are making our lives easier. We wouldn’t want to do without our Basecamp, Campaign Monitor or Google Docs, and we are thankful for being able to access them from anywhere we want.

But not all services make sense in the Cloud, at least at the moment. One of them is data management and backup. It is tempting to think that you don’t need your own hardware anymore because you can simply push everything into the Cloud. This may turn out to be a mistake that you will regret if you don’t create your own particular Cloud Backup strategy.

For many applications, the Cloud makes good sense. But is backing up of your company’s critical data to the Cloud practical and safe? What are the technical requirements for switching to Cloud computing and data storage? Is there really a potential for cost reduction? What are the actual costs you can expect? More importantly, what are the potential costs if things don’t go as planned?

What to consider with Cloud Backup

The term “Cloud computing” has no universally accepted definition, but it is generally used to refer to the approach of providing processing power, data storage or software services on demand, with these services accessed via Internet (public Cloud) or via local Intranet (private Cloud).

Not surprisingly, Internet firms like Amazon, Google and Yahoo have been the main drivers in advancing Cloud computing. The steadily growing number of users forced these companies to distribute their services over multiple systems and servers. This is the origin of distributed applications, data systems and data storage. The result was a significant boost of scalability, along with guaranteed availability of the necessary resources on demand, even at times of maximum load.

The use of redundancies (safety backups) makes Cloud computing clearly superior to conventional (i.e. non-distributed) applications in terms of safety and availability. But watch out: A lot of systems currently offered on the Internet do not scale over multiple systems. They are more like single server applications to begin with, and are only expanded as the number of users grows. It’s important to check with your provider to confirm the safety and immediate availability of your data.

Many applications are already offered online. These new solutions, which are handled completely by an external IT-provider and accessed via web browser, are called SaaS (Software as a Service). Because they don’t require any internal resources, it is tempting to use them within your production right away.

The potential for new and innovative solutions in the Cloud is huge, especially their ability to be used very quickly by a large market. How much of a company’s data is saved to the Cloud today or tomorrow depends largely on the costs, the technical possibilities and the safety requirements. Not every business application, however, is suitable for the Cloud.
Here are some factors to consider before moving your company’s data to the Cloud:

Dependability

Cloud Computing is only possible if a connection to the Internet is available.

  • But what happens if there is no connection?
  • What if the connection is spotty or intermittent?
  • Is the Cloud application of crucial importance for the company?
  • What is the speed of your connection to the Internet?

It is usually possible to purchase greater bandwidth for a faster Internet connection. The quality of your connection to your data, however, cannot be guaranteed. When sending your data to your backup facility, there are dozens of factors influencing the transfer rate. Many of them you cannot change, most of them you won’t even know about. Dozens of companies are involved in transferring your data from point A to point B, and nobody will give you any guarantees.

Remember that uploading speed is also critical for file sharing and backup services. Many Internet providers provide fast download speeds, but offer woefully slow upload speeds.

Safety

  • How is the safety of your data guaranteed? Is there a backup?
  • Who is liable in case of a breakdown or malfunction?
  • How is the security of the data guaranteed? (Access by third parties)

The high cost of performance and the safety of your Internet connection is still an issue. The infrastructure to support large-scale Cloud computing is not yet mature enough to handle the massive amounts of traffic that can be required.

Next up:  Get Your Head Out of the Cloud Part 2: Cloud Backup vs. Local Backup