“THE CLOUD” – so ominous, so ubiquitous, and today, absolutely part of every IT strategy. You may not even realize you’re using elements of cloud computing. And if you aren’t already, you will be.
People refer to “the cloud” with a broad brush. This may be causing confusion, and in some cases misinformation. When you evaluate cloud technology you need to know your options, what questions you should ask, and what you should expect from any cloud provider.
Unless coding, technical stacks, and virtual provisioning are part of your everyday language, the cloud can be a bit of a mystery. But it needn’t be. From an infrastructure standpoint, the cloud means that companies like yours are able to take advantage of the latest hardware, easily scale and only pay for what you use, avoid substantial upfront capital expenditures, and access the latest technology.
The public cloud, hybrid clouds, and private clouds now dot the landscape of IT based solutions. Because of that,the basic issues have moved from ‘what is cloud’ to ‘how will cloud projects evolve’.
Chris Howard, Research Vice-President, Gartner
While most businesses no longer question whether to make the cloud part of their IT strategy, the industry is flooded with common misconceptions, making decisions on how to use cloud computing more difficult. It is time to demystify cloud computing and gain a better perspective on cloud technologies and cloud solutions that could help your business succeed. By addressing some of the most common cloud computing myths you can truly begin to understand the power that lyes within the cloud.
Myth 1: The Cloud is Not for Mission-Critical Apps
Let’s begin dispelling the myth that the cloud is only for simple SaaS tools. More and more mission critical / enterprise solutions are moving to the cloud, which can enable companies to respond more quickly to new technologies and scale for growth as needed.
- 87 Percent- Number of organizations running mission-critical applications in the cloud
- 50 Percent- Enterprises say they will run three-quarters of their IT workloads in the cloud by 2018
State of the Market: Enterprise Cloud 2016 Verizon
Myth 2: The Cloud Isn’t Secure
While security was the number one concern with cloud computing for quite some time, most companies are now realizing that in fact cloud infrastructures are typically more secure than what a company can do on their own. Companies like Hostway, invest considerably in infrastructure security. Traditional IT environments just can’t keep up with the security tools and trends to the extent that a cloud provider can (and should). That said, you should inquire about the security tools and commitments that any cloud provider offers.
Most companies say that their cloud environment is as secure, if not more secure, than their traditional infrastructure.
State of the Market: Enterprise Cloud 2016 Verizon
Myth 3: The Cloud Will Automatically Save Lots of Money
While cloud computing can generally save money overall, it’s beholden on the client to make sure they are using resources in the right way.
For example, if you spin up a virtual machine for some development or testing but forget to spin it down (i.e. cancel this resource) you’re going to continue paying for something you aren’t using. And ultimately, you’ll be disappointed that your cloud environment didn’t save as much money as you thought it would.
A cloud provider, like Hostway, can help you determine the best and most cost effective resource allocation, but it’s up to you to ensure you are getting what you need and when you need it.
A significant benefit of the cloud is moving infrastructure, apps and IT functions to a hosting provider. This enables the company to shift costs from capital expenditures to operating expenses. The CFO will love this. This also allows limited IT resources to focus on application strategy and development vs. core infrastructure (i.e. keeping the lights on) activities.
Myth 4: Moving Infrastructure and Apps to the Cloud is Impossible
We noted earlier that many companies feel they don’t have the expertise or resources to manage a cloud computing model. Much of this concern is centered on moving apps to a hosted or cloud environment. Admittedly, a few years ago, this required professional services and was cumbersome. But today, cloud providers are releasing tools to help migrate apps, data and even mission-critical functions like an online store to the cloud. Impossible is a thing of the past, and migration is no longer a task to fear.
Myth 5: Support from Cloud Providers is Generic
Going to the cloud provides the opportunity, but not an automatic guarantee, of the highest levels of delivery, security and reliability.
While most cloud providers will make claims of 99.95% uptime you are wise to check the fine print of their service level agreements or SLAs. You may think this is not necessary. After all, what’s the real risk if uptime guarantees are so high?
Well, the fine print may reveal that this uptime is contingent upon you having a certain failover configuration, or the provider may have a different definition of failure than you do. SLAs range from facility and hardware-level to application-level. Public cloud SLAs most commonly cover availability (and not performance) to the Hyper-V (virtualized server) level; meaning that if you manage to corrupt your operating system environment, you are responsible for fixing it, or deleting the server and starting over. The provider is typically responsible for ensuring that everything below the Hyper-V is available to their users.
Check with your provider to see how they define failure. For example, some cloud providers, like AWS, require 2 or 3 availability zones to be in use for an outage to be considered an SLA violation. This means that you need to set up, and pay for, duplicate environments in multiple zones, and all of those zones must go down in order for it to be considered a failure. You’ll also want to find out how the provider defines downtime. If the server cannot run a mission-critical application but a user can ping the server, is it a failure? From a business perspective, if a mission-critical app isn’t running, the answer is simple – this is a failure. But the provider may think otherwise.
SaaS providers are more likely to have function-oriented SLAs. You are wise to understand what your SaaS provider measures and how these metrics relate to your business operations. The role and value of an application to your business will vary app to app and therefore, you may have different priorities regarding the SLAs of each app.
Finally, you want to understand what financial compensation the provider provides for downtime. There are two main facets to determining compensation: The way that availability is measured, and the way that compensation is calculated.
Most providers calculate availability on a monthly or yearly basis. This means that availability numbers don't carry over from one month or year to the next and compensation is only based on the downtime for that defined period. Some actually consider intervals as small as 5-minutes, but if the service is unavailable for less than 5 minutes straight, it wouldn't be considered unavailable during that period.
If there is a failure or service interruption, find out if you have to ask for the credit or if it is automatically provided. If you have to ask, the provider counts on the fact that you won’t pursue it.
Keep in mind, payment is typically based on the amount the cloud provider bills you, not how much revenue you lost because of downtime. Typically, providers will cap the credit at 100% of the monthly bill, however some of the caps are much lower. Take Amazon’s EC2 for example, their credit is capped at 30% of your monthly bill and doesn’t pay anything for the first 21 minutes of downtime each month and further limits the first 7 hours of downtime to a total credit of 10%.
Myth 6: The Cloud is One-Size-Fits-All
Utilizing cloud computing means flexibility. Take advantage of it! Determine what you need and why you need it, and then find the best cloud solution. For some, a shared, public environment may be fine, while for others a dedicated, high-performance environment is a must.
Application services is another area where you can experience the benefits from the cloud. By building a “practice” around a specific application, a provider can help ensure that the customer’s cloud solution is designed, deployed and managed properly, while removing the need for the customer to be full time hands on supporting the app. The provider can offload the work required to do things like manage and patch servers, run backups, monitor solution performance, administer databases, etc.
Hostway’s Managed Magento solution is an example of an application level practice.
Cloud technology has revolutionized industries across the board, and nowhere more so than in web hosting and web application solutions. Over the past decade, cloud computing has solidified itself as a strategic element in most IT plans.
Having the right information is everything to make the right decision for your business. Evaluate your business and technology goals, take account of current human and technology resources, and then assess how various cloud options can help you implement projects faster, more cost effectively, and with the latest technology.