Cloud Safety Tip: Know Your Network – 4 Questions to Ask Your Provider

Part 1 of a five-part series on what to keep in mind for cloud security.

One of the most impressive current IT trends is the rise of secure cloud computing, with an estimated 17.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), per IDC (2014). Service providers like Amazon, MS Azure, and Rackspace are offering public cloud hosting at rapidly decreasing prices, while bandwidth capacities are increasing exponentially.

But if you have any experience in IT whatsoever, you know the danger of computing outages, even in the cloud! In such an event, businesses lose access to data, resources, and suffer downtime, greatly impacting revenue.

One way to stay safe is by knowing your own network, especially if you’ve outsourced your IT. Cloud hosting providers who offer a service layer should provide a comprehensive IT map of your network, usage, and future needs.

When fleshing out your data recovery plan, you want to have the big picture. Both your infrastructure specs and your data backup should be stored in a safe place onsite. If you’re in the cloud, keep a map of your infrastructure. These can be kept on file or stored visually on your in-house documentation tool for ease of access.

Questions to consider:

  • How many virtual machines (VMs) do you have?
  • What are your dependencies, data access permissions, and data controls?
  • How much storage capacity do you have?
  • How much do you actually use? (Remember to maintain roughly 20% for buffer at all times)

If you don’t know what’s running in your cloud, you’ll have a hard time trying to put things back together. We assist clients all the time with putting recovery plans together, and, frequently, we find due to high turnover and shifting roles within the organization, these things are either not kept up to date, or else fall through the cracks entirely.

If your business is heavily dependent on the cloud for key services and mission-critical data, you need to create a comprehensive map containing core components and the recovery sequence. In most cases, an organization’s entire data doesn’t need to be recovered to continue functioning during a cloud outage. However, knowing what to recover and the correct sequence can save time and effort in the event of a system outage.

Higher level service agreements will provide system imaging, a comprehensive system map, and keep track of maintenance and upgrades, so both your service provider and your organization will know your precise specifications prior to the outage. The most advanced services available provide ongoing imaging of your system, like frequent snapshots on a camera, that detail your entire data, compute, and networking specifications.

Still, keeping a data backup and backup plan on site is a must for the most rapid recovery possible, especially in case of region-wide outages.

In part two we’ll discuss the importance of keeping a backup onsite.

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