Contents

Welcome To The Cloud
Cloud Computing Services
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Cloud Computing Solutions
Pure Cloud
Hybrid Cloud
Public Cloud vs. Private Cloud

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
Advantages Of Cloud Computing
Disadvantages Of Cloud Computing

Disaster Recovery

Cloud Security

Preparing For a Move To The Cloud

Common Mistakes Businesses Make Critical Questions to Ask Your Cloud Service Provider

Conclusion

About True North

Introduction

The rise of cloud computing has led to a transformation in the way technology services are delivered. With 74% of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) saying that cloud computing will have the most measurable impact on their business in 2017, it is clear that the notion of relying on remote service providers for computing needs is gaining traction year over year.

So what exactly is cloud computing? PC Magazine offers a simplified explanation, defining it as “storing and accessing data and programs over the internet instead of your computer’s hard drive.” In essence, it is the practice of having various IT services – software, infrastructure, disaster recovery, virtually any IT offering – delivered via online connections rather than through a physical, onsite computing infrastructure.

Welcome To The Cloud

In many ways, we can compare the arrival of cloud computing to the advent of the electrical power grid. Where once businesses were forced to generate their power themselves, affordable electricity allowed them to increase their productivity at a lower cost. 

Now, instead of cheap and plentiful electricity, advances in technology and internet connectivity are driving down the costs of computing power. With cloud computing, businesses can pay for “computing power” like a utility without having the exorbitant costs of installing, hosting and supporting it.

Almost every single application you use today can be (or already is being) put in the cloud, where you can access it and pay for it via your browser for a monthly fee or utility pricing. You don’t purchase and install software but instead, access it via an internet browser.

Cloud Computing Services

Today, technology providers offer a wide variety of services that you can access via an internet connection. While these “as a service” offerings are numerous, for simplicity, we have listed the three most popular types.

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Software as a Service (SaaS)

This model involves remotely hosted software applications that subscribers can access through a web browser. These offerings provide increased flexibility and cost savings since they are not hosted locally, and users can be added or removed as needed.

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Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Instead of having a physical computing infrastructure, IaaS lets you outsource your infrastructure to networked computers operating in a remotely hosted cloud environment.

This setup offers an enormous advantage in cost savings, as it negates the requirement for the capital investment of hardware to run a computing environment. As well, since all server maintenance is handled remotely, there is an opportunity to reduce the size of your IT department.

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Platform as a Service (PaaS)

While similar to IaaS in many respects, the key difference is that PaaS provides tools for application development. Many developers work in a PaaS environment to develop software applications, and they support a multitude of programming languages and environments.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Some other service types include Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), Network Security as a Service (NaaS), Virtualization as a Service (VaaS), and Storage as a Service (STaaS).

Cloud Computing Solutions

Just as with cloud service types, there are different cloud solutions available. The one you choose will depend on a variety of factors.

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Hybrid Cloud

Although “pure” cloud computing has valid applications, in some cases it is not the smartest move due to compliance issues, security restrictions, or performance issues. A hybrid cloud enables you to put certain pieces of existing IT infrastructure (storage and email for example) into the cloud, while the remainder of the IT infrastructure stays onsite. This gives you the ability to enjoy the costs, savings, and benefits of cloud computing where it makes the most sense without risking your entire environment.

Pure Cloud

A pure cloud environment is where all your applications and data are put on the other side of the firewall in the cloud and accessed through various devices (laptops, desktops, iPads, phones) via the Internet.

Cloud Computing Solutions

As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with working in a cloud environment. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Advantages Of Cloud Computing

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

While you can mitigate this risk by using a commercial grade internet connection and maintaining a second backup connection, there is a chance that you’ll lose internet connectivity, making it impossible to work.
Many people don’t feel comfortable having their data in an offsite location. This is a valid concern, and before you choose any cloud provider, you need to find out more information about where they are storing your data, how it’s encrypted, who has access, and how you can get it back.
Examples include heavy graphics that need editing, 3D models, 3D x-rays, CAD files, video editing, music editing, and similar applications.
Organizations that host extremely sensitive data, such as healthcare providers who work with Electronic Health Records (EHRs), need to be especially aware of how compliance issues can affect their usage of cloud computing.

There are a number of laws and regulations such as Gramm-Leach-Bliley, Sarbanes-Oxley, and HIPAA that require companies to control and protect their data and certify that they have knowledge and control over who can access the data, who sees it and how and where it is stored. In a public cloud environment, this can be a problem.

Most cloud providers have SAS 70 certifications which require them to be able to describe exactly what is happening in their environment, how and where the data comes in, what the provider does with it, and what controls are in place over access and processing. But it’s important that you ask for some validation that they are meeting the various compliance regulations on an ongoing basis.

Disaster Recovery

A disaster can strike your organization at any time, and when it does, it can be a fatal blow to your business. If you think you are not likely to be affected, consider the following facts: nearly 40% of small businesses are forced to close after a disaster, and of those that do, 25% will never reopen.

And even if your business does manage to survive, a disaster can be extremely costly. Delta Airlines, for example, experienced a five-hour IT outage in 2016 that reportedly cost the company $150 million.

Typically, the three most common types of disasters are:

  • Human error
  • Cybercrime
  • Natural disasters

While many businesses feel the chances of being struck by a tornado or a flood are rare, the fact remains that human error is the number one cause of I.T. related disasters.

In today’s cloud-driven landscape, there really is no excuse for not having a viable disaster recovery plan in place. Moreover, with the availability of Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), companies are better-positioned than ever to protect their data and operations in the event the worst does occur.

Yet Disaster Recovery service myths abound, and organizations continue to hesitate. Some common perceptions include the idea that this “won’t happen to us”, that DRaaS is too expensive, that it’s too complex, or that they are already protected by routine backups.

The realities, though, are quite different.

  • 1. DRaaS is cost effective

    With a cloud-based Disaster Recovery service, you can avoid the capital costs of acquiring your own physical infrastructure in addition to ongoing maintenance fees.

  • 2. Get set up quickly

    DRaaS providers can get your service implemented quickly with their servers ready to start handling your traffic at a moment’s notice.

  • 3. Reduce your data loss

    With a DRaaS provider you will get up and running faster after a disaster, reducing the amount of data you could otherwise lose.

  • 4. Minimize downtime

    DRaaS generally results in minimized or near-zero downtime.

  • 5. Easy to test

    Your service providers can help you test your Disaster Recovery network, ensuring that you are continually protected.

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Cloud Security

It is not surprising that security remains one of the top concerns surrounding a move to a cloud computing environment. According to a recent survey by CloudPassage, 53% of organizations see security concerns as the largest barrier to cloud adoption. And an identical percentage (53%) of businesses see unauthorized access through misuse of employee credentials and improper access controls as the single biggest threat to cloud security.

Despite these concerns, another survey of U.K. organizations reported that while 70% of them have cloud security concerns, 99% have never experienced a security breach.

It is important therefore to realize that in many ways, cloud computing is a more secure means of accessing and storing data. Just because your server is onsite doesn’t make it more secure; in fact, most small to medium businesses can’t justify the cost of securing their network the way a cloud provider can and most security breaches occur due to human error.

If one of your employees downloads a file that contains a virus, or if they don’t use secure passwords, or they simply e-mail confidential information out to people who shouldn’t see it, the security of your system has been compromised.

Other security breaches occur in on-site networks because the company hasn’t adequately maintained their in-house network with security updates, software patches, and up-to-date anti-virus software. That’s a far more common way for networks to become compromised than a cloud provider getting hacked.

How can you prevent this from happening to you? By definition, cloud hosting involves several users sharing virtual space. To ensure that no other user can access your information without permission, it has to be properly encrypted. Make sure your data is in capable hands by looking for SAS 70 Type II certification, which ensures that the controls put in place by your provider are accurate, suitable, and effective.

To mitigate risks to your data, when choosing your cloud hosting provider, ask whether or not they can verify the security of their network and infrastructure. Without proper oversight, a company’s data can become compromised due to improper security measures.

Preparing For a Move To The Cloud

If you’ve determined that you are ready to make the shift to cloud computing, it’s vital that you choose the right service provider. Indeed, selecting the wrong managed cloud partner can cause serious problems down the road.

Let’s take a look at some common mistakes that businesses make when contemplating a migration to the cloud.

Common Mistakes Businesses Make

One element to take a close look at is a cloud hosting provider’s track record with service level agreements. Set up a protocol for periodically checking how much service you’re using and how you could be working more efficiently in the cloud. This translates into reduced costs and paying only for what you need and use.

Make sure your provider has experts you can reach at all times to walk you through any issues that might come up.

As we mentioned earlier, make sure your data is in capable hands by looking for SAS 70 Type II certification, which ensures that the controls put in place by your provider are accurate, suitable, and effective.
Providers need to ensure that both your data and your applications are adequately protected. Protecting your data in the cloud is a must, but even that won’t be much help if your apps and servers crash. Having a solid Disaster Recovery Plan will allow you to use applications on an external infrastructure tailored precisely to your needs.
When it comes to cloud computing infrastructure, one size does not fit all. A cloud hosting provider worth its salt will be able to analyze your needs and advise you on which infrastructure will be the best fit for you.
Speed matters in cloud computing. Enormous savings can be achieved by combining what’s called “data deduplication” and compression, helping you save on your bandwidth. More bandwidth means faster running times for your applications, which can lead to significant savings.
What many business owners don’t know is that the physical location of data is critical for compliance. If you are utilizing cloud storage for your disaster recovery plan or attempting to pass strict security audits, then the location of the data and the mechanisms to make that data accessible are critical.

Make sure your provider can give you the precise location of your data to cover all your bases.

A cloud hosting provider should base its pricing on how much storage capacity a business needs, how much bandwidth is required to access its data, and the services it performs in the cloud. Services will include configuration, monitoring, and updates.

Many service providers offer low prices, but fail to include basic services, so hidden fees add up quickly. Make sure you stay away from standard hidden fees, such as connection, maintenance, and data access charges.

Critical Questions to Ask
Your Cloud Service Provider

When selecting a vendor for cloud services, make sure you ask them the following questions:

  • How quickly do they guarantee to have a technician working on an outage or other problem?

  • What’s their plan for transitioning your network to the cloud to minimize problems and downtime?

  • Do they take the time to explain what they are doing and answer your questions in terms that you can understand?

  • Where will your data be stored?

  • Do they have adequate errors and omissions insurance as well as workers’ compensation insurance to protect you?

  • Is it standard procedure for them to provide you with written network documentation detailing what software licenses you own, your critical passwords, user information, hardware inventory, etc.?

  • Do they have other technicians on staff who are familiar with your network in case your regular technician goes on vacation or gets sick?

  • Do they insist on doing periodical test restores of your backups to make sure the data is not corrupt and could be restored in the event of a disaster?

  • Is their help-desk US-based or outsourced to an overseas company or third party?

  • Do their technicians maintain current vendor certifications and participate in ongoing training?

  • When something goes wrong with your Internet service, phone systems, printers or other IT services, do they own the problem?

Taking the time to ask these questions, as well as avoiding the common mistakes we've outlined, can go a long way toward promoting a successful cloud computing experience.

Conclusion

What does the future hold for cloud computing? As Marcus Vlahovic, Founder & CEO of Sustainabody says, “Cloud computing is bridging us to a world of unlimited connectivity. In 10-15 years people won’t be talking about routers and individual networks, everything will be the network.”

With faster internet speeds available and many aging computing infrastructures nearing the end of their lifecycles, it’s no wonder that Gartner predicts a “cloud shift” that will see more than $1 trillion in related spending by 2020.

So, while cloud computing isn’t necessarily appropriate for everyone, it does bring clear advantages that can significantly outweigh the disadvantages. From reduced investment costs and operational expenditures to offering improved productivity, scalability, and security, cloud computing is here to stay.

About True North

True North is a leading managed IT services provider delivering agility, efficiency and resilience to our clients through our IT Maturity Model. We are a cloud services provider of choice for healthcare organizations thanks to our unique experience, support, and dedication to unrivaled data security.

Our Service-Driven Cloud solutions give your business a boost by bringing you peace of mind, agility, affordability, transparency and cost effectiveness.

Contact us to learn how our IT services can empower your business to reach your goals.

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