While the concept of highly available large scale computing systems is not new, powerful procesors, increased drive space, and the ability to easily virtualize computers has lead to a recent explosion of “cloud” computing offerings and services. As the popularity of cloud computing grows more and more software, computes, and data are being housed and maintained at data centers and delivered to end users via an internet connection.
As a potential cloud services customer it is important to evaluate the myriad of vendors and products. And not all clouds are created equal. A “true” cloud service is highly available, highly scalable, and highly redundant. While there providers who host applications which claim to be running “cloud” services all over the world wide web it is critical for the customer to distinguish who the right provider is for his/her needs.
Basically cloud services are services which are there when you need them, which can be turned up or down with ease, and which are located in a space that has provisions in the event of an internet or electricity outage. As a potential cloud customer its important to ask your IT provider key questions, after all its your data and business applications that make your business work.
Customers should asses where the data center is that is running these services? Does the data center have redundant air conditioning, internet, back up batteries, security, and fire suppression? Customers should determine if the applications they are running are working on a “cluster” of computers rather than on one virtual machine. And customers should determine what the fail over plan is should an internet connection go down, a computer fail, or a drive die.
Finally customers need to determine if the services that they are requesting are high quality services. Cloud computing doesn’t address the need for quality software; however, poorly designed software is likely to have its problems magnified in the cloud. Some typical Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings are email, collaboration, calendaring, file sharing, and video conferencing. Look for providers that have experience managing applications in a cloud environment and make sure that your provider offers excellent customer service. After all, without a human being to pick up the phone, an outage is nothing short of a nightmare.
While moving to the cloud can seem scary at first, the reality is that as consumers of smart phone, tablets, and web sites most people are already using cloud services on a regular basis. Because the concept of cloud computing has existed for a long time, as a potential customer you can feel confident in many of the newer, more recent enterprise products and solutions. Your Managed Services Provider can offer you some key advice about how to evaluate services and chose the solutions that best suit your needs.