Avg SMB Cloud Computing Guide 2011

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Cloud computing has arrived on the IT landscape with all the commotion of a Hollywood blockbuster in terms of its media coverage. The hype and chatter that this has caused has arguably not helped its …

Cloud computing has arrived on the IT landscape with all the commotion of a Hollywood blockbuster in terms of its media coverage. The hype and chatter that this has caused has arguably not helped its initial growth and development as companies have been at the mercy of a mixed set of messages, some of which have almost approached the point of confusion in various cases.

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  • 1. At workSmall BusinessSecurity GuidesOptimising your business viaemerging cloud computingtechnologies
  • 2. What is cloud computing anyway? Cloud computing has been arguably been over-hyped in recent times, but a simple explanation is not that hard to come by. S imply put, the cloud computing model of IT is the Internet- based delivery of IT services in the slice of the cloud and uses it just like a server. The cloud provider looks after it for the customer shape of software applications, and can manage all the new processing power and storage. installations, maintenance and These ‘services’ are delivered down software updates that are needed. the Internet ‘pipe’ in an on-demand The concept here is that the fashion, so that companies can business can use cloud services simply pay for what they need and to operate and trade effectively nothing more. as it concentrates on its core“ Cloud computing is a bit like competencies, whether that be turning on a light switch; you pay manufacturing washing machines, for as much light as you need and making cakes or selling legalCloud computing then you turn it off. You only get services -- rather than having charged for what you use and how to manage IT services across ais a bit like long you use it for. network of servers i.e tasks beyondturning on a the customer’s central area of Cloud computing’s economies oflight switch; you scale hinge around the opportunity expertise.pay for as much for companies to tap into ‘sharedlight as you need computing resources’ owned by the cloud provider. A business buys aand then youturn it off. ” At work
  • 3. Cloud basicsWhy is the cloud useful forbusinesses of all types?Customers who opt for cloudservices can manage theirIT network via a web browseror a dedicated softwareapplication. This makes it fareasier for them to roll out newsoftware updates (includinganti-virus protection) to anentire staff base, as the ITservice is managed up in theclouds where it can oversee allthe businesses’ desktops andmobile devices.T he cloud computing model of IT delivery is essentiallyhardware and software According to research carried out by the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), which quizzed can now get on with operating the core business IT network and so doesn’t have to spend and when it is needed is logically going to be more cost effective than buyingservices delivered over the 450 senior IT and business hours trying to install a new in a large lump of ‘serverweb. Its uptake among small decision-makers in SMBs, spreadsheet or forms-based and processing power’ andto medium sized business has enterprises and public sector application (for employees to using up its capacity slowlybeen especially rapid. organisations, flexibility was input sales data) across the but surely when needed. The cited as the main reason entire staff base. He (or she) business still shoulders theAsk a cloud computing expert (at 53 percent) for initially instructs the company’s cloud upfront capital expenditurewhy they think this new adopting cloud-based hosting vendor and lets them on the cost of the IT, andmodel of IT service delivery services. handle the job. if the business fails to useis going to be a good idea it all then this is wastedand useful for business and Let’s just emphasise that Manageability matters expenditure that can not beyou’ll typically get just three this was the MAIN reason Software updates, patches, recouped.words in reply: flexibility, for INITIALLY adopting operating system upgradesmanageability and cost- cloud computing. What is and – quite crucially we feel –efficiency. interesting is that the same anti virus software updates all managers ranked cost saving become far more controllable,Now those are rather over- far lower (at 16 percent) in flexible, customisableused terms in the world of terms of it being a primary and (yes we’ll say it again)IT, so what do they mean driver for initially adopting manageable.and how do they manifest cloud services.themselves in the real world? So thirdly, cost-efficiency from Cloud computing directly the cloud -- as we have saidFlexibility foundations impacts manageability for before, cloud computing’sAs we know, cloud computing some very clear reasons. economies of scale hingeis the Internet-based delivery Deployment (or installation around the opportunity forof IT services in the shape if you prefer) of software companies to tap into ‘sharedof software applications, across the entire workforce’s computing resources’ ownedprocessing power and storage range of desktop and mobile by the cloud provider.over the Internet. devices effectively becomes Buying one flexible chunk outsourced. The IT manager of computing power as At work
  • 4. What is Software-as-a-Service?Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a method of using software under license providedby a software vendor, where the application is ‘hosted’ at a site away from thecompany premises. The software does not take up permanent residence on thecustomer’s network i.e. it is never fully downloaded or installed.T o use SaaS, a customer’s IT department must beconnected to a network toreceive the software down asupply pipe – and of coursethis ‘pipe’ is typically theInternet.In the eyes of the user, usingweb-based SaaS softwareservices is not necessarilyany different from usingan application that ispermanently installed on theirmachine. But the businessfeels the (largely) positiveeffects at the back end insidethe IT department - and on thefinancial bottom line.Adoption of the SaaS modelnot only means that thecompany uses the most up-to-date version of softwareavailable at any one time, italso allows the company touse software at a lower costwithout weighty technology The SaaS software sits on underpinned this growth, so In summary, SaaS providesimplementation and the vendor’s network ready that the use of at least ‘some’ lower administration costs,deployment costs. to be deployed into the SaaS services in modern automated updates to core“ outside world. The software business framework is software applications as applications themselves are becoming the new norm. well as patch updates, good written in what is known as a compatibility levels (all a SaaS shares a close ‘web-native’ format i.e. this company’s users are finallyAnalyst firm simply means that they are relationship with cloud computing and is often using the same software!) built to run over the Internet and wider global accessibilityForrester pipes from the start – and referred to as being part of what is called the ‘utility for the company’s users as asays that this this also means that they are optimised for this type of model of computing’, the whole. ‘ASP-model’ (or Applicationapproach to deployment rather than being traditional desktop (or even Service Provider), or the on- demand computing model.placing server mobile) single installation Essentially these jargon- products.storage tasks in As the Internet has driven heavy industry terms add up to much the same thing – sothe hands of the more deeply into every company’s operational plans, newcomers to this subject should not be put off by so-cloud is the most SaaS web services have called ‘industry-speak’ if they become more attuned to real hear it.substantial shift business needs and so havein IT so far this enjoyed increased growth and popularity. The widespreaddecade. availability of broadband has ” At work
  • 5. When should businesses considermoving IT to the cloud?It’s a broad question i.e. when should businesses consider moving an element oftheir IT function to the cloud? To answer this query by merely saying NOW -- wouldbe too broad brush a statement to have any value. But timing is an essential element “of any business plan, so we must address this issue. If a company’s servers are over five-years old, this is approaching the dangerous part of their ‘propensity to fail’ curve.A company company might consider a new cloudcomputing component in Cloud computing also provides another more subtle function, which may also have direct you can test it and bring it in house when the time is right. Popular thinking today ” The end of the tax year, the end of the VAT quarter, Christmas Eve and anyits IT stack if for example it relevance to a business’s other significant annual (or suggests that the businesswere to open up a new line of security layer -- and that is quarterly) milestone when IT would be happy with thisbusiness or product line, or its ability to set up a ‘test’ downtime which may result block of business left inperhaps enter a new market. environment. Because cloud from new cloud deployments the cloud permanently. TheThis ‘new rung on the ladder’ computing comes packaged is not a good idea. crucial factor here is that youmoment in business can be in a ‘service’ over the Internet, recognise the when-factor So now you know when thisa perfect time to reassess IT it is there to ‘play with’ in a here as being a time of change technology is best suited toinput and output channels; a sense. After all, it’s up in the in the business. emerge, you can set yourreassessment of the company cloud (it’s actually down on a cloud computing stop watch.security layer and a new remote server being ‘hosted’ There are other ‘finger in thecloud-driven IT service should somewhere else) so you can air’ gauges that a companybe very natural partners stress test it and see how well might use to consider it performs under extreme when it might adopt someAnother key ‘when-factor’ and/or new conditions. element of cloud computing.might be related to the If a company’s servers arebusiness’s hardware or For want of a random over five-years old, this issoftware installation coming example, if a consumer approaching the dangerousto an ‘end of life’ stage. goods manufacturer wanted part of their ‘propensity toWhen the hard disks are to set up a new web-based fail’ curve. Once again, thisworn out and the machines mail order system to serve is a good time to think aboutneed faster processor power, an emerging market nation cloud.we might also typically find in Eastern Europe, wouldthat software and operating they want that system ‘hard Just to come full circle onsystems upgrades just have networked’ in to their existing this topic, let’s also considerto be carried out too. So once IT operation? Probably not when NOT to consider cloudagain, a cloud watershed right? But put any new computing. Or at least,moment may present itself modular addition to the when an IT overhaul is nothere. business in the cloud and necessarily a good idea. At work
  • 6. How does a business sign upfor cloud services?So you just sign up for cloud computing and start using the flexible service optionsas and when you need them right? Well – that’s mostly correct, but did anybody stopand ask HOW exactly a business signs up for the cloud in the first place?T he simple answer here is that a user (an IT manageror other individual) really does categorised by parameters including disk space, monthly data transfer, programming Ready to go: Based on this simplified explanation of the process, atsimply just sign up. Cloud support and database this point the cloud is readyhosting vendors suggest that features. to go.they can “spin up” a cloudserver in less than a minute Time period: Cloud vendors call theirfor new users – and all this You also need to decide part of this whole processmeans is that your specified whether you are signing up “provisioning”. But if you want“portion” of server space is for 12 months, 24-months or a more digestible term, youset aside, made ready and more. could simply call this actionkitted out so that it is ready “initiating”, or “preparing” Now proceed to the even.for use. checkout:The HOW section of cloud Part of the sign up process Or if you really want to getcomputing includes the will of course include the down to earth, then we’ll justfollowing: submission of contact call this process “turning on”. information, as well as billing At this point, you can considerChoose your cloud plan: and payment information. your cloud resource to haveThere are a few fundamental been “powered up”.choices that need to be made Registration:in terms of the plan any Creating an accountbusiness signs up to from username and password is anthe cloud. This will mean essential part of the process.selecting which hostingresources a company buys “into -- and this will be Cloud hosting vendors suggest that they can “spin up” a cloud server in less than a minute for new users... ” At work
  • 7. Why are some companies concerned about cloud? T he proposition presented by cloud computing has not arrived without some cloud computing is (arguably) a superb route towards cost savings and the stripping out look after its data, this should be a positive area of interest. An IT survey carried out companies voicing their of unused or underutilised Vanson Bourne showed concerns and reservations. IT resources. On the other“ that 91% of companies It is after all very new -- and hand, the recession itself has surveyed want a hybrid cloud with newness comes change, driven cost cutting measures model for their technology and change is disruptive. But that have led to smaller infrastructure, 70% are there is positive disruption IT departments. So is thisBusinesses and negative disruption. Catch-22 for the cloud, or is still “concerned” about the difficulties of managing such So how do we differentiate there a way through the mist?must position between the two -- and how Catch-22 for the cloud? an infrastructure over the long term. do we allay cloud computingstaff training at worries if they have no real The answer (mostly) lies The cloud in layers in mitigating unnecessarythe heart of any basis for concern? concerns being harboured Industry analysts suggest that the prevalence of these Some might say… over outsourcing sensitivecloud migration Some say that the problem data to the cloud. concerns and misgivings may be down to the over here is skills; the cloud willstrategy, if change IT provision, but it Terms like “storage bloat” are sometimes used to describe usage of the term “cloud computing” itself. When inthey want to will fail if we do not change our approach to IT training the data loss that can occur fact the cloud encompasses when a business blindly saves an IT Infrastructure (IaaS –be able to by a commensurate degree. The argument is simple: all its information in one “data Infrastructure-as-a-Service) dump” to the cloud. element, a Platform (PaaSrealise tangible businesses must position staff training at the heart of any More intelligent use of - Platform-as-a-Service) component and then,business cloud migration strategy, if they want to be able to realise cloud computing may be ultimately a Software (SaaS to employ services such asbenefits from tangible business benefits email management, which – Software-as-a-Service) offering. from cloud-based Software- looks after email archiving,cloud-based as-a-Service streams. retention and management. If there are concerns over howSoftware- But there are two sides to this argument. On the one a business should operateas-a-Service hand we should consider that within the cloud and be able tostreams. ” At work
  • 8. Who are the top cloudvendors?Cloud computing is not an open and shut case. The upshot ofthis is that we should really break any list of cloud vendors “down into sub categories. Five segments of the cloud: platforms, infrastructure, security, storage and cloud software & applications. ”I deally, an analysis of the cloud computing marketplace would separate • Akamai The ‘service’ selection factor The important point here is not that these nine companies Many would argue that cloud computing still sits in this mire of uncertainty and that‘elements’ of the cloud into • Amazon all hover somewhere around security is still a massiveperhaps five segments: the top ten cloud vendors list concern. But things are bettercloud platforms themselves,infrastructure, security, • Microsoft on a month-by-month basis at the time of writing. No, the than that; building on the cloud is not like laying down • Enkistorage and cloud software & important point is that each foundations on quicksand,applications. company will have a different there are answers to most of approach to service – and the questions we will needNaming namesBut for the purposes of this • Fortress ITX this is widely argued to be the answered. major defining factor that willoverview, let’s stick with The question is, how well canwhat we can define as cloud • Joyent help us distinguish one cloud player from another. each cloud vendor attend‘vendors’ specifically. The to a customer’s concerns,below list is merely presentedas an hors d’œuvre. Some • Google Let’s not forget, cloud computing started out as a questions and uncertainties? Once again, it will come downnames you will know well, highly disruptive technology to service.some names you may know • Rackspace development (albeit mainlyfor other reasons and some positive), with no previousnames may be new to you. • Salesforce customer references, very few SLAs (service level agreements), spiralling security concerns and no tangible guarantee of ROI (return on investment). At work
  • 9. Where are the cloud’s data centres? Surely one of the great issues with cloud computing is the IT industry’s apparent willingness to fuel the ‘ethereal’ image of the cloud’s data banks. “It’s just out there,” they say... T he cloud delivers data and application processing power as and when you need Both McAfee and Rackspace (to name just two) have built cloud data centres in London, build one huge lump of cloud data? The answer is a multi-layered it, they say. “Don’t concern UK – in addition to their US one. There are latency effects yourself with building an IT bases of course. According experienced by certain infrastructure, just outsource to Data Centre Knowledge software applications (if they it to our hosted service,” they dot.com, Amazon holds its are particularly high volume (the cloud providers) say and data banks right around the transaction apps) depending say and say. globe in Amsterdam, Dublin,“ on the cloud’s location. Frankfurt, London, Hong But hang on, that’s not really Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Compliance complicity what we want to hear, is it? All at eight locations across Plus there’s also the this ‘up in the sky’ flexibility is America. geographical factor toThere are all very well, but businesses today large and small want to Physical realities consider i.e. regulatory and compliance rulingslatency effects know not only which side their bread is buttered on, they also So let’s not use the rest of this section to simply list governing data in Europe areexperienced by want to know where the butter dairy is. Come to think of it, companies and data centre different from those in the US and the Far East, so this office locations. Let us take itcertain software they also want to know if the cows are happy this week. as read that Google, Microsoft, is a consideration too. But a deeper analysis of this topic is Salesforce.com and everyapplications Cold hard facts other cloud vendor out there another story for another day. does indeed have a physical(if they are So to come down to earth with some hard facts, let’s building ready to deliver cloud services as an when needed.particularly look at where the cloud really is. The point to embrace herehigh volume The cloud – or to put it more is… why do these companies build so many different sitestransaction accurately, the server racks in the data centres that hold around the globe? If the cloud as truly global as the Internetapps) depending the software for cloud-based applications to work over the itself, then why doesn’t Google (or whoever) find the cheapeston the cloud’s Internet – does have an actual street address. ground rent available and justlocation. ” At work
  • 10. How should we view cloud Service Level Agreements? A business signs up for cloud computing services and should expect to get everything that it has paid for within the scope of the signed agreement right? Given this cornerstone of consumer purchasing advice, is attempting to transfer this maxim to the world of technology and cloud computing services too much to ask? Unfortunately the Service Companies will need to go Dynamic data Level Agreement (SLA) that through a process of auditing, We have used the word governs most cloud contracts analysing, documenting and ‘dynamic’ just there and this is is more of an “expectations- ratifying every element of the main issue at hand; cloud management” mechanism in their cloud SLA to make sure computing is still-nascent, many senses. that it provides appropriate rapidly changing and ultra- levels of: dynamic. SLA basics While cloud SLAs may set out • Performance and Entering into any new“ to lay down a blueprint for processing power agreement with a cloud how a cloud service should supplier is almost like buying • Data storage and data operate, firms may find them a new car straight off the throughput more constructive tools if production line i.e. it shouldBuilding your they are viewed as a remit • Security, anti-malware all work fine, but the road for communications between provisioning and all-round may be bumpy ahead andcloud computing vendor and customer i.e. ‘robustness’ or service unpredictable. almost a conflict preventionSLA should be a tool if you like. • Flexibility, controllability and manageability Once again, a little of the ‘buyer-beware’ attitude heretwo-way street, Building your cloud computing SLA should be a two- • Clarity of charges and costs should go a long way.with your own way street, with your own company’s representatives • Refundable options in the event of service outagescompany’s inputting to the SLA itself – otherwise it’s just a document, NB: The above list is intended to be dynamic, rather thanrepresentatives not an “agreement” between two parties. exhaustive and definitive. It is however a very goodinputting to the foundation and starting point.SLA itself. ” At work
  • 11. Private clouds vs. public clouds what’s the difference? A sk a cloud computing expert to solve the following riddle: when is a Private benefits But private clouds can not benefit from the higher services delivered over an Internet connection. cloud not a cloud? The most level economies of scale Which apps, which cloud likely answer you will get is: So which applications should experienced in the public when that cloud is a private we put in the private cloud cloud. That being said, they do cloud. This is because in versus the public cloud? Ah have a place and are typically some senses a private cloud well, that of course is the used for housing elements of is not true cloud computing; $64,000 question. But it’s not a firm’s critical infrastructure too hard to work it out. Each“ rather, it is an emulation of that the company would some of the virtualisation application will have its own not be happy to release functions of the public cloud, characteristics in terms of externally. This is not to but done on an individual level mission criticality, workload, say that the public cloud is data throughput and security.The public cloud inside a single company in an ‘on-premise’ server. insecure (far from it in fact), it is merely down to a) a bit What tends to matter most is the ‘accountability’ of the datais thoroughbred An ‘instance’ of cloud of common sense b) a bit of human nature and c) a bit of that the application itself has power to handle i.e the true businessbeast, with all As stated, the private cloud pressure from management. value of the data in hand. will still offer the ability Going Publicthe appendages to virtualise – and when The public cloud on the In practice, a combination of public, private and hybrid we say this we mean that other hand is a moreand ancillary component blocks of storage thoroughbred beast, with all cloud environments is already proving to the most workable and processing power can be the appendages and ancillaryfunctions that set aside and ‘described as an functions that this new model methodology for instance’ in their own right, of IT delivery has to offer.this new model such that they represent a What is more, the public so-called ‘virtual machine’. cloud is built at scale – andof IT delivery has This means that they can still therefore it stands to offer be scaled up or down inside the greatest opportunity toto offer. What is the realm of the total private benefit from economies of cloud, and in most cases, can scale that can possibly exist.more, the public also share from one of the key The public cloud then is benefits of utility computing dynamically provisioned ITcloud is built at i.e shared hardware costs.scale. ” At work
  • 12. What type of applicationsdo not work best in thecloud? 4 – Audit Unfriendly Apps It’s a simple straightforward truth, some companies will be working under data regulation and compliance rulings that specify against the use of cloud computing. It may be worded differently along these lines: the physical location of each server unit that the company uses for data storing and processing must be able to be specifically identified and geographically located. As cloud hosters/providers typically do not tell customers which cloud server their work is carried out on at any one time, the possibility of cloud computing for companies under such regulations is ruled out. 5 – The Software License Brick Wall This one should not take too much explaining; someT here’s a simple way to 2 – Heavy Input/Output 3 – Solid & Consistent software licenses have simply answer the question Applications Workload Apps not got to grips with cloudof what type of application Any software application If your application is a solid, computing. These licensesworks well in the cloud; as that makes a high degree unchanging, accurately either never envisioned a timeyou might be able to guess, of physical input/output definable entity – then why when cloud computing wouldthe best gauge is to look at demands on a company’s are you looking to put it in the take off as a viable computingwhat does not work well in physical server is not cloud? The cloud computing environment, or they havethe cloud. best suited to the cloud. model of IT offers massively simply shut the door to cloud Applications that work well expandable flexibility; deployment as they feel (for1 – Sensitive Data example) that the number in the cloud can be sent to but if you know what yourAny software application that of user license controls is the cloud server that houses application needs to handleis inherently built around the too hard to pin down. Good and powers them -- and then every day, every week andneed to collate and manage examples here would be made to work “out there” in every month – then you knowsensitive data is, in simple ERP (or enterprise resource the cloud doing what they what your IT requirementsterms, not best suited to the planning) software, which do. If that application has to are, so you can buy thecloud computing model of suffers particularly from this constantly ask for connections appropriate amount of on-IT delivery. Sure the cloud shortfall. to and from the customer’s premise server hardware tois safe; there are security terrestrial IT network (i.e. fit the bill. Using the cloud incontrols and firewalls aplenty not in the cloud), then things this instance is not a problem,from all the biggest cloud start to look like hard work. but it is really not prudent,hosters/providers. But if you Examples would be data profitable or efficient. If youhave an application that relies analysis applications and know you need a car 7 days aon mission critical data and software that relies on CEP week, you don’t hire one everyyou can keep it on-premise, (or complex event processing) morning do you? It’s the samethen do so. Only put these to work. concept.applications in the cloud as asecondary option. At work
  • 13. What is a cloud mashup?Cloud computing has a variety of custom-tuned deployment scenarios inreal-world computing environments, one of these is the cloud mash-up.I n order to answer the question, what is a cloudmash up -- we should firstanswer the question, whatis a mashup? For those new So we know what mashups are and we know how they interconnect. A cloud mashup then is quite simply a web-based instance of a mission critical data in this environment, but it has great potential for “ Well, it’s true -- you don’t want to put your core A mashup is a term used to describeto the term, a mashup is mashup, but the application experimental testing of newa term used to describe a content itself resides in the services before they are a web-basedweb-based application thatcombines information from cloud. So why is that good? taken to more fully blown levels of research and application If your cloud mashup istwo or more sources topresent a new service. by its very nature hosted development. that combinesFor an example, think about in the cloud then it will be sat next to some useful Plus anyway, companies using this level of informationa news website that pullsin weather updates from software building tools if you subscribe to a cloud technology should at least be thinking about from two orWeather dot com (or other), mashup centre service, enterprise level (and yes we more sources toor stocks and shares info, such as the one provided do mean SMB enterprisecurrency rates or even by IBM for example. A level) anti virus and present a newadditional news items from good enterprise mashup malware protection with service. ”Reuters. The resulting end platform features reusable a firewalls and a formalproduct is a mashup of its application building blocks security policy.component parts. (commonly referred to Cloud-based application as ‘widgets’ and ‘feeds’)Mashups use an API mashups are arguably the that can be built into new(Application Programming technology of the future, but applications or incorporatedInterface) to combine and they are already here today. into existing applications.coalesce different website Although they might notelements. So just one in this scenario we’re have enjoyed widespreadmore definition - an API is using software building adoption as yet, any SMBbasically a set of software- blocks way up in the cloud IT manager should have atto-software programming to construct applications least around this much (seeinstructions that work that will handle our data above) passing knowledgeon the web. APIs allow in an off premise location of them we feel.one piece of web-based alongside other cloudsoftware to talk to another “tenants” (or customers ifin a process controlled by you prefer). Surely this isthe API itself. a data security nightmare waiting to happen right? At work
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