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Are You Taking the Right Approach to the Cloud?

October 2, 2011

Summary

The first thing any organization needs to consider when looking at cloud computing is which approach to take. That’s because in this case one size does not fit all. Continue reading to gain a better understanding of the cloud computing options available to you.
Interest in cloud computing is more intense than ever before. That’s pretty understandable. Cloud computing promises tremendous advantages in terms of flexibility, agility, and on-demand resources that can give organizations a real competitive edge.
Despite these advantages, some enterprises continue to drag their feet. They point to a number of high-profile outages earlier this year as evidence of the precarious nature of cloud-based services. They say that companies relying on those services lost a lot of money and a significant amount of customer trust.
That’s not all. A recently released study has uncovered some fundamental disparities between expectations and reality when it comes to cloud computing. According to Symantec’s 2011 Virtualization and Evolution to the Cloud Survey, IT and C-level executives are at odds over cloud deployment. CEOs and CFOs in particular are concerned with moving business-critical applications into virtual and cloud environments due to challenges including reliability, security, availability, and performance.
The first thing organizations need to consider as they look to the cloud is which approach they want to take. That’s because in this case one size does not fit all. Continue reading to gain a better understanding of the cloud computing options available to you.

Consume, build, or extend?

Generally speaking, there are three cloud adoption models that are proving successful for organizations today.
1. Consume Cloud Services. In this model, computing power is provided by well-known vendors such as Symantec, Amazon, Microsoft, and others in the form of a public cloud. The vendor provides all the hardware, software, support, security, and high availability for the IT infrastructure, which means an organization pays only for the services it uses, saving a significant amount of money by replacing capital expenditure with operational expenditure. Organizations also have the ability to access additional resources on-demand in response to increased application loads. It’s this agility and scalability that persuades many companies to venture into the cloud in the first place. The starting point for consuming cloud services is to compile a checklist. Here are some key considerations for organizations evaluating cloud service providers:
  • Reputation. How long has the vendor been offering cloud services
  • Security is key. Really understand how secure your data needs to be, and ask the vendor how security problems are solved.
  • Backing up and moving your data. Investigate how the cloud provider makes backup copies of your data—and how you can move the data to another provider
  • Service level agreements. Work hard to get a good SLA with clear financial penalties to ensure a good service.
  • Be wary of certifications. Certifications capture just a moment in time. Do your own research on how the vendor is performing. Ask questions of other customers.
  • Try before you buy. The beauty of cloud computing is that it’s easy to switch on and off. Obviously you don’t start your cloud adventure with confidential data or business-critical systems. But if the service works for you, you can expand.
2. Build Cloud Services. Public cloud outages large and small continue to raise concerns about public clouds in general. The alternative is for an organization to build a private cloud infrastructure that is resilient and more appropriate for critical workloads. As the name suggests, private clouds are designed to be visible only to the organization that creates them. Private clouds offer many of the benefits of public clouds while allowing an organization to maintain ownership of its data and equipment. Benefits include scalability, metering, and flexible resource allocation. Private clouds also address such public cloud concerns as vendor lock-in and regulatory compliance in a third-party infrastructure.
Keep in mind, though, that to create a private cloud, an organization will have to:
  • Purchase the servers, virtualization software, application licenses, and networking hardware.
  • Incur additional system administration costs, as well as hire additional staff with specialized IT skills.
  • Invest in resources to ensure that the private cloud is highly available and fault-tolerant.
3. Extend into Cloud Services. In today’s rapidly evolving IT environment, with its mix of legacy physical systems, next-generation virtual assets, and cloud-based services, “a major concern for IT organizations is whether they can confidently take advantage of new [public and private cloud] solutions without jeopardizing data protection and information security standards.” ¹ According to IDC, as IT departments extend into cloud services, they need to address the following issues:
  • Can IT reliably protect and archive physical and virtual machines using well-tested backup solutions and practices?
  • Will the use of cloud-based applications exacerbate or reduce the operational impact and the complexity of monitoring, alerting, and reporting on information and infrastructure assets across physical, virtual, and cloud platforms?
Symantec believes the ability to confidently back up, recover, archive, and discover information anywhere requires information management solutions that provide:
  • On premise, hybrid, or cloud-based deployment options that align with business requirements
  • Native connectors to enable deduplicated backup and archive to cloud storage providers
  • Broad support for applications, operating systems, and storage infrastructure deployed on premises or in the cloud.

Conclusion

Regardless of where you are on your cloud “journey,” it’s important to understand cloud computing in its principal forms, whether it’s consuming cloud-based services, building a private cloud, or working in a hybrid cloud environment. Just as important are issues of security and availability.
If you’re ready for the cloud but still have reservations, Symantec provides total protection solutions that can help you gain confidence in the cloud and, ultimately, reach the true potential of cloud computing.
  • ¹ “Optimizing Information Management in the Cloud,” IDC Executive Brief, June 2011

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