IT disaster recovery, cloud computing and information security news

Managed cloud with an emphasis on the ‘managed’

Using a managed cloud service can help reduce risks in this area; but it is an important strategic decision that organizations need to get right first time. Jake Madders provides a checklist to help those taking this step.

The cloud seems like something we have been talking about forever. At the same time it is the new frontier for many companies, big and small, as they try to streamline their IT, take advantage of new technology and find a competitive edge. According to IDC, by 2018, at least half of IT spending will be cloud based, reaching 60 percent of all IT infrastructures, and 60-70 percent of all software, services and technology spending by 2020. But how many companies have put together a thought through, strategic cloud plan? And what happens when you are there?

Instapaper, a company owned by Pinterest, allows users to save web pages to read later. It ran into this exact question recently when it experienced a major outage that took over a day to get the application running again and almost a week to fully recover archived data. The cause of the outage was not a cyber-attack or a major IT system failure, it was caused by hitting a system limit on its AWS hosted database. Questions about why Instapaper didn’t know they were going to hit this limit and how it could have been prevented have risen since the incident, especially as users didn’t have access to their archives for longer than expected.

As cloud solutions continue to become cheaper to purchase and easier to set up, IT teams are able to harness the flexibility and scalability of the cloud. However, after that shiny new object feeling wears off, and executives are happy that their company is ‘in the cloud’, IT teams are often left to manage it all. If a company whose roots are in technology and has a full team of developers can mismanage a cloud instance, it begs the question: how do companies without expert experience or systems administrators to dedicate to the cloud use this technology? Enter managed cloud.

A partner with the expertise

Every company is an expert in their field, they hire the best and brightest no matter the industry, but forward thinking companies also know the limits of their expertise and employ outside council when needed: cloud should be no different.

A managed cloud provider offers its customers a specific set of expertise – this is their field – that can provide guidance on designing architecture to meet specific business needs. Whether this involves public, private or hybrid cloud configurations, a managed cloud caters to performance, availability and scalability requirements while eliminating the guess work around managing a cloud environment.

A managed cloud allows companies to harness the benefits of cloud computing without the headache of managing it and the expense of employing an expert in another area. It frees up IT staff to focus on the core business, while still seeing the flexibility, scalability and financial benefits of the cloud.

Finding the perfect fit

Additionally, according to IDC, 77 percent of companies cited finding and deploying a service that is the right fit one of the biggest problems to embracing the cloud. Failure to find and deploy the right environment can lead to a multitude of issues, the most recognised of which is costly unused cloud resources. The issues also include lost data and applications, unpredictable pricing shifts, lacking support options, the inability to grow – up and down- and last, but certainly not least, the steep learning curve on management of cloud services and reaching service limits, as with the Instapaper case.

By partnering with a managed cloud provider this list – and all the other issues that there just isn’t space to mention – are on someone else’s plate; someone who dedicates all of their time to understanding the intricacies of how every cloud instance works; and a team who have tried and tested success stories and have a plethora of advice to offer when finding the perfect cloud fit for a specific organization and their business needs.

The important questions

So, with all this in mind, what do you do next if you are ready to start the journey to the cloud?

  • First identify what the business objectives of the cloud migration are.
  • Establish if the IT team has the expertise to handle this change in infrastructure, taking into account what flexibility there is in the budget to account for unused space or unplanned for costs.
  • Determine what the migration roadmap looks like: including key milestones and minimum requirements.
  • Determine how much downtime the business can afford – financially and to its reputation – if something goes wrong.

Based on the answer to the above questions, it should be clear the level of help an IT team needs to make the journey to the cloud. If there is a lack in expertise, and, like most businesses, no room for any downtime, it is probably in the best interest of the company to find a partner to manage the cloud.

Once the need for one is established, the managed cloud provider chosen should be thoroughly vetted, including asking:

  • What is its track record?
  • What kind of support do they offer and is it included without hidden costs?
  • Do they have experience in your industry?
  • What level of performance, scalability and security can they offer?
  • How flexible are they in supporting business initiatives?

Just to name a few. 

Instapaper didn’t see this outage coming, but they should have, and with millions of users and backing of a large brand name, they will recover. But if the same happened to you and it was business critical data, or even confidential information, that was lost forever, how would that impact the business? If you don’t want to find out the answer to this, a managed cloud provider is a great first step to ensuring you never will. 

The author

Jake Madders is director at Hyve Managed Hosting.

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