What is it about the cloud? Why are we drawn to it? How do we use it? Is it good for us? Is it secure? Who can see it? What can we do with it, in it? Can we trust it?
Everyone is asking these questions. Why? Because the cloud offers some capabilities and features not possible within the confines of your own computer, network or workplace.
It offers scalability. That is, it can grow as big as you want. It can be comprised of hundreds of computers all working in harmony to delivery the power and information needed at any given time. It offers fault tolerance. That means that if one computer in the cloud breaks down, another computer in the cloud takes its place instantly. It offers global availability. Because it is in the cloud, you can reach it no matter where you are as long as you can connect to the Internet.
Here are some straight answers for you to consider when moving to the cloud. The cloud is a network of computers in unnamed locations around the world that have computing power and data storage and are interconnected via the Internet. These computers provide fault tolerant services because they are always watching out for themselves and take immediate action if a problem arises. That’s a good thing.
One of the concerns is the cloud might be a couple of computers in a dusty data center in Mexico City or an enormous datacenter in Virginia or a combination of datacenter’s around the world. You don’t really know. The computers might be connected to a single pair of copper wires or tied to the backbone of the Internet by multiple fiber connections. The computers might be protected by a power supply with a 30 minute life cycle if power goes out or it might be connected to million watt auto-fail-over generators that will last for 30 days without interruption. So the cloud can mean different things to different people. Lesson number one: you need to know where your cloud is located. You need to know what your cloud is made of. You need to know how your cloud is protected and you need to know how your cloud is connected.
Computers connect to the Internet and are generally protected by a firewall. The firewall watches over the connections to the computer from the outside world. It does that by watching the connections to certain ports (windows) into certain IP addresses. The firewall blocks unwanted access and permits approved access. Lesson number two: you need to know the capabilities of the firewall and how it secures your data.
The Internet is not a safe and secure place. Communication across the Internet occurs in packets of information. These packets are created by the sending computer transmitting information. These packets are received and assembled by the receiving computer. Anyone tapping into the connection between the sending and receiving computer can look at these packets. One question would be why. If the information is sensitive, that might be the answer. So in those cases, the packets need to be encrypted so even if the packets are captured, they are unintelligible. Lesson Number three: Be aware of the encryption used if any.
Harnessing the power of the cloud can be as simple as signing up for a Google account and using their cloud features of docs, email, groups, calendar, video and more or it can be a daunting task of configuring particular server instance on the Amazon EC2 backbone or arranging for fault tolerant blade servers in a hosted datacenter with custom fail-over protection. Lesson Number four: Have a clear idea of what you need before you move to the cloud.
If you are considering using the cloud or would like to know how it might benefit your organization, reach out to us at TRI. We understand how the cloud works and can help you venture safely into the cloud.