Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Making the jump to cloud

The cloud is mightily hyped and there are more and more businesses wanting to make the move, often with little thought or interest in the risks. Before you follow the herd, here are a few things to consider.

We sell cloud-based applications and have first-hand experience of some of the pitfalls. In May we lost two of our servers at the same time, out of the blue, in a succession of failures. The first one was hosted by a US company who, as it turns out, was a cowboy outfit with no regard for customers. The second was hosted by a respected NZ data centre.

We run third party backup software on each of the servers, and ensure the backups go to a different location. The NZ based one worked perfectly, but the other server used a cheaper US provider and we found files missing from the backups.

This experience has taught us a number of lessons. As a result we have moved to a premium provider, Rackspace. While we do use their cloud file backups, we also use another solution to back up the data online to a NZ data centre. We have also added new technology for further monitoring. Our main lesson was: don’t rely on the data centre to protect your server or your data. We take data protection seriously, and run monthly test restores and daily checks, but problems can still occur.

Unfortunately you can’t stop disruption. However, before you make the move to the cloud it’s important to understand the potential risks and to be prepared for when disruption does occur. We use a SaaS application called EzPSA (Easy PSA) for our firm management / Service desk / CRM (full disclosure - I am a director). I feel confident knowing that it is on Rackspace, who provide 24/7 support, and that there is a backup of it stored in Auckland and also copied to Christchurch.

Looking to move to a remote desktop server (or Citrix) in the cloud is an option that can have value, but it can be a lot more expensive than other options. For example, this option would cost more over four years than leasing to own and running your infrastructure locally with online backup. If the cloud is an option you decide to take you’ll need a provider who gives 24/7 support. Test the support over the weekend to be sure you can rely on it.

Remember don’t be a sheep; your data is your business. Having a third party IT company like NZCS can help manage the risks and support your users.
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