Pure Cloud: This is where all your applications and data are put on the other side of the firewall (in the cloud) and accessed through various devices (laptops, desktops, iPads, phones) via the Internet.
Hybrid Cloud: Although “pure” cloud computing has valid applications, for many, it’s downright scary. And in some cases is NOT the smartest move due to compliance issues, security restrictions, or performance issues. A hybrid cloud enables you to put certain pieces of existing IT infrastructure (say, storage and e-mail) in the cloud, and the remainder of the IT infrastructure stays on-premise. This gives you the ability to enjoy the cost savings and benefits of cloud computing where it makes the most sense without risking your entire environment.
Point Solutions: Another option would be simply to put certain applications, like SharePoint or Microsoft Exchange, in the cloud while keeping everything else on site. Since e-mail is usually a critical application that everyone needs and wants access to on the road and on various devices (iPad, smartphone, etc.) then often this is a great way to get advanced features of Microsoft Exchange without the cost of installing and supporting your own in-house Exchange server.
Public Cloud Vs. Private Cloud: A public cloud is a service that anyone can tap into with a network connection and a credit card. They are shared infrastructures that allow you to pay-as-you-go and managed through a self-service web portal. Private clouds are essentially self-built infrastructures that mimic public cloud services but are on-premise. Private clouds are often the choice of companies who want the benefits of cloud computing but don’t want their data held in a public environment.
Question: What if my Internet connection goes down for an extended period of time?
Our Answer: While this is a valid concern, we overcome it in the following way for our clients in the cloud. What we recommend as far as connectivity is to get a second Internet connection (maybe an inexpensive DSL or Cable), and we will set up a fail-over on your firewall. If your main connection goes down, the firewall will automatically direct traffic to the backup connection so your employees won’t be down at all. Another thing to remember is even in the worst scenario where your building’s power is completely shut down, you and your staff can access your network from anywhere… like a 3G wireless connection, at home, or even the local coffee shop. Since your network is not housed in your building, your downtime is minimized.
Question: What happens if the Internet slows to the point where it’s difficult to work productively?
Our Answer: We resolve this by keeping a synchronized copy of your data on your onsite server as well as in the cloud. Here’s how this works: Microsoft offers a feature with Windows called, “DFS” which stands for Distributed File Systems. This technology synchronizes documents between cloud servers and local servers in your office. So instead of getting rid of your old server, we keep it on-site and maintain an up-to-date synched copy of your files, folders, and documents on it. If the Internet goes down or slows to a grind, you simply open a generic folder on your PC and the system will automatically know to pull the documents from the fastest location (be it the cloud server or the local one). Once a file is modified, it syncs it in seconds so you don’t have to worry about having multiple versions of the same document. Using this process, you get the benefits of the cloud with a backup solution to keep you up and running during slow periods or complete Internet outages.
Question: What about security? Isn’t there a big risk of someone accessing my data if it’s in the cloud?
Our Answer: In many cases, cloud computing is a MORE secure way of accessing and storing data. Just because your server is onsite doesn’t make it more secure; in fact, most small to medium businesses can’t justify the cost of securing their network the way a cloud provider can. And most security breaches occur due to human error; one of your employees downloads a file that contains a virus, they don’t use secure passwords, or they simply e-mail confidential information out to people who shouldn’t see it. Other security breaches occur in on-site networks because the company didn’t properly maintain its own in-house network with security updates, software patches, and up-to-date anti-virus software. That’s a FAR more common way networks get compromised versus a cloud provider getting hacked.
Question: What if YOU go out of business? How do I get my data back?
Our Answer: We give every client network documentation that clearly outlines where their data is and how they could get it back in the event of an emergency. This includes detailed information on emergency contact numbers, information on how to access your data and infrastructure without needing our assistance (although our plan is always to be there to support you), a copy of our insurance policy, and information regarding your backups and licensing.
We also give you a copy of OUR disaster recovery plan that shows what we’ve put in place to make sure we stay up and running.
In fact, you should never hire ANY IT professional that won’t give you that information.
Question: Do I have to purchase new hardware (servers, workstations) to move to the cloud?
Our Answer: No! That’s one of the selling points of cloud computing. It allows you to use older workstations, laptops, and servers because the computing power is in the cloud. Not only does that allow you to keep and use hardware longer, but it allows you to buy cheaper workstations and laptops because you don’t need the expensive computing power required in the past.