Tom Bale, Business Development and Technical Director - Logicalis Channel Islands Limited
More and more businesses are moving their applications and infrastructure, as well as their storage, to the cloud. The latest ‘State of the Cloud’ survey by cloud management firm Rightscale found that 96%companies in 2018 now use at least one cloud service. Public cloud adoption has increased to 92%from 89%in 2017.Private cloud adoption rose to 75%in 2018 from 72 per cent in 2017.
What are cloud services?
Put simply, they are provided in a virtualised environment, and built using shared physical resources and are accessible over a public network such as the internet. Cloud-based software applications include Microsoft Office 365, Google Drive and Dropbox. Data is unlikely to be stored locally and is probably held in giant server banks thousands of miles away.
A private cloud is typically dedicated to one organisation on its own highly secure, private network. A hybrid cloud is a combination of the public and private clouds. Applications in a hybrid cloud might be run in a public cloud, but customer information stored in a database in a private cloud.
But is the cloud the right business solution for your data and systems? You should ask questions from how are users supported to system protections and where is data stored? Even if you purchase a support package, these are often difficult to manage and coordinate. New data protection legislation (GDPR) has come into force, which also requires compatibility.
If you want sound financial advice, you go to an independent financial adviser, but the same logic doesn’t seem to extend to IT. There appears to be a temptation to dive in and purchase a product without asking some basic questions. It makes sense to ask an ‘honest broker’, like Logicalis, who will know the answers.
Lack of security
By definition, the public cloud has multiple ‘tenants’ renting space in it. This poses its own security threats as one infrastructure flaw could make the entire environment vulnerable. Like a shared flat with lots of occupants each holding a key, one unscrupulous tenant or a hacker could take advantage.
Who owns the data?
Many businesses are unaware that their public cloud provider contractually owns their data. This protects the provider legally and allows them to create a revenue stream by selling the data on. Clearly, organisations have a commitment to their clients to ensure their data is kept private. Creating an airtight service level agreement with their provider, only placing non-confidential material in the public cloud and using a public cloud provider that allows them to retain ownership, can help
The illusion of protection
Simply using public cloud storage does not constitute disaster recovery, nor is it a sufficient backup. Major providers claim to have redundancy built into their infrastructure; however, there are many examples of this redundancy failing or systems going down for hours at a time.
Having a backup or disaster recovery plan in place is critical to ensure an organisation can access data when their public cloud provider is inaccessible, or makes a mistake and files are lost. It is rare but giants like Amazon and Google have all lost significant amounts of customer data.
For most businesses, the hybrid approach is the right one. It is not unusual to see a business, particularly a large one, made up of a few large locations and many small ones, where some aspects of both on-premises and cloud solutions make perfect sense. In this case, the business can choose to provide functionality to large locations via premises-based/private cloud systems (which is cost-effective in scale), and then use third-party cloud-based services for its small locations, to keep costs down.
A hybrid model requires extra control, which is why it makes sense to employ a company like Logicalis to design and maintain systems on your behalf. We see ourselves as an independent voice in the equation, ensuring clients – who want to consume services, so they can focus on what they do best – have the appropriate modern and safe systems, and the latest versions of software, plus comply with regulations.
The public cloud may be the right solution for your business, and we can provide services that wrap around your applications and data to offer greater security, functionality and control. Equally, it might not be. The answer is talking to that honest broker before making a hasty decision.