Should you move your servers to the cloud?

This week a potential client said he wanted to move his servers to the cloud. The decision to move to the cloud is not so easy. We see it everywhere, Amazon, Google, even Apple has iCloud. First, let’s examine what is the cloud. Commercial advertising will have you believe that cloud computing is a mystical, heavenly, place where all your data resides in peace and harmony for all eternity… Hardly!

Cloud computing is nothing more than rented space in an offsite datacenter. Amazon’s oldest, and largest, datacenter is in Northern Virginia. Depending on your needs, you may purchase space similar to a large hard drive, a shared (virtual) server, or a dedicated server.  There are many advantages to cloud computing. You do not need to hire staff to support the servers and infrastructure. Most datacenters have multiple locations to minimize the impact of geographical disturbances. Cloud based datacenters have very large pipes connecting them to the Internet backbone. You do not have to worry about patching the servers, installing application updates, and data security… wait, not so fast.

Storing your data in the cloud is essentially just putting everything on the Internet. With this realization, some people would stop right there. After all, isn’t the Internet a dangerous place, full of characters who are up to no good, trying to steal your most precious data, your money, and your identity? Then again, does your bank offer Internet Banking? They all do, and whether you sign up for it or not, your data is still accessible via the Internet. If done properly, your data is safer on the Internet than it would be stored locally. How can that be, you ask? What if there is a fire in your building? Or a flood, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, you get the idea. So we can all agree, backing up your data offsite is essential. What if your business is financial, medical, or a similar highly regulated industry? Again, your bank is already online, so it can be done. So what’s the problem, why doesn’t everything move to the cloud?

Remember, the cloud is more than data. You can also rent server space, run your applications, create a website, and use it to share all of the above with anyone, across multiple locations. Cloud servers are also scalable. You can simply pay a little more to add bigger servers, more memory, more storage, etc. So again, this cloud thing sounds great, why not? Well, you are now relying on your Internet connection to access not only your data, but also your applications and servers. You are adding more single points of failure. There is a lot that can go wrong between your office and the nearest datacenter. Can you afford to not have access to your programs? Sure, you may be able to go without Word or email for a short period. What if your office uses a special application that stores your client’s records? Could that application even be moved to the cloud to begin with? Let’s not forget the great East Coast blackout of 2003. You may be on the West coast, but your cloud datacenter could be in Virginia. But didn’t I say cloud datacenters are dispersed throughout various geographical regions? Amazon suffered a major outage in 2011 when severe thunderstorms in the area knocked out both their primary and backup generators. This was the latest of several outages affecting their customers. Even though they have multiple sites, that does not mean there will be no interruptions. Godaddy suffered networking problems on September 10, 2012 affecting millions of sites.

So what’s the solution? This is where Irwin Electronics comes in. We are experts in this area. We have built several datacenters in the Phoenix area, and one in Encino California. We will work with you to discuss your needs. We will evaluate your applications, your data, and your tolerance for downtime. Many companies today are going to a private cloud. This is not much different from the standard client/server environment that has been used for years. Today’s servers are powerful enough to handle virtualization, allowing the equivalent of multiple physical servers running on one box. Blade servers are ideal where a powerful infrastructure is required in a small space. Thin clients make great workstations. This involves a very small, low power, box replacing the large desktop computers, and running the Windows operating system and applications from the server. From here, your data can be encrypted and backed up to the cloud. You are less likely to suffer downtime in this situation, as everything is running locally, but can still be externally accessible. Going this route does not necessarily mean you need to hire a full time IT staff either. Irwin Electronics can set up a contract where we will remotely monitor your systems, ensure all patches and updates are applied in a timely manner, and provide onsite service as needed. We service the Phoenix metropolitan area. We have the ability to contract with local organizations outside our immediate area if necessary. You do not need to search for companies to handle each aspect of your build and support. We will handle most of your requirements internally, and we will contract others where necessary. One call to us is all you need. We will handle everything for you. Call 480-382-4761 today for an appointment.