According to the ComputerWorld 2016 Tech Forecast, companies plan to increase their spending around cloud technologies by a combined 83% over 2015. The cloud has a lot to offer businesses to enhance everyday productivity and; of course, is a key component of a Business Continuity strategy. When your company data is in the cloud and consumable by remote and mobile devices, your employees will be able to work from anywhere just as effectively as they work from the office.
Getting started we published an Infographic Overview of the five components of business continuity success which we will cover in this blog series:
- Intro: Business Continuity Infographic
- Part 1: Cloud Backup
- Part 2: Cloud Servers
- Part 3: Remote Access
- Part 4: Bring Your Own Device
- Part 5: Support Desk
The Business Continuity solution in its simplest form is to backup your data to the cloud where it can be restored to a warm data center at any time. The warm data center will have a remote access solution in place that allows your dispersed employees to connect to your servers and work from anywhere using their personal and company devices. Finally, your business needs uninterrupted access to your IT Support Desk in this time of need.
This second article discussed Cloud Servers and Infrastructure.
What Are Cloud Servers and Infrastructure
Like so many technology terms, "Cloud Servers" can mean a lot of things. In a Business Continuity Plan we will use "Cloud Servers" to mean Windows Servers. In the cloud, these servers are dedicated exclusively to your organization and are capable of delivering the same services that your on-premise servers did. Your cloud servers are typically going to be "Virtual Servers"; meaning they are not dedicated physical servers but are instead a virtual server within a server -- think Server Inception.
In a data center, like Amazon's EC2 service, there are rows and rows and rows of actual physical servers; just like in the movies. All these servers run virtualization machine software called hypervisors. Some common hypervisor platforms are VMware, XenServer from Citrix, and Hyper-V from Microsoft. Within these physical servers with their hypervisors dozens and sometimes hundreds of other servers are created called "Virtual Servers". Virtual servers consume the resources of their physical host server and allow data centers to run thousands of servers from many fewer host servers.
Virtual servers can run most any operating system needed including Windows Server, Linux, and some Mac Servers. You can have as many virtual servers as you need and they can all be connected together on an isolated and protected network; just like they are in your office.
To complete your cloud server network we combine all your virtual servers within an isolated virtual network and put it behind a virtual firewall also provided by the data center. In the virtual firewall you create all the rules needed to protect your virtual network as well as allow remote access to your resources on your virtual servers.
Selecting a Data Center
Foremost, your data center needs to be outside your geographic area. It doesn't do your business any good to have your data center impacted by the same disaster that is affecting your office. In addition to your office going down, your employees are likely to scatter to other parts of the country so having resources locally is not important. Remember, you will be adding a remote access solution that will allow your staff to work from anywhere.
How to Buy
Cloud Servers are priced by the amount of resources needed. The key components are:
- Virtual Processors or CPUs
- Memory (RAM)
- Storage (Hard Drive space)
- Bandwidth Needed (Traffic in and out of your virtual network)
So to price your virtual servers and infrastructure you need to look at your current servers and decide:
- How many servers do you NEED to replicate your office environment?
- What are the current hardware specifications of those servers?
- How much storage do you need to restore your files and network shares, your SQL databases, and your other critical line of business applications?
Don't forget that you will also be deploying a remote access solution to allow employees to get virtual desktops and access to your hosted applications.
Armed with your requirements you can now shop various Data Centers and Cloud Service Providers for the right fit. Engaging your IT provider or a Business Continuity consultant is a good place to go to help minimize the technical risk associated with building your Business Continuity Plan.
When to Buy
DO NOT WAIT until you NEED a cloud environment to look for one. Getting virtual servers, a virtual network, and a remote access solution deployed takes time and planning. While some data centers are able to "spin up" servers in minutes, it will take some time to get things organized. When several servers are needed they need to be properly networked. Storage and shares need to be setup. A remote access solution needs to be deployed. Access rules need to be created. In short, you will need a technical consultant to get you running as this service is often not included with cloud services. When you find options that do include technical expertise to get your network running there is often scheduling that has to take place which will delay your deployment.
Once your Business Continuity Plan is created and validated, you should start looking for the right cloud services provider. Your cloud services need to be deployed and tested on a regular basis to ensure that they will be ready when they are needed.
Maximizing Your Cloud Services Investment
Business continuity is vital to the survival of your business thus your investment of time and resources. But what if your cloud services investment could help your bottom-line NOW? You are paying for cloud services every month; why not USE THEM?
Think about where your business would benefit most from a remote access solution? What would happen if remote offices and mobile workers could work from anywhere and get access to your main business resources? What if, instead of buying a new server, you were able to leverage your virtual servers?
Not only would you be able to continually validate your Business Continuity Plan; but, you also leverage those resources for everyday productivity and revenue generation. With remote access already deployed and in use by your teams, your operations will continue working during a disaster EXACTLY as they did during normal business production which eliminates the downtime component of an event. Your cloud services will be a powerful enabler of your business, accelerating your growth without requiring additional capital investment.
What Happens Next?
You are well on your way. You now have a cloud backup solution that is making sure all your critical business data and applications are safe in the cloud and able to be deployed to your cloud servers. Your cloud infrastructure is built, tested, and maybe even used as a part of your everyday productivity to enhance revenue.
In our next Blog article, we will discuss your remote access solution to deliver applications and full virtual desktops to your employees.