The cloud is where most of us are basing our digital business operations, and with good reason. It’s often cheaper and far less time intensive than maintaining your own in-house servers. Depending on where you host your data you may have access to 24/7 support, which is a must in the online trading environment. Cloud computing performance keeps on improving and it’s smart to make sure you’re getting the most from it.
The question is: are you making sure your cloud operations are working at their maximum capacity? Have you structured your cloud architecture to maximise its potential and protect yourself from downtime and outages? The cloud may seem like the perfect failsafe solution to your digital storage and analysis requirements but it’s important to acknowledge that tech will inevitably fail at one time or another. Making sure your cloud architecture is structured to avoid this and provide alternative operating conditions is a must to keep your business online. Here are three ways you can structure your cloud operations to have the most leverage and flexibility.
How the cloud is structured
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the cloud is a homogenous, invisible space, but it’s not. To use an analogy, when we throw rubbish into bins, it goes ‘away’, but we know there’s a complex system in place to manage the flow of items, including having separate waste sorting and collection points. If one is full, the other material can be diverted to other storage facilities. Cloud storage operates on a similar principle. Interfacing with the cloud from a company device seems effortless, but there is a significant amount of infrastructure in place to direct your data to secure locations, and back up plans are ready for the times when there is too much data flowing, or one data storage location is compromised.
Because latency is a real issue for business owners (the speed at which data can be sent to and from your devices to the cloud, which is dependent largely on physical distance), servers are located all over the world and can be divided up into Availability Zones. These larger divisions are called regions, and corporations like Amazon and Google use many of them so that no matter where their users are based, there is a relatively local server there to provide them with fast access to their data.
On a smaller scale, storage providers may house their servers across different locations within the same city. This built-in redundancy offers protection if one of the locations needs to go offline for any reason. Duplicating server Availability Zones can be costly, although it provides a strong reassurance for those who demand availability of their networks.
Top 3 things to look for to maximise your cloud computing leverage
There are a number of best case practices when it comes to maximising your cloud computing leverage. Have a conversation with your current cloud provider to assess their offering. If you are looking for a cloud solution, use these questions to guide your selection process (along with cost and support considerations). Keep in mind that no provider is likely to have all of these solutions in play, as structural differences mean requirements will vary.
As mentioned above, businesses require reliable cloud support. One significant way to provide uptime guarantees is to have a solid distribution model in place. Manage your alternative data streams and build in load balancers to distribute your data safely and reliably. Watch out for any choke points, or single points of failure – if your system hinges on a single point of entry you can lose use of the infrastructure that sits behind that bottleneck. Always have alternative pathways available, and ensure they are very easy to implement if an urgent need arises.
Leverage storage options
It’s important to keep your data in more than one place. Cloud storage providers should be able to replicate your data and store it simultaneously in separate locations. Storing data in different regions reduces the risk of data loss due to localised system failure and should make data recovery almost instant as the switch should be easy to make. Archival data storage (also known as ‘cold storage’) should be considered if you have data that must be kept securely without the need to access it frequently. Cold storage can be located in a region that is geographically distant as latency will not be a priority. The remote storage also helps to maintain security in the case of a breach or local equipment failure.
Monitoring and testing
Its worth investing in additional monitoring support, to give you the confidence that your data is safe, secure and moving as well as it can from your devices to the cloud (and vice versa). Keep an eye on your metrics and arrange for notifications to be delivered if there are issues. Remember that issues don’t have to be urgent – good systems should alert you to drops in performance and other diagnostic issues, not just critical incidents.
Testing is also critical. When you have your systems in place, deliberately put them under pressure and simulate fail environments. You can only be confident that everything is in order when you’ve seen it recover under controlled conditions. Testing can highlight any bottlenecks or other issues and gives you the time to address them before needing to deal with them under the pressure of a live trading environment. Testing will also show you how your engineers address failures. A good relationship with your cloud provider should be fostered so you can understand exactly how they will using monitoring and testing to maintain the health and the potential of your system.
About Mustard IT, your cloud computing infrastructure partner
Mustard IT provide the design, build, installation and maintenance of secure business computer networks, including cloud-based data storage solutions. Our trusted team are experienced able to explain complex issues to you in a language you’ll understand. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.