Cloud services are currently an exciting buzz word to many professionals both in and out of the tech industry. MSPs and IT Service Providers see it as a means to improving the reliability of their client's systems, a service to add to their USP and help them to stand out from the rest of the MSP crowd, and a vehicle for improving profitability.
Small business clients are hoping the Cloud will help them to reduce IT overhead, while improving system reliability.
When implemented properly, a strategic approach to cloud utilization can provide all these things. But when news stories break about major services like Amazon or Sony experiencing widespread, long-lasting outages affecting millions of users, how can MSPs alleviate the concerns shared by the small business owners that are hesitant to make the shift?
The bare reality is that underneath the cloud technology, you still have the same fundamental components all data centers have: servers, storage, CPUs, RAM, network cables, and IT staff maintaining it all.
The good part about cloud technology is that when something goes wrong, it doesn't normally affect anybody. The bad part is that the rest of the time, when things do inevitably go wrong, it affects everybody.
It's also easy to forget that cloud technology is still in its infancy, and many people aren't entirely clear on what it is. It's been presented too many times from too many sources as a solution that "just works" and "never goes down" - which, unfortunately, is not the case.
Even in the case of something as reliable and trustworthy as the electric company or telephone companies, there are rare outages. While we're all more or less accustomed to flipping a switch and having a light come on, or picking up our telephone and hearing a dial tone, these services do occasionally fail or break down.
And when it's completely unacceptable for this to happen, companies that rely on these services NEVER being interrupted will take appropriate, proactive, precautionary measures.
A major part of any cloud resource strategy relies on the understanding of which resources can and should be on the cloud, and which may or must be located elsewhere. It's almost unheard of for a company to have only one policy for its resources; there are always differing priorities and requirements. Some services must remain available all the time, without fail; others may acceptably go down without notice for extended periods of time.
Cloud technology provides high reliability, to the limits of your service agreement with the provider. It does not, however, provide absolute perfection and zero-outage service for all eternity; like any other service, cloud resources may be interrupted or unavailable at any time. While this is extremely rare, it does happen, and your data management strategy must account for it.
Every client would love to hear about the brand new service that always works and never goes down, and every consultant would love to tell them about it. The problem is that service doesn't exist and probably never will - it's always possible, although extremely unlikely, for even the most reliable service to go down.
What every small business needs is to have a sane and reliable plan for which services and resources are located in which areas. It is frequently unacceptable to locate everything on the cheapest available provider, because the service level agreement (SLA) with such a service is frequently sparse if it exists at all.
Similarly, when the most critical requirements are extended to all network resources across the board, the cost of a detailed high-reliability and mission-critical SLA is generally prohibitive to all but the largest companies.
It is imperative, then, to identify which resources require specific levels of reliability and availability. The mission-critical segment of most networks is frequently much smaller than you might expect, and a good consultant can usually designed a plan that uses cloud technology at the right places in your organization, for the resources best suited to it.
In the end, cloud technology is a tool like any other, to be used in the right places and at the right times. It's almost never appropriate to use the cloud as a single solution for all your resources and services, and traditional solutions - whether on-site or hosted externally - can complement your cloud usage with exactly the right level of reliability for your needs.