Guest blog by Brandon Tanner, senior manager, ITS
The Three Biggest Cloud Challenges IT Managers and Business Continuity Planners Face
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A recent survey by an Australian telco discovered that many UK businesses are using three or more cloud solutions from different providers. Interestingly, most organisations (75 per cent) actually prefer to use a single provider. So why don’t they? It’s because they can’t find a single solution that solves the biggest challenges that IT managers and business continuity planners face: storage growth, security concerns and testing. If businesses are going to work with one vendor only, the provider needs to fulfil key requirements in each of these areas. Storage growth: Storage growth is the top driver for UK data centre capacity growth, but budgets are falling (studies by Forrester Consulting and 451 Research confirm this). To bridge the gap, companies need to implement a cloud solution that meets the following criteria: • Scalability to allow for data growth • Flexibility to allow for easy data distribution • Cost-effectiveness to accommodate SME budgets • Ability to meet and/or exceed industry and UK compliance requirements As data grows, the solution needs to provide the ability to back up both individual files and full system information to the cloud. To enable redundancy and faster recovery, the client should be able to easily transfer data among all the backup solutions the provider offers. As for the budget issue, redundant data elimination and compression will maximise storage space and minimise cost. The best option for fulfilling these needs is a hybrid infrastructure solution that uses an on-site data storage appliance along with cloud-based vaulting. Security concerns: With compliance being a pressing issue for UK businesses, cloud providers need to address security concerns to reassure businesses that their data is protected. There are several key indicators of a vendor that prioritises security. To name a few: • Compliance with BCI standards • Dedication to helping customers build a solution that meets their corporate guidelines • Data encryption at rest and in transit • Substantial real-life data protection experience • Secure data centre utilising multi-factor entry, limited access and CCTV coverage • 24/7 data centre monitoring • Background checks on all company employees With these controls in place, organisations can gain the benefits cloud provides while maintaining strict security standards. Testing: Many businesses test their cloud solutions infrequently or inadequately. It’s not hard to see why: when dealing with multiple vendors and cloud deployment models, creating a testing strategy can be almost as complicated as the test itself. This is problematic, because organisations are seeing more aggressive recovery time objectives (RTOs). Disaster recovery (DR) RTOs are typically less than 24 hours, and operational RTOs are usually 0-4 hours. Without testing, businesses take a gamble on their ability to recover. To ease the testing burden, organisations can work with a vendor that provides support options similar to the ones below: • Collaboration with the client to design a strategy that minimises downtime during the test and ensures the client can meet RTOs • Assistance from qualified engineers to reduce troubleshooting time • Recovery experts who initiate installs and updates and resolve urgent problems • Comprehensive reporting, including space hog comparison, growth rate review, trend analysis and future projections • Easy access to virtual machines matching the client’s current environment By utilising the provider’s expertise, organisations can reduce testing complexity and ease the burden on internal staff. Finding the right fit: The requirements for finding a cloud provider might seem straightforward enough, but finding a vendor that’s a good fit is challenging. One might fit the bill in terms of affordability, scalability and security but fall short in terms of support. Another might provide outstanding scalability, security and testing services, but at a premium that prices out SMEs. Recognising this dilemma, ITS recently launched two complementary cloud-based solutions: BlackCloud and BlackVault. Together, these products provide a cloud-based hybrid infrastructure that makes it easy to transfer data between environments. With these types of solutions now available, working with a single cloud provider to solve key IT and business continuity challenges is a realistic option.