cloud computing

Migrating To A New Cloud: Tips For Minimizing Your Downtime

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At some point in the current era of technology, it will become inevitable for your company to migrate its cloud system from one server to another, or to adopt a cloud strategy for the first time. That may entail moving completely to an external cloud, migrating from old to new hardware, or anywhere in between. Cloud migration is an essential part of keeping a business or company competitive, since migrating to better and more efficient systems can lead to faster and more convenient processes, among many other benefits. However, migrating a cloud system may still prove problematic, as an incorrect installation could lead to lengthy downtime and less reliability.

Knowing when a Migration is Needed

It’s important to recognize when it’s time to migrate to a new server, as migrating too early will not yield enough benefits to make the move worthwhile. One of the biggest reasons for migration is to replace legacy or otherwise old hardware with a state-of-the-art infrastructure. You’ll know it’s time for you to migrate to newer software if one of these situations occurs:

  • Your cloud has progressively gotten slower as a result of increased load due to newer, more resource-intensive software
  • Your cloud is struggling to keep up to date as a result of a lack of new features
  • It’s become too expensive to maintain legacy hardware
  • Security has improved and your business needs to ensure that only authorized agents can access the cloud

Migrating To A New Cloud: Tips For Minimizing Your Downtime

Being Aware of the Tasks Ahead and Possible Pitfalls

With the knowledge of why you would migrate a server, it’s important to balance the potential gains with the amount of work that will be required. As mentioned earlier, a server migration will usually involve a move to better-equipped or more suitable hardware, which would cut costs, help with scalability or both. Additionally, newer servers usually have stronger security features that are important for keeping your company’s information secure and private.

However, migrating your cloud involves a possibly long period of downtime while data and services are transferred to new hardware or a new location. During this time, your company won’t be able to access information, which would critically hamper company activity. In the current IT era, it’s critical for your company to be working at maximum efficiency for as long as possible, and a migration, despite the benefits, may ultimately be too detrimental for your business.

Beginning the Migration Process

To start a cloud migration, the first thing to take do is to keep backups and double-check processes. Nothing is more frustrating than realizing data was lost or deleted in a transfer. Taking some time to make backups and prepare the system thoroughly will save much more time and money in the long run as you maintain the new system, such as a hosted Windows cloud service. After the files are migrated to the new server, don’t immediately cancel or shut down the previous server until the new server is up and running. This will ensure that if problems occur, you’ll still be able to revert back to the working model.

Keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be well equipped to migrate your server to new and better hardware. In this day and age, it’s more important than ever to stay current on technology, and migrating your cloud will likely help your company maintain standards of efficiency.

Debunking Cloud Concerns

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Cloud computing models offer businesses a cost-effective way to outsource IT applications and infrastructure services to a third-party service provider. It allows them to use applications and store data hosted on servers and databases that are owned, managed and supported by the service provider. A company simply pays for the cost of using the on-demand service and leaves the management, upgrades, maintenance and support tasks to the cloud vendor.

Over the past few years, a growing number of large, medium and small companies have moved to the cloud to reduce the complexity and costs of their on-site IT infrastructure. Technology consulting firm Gartner Inc. expects that a majority of firms will have their IT applications delivered as a cloud service over the next few years. According to the International Data Corporation, spending on cloud computing in 2014 will be over $100 billion.

Popular Misconceptions

Despite the tangible benefits of the cloud, several misconceptions have persisted in the industry over the viability of cloud computing. One of the biggest concerns involves data security and data availability. Cloud vendors typically use a shared infrastructure to host and deliver their services. Applications and data from multiple companies are often hosted on the same server, prompting some to raise questions about data leakage, improper access, data theft and loss of confidentiality. Many also worry about catastrophic service disruptions as the result of cloud hardware and network failures.

Debunking Cloud Concerns

Another popular misconception involves data residency. Many organizations in regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare have strict requirements about how their data is handled and where it’s stored. Large cloud vendors typically have highly distributed architectures and many of them use servers located around the world to host customer applications and data. As a result, companies that have data residency requirements have been reluctant to use cloud services for fear of transgressing regulations.

Perhaps the biggest misconception involves a loss of control. Many believe that outsourcing to the cloud results in an automatic loss of control over IT functions. Since enterprise data is hosted on servers owned and managed by a third party, companies often fear they have less control, or even no control over their critical data assets.

Vendor Investments

Although such concerns may have been valid a few years ago, they certainly are not true these days. Cloud vendors are acutely aware of how such issues can affect adoption decisions. Most cloud providers offer secure access control, user authentication, intrusion detection and encryption tools for protecting information in hosted cloud databases. Many have highly redundant architectures for handling server and network failures. Though vendors may use a shared infrastructure to host data, most have technologies and procedures in place to ensure proper data segregation and access control. Many vendors also offer contractual guarantees and service level agreements to ensure that data residency requirements are met. Plus, a plethora of hosting options is available for companies concerned about a loss of control.

Planning for the Cloud

As a small business owner, you should certainly be aware of all these issues, but you shouldn’t let them deter you from taking advantage of the cloud. The best way to move to the cloud is to do it in small steps. Cloud vendors allow you to outsource as little or as much of your IT operations as you want. Many companies start by migrating common applications such as e-mail and office productivity to the cloud.

Most large cloud vendors also offer a choice between a hosted and a fully managed model. With a hosted model, the vendor will let you use its infrastructure to run your applications, but you’re ultimately responsible for managing the application. With a cloud-managed IT service, the vendor assumes full responsibility for hosting and managing your IT applications and services. If security is a primary concern, vendors offer a dedicated hosting model under which your applications and data will be hosted on a server reserved exclusively for your use.

The key to a successful cloud deployment lies in knowing what questions to ask. Before you embark on a journey to the cloud, ask why you are doing it. Is it for the cost savings, for the flexibility or the reduction in complexity? Make sure you have a realistic idea of the return on investment. If you already have a large IT infrastructure in place, your real ROI may lie in the reduced complexity and not necessarily in reduced costs. Make sure you understand the operational and technical issues you’ll need to overcome for cloud computing to work in your environment. Most importantly, vet your vendor thoroughly. Before you hand over your corporate jewels to a cloud vendor, make sure the company has the technical and professional resources to handle your data in a safe and responsible manner.

Cloud computing is here to stay. The benefits are real and tangible for companies that take the time to understand cloud computing and how to take advantage of its innovations.

The When and Why Of Cloud Database Migration

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Your business is filled with server racks hosting everything from your email to your website, so you may be looking into cloud strategies to cut down on costs and improve your servers’ performance. A cloud database migration allows you to shift all or part of your servers off-site into a distributed hardware configuration that prevents you from being held hostage to a single point of hardware failure. The practical, day-to-day administration of a cloud database doesn’t differ greatly from an on-site setup, so your network administrators won’t be dealing with extensive retraining or a large learning curve.

Why Migrate to the Cloud?

When you use public cloud providers for your databases, you receive direct and indirect cost savings. The direct cost savings come from only paying for the database resources you need, when you need it. It also cuts down on the amount of software licenses you need to purchase, as the cloud database provider has bulk pricing on this. The indirect costs come from outsourcing the responsibility of maintenance, a majority of monitoring and troubleshooting, so you don’t have to put network resources to these tasks. The scalability of the cloud database servers is especially good if you have varying needs throughout the year or if you’re a business in the middle of a rapid expansion.

The When and Why Of Cloud Database Migration

Risks of Migration

One of the primary risks of cloud database migration is losing data during the migration process. This risk is mitigated by locking down the database or taking it down entirely during the process, so new data is not written to the server while the migration process occurs. It’s also essential to deduplicate as much of the database as possible so you aren’t copying over redundant records. The smaller the database, the easier it is to get it transferred over. In addition, clearing out the log files and caches of the databases also helps to reduce the size. Before making the cloud databases live to the public or your business at large, test it out for problems.

Application Checking

When you transfer your databases, you need to make sure that all of your applications work in the cloud environment. If you’ve been running on older hardware, the applications may not work well or at all in the cloud environment. It’s possible that you may need to use a combination of older servers with cloud-based servers in order to avoid switching over applications along with databases or look into Software as a Service (SaaS) to fill in the gaps.

The types of databases that really benefit from a transfer to the cloud are those that are hardware intensive. Instead of purchasing servers every time you have a new influx of traffic or users, you can scale up the amount of cloud resources you’re using. This also helps to avoid downtime due to the configuration, giving you a high availability option that keeps things going strong for you.

Develop A Data Strategy Before Moving To The Cloud

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Taking advantage of the cloud is a smart business move. It reduces reliance on physical storage, leaves valuable data under the protection of professionals, and increases employees’ ability to work remotely. Each business will have its own reasons for moving to cloud storage, yet it’s critical that those in charge understand the advantages of a cloud database for their business, not just business in general. The following are the major issues to examine when building a data strategy to ensure you get the right price and package.

What do you already have?

In order to find the best solutions, it’s important to understand both the failings and achievements of your current system. Look into what you may still be able to support internally. Does it make sense to maintain your contact lists or move them to the cloud? What about page backups? Consider the people running the servers. You may need to do some retraining for the entire staff shortly after the new system is in place. Instead of daily system administration, the IT department will now take on the role of informed buyers, looking for the best vendor partnership. Take some time determining how equipped they are to handle that task and if they have the skills required for today’s IT responsibilities.

Develop A Data Strategy Before Moving To The Cloud

What do you need?

For some businesses, cloud solutions directly impact the customer. (For an obvious example, think DropBox.) In other cases, the cloud serves as a virtual server room, providing more space for internal storage as a priority. Your data strategy may also include running analytics on the database. For instance, you could compare a current database against historical trends to evaluate the likelihood of certain outcomes through a cloud computing tool known as predictive analytics, something four out of five businesses are planning to implement. By having a plan before the move, you’ll be more able to adapt as your needs grow.

Who do you need?

Once you have a team equipped to make a decision and a strategic plan for moving forward, the last step is to choose a vendor. There is no best provider; rather, the choice depends on your business needs. High-tech businesses may just want someone who can set them up and leave them alone, while a smaller, independent may prefer the convenience and ease of 24-7 support. A startup should look for a lot of flexibility, while an established company may just look at the bottom line. Be sure to ask a few questions, including a few in regards to security and safety no matter your business needs.

Creating a data strategy in advance is important, but ultimately you’ll only know the full extent of your needs once you’re working in the cloud. You may find you’re hardly using certain services or that competitors are leveraging a strategy you passed by. To improve your chances of success, discuss scaling with your cloud database provider. By adding storage or removing certain abilities to accommodate peak periods and new staff, you can design a custom solution that works for the long term.

Learning About Customers Through Site Engagement

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More than a decade ago, Bill Gates made an ominous prediction that, by the end of 2002, any business without an online presence would no longer be in business, as reported by Entrepreneur. Despite the rush of users to the Internet—nearly 79 percent of people in North America are online, according to the Internet World Stats website—amazingly enough, some operations can be successful without being online. Local diners, childcare facilities and retail stores still manage to do business quite well through drop-in visitors and word of mouth alone.

Learning About Customers Through Site Engagement

The ability of the Internet, however, to help a business grow is unsurpassed. A consumer survey conducted by business review website Yelp found that 85 percent of consumers use the Internet to get information on local businesses. A company that’s online will be able to draw in a greater audience, but, perhaps more importantly, having an online presence also makes consumers visible to a company. This allows a business owner to learn more about current customers, potential customers and where the business’s services are most in need.

Physical Location Data

Let’s say a restaurant is located in a trendy neighborhood where a select group of locals come to shop and hang out on weekends. Enough of them pass by from Friday night through Sunday afternoon to make weekend sales the backbone of the business. The rest of the week, between paying staff and utilities, the restaurant only breaks even, despite the killer two-hand tacos that come out of the kitchen. There just isn’t enough interest in chowing down on the best Mexican in town from Monday through Thursday. Or is there?

Some of the website analytics and statistical data that can be garnered from online traffic will tell you where site visitors are geographically located. Plug-ins that record this type of statistical data are available even with the simplest (and freest) of website frameworks, such as WordPress. If that Mexican restaurant in the trendy neighborhood gets enough hits from IP addresses assigned to a college 10 miles away, it indicates a high level of interest in that area. Might it be worth opening a branch near the college, or even moving operations? Or is it already in the ideal location?

The point of any business is to convert curious site visitors to customers, and knowing where a business is drawing interest can be a game changer when it comes to keeping a full house every night of the week.

Virtual Location Data

The physical location of site visitors is just one important facet when it comes to analyzing online traffic. How a user found your site is equally important. If half the traffic on a site gets there from a specific review page on Yelp or Citysearch, that’s a good place to expand company information or even to advertise. By knowing how users found their way to the site, a business owner knows where to focus attention.

Increasing Exposure while Gaining Vital Information

Although some businesses can take their chances on surviving without it, having a solid website means being visible to those who rely on the Internet to discover local businesses. In the example of our Mexican restaurant, an online presence can help the place expand its profitability by introducing it to potential customers on the other side of the city who may be willing to drive out of their way for the best taco in town.

Keep in mind that a website doesn’t need to be complex. A basic WordPress site with a good WordPress hosting company that ensures minimal downtime will get the job done. Just make sure your site is easy to navigate and provides useful information, such as contact information, business hours and info on products and services. An effective site will achieve two goals for your company simultaneously: help consumers find the business and help the business learn more about its consumers.

Free Up Your IT Team: The Benefits Of Managed Colocation

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It’s been said that one of the main leadership skills is the ability to delegate. When you assign tasks to other people, it allows you to tackle more important decisions, and for a business owner, this means spending more time handling business responsibilities, instead of being burdened by lesser tasks.

Free Up Your IT Team: The Benefits Of Managed ColocationWithin the frame of IT, this is what managed colocation allows a business to do. It provides a means for managing technology services, whether the client is an enterprise or start-up, without the need for the same level of IT requirements. The cloud storage team of a managed colocation service provides constant support and surveillance of a company’s website and data systems, allowing internal IT teams to be free from basic practices and refocus attention on enhancing a company’s infrastructure.

Moving to the Cloud

When you move your company’s data to cloud storage, a learning curve will definitely be involved. Transferring files, updating systems and backing up data will be slightly different than what your IT team is used to with an internal server. However, since managed colocation means that your servers are managed by the hosting provider, the issues of security, power delivery or other operational issues are no longer the responsibility of your in-house IT staff. Instead, the team at your cloud hosting company will handle these tasks properly and expeditiously.

Opportunities for Growth

When your IT team doesn’t need to focus on the everyday tasks of managing your server and data backups, your team is free to accomplish new projects. New opportunities to improve your business’ workflow arise now that your IT department has the time to focus on company needs and start building upon what’s already been established.

As an example, if your company runs on a custom application, your IT team could enhance and perfect it so that the application better integrates with other company software, or so that the application provides additional utility. If you’ve been meaning to get your company’s old records in order, your IT team could create a system for data input from old files. Or if your company website doesn’t bring in the traffic you’d like to see or it fails to meet all your customers’ or clients’ demands, your IT team could turn their focus to your Web presence. A variety of different opportunities open up when managed colocation is adopted.

The Costs of Cloud Management

When it comes to the cost of managed colocation services, the old adage of you get what you pay for comes to mind. Despite its reputation for efficiencies in small business circles, the move to cloud storage isn’t cheap. Depending on the type of storage and services for which businesses opt, they may spend more on off-site technology than they would on the same services in-house. However, with the advantages of storing data on the cloud and utilizing cloud-based applications from anywhere, cloud storage makes sense for many companies, from start-ups to conglomerates. The real savings here is in time and energy, so you can focus your internal team on better operations and the expansion of your business.

According to Forbes, the reliance on cloud services for businesses is on the upswing, and it looks to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Even with an IT team on board, the cloud’s versatility and accessibility make it a worthwhile expense. Managed services make the transition to the cloud easy, keeping your internal team focused on your company’s future and profitability.

Is Your Business Ready for the Cloud Computing Era?

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Technology has, once again, ushered in a new era when it comes to data sharing and storage. It’s called cloud computing, and it is projected to be the norm for businesses everywhere within a matter of just a few years. However, the best time for you to get in the know and start using this technology to your advantage is now.

What is cloud computing? This is a relatively new term for a technological advancement that has been in the making for a long time. Basically, cloud computing refers to data storage space and computing power that is delivered through the Internet–or the “cloud”–and is bought and sold like a commodity.

What can cloud computing do for your business? While it is true that this revolution is still taking shape, it is also true that cloud computing currently offers some very immediate and obvious advantages that could benefit any business. When you store and share your data through cloud computing, you don’t have to purchase and maintain physical storage and processing units. This can equate to thousands of dollars saved on hardware, software, and licensing costs. Additionally, when you choose a service provider that offers the utmost in web security (see below), you are placing all of your data in a storage “unit” that is easily accessible, and possibly safer than more traditional, on-site methods.

Finding a service provider. The fastest and easiest way to get your business started with cloud computing is to choose a service provider. A quick search of the Internet will reveal a wide array of cloud computing service providers; however, they are not all created equal. Additionally, not all of them specialize in the particular needs of a business. Therefore, you should do careful research before you sign any contract with a cloud computing service provider. For business, you need to be especially conscientious when it comes to verifying the provider’s security measures; data encryption is key.

Time is of the essence. As you well know, the market for any business right now is extremely competitive and that means you must make constant efforts to keep up. Fortunately for you, those getting in on cloud computing right now are essentially starting at the ground floor, and there is still plenty of space for you to make your way in. You can try out new software development teams, storage devices, or anything else you can imagine.

Cloud computing can bring your business operations to a new level. It’s just a matter of getting the right information and making the conversion from more traditional data computing and storage methods. Fortunately, that conversion is relatively straightforward to accomplish. The time to begin cloud computing is now.

Rackspace’s Evolving Cloud

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CRakcspace logoloud storage has made the process of storing data more accessible, cheaper and easier to maintain for many businesses. Accessible and reasonably priced storage provides little benefit, though, if the tools and services that come with the storage can’t keep up with ever-changing technology and trends. When it comes to evolving to meet consumer needs, San Antonio cloud hosting company Rackspace is at the top of its game.

Small Enterprise

Rackspace is dedicated to “Fanatical Support.” It’s one of the company’s core values. When it comes to cloud storage, Rackspace’s tech support services are part of the package, but those services can be upgraded through the company’s Managed Application Service. With Managed Application Service, Rackspace monitors and maintains all aspects of a company’s cloud storage, allowing business owners to focus on other essential business tasks. Services are customized to specifically meet each customer’s needs, and include monitoring of:

  • Databases and servers
  • Files and storage
  • Backups
  • Networks and DNS

With Critical Application Service, Rackspace monitors only those vital cloud processes, with the basic goal of ensuring a business stays up and running. In many cases, Rackspace Managed Application Services make it possible for a business to forego an in-house IT team and virtually host any necessary IT support.

Developers

The more that Rackspace evolves, the more developer-oriented the company’s services become. Recent features that have evolved within the Rackspace platform have been geared specifically toward developers.

Open Source Code

Rackspace develops many upcoming tools and gives developers open access to their code, which allows them to offer input and impact their own services. In a sense, developers can tell Rackspace exactly how they want the program to operate, so that, when it comes time to release a product, implementation will be easy on both sides.

Sneak Peeks of Products

The open coding of upcoming Rackspace product releases provides developers with ample time to prepare for the changes in service. Often, test products are made available, which helps ensure the utility of a product before its release and gives developers an idea of how the product will work once the tool becomes available.

Free Use for Developers

With the open code of Rackspace services, developers have the opportunity to create additional tools that will work alongside Rackspace’s products, making it easy to integrate products into application design. Developers can collaborate with other Rackspace customers, and share tools created, building a strong community and many extra tools to make developing tasks more efficient.

Though the open source operations of Rackspace make the company’s cloud services attractive to developers, it’s actually beneficial to all customers of the web hosting company. All hosting customers have access to tools and services developed with input from other Rackspace customers, ensuring the company can offer some of the most user-friendly, efficient tools on the market. With Rackspace developers and customer developers throwing their ideas into the mix, it’s no wonder Rackspace is advancing its hosting services at a rate envied by others in the marketplace.