Tag: business continuity

dark cloudsThe latest headlines in cloud business trends is a bit disturbing; while many articles highlight the interesting cloud trends forecasts, cloud acquisitions and wars among the cloud giants, one headline bothers me: AWS brings down Netflix – again.

This cloud outage news gets me thinking… should we really trust the cloud that much?

We know that cloud providers and the media seem to advocate the cloud as THE solution for increased productivity and reduced costs; this has been going on and on in the past few years. Some cloud “watchdogs” are overseeing the trends and carefully warn businesses about the potential danger of trusting too much on the cloud.

I am always on the pro-cloud side; I am, indeed, a cloud user. But while a couple of years ago I would strongly recommend people to consider the cloud without hesitation, today, I would advise the otherwise. Why?

Unlike what some experts suggest, the cloud is far from mature.

Cloud computing is still yet to reach its peak; it’s still experiencing hiccups. Let’s have a look at what Forrester Research analyst Rachel Dines has commented with regard to Netflix outage. According to her article on ZDNet, while AWS outages are “normal part” in the services provided, as the guaranteed uptime is not 100%, the timing of the outage was awful. It’s on Christmas Eve. Netflix subscribers won’t be able to watch Christmas movies… on Christmas Eve. A disaster.

While some outages are inevitable, some others could be avoided. As reported in another article – this time on WSJ – Dines mentioned that one way to protect against cloud woes are cloud-to-cloud continuity service. When outage happens, the service should automatically route traffic from one cloud to another one.

The service, while logically possible, is not easy; Dines says that this form of disaster recovery is in its infancy because of the complexity in matching formats between two discrete virtual server systems. Danes tells CIO Journal, “It’s not widespread at this point by any means.”

In other words, the cloud is not mature enough to handle such kind of outage. That’s why any cloud service providers claiming 100 percent uptime is, in my opinion, absurd.

What if that “bad timing” happens to your business activities?

Now, let’s translate that into business activities; Suppose you bring the whole business operations to the cloud. And for one reason or another, your cloud services went down. On Christmas shopping season. Not for 5 minutes, but for 3 days. How much will the cloud outage costs your business?

The bottom line, you need a disaster recovery plan to ensure your business continuity; you need to have the answer to the “what if…” as you don’t have a good alternative just yet, as Danes indicated.

What to do?

Well, I am – by any means – not a cloud expert. But as a cloud user and cloud trends follower, I know a thing or two about cloud services. I understand that while the cloud is cool, it’s not for everyone; cloud adoption should be approached on case-by-case basis; I also understand that I can’t expect the cloud services I subscribed to to be 100% up. That’s not possible, although logically the cloud can give you 100% uptime. There’s gotta be some stumbles, until better cloud tech discovered (we’re getting there!)

The best bet for your business, in my opinion, is to adopt hybrid cloud strategy, combining your private cloud with public cloud. When something goes wrong with your public cloud, then your private cloud can take over – and vice versa.

Alternatively, if you don’t have access to the technology above, just be cautious in adopting the cloud. Using the cloud for your backup needs might be one of the most effective usages of the cloud – perhaps better than trusting the cloud with your critical business operations.

To me, the cloud can be your great companion in business continuity, but relying too much on the cloud is probably not ideal today.

How about you? Will you bring your entire business to the cloud? Will you trust your cloud service provider for better or worse? Please share your thought by leaving a comment on this post.

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frankenstormIf you are looking for more reasons to go cloud, hurricane Sandy is one good reason for you. The superstorm, finally dissipated on October 31st, 2012, disrupts business operations – obviously – and it does take resources to recover from it. As the superstorm Sandy – nicknamed Frankenstorm – sweeps through the East Coast, more businesses will be attracted (or forced) to consider cloud adoption in their business plan. The cloud can definitely help businesses in their business continuity planning, including disaster recovery planning.

While running your entire business in the cloud is not strongly recommended – unless you really know what you are doing – using the cloud as an integral part of your disaster recovery plan is highly recommended. As mentioned by CRN, the cloud can naturally protect your data from disasters – and that includes Frankenstorm; as data is stored off-premise on a cloud of inter-connected data centers, you can be sure that your data will remain untouched.

The cloud is NOT the ultimate solution, however…

But be aware that the cloud is not the ultimate solution for protecting your data – and your business; the key is actually under the cloud’s hood – in the design of the data centers.

The cloud involves data centers, and they are just like any other installations, like power utilities. They have physical presence, and because of that, they are NOT disaster-proof. While technically when a data center is down there are others that will take care of everything – thank to the redundant data stored on every data center in the cloud – things can go awry in one way or another – just ask Amazon!

And with the 70 mph storm coming their way, data centers are batten down, real hard. Preparation is the key factor in keeping the data centers up and running regardless the disasters.

Should I go cloud, then?

YES. Beyond cost cutting, increased productivity and other typical pitches any cloud vendors can give you, when you are considering your options in cloud computing adoption, you must focus on the underrated but crucial benefit of the cloud: Disaster recovery.

Although the cloud is still having hiccups, it is one of the surest ways to protect your data. As your data is redundantly stored on data centers on many geographical locations, you can be sure that when things go wrong, your data is safe and sound.

Just be sure you don’t partner with cloud vendors that suck! Ask around and read small prints – don’t base your decision in choosing a cloud vendor on cloud vendors’ pitches only or on the big names they have. Beware, some of them are not true cloud solution and when you backing up your data with such cloud vendor, you always put yourself at risk – something that will be turned into reality as disaster like hurricane Sandy really hits your business.

So, with more Sandy-like disaster will happen somehow in the future, are you finally considering bringing your business – or at least your data – to the cloud? Please share your opinion in the comment section below…

Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sandy_Oct_25_2012_0400Z.JPG

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sun stormDid you know that the biggest and strongest solar storm since December 2006 is now hitting our planet’s magnetic fields? As reported by MSNBC, the wave of plasma and eruption of materials toward the earth – called coronal mass ejection (CME) – will cause disruptions to satellites, power grids and communication networks; the disruptions will last for 24 hours or so. So, here’s a question for you: Will your business be impacted by the disruptions?

If your answer to the above question is “likely, yes,” then there is one more reason why you need to seriously consider cloud computing adoption to support you in business continuity and disaster recovery. Indeed, bringing your business to the cloud will offer you a chance to secure your sensitive data, as well as critical business functions.

How to use the cloud to support your business continuity?

There are many cloud providers offering you the capabilities to backup your data, as well as storing them redundantly, in such a way that when things go wrong with a data center, your data is safe and sound in other data centers. That being said, it’s important for you to partner with cloud vendors who offer always-available access to your data.

You might want to also consider moving your business functions and operations to the cloud. Backing up your data, collaborating with your team member, and working on your business finances online are some of the business activities you can do in the cloud.

Sounds great to me. However, you need to do your due diligence…

Cloud compatibility issues and options

Sooner or later, you will somehow need to think about how to interconnect a cloud service with another, as failing to do so – in itself – will disrupt your business operations. Your job is to ensure that the cloud services you sign up with will be compatible with each other. Some cloud service vendors are compatible with many other cloud vendors, but some just can’t go hand-in-hand with other cloud services. So, be sure you pursue the flexibility and connectivity of the cloud vendors.

Alternatively, with that being said, you might want to consider using a cloud solution instead of standalone cloud services. For example, Google Apps for Business and Microsoft Office 365 are each a complete solution, allowing you to access many functions that are required for you to run your business smoothly.

You might want to connect your solutions with third party cloud vendors – so, it’s a good thing to ensure which can work with whom – i.e. Google Docs can sync with Dropbox (online file storage and sharing,) and so on.

Public, private or hybrid clouds?

I am a big fan of hybrid cloud, especially in its ability in interconnecting different type of clouds into one, big cloud that are hosted both on-site and in the cloud. Although hybrid cloud is not as flexible in-house apps, but it is more secure and highly scalable – with minimal IT infrastructure investment requirements.

Let’s take Zynga, the social game company, for example. Zynga adopts hybrid cloud strategy, hosted most of their operations in their private cloud (zCloud) while having the public cloud (AWS) acts as a backup system – just in case there are surges of demands or issues occurring with their private cloud.

Is your business ready for disasters?

So, are you ready for tornado, storms and other disasters? Do you have a backup for your business? Do you have a plan B, C or D? If not, you need to sit down and start planning for disasters. Why? Because, whether you like it or not, disasters will somehow happen. What brings different end results is your ability to respond to changes accordingly, and this is how the cloud can help you.

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disaster recoveryLike everything in life, there are some pitfalls to having your own business as well.  It is very common for businesses of all kinds to be faced with unexpected expenses, and they are usually very costly but in the case of utility computing is typically service provided by a third-party and doesn’t need to purchased for one time. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg – especially if natural disasters strike your business.

Indeed, cloud providers assure customers that they will have regular and predictable access to their data and applications. One of the best things about cloud computing is that you get ensure that service can be maintained in case of a disaster or an emergency and that any data loss will be recovered. It can be a great joy to work for yourself with computer systems capable of self-management.

However, we must understand that although cloud computing can help you secure your important data and applications when disaster strikes, it can’t help you protect your other assets, such as buildings, equipments and fixtures, especially in natural disasters. Having a business insurance can surely help, but you do need financing to get everything back up and running 100 percent. For such case, you need to have business financing options ready. One of the options is business cash advance that will usually help you to take care of unforeseen expenses and extra costs due to the disaster.

But what if taking out a business loan is not an option for you? How can you handle a business emergency? When you need a substantial amount of cash it seems like the only viable option is a business loan, but before you jump in head first, why not looks at some different options.

Do you have family that could loan you some money, either interest free, or at a lower interest rate? Often times people don’t like to get family involved but in some instances a trustworthy family member could be exactly what you need to save you from having a down fall. Treat any transaction as you would a professional bank transaction. Have a contract written up so that nothing gets left out and so that there are no misunderstandings.

In the event that your family member can’t help you out, your next logical step would be the bank, but with the way things are going these days banks are not as easy to get money from as they once were, even if your business is doing well, you may just be better off just using credit. If you are a home owner, one option is to take out a home equity loan in order to provide the influx of money you need. Obviously, this carries some risk, but it will carry far lower interest than a cash advance. If that is not available to you, you might be taking that cash advance after all.

Business loans from private lenders are on the rise and are becoming a great choice for businesses that need money quickly to ensure business continuity. Be sure to consider your options well and do try to make well-informed decision when it comes to financing your business disaster recovery process.

Image: ||read|| / Flickr

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business continuity

Cloud computing plays an important role in business continuity. In natural disaster events, for example, businesses adopting the cloud have their important data and applications secured off-premise in the cloud, avoiding further loss of business assets.

However, the recent developments in tech world indicate that, once again, cloud computing poses threats to businesses, especially when it comes to business continuity; indeed, it seems contradicting that while the cloud helps businesses in disaster recovery and such, it can also backfire and disrupt business operations.

Cloud service outages, cloud security compromises, and potential legal issues… those are several of many issues that can lead to your business operational disruption.

Consider this: SOPA and the Megaupload shutdown

Cloud outages and security breaches can happen; but as long as you read your contracts well, you can minimize damages as you can take legal action toward them.

However, what happened to Megaupload and its users is an eye opener. What if the FBI or a new regulation (i.e. if SOPA did become a law) requires your cloud vendor to shut down its services and in the meantime, your data and apps were frozen and locked until further notifications?

Fatality.

Plus the fact that the cloud marketplace is nowhere near stable, as new cloud vendors are battling for new clients; we do know that – just like any business startups – not all of them will survive. Not until the majority of cloud vendors are developed on a standardized platform, your business is exposed to the risk of cloud lock-in that, again, will disrupt your business operations.

Takeaway

Sure, I’m a big fan of cloud computing. The cloud offers many upsides for businesses; however, just like everything in life, there are always risks associates with any opportunities.

I suggest you NOT to decide going cloud based on cloud vendors’ pitches. Indeed, you need to know what’s on offer and whether the cloud solutions can benefit your business or not, but be sure you do your due diligence before investing in cloud solutions for your business.

Don’t forget to read your agreement with your cloud vendor thoroughly. If you are still not sure whether what you read will protect your business should anything happen, be sure to hire a legal representative that is experienced in handling cloud computing cases.

Just like what many experts suggest, consider opting for hybrid cloud adoption. Having your important data and applications hosted and run on both on-premise and off-premise clouds can minimize cloud computing risks.

Image: dan

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business continuityHow can your business keep up with the economic challenges and fierce competition? According to Bill McCracken, CA Technologies chief exec, the only realistic way to keep up is cloud computing. How cloud-based business continuity solutions can help you to keep up with your business demand?

First thing first – let’s kick off with a couple of of case studies. Here are two prominent examples on how businesses’ speedy response to changes in place are crucial in determining their immediate future…

  • The failure: Borders bookstores went out of business partly due to the speed of e-books taking over the industry.
  • The success: Dell quickly revolutionized the supply chain and PC sales to claim a big pie of the market share.

So, how cloud computing and business continuity solutions can ensure you avoid critical business failure?

Cloud computing and business demand

As reported by Computerworld UK, McCracken says that cloud computing can offer speedy responses to business demand. Typically, business IT is what holding chief executives back in making the necessary changes in response to the demand – it just can’t make changes a reality fast enough.

Business continuity and business demand

Now, ensuring business continuity is crucial, as your ability to keep up with your business demand requires you to be able to tackle both internal and external threats, such as power outage, natural disaster, and many more.

Regardless of your business readiness in fulfilling business demand, without business continuity plans in place you are risking all of your hard work for nothing.

Cloud computing and business continuity

The cloud itself is not without problem. In fact, to make things more complicated, businesses also need to have business continuity plans for their cloud solutions.

cloud outages and security problems lurk behind cloud-powered businesses, ready to strike at any given time – you need to ensure business continuity.

Business continuity solutions

You need to understand that your stakeholders want you to meet business demands and avoid to be the next Borders bookstore or any other business failures caused by the inability to keep up with the demands.

There are solutions available to help you ensure your business continuity, but I recommend the cloud-powered ones, such as this business continuity from Allstream.

Allstream’s cloud-based business continuity services ensure your network to be able to support any business continuity plans you have, allowing you to recover rapidly from any business operational interruptions, such as power failures and cyber attacks.

Technical-wise, Allstream’s cloud recovery procedures involve virtual replication of your business’ physical server environment. This allows your server to be fully functioning and almost instantly accessible; this is important to maintain the availability of your business apps.

So, your next logical step: Start building a business continuity plan and start finding the right business continuity solution for your business.

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business continuity in the cloudThis week’s cloud business news roundup highlights the topic of the continuity of businesses that are adopting cloud computing. This is a hot topic these days due to many cloud failures, such as Amazon and Microsoft cloud. The big questions: How to ensure business continuity with such unexpected cloud outages? Are business owners and decision makers well-equipped with knowledge about cloud computing?

One of the most recent articles from GigaOM offers us some pointers on how to ensure business continuity in the cloud. The article suggests that you need to plan for cloud failures – just in case. To plan for such disaster, it’s all coming back to your business IT infrastructure. It’s certainly not an easy task, but there is an approach that actually works: Combining redundancy and automation in the cloud

Redundancy gives you continuity when something is wrong, as you have made multiple copies residing in multiple cloud servers. Automation allows your IT systems to respond swiftly as disaster strikes. Combining both will give your business the continuity that each and every business owner wants.

Of course, your critical success factor would be employing or partnering the right cloud managers and cloud engineers who are well-equipped to build such cloud-based business system. Moreover, business owners’ knowledge on cloud computing for business is also crucial.

Learn the cloud well

Business owners – you need to learn things related to cloud computing and the business cloud before you can make a well-informed decision whether to take your business to the cloud or not; there is no better way to ensure your business continuity other than understanding the benefits and risks of cloud computing, as well as managing your expectations of what the cloud can or can’t offer you.

Alas, 72 percent of small business decision makers in a survey commissioned by Zoomerang are not familiar – even don’t have a clue at all – about cloud computing technologies, as reported by Entrepreneur.com.

Similar survey results also shown in SB Authority Market Sentiment Survey commissioned by Newtek Business Services: 71 percent of 1,800 business owners surveyed confess that they don’t have any idea what cloud computing is. For the rest of respondents who have claimed that they have heard about the cloud, 74 percent can’t really describe what cloud computing is.

Both surveys show us one thing: Business owners and decision makers need more resources to help them learn the basics of cloud computing. Alternatively, they can take the easier path by partnering with cloud service providers that offer easily set-up and highly convenient cloud solutions and resources. All needed to ensure their business continuity in the cloud.

The question is, will business owners and decision makers be willing to take action for the sake of their own companies?

Image: AsiaResearch.com.sg

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