Tag Archives: IT

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Cloud Computing

To Cloud or not To Cloud

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Don’t worry, this isn’t just another (OPx vs CAPx) discussion on Cloud Computing. The financial benefits of a scalable architecture as a service have been discussed before. If you want more on that, see my Keys to a healthy technology budget.

No, this discussion is about the other types of fears that hold people back from taking advantage of this technology and/or running into it blindly and making big mistakes.

I’m talking about the real and valid fears illustrated in this article published by Infoweek: http://www.informationweek.com/cloud/9-spectacular-cloud-computing-fails/d/d-id/1321305

Questions like “How secure it the cloud?” and “what if the cloud goes down?” or “what if I can’t get to the Internet?”. All of these are real and valid fears, but you shouldn’t let analysis lead to paralysis.

The Cloud is just like any other technology, it’s a platform that needs to be architected and designed just like any other infrastructure. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to cloud computing.

To adequately take advantage of this technology, lower costs, reduce risk and free up time for you IT department, careful planning needs to take place first.

To start with, real business needs must be defined from the process level. Security is as much a concern in the cloud as it is on your local network. If you’re connected to the Internet, you’re vulnerable, period. The question is how vulnerable and how are you mitigating those risks. More on that in the paragraphs to come, or see “5 Questions to ask your Cloud provider about security“.

Another great consideration is “what if the cloud goes down?” The answers to this comes down to the provider. Are you covered for emergencies? Do you and the cloud provider have a Disaster Recovery plan? Is it clear what the cloud providers responsibility is and what yours is? Do you have a direct support rep or do you call an 800 number and roll the dice?

Guess what, the same concern goes for your Internet carrier, local computer systems, even car insurance. Knowing the details of the contract is key.

In some cases, your cloud solution makes you more dependent on your Internet connection, but not in all cases. Think about what your business would do if all your local computers worked, but you were without Internet access for a day.

Most businesses would either grind to a screeching halt or at least, be severely impacted. Email can’t go out, credit card transactions won’t go through and a majority of your communication to the outside world is cut off. Put the servers in the cloud and the question is simply, how can I get connected while my office is down. A short walk to the nearest Starbucks be a viable solution.

Furthermore, network redundancy isn’t that hard to come by these days and a good network architect or consultant can design one for a lot less than you think. See Worry free connectivity on a small business budget.

Finally we come to security. What if you cloud provider was hacked and your data was stolen or your service was taken offline?

My question is, what if that happened to the servers in your office? Same answer, but the cloud provider is generally going to have more resources to throw at the problem.

Not always, but it’s a good question to ask them…

Getting the risk management plan from your Cloud Provider is not the easiest task. For best results, see a cloud consultant about the options out there the risk management plans for the various providers. There are many Cloud Brokers that can quote the “best deals” in cloud, but make sure they’re also consultants that understand the technology.

We’re here to help. CBC Solutions is a Consulting company with members that have over 25 years of experience performing risk management plans and a deep understanding about cloud and telecommunications. The best deals are waiting for you and at phenomenal rates. Give us a call, our initial consultations are free!

CBC Solutions
619-784-5211
info@cbcsolutions.biz


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Worry free connectivity on a small business budget

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How much does your business depend on connectivity? 80%, 90%, higher? It is virtually impossible to do business these days without connectivity to the outside world. Even businesses with only the slightest amount of technology need to be connected to the Internet to conduct business. Information Week estimated that IT outages cost roughly $26.5 Billion in lost revenue in 2011. It’s only getting worse. Add Cloud services, Voice over IP, & web services to your list and the dependency approaches 100%

The good news is that a resilient network is not the work of genius tech gurus who sit on mountain tops and come at a price that would make a Fortune 500 cringe. Creating a resilient, worry-free network is much easier than it used to be.

Vendor Fail-over
Internet connectivity is now so cheap, that it’s affordable to have a redundant Internet connection from a secondary provider. With even a low-cost, commercial security appliance, a secondary Internet connection can sit in a passive, stand-by state waiting for an outage on the primary line. Once this outage occurs, the secondary connection is made active and traffic flows seamlessly.

Cost of a solutions like this can run from $500 – $1,200 for a commercial appliance and an extra $60-$200 per month for a secondary Internet service (depending a lot on the size and scope of your company). Since this is a fail-over service, it doesn’t need to be as fast or reliable as your main connection, just enough to get you by until the primary service comes back on line.

Eliminating Single Points of Failure
While it it not 100% possible to eliminate all points of failure, the more redundancy that is put in place, the more resilient your network will be. A majority of the major players in small business network equipment offer “HA pricing” (high-availability) at a fraction of the cost of the primary device so you can double up on firewalls, routers or switches without doubling your cost.

Cloud Advantage
Making educated decisions about utilizing Cloud solutions can add to your resiliency. Many cloud providers replicate services to various locations so your services are up as much as possible. Did you know that Microsoft’s Office 365 services are replicated to data centers across the nation?

Good cloud providers offer guaranteed up-time measured in 9’s. For example, they might offer “three 9’s” or 99.9% up time. This means they can only be down for around 4 hours a year. Common guarantees are in the three – four 9 range, but some of the big players are even higher. Amazon Web Services guarantees eleven 9’s of up time, or 99.999999999%!

Monitoring – The forgotten necessity
One of the biggest mistakes commonly made when designing a fault-tolerant network is the lack of good monitoring. A good monitoring solution involves a 3rd party service, off your network that monitors up-time remotely. This way, if a redundant service kicks in, someone can be alerted so they troubleshoot the issue or call the appropriate vendor.

Without proper monitoring, you may not know you’re running in a crippled state.

Designing for Fault Tolerance
No matter what solutions you put in place, a fault-tolerant network is more than just a redundant service or device. Specific practices need to be put in place to ensure that devices are configured, proper services are ordered, systems are tested and proper monitoring & alerting is in place.

This takes a designer who can help you decide two metrics which will help budget for such a design. Return to Operation -time required to fail over to the redundant solution and Recovery Point Objective -specific services that need to fail over for business to run smoothly.

Summary
Designing a fault-tolerant network can take the worry out of service outages and equipment failure, but it needs to be designed properly. A good network architect will setup a recovery testing plan and simulate failures to make sure the system is redundant. These systems should be reviewed often to ensure they’re still functioning properly.

CBC Solutions offers Fault-Tolerant Network Design as a service. We perform a business analysis to help you decide the right budget. Then we provide best in industry solutions to take away the worry of your connectivity to the outside world so you can stay focused on your business.


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5 Ways You Can Benefit From A Technology Broker

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Technology Brokers are a unique type of technical consultant. They don’t generally sell any product. Instead they build strategic partnerships with vendors and service providers, then integrate their services into your business. Technology Brokers work on your behave to negotiate rates & contract terms. If the Broker is also a Consultant, they will help you find the right technologies and fit them into your business model. Below are 5 ways they can help:

 1. We have a large partner base to work with – It takes a lot of time to find the right vendor or reseller to work with. As a business leader, you may go out on your own to find a vendor through Internet search or word of mouth, and then take your chances that the vendor will be easy to work with, will keep your interest in mind, and will always strive to keep your business. A Broker has a much bigger landscape of trusted and true providers and they know who will work in your best interest.

2. Staying with the same old vendors can lead to stagnation – While vendors don’t like to lose clients, they can also get a bit complacent if they don’t feel there’s any danger of their customer switching to a competitor. A Broker will recognize this and know when to put pressure on the vendor to stay competitive.

3. Switching costs are minimized – The cost of switching providers include loss of customer incentives, learning curves, configuration / integration cost and time in re-establishing a business relationship. When you use a Broker, they can manage a good amount of this for you. Customer incentives are usually well known to the Broker and you may be able to take advantage of competitive upgrade deals, learning curves can be reduced when the Broker provides you with proper training, and the costs of deploying the solution may also be absorbed by the Broker by having them bundle configuration in with the product.

4. They can offer good contract negotiation – Since Technology Brokers work with contracts so often, they can spot issues in contracts and help you mitigate them with the vendor. Contract issues such as auto-renew clauses, termination fees, service levels and contract length can be negotiated by the Broker better since the Broker generally knows what vendors are willing to red-line and what adjustments should be proposed.

5. Anxiety is reduced – Brokers can remove the anxiety of switching to a different product or service. They have been in the business long enough to know what risks exist with certain product switching. They can generally help you be prepared for a hard learning curve, adjustments you need to make on related systems and any other dependencies that the vendor won’t tell you.

 CBC Solutions is a Technology Broker and Business Consultant. We analyze your business to find out not only where adjustments need to be made to your current services and products, but also what the total costs are of switching. We help businesses make a smooth transition and follow up frequently to make sure the services are working to improve business functions, reduce costs and manage risk.

 


Free yourself from the worry of technology and get back to running your business today!