Sunday, September 22, 2013

Want to use cloud computing? Make sure and have an exit strategy!

By Steve Endow

I had lunch with a friend today who manages internal IT systems for a large film and television media company.  He said that he was swamped at work because of an unexpected business crisis:  one of his company's cloud storage service providers is going out of business and he has less than 30 days to try and transfer all of the critical data stored with the provider.  He was not involved in the selection or setup with this provider, but is now having to figure out how to save all of the data.

The fun part:  His company has over 160 TERABYTES of data stored online with this provider.  (It is believed that other customers have many PETABYTES of data stored with this provider, so relatively, 160 TB isn't nearly as bad.)

The provider uses "object storage", so there is no simple way to request all of the files and have them transferred to physical drives.  And the data is encrypted, so even if he is able to move all of the data somewhere else, he will likely have to purchase the same file encryption appliance to ensure that the file encryption and decryption processes work the same.

Despite having a gigabit network connection to the cloud storage service, he's finding that it is taking too long to download the data.  And his company doesn't exactly have an empty 160 TB enterprise grade storage device laying around.  Given the crisis, he's having to simultaneously explore three options to try and save the data.  He explained they are trying to download the data to their corporate network, but it is too slow, so that doesn't look too promising.  So they are also simultaneously building a new storage colocation setup in the same data center as the cloud storage service to try and utilize the internal 10GB connectivity in the building.  But to do that, they are having to borrow a storage device and encryption appliance from EMC--since they can't purchase one quickly enough.  And the third option is to get setup with an alternate storage provider, such as Amazon S3.  If you have a ton of data on a storage device, apparently you can physically ship the storage devices to an Amazon data center and they can import the data directly to their systems rather than trying to upload it via the Internet.

Given his limited time window, he may have to use all three approaches simultaneously.  Oh, and don't forget that his business still needs to function--they still need a place to store the gigabytes of new data that are constantly being generated while this crisis unfolds.

After learning more about the "cloud" industry and attending several conferences, he shared a key lesson that he picked up from a Gartner Research study:  If you plan on adopting cloud computing, make sure to have an exit strategy.

If you backup or store data to the cloud, how can you retrieve ALL of that data if necessary?  If you have hosted ERP or CRM, how would you handle a complete shutdown of that service provider?  Do you have a plan?  Do you have multiple options?  How long will it take to execute the plan?

If you use hosted Dynamics GP, it could be as simple as getting a copy of your SQL Server database backups and a backup of your hosted Dynamics GP application directory.  Assuming the hosting provider allows you to access or receive copies of such backups regularly.  And assuming you know the process and are ready to turn those database backups into a fully functioning Dynamics GP environment using either internal servers or a new hosting provider.  How long would it take to implement such a plan?

What about hosted CRM?  What about hosted email?  How about your web site?

"Cloud computing" has come a long way in the last 10 years, but it still has some challenges that require prudence and diligence.

Steve Endow is a Dynamics GP Certified Trainer and Dynamics GP Certified IT Professional in Los Angeles.  He is also the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on Google+ and Twitter

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