WITH Microsoft’s recent launch of their Azure cloud platform, which bundles their familiar software functions into an online service with your data stored remotely, cloud computing is set to become increasingly mainstream.
Xtraordinary Hosting CEO, Andrew Ogilvie says the current trend to host data on clusters of remote servers ‘in a cloud’ is good news for online hosts and datacentres, but you need to look into your own particular cloud quite carefully.
He says: “The concept is not new. Your data in Facebook and Hotmail has been in the clouds for years and most end-users are none the wiser, beyond enjoying the ability to interact with their data remotely instead of being tied to a computer or a mobile device with limited storage.
“But the lure of cutting costs is driving more corporates to store their data in a cloud rather than in their own managed facility. This is a trend that has been accelerated by well known companies like Amazon, Google or Microsoft, generating addition income streams by renting out their huge spare server capacity.
“Cash-strapped SMEs were quick to realise they could save a fair amount by not owning their own servers. But a great number of so called ‘server farms’ have sprung up to serve the market, causing IT managers concern over data security and privacy issues as well as continuity of service. That’s also been an issue with hosting companies cutting corners in a rush to launch new services and charging full price for services that should perhaps still be labelled ‘beta test’.”
Andrew Ogilvie continued: “Just like the sky itself, all clouds are not equal. And some clouds are more than capable of pouring rain on your parade. In the last year, we have seen a number of failures in these cloud server farms. Sadly, some of these well-publicised failings have involved well-known hosting companies where all the back-up data was stored on one massive server, meaning hundreds, if not thousands of customers were separated from their data for days as thousands of terabytes of data were copied back onto servers.
“It’s a situation that no-one using Xtraordinary Hosting will find themselves in. For a start, we don’t put our clients’ data back-ups into huge storage units. We split back-up data into manageable amounts stored on regular servers. If one server fails, it only affects a few customers for a short time as much smaller chunks of data need to be restored and we have staff on-site to deal with it. We have three years experience with Xen virtualisation, serving hundreds of customers, plus an eight-year established reputation for rock-solid reliability and excellence in technical support to protect.
“Despite offering some of the most competitive hosting bargains – and we have recently doubled the available memory and storage on our popular packages – we continue to host on virtualised Xen servers for maximum efficiency and minimum carbon footprint. Our servers are in secure datacentres, managed by on-site staff, located in Scotland and London, giving customers a choice of geographically diverse locations for storage of data.
“Now that the data is being stored online, people on the move are working from mobile devices. It’s all too easy for records of their interactions with clients to get lost. It may be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, but the integrity of data storage is crucial to business survival. Data loss to a company, while rarely immediately fatal, is often the trigger for a succession of customer service, invoicing and financial problems that eventually bring the company down. In 2002, a report by McGladrey & Pullen indicated that a company prevented from getting at its data for ten days never fully recovers and 43 per cent go under.”
Adds Ogilvie: “You wouldn’t drive a car with two wheels missing. Why risk your business data in the clouds, unless you know it is in a secure and proven facility?”
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