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Configuring the cloud for best results

Vocus Communications

By Luke Mackinnon, CTO, Vocus Communications
Monday, 14 November, 2016


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Understanding the essential characteristics of cloud-based solutions and security requirements is critical for making informed decisions.

Global data is expected to grow by nearly 50 times within the next decade, and organisations are under immense pressure to futureproof themselves against big data with innovative network configurations and storage solutions, particularly as the Internet of Things (IoT) exposes even more information to users anywhere they are.

In a time where government agencies are mandated to increase productivity and reduce overheads, cloud-based infrastructure potentially delivers the most reliable, scalable and secure solution to respond to the big data challenge.

The cloud represents one of the most significant shifts that computing has gone through. As we discover a new cloud-based world, traditional IT terms such as servers, data centres, operating systems, middleware and clustering will cease to be important on the client side.

And, while the importance of network configuration is vital for any enterprise, government agencies have a vested interest in safeguarding large volumes of sensitive data with efficient cloud solutions. If the foundation of the network is strong, the cloud solution will function at an optimum level; if not, the network will be compromised and cloud strategies will potentially fail.

Agencies should consider the following questions to ensure they have the right configuration before heading to the cloud.

What’s the need?

Identify the purpose for migrating to the cloud — it may be derived from an increased level of sensitive data that requires strict protection or does the existing network need to be upgraded to process large volumes of data during a major event such as the Census?

Next, think about which cloud-based structure suits your need: public, private or hybrid.

  • Public cloud is open to be managed and utilised by any user. Virtualisation is the foundation of the flexibility that public cloud offers; it delivers true efficiency in scale and cost.
  • A private cloud service is solely utilised by an individual organisation and is protected by additional cybersecurity measures such as firewalls and dedicated infrastructure that is not shared with other cloud customers. With private cloud solutions, the organisation can more effectively grant access to the data contained with the network and manage who has access.
  • A hybrid cloud solution utilises a combination of both private and public solutions where the more sensitive applications can be contained in the private cloud, and other forms of non-sensitive data can be open to the public.

What level of security is required?

Security is an important, possibly the most important, consideration for government agencies looking toward a cloud solution. When considering a move to cloud computing, agencies must clearly assess potential security risks at the provider, network and physical access levels.

Some argue the responsibility for data protection falls with the provider, but we argue the responsibility rests with the customer, the carrier and the cloud provider. When one fails, all fail.

By protecting data assets and information within the network, agencies can build the barriers against cyber attacks or sensitive information being leaked.

As technology becomes more advanced and more available, the more vulnerable systems become. This means additional security procedures are required to be put in place to protect the integrity of the agency. While the risks will never be removed by moving to the cloud, agencies doing their homework will minimise the potential issues and be better off in the long term.

Cloud solutions with the most effective security infrastructure will recognise issues as they arise and provide safeguards, ideally automated to quickly address those issues.

How flexible should the network be?

Moving to the cloud doesn’t remove the need to have strong, efficient and secure data networks. Agencies need to be able to quickly and securely connect to their cloud infrastructure, ideally through dedicated network links which don’t traverse public internet.

Network scalability is an important consideration. The great benefit of cloud infrastructure is the ability to scale up rapidly as demand dictates.

If a network cannot withstand the level of data travelling through, this can lead to network congestion and could result in damaging downtime.

Scalability enables flexibility for environmental fluctuations, which can assist in accommodating for those times of high traffic and low traffic, whether it is legitimate traffic or attack traffic. Ensuring the scalability of the network is a necessity when deciding a cloud strategy.

Conclusion

Cloud computing is changing the way IT departments buy IT. Today, with the right partner, cloud is fast becoming more accessible, easier to adopt and more useful ‘out of the box’. Government agencies have a range of paths to the cloud, including infrastructure, platforms and applications that are available from a range of cloud providers.

However, understanding the essential characteristics of cloud-based solutions and security requirements is critical for making informed decisions on the appropriate platform to meet their data needs.

Image courtesy Razza Mathadsa under CC BY 2.0

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