Despite a big popularity of cloud services, many businesses are still asking a common question: “What makes a cloud server better than a physical server in my office?”
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (USA) defines cloud computing as a model of network access to a shared set of configurable computing resources (network channels, processors, memory, data storage devices, apps, services, etc.) that can be allocated at a user’s request with minimum effort from a cloud provider. Requesting and obtaining information or other cloud services from their personal computer, a user has no idea where the servers are located and how they operate. This is, in fact, the main difference between physical IT systems and cloud services.
A cloud is not just a set of technologies but a model for providing, using, and managing IT resources and services with the following characteristics:
- Single pool.All cloud resources are organized and managed as a single pool. For example, multiple physical servers and data storage systems (DSS) are joint into one large single system with aggregate computing capacities and DSS.
- Resources are packed into “electronic” containers. Each container has its rules for accessing, using, and managing data contained in it.
- Network access.All resources can be accessed as web services via standard interfaces that allow to combine these resources.
The important thing is that a cloud changes the methods for managing technological and information resources. Cloud technologies beat traditional servers by a number of advantages:
- Cloud resources are independent from computing systems and their geographic location. This allows to easily scale resources to meet the company’s needs.
- Brandmauer and perimeter encryption are not the only protection methods applied to cloud resources. Resources are also protected at a local level by introducing rules for each virtual container. This is especially important for critical information.
- All resources, software and hardware can be easily reconfigured into new IT systems and business services almost immediately. At the same time, technological resources can be easily scaled up at the times of peak load and then brought back to the previous level.
- Because a cloud environment has enough resources for data backup and restoration, you don’t need to create backup configurations in your office.
- Software for managing cloud resources operates in automated mode, dynamically sending the requested amount of resources to the user. This reduces the amount of work done by IT staff and encourages more precise requests.
- Easy access.Compared to traditional servers, a cloud can provide employees, organizations, and processes with access to a bigger number of apps, information, resources, and business services accessed via a common browser.
- Because a cloud is managed as a single system, any user can optimize resources through effectively combining their possibilities, performance, and cost.
Cloud technologies are drastically changing the way technological resources are used. At the same time, using resources and cloud services can be easily measured and portioned. Furthermore, users only have to pay for the actually used cloud services. All this allows to monitor the real consumption of cloud services.
A big advantage of a cloud server over its physical rival is that any user can get cloud services on request and manage their amount. If you have Internet connection, you can access cloud resources from anywhere in the world and at any time.
Business services in the cloud
In each company, employees are willing to use intuitive IT services for business, such as email, accounting systems, antivirus protection, etc. To provide such services, companies are using basic technological resources (servers and processors, RAM and data storage systems, communication channels).
The idea of selling or renting ready-to-use business systems (e.g., a server with configured corporate email) is not new. However, cloud technologies have proven to be more effective than local systems. It’s more convenient to use cloud-based MS Exchange, analytics tools, CRM systems, etc. This way, you can easily scale the number of users and amounts of technical resources.
According to data from multiple analytics companies, virtual servers have already outnumbered their physical counterparts. This trend has a logical economic reasoning: virtualization technologies allow to reduce the number of physical servers by about 20% and cut expenses (equipment, rent of premises, electric power, air conditioning and cooling systems, etc.) almost by 25%. With ca. 70% of server virtualization projects implemented successfully, multiple companies are planning to further adopt cloud technologies.
Data protection in the cloud
While skeptics are talking about multiple drawbacks of cloud technologies, most of their arguments are totally groundless. Let’s take an example. According to a 2017 survey carried out by TAdviser.ru, a major obstacle is the risk that a user may lose access to their data or their data may leak or be destroyed. The curious thing is that physical systems are exposed to this threat in a much bigger way than cloud servers.
Let’s take a closer look at how the risks of data loss are prevented in the cloud. Any cloud-based infrastructure has several layers of protection, with each level designed for a certain type of threat.
Physical protection of cloud data
Think about this. Theoretically, a physical server in your office can be easily stolen or destroyed. But when it comes to big data centers, the situation is totally different. A modern data center is a private territory with a multi-level security system, video surveillance, and access control. Getting into a territory like that is extremely hard.
Let’s take a look at the cloud provider Cloud4Y. It stores user information in data centers with multiple security guards, video surveillance cameras, and thorough access control (even for the company’s employees). The possibility than someone may get into the data center and steal a storage system with your data is close to impossible because the server hardware is bigger in size and weights much more than standard office services.
Major cloud providers never store all user information on one physical server. For example, Cloud4Y built a cloud-based infrastructure with multiple data processing centers, where user data are distributed among different servers and data storage systems. Moreover, Cloud4Y’s cloud performs complete data backup in two data processing centers located in different geographic locations. This way, Cloud4Y eliminates the risk of data being lost in fire or due to other force majeure, accidentally deleted by the user or accessed by a hacker. Even if this happens, the data can be easily restored.
Protection from account hacking
The risk that a cloud-based infrastructure is accessed “from outside”, via network connections, is very slim. Hacking a cloud takes much more efforts, resources, and time than hacking a physical server. To protect its clients from hacker attacks, a respectable cloud provider uses costly and powerful software, which is something not every company can afford.
When it comes to data safety, user’s responsible behavior is of paramount importance. The client must ensure than its employees follow IT safety rules and keep sensitive information confidential. To avoid data leaks, Cloud4Y recommends using two-factor authentication to access cloud services.
While a cloud provider supplies its clients with advanced and reliable tools to access its services, it’s not uncommon that users choose other means as well. By using a poorly protected API to access and manage cloud services, you’re endangering all company data that can be leaked or accessed by an unauthorized user. If you’re adamant about using third-party interfaces, make sure they provide the required level of safety, i.e. come with authentication, access control, and encryption.
Of course, there is also a human factor in the mix. It’s not uncommon that employees with access to the physical or cloud server are bribed or blackmailed. This is a very serious issue that must be addressed by the company’s security department. At the same time, it’s no use trying to get login and password or encryption keys out of the cloud provider’s employees because have no access to such data.
Cloud providers know the importance of protecting data while its being transmitted. Major cloud providers use http and SSL certificates to encrypt their network traffic. This is not all, though. On user’s request, Cloud4Y also uses Russian encryption solutions to ensure extra protection. This way, transmitted data are safe from being intercepted by traffic analyzers.
Protection from DDoS attacks
Physical servers and cloud systems are also exposed to DoS (Denial of Service) attacks. The goal of multiple simultaneous requests to the computing system is to cause an overload, preventing clients from using a system or service.
Along with distributed attacks and DDoS attacks performed from multiple sources, there other types of attacks that can sabotage the system. For example, assymetric DoS attacks use vulnerabilities in web servers, databases, and other resources to “stop” an app with a small payload size.
While a corporate server has a slim chance to withstand a powerful DDos attack, many cloud providers are securely protected from these threats. Using multiple communication channels with excellent bandwidth (dozens and hundreds of Gbps) and multiple hardware routers/firewalls, a cloud provider receives all traffic, filters it with specialized analyzers, and only delivers legitimate traffic to the user.
Other problems with cloud migration
Fear of new experiences is a common reason why people are unwilling to switch to cloud technologies. IT specialists often perceive cloud migration as a threat to their professional reputation and position with the company. However, this is a totally groundless fear. For example, a system administrator can use cloud opportunities to develop and launch new services for his or her company.
Guided by their personal beliefs and stereotypes, company leaders often fail to realize the benefits of the cloud environment. Companies tend to think that cloud migration is a costly process that will blow a hole in their budget. This could not be farther from truth. You can rent cloud servers, paying a fixed amount every month to your cloud provider. This is a great option because you don’t have to think about maintenance and modernization of your IT infrastructure. It becomes the responsibility of your cloud provider.
The most important thing to understand is that all cloud rental costs are not capital but operating expenses. As a result, a company pays less profit tax and has fewer problems with financial planning. Plus, you don’t have to buy costly computer equipment and rent a server room.
Another obstacle on the way of cloud migration is poor internet connection. It’s an outright ridiculous argument because a respectable company must take care of this problem and find a reliable internet provider with high-speed internet connection. If a business has custom requirements to the quality, bandwidth, and safety, a major cloud provider won’t have any problems building a dedicated channel to join the client and the cloud storage.
Perhaps, the only real factor that can stop companies from moving their data and business elements to a cloud computing environment has to do with the situation when regulatory authorities ban or restrict internet access to the critical data of financial organizations, national security agencies, etc.
Until recently, businesses have been viewing internet as a means for communicating with clients and accessing information. However, internet is more than just a technological tool. It’s a public architecture that uses the principles of modularity and combination to ensure unrivalled scalability, flexibility, fast delivery, and cost effectiveness.
Do you want to continue patching holes in your conventional fragmented IT system that fails to meet your business needs? Or are you finally ready to explore cloud technologies to embrace innovations, overcome technological barriers, and add flexibility to your services? The choice is yours.