[Video] Plan Ahead When Taking Your Servers to the Cloud
Hi, I’m Kenny Riedell, Chief Technology Architect here at Accent Computer Solutions. We’ve been talking about the cloud for years now but only recently has it really started to make financial sense for small and medium sized businesses to migrate to it. Previously, we talked about the different types of cloud and their uses. Today, we are going to be exploring the most straightforward way for businesses to migrate their workloads to the cloud; Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS for short.
Watch the video or continue reading below:
Rather than using swimming through a big bowl of alphabet soup with acronyms, we like to refer to this type of cloud as “cloud servers”. It helps to simplify what it really means and we think it has a better ring to it than IaaS.
Let’s get our heads in the cloud and discuss how and why you can start using cloud servers as well as some of the things that your IT team should look out for when planning a migration.
Cloud Server Options
First off, let’s talk about why you would want to use cloud servers. The first and most common reason to go with cloud servers is because you have a line of business application that does not have a hosted option. This means that you are stuck with hosting on your own servers but maybe you don’t want to deal with server hardware anymore. Another common reason is that you just want to migrate exactly what you have now to the cloud but the migration to have as little impact on your business processes as possible.
As long as your existing servers are running on an operating system supported by your chosen provider, you have the option of converting those servers directly into cloud servers. This is a great and very straightforward way to migrate your entire infrastructure to the cloud, everything stays the same, the servers are just located somewhere else. There are some underlying networking and accessibility challenges with this method that your IT team will have to deal with but they won’t have to create all new servers.
The other migration option is to do exactly that, replace your existing servers with new cloud servers. Going this route is typically more labor intensive and can have a larger impact on your workflows but it gives you a fresh environment to work with. Think of it just like your normal 3-5 year server refresh cycles. You also get a chance to clean up and consolidate which can save on your monthly costs. We typically recommend this method for all cloud migrations unless you are running brand new virtual servers on hardware that is ready to be replaced.
Accessing Your Cloud Servers
Probably the most important thing to consider when migrating to cloud servers is how your employees will access these new servers. Some cloud server providers also offer a high speed dedicated connection directly to your cloud server network. This is a great way to go but can be a bit costly and is not available in all areas. Typically, you will connect to your cloud network through a VPN which relies on your internet connection that will most likely require some upgrades.
Your internet speed becomes much more important to the overall experience once you migrate your workload offsite. Everyone will need to access everything through your internet connection which also means that failover internet connections become mandatory to maintain access your mission critical systems.
We recommend a minimum of two internet connections, each with as close to the same speed as possible. Your primary connection can be a standard internet connection with synchronous bandwidth of at least 0.5 Mbps per user. Synchronous just means that you have the same amount of upload bandwidth as you do for download.
Upload speeds become much more important when you rely on cloud servers or cloud services. It is also very important that your failover connection be some form of wireless, such as cellular or microwave, to reduce your risk of downtime if an ISP junction box up the road gets damaged.
Another thing to consider is whether your employees should access your cloud servers directly like they would for standard on-premise servers or if they should exclusively use Remote Desktop or something similar to access them. Luckily, this is a pretty easy question to answer. Unless you have a connection to your cloud servers that is extremely fast (an absolute minimum of 100 Mbps) direct access should be out of the question or else your workforce will not be very happy with you or your IT team. When you access servers located in the same building everyone gets their own full 1Gb connection to them. When those servers are in the cloud, everybody shares the same connection that is typically at least ten times slower than that.
That is where Remote Desktop and similar technologies can save the day. Rather than access the servers directly, you would have a server or set of servers or even a set of virtual desktops hosted along with your cloud servers. You would then connect to one of those via Remote Desktop and now the only information going between you and the cloud are the images on your screen, your keystrokes and your mouse moments. This makes for a way more efficient use of your bandwidth and even helps reduce the management of your physical workstations.
Cloud Server Backup Options
The last item that I want to talk about today is backup. A solid backup strategy is still required when you migrate to cloud servers. Most cloud server providers offer some form of integrated backups. Because the provider does not have access to your servers themselves, these backups are usually based on snapshots and will be an image of the entire server which is great. Most of the providers also offer replication of your backups to other data centers as well so you won’t have to worry about losing all of your data to a localized disaster.
It is also well worth considering backing your servers up to somewhere outside of your cloud server provider to ensure that you have access to your data even if the provider has a major issue. There are several third-party companies that offer backup of cloud servers or you could also just keep a backup appliance at your office that will back the servers up over the VPN. Whichever backup solution you choose to go with, make sure that your IT team performs regular test restores and disaster recovery drills just as you would with onsite servers.
You don't have to be an IT expert to make the wise decisions about cloud computing when you have an IT business partner like Accent on your side. Give us a call today and explore how you can get ongoing technology consulting while dramatically improving the your IT experience.
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