Bare-Metal Cloud Beats Virtualization for Web and eCommerce Hosting

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided by Graeme Caldwell — Graeme works as an inbound marketer for InterWorx, a revolutionary web hosting control panel for hosts who need scalability and reliability. Follow InterWorx on Twitter at @interworx, Like them on Facebook and check out their blog, http://www.interworx.com/community.

Here’s a question that many who enthusiastically embrace the cloud don’t seem to consider: who does cloud virtualization benefit? The cloud industry would have you believe that the checks are all in the client’s column, but for the vast majority of use-cases, and particularly those that involve web and eCommerce hosting, virtualization’s main benefits accrue to the vendor. If you recall, the first cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service platforms were developed by Internet giants like Amazon who had excess capacity that frequently sat idle. Virtualization allowed them to sell that excess capacity to clients as virtual servers and networking infrastructure, maximizing the ROI on their hardware procurement and maintenance budgets.

It was a smart strategy and one that prompted an explosion of interest from data center and hosting providers who wanted a way to increase the efficiency of their hardware utilization in an industry that was being forced by price wars in a highly competitive environment to ever narrower profit margins.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service provided definite benefits to certain areas of the market. But those benefits are not universal, in fact they pertain to a fairly narrow sector. It’s useful to those who want access to High-Performance Computing without renting time on a supercomputer. It’s great for a service like Netflix that depends on high levels of elasticity. And it’s handy for development and testing, where the ability to spin up an ephemeral test platform is useful.

But web and eCommerce hosting are a radically different proposition, ones for which performance, stability, reliability, and availability are of significantly greater importance than by-the-hour elasticity. For site owners, the purported benefits of virtualized platforms don’t really apply. Instead, the vendors get the advantage of virtualization and clients get the all of the negatives: degraded performance for very little in return.

In comparison to virtualized cloud platforms, bare-metal clouds, in which the virtualization layer is eschewed and client operating systems run directly on the physical hardware, provide significantly better price/performance ratios.

Cloud cheerleaders might consider bare-metal clouds a retrograde step, but that’s an attitude that reflects a belief that one strategy is best for all situations. If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Stepping back from the hype and focusing on what hosting clients really need, it’s clear that bare-metal clouds or server clusters are the best option. They’re not as elastic as virtualized platforms, but almost no-one actually needs that level of elasticity, and certainly not the average web site or eCommerce store. Any decent hosting provider is capable of managing horizontal scaling of a bare-metal cloud on a timescale of hours and days, which is more than sufficient for all but a tiny percentage of users.

With a bare-metal cloud, you get all of the performance, scalability at speeds adequate to meet the needs of almost every business, and none of the negative consequences of running a virtualization layer.

Infographic: Fun Facts About the Internet of Things

The number of connected devices is steadily increasing, fuelling the continued growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). To help demonstrate the impact IoT will have, we’ve created an infographic containing six fun facts about the technology.

6 Fun Facts IoT

For businesses that haven’t adopted IoT yet, it’s time to start thinking about what your competitors could do if they embraced IoT solutions faster than your company? Or consider what new business ventures can be created through the use of IoT. This technology has the potential to change the way companies communicate with their customers, and the way customers interact with their devices. If you haven’t started exploring IoT – now is the time (like, right now).

Don’t know where to start? Click here to learn more about Internet of Things.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

Infographic: Cyber Crime 2013 – The Year of the Mega Breach

The year 2013 yielded record breaking data breaches and cyber crime numbers in the business community. Upon reviewing multiple reports generated by industry heavy hitters, like IBM and Symantec, we’ve created an infographic of some of their key findings.

Cyber Crime 2013

 

Business will need to take an active role in securing their company and customer data in 2014. Poor protective measures are putting an increasing number of companies at risk and the potential implications of losing data is huge. Educating staff, improving malware solutions, and routinely backing up your data are some of the steps your company can take towards increasing security and preventing loss.

Blog/Infographic Author: Vanessa Hartung

 

The Pros and Cons of Hosting Your Website

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided by Nina Hiatt, a freelance writer who researches and creates articles on a variety of topics – including news and technology. You can learn more by visiting her Google+ profile by clicking here.

how-to-change-web-hosting

Sorting through all the available web hosting services takes time and presents an overwhelming number of options. Wouldn’t it just be easier (and cheaper) to host the site yourself? Here are some pros and cons to help your company decide:

Pros:

Hardware Control. The biggest benefit of hosting your website in house is that you have complete controlover the entire process. You control the hardware specifications, which means you can utilize hardware combinations that datacenters may not offer.

Web hosting providers usually have different sizes and speeds of processors, memory, storage, and bandwidth. Usually when you want more storage, you have to pay for a faster processor and more bandwidth as well.

However, certain websites may benefit from having large memory and a slower processor, or a fast processor and little storage. If you are hosting your own site, you can make decisions as to how fast, slow, big, or small your equipment is. Your company can also save money by not paying for services you don’t need for your site.

Money Savings. Any time you decide to provide a service on your own, you will be saving money. There’s no need to stress over paying bills or worrying about what products you have access to with your subscription package.

Software Control. Self-hosting a site also gives you control over the software you use and what features you put on your company website. If you use a free hosting service, like WordPress or BlogSpot, you may not have access to all the features you’d like your website to have. Even a paid hosting service may not offer what you are looking for, like chat capabilities or ecommerce.

Making Changes. Any changes, updates, or modifications can be made quickly and easily. You don’t have to go through a technical staff. If you make any changes you don’t like, you can immediately reset everything to its original state.

Instant Satisfaction. If you want to make changes to your server or your site, you can make the changes instantly. There is no waiting period between communicating your desires to the web hosting company, and seeing the changes on your site.

Cons:

Complete Responsibility. Along with complete control comes complete responsibility. You’re company can decide what hardware to use, but you have to actually know how to use it. If anything breaks down, it is up to you to figure out the problem and find a solution.

24/7 Duty. You are also responsible for monitoring your site at all times. If your server goes down, nobody is going to alert you that there is an issue. You not only have to fix all issues, but you have to be able to detect them as well.

Web Providers. Another potential roadblock you may run in to with web hosting is that many web providers don’t allow their users to host their own. Some of them explicitly forbid it in their contracts or they block the ports needed for hosting. Still others may dramatically increase their prices for any subscribers who want to run a server.

Even if your broadband connection does allow you to connect your own server, it probably won’t be as quick or as reliable as you will need for your site. Any downtime your web provider experiences will affect your server and your site.

Heat and Noise. Housing all the necessary hardware for a website server means you will have some loud equipment in your office. Servers generate a lot of heat, and the sound of the fans mixed with the sound of the processor will create a constant hum. The more traffic your site gets, the harder your server will have to work, and the hotter it will be. You may have to use additional cooling devices in the room where you house all of the equipment.

Takes more Time. . Letting someone host your site for you—called “managed cloud hosting” or “managed web hosting,” depending on which you choose—means that you don’t have to spend time worrying about or fixing any issues that come up. You can just sit back and work on the content of your site. When you host your own site, you will have less time to spend on the site itself.

Some Final Words of Advice

If you decide to host your site on your own, make sure you have all the technical knowledge you will need to manage the hardware and software. If you opt for managed web hosting, shop around and find the service provider that will best meet your needs. Hosting companies will usually show a comparison of their different packages. You can see examples of different packages on sites like VI.net, or you can read articles on sites like lifehacker.com that talk about the top web hosting companies and what they offer.

 

Saving Money with Colocation in Canadian Data Centres

If you are a business owner or executive, finding ways to save money on IT is probably high on your “To-Do List.” As necessary and vital as technology is to running virtually any kind of organization, it can also represent a bit of a budgetary black hole – and an area of the company where you might struggle to make the right choices and investments.

What you may not know already, however, is that reducing your IT expenditures doesn’t necessarily have to mean making hard choices between budgets, performance, and reliability. In fact, thousands of companies throughout Canada and the world are actually getting more from IT while saving money through the process of colocation.

How Colocation Works

In a traditional IT department, servers, networking equipment, and other pieces of technology are stored together in some remote portion of an office or facility. These typically receive attention only when something stops working the way it’s supposed to, and then the repair process can be lengthy and expensive – especially if new hardware or equipment is needed.

With colocation, things are simplified. Instead of keeping technology equipment on site, companies outsource those needs and simply lease what they need at a given point in time. In other words, they stop holding on to their own servers and networking equipment and simply use space on a business data centre located elsewhere.

Aside from the obvious benefits that come with not having to buy and install their own hardware, businesses gain tremendous advantages through the use of colocation in Canadian data centres.

5 Key Benefits of Colocation in a Canadian Data Centre

1. Lowered hardware costs. Actually, most businesses can eliminate their networking hardware costs altogether with colocation. That’s because, instead of investing tens of thousands of dollars in new equipment on a regular schedule, you pay a low monthly fee to use what you need. For most companies, that means a very significant cost savings. It also means they can stop worrying about the kinds of unplanned hardware investments decision-makers at every level worry about most.

2. Better technology and performance. Even though cost savings are a major attraction when it comes to colocation, you shouldn’t overlook the actual performance upgrades that are possible, as well. Because technology investments and upgrades can be pooled and shared over several different businesses in a data centre, you ultimately end up getting access to better equipment than most companies would purchase on their own. And, because performance is important to marketing colocation services, savvy IT providers upgrade to newer models all the time, meaning you get the very best for less.

3. Lower overall IT expenses. Aside from the obvious hardware savings, most companies that make the switch to colocation enjoy lower IT expenses in other areas, too. This often stems from the fact that software packages can be leased on similar monthly agreements, and that they suffer fewer problems associated with software and hardware failure. In other words, colocation in a Canadian data centre means fewer errors and less downtime. Those might be difficult costs to calculate, but every business leader knows the impact they can have on the bottom line.

4. The flexibility to scale technology up or down. Managing technology can be incredibly difficult if your company is growing too quickly, if only because the sudden need for more hardware and bandwidth can make expansion costs prohibitive. Even worse, if you need to scale your technology or operations back to save money, you might be faced with the uncomfortable prospect of selling equipment you’ve purchased at a loss. With a colocation plan in place, both of these problems are alleviated because you can scale your services up or down as needed – in an instant, and without any long-term financial repercussions.

5. Increased IT security. You don’t have to pay much attention to the news to know that the security of your technology is more important than it’s ever been in the past. What better way to keep data safe and sound than by having it stored and backed up regularly in a secure, climate-controlled, and continuously monitored environment? The average Canadian data centre is many times more safe and reliable than the office building or facility they replace.

Colocation Gives Businesses a Bit of Everything

For most organizations, and especially those that don’t have the resources to obtain or purchase high-performance technology equipment, colocation offers a number of important financial and performance benefits without any trade-offs. It’s no wonder so many companies are looking to Canadian data centres for colocation in 2014… shouldn’t yours be one of them?

To learn more, click here.

SMBs Benefit From Hybrid Cloud Data Storage And Federated Clouds

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Ted Navarro, a technical writer and inbound marketer for ComputeNext – an innovative marketplace company. Check out the ComputeNext blog for the latest postings and engage in the discussions on cloud computing and IaaS technolgy by clicking here. Or you can follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

hybrid

Federated hybrid clouds allow businesses to distribute their data in accordance with their priorities while leveraging the full advantage of the cloud.

In spite of the obvious benefits of cloud data storage, many small and medium businesses are hesitant to entrust all of their data to the cloud. Cloud storage offers lower management and support burdens, lower capital expenditure, greater scalability, and increased opportunities for collaboration.

Nevertheless, the cloud is not perfect. Managers worry about availability issues: connectivity problems could bring a business to a standstill if mission critical data was unreachable. Some data is considered too important to entrust to the cloud; in spite of cloud providers’ considerable efforts to ensure the security of data, influencers within businesses have IP, security, and privacy concerns.

Hybrid cloud storage offers a solution that helps businesses resolve their cloud concerns without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Not all data is equally important. The majority of data that businesses generate does not need to be accessible constantly. Although most cloud vendors do in fact manage to maintain levels of availability that equal or exceed those of in-house solutions, it’s always possible that a natural disaster will knock out connectivity to the data center and render data unreachable.

To handle “expect the unexpected” scenarios, businesses are implementing hybrid solutions that allow them to leverage the benefits of the cloud while also maintaining data availability. A core set of data that must be consistently available can be kept on-site, with the rest moved up to the cloud. The burden on in-house IT staff and infrastructure is slashed while allowing businesses to be confident that their most important data is kept close by.

In other cases, instead of splitting their data between public and private clouds, businesses are using public cloud storage for backup and redundancy. Maintaining adequate numbers of servers on-site to provide a fully redundant system is wasteful when less expensive replication can be achieved by moving data to the cloud. Additionally, backups should be off-site to be truly effective, and the cloud allows for low-complexity automated off-site backup processes.

The cloud is not an all-or-nothing solution. There are significant business benefits to be reaped from implementations that spread data storage across multiple locations. In many cases, it’s advisable to also use different vendors for maximal redundancy.

An ideal scenario might see essential data held on a private cloud within a business’ firewall and replicated onto a cloud vendor’s platform for backup. Less crucial archival data may be placed with another vendor. Data that needs to be available on a short time scale and integrated with logistics or customer relationship management applications may be stored with yet another vendor. Vendor diversification is a powerful strategy for business continuity.

In that scenario, the company’s IT infrastructure moves beyond the simple private-public split of the hybrid cloud and becomes a true federated cloud. In previous years, maintaining a federated multi-cloud environment would have been more work than it was worth for a small business, but since the advent of cloud marketplaces that allow for the comparison and selection of vendors and the management of federated environments from one interface, redundant federated clouds are well within the reach of small and medium businesses.

How to Migrate Your Call Centre Into the Cloud

In a previous post, we looked at the many advantages to moving your customer service call centre into a cloud platform, which included the possibility of huge cost savings combined with higher customer satisfaction. Today, we want to look at the process of actually migrating your call centre into the cloud. In other words, we’ll look at what it takes to actually turn that money-saving vision into a reality.

The actual process will vary, of course, from one company to the next. Moreover, your specific steps will probably depend a bit on the size of your business, where your calls will be routed to in the future, and what Canadian data centre you’ll be working with for colocation.

However, the template below should apply very well for most situations. Moreover, it will help to dispel the widespread myth that moving your call centre into a cloud has to be expensive, time-consuming, or problematic. Few things could be further from the case. In fact, most businesses find that the transition is incredibly quick and smooth. The only real issue is figuring out why they didn’t make the switch sooner.

cardboard-box-clouds-powerspin-325x243

Steps Involved in Migrating to a Cloud-Based Call Centre

So, what does it actually take to move your customer service calls into the cloud? Here are the steps most businesses will follow:

1. Choose a data centre for colocation. This is an important piece of the puzzle, since the right environment for your cloud platform is essential. You want to work with a partner who can guarantee lots of uptime, maximum security, and “extras” like automatic file backup on a regular basis. Biased as we might be, we recommend you consider a Canadian data centre for the most reliable technicians in a stable, accessible environment.

2. Make a plan for your migration. In most cases, this doesn’t have to be complicated, just an outline of the actual system to be transferred, a date and time for the migration to be executed, and all the relevant details like telephone numbers or server addresses for customer records. Additionally, your plan might contain information on backups and contingencies, just in case systems are offline for a few minutes during the transition.

3. Train your staff for your new customer service platform. Typically, when businesses make the switch to cloud call centres, they upgrade their capabilities at the same time. That means your team might have access to information they didn’t have before, which could require a little bit of training. Or, you might decide this is a great time to overhaul your entire customer service experience to meet a higher standard of satisfaction. Either way, it’s a good idea to ensure that staff members are informed about the switch and ready to move forward.

4. Port your telephone numbers from one location to another. Moving your customer service contacts into the cloud doesn’t have to mean surrendering the telephone numbers you already have (and your customers already know). Most major telecommunications providers can actually port numbers to a new location within just a few minutes, but it’s a good idea to give them a healthy amount of lead time if it’s at all possible. That way, you can be sure things will work the way they’re supposed to.

5. Keep a close eye on your customer service performance. Once you’ve moved your call centre into the cloud and had your numbers ported, you are ready to begin with your virtual setup. All there is left to do at this point is keep an eye on your most important customer service metrics to ensure that your staff is handling the transition smoothly.

Don’t Let the Fear of Call Centre Migration Hold You Back

Some companies end up spending far, far more than they should – one quarter after another – because they are afraid to undergo the process of migrating their call centre into the cloud. While this is understandable for those who aren’t familiar with the technology, it’s also a case where a little bit of misinformation can hurt your bottom line in a big way. Don’t be afraid to make the switch, because the process itself is likely to be very simple and the benefits to your business could be tremendous.

Ready to take the first step? Start your search a data centre that provides colocation services by clicking here.

The Impact of the Heartbleed Bug on Business

The Heartbleed bug has swept across the nation, impacting a countless number of businesses and consumers. The bug is a vulnerability in OpenSSL, which is the name of a 1998 project that was started to encrypt websites and user information across the web. What started as a project committed to data encryption is now standard on 2/3 of all websites on the Internet. Without OpenSSL, our personal information submitted across every website we visit could land in the hands of cyber criminals. Ironically, the OpenSSL software that was designed to protect users contained a flaw that made it possible for hackers to trick a server into spewing out the data that was held in its memory.

14b6heartbleed-affected-sites-660x369-400x223

When news of the Heartbleed struck, business scrambled to find out how many of their systems were using the vulnerable version of OpenSSL. While the big web companies, such as Google and Yahoo, were able to move fast to fix the problem – smaller e-commerce sites are struggling to “patch” the software quickly. As the larger sites close the door on the Heartbleed bug, hackers are turning their attention to any small and medium businesses that may not have the knowledge or manpower to update and protect their e-commerce sites accordingly.

However, regardless of the size of the business, if customers learn that a company’s system has been hacked and their personal information was compromised, legal issues could arise. Angered customers – and their lawyers – will look to hold businesses accountable for any personal data that lands in the hands of hackers. Businesses need to communicate with their customers to inform them what steps have – and will be – taken to fix the problem. That way, customers can update their passwords accordingly once a business has confirmed that their site is clean.

Many of the impacted sites are not just popular for personal usage, but are used every day by businesses of all sizes. Companies will need to follow the same steps as their customers and wait to receive confirmation from any frequently used websites that the issue has been resolved before changing their passwords. It’s also important to realize that other devices, such as Android smart phones and tablets, are vulnerable to the bug as well.

The Heartbleed bug ordeal is just another reminder of the security challenges companies are facing as more and more economic activity move online. According to eMarketer, an independent research organization, worldwide business-to-consumer e-commerce sales are likely to increase to $1.5 trillion this year. With money like that on the line, you can bet cyber criminals will be vigorously targeting businesses to try and get a piece of the pie. Companies need to take all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their customers.

To learn more about protecting your business, click here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

Are You Too Worried About Cloud Security?

Should you wait, or push forward? Is it better to embrace the new technology, or to wait for it to be improved and refined? These are questions that come up again and again in virtually every part of the business world, but they seem particularly apt when it comes to the phenomenon that is cloud computing – the hottest IT trend in the world and a way for businesses of all sizes to gain huge performance advantages on smaller budgets.

cloud secrure

On the surface, there isn’t much not to love about cloud computing. By moving your hardware and software to a remote location and accessing it via the web, you gain the ability to access real-time information from any web-enabled device… and all while taking advantage of those cost savings we already mentioned. A relatively sizable minority of small businesses is holding off on making the transition just yet, however, because they have concerns about cloud security.

Should you wait right alongside them? Or, is worrying too much about cloud security holding you back from making a decision that can help your company? As always, there isn’t a cut-and-dried answer to that question. While security breaches have been relatively rare, there have been some valid concerns when it comes to cloud security at some facilities, and with some vendors. However, those concerns shouldn’t be pressing enough to stop most organizations from making the switch.

To understand why, consider the basic model that most reputable cloud computing package providers employ to keep data safe. Generally speaking they do deter, prevent, correct, and detect – or do everything they can to scare thieves away, stop them from accessing data, limit the damage they can do, and then fix any known security issues quickly. To get a sense of how that actually works in the real world, consider some of the major safeguards that cloud computing providers using Canadian data centres put into place to protect the flow and integrity of client data:

Maximum strength encryption: In the best Canadian colocation data centres, high-level encryption is used for the transmission of files to and from client workstations. Although maximum strength encryption can theoretically be broken, cyber criminals almost always look for smaller and easier targets that are more vulnerable.

Comprehensive antivirus scanning: It isn’t unusual for a single virus, introduced by the wrong download or email attachment, to infect multiple computers within the same small business network quickly. At a state-of-the-art cloud computing facility, however, continuous antivirus scans mean that bits of problematic code are identified and quarantined very quickly.

On-site protection: In a lot of small businesses, servers, backup hard drives, and other pieces of hardware containing sensitive data are often left completely unguarded and out in the open. At a cloud facility, trained security personnel are on the premises around the clock – as are engineers and systems experts to monitor the hardware and flow of information.

Redundancy systems: When you lose an important piece of hardware in your office or facility, it’s likely that the important files you need have disappeared forever. Because files stored in the cloud are continuously backed up, however, even a natural disaster won’t cause you to lose information like client records that you desperately need to keep your company going.

Environmental controls. You can’t find a better environment for cloud computing than the ones you’ll find in our Canadian data centres, where continuous power backups, strict climate control, and a lack of natural disasters all work in our favor. Plus, we have a very stable government with strict privacy laws, so you don’t have to worry that any organization is going to have an unauthorized look through your company’s records.

When it comes down to it, we can’t guarantee beyond every doubt that a security breach will never take place at our cloud facility, or at any of the others across the country. What we can promise you, however, is that the steps we take to safeguard important information are much, much stronger than the ones you would find in most corporate offices… and certainly at a higher level than the ones most small businesses use.

The issue, then, isn’t whether cloud security should be a concern, but whether you can really believe that you’re safer without cloud computing in a Canadian data centre.

To learn more about cloud computing, check out our white paper Cutting IT Costs with Cloud Computing.

The Great NSA Debate has Companies Moving to Canada

tdwfb

This week, privacy advocates around the world staged a protest online in an attempt to protect their data and company information from the world’s government intelligence agencies. Over 6,000 websites took part in the protest, which was branded as “The Day We Fight Back” campaign, by displaying banners at the bottom of their web pages to encourage individuals and companies to participate. Heavy hitters like Google, Twitter, and Mozilla took part in the protest.

Even though the protest itself was more of a whimper than a roar, the controversy over government surveillance still had a significant impact on the businesses economy south of the Canadian border. A recent estimate completed by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation stated that the American economy could stand to lost up to $35 billion in lost revenues as a result. Because of our proximity to the U.S., skilled workforce, cold climate, and affordable energy sources, Canada is a very ideal location for businesses who no longer want to house their data in the States. Several businesses have already made the move to a Canadian-based data centre, including European banking and insurance firms with operations in the States as well as American retail outlets and oil and gas companies.

SouvenirofCanada_026

Telus and Rogers are expecting data storage sales in Canada to increase by 20% this year, not including the number of businesses seeking refuge from the ever-watching eye of the NSA. Though it would be naive to assume to any data stored in Canada is fully exempt from government surveillance, there are stricter rules on what government agencies can access. The Canadian Privacy Act, established in 1983, limits the amount of personal information the government can collect, use, and disclose.

So what does this mean for Canadian businesses? With more businesses looking for storage in data centre colocation facilities, there will be increased competition for space. Data centres are a finite resource. Once the space is gone – it’s gone, putting pressure on Canadian companies to get their foot in the door before the data centre is full. Many companies will also be looking to utilize cloud computing services, further driving the demand.

There will also be an increased need for bandwidth as businesses transfer data to their colocation facility or cloud, so obtaining a reliable and secure high speed connection is critical. In order to obtain the full benefits of cloud computing, users will require a symmetrical connection so they can upload and download data at an efficient rate.

To learn more about Canadian data centres, click here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

%d bloggers like this: