Is Cloud Computing Right For Me?

A lot has been said lately about Cloud Computing technology. With so many companies providing Cloud hosting, and many more migrating or starting their online presence in the Cloud, this technology is becoming a choice for businesses that want to have an online presence.

What is Cloud?

First, let’s begin with a quick background on Cloud Computing. Cloud Computing technology is the possibility of offering computing power (in the form of servers) and storage (in the form of hard drives) as a remote service. This means that a server can be started or stopped and the amount of available storage can be changed at any given time, from any location. Cloud technology allows for auto-scaling of these variables making it very responsive to fluctuating workloads.
For example, you could decide to have a server that is turned on from Monday through Friday during business hours, and that turns off automatically, following predefined rules, at night and over the weekend. Or perhaps, your server receives very heavy traffic once a week but has much lighter traffic on the other days. Cloud technology would enable you to add web servers or increase the processing power of the server just for the specific period of heavy traffic.

Some cons

Unfortunately, Cloud technology does have its cons: Price and Performance can be affected negatively if the initial design has not been done correctly. Since Cloud technology is very elastic, good design is essential. Knowing how many servers, their type and size, for how long they should run, and which metrics to use for the automatic scaling is elemental for any design. Inadequate Cloud design can bring unexpected and unnecessary expenses. The performance in Cloud is also very “elastic”. Increasing the processing capacity of a server could help increase its performance, if the application is based mainly in data processing. But, most web servers today have databases, multiple images, can send emails, and so on. All of these processes might entail a very high (intensive) hard disk utilization. Therefore, sites with an intensive database usage may not always fully benefit from the Cloud, if they are not designed properly.
However, there are several options that can help improve the perfomance of the Cloud, such as RAID, Load Balancing, etc. These are fairly easy to implement, but will incur higher monthly costs.

And the pros

If the last paragraph gave the impression that I don’t recommend using the Cloud, to the contrary.
I believe Cloud Computing technology is an excellent choice when it is backed up by good design. Having the option to increase or decrease your site’s capacity when the number of visits goes up or down, and thus ALWAYS be available, is fundamental to maintaining a professional online presence. And, if you need a way to store your files, backups, etc. in a secure and reliable place, without being concerned that you’ll run out of space, Cloud is a great option.

Remote access

Most Cloud providers also include the option to connect to your set of servers as if they were connected to your local network. Using VPN technologies for remote access, you can connect to your Cloud provider and access your servers in a transparent way.

Conclusion

With more options continuously being added and prices going down every day, Cloud technology is here to stay. Having the security that your website is guaranteed to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week (without the fear that high traffic could temporarily shut it down) is reason enough to seriously consider migrating to the Cloud.

Things to keep in mind for good Cloud design:

  • How many: During peak and non-peak hours.
  • Type and size: Linux, Windows, number of CPUs, amount of memory.
  • Duration: How many hours, number of visits, etc.
  • Auto-Scaling metrics: Increase and decrease according to CPU load or free memory?

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