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How Reliable Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is reliably flexible, scalable, and—in most use cases—cost-effective. But what about in other areas? How reliable is cloud computing for performance, connectivity, and security? And what can be done to improve cloud computing reliability once you have committed to a cloud-based IT infrastructure?

Before answering the key question of how reliable is cloud computing, let´s first address the assumption that cloud computing is reliably flexible, scalable and—in most use cases—cost-efficient. Certainly, it is hard to imagine any more flexible and scalable IT infrastructure than the cloud, where you can add and subtract assets with the click of a mouse, but the cloud is not necessarily cost-effective.

In most use cases, businesses can save a considerable amount by migrating to the cloud—not only due to the pay-only-for-what-you-use nature of cloud pricing, but also due to increased productivity, being able to move faster to market, lower utility costs, and reduced staff costs. However, migrating to the cloud without changing certain processes can result in not achieving the cost savings you expect.

The pay-only-for-what-you-use pricing concept is the reverse of the sunk costs of on-premises IT infrastructures, and cloud costs can quickly spiral out of control if assets are not managed properly or optimized. Gartner estimates organizations that have done little or no cloud cost optimization are overspending by 70% or more—practically eliminating the financial benefit of migrating to the cloud.

How reliable is cloud computing in other areas?

It is fair to say there can be issues with cloud computing performance, connectivity, and security. Some of the issues can be attributed cloud computing in general, others can be attributed to cloud service users. Wherever the “fault” lies, there is usually a solution that results in reliable cloud computing. You just have to identify there is a problem, establish its cause, and find a solution.

Take performance for example. Because the public cloud is a multi-tenanted environment, multiple customers’ applications and data are hosted on a single architecture. When one Virtual Machine (VM) or application on the single architecture uses the majority of the shared resources, it can affect network performance for all the other VMs and applications hosted on the architecture.

If you identify a reliability issue with performance, you can see if it is due to a “noisy neighbor” by moving the asset to another Availability Zone or to a bare metal environment in which the asset is installed directly on hardware rather than within the host operating system. If this doesn´t resolve the reliability issue, the cause is likely an under-provisioning of the asset.

Reliable cloud computing connectivity

Cloud computing has many benefits, but you won’t be able to take advantage of any of them if you are unable to connect with your cloud service provider’s data center. Most cloud service providers offer Service Level Agreements in which they will make “commercially reasonable efforts” to deliver 99.9 percent uptime. If they fail to meet their commitment, you receive a “service credit”.

Receiving a service credit for a service you have not received is standard business practice; but when the service you don’t receive takes your business offline, the loss can be far more significant than the value of the credit. Fortunately, service outages are infrequent due to redundancy safeguards implemented by cloud service providers; so connectivity is mostly reliable, but not guaranteed.

The closest you can get to guaranteed 100 percent uptime is to share your assets between multiple cloud service providers and/or your on-premises IT infrastructure. In this way, if one cloud service provider goes offline, you won´t. This solution can make the management of your assets a little more complicated, but it is the best way to ensure reliable cloud computing connectivity.

The perceived reliability of cloud security

The perceived reliability of cloud security is one of the biggest obstacles to cloud adoption and is largely attributable to the fact you do not own or control the systems your data is stored on. Mostly it is the case the concept feels insecure rather than the mechanisms protecting the integrity of your data, as cloud-based systems are often built more securely than on-premises systems protected by a firewall.

Most security experts agree it is not the location of data that matters, but the means of access. Indeed, according to IBM´s “X-Force Threat Intelligence Index”, the vast majority of security incidents last year were attributable to misconfigured assets, phishing, unsecured personal devices, and authentication credentials stored on open repositories—hardly the fault of the cloud service provider

The evidence suggests weak links in cloud security are at user level; and to ensure reliable cloud computing in terms of security, it is the responsibility of the service user rather than the service provider to secure their assets. In this respect, vulnerability testing and constant security monitoring are essential to protect your assets in the cloud. Ultimately, the cloud is only as secure as you make it.

What can be done to improve cloud computing reliability?

The reliability of performance, connectivity, and security in the cloud can all be improved at the user level. Businesses can optimize under-performing assets or move them to quieter neighborhoods, spread assets among multiple cloud service providers to mitigate the risk of a connectivity issue and enforce policies and best practices to tighten up security.

These actions require time and organization, but CloudHealth’s cloud management platform can reduce the time spent organizing your assets—and help you optimize your cloud costs—by analyzing and managing the performance of your inventory and its security, and maintaining the governance of your cloud thereafter via policy-driven automation.

Also, creating a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) can allow your company to utilize all the benefits of cloud computing. A CCoE is a cross-functional working group of people that govern the usage of the cloud across an organization and drive best practices across functions. The CCoE spans three areas of excellence: cloud financial management, cloud operations, and cloud security compliance. By creating a CCoE, your company can achieve visibility, optimization, governance and automation, and business integration into your cloud environment. Learn more about growing and best practices in a multicloud environment here.