Cloud 101

19, 2020

Cloud 101

By Tony Abate, September 24, 2020

Let’s face it: The world of technology loves buzzwords, but terms like ethernet, hypervisor host, and Redundant Array of Independent Disks just don’t quite roll off the tongue. Call it IEEE 802.11? No, let’s call it WiFi! Cryptographic dispersed continuous database? That’s a Blockchain! Interconnected nodes hosting and consuming services? Cloud!

That last one is especially interesting considering how vague it is. The early version of what constituted a cloud was simple: It’s a network with devices. It is the norm to use a cloud image to denote a separate network in technical diagrams. Your home is a cloud if it has devices connected to each other. The internet is a cloud. There’s a cloud in every McDonald’s. If we take the tech aspect out of it you, and every person you’re connected to, form a cloud, and every person they’re connected to extends that cloud. The whole planet is a cloud.

Before we form a drum circle around that last bit, let’s examine what a cloud means in modern tech parlance today. Companies, including Nlets, have introduced services that allow customers to host their workloads within that company’s infrastructure. In the simplest of terms, that is a cloud service and those companies are cloud providers. So, what does this mean to you? It means you have a way to run and/or expand your technology infrastructure into a space where there’s less cost and human resource overhead. Too good to be true? Almost, so let’s get into the ins and outs of cloud hosting.

When cloud services first started taking off it was like a gold rush, everyone wanted to get in on it and started moving in droves. Over time they found that maybe it was more complicated than initially thought and that cloud doesn’t always mean cheaper. Since then there’s been a new push to the hybrid cloud. Some infrastructure remains on-premise while other pieces go to the cloud where it makes sense. That has helped balance the cost in favor of the customer. However, the cloud has become complex for the customer as well. New services and features, entirely new paradigms on how to accomplish technology goals have been introduced to the point where specialized training and skills are now required. The human resource overhead can easily disfavor the customer as more services are used.

It would be easy to dismiss a cloud solution but the advantages are there. Deployment time for new systems and services is quicker, maintenance tasks for the environment are lowered, the ability to quickly add resources is increased dramatically, having highly available systems and services is far easier, and cost management can be simplified as well. At the end of the day, especially in the law enforcement community, the goal is to be a more effective organization that can focus on their core mission and not on their technology infrastructure. That’s where the cloud becomes a golden opportunity. Placing some of your servers, websites, and services in the cloud allows you to be cost-effective and organization-effective all in one. Done right, there’s minimal additional human resource capital needed as well.

Even with those advantages, there are many things to consider and security is usually at the top of everyone’s mind. I’ve gone over the Nova Trust Model before. Nova, the Nlets Secure Cloud Platform, uses this model to guide an organization through the security considerations of cloud hosting. Security is critical, but for the sake of this post I’ll only be discussing how to leverage the cloud for your infrastructure.

A hybrid approach offers the most effective means to make cloud hosting work for you, but how do you identify what stays on-premise and what goes in the cloud?

Working with your tech staff and vendor partners, determine what systems and services should be classified as. It may be different depending on the organization but here’s a basic guideline for classifying your infrastructure.

  • Informational: This could be websites, blog platforms, anything that is available to the public but decoupled from internal resources. These are great candidates for cloud hosting as they simplify deployment and maintenance, reducing cost and human resources.
  • Operational: File servers, intranet sites, accounting systems, these are services that serve an internal use function but do not necessarily tie into the core mission. There are several cloud hosting opportunities to take here and it can reduce systems and storage cost, not to mention licensing fees, to do so.
  • Communications: Your primary telephony, email, chat, and meeting services can all be moved to cloud hosting services which can greatly balance the human resource requirement for other services while lowering costs.
  • Core/Critical: These are the systems that power your organization. CAD systems, message switches, databases, and other systems that are highly sensitive and must be fully reliable. This is where security considerations as well as operational control must be carefully thought out. While there are opportunities for cloud hosting here, this is very much a case by case basis.

It’s also important to remember that even if a cloud service does support what you need it to, it may still not fit within your operational flow. Disruption can be good when it leads to a more effective solution, but it usually does not happen without some level of transition pain. Also, depending on what service you consider moving, you will need to make sure that any upstream and downstream providers and consumers can work with a solution hosted in the cloud. The complexities of connected services and organizations can be daunting, and even more so when you add in cloud hosting, but the advantages can overcome the task and those connections can now be strengthened. After all, this community is a cloud.

Learn more about Nlets' cloud solution here.