Tag Archives: the cloud

The Cloud in Times of Trouble: How It Works for Small Biz When Disaster Strikes

The understatement of late 2012, when it comes to technology: systems suffer when the environment is extreme.

The Cloud in Times of TroubleWe saw this, of course, in late October, as New York, New Jersey, and parts of the East Coast lost power, public transportation — and lives — during the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy.

The human toll being the most critical at such times, it can take a while for the challenges of running a small business to return to their normal focus. But later, when the sky has cleared and life must resume something of its normal routine, challenges do loom. For small-business owners, this means bringing their data infrastructure back online.

Payrolls. Repairs. Contact lists of vendors and customers — for all kinds of reasons these become more critical than ever. Has your IT core been protected? Have you lost the data that everyone relies upon to get back to bringing in a paycheck?

Let’s look at the cloud, and the role that professionals working with it daily see it playing during not only Sandy, but also future crisis events.

Data First Responders and the Cloud

“During disasters, IT teams become first responders tasked with trying to keep the business operational,” says Todd Krautkremer, vice president of marketing at cloud-network company Pertino.

Krautkremer blogged about the role of the cloud in the days after Sandy: “They often have to deal with a wide range of issues, including keeping back-up power running, physically relocating servers, and grappling with an entire workforce that suddenly needs secure remote access.”

So, hats off to the IT crews out there. But one way to avoid having to count on too few pros being in demand by too many hurting businesses during a post-disaster demand peak: the cloud.

Ensuring that your small business’s data is protected means making your data non-reliant upon geography. Think about it: if it’s not physically stored in the path of harm, restarting your business after an emergency requires only finding power and a working computer — not scrambling to find your data.

And that’s not as bad as facing the prospect of waterlogged hard drives and a wrecked set of servers. Even if you feel more comfortable storing your most-sensitive business information in-house, having a series of cloud servers to which you can migrate that material in stages as a crisis approaches, this is key to securing it from the elements.

Scaling Up, Scaling Down: Small Biz to the Federal Gov’t

The cloud’s role in disaster response and recovery is something businesses of all sizes acknowledge.

The General Services Administration saw the value of the cloud early on, says Casey Coleman, chief information officer for the federal department. As an early adopter, the GSA was able to provide access to its servers and help with emergency response and recovery during and after Sandy’s arrival in the U.S.

“GSA’s cloud conversion prevented complications from the Verizon outage, which would have led to interruptions in these services for GSA users in New York and New Jersey,” Coleman told FCW, a publication that covers the business of federal tech.

It is a problem not likely to vanish from small-business and other operators’ list of concerns. The changes that are now becoming  best practices, Krautkremer  blogged,  are changes based in the cloud.

“One thing is for sure,” he wrote. “The sky will open-up and wreak havoc again in the future. The next time it does, SMB IT organizations can look to the cloud.”

 

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Why the Cloud Resonates With Consumers

Cloud ComputingMany services and technologies have come and gone over the last few decades. Some stick. Others have to pack it in for numerous reasons. Right now, it seems cloud computing is on an upward trajectory and shows no evidence of letting up. While the technology enabling the cloud is what drives its success, many factors have to go just right for a service to experience this type of buzz.So far, cloud computing has hit the right notes and is enjoying its moment in the spotlight. Here are just a few reasons why the cloud has consumer appeal.

The Name

What sounds more appealing? Software as a service (Saas), utility computing, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or the cloud? Referring to this technology simply as “the cloud” took it from the depths of some server rack in the back of an IT department and placed it front-and-center for both consumers and IT staff. “The cloud” is more accessible and more colorful than “utility computing.” Without the moniker, who knows if cloud computing would have been given the chance to reach its potential.

And who, you ask, coined the phrase “cloud computing?” That depends on where you direct the question. There are references to the cloud going back to 1997 when a trademark application for the term cropped up (the trademark attempt was later abandoned). It was a term mentioned in The New York Times in 2001, described as a “cloud of computers.”

In August 2006, Google’s Eric Schmidt described its approach to SaaS as cloud computing. It seems this was the first mainstream use of the term as its currently understood.

According to author John M. Willis, “I think this was the first high profile usage of the term, where not just ‘cloud’ but ‘cloud computing’ was used to refer to SaaS, and since it was in the context of Google, the term picked up the PaaS/IaaS connotations associated with the Google way of managing data centers and infrastructure.

“Much like ‘Web 2.0,’ cloud computing was a collection of related concepts that people recognized, but didn’t really have a good descriptor for, a definition in search of a term, you could say. When Schmidt used it in 2006 to describe their own stuff and then Amazon included the word ‘cloud’ in EC2 when it was launched a few weeks later, the term became mainstream.”

The Freedom

A big key to cloud computing adoption is that it has achieved an ease of use that anyone with an email address and credit card can start to see what the fuss is about. Free, limited accounts with simple sign-ups have gotten many people comfortable enough that they’re willing to try out paid, full-service accounts.

And there is a sense of freedom at being able to get stuff done without having to physically be at a work station or in the home office. This ability can be very liberating, especially when you’re on the road and need to access something important. The cloud allows you to go about your life and work in a streamlined manner, and if an emergency arises where you need specific information immediately, the cloud has you covered.

The References

The cloud already has worked its way into pop culture. On FX, a comedy called “The League” features a group of friends who participate in an NFL fantasy football league. “The League” is probably not a show that you’d want to watch with children or grandma because a.) it’s on FX, b.) double entendres galore and c.) common decency. But it’s well-written, topical and, in my opinion, super funny.

One of the characters named Taco, a slacker who’s not quite with it, waxes philosophic on the cloud during a conversation with characters Ruxin and Kevin.

Ruxin: “Are you baked all the time?”

Taco: “Oh, not this baked! I just wish I could walk around in a cloud of it all day long. ‘To the cloud!”

Kevin: “All right… you realize that that’s just a cloud of data pushing itself wirelessly through different devices?”

Taco: [snorts] “Now who sounds baked?”

 

 

How the Cloud Reduced Our Newlywed Stress

Cloud Storage for PhotosDespite having been through it all once before, I made the rookie bridegroom mistake of thinking that once the wedding was done, all of the stresses involved in that specific day in our lives would be over. After all, the wedding had gone off without a hitch, everyone involved had a good time, we had a great destination event with family and friends, and being in our 50’s, I thought we had all of the bases covered. After all, this was the second time around for both of us.

I was wrong.

Despite a pretty high level of technical awareness, my years of focusing on business technology, from basic hardware through designing data centers had ill prepared me for the changes that had happened in a small corner of the  consumer technology world; the wedding photographs.

The first time I got married, sometime back in the 20th century, the wedding photo book process went like this: The photographer sent you proofs, you picked out the photos that you liked, the photographer delivered a wedding book made up of those prints. You complained about some part of it, then went on with your life.

It doesn’t seem to work like that anymore.

We received 7 gigabytes worth of pictures on CD; this might seem like a good thing (it did to my wife) but to me it meant that there were close to a thousand images that had to be sorted through. And as a fairly decent amateur photographer, it meant that I could look at an image and see how just the right post processing might make it a better picture.

So much for the simple yes/no judgment for each of those images.

To make it worse, my wife really wanted to be able to create lots of different photo books, with the intent to eventually print them. A book for her parents, a book for mine, one for her bridesmaids, one for my only sibling (we had taken lots of pictures the day before the wedding itself).  And while she was more than willing to start sorting images, it was up to me to do the post processing. And get her the two or three hundred images that she had narrowed her selection down to for all those different photo books.

Traveling photos

To make my life just a little more complex, my wife’s job requires that she travel a fair amount. And when she traveled for business she often met up with old friends and wanted to show them the wedding pictures. This meant that before she left on each trip she would ask me to put a selection of the pictures on her tablet. Of course, I never seemed to have the pictures she wanted available to be copied to her tablet, with the post processing of the images being relatively low priority in the crush of events that define our lives.

Fortunately for our marriage, the cloud actually came to the rescue. Using a cloud backup service with a client for her tablet, I was able to create some working directories that replicated to the cloud from my desktop, and she was able to pull images that she wanted to show off down to her tablet whenever she wanted them, eventually deciding on a core set of images that she stored locally, and others that she downloaded to show specific people. Most importantly, from the husband perspective, was that it took me out of the loop. She had all of her images available, without using up a large percentage of her local storage, she could see what images were in the pre-or post-processing stage, and with a simple email to me, while she traveled, she could ask to have a specific image edited to her liking, often so she could have it printed out for a family member she was seeing in her travels.

It’s been six months and she’s still trying to decide which images get printed for who, but with the cloud making all of the pictures available to her wherever she happens to be, my honey-do list has gotten significantly shorter.