Peace of mind in the cloud

Article Maggie Holland Jan 29, 2012

Many businesses are concerned about not being able to access data and applications in the cloud, but availability levels are generally much better than traditional, on-premise solutions.

A presentation. An important contact. An email message from two weeks ago with the write-up from that ever so productive brainstorming session. It doesn't really matter what the data is - it's all important to your business.

Indeed, as the saying goes, information is the lifeblood of any business. So why would you want to put your most vital asset in someone else's hands? After all, that's what cloud computing is about - handing over control and waving goodbye to accessibility, right? Well, not exactly.

Many cloud providers will offer more than decent service level agreements (SLAs). As part of the contract of business, the two parties will agree certain parameters when it comes to what is deemed as acceptable availability wise. 

This agreement can be determined on a case-by-case basis, where you could well end up paying the same and getting a raw deal compared to A N Other who's just that little bit better at negotiating than you. Others offer the same uptime guarantee to all, regardless of the size of contract or business in question.

Naturally, which SLA type you go for depends on just how important system and service uptime is to you. An online business operating on a global scale across multiple time zones might place accessibility much higher up on the agenda than a school that operates purely in term time, for example. 

Of course, there lies the difficult job for the majority of businesses nestling between the two examples mentioned above; working out what accessibility really means. 

Imagine you're a business with a number of home workers. Your email and application servers are all located safely within the confines of your office environment and employees simply use the company VPN whenever they want to access something on your network. Sounds simple enough. And it is, until something out of the ordinary happens, such as a power cut. 

If the digger on the building site next to your organisation accidentally cuts through one of the key cables running to your servers or the local grid just happens to have an outage, not only are your in-house workers sat there twiddling their thumbs, your remote workforce suffers too. Not so in the cloud.

It doesn't matter how much the electrical or connectivity gods are conspiring against the area your business is based in, if you're using a cloud-based system, you're guaranteed access. 

And, if the worst does happen, and that guarantee fails, virtual heads will roll. 

In a world where competitive advantage can change if someone is able to access data a split second before you, availability and accessibility become everything. (Take a look at the Productivity in the Cloud article for more information on just how productive you can be when using cloud computing).

It's not so much putting your organisation's data in someone else's hands as letting the experts take care of your business applications and services so you can really take care of business. 

Microsoft Office 365 responds to your company's needs for availability by:

  • Offering a 99.9 per cent uptime guarantee. 
  • Providing monetary compensation if, for some reason, that guarantee fails.
  • Giving the IT department cloud-based management tools, accessed via an admin interface, to control access to what users can see and do, as well as providing real-time visibility into the status of Office 365 services. 
  • Delivering enterprise-grade security so you can be sure that only those you trust and authorise are accessing your data when it's available. 
  • Complying with the ISO 27001 standard so you can be confident of the integrity of the data workers are accessing. 
  • Blending together familiar Office productivity applications so users can access those features and functionality, wherever they are and on whatever device. 

Rather than worrying about handing over responsibility of some of your IT infrastructure, you should be welcoming the fact that your infrastructure will become more robust.