What is Cloud Computing? Part 5 – Cloud Challenges

In the first 4 parts of this series, we defined the Cloud and discussed some of its many advantages. Which brings up an interesting question—“Are there any potential pitfalls of migrating your business to a Cloud Computing environment?” We’ll explore that issue in this post.

One issue that has to be addressed when planning a Cloud migration is the connection to the Internet. Most businesses only have a single Internet circuit. If the Internet circuit goes out, most employees can still do a limited amount of work on their personal computers (PCs). As long as the Internet outage doesn’t last too long, it isn’t a debilitating problem (some would argue that due to the proliferation of cloud-based applications like email and Google Docs, this statement is debatable).

But in a Cloud Computing environment based on desktop virtualization, an Internet outage means that employees do not have access to their desktops until Internet service is restored. Obviously, that is not a good situation. So how can this risk be mitigated?

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What is Cloud Computing? Part 4 – “The Cloud”

I suppose if we are going to talk about Cloud Computing, then we need to define the term “Cloud”. The following animation provides a simple and somewhat amusing explanation of the Cloud.

However, after watching this video, you might get the impression that the Cloud is simply a good place to store your data. While this is true, it is only one component of the Cloud.

The next video gives a broader and slightly more historical perspective of the Cloud. If you are a little “geeky”, this will definitely appeal to you.

Okay, if you are still awake, let’s finish with something a little more “peppy”.

Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere. Besides the fact that any presentation involving Legos is super cool, the message conveyed in this short video is that the Cloud has evolved to mean multiple things which are especially important to businesses! The most important components of the cloud include:

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What happened to EBS Snapshot Scheduler?

Anyone who uses AWS knows the value of EBS snapshots.  Not only are snapshots the backbone for any solid backup strategy but can also assist with instance migrations and replication.  While manual snapshots are useful for testing changes or for AMI builds, a backup strategy depends on snapshot automation and retention policies.  When I first began working with AWS, automating snapshots was done through the EBS Snapshot Scheduler.  For AWS architects and system admins, this tool was invaluable.  An AWS provided CloudFormation template provided all required resources for the scheduler to run.  The CloudFormation template launched a single stack and prompted the user for a tag name, default snapshot time, whether to enable autosnapshot deletion and, if so, what the retention period should be.  Once your config was set, you simply tagged your resources with the custom tag you entered in the stack and your backups were on cruise control (of course any Admin “worth their salt” still performed period checks and snapshot verifications).

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AWS: Using Openswan for site-to-site VPN

You’ve decided to join the growing group of smart, bold businesses trailblazers by moving your network operations to the “Cloud”. And, of course, you’ve done your homework and decided that AWS is the only way to go. Good for you! Now comes the big question—“How do I connect my on premise workstations to my AWS VPC (Virtual Private Cloud—click here if you need a quick VPC refresher). You can certainly get it done by using AWS’ managed VPN service. This service consists of creating a Virtual Private Gateway in your AWS VPC to establish a site-to-site connection with your on premise VPN firewall (don’t you just LOVE the smell of VPNs in the morning!!). While this is a solid solution, the rate of $0.05/VPN per hour (ouch!) can get a bit costly if you have more than one VPN tunnel running (think multiple remote offices, like a large real estate brokerage). A cheaper alternative is to use a “software VPN” like Openswan that runs on a Linux-based EC2 instance. Although the cost of an m4.large instance on a 3-year Reserved Instance convertible term is basically the same as the AWS managed firewall, you can manage several tunnels on a single Openswan instance, which results in a significant cost savings if you have multiple tunnels. If this sounds like something right up your alley (or, if you are the more adventurous type), we’ve put together a short “How to” that should have your Openswan VPN tunnels up and running in short order.

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