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Managing the Pitfalls of a Cloud Computing Platform

Managing the Pitfalls of a Cloud Computing Platform Such as Amazon Web Services by Conducting a Comprehensive Review of Your Architecture
Managing the Pitfalls of a Cloud Computing PlatformAmazon Web Services (AWS) represents Amazon’s primary diversification from the better-recognized model of product reviews and sales.
AWS is a platform for web data storage that allows companies with computer and web-based services the opportunity to operate and store their platforms free of the excessive cost and overhead of onsite server management.  Instead of bulky servers that crash when you least want them to, you place your computer system and data in the hands of a cloud provider. The cost reductions, both present and projected over time, are staggering.
Amazon received the necessary certifications allowing it to expand its cloud computing offerings to government agencies beyond the 100 or so it already serves.  In July, inside estimates became public showing AWS as a $750 Million dollar yearly business with expected growth to hit $1 Billion by next year. Suffice to say: if you combine the increasing internet access worldwide, the burgeoning entrepreneurship of internet users, and the cost-consciousness of still largely untapped potential mega-clients like the government, AWS cloud computing stands poised to undergo awesome growth in the next decade.

Fundamental to the cloud computing model practiced by AWS is a certain level of risk tolerance on the part of the business or organization that entrusts their web life to the AWS network.  A prime example of a pitfall that became reality for companies and their customers took place in April of this year when AWS experienced a prolonged service interruption. Websites like Twitter, Hootsuite, Reddit, GroupMe, and Quora all went down as a result.  The incident shed light on the importance of having a redundant architecture and caused many large and small organizations to question their ability to design, implement and manage the correct infrastructure. It goes without saying, delays like what occurred on April 21 resulted in money gone, lost productivity and angry customers.

A common sense view of the dangers of cloud computing is one that addresses internal ways to alleviate or greatly minimize the potential for a cloud crash to cripple your business. This starts with the internal assessment and architecture designs done to most safely work with AWS.  Basically you need a doomsday plan that still allows control over your business’ operational integrity during problems. This is especially necessary now because cloud computing is still developing, so there is a greater likelihood of still-unknown glitches.
In an Amazon Web Services “White Paper” published this May, Amazon stated right from the start that web services even in a cloud network are the shared responsibility of both the user and the provider. Amazon made the following recommendations:

1. Review information available from AWS together with other information to understand as much of the entire IT environment as possible, and then document all compliance requirements.
2. Design and implement control objectives to meet the enterprise compliance requirements.
3. Identify and document controls owned by outside parties.
4. Verify that all control objectives are met and all key controls are designed and operating effectively.

This level of technical understanding is a lot to ask.  Especially at this stage, most users lack background or expertise in these areas. Users who want to garner the advantages of a cloud network must recognize that there still needs to be professional oversight internally as if the server was still on-site. This is where consulting firms assist. According to Kent Kofman,  MiCORE Solutions Principle, “Seasoned experts can take the complexity out of planning for and implementing a cloud architecture.  MiCORE’s consultants have experience in helping customers develop a strategy for making the transition to the cloud; and then design and implement a cloud computing solution tailored to fit the organization’s needs”.

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