Act now to prepare your cloud for 2017 peaks, warns Rackspace

As spring begins to make an appearance, experts from Rackspace release their top tips for businesses trying to maintain their cloud.

Today, Rackspace, the managed cloud company, shares its top expertise for businesses looking to improve in-house server performance ahead of peak periods.

The smooth running of websites and digital services has become crucial for businesses to secure an advantage over competitors. However, only 33 per cent of IT decision makers in UK businesses have good or strong experience in operating a cloud-based infrastructure, meaning that many will be unprepared to scale and meet customer demand throughout the year.

Rackspace is now urging businesses to get ahead of this year’s peak periods by reflecting on last year and looking ahead to ensure they are ready to meet customer demands.

On premise solutions can appear to be more beneficial for certain use cases. But unless the necessary steps are taken to develop infrastructure in line with the evolution of the business, companies run the risk of being underprepared to meet the demands of their customers.

Sticking to plans, like getting technical skills and tools in shape to innovate, and preparing for changes in legislation, can help businesses stay in shape for the whole of 2017. With this in mind Rackspace enlisted some of its top experts to give their advice:

Step 1: Get up and running

Simon Crawley-Trice, director of Technical Services EMEA says, ‘In order to hit the ground running, businesses should, despite the contradiction in terms, embrace the opportunity to stop and reflect on the past. Think about how much downtime the business experienced last year and identify what went wrong.

‘That way any bugs or processes that need to be fixed can be detected before they become a problem again. Take the time also to highlight what worked well. This can help when it comes to mitigating the impact of any issues throughout this year.

‘It’s also the time to sit and plan for later in the year. Some businesses will be lucky enough to predict when traffic is likely to dramatically increase and should use this to their advantage. A website can only meet high demand if the infrastructure has been designed to be able to cope with the capacity ahead of time.

‘It might be that the business can host this in-house, or seek external help for when extra capacity is needed during busy periods.’

Step 2: Conserve Energy

Gary Boyd, senior director, Global DataCentre Operations, adds, ‘Businesses can now gain more than just financial savings if they strive to keep energy usage down. A good energy rating won’t just appeal to customers, but it can attract future colleagues and technology talent as well. The first question is how much power will be needed. For instance, it could be more efficient to generate a bespoke energy supply if there are lots of servers to cater for.

‘It’s important, however, that the decision-maker considers how the business, and server room, might grow, so any processes can accommodate it. Some might prefer to outsource server space to somewhere already designed to maximise energy efficiency – rather than being hit with the costs of trying to turn a space better suited to offices into an energy efficient datacentre.’

Step 3: Have a Data Clear Out

Mike Bainbridge, chief digital technologist, advises, ‘Many businesses can be guilty of storing more data than they need. It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to keep everything, on the off chance that you might find a use for it someday.

‘New compliance rules on the horizon, like the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), means businesses have to think more carefully about which data they store and for how long. Data policies should be in place and companies should encourage employees to store only what they need.

‘Any critical information should be backed-up off site, so in the event of hardware failure, it can be recovered. It is also crucial that disaster-recovery systems and processes are regularly tested. This is something which is often overlooked.’

Step 4: Bulk up Cyber Security

Dee Richartz, director of Managed Security Services, says, ‘Cyber security concerns are set to continue into 2017, with big company breaches almost a certainty. Company data should be protected from any surprises by ensuring to take advantage of layered security options like firewalls and encryption.

‘This ensures only the people that should be accessing important data are doing so. That said, physical vulnerabilities should be taken into consideration too. There’s almost no point in taking the necessary steps to protect the data if anyone can freely access the servers it is kept on.

‘Another important but often overlooked aspect of cyber defence is educating staff about the basic measures they can take to protect an organisation’s data – such as not disclosing credentials or clicking on suspected URLs.’

Richartz adds, ‘Revisit the processes the company has in place for identifying and responding quickly to any system failures and bugs. These can prove an easy way in for cyber criminals to access sensitive data. Although, this isn’t all that businesses have to lose. If the processes aren’t in place to meet legislation like GDPR, organisations can lose out in other ways – for instance, by incurring high fines.’

Step 5: Learn New Skills

James Cowe, director, AWS Strategy and Architecture, says, ‘Cloud is changing both the way we do business and the skill-sets necessary to be successful in the IT industry. Last year, we noted significant increases in jobs which require skills related to Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure; roles requiring AWS experience increased by 36 per cent whilst roles requiring Microsoft Azure experience grew by 61 per cent year on year.

‘It can be challenging to keep pace with this continually evolving landscape, particularly if a business is focusing on its strategic goals for 2017 in lieu of recruiting and on-boarding new staff. In order to remain competitive and improve customer experience by leveraging these new cloud technologies, it is vitally important that they stay on top of attracting and developing these skills.’

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