Tag Archives: Cloud

Chromebook for Business Use: An Alternative to Windows and macOS?

Chromebook for Business

Chromebook runs on Google’s lightweight operating system, Chrome OS. Chrome OS is so lightweight that it doesn’t support running traditional locally installed business applications.

This is changing to to some degree, as several recent model Chromebooks support installed Android apps. Example models are the Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible and the Google Chromebook Pixel.

Many developers will need to make changes to their Android apps in order to fully support Chrome OS. Even if an app is made compatible with Chrome OS, it may not be as robust as its Windows or macOS counterpart.

Chromebooks ship with under 32GB of local storage. But this is more than enough space to run multiple Chrome extensions.

Chrome OS updates are easy and fast to apply. This makes Chromebook an attractively secure choice in light of recent ransomware attacks, in which older unpatched operating systems were exploited. Continue reading Chromebook for Business Use: An Alternative to Windows and macOS?

Backing Up Your Company’s Cloud Data

As businesses increasingly rely on cloud applications, should they be thinking about a backup strategy for their cloud data?  While the top tier cloud vendors have multiple levels of redundancy, there’s still a [very slight] possibility of a compound disaster that could relate in some data loss. In addition, there’s always the possibility of a “keyboard disaster”, which can occur no matter how good the technical protections are.

Even if an extra measure of data protection does nothing more than provide a business owner or an executive with a few extra hours of sleep each month, it could be worth considering adding backup solutions to your cloud services — especially since storage is so inexpensive.

Here are a few popular cloud applications and associated backup options.

Google Apps Backup

There’s a solution on the Google Apps Marketplace called Backupify which has received top marks from all reviewers so far.  Backupify is a cloud data backup company and their service allows customers to back up Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Contacts, and Sites automatically on a daily basis.  Backupify also provides solutions for backing up social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter.

It’s also worth pointing out that Google is committed to making it easy for customers to get their data out of Google Apps should they ever need to.  They have an engineering team called the The Data Liberation Front “whose singular goal is to make it easier for users to move their data in and out of Google products.”

Backing Up WordPress to Amazon S3

If you’re hosting your Web site or blog on WordPress, there’s an excellent plugin called Automatic WordPress Backup, which automatically backs up your site to an Amazon S3 bucket on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.  This plugin backs up the config and htaccess files, your database, the themes folder, the plugins folder and any uploaded content such as images.  Automatic WordPress Backup can also clean up after itself, by deleting backups that are over one month old.

With the recently released version 2.0, restoring an entire WordPress site to a fresh instance of WordPress is straightforward.

Salesforce.com Weekly Export

Salesforce.com allows Enterprise Edition and Unlimited Edition customers to schedule a weekly export of their data and this can be found under Setup>Administration Setup>Data Management>Data Export.  This backup is a zipped file that contains a CSV file for each Salesforce standard and custom object (Accounts, Contacts, Tasks, etc.).  While this is not a database that can be restored to a production org, it does make sure that you have a local copy of your important data.

As you can read here, there are also some options for scripting backups or using third party backup solutions.

Amazon EC2 to Amazon S3 Backup

If you have applications running on EC2, backing up data to S3 seems like a logical choice.  Amazon provides documentation for scripts that allow for bundling up entire images and then uploading bundles to S3.  If you need to backup SQL Server on EC2, here’s an excellent post on backup strategies and tactics.

I look forward to any comments on other cloud app/backup pairings.

In Cloud We Trust – The Tiers of Cloud Vendors

There’s no doubt about it. Cloud computing is gaining some serious momentum. Part of this momentum is due to the fact that the trust issues that were commonplace several years ago among buyers have been reduced to mere pockets of concern.

But, who are the most trustworthy application vendors in terms of customer data being safe and secure — and the application being available — should disaster strike one physical location?

Let’s look at the general tiers of trustworthiness.

Google – Big Table, Big Infrastructure

Google represents the top tier of cloud vendors. Google’s infrastructure is massive, highly redundant and is designed for hardware failure and other types of failure. If you use GMail, either as a consumer or as a business user, you may or may not know that Google will not complete a transaction, such as an email send, unless it’s confirmed that your data has been written to at least two places — often two different physical locations, even on different continents. In addition, each of those two writes is backed up.

It’s also worth noting that Google Apps is one, gigantic, global application instance. This is the ultimate in multi-tenancy, in which every customer is on the same instance.

This YouTube video provides an excellent deep dive into Google’s infrastructure. I’ll term Google as having real-time, multi-location redundancy.

Salesforce – The Trust Infrastructure

Salesforce takes customer data incredibly seriously. There are entire teams in place to make sure that customer data is secure, redundant and highly available for production use.  Salesforce has three, global data centers with a fourth one coming on line. If one data center was completely taken out, customer data from that center would be available via one of the other data centers in very short order.

Details on Salesforce’s data security can be found here. The same site tells us that Salesforce.com is running their entire customer base (of over 77,000 companies) on just eleven production instances.

I’ll call this near real-time, multi-location redundancy.

If you know of any other vendors with a similar architecture, please post details in a comment. I suspect that Microsoft falls into this category for part of their infrastructure.

Disaster Recovery Mode Cloud Vendors

The next tier of vendors — and likely the largest tier — are those that have only one main data center location, but have a plan in place should disaster strike this location.

This tier of cloud vendor does not have either live servers or dedicated, standby servers in a secondary location. Instead, they have access to a pool of server capacity in a secondary location that’s available to them should they need it. Data are copied over to the secondary location in near real-time, or on a periodic (daily) basis.

If disaster was to strike the main data center, there could be a time lag of up to a day (or more, if things don’t go well) before the backup environment is available for application use and/or before DNS changes have propagated.

“All Eggs in One Basket” Cloud Vendors

There is a class of cloud vendors that is fully reliant on a single data center being available. Customer data is mirrored and/or backed up within the data center, but there’s no specific plan should disaster strike the data center location. These vendors are normally early stage companies that are still in beta test mode. The economics at this stage of a company’s often doesn’t support having a failover data center.

“Dedicated Server In the Cloud” Vendors

Vendors that host each customer on their own dedicated physical or virtual server within a cloud infrastructure such as Amazon EC2 need to work within a different set of rules in terms of uptime and redundancy. Unlike the multi-tenant vendors, for which moving a single database from location A to location B means moving thousands of customers from location A to location B, with the dedicated server approach, each customer is on their own, separate application and database instance. This means a more individualized approach to uptime and redundancy.

If you have any concerns around your company’s data and its availability, it may be worth asking your vendor into which general category they fit.

The Cloud: Providing Golden Opportunities

The cloud has opportunities for developers big and small.
Courtesy of Akakumo on Flickr.

Can you save your company millions of dollars and two years in time-to-market on your next product? If you think it’s impossible, maybe you should look to the cloud.

While reading this article on the promise of cloud computing, one of the article’s examples really stood out to me. CODA, a UK-based financial management services provider, built their latest product entirely on salesforce.com’s development platform Force.com. Continue reading The Cloud: Providing Golden Opportunities