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What is cloud hosting?

The potential benefits for users of cloud servers are so pervasive and compelling it’s fair to say there has been a bit of a rush to become a provider of cloud hosted services. Put simply users of cloud services can get services on-demand and only pay for what they use. This is a dramatic difference compared to in-house servers loaded with apps and the need for networking technology as well as maintenance. It’s hardly surprising that a gold rush followed as many companies branched out into cloud hosting services.

Many cloud hosters simply provide websites for their customers. Others bundle up a lot of other services too such as desktop services, storage and databases. The most notable is Amazon which back in 2006 decided to move from being a popular online book sellers to a provider of cloud-based services.

Google also got in on the act with the release of Google Documents so anybody with a Google account could store docs into their own private cloud space. There are also data sharing services such as Dropbox where you simply put your files in a shared folder and somebody somewhere else picks them up.

With cloud hosting there’s no physical object which can be labelled as the cloud. It’s more accurate to say it’s an electronic structure where data is stored over many different computers and served up via a network connection, typically the internet.

Cloud hosters use server farms which behave as one large storage space and processor to deliver the services. A server farm could be 10 servers, 100 servers or many more. If the hosting company is providing website hosting for instance, the data that the websites are created from such as HTML/CSS files and images is spread out over a cluster of hard drives connected together across the server farm.

The larger the infrastructure the more complex it can become but as a delivery model the cloud is hard to beat and can make traditional in-house IT infrastructure look archaic and costly.

Join us at Interop in Las Vegas this week

Each spring, thousands of IT professionals from around the world gather at Interop Las Vegas to discuss next gen applications, cloud computing, mobility, infrastructure and many other issues facing high tech decision makers. With Cloud Connect now also under the Interop umbrella, cloud computing is sure to be a significant point of discussion this week.
 
Cloud computing is, to some extent, becoming a commoditized service, with many providers dropping their prices and slashing value-add services. At the same time, however, many enterprises are looking for solutions that provide a more complete cloud offering, wrapping disaster recovery, security, software and customer support into a single product.
 
Take our Mission Critical Cloud, for instance. Launched in 2013, Mission Critical Cloud provides the reliability and performance that enterprises demand, plus the redundancy and enterprise-class security that they need to ensure optimal performance, day in and day out. This enterprise-grade private cloud solution enables users to meet data sovereignty needs by choosing from data center locations within Canada, the UK, U.S. and Germany, so they can deploy their virtual servers in geographies where they feel most secure. There is a market for low-end cloud solutions, but it’s not the enterprise market… enterprises don’t want to compromise on critical infrastructure!
 
Come visit us at booth #815 to learn more about how Mission Critical Cloud is helping enterprises get the most out of the cloud.

What is cloud storage?

It’s an obvious conclusion to think that cloud storage has something to do with gathering storms and scudding weather fronts, but we all know that isn’t the case. In a very concise nutshell cloud storage is a means of storing data to a remote, off-site storage system, typically managed by a third party.

The information that is usually stored on your computer, on a hard drive or local device attached to one of the ports, is instead shipped off to database that is sitting somewhere on the internet. The internet provides the connection between your computer and the database.

Cloud computing services offer a quicker, easier and safer backup than conventional methods of file storage. And importantly you can access your files and programs from any computer anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection. You can even allow other people to access the data, if you want to work collaboratively on a project.

If you use an email service like Gmail or Hotmail you’re essentially using cloud storage. When you log into your account the interface, inbox, sent mails and so on come winging their way to you from a remote system over the internet. Even services such as Flickr, YouTube, Google Docs and Facebook can be seen as cloud-based services.

Getting a little technical and dry cloud storage is model in which digital data is stored in logical pools. Logical pools are collections of one or more physical volumes and the physical volumes that comprise a logical pool can be of varying sizes and types. This physical infrastructure also consists of multiple servers and quite often different locations. For instance, a large cloud services provider might have several data centres in Europe. Sometimes cloud services provider ‘rent’ out space in data centres owned by others to provide their services.

That in a broad brushstroke is cloud storage.

Is it time to buy your own server?

50 years ago, Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, observed that the number of transistors on integrated circuits had doubled each year since the integrated circuit had been invented. His prediction that this would continue into the foreseeable future has been proven to be more or less right. Experts predict that this is going to continue for at least another two decades.
 
For businesses, this continuous and incremental evolution of technology presents opportunities and risk. Whilst each improvement makes new processes possible, increasing viability, speed and convenience of service offering and reduces costs, the flip side is that hardware becomes redundant, unable to sustain the demands put on it.
 
In practical terms this can mean that systems like payment processing can be accelerated and made more convenient for customers, stock control can become leaner, mobile devices can process and access increasingly complex information at faster speeds. Software is built to new standards and organizations find competitive advantages through the enhanced capability that technology makes possible.
 
As I write this on the day of “Mobilegeddon”, the algorithm update from Google, which will factor a site’s mobile capabilities into search rankings to a greater extent. This is directly connected to the trend that Moore’s Law has predicted as the capability of mobility reaches new heights.
 
With this constant evolution, the case for capital investment in technology becomes weaker for businesses that do not want to have to refresh every 18 months. The exponential rate of acceleration means that a server purchased just 24 months ago now had roughly four times less capability as one bought today.
 
Of course, not all data within a business needs to be run on the same standards as reflected by rise of the popularity of hybrid cloud hosting. My own predictions for the future, call the Owen’s Law if you like are that:
 

  1. Outsourcing of technology will increase both in volume and range

 
As the capabilities of microprocessors continue to scale, so does the rate of change in technologies that utilize them.  This has resulted in rapid acceleration of new technologies being available to solve problems, many of which were not even feasible a few years ago.  Take for example big data as a space.  The torrential pace of data management techniques and technologies requires full time attention just to keep up with what’s new.  The reality for businesses wanting to embrace these new technologies is that they will need more and more help understanding how to utilize these technologies, as well as actually getting them up and running.  This drives more outsourcing, both in terms of the volume of services consumed, as well as the breadth of technologies that can and should be utilised to improve business operations and results.
 

  1. Technology will be supplied on a “just in time” rather than “just in case” model”

 
As more technology moves outside of the four walls of central IT, this allows consumers of these technology services (IT practitioners, CMO’s, etc.) to simultaneously embrace new consumption models for these technologies.  The advent of utility billing for services provided in the cloud are a great example of what this means.  Servers can now be deployed in minutes, instead of weeks or months that were typical even just a few years ago. The same goes for Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. And as consumers of these services become accustomed to just in time delivery, they will demand this consumption model for every technology they consume going forward.
 

  1. Companies looking for outsourcing partners will place a lot more emphasis on flexible, agile contracts with service providers

 
Just in time provisioning of technology has also brought forth a new financial model for IT consumption – utility billing.  As more services begin to be consumed in the cloud, so also goes the payments for these services – pay as you go represents tremendous financial agility for organizations today in cloud provisioned services, whether that be IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS.  The days of annual budgeting for large capital investments in technology, hardware, data centers and the like are quickly waning, as more and more organizations realise the benefits that utility billing can provide.  That in turn drives demand for more and more agility in the contracts and relationships organizations form with outsourcing providers to realise the potential benefits of these new financial models.
 

  1. End-users will grow to expect absolute compatibility regardless of the device that they are using

 
Largely driven by the rapid evolution of consumer technologies, and their inevitable application in the enterprise, tech users everywhere are coming to expect the same ease of use, ubiquity, and mobility they experience on their personal devices to be available with the enterprise technologies they use at work as well. And why not?  This creates a new bar for the user experience for enterprise apps, to be easy to use, to be usable on any end-device, and available from the office as well as the home office and on the road. Cloud based technologies and mobile adoption have converged to set the stage for this eventuality.  Now it’s up to the enterprise software application providers to rise to the challenge!

Join us at Magento Imagine in Las Vegas

Cloud computing is quickly entering the eCommerce field, bringing benefits like better infrastructure management and wider website availability to e-retailers. However, many are still struggling to truly make use of this technology, and to overcome the management challenges of cloud environments.
 
Next week at Magento Imagine, happening April 20-22 at the Wynn Las Vegas, Peer 1’s own eCommerce experts will participate in three sessions to help e-retailers overcome these obstacles and others.
 
First, Toby Owen, VP of product at Peer 1, will join a keynote panel about the pros and cons of various cloud delivery models for e-retailers. The panel, which will happen on Wednesday, April 22nd from 9:00 – 10:30 a.m., will also cover how e-retailers can avoid common pitfalls to maximize the ROI of cloud deployments.
 
Additionally, Frank DiRocco, product manager at Peer 1, will lead two breakout sessions during Magento Imagine:

  • To Be or Not to Be in the Cloud
    Tuesday, April 21st at 2:00 – 2:30 p.m.
    This breakout session will spotlight the differences between physical and virtual Magento solutions for eCommerce sites. Frank will also explain why it’s so important that e-retailers select a solution that will make scaling easy, no matter what.
     
  • PCI 3.0: Compliance Requirements, Best Practices and Pitfalls
    Wednesday, April 22nd at 12:00 – 12:30 p.m.
    Including insights from Chris Noell, VP product management at AlertLogic, this breakout session will explore why e-retailers need to pay attention PCI 3.0, and how a cloud or hosting service provider can help with compliance.

 
We’re also hosting a Pre-Imagine Kick-Off Party with Listrak, Astound Commerce and Cynch on Sunday, April 19th from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Join us to network with many of the world’s leading eCommerce experts at La Cave in the Wynn Las Vegas.
 
See you in Las Vegas!

What’s in store for hybrid cloud adoption?

Hybrid cloud has been an industry buzzword for the past few years, with the definition being the subject of much debate. However, hybrid cloud loosely entails the combination of cloud with some other technology. For instance, the combination of bare metal and virtual cloud servers, or a mixture of public and private services.

Fast becoming a business norm, our recent survey revealed that adoption is set to triple over the next three years. The study canvassed the opinions of over 900 IT decision makers from Canada, US and UK, with 10% of respondents stating that they currently use hybrid cloud – with 28% anticipating they will be adopting in three years time.

This is supported by a similar survey from Gartner, which predicts that half of enterprises will be using some form of hybrid cloud model by 2017.

The reason for such dramatic growth is largely down to price. The research revealed that cost is the most important factor for over half of IT decision makers in the markets surveyed. With on-premise hosting often a costly option, hybrid is often seen as a viable, cost-efficient alternative.

Hybrid cloud represents a flexible, scalable and diverse approach for businesses, combining most of the benefits from public and private hybrid models. The IT decision maker now has far more choice of hardware, software and services than ever before, with business priorities shifting as a result.

This is reflected in the changing cloud strategies among IT departments across the UK, US and Canada, who have indicated that hybrid cloud is a far more mature offering than it was just a few years ago.

Every CIO and IT decision maker should be thinking about how they can use hybrid cloud and hosting to transform their business, turning IT from a cost issue into another source of revenue.

 

 

It’s all cloudy

We recently received a tweet from John @2011knebworth, pointing out that there are different views and definitions when it comes to Cloud Storage. 

I thought this was rather a good point. Terms like; Cloud Storage, Cloud Server, Cloud Hosting and Cloud Security are commonplace, sometimes interchangeable and can be misinterpreted.

There are lots of different definitions of all of these terms depending on who you are talking to. Many have stated, correctly in my view, that the Cloud Industry itself is at fault for causing this confused state of affairs.

So, with that in mind, I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up the whole cloudy mess and provide an up to date, vendor neutral definition of each of these terms. 

Cloud storage 
Cloud Storage is a model of data storage where the digital data is stored in logical pools. The physical storage spans multiple servers (and often locations), and the physical environment is typically, but not always, owned and managed by a hosting company.

Cloud Hosting
Cloud hosting services provide storage for data for things like websites, CRM systems, Software as a Service and apps on virtual servers. These servers pull their computing resource from extensive underlying networks of physical web servers.

Cloud Server
To put it simply, cloud servers mean virtual servers, which run on cloud computing environment. That is why very often Cloud Servers are referred to as Virtual Dedicated Servers (VDS). While it is true that every cloud server can be called a virtual dedicated server, the opposite is not always true.

Cloud Security
Cloud computing security is the set of control-based technologies and policies designed to adhere to regulatory compliance rules and protect information, data applications and infrastructure associated with cloud computing use.

These are pretty top line and over the next few weeks I will be doing fuller, individual blogs on each of these as part of a new What is….? series. If you have any terms that you would like me to tackle then please let me know, and I will do my best to shed light on them. Please keep them cloud related though, I am hoping to avoid questions about the meaning of life or whether the chicken came before the egg.

World Hosting Day 2015: A decade of hosting highlights

Although hosting is a fairly new industry, it has had an enormous impact over the last 10 years, shaping both businesses and the internet far beyond the IT community. So to celebrate World Hosting Day, I have compiled a list of milestones that outline just some of the ‘hosting highlights’ from the past decade.  
 
2004: Payment security
 
We take it for granted that organizations that handle credit card data comply with basic information security standards. But it wasn’t until 2004 that the first version of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) was released. Cardholders can now be rest assured that there are comprehensive security requirements in place to protect sensitive information.
 
Hosting providers must now enter into detailed agreements with their customers, specifying who is responsible for securing the physical environment. These agreements are particularly important in the eCommerce sector, where the need to protect cardholder information is paramount. The latest version (PCI DSS 3.0) has raised standards further by promoting a risk-based mentality to compliance (unlike previous versions that were criticized for relying on a ‘check-box’ approach). For hosting providers, the new requirements will make security a shared responsibility, helping to prevent potential breaches in the future.
 
2007: eCommerce
 
Aside from voting, there are few things that haven’t moved online. eCommerce in particular has come a very long way since the first online purchase of a Sting CD in 1994 (fortunately our music taste has changed as well).
 
If you can believe it, it’s now been eight years since the launch of Magento, the open-source content management system for eCommerce websites. The company first started development in 2007 with the help of volunteers, and to its surprise, it was later bought by eBay. The software has been hugely successful in its relatively short life, going on to become the world’s most popular eCommerce platform.  
 
2013: Hosting price war
 
With hosting options becoming more and more varied, it’s no surprise that some providers are embroiled in a pricing war. The crest of this competition came in 2013, with providers offering increasingly cheap deals at the expense of speed, service, and security.
 
Though lower costs are often appealing for businesses and customers alike, the price war was ultimately a race to the bottom. Over the last year, we’ve witnessed the real cost of cheap hosting. Quality service and support are the backbone of the industry, with superior hosting seen as the key to long-term business growth and sales.
 
2014: Peak demand
 
The public's appetite for Black Friday has never been bigger than this past winter. eCommerce spending rose 26% to $1.5 billion in 2014. Black Friday is now a firm fixture on the US Christmas shopping calendar. With five times the average number of shoppers flocking online to snap up the deals, the influx of traffic was simply too much for the websites of many leading retailers.
 
But ‘peak demand’ was not just limited to Black Friday; Cyber Monday and the entire Christmas period also saw record sales in 2014, with online sales growing 15% from 2013, making it the biggest day in US online shopping history. In fact, eCommerce sites in all sectors see a huge range of sales peaks throughout the year. We are learning how to better predict these variations in traffic and it will be up to the hosting community to prepare their customers for cyber holidays this year.
 
2015 and beyond: hybrid cloud
 
The rise of hybrid cloud suggests a demand for cloud services that cross isolation and provider boundaries. That is to say, businesses are looking for cloud that can’t be simply put in one category of private, public, or community service, and the rise of hybrid cloud reflects this desire. In fact, recent research has predicted that the growth of hybrid cloud will reach about $84.67 billion in 2019 (from only $25.28 billion last year).
 
Hybrid cloud puts the power back in the hands of the customer, giving them exactly what is required to adapt quickly to changing business requirements. It is this kind of flexible, customisable approach to cloud services that will take hosting into the next generation.  

Fraud Prevention: Five Security Steps to Implement Today

As March has now wound down so too has Fraud Prevention Month in Canada. However, the awareness of fraud and how to protect yourself should be something you are doing all-year-round.

As more and more stories make the news of big brands and businesses falling victim to security breaches and online scams, there is no better time like the present to brush up on your fraud prevention skills. Breaches aren’t limited to big enterprises and cybercrime does not discriminate.

According to the Websense report conducted by Ponemon Institute, 36 per cent of Canadian companies surveyed had experienced one or more cyber attacks over the past year that had infiltrated networks or enterprise systems.
           
There are a variety of ways to protect you and your organization from different types of fraud. At Peer 1, we offer services to ensure your protection. Monitoring web activity 24 hours a day, 7 days every week is only the start of how we protect our customers. If you currently have an online presence, are looking to increase your presence or are starting from scratch, here are a few things to consider.
 
1.     Assess your needs. Small to mid-size businesses are going to have different security needs when compared to large enterprises. In the case of security, one size does not fit all. Providers should be offering a variety of managed services so businesses are able to customize their security services without compromising on around the clock monitoring and protocols.

2.     Knowledge goes beyond the decision maker. When it comes to security, humans are typically the weakest link in the chain. Education is an essential preventative method such as ensuring your team is properly informed and aware of the company’s security procedures and best practices.

3.     Use what you have on hand. There are measures you can put in to place right away when it comes to security. Encrypting your data and passwords will make your sensitive customer and proprietary information less valuable and sometimes completely useless to external sources. This simple precaution is often overlooked.

4.     Security should be forethought. Security is about vigilance, rigor and a concern with detail and protocols, it should not be an after thought. Be sure to integrate security at the very beginning of a project’s planning phase. This will ensure you are not playing catch up when new services launch, procedures change or other adjustments to the business are made.

5.     Choose vendors and partners wisely. When it comes to working with a third-party service provider, be sure you understand their security measures and data regulations. It’s their job to equip you with the latest technology and security updates but they also should be transparent with their own data storage and procedures.
 
Wider awareness of security measures associated with common processes, methodical governance and user training ranging from the security department to IT and administration, will help businesses create a holistic security strategy. Maintaining security is fundamental particularly as more businesses and workloads transition this year to cloud-based services. 

The Changing Landscape of Digital Customer Service

Customer feedback is an infallible early warning system for service problems. In the world of web hosting, slow page load times are often the first catalyst for complaint. In fact, Google engineers have discovered that just 400 milliseconds of page-load time – literally the blink of an eye – can make a difference between the popularity of a website and a close competitor.

Long before your site falls over, visitor numbers and customer loyalty will suffer if inadequate web hosting means your pages are slow to load – and it could be the indication of a much bigger problem further down the line. Don’t believe me? Just run a Twitter search on ‘slow websites’ and see how vocal (and public) some brands’ customers are.
 
Customer service in the digital age is changing, and although customers might still be unhappy, they’re not being quiet about it. Every minute of every day, Twitter is inundated with frustrated customers who have been given a free platform to “vocalize” their various service complaints. In fact, the only time people seem to reach out to companies is when they're angry, and social media only serves to amplify that anger in a completely new and unpredictable way.
 
While businesses are investing in new technologies to realise the benefits of modern customer service best practices, according to a recent study over half don’t understand the true impact of customer service as an organization-wide strategic goal. If something were to go wrong with your site, could you Tweet your provider and get straight through to a human to sort things out? Great customer support is vital, but it’s often overlooked at the start of a hosting contract because many take it as a given.
 
Think about when you last had a technical issue: did it get resolved quickly and competently? Or was it a maze of support tickets, phone calls and emails, and explaining the issue over and over again to different people? Providers can vary hugely in their customer service strategies. For some, it’s a central part of what they offer. For others, it’s an afterthought. And take it from me – when you need help, you don’t want to be an afterthought.
 
Let’s face it; in the digital age, where brands live and die on the internet, can you really afford to compromise on your hosting provider? When you partner with Peer 1, there is no compromise. We employ technical experts, who will take the time to fully understand your infrastructure and how it’s deployed.

 
So if your business depends on its online presence, don’t compromise on the hosting that supports it. Drop us an email at [email protected] or visit http://www.peer1.com/no-compromise.

 

About the Author

Scott Davis
VP, Customer Experience

For Scott, attitude is everything. It can be the difference between success and failure—between a happy customer and an unsatisfied one. The latter is not acceptable, and it’s Scott’s motto, how can I make your day, that drives the customer experience team at Peer 1 Hosting.

Scott believes in our vision of being the most human experience on the web, and that if you’re going to talk the talk of customer experience, you need to walk the walk. You need to respond to your customers’ issues quickly and with sincerity. You also need to realize that you’re not just there to fix a problem—you’re there to anticipate their future needs and remove potential roadblocks for them. Scott wants our customers to be able to focus on the possibilities of the Internet, not the problems. That’s the kind of thinking you want in a Vice President of Customer Experience.

Scott brings more than 25 years of global customer service experience to his role at Peer 1. He is responsible for leading a team of more than 100 front-line employees, ensuring the delivery of an exceptional experience to all our customers. Prior to joining Peer 1, Scott developed his art in customer service at companies both large and small, including AT&T, LexisNexis, TMP Worldwide and Sykes Enterprises.

It’s because of Scott’s experience, and his infectious positivity, that there is an entire team at Peer 1 asking: "How can I make your day?"

 

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