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Backing Up Cloud

Considerations on security, data ownership

Considerations on security, data ownership

I miss the good old days when I had maintenance windows that were long enough that I could bring my machine down to single user mode and back up the whole system. These backups contained all of the data that mattered to the company at the time. Twenty years ago, I could only back up my machine with reel-to-reel tape drives. I'd bring my machine down to single-user mode to perform the backup, and each tape backup would take 12 minutes. I remember this because we would set the time on a portable kitchen timer when we started each tape. When the timer went off, we'd head to the computer room to swap out the tape, and go to the console to “press G to continue the backup.” All of the important data lived on that one machine. We didn’t worry about distributed computing environments, as we weren’t running any at the time. Sure we had a few PCs scattered here and there, but they weren’t critical. The entire company and all of its data lived on that central machine, and users who sat in front of green-screen dumb terminals accessed it. There wasn’t any data that users stored locally; it was all stored on the machine in the computer room.

When I hear about cloud computing, this is still the kind of environment I picture: where people are logged into a central machine that exists in a computer room in the sky. I use several Web-based applications like salesforce.com, webex.com or Google Mail, where I know nothing about the servers nor where the applications run, and I don’t necessarily care about the hardware or operating systems the applications use. I log in, use the service and log out. I often find myself logging into the IBM virtual loaner program website, where I can utilize slices of IBM hardware for short periods of time for demonstrations or proof of concepts or education.

I’ve worked with companies that have cloud offerings, where I can very easily log in, spin up some resources on their servers and then spin them back down when I am finished with them. As long as my response time is acceptable, do I really care about the physical hardware these virtual instances run on?

I’ve also had customers who were unable to get resources to test hardware in their environment. Using the cloud, they were able to log on to a cloud provider, spin up some server resources, do the that they needed and spin the resources back down–all without waiting for their internal IT departments to acquire and configure hardware for them. This would also benefit users who have test hardware several generations behind what they’re using in production. Instead of using old hardware, they can use more modern machines in virtual environments as needed.

Rob McNelly is a Senior AIX Solutions Architect for Meridian IT Inc. and a technical editor for IBM Systems Magazine. He is a former administrator for IBM. Rob can be reached at rob.mcnelly@gmail.com.


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