Are You in the Cloud?

What you need to know about keeping your data safe.
courtesy of FOGO Data Center
FOGO Data Centers operates New Orleans’ only full-service, fully staffed data center inside the New Orleans Exchange Centre within the Central Business District.

Whether or not you’ve jumped into the cloud like millions of others, cloud computing is advancing at a blinding rate and technology experts say it’s the future of data storage.

What is cloud computing? It’s essentially the delivery of hosted services over the Internet, and it’s being used by businesses, both small and large, all across the world.

A few facts: By 2020, global cloud computing is expected to generate $270 billion. Plus, providers are currently doubling their data storage every 18 months.

“New Orleans in particular continues to see massive growth in the technology sector, increasing the demands for data center and cloud services,” stresses FOGO Data Center’s chief executive administrative officer William G. “Bill” Esslinger Jr.

The primary reasons for this massive crossover? Efficiency and reliability are two factors, as cloud platforms are cost-effective, and many providers offer “pay as you go” plans.

Businesses and individuals have access to their information anytime and anywhere. The cloud also saves businesses serious capital investment dollars as it allows them to start quickly without the need to set up and run their own data centers.

So which service company should you choose in the New Orleans area? Each is striving to keep up with “fever pitch” demand, and understandably, the leaders at all of them have reasons for you to choose them.

Esslinger, for instance, is quick to point out that FOGO owns and operates the only full-service, fully staffed data center facility in the New Orleans Exchange Centre in the Central Business District. “Clients have the benefit of having a local provider close to their business operations, with the option of geo-redundant backup and disaster recovery in our facility in metro Atlanta,” he says.  

But Bellwether Technology Corp.’s CEO Steven Ellis says it’s a mixture of people and technology that make his company the top choice. “Having been in business for over 35 years, with low employee turnover, we have assembled a fantastic group of employees whose knowledge and experience are hard to beat. And that applies both to technology in general and to our specific clients.”

Meanwhile, Venyu’s vice-president of marketing, Matt Wallace, cites management, accessibility and human expertise. “We have experts in-house that manage our cloud environment and platform and also experts from a systems perspective,” says Wallace, “plus we own our own data centers.”

LEFT: FOGO Data Center. RIGHT: “Having been in business for over 35 years, with low employee turnover, we have assembled a fantastic group of employees whose knowledge and experience are hard to beat,” says Bellwether Technology Corp.’s CEO Steven Ellis.

As with all things technological these days, threats are out there. Cyber security is at the forefront of cloud-computing concerns because in cloud storage, data may be vulnerable to the wrong people. When you hand off your systems to a third party, essentially asking them to run them for you, you want to know your data is protected from these threats.

Providers are constantly trying to stay ahead of security threats, and thus, give customers the maximum protection conceivable. It’s a battle they will continue to fight as more and more companies and individuals discover cloud technology.

So how do they protect your data? “Fortunately, new and better ways to address all types of vulnerabilities are constantly appearing,” explains Ellis. “Our job is to become aware of them and recommend them to our clients when it makes sense. We have employees whose primary responsibility is to do precisely that, which is a concrete sign of our recognizing and responding to the importance of security.”

But making you and your data safe, says FOGO’s Esslinger, sometimes results in his company contracting a third party security audit to check the effectiveness of FOGO’s security protocols. “We continually review and improve both our physical security at all locations and our electronic network security,” he says. “We provide our customers assurance that we are monitoring security issues and threats on a constant basis using the most advanced tools, updates and equipment.”

Customer peace of mind is the ultimate goal at Venyu as well. “We pride ourselves on making sure our clients’ data is made invincible,” says Matt Wallace. “We employ 24-7-365 security and monitoring at our facilities, relying on enterprise-grade firewalls, network and monitoring systems. All physical access points to the data centers require two forms of authentication, and our personnel pass FBI background checks and are trained in security protocols.”

If there’s a natural disaster like a hurricane, or even some kind of man-made crisis, experts say you want your viable information stored in cloud technologies primarily because of the vulnerability of physical hardware. That means your cloud source should have dependable alternate hosting sources. Experts suggest having at least two backups.

“People often ask why we chose to locate a data center facility in New Orleans. But we are quick to point out that our facility stayed fully operational and never lost power during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Isaac,” says Esslinger, describing FOGO’s underground utilities and upper-floor redundancies at their site.

LEFT: In-house experts manage Venyu’s cloud environment.
RIGHT: With data, security is always the top concern.

“If necessary, our locations in Georgia provide critical backup and disaster recovery options. We provide multiple redundancies at every level to insure 99.999 percent uptime in power and connectivity.”

Wallace is proud of Venyu’s track record as well. “We feel we are battle tested! We have been through the worst disasters our state has encountered in the past few decades, and as such we felt the people’s businesses survived and flourished in the face of these disasters. We never missed a beat, the lights never went out, and our data center never lost power.”

In the wake of a disaster, having dependable backup systems and being prepared is key for Bellwether. “Every critical system we use is either hosted in or replicated to our off-site data center in Philadelphia,” explains Ellis. “We have a hot site for our help desk in Birmingham, and systems engineers are ready to go where clients need them. Because of the nature of their businesses, some people have less work to do during a hurricane evacuation. Not so for us, as we are busy helping our clients implement their own business continuity plans, and we have to be prepared.”

Software development companies are also working with progressive methods in the cloud to give customers disaster-proof peace of mind. New Orleans-based Susco Solutions, a custom web and desktop software development company, relies on the cloud’s leverage for developing efficiency in software systems and disaster protection. Like many regionally based software companies, Susco uses the cloud for both secure hurricane-proof hosting of applications and data, and platform-based application development. “We aren’t afraid of new technologies when it’s clear that they are becoming the standard,” says Neel Sus, Susco’s CEO. “Our focus is on choosing, then properly implementing, the best solution, and turning away work when we’re not the best fit. We take the long view on per client profitability.”

If you are not an expert in cloud computing or software development, find out whether a third party is regulating what the company is offering its customers before handing over your viable data. Depending on your type of business, there are specific accreditations available from groups like the well-respected AICPA SOC II audit to HIPAA (for health care-related industries). This nod of approval is also crucial when it comes to your company’s peace of mind.

The rapid adoption of cloud services across every industry will continue at a record pace, forcing technology companies to rise to the occasion because of cost-effectiveness, cyber security and efficiency. “As businesses continue to discover, understand and demand the efficiencies, reliability, availability, and security offered by cloud technology, our potential and actual customer base expands at an exponential rate. We expect that to be a welcome challenge for New Orleans and FOGO for the foreseeable future,” says Esslinger.

Ellis adds, “For us, one thing it means is that less of our work at Bellwether will involve supporting applications that run on servers in our client’s offices. At the same time, more of our work will involve helping clients benefit from the growing number of options available to them.” 

Highlighting a twofold challenge, Wallace says, “It comes down to making sure infrastructure we have in place at Venyu can not only receive and manage that much data, but meets the demands in growth of our customers. The cloud industry is extremely dynamic, and the advances we see in the cloud monthly and yearly will pay huge dividends for customers and will continue to impact the way we do business.”


Categories: Technology, The Magazine