Connecting The Cloud: Five Nines Availability

Connecting The Cloud

A Zero Assessment is a critical step for preparing a business for the cloud. To recap, a Zero Assessment helps determine which application categories are crucial (Office applications, business processes, unified communications, storage, etc.), how they affect business objectives, what level of bandwidth is needed and what effect latency might have on user experience and application performance.

Once conducted, a business should be ready to choose the level of bandwidth it needs and an associated connectivity choice. The majority of businesses choose the one-size-fits-all route. After all, it is a simple and clear decision choice and if it is right for other companies, then it must be the perfect choice for them, right?

The Right Choice, Not The Cheapest

This is a flawed argument. Choosing a turnkey network can result in immediate problems and businesses should be cautious of standardised options. That is not to say the alternative is an easy journey. The marketplace is difficult to navigate which is why enlisting the assistance of a connectivity specialist can help ease the process and assist with implementation.

In terms of making a decision cost is undeniably important, as is risk management, but opting for an application-focused approach is often better in the long-run. After all, the peak load of business critical applications will be different to the overarching bandwidth requirements of the business as a whole.

The Five Nines

Once bandwidth requirements have been decided, the next step is to consider availability. The availability needed largely depends on the level of operational security a business requires. The majority of cloud providers utilise Tier-4 data centres in their operations. This means availability of 99.999% – just 26.28 minutes of downtime a year.

That said, problems can arise with the connectivity provider themselves. This is because some will sign data centre service level agreements (SLAs) based on this figure without exercising caution. From the provider point of view, this figure is purely administrative.

In theory if the data centre defaults on this figure it is open to fines. When this does occur, not only are there heated discussions but more importantly, it puts strain on customer relationships as ultimately, the end-user has to prove the promised availability has not occurred. This can be difficult to do.

Provider, Customers & The Data Centre

Some providers accept this and rectify the problem, but others avoid the core issue and placate customers with excuses that avoid accountability. ‘The undersea cable was damaged, our apologies’ is one example. The fine might be paid, but the losses suffered by the end-user are usually substantially more and can put a business into bankruptcy.

To avoid this, search for a connectivity provider that commits to its customers and data centre partners differently. Look for vendor neutrality and custom-built infrastructure that considers the ‘five nines’ as a material consideration, not just words in a contract.

Providers like this take availability as a core concept in the creation of their networks and as a result duplicate services/connectivity. To understand which camp a provider belongs to (administrative or material SLA outlook) ask to see the network topology. Many will be unable to deliver this because of poor administration or overly complex infrastructure. If they do not have a full picture, imagine what that means for the customer, especially around the guarantee of end-to-end redundancy. Do not fall into this trap.

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Anthony is the Chief Operating Officer at Custom Connect, a global provider of carrier-neutral connectivity services. He has over two decades worth of experience in the telecoms, financial IT and trading sectors.