FIRST, PREMIUM ECONOMY OR ECONOMY: CHOOSING THE RIGHT CLASS FOR YOUR DATA

By Chris Burden, Managing Director, Civica Cloud & Managed Services

Airlines have been revamping first class flying. In 2014 Abu Dhabi airline Etihad unveiled The Residence, a three-room, 125 sq ft suite with lounge, bedroom and bathroom, which includes a sofa seating six guests, with a secure display area where Matisse and Picasso paintings from the Abu Dhabi Louvre sit on the wall. Airlines are continuing to work with design teams to come up with even more palatial creations. These luxuries may justify the price tags but they’re not for everyone.

In the same vein people in business need to choose what class of cloud best suits their data requirements. Business leaders walk a tight rope between enabling innovation and avoiding risk. The cloud isn’t just for techies anymore; all sectors now see the opportunity to develop new business models through the cloud but they’ve also followed the news about high profile hacks involving A-list celebrities with concern. That’s not to say the cloud exposes companies to undue risk. It means that precautions should be taken, border security protocols should be followed and seat belts should be fastened.

First class data

When embarking upon a cloud strategy, businesses need to consider the value of their data and whether they need to invest in and protect all data in a style that befits first class. In this digital economy data is king, which means it should be duly managed. The key is to know your data and segment it accordingly.

In the cloud computing world, hosting your data in a managed private cloud is tantamount to travelling first class. This is the most expensive VIP cabin for your data but the perks are plenty, such as guaranteed service level agreements (SLAs), high levels of security, resilience, redundancy, optimum performance and uninterrupted availability. It’s the best possible environment for business critical data and for highly regulated industries, including local authority payment systems. This is why 180 local councils have now shifted their payments systems to a managed private cloud.

Processing transactions involves taking responsibility for peoples’ financial data; this is a highly sensitive undertaking. It is also complex. Payment systems need to be PCI DSS compliant, which is costly to implement, owing to changing banking regulations and authorities’ ongoing system upgrade and maintenance needs. Using a managed private cloud promises absolute security, efficiency and regulatory compliance. This is why Places for People, one of the largest property management, development and regeneration companies in the UK are processing more than £25 million per year in PCI payments in a private cloud and certainly how Slough Borough Council are processing payments for its citizens.

Economy data

At the other end of the spectrum we have the economy class, which can be equated to the public cloud. Firstly let’s not denigrate the public cloud. It provides affordable access to on-demand resources for IT managers and line of business managers alike across the organisation. The public cloud democratises access to this data and the innate benefits of cloud computing, such as more collaborative working, greater flexibility, automatic software updates and more. Its price tag means it’s the ideal cloud solution for non-business critical, low risk data scenarios. The public cloud particularly suits high capacity projects over short defined periods of time such as R&D or Test and Development. It comes with more relaxed SLAs and security and its data recovery strategy rests on restoring data within an agreed amount of time, rather than placing guarantees on not losing the data in the first place. However, it does require higher level of IT skill sets at a service management layer.

Premium Economy data

Premium Economy is fast marking its place in the aviation space. Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy welcomes you on board with a glass of champagne and British Airways has recently given its premium economy service a makeover, with much bigger screens.

Premium economy, synonymous with the hybrid cloud for the sake of this article, is a good option for different kinds of business data. A hybrid cloud is a blended approach: some data can be hosted on-premise; some externally. This mixed environment is then brought together by a service layer, managed by a specialist cloud partner, to offer companies the benefits of first class treatment (such as heightened security for business critical applications) without having to put all their data in a top dollar suite.

Increasingly businesses are thriving in a fully managed hybrid cloud environment, where there are tight SLAs, vigorous security protocols (if you’re a government organisation you’ll need either IL2/3 or PSN certified cloud services) and defined disaster recovery windows. Premium Economy class, effectively straddles two worlds. It provides some of the comfort of first class travel (i.e. you can define your service requirements to suit your needs), without the commensurate drain on expenses (i.e. ensuring that the right data is in the right sized environment)

Buckinghamshire County Council, a Civica customer, embraced hybrid cloud approach as part of its ‘cloud first’ strategy and ambitions to be infrastructure free by the end of 2015. The council is using a blended approach which incorporates a mix of managed services and on-demand cloud services to enable it to run and manage web applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure. The council now has the immediacy of local access to data, with unlimited storage in the cloud, and can procure services without having to make the big capital investment on-premise.

Bursting into the cloud

Stepping away from the airline industry, it’s important to make the point that all classes of data must be able to move across environments interchangeably. This burst capacity gives organisations the flexibility they need to support high traffic events such as Cyber Monday for example. However, it’s not a straight forward affair. It requires specialist partner support to help classify data, manage issues such as interoperability, enable the transfer of data from one cloud to the next and crucially ensure water-tight security. The latter is particularly topical given the new European data privacy framework, which applies to all 27 European member states and demands robust data protection, (organisations will soon need to inform citizens when they lose their data). In reality no one size fits all; there are many different shapes of cloud. The key is to understand your business requirements and develop a strategy from this point. Have a safe flight!