Gone are the days when storing all critical data on premises in the company data center was considered to be the safest option. Business continuity and disaster recovery strategies today depend on cloud solutions that can be accessed 24/7, regardless of any incidents or outages on the ground at or near one company location. The cloud has become essential to the smooth running of any modern business. In addition to speed and scalability, it enables an increasingly mobile workforce to access data and resources regardless of location. It also allows businesses to connect with the latest AI and analytics tools and capabilities, and to implement strong disaster recovery and business continuity plans. But one cloud is not enough. A multi-cloud strategy is essential to ensuring a fail-safe environment for data and ensuring that a company can act in an agile manner. DE-CIX, the world’s leading Internet Exchange operator, has put together the 3 top reasons for developing a multi-cloud strategy, as well as tips for keeping data safe and 100% available.
1. Protection against outages – always having access to critical data
Most organizations are now confident the tools and processes implemented in cloud infrastructure can deliver robust protection. In fact, many are now realizing their critical data and workloads might actually be far safer in the cloud than stored in one specific location, with this location representing a clear single point of failure for outages. Business continuity and disaster recovery strategies today are more focused than ever on the secure storage of critical data in the cloud, and the need to provide uninterrupted access to it. Nonetheless, the desire for exclusive relationships with trusted partners often results in companies being over-selective in their choice of cloud partners. Despite the benefits of cloud infrastructure itself, having an exclusive partnership with one cloud provider may also represent a single point of failure. In this case, an outage or cyber attack on that particular cloud could have massive implications on a company’s capacity to, for example, access critical data, communicate with colleagues or customers, or run their production and logistic facilities.
2. Control shadow IT, avoid vendor lock-in and enjoy best-in-class services
In many companies, reliance on a single cloud provider can also result in shadow IT services – different departments unofficially making use of third-party services without the explicit authorization of the IT department. One significant disadvantage of this is that the individual departments are almost undoubtedly accessing these services via the public Internet. Using the public Internet is a poor choice here, because there is no way to control the pathways that the data takes. The Internet was conceived as a “best effort” tool for communication, which is not sufficient for securing sensitive and mission-critical company data. When data travels via the public Internet, it may take long routes via multiple “hops” to the next point where, by chance, both networks – or their transit providers – are located in the same data center and have a direct interconnection. Therefore, companies need to bypass the public Internet, which they can do by making use of a Cloud Exchange. This enables direct interconnection between the company’s network and the various cloud services it uses. Adopting a multi-cloud strategy is the first step towards not only mitigating over-reliance on a single provider, but also getting shadow IT under control, avoiding vendor lock-in, and allowing the selection of the best service options from multiple cloud service providers. Taking a strategic approach to sourcing services from multiple cloud providers enables the company to cherry-pick best-in-class services from specialist cloud providers and fortify their digital transformation, and, at the same time, ensure the security of the connection and keep the data pathways as short as possible.
3. Keep ahead of the game in terms of new regulations
Regulators around the world are increasingly concerned about cloud concentration – for example, in the financial industry. But the financial industry is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the need for risk mitigation. Although being selective in a company’s choice of partners can be highly recommended in some circumstances, having a lack of diversity in infrastructure dependencies as a result of such a strategy becomes a new risk factor in its own right. Although there are mechanisms to mitigate this risk through distributed computing and diversifying within a single cloud environment, regulators remain unconvinced. In their risk mitigation strategies, companies should take a leaf out of these regulators’ books: They need to mitigate this risk through strategically focussing on the operational resilience of their digital infrastructure, developing a multi-cloud strategy and ensuring security and resilience in their use of cloud services. In this way, they will protect their data flows and at the same time keep themselves ahead of any emerging regulatory hurdles.
Tip: Accessing multiple clouds easily from multiple data center locations
But true mitigation of the cloud concentration risk doesn’t simply stop at using multiple clouds. Why? Because it is also important to be able to access those clouds from physically independent locations. What good is a multi-cloud strategy if the company is limited to one single location – or one single connectivity provider – to connect to the chosen clouds? If one connection fails, or one provider or data center experiences an outage, there is still the risk of a single point of failure. Therefore, digital infrastructure must be conceived of not only in terms of a diversity of providers, but also as geographically distributed infrastructure involving multiple redundant pathways. This creates the resilience necessary for critical applications and data.
One solution to achieve this in a simplified manner is to use a distributed Cloud Exchange built on a carrier and data center neutral interconnection platform: this allows a multi-home set-up and a diversity of not only cloud providers, but also connectivity providers, network operators, and data center operators. In this way, it is possible to ensure redundant connections to multiple clouds from physically separated locations, and to manage all of the connections easily via a single portal and API. This dramatically increases the resilience of connections and ensures continuous access to mission-critical data, no matter what may occur on a local level.