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7 Things to Think About Before Switching to Infrastructure as a Service

Are you planning to make the switch to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)? Not only are you not alone, you're already behind: almost two-thirds of companies IDC surveyed last year expected to use IaaS by the end of 2016.

IaaS gives you the same physical infrastructure you'd have in your own data center, except that it isn't in your own data center, you can add to it on demand, and you pay only for what you use. You retain almost all control over the physical or virtual server and its operating system and applications, while the vendor provides support for the infrastructure.

That means when you adopt IaaS, you need to think through many of the same technical questions you would think through if you were bringing new infrastructure into your own data center. Be sure you think through all the areas impacted by the switch to IaaS:

1. Network
The network is rarely the focus of a switch to IaaS, but in fact, the network's importance is increased by using IaaS. The network is the only way to access your IaaS equipment, so its performance is crucial. Understand the network bandwidth needed and latency tolerated by your workloads. You may be able to use settings that increase performance between virtual machines at the IaaS site.

You can't walk over to a console and access devices directly, so network performance is important for infrastructure monitoring and management as well as production applications. Be sure you understand how to secure your network connectivity, as there's no more intranet; by default, all your access is over the public internet. Your IaaS provider may limit your access to equipment such as firewalls.

2. Servers
Be clear on whether you'll be accessing a bare metal server or a virtual machine and the level of access you'll be granted to the underlying hardware. Understand your workload's needs and select instances that match the anticipated demand; IaaS providers typically offer a variety of instance types that vary in the number and speed of their CPUs as well as their memory capacity.

3. Storage
As with servers, IaaS providers typically offer a variety of storage configurations designed to support either general-purpose use cases, data-intensive applications, or data archival. Choose the storage type that matches your expected application usage.

4. Monitoring and Management
With IaaS, you give up some of the responsibility for supporting your hardware, but you don't give up the responsibility of monitoring it and managing it to make sure your production applications deliver the performance your business needs. Find out what kind of access you'll have to monitor your software and what the process for getting support from the provider is when there are problems outside the areas you still control.

5. Security
Even if your IaaS provider's environments are certified to meet security standards, ensuring the security of your applications and data remains your responsibility. Make sure you understand how your data will be isolated from other customers' data and whether it will be protected by encryption (and who will manage the keys). Along with understanding the protections, be sure you know how you will be informed of a breach and how the incident response function is allocated between your team and the provider.

6. Disaster Recovery
Understand how your provider will support you in case of an outage. You should know how they will respond to both a local failure, as when a VM has issues, and an overall site outage. You should know whether failover is manual or automatic and what your team's responsibilities will be.

7. Plan for the Future
Since the goal of IaaS is to have the flexibility to react rapidly to add additional infrastructure, understand how your provider makes this possible. You may need to add controls to limit the number of users authorized to use self-service tools to add capacity.

Along with these technical issues, you should also think through the non-technical issues such as pricing, discounts, and contracts. Make a plan for how your team will come up to speed and work in the new environment.

Need help understanding how you can best take advantage of IaaS? Talk to dcVAST to learn how our IaaS solution can improve the reliability and flexibility of your IT infrastructure.