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Where do Clouds live?

It’s always funny to read research that shows that over 50% of Americans think that bad weather disrupts cloud computing. But it just reinforces the educational requirement – the types of cloud we’re talking about don’t live in the sky.

So where do they live? It’s simple really – they live in datacentres. Some are pretty small, others are massive campuses, but they all do the same fundamental jobs:

  • Power: highly redundant power for the IT load, usually with generator backup and layers of resilience
  • Cooling: to keep the servers and storage arrays running, redundant cooling is needed
  • Safety: smoke detection and fire suppression for worst-case scenarios
  • Security: physical access to datacentres is restricted, you can’t just walk in off the streets

Basically, datacenters exist for one purpose – to keep servers running. They’re impressive beasts and we’d encourage you to visit your hosting provider’s datacentre (with an appointment and guide, naturally!). If people are looking at colocation (e.g. housing their own equipment in datacentre racks, they always assess the property. With cloud, they don’t always. Arguably, they should, as the datacentre (or datacentres in the case of geographically diverse, highly available, resilient configurations) is now running their mission-critical ICT environment.

It may also be important to assess precisely where clouds live in a strict geographical sense. Unless your requirements are very niche, it’s not distance that’s the problem. But data sovereignty and geography might be a challenge. Depending on regulations, compliance, internal governance and personal preference, you might need or want a cloud service provider whose cloud platforms are based in the UK. You should certainly be concerned if your cloud supplier is not able to tell you where in the world your data is being stored.

If nothing else, we encourage you to challenge potential providers. Ask them where their datacentres are, how they keep the equipment running, manage their own backups, provide protection and security for customer data, and so on. If you are a business, your migration to cloud is probably a huge deal for your company and a transformational IT project. So go and see the providers, assess things with your own eyes, and don’t just trust their marketing blurb.

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