CMI Now Lives in the Cloud

Rcently, we were looking for a new home for our web and mail servers.  After comparing all the options, it was decided to move our two physical Linux servers to a Cloud Server.  Our cloud server is an Ubuntu Linux Server on Amazon's EC2 Cloud Service.  If you send us an e-mail or view our web page, you are using our cloud server.

A lot of people talk about Cloud Servers or Cloud Computing but few have actual experience with it.  I have to admit, it did take some time to wade through all the new terminology and learn to use Amazon's service, but we made our migration successfully.  We gained a lot of experience in the process.

Cloud Servers have Many Advantages:

  • Cost:  There are many vairables involved in the cost of a cloud server.  The amount of memory, disk space, bandwidth, and processing power all add to the cost.  The costs can easily be out of control, but for us, Linux is a highly efficient operating system that does not need nearly as much resource as a Windows Server.  It looks like the total cost of hosting our Linux web and mail servers for Computing Management, Inc. and a few dozen other domains will come in between $10 and $15/month.  This is well below the actual cost of having our own servers.  There is no hardware to buy.  No charge for IP address or even electricity, and best of all, cloud servers won't break or wear out.
  • Performance:    I was satisfied with the performance I was getting with our old setup of a physical Linux Mail Server and Linux Web Server.  These servers were hosted on a business cable connection with something like 3MB/second upload speed.  I was pleasently suprised to see the new combined Cloud Server serving up web pages twice as fast as what we had before.
  • Reliability:  Cloud servers are highly reliable, especially when hosted by a company like Amazon.  Ever since setting up my first test Cloud Server over a year ago, there has never been an issue with reliability.  It is easy to make a backup of an entire server in the form of a "snapshot".  We usually create a snapshot anytime one of us makes any type of change or update to our server.  On more than one occasion, I have had to fall back to a recent snapshot after whatever I was trying did not work out.  My estimate is that a typical Windows Cloud Server wold cost around $50/month.
  • Expandability:  I started out small, setting up our Cloud Server with only the resources I needed.  We are running something called a "t2.micro" instance.  This is a single CPU with 1 GB memory, and 30 GB of disk space on a Solid State Drive.  It is comforting to know that with a few adjustments to our account, we can expand or upgrade to anything we need.
  • Security:  Cloud servers are no different than any other type of server in that they must be set up securely.  An insecure server will quickly be taken advantage by a hacker.  We use the active firewall concept where any suspicious probes or attempts to gain access are quickly shut off for six hours.  Once an attacker's IP address is shut off, our server will no longer respond to their attempts to communicate.  The server simply disappears from the Internet as far as they are concerned!
  • Administration:  While cloud servers may seem quick and easy to set up, they still require administration.  Companies, like Amazon, that host cloud servers play no part in administering or maintaining your server.  They will, however, quickly let you know if you are running an insecure or vulnerable server, and threaten to shut your server down if the problem is not corrected.  There is no substitute for a competent server administrator.

Our servers happen to run Linux, but I can easily see setting up Windows Cloud Servers.  I think the idea of having your real server in your office and a cloud server, set up and ready to go as a backup, is a very real possibility.  One nice thing about cloud servers is that generally you pay for the time the server is running.  Our server costs about .013 per hour, plus a little more for bandwith and storage.  One could easily set up a Windows server in the cloud, have all the software installed, and even make data backups to it without keeping the server running continously.  In case of a disaster, you would be able to switch over to your cloud server and continue to run your business from any computer that has an Internet connection.  Cloud servers would come in handy when satisfying requirements for HIPPA disaster planning.

I am very excited about the current and future possibilities of cloud computing.  If you think you are interested in setting up a Linux or Windows Cloud Server for either primary or backup use, give us a call so we can dicuss your needs.