The internet has already revolutionised the way we work. The advent of the Cloud is going to revolutionise the way the internet affects our daily lives in a similar way. Like it or not, the Cloud is here and you need to understand how to harness it for your benefit.

Many words have been written about what the Cloud is but at Nativespace, we think it’s best not to think of it as a ‘thing’. Instead, think of it as the relentless improvement of IT having reached a tipping point where all sorts of new ways of doing things become possible. We now have very fast (and getting faster) data transfer through fibre, Wi-Fi and telecoms. These are linked to massive, ultra-fast data centres with almost infinitely scalable resources. Added to that, there have been vast improvements to reliability.

Sounds great but, as usual, new technology does not always deliver what it promises and you need to know how to avoid disappointment. You want it to be fast, you want it to be secure, you want reliability and most of all, you don’t want it to lose your stuff. If you are thinking of joining the Cloud, this is the first of a series of articles exploring the questions we think you should ask. This article deals with speed.

How fast can you go?

We want our connection and transfer speeds to be the fastest possible. These speeds vary from time to time depending on what is happening in the data centre and how traffic is managed by its Network Operations Centre (NOC). Interestingly, you may be able to take a short cut and answer this question by checking directly. Find out which data centre your hosting provider uses and go to Netcraft (click here) who monitor the network uptime and performance of a number of hosting companies, updating the results every 15 minutes. From Netcraft’s results you won’t be surprised that Nativespace selected PEER1 (and Serverbeach – which is part of PEER 1). They are normally on top of the list at around 30% faster than the nearest competition. Amazingly, they are three times faster than the average performer.  It’s surprising how many slow coaches there are out there!

Speed at a point in time is just a snapshot however, and you should also be concerned about the ability of the provider to maintain that performance on a consistent basis. To understand this, you will need to get some idea of how the provider runs its service; its equipment, its maintenance policies, whether it owns or shares the fibre network between its servers and its expertise in building and managing traffic. This is not always easy to assess but a good provider should find it easy to give straight answers to the following key questions:

(i)             Does your data centre own its own network?

Very few do. The network is the series of links that connects you and your users. Nativespace uses PEER1 partly because it owns its own network and not one inch of their 15,000 miles of fibre in the US and Europe is shared. That means the backbone in the chain linking you with your customers is likely to be fast on a consistent basis. It also has the longest track record of running such a network (over a decade). Such experience cannot easily be replicated. Its 10Gbps network is also intelligent – recognizing potential traffic jams and latencies and helping its Network Operations Centre (NOC) monitor and reroute data to the fastest routes.

(i)            Once traffic leaves the data centre (upstream traffic), what does it travel on?

There are other links in the chain connecting you to your customers. Many data centres ignore the ‘upstream’ link on the basis that it is outside their control but that’s not completely true. They have to pay for this traffic. The temptation is to buy it cheaply. If they pay for anything less than a Tier I provider, it’s a compromise that will negatively impact speed.

(i)             What equipment does your data centre use?

Entry-level SANs suitable for Cloud hosting start at around £50,000. Our clients are hosted on a top-of-the-range EMX H8520 SAN costing £1.5 million. Think about it. It’s probably going to be better. It’s likely to be faster, more resilient and have greater redundancy than one costing £50,000. Check out the EMX range at:

(i)             If you are being really thorough, you should also about your data centre’s equipment maintenance programmes. This will give you a clue to standards and to the likelihood of continued out-performance.

So, that’s an overview on how you can assess the speed that your cloud hosting provider offers. In our next article, we’ll be looking at resilience. In the meantime we’d love to hear your views so please share with us your questions and experiences of cloud hosting speed, or other issues you’d like us to cover in this series of articles.

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