Hybrid Cloud: Enabling Flexibility For Small Businesses

Last week, Jonathan Hogue, the Product Manager for RackConnect, discussed how to build a hybrid cloud at Rackspace using RackConnect and how it works. This week, I will delve into how hybrid cloud with RackConnect can help a growing small business.

As a small business, you likely have precious little budget to devote to IT infrastructure (servers, network gear, etc.). In fact, you’ve probably realized that the cloud offers you a huge leg up in getting your application up and running without having to pay upfront for what you need to launch or grow your online presence. And if you’re growing, cloud also offers the benefit of not needing to know exactly how much capacity you’ll need as you grow – you can simply add more compute or storage resources as you need them, and you’ll only pay for what you use. That’s the value of cloud, and many of our cloud customers today are just like you – a growing small business!

I want to offer a perspective that may add flexibility to your online application, as you plan for growth. As Jonathan mentioned last week, by using RackConnect at Rackspace, you can connect dedicated hosting with cloud. One popular example of this is adding a dedicated firewall in front of your Cloud Servers. This gives you several benefits right out of the gate.

The firewall provides a single point of entry to your application from the Internet – all traffic will be filtered by the firewall. So your cloud servers can be protected by simply managing the firewall rules on this one device. Since it is a dedicated device, you aren’t sharing with other customers, and Rackspace will help you manage the firewall as well. As part of the RackConnect solution, you can also define some network policies for your environment that will be applied to every Cloud Server you have. Again, RackConnect is a single place to manage security that distributes and maintains this policy across all your Cloud Servers even as you spin up additional servers – no more managing IPTables or Windows firewall on each server individually.

There are also some other good reasons to start off with a firewall as a part of your cloud solution. The firewall can serve as a Virtual Private Network (VPN) endpoint, giving you secure remote access to manage your cloud servers, or provide a site-to-site VPN back to the test server in your office.

But perhaps the most important reason to consider including a dedicated firewall along with your initial cloud deployment is that you gain immediate flexibility as your environment grows. If you‘re using a database on the cloud, it may reach a point where resizing that database is no longer practical (e.g. you have resized your cloud server to the maximum size and you still need more RAM). By having the firewall already in place, you can build out a dedicated, physical server to host your database behind that same firewall, and migrate your database from a cloud to dedicated server. This gives you a much more seamless path to expand your capacity, while minimizing or eliminating any downtime for your application. For the minimal cost of a dedicated firewall, you have now given yourself the flexibility to expand while limiting your risk of an outage or complicated migration. Sure, databases can span beyond a single server in the cloud, but if you don’t know how to shard MySQL across servers, why try to teach yourself when you don’t have to? This option can be hugely valuable, particularly for a smaller company; especially since your growth may be hard to forecast and you probably have limited technical resources to undertake multiple redesigns and performance optimizations.

You might also want to add more security services to your configuration. DDoS mitigation or a web application firewall, for example, can be easily added to your RackConnect environment. Because you chose to deploy using a hybrid cloud, these are easy to add on when you need them. Similarly, if you need to expand into an e-commerce solution in the future this can be greatly simplified by starting with a hybrid deployment. Using a payment gateway is a good option here, but having a dedicated database may be another option to help you attain Payment Card Industry (PCI) certification for your hybrid cloud-based application.

Planning ahead for growth is critical for any business. For a small business, it can often mean the difference between success and failure. Being the victim of your own success is entirely avoidable with proper planning. Hybrid cloud architecture, leveraging RackConnect, can give you the flexibility you need to succeed as you grow. To find out more, reach out to Rackspace today!

Rack Blogger is our catchall blog byline, subbed in when a Racker author moves on, or used when we publish a guest post. You can email Rack Blogger at blog@rackspace.com.


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