Cloud-A Partners with Cloud66

We are happy to announce our partnership with Cloud 66, a leading provider of Devops-as-a-service, giving you everything you need to deploy, scale and protect your applications on Cloud-A in a single tool.

This partnership allows Cloud-A users to deploy and manage their applications more efficiently than ever before, offering one click, automated functionality for managing the lifecycle of your entire stack on Cloud-A which allows developers to do what they do best.

This partnership is part of an ongoing effort to provide Cloud-A users with world class tools to run their workflows on our high performing, secure, Canadian resident cloud servers.

Visit our Cloud 66 solutions page here for more details.

Webinar: Putting your clients in the Cloud with Geoff Sullivan

Cloud-A’s Channel Manager, Geoff Sullivan recently did a webinar with Ulistic called “Putting Clients in the Cloud.” Geoff Describes the notion of “True Cloud” and how it is can revolutionize the efficiency of service delivery for traditional IT managed service providers, and create flexibility and business agility for their clients.

Alternative to Dropbox in Canada

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One of the more common things we find running on Cloud-A these days is a great little App called OwnCloud. It’s a free Open Source project that offers a similar solution for document management as can be found with Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, iCloud, or Microsoft’s One Drive with the added benefit that you get to decide where your data is stored.

Similar to Dropbox, Owncloud is used by thousands of people often at work and for personal use. With OwnCloud & Cloud-A you get the same features of Dropbox including advanced admin controls, all the space you need, AND your Data is not subject to the patriot act.

Here we’ve made a practical 4 step guide to getting started:

  1. Determine if you are a DIY (Do It Yourself’) kinda person or if you should consider working with one of our trusted partners to help you get things setup. DIY isn’t for everyone and for a reasonable fee you can find atrusted partner who will be more than happy to setup Owncloud for you or your business.
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  2. All set? Ok, so now you’ve got to setup the business end of the application that will be running in the Canadian Cloud. Owncloud can be run on either Windows or Linux  so you need to determine what version you are most comfortable with. Here is a tutorial on how to configure Owncloud on Windows. If you prefer to install the Linux version you can see how that’s done here.
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  3. (OPTIONAL) Most people will want to use the more cost effective cloud storage option we have at Cloud-A (that costs only $0.075/GB/month !!!) so we’ve written a step by step guide for those who want to configure Swift Cloud Storage on Cloud-A.
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  4. Setting up the Owncloud Desktop Client is easy, the step by step guide is here:https://www.clouda.ca/blog/general/installing-owncloud-desktop-client/

That’s it, now you are all set to use Owncloud as an alternative to Dropbox where you data is in Canada. Of course you will likely want to install the Owncloud mobile App to access your files on your iPhone, Ipad, orAndroid devices as well.

CLOUD-A GUIDE TO CLOUD SECURITY

 

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Whether it is for compliance purposes, protecting trade secrets, or safeguarding sensitive client information, data security is a priority for every organization in any industry. With the rapid adoption of public cloud environments, it is imperative to understand how cloud affects how you secure your data. At the most basic level, it is understanding which parties are responsible for the different layers of security, so to clarify how this works with Cloud-A, we have created the Guide to Securing Your Data with Cloud-A.

It is Cloud-A’s responsibility to ensure that our infrastructure is bulletproof and that we follow security best practises, but once a client launches an instance, they have free reign to manage their cloud infrastructure as they please.

Here are some best practices and client responsibilities for securing your data with Cloud-A

Passwords 101

Password strength is the most basic layer of security in any scenario, but it is of the utmost importance. Weak passwords are a simple point of failure that the most amateur attacker can take advantage of. A strong password should be between 10 and 12 characters, it should have a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. There are tools available to assist with creating and keeping track of your passwords.

Check out LastPass

Encryption is Key

Although the infrastructure that your Cloud-A instances reside on and the OpenStack platform that orchestrates and manages that infrastructure is built and managed with security as the top priority, it is the users responsibility to ensure that the drives of their cloud servers are protected. We recommend encrypting the drives (volumes) that are attached to your Cloud-A instances.  Encryption is a great way to keep your valuable data safe at rest, as it make your data unreadable to any unintended recipient. For more details on configuration and benefits, you can check out our blog post:  Encrypted Volumes: Linux Edition

Lock Down Security Groups

Cloud-A’s security group functionality allows you to create firewall rules that can be applied to your instances. Instances are launched with all of the ports locked down and you can create your own firewall rules that you can allocate to your instances. It is important to use inclusive firewall rules rather than exclusive. Exclusive firewall rules allow all traffic through except for the traffic matching the ruleset. Inclusive firewall rules do the reverse as they only allow traffic matching the rules through and block everything else. When creating your firewall rules, It is best practice to only allow internet access to servers that require it. You can use your internal networks created with Cloud-A’s virtual private networking to connect servers that do not require internet access.

Understand that Cloud Security is a Partnership

Once you launch an instance on Cloud-A, you have full control over that virtual machine. It is up to the end user, or the Cloud-A integration partner to manage that virtual machine, ensure that it is patched, updated and that it is used appropriately. There is a level of knowledge that is required to operate a server securely. If you do not have that level of knowledge in-house, we advise that you seek out an organization that can provide these services. Cloud-A can help recommend partners who can assist with these services. Many organizations with stringent requirements for data security require advanced security services such as intrusion protection and detection and live security monitoring. Cloud-A’s go-to security partner for these advanced security services is GoSecure.

 

Installing ownCloud Desktop Client

Installing ownCloud Desktop Client

If you have been following our blog you will know that we have recently published two posts on ownCloud. The first, “Deploying ownCloud on Cloud-A” was a tutorial on how to install and configure ownCloud on a Windows 2008 R2 instance on Cloud-A and the second titled: “ownCloud: Infinite Expandability with Cloud-A’s Bulk Storage” was how to expand your ownCloud deployment with our bulk storage powered by Swift. Today we are going to show you how to install the ownCloud desktop client for OSX and Windows Server 2008 R2 (instructions will be the same for Windows 7.)

 

Download and Install Desktop Client

You will need to download the appropriate ownCloud desktop client from  https://owncloud.org/install/. Once your download has completed, run the installer for the ownCloud desktop client.

Authenticate to your ownCloud Server

Upon completion of the installation you will need to authenticate to your ownCloud server with the correct IP address.

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Next, you will need to authenticate with your ownCloud credentials.

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Configure Settings

At this point you can choose your folder syncing preferences. Depending on your preference, you can choose from syncing everything from your ownCloud server or just specific files and folders.

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Much like Dropbox, ownCloud will create a cloud-syncing local drive on your desktop. An ownCloud folder shortcut will appear in the top menu bar as well as your Favorites under in Finder. In Windows, an ownCloud folder shortcut will appear in the tray as well as your Favorites under in My Computer.

Next Steps

At this point in our ownCloud blog series you have learned how to create an ownCloud server on a Cloud-A Windows instance, expand the storage space with Bulk Storage and configure desktop clients. To take it one step further and enable your users for mobility you can download and configure mobile apps for iOS and Android.

 

CLOUD-­A’S GUIDE TO PROTECTING PRIVATE HEALTHCARE INFORMATION IN THE CANADIAN PUBLIC CLOUD

We have been receiving a lot of questions from prospective partners about how we comply with the rules around private information as it pertains to healthcare in Canada. The simple answer is that we provide secure and redundant infrastructure to our healthcare partners and work with them to recommend best practices and procedures for securing their own virtual instances that reside on our public cloud.

While that explanation might seem broad for such an important topic, the laws pertaining to personal information protection in Canada are complicated, technically nonspecific, and just plain hard to grasp.

We have created this “Guide to Protecting Private Healthcare Information in the Canadian Public Cloud” to help inform our partners and clients about how they can use our public cloud and be in compliance with Canadian privacy laws.

Download Cloud­-A’s Guide to Protecting Private Healthcare Information in the Canadian Public Cloud

BACKUP & RECOVERY WITH VOLUME SNAPSHOTS

Today’s post is not to be confused with our post from back in May titled: “Backups With Snapshots” in fact, think of this as an extension of it. Snapshots provide you with a point in time image of your server which gives you system redundancy as you can easily and quickly spin up a new instance based on any of your saved snapshots.  With all of that said, there are a few things to consider when using snapshots of your server as your sole backup process.

Downtime

The server that is being snapshotted will be paused temporarily during the snapshot process. While this pause time can be minimal, it might not be ideal for a server providing mission critical services. Because a snapshot of an server instance includes the whole system (operating system and data) the process can take between 1 and 10 minutes to complete depending on the total consumed disk space of the server instance before your server is resumed.

Cost

There is a cost associated with storing server snapshots. Server snapshots cost $0.15 per GB per month, billed for as long as the snapshot exists. You will only be charged for the compressed size of your snapshot — not the provisioned disk size.

Solution: Volume Snapshots

If the downtime and cost of server snapshots is not ideal for your application, the answer might just be using volumes and volume snapshots.

With this method we recommend that users keep their operating system on the original disk space that is included with the instance and use volumes to store their data. This allows you to take snapshots of your volume for backups of critical data, rather than the entire instance, and avoid the downtime associated with server snapshots.

In the case of a server instance requiring restoration, your recovery is as easy as deleting the server instance, launching a new server instance, and mounting the last successful volume snapshot to it.

Another effective use case is when data is accidentally deleted by a user. You have the ability to mount a previous volume snapshot to a temporary server instance, recover the deleted data and migrate it back to the production server.

If you wanted to go a step further, you can continue to store a single snapshot of your standard image, so in a case of a server issue, you will be able to launch a new instance based on your image with all of your system preferences and server roles intact.

The nicest thing about volume snapshots? They are free! Cloud-A does not charge for the storage of any volume snapshots, making them a cost effective backup solution.

Snapshot Schedule

Since there is no cost to storing volume snapshots with Cloud-A, you can store as many old volume snapshots as you would like. As the snapshots begin to pile up, properly labeling them will become increasingly important so that you know which snapshot is which.

The frequency of how often you snapshot your volumes is dependant on your organization’s tolerance for data loss and/or downtime. An organization with zero tolerance for downtime might require a daily snapshot of their server volume to provide them with several point in time instances of that volume. A less mission critical server volume, like a test environment, or an organization with a greater tolerance for downtime, may only require weekly snapshots.

Next Steps

We have partners and customers who are using a number of different backup methods with our infrastructure today. This really speaks to the flexibility Cloud-A’s Infrastructure-as-a-service offering. At the end of the day, the best backup processes are the ones that are recoverable and volume snapshots provide you with a cost effective, recoverable backup solution. We urge you to test it out for yourself!

Our Commitment To You (Our Clients) On Data Privacy

It was a fortunate coincidence that not too long after we started up Cloud-A, Snowden came out with all the information about how data privacy was at risk, more than almost anyone would have thought possible at the time. Shortly after that it became clear that Canada is not without its challenges in this area as well. We see this kind of interference clearly as abuse, that will hopefully one day be corrected and seen historically as a very unfortunate oversight that as of today is in great need of being rectified.

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Our values are simple and very straight forward: everyone should have the right to privacy unless they are doing something that is illegal. In that case the legal process dictates that the authorities who are conducting an official investigation have the right to collect data for the purposes of that investigation that is bound and defined by way of a warrant. In our view, to provide anyone any of our clients’ data without a warrant or their consent would be not only unethical but would also be a violation of our clients’ fundamental right to privacy.

In addition, we are committed to telling our customers about all government data requests. We promise to tell users when the government seeks their data unless prohibited by law. The idea being that this gives users a chance to defend themselves against overreaching government demands for their data.

To be fair, we have not had very many requests for this kind of thing so far. We think that’s a good thing, it tells us that our users are by in large not doing anything that would give anyone cause for concern in this way, and it also tells us that the authorities are not as overly ambitious as compared to what it sounds like happens in other regions. That being said, we know that with our continued growth it’s just a matter of time before this kind of thing will be more relevant for us and our clients in the future. As a result, we thought it would be appropriate to make a comment about our intentions moving forward.

In addition to protecting our clients’ privacy to the extent of our legal abilities, we are committed to publishing statistics on how often we provide user data to the government in general terms.

How a Cloud A client saved over 265% on their monthly IAAS costs with our hourly billing model

One of the questions we often get at Cloud A is “How does billing by the hour work?”. The answer is simple. We bill by the hour instead of by the month; compared to the more traditional IAAS provider model. In some cases by the hour doesn’t matter since most instances are up and running 24/7, but in the case where environments need to be available for testing, or ad hoc / batch processing purposes, it’s extremely compelling.

One of our beta testers is a company called Maintenance Group Inc.. They are an IBM partner focused on the Asset Management / Equipment Maintenance space working with a software product called Maximo / Tivoli. Before moving to Cloud A they had dedicated environments setup for testing new installations, configuration changes to those environments and doing other intensive tasks like batch processing jobs.

As with traditional VM solutions, snapshots play a big role in how they deliver solutions to their end clients. They use snapshotting a lot to streamline the deployment process and once an environment is setup and working well they then use it as a failsafe mechanism to ensure that they always have a current rollback position. In the past, they needed to pay to have those environments active on the system. Typically were are always left on even when they were not being used. When Maintenance Group Inc. learned that with Cloud A you only pay a tiny fraction of the cost to have a snapshot image stored while not active ($0.25/GB/month), they decided to take advantage of the opportunity to file those old & seldom used environments away and only spin them up when they were needed. The result was a dramatic cost savings of over 265% compared to the previous quarter’s spend on hosted infrastructure. In addition they have found other ways to leverage Cloud A’s on demand compute power to do batch processing of large datasets.

“We’ve been very impressed with what we’ve seen at Cloud A so far. Many of our clients require their data to reside in Canada and that has prevented us from leveraging the large US based providers who have billing by the hour solutions like this to date. This is a great solution for them as well as for our clients in the Caribbean & the US regions. It’s great to have a Canadian solution like this” – Jeff Seaward,  Maintenance Group Inc.