Protecting the Edge is Crucial in a Cloud Environment

09 Nov 12

By Simon Smith, Regional Manager, NZ & South Pacific, Schneider Electric IT

As companies continue to adopt more cloud and virtualisation technologies, they would do well to pay special attention to the devices that are now essentially the lifeline to their IT resources: networking and other equipment at the network edge.

But just as critical is the network edge. Whether we’re talking about a single small office or a branch office of a large company, the setup tends to be much the same. You've got a closet with some networking gear in it, or maybe in a campus environment you’re sharing networking gear with several other tenants.

As virtualisation and cloud technologies continue to take hold, in more and more cases these sites have little to no actual computing hardware on site. Rather, they are dependent on far away servers for compute power – whether at company headquarters or at a third-party application provider site, such as Salesforce.com.

Think about what the affect would be on those sites should their network connection be lost. What productivity are you losing when you lose connectivity to the cloud, and what is the cost? Probably you still have to pay employees when they’re not connected, but can they do any meaningful work? Will your phones go down, so you can’t take calls? What is the potential cost of that in terms of lost revenue or productivity?

Consider a retail environment, where there are lots of devices on premise involved in processing point of sale transactions. If your POS devices go down and you can’t process sales, how much will that cost you per hour?

Clearly, all this equipment needs to be protected against outages, whether it’s POS devices and desktops or the routers and switches that provide network connectivity. So the next question is, how will you provide backup power in the event of an outage and how much run time do you need?

Perhaps there’s a generator on site, so all you need is a UPS that can provide enough run time to power things till the generator is fired up. But does the generator have enough power to run all of your critical equipment, or is it just for emergency lighting?

With respect to the UPSs, can you manage them remotely? This becomes important for a couple of reasons. One, remote management capabilities gives the central IT staff the ability to identify when the UPSs need maintenance, such as a new battery. Additionally, with managed UPSs the central IT group can selectively shut down non-critical devices, thus enabling the UPS to provide power to the really important equipment for a longer period of time.

All APC by Schneider Electric Smart-UPS and Symmetra UPS models of 5 kVA and above ship with an integrated Network Management Card for remote management, and it’s optional on models below 5 kVA. All the remote operator needs is a web browser, and the systems also integrate with any network management system that supports SNMP, the Simple Network Management Protocol.

In the cloud and virtual world, protecting the edge is critical but with the right backup power plan, you can dramatically reduce your risk – and keep employees productive.

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