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Breaking down cloud lingo: the most important terms to know

Posted August 20, 2021 5:00 a.m. EDT

For people new to the cloud, deciphering cloud lingo can feel like learning another language. (fizkes/Big Stock Photo)

This article was written for our sponsor, RapidScale.

For people new to the cloud, deciphering cloud lingo can feel like learning another language.

Here are some of the most important terms and technical jargon to understand before, during, and after your cloud migration process.

1. Managed services provider and cloud service provider

What exactly does a managed cloud services provider do?

"Customers basically tell us their business goals as it relates to technology, and we handle all the management, configuration and support for those products so the customers can focus on running their business," said Robert Bergman, senior product manager at RapidScale, a managed cloud services provider. "One way to think of it is that customers are accustomed to managing their own internal physical desktops — they patch them, they update the applications, they install apps. When it's in the cloud, we handle all of that for them, including reselling the software licenses and cloud resources that the desktop consumes."

By providing managed services and allowing clients to outsource their IT needs, technology providers are able to tailor what they offer to the specific needs of their individual clients. They can also provide customers with security and support.

"No two organizations are cut from the same cloth, so the offerings are different from service-to-service, as well," said Duncan MacDonald, director of product development at RapidScale.

In addition to managed services providers (MSPs), there are also cloud services providers (CSPs). These terms aren't mutually exclusive, and some providers, like RapidScale, specialize in both.

"MSPs are more focused on implementing and managing technology, while CSPs are reselling cloud-based solutions, and wrapping implementation, support and managed services around that," said Bergman. "Customers can adopt this technology and get value out of it without having to be experts in the technology. What we want them to do is give us their business goals, then we handle all the implementation, configuration and maintenance of their cloud technology to make sure you achieve those goals."

2. Hosted solutions

Also referred to as cloud hosting, a hosted solution is a virtual server maintained by a service provider. Hosted solutions can include anything from software and website hosting to email and security. Depending on the client's level of need, the amount and type of solutions will change.

"I would put the solution into a couple of buckets. In the realm of hosted solutions, we have our own cloud with infrastructure as a service, desktop as a service, backup as a service, disaster recovery as a service, security as a service and software as a service," said MacDonald. "WIth these services, we discuss CAPEX versus OPEX with our clients, which has to do with the cost of the services."

CAPEX, or capital expenditures, are significant long-term purchases, while OPEX, or operating expenses, are day-to-day expenses that keep a company running as intended. Hosted solutions are typically an OPEX because companies pay for exactly what they consume. This type of billing model gives them cost predictability and allows businesses to better allocate and predict funds.

3. Lift and shift

Also known as rehosting or the forklift approach, lift and shift is a method for migrating data, applications, and infrastructure into the cloud by taking information from one environment and placing it directly into another, making necessary adjustments.

"A lift and shift is what we do day-to-day. We conduct a readiness assessment to assess what a company currently does and then evaluate what the most optimal path is to move clients into the cloud," said Wah Lee, a senior product manager at RapidScale. "It's like physics — there's always a balance. Right now, customers come to us when their environment has become too complex, and our job is to help modernize their older technology, so they can just focus on the growth of their business."

4. Service level agreement (SLA)

When working with a cloud provider, it's crucial to read through the service level agreement (SLA). This agreement ensures that a minimum level of service is guaranteed and sets expectations for the relationship moving forward.

"If the service goes down, what are we financially culpable for, in terms of paying the customer? We actually have very strong service level agreements, and we pay the customer a very healthy amount. We have SLAs for all our services," said MacDonald. "From a support perspective, we are transparent about our response times so that our customers can expect proper resolution times based on the criticality of the service ticket."

5. Zero trust

With new reports of major cyber attacks every day, it's important to treat your cloud environment with a zero trust methodology, meaning "never trust, always verify." That means not automatically trusting anything inside or outside your network and enforcing access control rules to ensure that users and devices are authorized with just-in-time access control.

"In the past, customers who came from a certain network would be able to connect to a resource, because that network was trusted — zero trust means that goes away. Each device and application needs to verify who is accessing the platform and each user needs to confirm who they are every step of the way," said Bergman. "There's no implied trust there, which helps protect against serious security threats like ransomware. This is a concept you're seeing customers look for from their MSPs and CSPs to implement as part of their solution."

6. DR plan, RPO and RTO

In the case that a disaster like a phishing scam or ransomware attack does happen to your business, a detailed DR (disaster recovery) plan with RPO (recovery point objectives) and RTO (recovery time objectives) will help in the remediation and recovery process, and potentially the survival of the business.

"When it comes to recovery, you need to have a DR plan in place. You're concerned about the RTO — how quickly can you get the data back? Then RPO — how often are you restoring or backing up the data?" said MacDonald. "Threats change from technology to technology, but these methods are so important."

This article was written for our sponsor, RapidScale.

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