Five Points for Best Practice in Cloud Storage

Some great pointers for best practice here from SearchStorageAsia. They have a long registration process on their site (as they should in their line of business) so I am reproducing it here for convenience. They are a great information source, so I recommend a visit and joining their database.

Here is their full article: 

These are still early days for cloud storage, but we’ve already gleaned valuable best practices from administrators and other experts for getting the most from a move to the cloud, whether you’re looking to do it today or down the road:

Best practice #1: Scrutinize service-level agreements

Proceed with caution when it comes to getting a service-level agreement (SLA) from a cloud provider. That means read the SLA closely before committing.

“There are a few major providers offering SLAs that are very vague about things like guaranteed recovery and assured destruction of data,” Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) storage architect Michael Passe said at a Storage Decisions session last year. “You want to look behind the wizard’s curtain to see what is really there.”

Lauren Whitehouse, a senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), said data access is one area that bears close examination in an SLA.

“Generally, SLAs have to do with access to the service, not to data,” she said. “Generally, the service has to be down more than 10 minutes before it’s considered an outage, so two nine-minute outages in an hour don’t count as an outage. If there’s an outage of the service, they just adjust the bill — that’s the kind of game that gets played. You have to ask, ‘What about access to data?'”

Best practice #2: Follow your business needs

Lantmännen, a collective owned by 40,000 Swedish farmers, saved more than $6 million in the first year after building an internal private cloud with EMC Corp. storage and Riverbed Technology WAFS devices, said Dennis Jansson, Lantmännen’s chief security officer.

Jansson said users choose what type of application they need through a web interface, and each service has a fee, SLA and integrated enterprise security management application. 

“We’re able to actually follow business needs,” Jansson said of the cloud. “It doesn’t make decisions on applications the users need.”

He called the cloud “an easier way to say consolidation, virtualization and standardization.”

Best practice #3: Repurpose your own resources

Online advertising sales rep firm Gorilla Nation Media LLC built an external customer-facing cloud and an internal cloud for employees by using servers it already owned along with cloud vendor ParaScale Inc.’s Hyper-scale Storage Cloud software to build an object-based clustered NAS system for unstructured data. Alex Godelman, vice president of technology at Gorilla Nation, said the cloud replaced a more expensive NAS setup. “To grow the internal cloud, we just add more nodes,” he said. “The design of the system is also very simple — we just kind of use it. And it allows us to breathe some life into a huge existing investment, which means we created the system virtually for free.”

Best practice #4: Prepare for the future

Even if you’re not ready for the cloud now — or the cloud’s not ready for you — start thinking about how it may help you down the road.

Charles Shepard, director of systems architecture at the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas, said he will consider an external private cloud when technology advances make it feasible.

“When Fibre Channel over Ethernet [FCoE] becomes completely adaptable and adopted over the next five years, and when it is completely standardized, that is the pathway to develop a full cloud outside our data center,” he said. “If you have a big enough pipe, like 10 Gigabit Ethernet [10 GbE] or even 100 [Gigabit] Ethernet, you might be able to take a database and write from it to the cloud.”

He said FCoE would be well suited to multitenancy, which is a crucial component of the cloud.

“It inherently subsegments networks for internal and external multitenant environments,” he said.

Best practice #5: Beware of hidden costs

Cloud storage providers will tell you the basic cost per gigabyte of cloud storage up front to help you figure out how much it will cost you per month depending on the amount of data you need to store. But these basic costs are only part of the picture, and providers may also charge extra for data transfers, metadata functions, or copying and deleting files. And don’t forget the costs of connecting to the cloud, perhaps with a T1 line.

SEO Strategy: How to Target Buyers, not Browsers

Some businesses seem hell bent on topping Google rankings as one of their main key performance indicators. It drives more traffic to the site, and therefore a steady flow of customers, right?

It’s kind of right, but really depends on what keywords you’re focusing your ranking efforts on. If you are looking for people who are searching the internet for a specific category of product to buy, you will have to do a lot more than pepper your website content with one or two main keywords that relate broadly to your business. A company in, say, health products may think that because there are 368,000 searches on Google each month (June 09 data) they want to get as many people searching on “health products” to visit their site as possible.

This is fundamentally wrong for two reasons:

1. In this case there are 269,000,000 search results for your 368,000 searches, so you had better be a SEO grand master to top that lot.

2. People searching on such a broad term are browsers, not buyers. A buyer will be searching on something they want to spend money on in order to fulfil a need or solve a problem, so will be using keywords like “hair loss treatment for men” or “anti-ageing products for women”. These keywords have far lower search volumes and results, which means a.) they are ready to buy and, b.) getting on the first page of the search engines is realistically achievable.

To focus on Point 2 because it is strategic, a potential customer is most likely to act if they land on a page that is highly relevant to their search, gives essential information about the product and has a call to action to engage them in the buying process.

So how do you get to the top on these buyer-specific keywords? The way that search engines calculate rankings is a dark secret known only to them, but in broad terms it is based upon Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). That means that around the main keyword you are targeting, there should be lots of other relevant, related specific keywords. Taking the hair loss treatment example, “hair loss treatment for men” can be mixed in with “hair loss treatment for women”, “stop hair loss”, “most effective hair loss products”, and so on. It requires a bit of research: Google Adwords Keyword Tool will help with your brainstorming and give data to support your keyword selections. Then you need to do the linking to other relevant pages on your site and external sites, if appropriate, that will gear up your results further.

And you need to make the copy readable if you are going to hold a buyer’s attention, so writing it takes some thought to avoid clumsy repetition. There are some truly shocking examples of keyword abuse out there that have absolutely no chance of engaging customers, even if they somehow succeed in getting onto the first page of search results, so search engine ranking should never be viewed as an objective in its own right.

In ther words, it’s just business, whether online or offline. You need to find out who your customers are and what they are looking for, understand the strengths and weaknesses of your competition and then attract customers to your company with truly excellent, well presented products that they will want to buy. Then you need to hold their attention with great, dynamic content that keeps them coming back for more.

London Property Frenzy Latest: Apartment Block Sold Out in 2 Days

When it comes to figuring out what is going on in a property market – particularly a hot one – real time, real world anecdotes trump historical data every time for me. This one, involving the distressed sale of a tower of apartments in London’s Canary Wharf, captures exactly what’s going on in the London market right now.

Last week a friend in London sent me the shoutiest ad for a weekend sale I have ever seen in the real estate industry:

BANKERS FORCE SALE! … VIRTUALLY HALF PRICE APARTMENTS! … £1,000 TO EXCHANGE CONTRACTS!

The headlines, garish use of colour and poor quality images conjoured the kind of voiceover in my mind that’s normally associated with TV ads for the latest grime-busting household cleaner.

Guess what? It worked. Another friend who knows the developer’s sales director asked him outright and yes, they competely sold out over last weekend, 13th/14th June.

At around £350 per square foot, the “virtually half price” claim stretched credibility, but it attracted enough buyers to achieve the developer’s/bankers’ objectives, and the new owners should do ok in the long term.

But the next time one of these promotions lands in your inbox, please take a few moments to do your homework and find something that really stacks up. Use the 7 point checklist in my previous post and you’ll end up with a better investment.

Fareps is in business to find the best possible property investment opportunities for its clients. In London our prices range from riverside apartments at less than £160,000 to super-prime Central London houses at up to £12m, and discounts to current valuations range from 10 to 45 per cent.

Keeping a Cool Head in Hot International Property Markets: London

It may seem surprising to be talking about hot property markets just nine months after the Financial Tsunami smashed investor confidence into tiny fragments, but history will tell us that what the event did was to bring about a sudden price correction in assets that had become overvalued.

As with other investment markets, property has seen a “flight to quality”, as valuations in the world’s major economies fell back into more affordable price brackets. As one big Hong Kong Agent explained to me recently, “Sure we used to sell Brazil, Egypt and Indonesia, but the best opportunities are now in low-risk, good value properties in US, UK and Spain.”

At Fareps we are seeing something close to panic buying of London apartments priced from £200,000 to £300,000. This was driven first by international investors cashing in on sterling weakness and lower prices, and is now being fuelled further by domestic buying. Weekend property seminars in Hong Kong are packed with cheque-book waving investors queuing to sign reservation forms and mortgage applications, and whole development phases are selling out in just two days. This is prompting some developers to release new phases early, which in turn is bringing construction schedules forward.

That is some turn-around, so don’t be surprised to see shiploads of cranes heading from the Persian Gulf to the Thames Estuary!

So as momentum threatens to turn into panic let’s take a moment to hover above the pushing and shoving and pick out what is really going on.

1. The window of opportunity for buying London property remains wide open. Sterling is still giving international property investors a 20% discount on 12 months ago and some distressed selling is inhibiting price rises.

2. Demand for accommodation in London remains high from multi-national companies, international students and a wealthy local population. This is keeping rentals at high levels.

3. Investors are tending to focus on just two or three factors when making a decision on what to buy. Typically these are “Where is the nearest underground station?” and “Is the price per square foot less than £400?” Good questions, but ones that need to be supplemented by a good, hard look at future rental demand. Check the location carefully. If it is a regeneration area, understand exactly what that means for the years ahead and what alternatives there are. If the area has really strong rental demand and restricted future supply it could well be worth paying far more than £400 per square foot. Price follows yield, so look at yield first!

4. Consider whether a new development is being built and finished to a standard appropriate to the type of demand in that area. Make sure that is neither being built just to achieve a low price point, nor too swanky and therefore unnecessarily expensive. Search for existing rental properties in the immediate area and use these as your reference point.

5. If buying a new development, check the reputation and track record of the builder and stay with household names. That will give you one less thing to explain when you come to re-sell.

6. Look for value in existing housing stock. Owners wanting to sell now are prepared to consider lower offers and you can confirm the value either from existing rental income accounts or from other comparable properties. Negotiate a discount and award yourself the comfort of some free equity!

7. While good sales turnover is proving that current valuations are robust, it is also reducing discounts, so out-and-out bargains are increasingly scarce. London property is hot and still in the early stages of recovery, which means you can buy almost anything now and do very well in the long term. However, a little digging for the best opportunities will enable you to add in the reassurance of some tangible short-term value too.

Fareps is in business to find the best possible property investment opportunities for its clients. In London our prices range from riverside apartments at less than £160,000 to super-prime Central London houses at up to £12m, and discounts to current valuations range from 10 to 45 per cent.