Posey's Tips & Tricks

Check Your Bandwidth Before Moving to the Cloud

The cloud potentially opens up a vast storage space for those with lots of data, but users will still have to connect with it. A big stumbling block could turn out to be your ISP, as I recently discovered.

Over the last couple of years, the IT industry has been pushing organizations to move everything to the cloud. Of course, whether you are moving your entire organization's data or just a subset of it to the cloud, there is no denying that moving to the cloud is a major transition. I've written before about cloud issues such as security, reliability and even job security for IT pros. However, I neglected to mention one issue that has affected me directly, namely bandwidth restrictions.

As you already know, I work primarily as a freelance technical writer. However, I do a few other things as well, including technical consulting, producing IT training videos, travel writing and travel photography. As you can imagine, I tend to accumulate a lot of data, especially from the videos and photos.

I have always worked hard to ensure that I have multiple backups of my data, but had always stayed away from cloud backups because I have a slow Internet connection. I live in the rural "sticks" and can only get Internet service from a small, mom-and-pop ISP that has a monopoly on the entire area. Therefore, I am forced to pay a premium price for a really slow Internet connection.

Cloud Crunch
Around the end of last year, I realized that I had begun accumulating data so quickly that the off-site storage method that I had been using for my backups was no longer effective. I knew that I needed to begin using a cloud backup service, even though I have a slow connection.

After researching a few cloud backup providers, I opened an account and began backing up my data. That was at Christmas. Four months later, my initial backup still wasn't finished. It was just when I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, with just 50 GB of data left to be backed up, that I encountered an issue I hadn't contemplated.

As it turns out, my ISP (like many others) limits the amount of data that can be transferred each month. This limitation wasn't advertised. Instead, it was tucked away within the service agreement terms. The ISP explained in a letter that it only allows 110 GB of upstream data and 200 GB of downloads each month. I had uploaded 202 GB of data within the last month, and if I did not get my bandwidth consumption back to the normal limits, the service would be terminated, the letter stated.

I will be the first to admit that uploading 202 GB of data each month probably isn't a normal thing for me. After my initial backup completes, my monthly data transfers will be a lot lower. Of course, the 202 GB isn't just backup data, but includes document and image files, e-mail messages, videos uploaded to YouTube and normal Internet usage.

Throttling and More
So why am I so concerned about my ISPs limits? Right now I am using the entire second floor of my house as a datacenter. I spend a lot of money each year on purchasing, upgrading and maintaining server hardware. I had been seriously considering moving my production environment to the cloud once Microsoft Office 365 becomes available in an effort to cut costs.

Now, however, I am beginning to wonder if that is going to be a practical move after all because transitioning to the cloud will increase my Internet bandwidth usage.

I don't see any easy answers to this dilemma right now. The first step that I plan to take is to throttle my cloud backups so that they aren't consuming quite as much Internet bandwidth. After that, I am going to need to do some benchmarking to find out approximately how much Internet bandwidth will be consumed if I do begin to take advantage of Office 365 or a similar service.

In any case, those considering moving to the cloud likely will face similar bandwidth concerns. It's a good idea to check the data transfer limitations imposed by your ISP first before making the move.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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