A good cloud host offers cloud customers the ability to switch between hosting platforms but still use the same database, control panel and application services currently integrated in the customer’s infrastructure. But this “interoperability” must also be secure and convenient for the client’s customer safety. Data is one of the most fragile parts of any architecture — the target for hackers and competitors to obtain for use in the black market.

Management of the cloud is one of the most integral parts of interoperability. The IT manager uses management tools to extend cloud resources and upgrade devices such as storage for extended data use. Typically, cloud management tools call an API that controls the cloud resources, so whatever tools or end-product the customer chooses can interface with the data center. Data developers can use SOAP or REST services to interface with the cloud host and the internal application. These services allow the customer to customize management of the private or public cloud.

Data In The Cloud and Interoperability: Increasing Security and Making Things Easier

Then there’s security, always an issue when dealing with sensitive data such as social security numbers or credit cards payments. The move to a new platform should be secure, and the cloud host must facilitate any data transfers using encryption. This is especially important for ecommerce, medical or banking websites. Data that spans over multiple data centers in multiple geographical locations require encryption to ensure that hackers are unable to “sniff” out the information across the cloud. Typically, the Internet cloud is insecure, so the cloud host must ensure all parallel data is protected from hackers.

Monitoring systems also let the IT manager keep track of when resources are at capacity, so more resources can be allocated at a fraction of the cost of new equipment. This is one powerful benefit of the cloud when the company has a tight technology budget. Monitoring systems also alert the manager when any server goes down, so it can be taken offline for repair.

For companies that need to move to more complex platforms, data portability is also an issue. The cloud host must offer a way for the business to move the data from one platform to another such as a move to MySQL to MSSQL or smaller applications such as Microsoft Access to larger scale databases. Porting data takes time, but security is also an issue when moving to a larger cloud platform. All of these issues can be covered by the cloud host support team, but large data can take several days to move. Transferring data can happen while the business is operational, or the data can be moved in time spans that are during the business off-hours.

If the cloud host offers multiple platforms, the host typically supports fully featured interoperability to support customers’ needs. Most cloud hosts offer a variety of Linux based applications and platforms, and for Windows clients, the host supports the Microsoft and .NET platform. If the client is unable to make the switch to a new platform, the cloud host support team can help the business move to a different operating system or hosting platform.

This post is written by Rackspace blogger Jennifer Marsh. Rackspace Hosting is the service leader in cloud computing, and a founder of OpenStack, an open source cloud operating system. The San Antonio-based company provides Fanatical Support to its customers and partners, across a portfolio of IT services, including Managed Hosting and Cloud Computing.