For most Survivalists the possibility of an apocalypse is never beyond reason. With so many threats to our way of life, Economic Collapse, Pandemic Virus, Computer Born Virus, Solar Flare, Chinese EMP weapon, Nuclear War, TEOTWAWKI, etc. You can add one more to the list, Cloud Computing.
For most business people, military brass, local, state, and federal government officials the term “Cloud Computing” sounds like a dream, the ideal way to do more with less resources. To the rest of the world outside the information technology market the term “Cloud Computing” sounds like something to do with wireless or satellite technology. It has nothing to do with these technologies.
Cloud Computing by definition means to harness the computing power of a large data center (or data centers) using high speed internet connectivity. (Data Centers are explained below) What do I mean by this? The future of computing will require people (including business, military, and government) to be hooked up to the internet in order to complete their daily tasks. Computers in the future will basically be terminals to access software, hardware, websites, and databases housed on servers in a data center via a high speed internet connection.
To explain this to non-nerds, think of it this way. When you first started doing email more than a decade ago, you needed to have a software program such as Microsoft Outlook running on your computer. Now using Cloud Computing, all you need is a high speed internet connection to connect to a website where you log in with your username/password and boom….your email is viewed through a web browser….that is a form of Cloud Computing. So the cloud has been part of your life for a number of years without you even knowing it. Traditional computing runs software on your computer at your home or office. Cloud Computing runs software from a data center over a high speed connection and your computer screen is just a terminal.
The Modern Data Center
Modern data centers are something of an engineering marvel. These large concrete structures are a warehouse for computer servers and network equipment. The first thing you will notice about a Data Center is that it will have no windows and no commercial signage on the outside of the building. If it does have a sign, it might be something fake to throw people off from what is really going on inside. Being low key, nondescript is the first rule in running a data center. Remote computer hackers are obviously a major problem for the people who run data centers but an armed physical assault must also be countered as well. The data and websites that these data centers hold are more valuable than all of the gold in Fort Knox. Name a company and they have data stored at these data centers. Microsoft, Exxon, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Google, Oracle, Dell, Ford, Duke Energy, etc.
The modern data centers are built with extreme redundancy in mind. Power from multiple power companies, battery backups, commercial grade diesel generators, redundant fuel contracts from diverse fuel suppliers, connectivity from multiple high speed networks, redundant network switches and routers, redundant HVAC systems, anti-hacking and virus firewalls built into the network, security grade fencing around the complex, security lighting, cameras throughout the inside and outside of the building, armed guards 24 x 7, heavy steel doors with multiple levels of internal security, locked steel cages to house the computer servers. Data Center construction also takes into consideration weather, earthquake/hurricane prone areas, access to water, the flight path of planes, poverty/crime levels of the surrounding population, police & fire department capability, and much more.
Getting Access to the Data Center
To access your company’s rented steel cage in the data center, it comes down to three levels of security.
- Who you are. (You must be on the list of approved personal to access the data center with two forms of Gov ID)
- What you have. (You must have the access key to your cage)
- What you know. (You must know your personal access code)
These levels of security make it extremely difficult to fake your way into a data center. If you are missing any piece of the security puzzle you will be turned away and company/government personnel will be alerted to the attempted intrusion. Some data centers allow no customer access, everything is done remotely over an internet connection.
Spotting one of these data centers is not hard if you know what to look for. They are usually located just outside large cities in industrial parks. They usually are fenced in with fencing that says “This fence will be hard to climb and hard to cut but there is nothing of real value in this building”, you will not see razor wire or a type of fencing that draws attention to the building. Remember, low key is the first rule to running a data center. There will be a limited number of windows and they will almost always be in the front of the building. Cameras will be all over the building but difficult to see. Security will be layered, no roaming personnel outside but the parking lot will sometimes be secured. You have to enter the parking lot to really worry or alert security personnel to your presence. You can usually see two large diesel generators out back and they are usually fenced in with a second layer of fencing. You will not see any markings on these data centers because their location and identity are a bit of a secret.
These highly engineered data centers and the availability of high speed internet has led to this new concept of cloud computing and it all comes down to one thing, saving money. If you are a small company and have to keep track of sales and customer data. You can do things the old way, hire a network engineer or IT guy. Have him or her set up a computer room in your building and install software on each employees computer and have reports sent to the main computer server located in your computer room. By the way, you will need to be responsible for your own network security and any upgrades that need to take place on your employee’s computer. Also if the power goes out in your building, you are screwed and your company is down unless the building has a backup power source which is highly unlikely. Also if one of your competitors (or Chinese) like your products or ideas, they might break into the building while your staff is away to steal your corporate secrets and product plans. All things you need to consider.
On the flip side, you could use cloud computing (US Government Moves to the Cloud). As the CEO you can rest easy at night and save a ton of money by outsourcing your customer information and sales data to Salesforce.com and let Google or Microsoft be your new corporate email provider and never worry about spam and viruses again because they will be filtered out at the data center level by Google before they reach your workforce’s computers. Amazon cloud services will now run all of your order processing and e-commerce site on their servers housed at one of their many data centers across the country. Go ahead and fire half of your IT staff because now you have the experts at Salesforce.com, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon running your IT department and the only thing you have to worry about is the internet going down or the data center blowing up, which has never happened.
Now take this example and multiple it out by every Fortune 500 Company, Large Corporate Bank, Defense Contractor, Military Branch, Government Agency, and Small Business across this country and you see where the problem lies. We are centralizing all of our resources and expertise into these data centers and the need to save even more money has now arrived.
Data Centers are very expensive to run and maintain. We are now seeing a move to centralize many data centers into so called mega data centers. These mega data centers will standardize software and hardware equipment to save money. These standardizations could allow adversaries to target key components of the data center and exploit them all at once bringing down multiple data centers in a major attack. The US Federal Government has recently announced the reduction of over 800 data centers and will relocate many server farms from different government agencies into the same data centers. For example servers from the Treasury Department could be located with servers from Department of Homeland Security and so on. This is already happening but will more than likely move to a larger scale as Government Agencies rush to save money and do more with fewer resources. This is happening on a faster scale in the private sector. It no longer makes financial sense for banks or private firms to run data centers. They are not in the data center business; they are in the banking business. Therefore it is not uncommon to see servers from competing banks or businesses in the same data center.
With the future of computing power and data storage being centralized into these mega data centers, it is cause for concern. Already we have seen major outages in the cloud. Once an outage happens, you have little recourse. You can call the data center operator and their customer service person will say to you “We are aware of the problem, our staff is working to solve the problem, we have no estimate on how soon the outage will be repaired.” If you can’t deal with that….work on an off site redundancy plan. Think it can’t happen?
Amazon Cloud EC2 Cloud Outage Down Redit, Quora
Amazon Cloud Outage Staggers Into Day 2
Amazon Cloud Outage Downs Netflix
Microsoft & Google Suffer Cloud Computing Outages
Cloud Computing Outages in 2011
The 10 Worst Cloud Outages
Outage Leaves Exodus Data Center in the Dark
Verizon Data Center Outage Causing Headaches
Savvis Outage Knocks Lycos Offline
GMAIL Outage Pours Rain on Cloud Computing Party
As the race to the cloud continues and more of your life will be on the cloud, be aware of your own personal critical infrastructure. Access to money, credit, personal information, electricity, communication, and medical records.
About GovernmentIT – a network engineer who works for a major defense contractor in the Metro Washington DC area and is a daily reader of SurvivalCache.com.
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