Cloud Databases: A Primer

In an era of ubiquitous cloud computing, one of the concepts that needs far more planning and consideration is cloud databases. A cloud database is a service to access data built and accessed through a cloud platform such as Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure. Relational databases like MySQL and NoSQL databases like MongoDB are typical. Cloud databases provide a similar role to regular databases, but they extend the reach in many ways. Obviously being in the cloud eliminates the need to purchase and operate dedicated hardware. Data is accessed through web APIs or similar web interfaces. As such, any device with proper access could tap into the data resources.

To help you with your understanding of cloud databases, we want to outline the challenges and advantages you may experience.

Challenges of Cloud Databases

Storage Costs

Not unlike traditional databases, expandable storage space is a requirement, not an option. Sure, you are in a virtual environment, but planning and maintenance are required — you cannot set it and forget it.

Storage Performance

You should also consider performance of your databases, which is tied to the provisioned capacity. As a result, you will typically over-provision your capacity or you can add ad hoc resources (at the risk of significantly increasing costs).

Security

Database security is a critical issue in cloud computing. Security must be in place to ensure data confidentiality and integrity. You must have a solid understanding of where and how sensitive information is stored, including log files, documents and databases. You should review access permissions as you secure network data. Data encryption and masking techniques should also be used. And finally, you must monitor the network frequently, looking for potential access or misuse of data. It’s wise to utilize security intelligence technologies to lock everything down. We recently shared more specific information about cloud security.

Advantages of Cloud Databases

Ease of Access

With APIs readily available and easy to build upon, gaining access to enterprise data has never been easier. Applications can be enriched when cloud databases are coupled — potentially breaking down silos between departments. In addition, apps on mobile devices extend the reach of data to end users, creating a more flexible, mobile workforce. To be careful, data should be encrypted as soon as it’s created, then kept in an encrypted database. Data in transit should be encrypted too (e.g., using SSL to safeguard database and web console traffic. In addition, APIs should use trusted contexts to restrict when users can exercise privileges.

Scalability

As mentioned with respect to storage performance challenges, cloud databases can scale as needed. Start small and scale as your applications grow. It’s essentially unlimited with virtualization…often with no downtime.

Speed

When compared with traditional data center database solutions, cloud databases are inevitably going to offer faster, high-availability access. Especially at scale or with wide-ranging geographic needs, cloud databases offer significant performance advantages that old school hosting can’t.

Management & Disaster Recovery

Cloud databases simplify database management tasks like server provisioning, setup, configuration, patching, backups, or recovery. AWS continuously monitors your clusters to keep your workloads up and running with self-healing storage and automated scaling, so that you can focus on higher value application development.

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