Recently, I was asked why “geo”, or location, matters in relation to the cloud. As computing infrastructure transitions away from in-house hardware to cloud computing, there are key points to consider when choosing where your cloud resources are located.

Cloud services, in their most basic form, are delivered by a large group of computers that share and scale computing operations across the group, rather than any single computer itself. This comes with advantages such as high availability of services, protection against disasters and cheaper hardware and IT costs.

   
Since clouds can span the globe, most larger clouds, like Amazon’s EC2 cloud, are further divided up into regions. Using regions allows you to specify a specific area of the globe where your cloud computing should take place. This can make a difference in your decisions for several different reasons…

  1. Pricing. Some clouds are cheaper than others, and, inside of Amazon’s EC2, every region has its own separate pricing for the services delivered. On a global scale, the cost of power and environmental factors can drive the price in either direction radically. For example, cloud regions that are located where power is cheap could be cheaper, but regions that are in earthquake zones may cost more due to the additional protections needed for the cloud infrastructure. Power, labor, currency exchange rates and more can have effects on pricing. Cloud pricing also changes frequently for these reasons. Fortunately though, most clouds have pricing calculators that make it easy to compare regions and services to choose what’s right for you.
  2. Speed. If you’re looking for cloud services delivered on a global scale, then location definitely becomes a factor in your decision. Cloud computing allows you to deliver content to users from anywhere across the globe; however, the distance between your users and that content can affect the speed in which that content is delivered. For instance, if your main cloud server is in the United States, but you have a development team in Europe, the added-up seconds of a delay in content delivery can eventually equate to many lost hours of productive time. Find a good balance between distance and price in this case—maybe an east coast region works better than a west coast region. As the global network and cloud continues to expand and improve, this will become less of an issue. However, the more users you have, though, the higher impact this will have on your decision.
  3. Reputation. When selecting a cloud provider, reputation could matter. Most large clouds run by Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Google are generally trusted, but some developers prefer to use cheaper and smaller local clouds, like DigitalOcean. If you have a mission critical service that you are hosting in the cloud, you should also consider that the larger companies have more resources to protect against hacking, and more hardware to distribute your cloud services across the globe.
  4. Privacy and content ownership. One last consideration is privacy and content ownership. Clouds are globally distributed, but portions of your data are still going to be located on physical devices in your cloud region. This can lead to legal issues around privacy and ownership. Clouds, by nature, are shared between many clients, so legal proceedings against another entity may adversely affect part of your cloud services. While this is more unlikely in larger clouds like Amazon’s EC2, smaller clouds could be shut off completely by censorship changes or political decisions.

As cloud services continue to grow and expand across the globe, they are offering an unparalleled level of availability for almost every business computing application. Organizations can take advantage of the cloud’s global nature by factoring in geography when they consider cloud services.

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