Cloud Regions, Zones: What it all means and what to consider when choosing Regions.

When it comes to cloud computing, there are terminologies that can be a bit intimidating. Well, they are just that, intimidating, but with a little of getting used and some bit of research, you would be like: “Oh, that’s what you mean!”. So, understanding the differences between what is what, can be the difference between your success or failure when using cloud computing.  

Am sure that by now, you have met something called regions or zones – when using cloud computing. Now you maybe be wondering; what are all these words all about? Well, these words are important and understanding what zones or regions are can mean a lot more success to your applications and solutions. In this post we are going look at what cloud zones and regions are all about and how you can start to utilize them.

What is It all about?

When you hear regions and zones, we are talking about how data is transferred from the data centers (geographical locations) to the clients or end user of your application. There are three common words involved here: Regions, Zones and Availability Zones. Each company or cloud computing provider can differ (slightly) in the way they give meaning to these words; normally according to how each of their infrastructure is setup. But in normal cases they pretty much mean the same thing across all cloud computing platforms. So let’s start off to see what each of these mean when it comes to cloud computing.

What are Regions?

Cloud regions distributions
Cloud regions distributions

Regions are data centers distributed all over the world by cloud computing companies in order to bring their infrastructure closer to their customers. These are geographic locations where clusters of servers – actual machines that process data, are located. When you create an instance of any cloud computing service, for example, let’s say Google Cloud compute engine or Amazon Web service EC2, you also need to choose a region, this is where – physically, your data would be stored and processed from.  

There many advantages involved in this; like, each time a region is close to you or your application’s users, the fast it will load. Take an example, when you set up an online gaming application, the closer the region is to your users the more responsive your game will be for your users. In other words, it would improve latency. In my next articles I will be outlining many of the use cases of Regions and zones, so make sure to checkout the article soon.

Cloud regions can be broken down into smaller units called zones. And that brings us to the next question: what are zones?

What are Cloud Zones and Availability Zones?

Zones are units or area within a region where data resources can be stored. Zones should be considered a single failure domain within a region.

You might have had of Availability Zones, take case on Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. These are pretty much the same thing as when they are referred to as simply zones. The most important use case of zones is that: You can distribute your data across different zones so that incase of any failure of any of the zones – for which ever reason, you still have access to your cloud services without having to store your data in a different Cloud Region.

What to consider when choosing cloud regions?

1.      Latency.

One of the major uses of cloud regions, is latency. The ability to process data without delays. The closer the region to users of the service, the faster the data flow will be. So, choosing the region you want to run your applications or computing needs, you need to put into consideration these delays, the closer the zone to your users, the faster your solutions will be. Most especially when time delay is very important like in the case of streaming live videos or gaming.

2.      Cost Involved.

Using or storing data in one region other than the other can mean more costs. For many reasons – the amount involved in setting up one region can be higher than another region because of different factors. This is because the cost to buy land, the labor, networking etc. can be higher in different geographical areas. And this cost is normally passed down to cloud customers, this mean more costs. So, some regions can be of more cost than the others because the cost involved in setting up the infrastructure can vary from place to place.

There is also something called data redundancy. This is where data is distributed between regions in the case where you are using multiple regions. Each time data is replicated, this can mean more costs to you the customer though most of the time advantageous.

3.      Availability Features and Services.

Regions are not always made in the same way. Some regions are made with full capacity – that is they have a wealth of features available and other might have only a few. So, you should always first weigh in what features you will be using and whether they are available in that region before you actually choose one.

4.      Compliance.

You might be an organization that needs to store its data locally: In order to comply with your local laws, you can choose to use a region that is local. This is important because it will help you comply with local laws; this gives you more trust with you customers. You may also need to meet regulatory compliance needs such as GDPR by hosting your deployment in a specific or multiple region. So, as you are choosing, pick a cloud region that makes it easier for your company to adhere to those standards.

5.      Backup Solutions.

Because data can be distributed between regions or zones, this can work as a backup solution for your solution and hence the mitigating chances of your solution’s failure. Distributing data in multiple zones can be a backup solution and multiple zones should be available in that region. So, when weighting in on which regions or to choose, you have to keep in mind the backup solutions or options you have in place for your solution or application with that region.