How Cloud Influenced Politics in the General Election

Political parties pulled out all the stops to get your vote on May 7th. Behind the scenes, there was a media frenzy, with newspapers, TV outlets and polling companies all trying to get to grips with the mood of the nation.

When Barack Obama ran for his first US Presidential term, his use of social media and cloud was notable. His was a very modern campaign, with copious use of Twitter and YouTube to get the message across (alongside lengthy TV ads, naturally). His campaign won two awards at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Awards, with unanimous support from the judges.

Our Interaction

Politics these days is a two-way street, and election campaigns are turning into conversations between the electorate and the parties. User involvement still requires people to stick flags in their garden, and posters in their window. But there’s more data, and a quicker turnaround, mostly thanks to increasing reliance on IT.

Behind all of this activity is a reliance on cloud computing. The Obama campaign could not have succeeded without the use of cloud-based storage powering sites like Instagram and MySpace (which was still a powerful tool at that time). Marketers are harvesting Big Data and using it to measure the mood of the people. Along with that goes a need to store, select, cleanse and control the data that marketers can use, so it meets compliance requirements.

Elections also inevitably attract funding and donations, and these donations are increasingly given online. For the first, award-winning Obama campaign, officials took more than 4 million online donations.

The Agenda

In terms of the future, no main party has explicitly mentioned the cloud, but its influence lurks under the surface. Many small businesses have fully bought in to the efficiency gains and cost savings that cloud computing presents. For a government, this is potentially gold dust.

We’ve seen hints at this shift during the current coalition government’s term in office, when Open Data standards have been part of policy, and the Gov.UK website has received an award-winning, responsive and accessible makeover. Government Digital Services are already making UK public services more efficient, and there is potential to roll this out at at a local level.

Anyone currently using the cloud knows that security and privacy are key concerns in business. For many, it’s important that data does not cross geographical boundaries and exit the EU, where different data laws exist. Political parties are keen to ensure that UK businesses can share data within Europe, and that means treading carefully around a potential EU exit. While cloud computing is rarely mentioned, the implications could be considerable if a referendum led to the UK going it alone.

The Outcome

IT and business professionals will be interested in both facets of the election. They’ll note the way new technology is used in this gigantic marketing drive. And they’ll note the way policies will change the way we use technologies like cloud to drive identity management, data collection and quality service provision.

Why Professional Services Are Adopting Cloud

Professional services companies provide support to other businesses. They are in a sector often known as ‘B2B’, and are responsible for providing assistance to other companies.

Professional services providers have been quick to recognise the potential of the cloud, and we find a huge amount of our customers come from this sector. In fact, there are far more small businesses taking on cloud computing than large enterprises, partly because they are more agile.

But that isn’t the only reason.

Cost savingsCloud services

Pre-cloud, most small businesses would have had to have a server in their office – perhaps expanding this to a small data centre over time. For a startup, finding the desk space for a large, bulky server could be an issue in itself.

There’s also the cost of maintaining IT hardware, or paying someone to maintain it for you. The more business-critical applications you amass, the more important it will be to keep the server online.

And what about backups? Client data is subject to stringent checks, and if any business works with personal information, they need to make sure it’s properly cared for. At one time, that would mean creating tape backups and shipping them off for storage. None of this is cheap – quite the opposite.

Practicalities

Looking at the day-to-day side of the business, it’s easy to see why small businesses have embraced the cloud. There are fewer reasons to be stuck in the office, and far more scope to collaborate with colleagues on the move.

For people who have to do 10 jobs in the place of one, this is a huge benefit. It’s a massive advantage when you can take calls on the move, or work on a document in real time with a far-flung team mate.

Barriers

Some clients ask us why they should trust their data to the cloud, given that there are so many high-profile media stories and scares. But there are far more reasons to trust the cloud with business data, than to write it off and use on-premise IT.

Hacks like the iMessage affair are few and far between, and they come abut largely because of poor security practices by the owners of the accounts in question. In business, providers like Cloud4 put security at the core of their provision. Two-factor authentication, encryption and real-time monitoring all ensure that data is safe at rest and in transit.

Often, cloud security is actually better than a business’ own internal IT. Many small companies think they are too small to bother with intrusion detection, yet hackers do target small professional services companies to get information on bigger businesses. When you move to the cloud, you benefit from pooled security resources, and the ability to lock down your data much more comprehensively than you can in your own office or home.

Find out more

Cloud4 is changing the way B2B providers work. We’re making startup businesses more effective, more efficient and more affordable. And we’re helping more and more existing service providers streamline operations and trim costs. To find out more about our simple migration solutions, contact us for a chat.

Server 2003: It’s Now or Never For Ageing Servers

There cannot be a server administrator in the world who’s not aware of the deadline. Windows Server 2003 will reach end of life in less than three months’ time, so if you’re still using it, consider this a red alert. For your data, and your network security, it’s now or never.

Many businesses are facing the very real possibility that their systems are not going to be migrated before the deadline of 14th July.

Risks of Continued Use

From mid-July, Windows Server 2003 will be considered unsupported software, since Microsoft will essentially cut it from its moorings and leave it without any updates at all.

Fortunate users may simply see performance degradation or incompatibility with different peripherals or hardware. This is likely to worsen over time.

For other users, incompatibility may be the least of their problems. We are certain to see increased hacking attempts on Server 2003 machines, not just because they’re unsupported, but because hackers know these machines are likely to be running on autopilot – long since forgotten.

Businesses that carry compliance responsibilities should be well rid of Windows Server 2003 before the cut-off date arrives. Those that continue to use it could face serious compliance problems, leading to fines, penalties and audits.

Ways Forward

Yes, it’s late in the day, but you can still do something about your Windows Server 2003 machine.

Isolation is one option. You could, in theory, cut that machine off from the wider world. But is non-migration even practical, and is it a long-term solution that is worth spending money on? Windows 2003 support is going to become a legacy product within just a few months, and it doesn’t make sense to throw more money at it when better alternatives exist.

You could organise a custom support agreement for your ageing Windows 2003 servers. However, be prepared for a hefty monthly bill to keep those servers online. This is the only way you can guarantee that your server will be secure going forward, yet it could bankrupt the IT budget in the long term.

The best way forward is an upgrade to a newer server, most likely Windows Server 2012, either on-premise or in the cloud. On-premise migration could be a tall order, particularly given the short deadline, but that depends on the resource you have available for testing and deployment.

A cloud move could be the most sensible way to control operational expenses and keep upfront expenditure to a minimum. And while there are going to be costs and hurdles to plan for, it’s going to be cheaper than ringfencing an ageing server, or retaining the necessary knowledge to maintain it.

Cloud4 Solutions

In need a quick exit from the world of Windows Server 2003? We can help migrate your servers safely, securely and without unnecessary downtime. Whether you need a single hosted server or a complete IaaS package, our support will get your data off Windows Server 2003 as soon as you’re ready to migrate.

Get in touch to find out how our scalable, affordable servers could soothe your Server 2003 headache.