3 Ways to Stop Business Interrupting the Holidays

The summer’s officially over, and the kids are going back to school. Whatever fun we had over summer is soon going to be a distant memory, and before long, the Christmas countdowns will begin. We had precious few summery days in 2015, and for many entrepreneurs, holidays had to make way for essential work.

It’s the same every year. For SMEs, family holidays never really mean true relaxation. Fortunately, cloud computing is helping more entrepreneurs enjoy the summer, while offering clients a good level of service. Here are five ways to find a better balance.

1. Turn Off the Smartphone

To an entrepreneur, the idea of disconnecting the phone lines is akin to commercial suicide. But as convenient as smartphones are, they are also responsible for keeping us connected to the world of work when we should be relaxing. Last year, the German labour minister Andrea Nahles looked at banning employees from checking emails at home, due to the risk of “psychological diseases”. While it’s not helpful to overstate the risks, there’s certainly an argument for giving yourself a break.

To contain risk, ditch the mobile number and use hosted VoIP. That way, you can give our a respectable geographical or non-geographical number, while routing calls to your smartphone or a softphone app. Using an IVR, you can direct callers to an answerphone greeting and voice mailbox, or have urgent requests forwarded through to your phone.

2. Take Your Desktop With You

Hosted desktops function in the same way as a regular desktop computer. When you log on, all of your applications are there; your files are stored in the right places, and authentication prevents anyone else logging in. Unlike a regular desktop, your hosted desktop can be accessed through a browser, so you can enjoy the familiarity of your work machine from practically any location.

Hosted desktops let you access work when you need to, without the hassle of carrying a laptop on holiday. If you really need to work, you can jump on to any computer in the hotel’s business suite, and pick up where you left off. If you’re not staying in a hotel, take a tablet PC, and use all of your usual software on a virtual version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.

3. Sync Your Files

If you get a sales enquiry when you’re lounging by the pool, hiking back to your room for the laptop is the last thing you’ll want to do. It makes more sense to sync important files to multiple devices so you always have a copy on hand.

Cloud4 has a cloud sync product that’s a holiday essential. MyOwnCloud is packed with business features, with all files hosted in the UK. Download the apps for your PCs, laptops, tablets and phones, then sign in to sync them together. Sharing is simple, and the service works offline, even when you don’t have a data connection.

Get Set Up Today

The summer may be over, but the Christmas period will be upon us before we know it. Get set up with Cloud4 now, and your next holiday will be all the more relaxing. For a free demonstration, or details of our offers, speak to a Cloud4 sales advisor today.

Can Mobile Working Save Your Business?

mobile business apps for productivityBy 2020, half of the world’s workers will be remote workers. That’s according to a survey at the Global Leadership Summit in London. Over the course of the next five years, we’re going to see some big changes. Not every business will keep pace; some will fail.

The global economic crisis continues to put financial pressure on companies, and smaller businesses are still finding it difficult to raise capital. Now more than ever, remote working could be the answer if your business is finding it hard to adapt.

Benefits of Working Remotely

Employees are looking for a good work-life balance, and that means changing the way they work. People don’t want to travel at rush hour with everybody else. They don’t want to put their kids into after-school clubs if they can avoid it. As the world’s best employers offer more flexible working, the world’s best employees will follow.

Sir Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin group, is a vocal supporter of flexible working, and says that remote access is making this easier. Virgin employees can take unlimited holiday leave, providing their productivity is not affected. That means taking time off when you’re not needed, and being around when you are. Richard himself works remotely from Necker Island, a career move that would have been unthinkable before the internet became so widespread.

While we can’t all work from a Caribbean beach, the benefits of remote working can be felt on a smaller scale when working from home. Freedom to choose when to work, where to work, and when to take breaks; the chance to get fresh air, spend more time with the family, or cut back the daily commute. Far from being less productive, remote workers get more rest, are more energised, and feel more connected with their home life, helping them achieve that work-life balance they so crave.

The company gets its share of the benefits too: a workforce willing to work, and staff that enjoy collaboration. Rather than forcing people to fit the company mould, giving them the tools they need to work anywhere means work will often ‘just happen’.

Make it a Reality

You don’t need to have complex infrastructure to let people work remotely. But you do need to invest in modern services that help keep people connected.

Here are some ways to free up your employees and let them work wherever they like:

  • To ensure everyone has access to the right software and data, purchase hosted desktops rather than a fleet of laptops
  • Issue everyone with a smartphone capable of 4G connection, plus a tablet that can be tethered to it
  • Use hosted Exchange email so that employees can access their messages from anywhere, free from the size restrictions of an on-premise Exchange mailbox
  • Invest in VoIP telephony, project management tools in the cloud, and use video conferencing in place of lengthy on-site meetings

All of these things are affordable to small businesses, helping to keep costs down and ensure the company stays competitive.

By kitting out the workforce with cloud services and relevant support, they can access company data in a secure, compliant and speedy manner, without a break in productivity or an increase in IT spend. The reality is this: if you don’t wise up to remote working, your business could be overtaken by the dynamic, youthful competitors just waiting to steal your thunder.

Have You Got a Disaster Recovery Plan?

Enterprise level clients have disaster recovery procedures as a matter of course. When you have thousands of clients, and the pressure of regulatory compliance, it would be unthinkable to operate IT systems without some kind of ‘plan B’ in place. For the smaller business, disaster recovery features less prominently in the IT strategy; many don’t have a plan at all.

In fact, SMEs are more vulnerable when outages occur, since it doesn’t take much to wipe out critical systems. If your computer updates itself and the result isn’t pretty, could you feasibly continue – ‘business as usual’ – the next day?

The Bare Necessities

Your idea of essential services will vary from your peers’, but there are a few systems which every business needs to be up and running. Remove any of these tomorrow, and the whole house of cards would come crashing down:

– Email

– Telephone systems

– CRM systems

– Desktop operating systems

– Vital infrastructure (such as the internet connection that links you to the outside world)

You might assume that you have a fairly good handle on things, given that you oversee and run all of these systems yourself. Unfortunately, this can leave you wide open to unexpected disruption, and your competitors will not fail to take advantage if your customers are forced to look elsewhere.

Affordable Disaster Recovery

For small businesses, running your IT as lean as possible is key to managing cost. While it would be nice to have spare servers, internet connections and computers lying around, that isn’t practical for the vast majority.

Cloud computing has made disaster recovery much more accessible, and that’s mainly because of the huge economy of scale. If you use hosted services, you can purchase a tiny share of overall capacity, but benefit from the same comprehensive disaster recovery plans as bigger clients. The secondary benefit is that someone else handles the technical side for you.

Take email for example: it’s probably the most crucial system in a business’ lifecycle. Let’s say your mailbox is corrupted. If that mailbox is located on your local server, you own the problem, and your email won’t work until it’s resolved. If you use a service like hosted Exchange, your mailbox is stored remotely on your service provider’s server; they are responsible for its uptime.

The hosted Exchange provider continually monitors and scans that mailbox for viruses. It’s less likely to experience a problem because it’s proactively managed and secured. But if the worst happens, the host’s cloud-based infrastructure means it can bring another copy online. You didn’t have to pay for another server, or find an out-of-hours engineer to sort it out.

There are other good examples of cloud infrastructure providing disaster recovery. The hosted desktop is a good one. Unlike your local desktop, the hosted desktop is stored remotely, backed up several times, and can be replaced with a clone if the worst does happen.

Take Action

Small businesses know that disaster recovery plans are expensive. That’s no reason to ignore the threat and hope it goes away. By moving towards a cloud-based infrastructure, you can automatically protect yourself against the risk of DR, ensuring continuity in the services that matter most.

Cloud4 helps thousands of businesses reach their full potential with affordable, innovative cloud services. If you don’t have a disaster recovery plan, don’t wait until the worst happens. Contact us today, and we’ll talk you through the options.

 

Will Hosted Exchange Survive in a Crowded Market?

When Google announced its Gmail back in 2004, you’d have been forgiven for thinking email would be free forever. For consumers, Gmail certainly changed the way we thought about this vital service, and we have come to take messaging for granted.

In a highly competitive market, Exchange’s continued popularity is testament to its market position as a leading email solution. But can it continue to dominate business communication with Google For Work breathing down its neck?

Why Do We Still Use Exchange?

In truth, Exchange is more than just an email service, or a mailbox. It’s a complete business management system that incorporates calendars, tasks and other functionality. Exchange also ties in seamlessly with other Microsoft technologies, such as Sharepoint. If you’re in the Microsoft ecosystem, it certainly makes sense to stay there.

One of the pain points that businesses experience is the Exchange server itself. It’s a server that comes under serious load during peak business hours, yet it needs to be up 24/7. Without the Exchange server, the whole email system falls flat.

Hosted Exchange allowed businesses to stick with the Exchange system they depended on, but to outsource the management of the server. This is a much more efficient way to run a business email service because the pain, management and availability is placed in the hands of a third party provider. This means you can cut support and stop over purchasing, one of the key reasons for overspend in IT.

Looking Ahead With Cloud

The hosted element of Hosted Exchange takes advantage of cloud infrastructure, and it allows businesses to tap into a scalable and highly available method of provisioning. As long as small businesses need cost-effective services, hosted Exchange will be a popular email system.

As businesses become more collaborative, and more geographically diverse, the popularity of systems like Exchange will only grow further. The foundations are already in place, and the hosted element means employees can connect securely to collaborative and communication tools wherever they are.

Consider also the popularity of mobile computing, and the way that faster internet connections are changing the way we work. When everyone was sitting in one office, it made sense to place the server close by. Now, we can connect to a server from anywhere, and a 4G connection makes remote connections quick and easy. The user just has to change the server details on their device.

Now’s the Time to Move to Hosted Exchange

Hosted Exchange is a secure, convenient and cost-effective way to modernise your Exchange email and cut back on unnecessary spend. With easy accessibility and instant scalability, it’s no wonder businesses are doing away with their server rooms and switching to hosted solutions.

If you opt for hosted Exchange today, you’re essentially future-proofing your business email, ensuring it’s always accessible by employees working on site or far away. Microsoft has heavily invested in the Exchange brand, and we’re looking forward to years of additional innovation that shores up Exchange’s capabilities.

Is Windows 10 Testing Your Patience Yet?

Microsoft doesn’t have a great record when it comes to operating systems. Windows Vista was widely considered to be a slow, lumbering beast of an operating system – a completely worthless upgrade to its predecessor, XP. Recently, Windows has got a lot better, but there are still problems cropping up, here and there.

Now, Windows 10 is here, and hopes were high. Microsoft finally did away with Internet Explorer, and we’d hope they had learned from their past mistakes. For many Windows 10 users, the testing times started from the very first day of installation. Cryptic error messages have caused many clumps of hair to be torn out, while using browsers and email has been fraught with problems.

How much time have you wasted on Windows 10?

Tricky Beginnings

The majority of Windows 10 problems have stemmed from the installation process. All of the web, people complained of problems, giving Windows 10 something of a muted reception.

The most maligned error message was a rather mysterious ‘Something happened’. Underneath, the explainer text said exactly the same thing. In the history of useless error codes, this has to rank as the least helpful. It wasn’t even possible to Google for an error reference; there wasn’t one.

The error message was so ridiculous, some people on social media thought it was a hoax. But no: this was real.

Lessons Learned

If you’re still struggling with the ‘Something happened’ error, try changing your language to United States English. It’s apparently caused by an invalid combination of language and region in Windows 10. And it’s a shame, since the operating system had such a promising reception, and it seemed to solve many things we didn’t like about the previous version.

The lesson here is that your computer is very vulnerable, and a big provider like Microsoft still sometimes gets things wrong. If you forget to back up before installing a new operating system, the consequences could be dire for your data.

At Cloud4, we are still running Windows 7 and Windows 8 desktop builds for out hosted desktop customers. When the time comes to roll out Windows 10, we will make sure that it has been rigorously tested so that users don’t experience these kinds of heart-stopping errors. We’re also here to support you from day one; not only will we help you to choose the right desktop OS, we’ll also ensure it’s available to you 24/7.

Take to the Cloud

Hosted desktops offer businesses flexible access to the applications they need, with cross-device, remote connectivity and a range of advanced features. Choose to log on using Citrix or via a remote desktop, and opt for ‘keyless’ two factor authentication for complete peace of mind. You can also have Office 2013 standard installed on your virtual desktop, or opt for Office 2013 Professional Plus if you need it.

Wasting time on a new operating system is no fun at all, and in business, unwelcome errors can kill productivity. If you’ve wasted time on Windows 10 this week, consider switching to a hosted solution for stress-free computing.