Are You Spending Too Much on IT Hardware?

UK SMEs will spend £22.8 billion on technology this year. That’s according to GE’s Capital Investment Barometer. The largest category for investment is IT hardware, which will increase by 64 per cent. SMEs say that they spend this money to upgrade their IT and enhance productivity.

In the UK, small businesses spent £10m on IT hardware in Q1 of 2014. That’s a massive amount of money that could be diverted to marketing or another essential function of the business.

Is it really worth chasing the latest and greatest IT hardware when your employees already have their own equipment? For many businesses, spending on hardware is a waste of money.

Try Bring Your Own Device

Many businesses are encouraging staff to use their personal IT hardware in the office, and are setting up formal Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies to govern their use. Bringing your own device to work used to be seen as a security risk, but when it’s done under a formal policy, the practice offers a number of benefits.

When employees bring their own devices to work, they can use the operating system they prefer to use, so there’s less struggle to switch to an unfamiliar system, or find training for users that struggle.

Using a hosted desktop for business tasks, your Android-loving project manager can work alongside his or her Apple-loving colleagues, or move seamlessly from one machine to the next. By providing a hosted desktop for every user, you can provide them with the Windows applications they need, even if they’re working on a Mac. If they choose to bring an iPad to work, they can log on to their desktop from their own tablet, and it gives you the opportunity to combine hot desking and remote working.

There’s a clear cost benefit to letting people bring their own devices, in terms of reduced investment. The company doesn’t have to keep upgrading its own machines, nor does it need a pool of tablets and laptops for occasional use.

Balancing the Risk

A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is a sensible way to leverage the power of the cloud, save on hardware spend, and give employees increased choice.

While some companies are nervous about having third party devices on their networks, a robust policy can ensure that data is safeguarded without restricting the use of any device. That means:

– Encrypting mobile devices

– Blocking websites that could spread malicious code

– Educating users about the risks of public WiFi networks

– Ensuring every device is locked automatically when not in use

– Using two factor authentication to safeguard company data

– Defining reasonable use of a personal device on company time, and any activities that are prohibited, such as downloading torrents, using social media, or gaming

– Listing any operating systems that are not allowed (such as very old versions of Android, which may be targets for hacking)

– Having a policy that allows company technical staff to wipe the device if it’s lost

Of course, the company may also choose to contribute to the cost of the device, or the cost of services that employees use. However, this should be structured and organised, so that only permitted devices are used.

However you approach BYOD, the hosted desktop is the cog that makes every device work together. All you need to do is draw up the policy, and cut back on your hardware spend next year.

 

How a Hosted Desktop Can Streamline Client Site Visits

Hosted DesktopMany businesses have remote sales teams, and those teams are generally kitted out to work effectively on the road. For a sole trader, it isn’t always as easy to get work done outside the office, nor is it cost effective to carry everything you might need in a pinch.

So how do you work on a client site? How are you planning to take minutes? Or create invoices and mark down expenses? Sure, you can take a pen and paper, but it’s an old-fashioned way to get around the problem when we have so much technology at our disposal.

And while you could take your laptop to the client’s office, will you have a back-up plan if you can’t get on the WiFi?

How many times have you taken your laptop on holiday, only to realise there’s no internet access in the hotel? Perhaps it offered an old-fashioned dialup connection, and the only connection option is a mobile signal; not much use for  laptop.

Perhaps you’ve visited a client site where you’ve put in a support call to get the logon details. By the time you’re done with your meeting, the ticket hasn’t been answered, and you’ve had to make notes offline instead.

Contingency Computing

For most remote workers, connectivity is their big essential. Just carrying a laptop is not enough. In some cases, it can even weigh you down.

The vast majority of workers need:

– A device that’s easy to carry, whether they’re in the car, on a bus or on a plane

– A device that won’t slow them down at airport security

– Access to the applications they normally use (not watered down mobile versions)

– The ability to connect to their computer without WiFi

– Military grade encryption, and two factor authentication, to keep prying eyes out of their business

– The ability to work ‘on the spot’, rather than complete paperwork work home to process at night

– The ability to use more than one device to access the same things

Cloud computing answers some of those requirements, but it can still leave you short if you drop your laptop in a puddle. But if you’ve invested in a hosted desktop, all your data is there – regardless of the device you’re connecting on.

You can even work on a hosted desktop using your phone over a 4G connection.

Other Benefits

Why else would you opt for a hosted desktop to work on site with a client?

– If your laptop gets lost or stolen, all you’ve lost is the physical machine

– Your data is backed up in our data centre, so you can leave it to us to look after it – no matter where you are

– We’re your technical support team, so you don’t need to worry about your client’s support team sorting out problems

– You don’t have to worry about an upgrade wrecking your machine, since we take care of all of that for you

There are dozens of applications for hosted desktops. Mobile nail technicians, surveyors, musicians and accountants all get more done when they work in the cloud.

Move Your Business Forward

Cloud4 understands that businesses have changing needs. Working at a remote site requires a flexible solution, which is exactly what we offer with hosted desktop. We do all this without losing the personal touch that so many of our customers value.

From a one-person start-up to a multi-site enterprise, cloud computing and hosted desktops offer a proven increase in productivity. To find out how to upgrade, swiftly and easily, ring Cloud4 for a chat today.

3 Reasons Why Professional Services Are Better With Cloud Computing

Cloud servicesAs British businesses recognise the importance of being agile, they’re choosing to outsource more tasks to professional service providers who can quickly and efficiently get the job done. If you work for one of these providers, you already know how important it is to be able to serve multiple clients efficiently.

Flexible working is an important part of professional service delivery, and cloud computing supports professional service providers in working to their strengths. Here are 3 ways you could improve your services by migrating to the cloud.

1. An Office That Follows You Everywhere

Depending on your niche, you might spend a lot of time moving from office to office, working on client sites or taking your work overseas. Micro businesses tend to take work on holiday at times, too. If you have one laptop computer, you’re setting yourself up for difficulties if that computer was ever damaged or stolen.

Look into using a hosted desktop that you can access from any computer. Our hosted desktops run in a web browser, so you can log on from practically any location. This safeguards your own equipment, cuts back on the need to find WiFi, and also means you don’t have to carry your laptop when you jet off on holiday.

2. Better Data Security

Small businesses often assume that they won’t be hacked because they don’t hold valuable data. In fact, the opposite is true. A small business computer can be a goldmine for a hacker, since you probably do business with larger companies and hold data about their policies and systems.

In order to serve clients responsibly, you need to encrypt your data, and implement two-factor authentication to prevent hackers from gaining access. Cloud storage and backup is ideal for this, as your provider handles the technical side. To be fully compliant, it’s best to pick a provider in the UK so that your data never ‘leaves’ the country.

3. Uptime

When your clients outsource to you, they will have a timeframe in mind for delivery. A computer problem can wipe out days, or weeks. In a competitive space, you really need to avoid bouts of downtime; you will lose clients as a result. It’s never your fault if your email provider goes down, but if you’re using an inadequate provider, your clients may feel you could have done more to prepare.

When shopping around for a cloud provider, look for a good service level agreement (SLA) that details the uptime and support you should expect. The best providers offer 24/7 support details, as well as a reliable service suitable for business critical applications. Hosted Exchange email offers the features of a local Exchange server without the precarious technical risk of trying to run a system in-house. Cloud4 hosts all hosted Exchange mailboxes in an ISO-27001 certified data centre, giving you peace of mind and a considerable cost saving.

We Understand Professional Services

Cloud4 offers cloud services to many professional service providers. We understand the pressures you face, and the things that can make or break your success. When it comes to IT infrastructure, you’ll find that our cloud solutions allow you to be more agile, responsive and cost effective.

Contact us today on 0800 802 1989 to find out more.

How Hosted VoIP Can Save Your Christmas

Christmas is the time of year that most office workers look forward to. It offers family time, some decent TV and a chance to forget about deadlines and stress. For entrepreneurs and business owners, Christmas isn’t always a time to switch off, since there’s always another phone call to handle.

If your family members are already fed up with your smartphone addiction, they aren’t going to enjoy hearing your ringtone when they’re trying to watch Dr Who. How can you manage your availability without switching your mobile off for good?

VoIP - Voice of IPEnter the IVR (Interactive Voice Response)

An IVR is an automated menu that lets customers select options with their keypad. Most banks use IVRs to direct calls to the right department, or deliver automated messages to callers.

When you set up hosted VoIP, you can create an IVR menu that puts you in control of the way calls are routed. You could send sales calls to an answerphone, while sending support calls straight to your mobile phone. You can also assign a ring group to any selection so that the calls are spread evenly over a team.

IVRs let you stem the flow of enquiries without making people feel abandoned. You can allow certain calls to come through, while filing less urgent enquiries in your voicemail inbox so you can deal with them once Christmas is over.

All of this can be controlled using Cloud4’s simple, straightforward VoIP dashboard.

Our 4 Golden Rules of IVRs

We’ve all encountered IVR menus that have driven us to frustration. A complicated IVR is not a great way to spread festive cheer. We recommend that you follow these four golden rules to ensure your IVR is successful:

1. Keep it short and sweet. IVRs can have up to 10 options at every stage, meaning they get complicated very quickly. Don’t use 10 options, ever. Five is plenty. If you send your callers on a wild goose chase, they will be more likely to abandon the call. Remember: each caller should be on the phone for 5 minutes or less.

2. Make people feel wanted. Your IVR needs to manage calls, not turn people away entirely. Reassure the caller that their message is important, and give them a timeframe for a reply. Then stick to it.

3. Speak slowly and clearly. Don’t use jargon or slang. If you’re not confident about your vocal abilities, hire a voiceover artist to record your IVR message. It’s amazing how much better the pros sound.

4. Offer an emergency contact option. Make sure your valued clients can reach you in a dire emergency. Many businesses assign the 0 key for this purpose.

Is There Still Time to Save Christmas?

If you’re still using an inflexible PBX system, or handing out your mobile number, it’s time to rethink your approach to business telephony. Hosted VoIP is a far more flexible solution, and it costs less than a PBX while offering much, much more.

If you sign up with Cloud4 today, you could have your shiny new IVR in place before the festive season arrives. Contact us to find out how VoIP can make your business more streamlined and responsive to its clients.