Mobile Working: What Benefits Will It Give to My Business?

Mobile Working
The ability to work anywhere!

Mobile Working: The Business Case.

Old habits can be difficult to shake. For many employers and employees alike, the routine of turning up for work at 9am, working a fixed eight-and-a-half hour shift and clocking off promptly at 5.30pm are just part and parcel of what employment is about.
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Best Business Tablets for 2017

Best Business TabletsWhen people talk about migrating IT services to the Cloud, they tend to focus on the ‘soft’ elements – what software, what parts of their telecoms network, what data banks to transfer from in situ infrastructure to remote, managed servers.

What sometimes gets forgotten is one of the key reasons why migrating to the Cloud can benefit your business – mobility. With a Cloud business IT network, you don’t have to be in a certain office on a certain broadband connection to get on the company servers and work. In fact, the Cloud lets you work from anywhere you have an internet connection.
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Communication, Meet Collaboration: Why Matching Digital Tools Makes Sense

Matching Digital ToolsAccording to the people who think about these things, we are now in the third phase of the evolution of IT in the workplace.

First came the mainframe computer, followed swiftly by the personal or desktop computer, giving everyone access to digital tools at work for the first time.

For the past decade or so, we have been in the mobile phase – the advent of mobile phones, laptops, Wifi and tablets has thrown off the shackles of where, when and how we can work. Whereas once upon a time, to log on to a business computing network, you had to be logged on to a computer physically connected to that network by a wire, now you can do it from anywhere you like.

Nowadays, such is the development of multimedia communication tools, you don’t even have to hold meetings with everyone in the same space, you can just set up a video conference with as many participants as you like. To share work with a colleague, you don’t have to hand it to them, or even send it by email – you can put it in a shared folder on the Cloud that both of you can access whenever you like from any device with an internet connection.

The benefits of this new mobile way of working are manifold – flexible working patterns, more efficient use of time, are workforce that can be distributed far and wide but still connected, innovation on the move.

But there is also a feeling that most businesses are only at the beginning of this journey. And the reason for that is, according to some analysts, most businesses are not yet joining up the dots – or rather, the tools – of how to link communication to collaboration effectively.

To date, cloud-based technology for the workplace has tended to evolve along two separate paths – you have your software for doing your job on the one hand, and your communication devices and networks and the other. But what if these two were more closely integrated? What if, for example, your VoIP and mobile phones were somehow linked to your file sharing and collaboration platforms, like Sharepoint or OwnCloud

Would it surprise you to hear that the technology to do that is already widely available?

The key here is broadband internet, and the Cloud. If you are using cloud-based collaboration tools, and a hosted VOIP service, say, you are already running your comms and productivity software over an internet connection. Merging these into a single streamlined service is not only logical, but simple to achieve.

Part of the reason communication and collaboration remain separated is cultural. Workers over the age of 30 are a phone being used to make phone calls and computers being used to do work, even if the phone does run on an IP server.

But services like Microsoft’s Sharepoint already allow you to do everything from one place. In Office 365 Online for Business, you share working documents in company OneDrive folders on the Cloud, edit and collaborate on them in real time using Office Online programmes, all whilst talking face to face on a video call on Skype for Business. You can even start a message thread about it of social network service Yammer.

Long term, the business case for unifying all operations, collaboration and communication, into single integrated platforms that can be accessed on any device at any time is hard to ignore. It will reduce costs and downtime, while boosting innovation and business continuity, with a workforce that is empowered to be involved in more and to work with greater flexibility.

Are you ready to mobilise your business?

Are you ready to mobilise your business?The advent of so-called smart technology has transformed the way we live our lives in little more than a decade. Computing tasks which used to require hefty chunks of desktop hardware can now be completed with devices that fit snugly into a pocket. It has changed the way people communicate, socialise and consume, as lives are increasingly led on the move.

If the world has gone mobile, it makes sense for your business to follow the trend. The ability to conduct all kinds of transactions from any place at any time is not merely an issue of keeping up with the Joneses, it is about making use of technology to work in smarter, more efficient ways. As the world speeds up, businesses need to follow suit.

Added Agility

For consumer-facing businesses, it is a matter of keeping up with customer expectations. In a world where people are now used to having the world at the fingertips at the touch of a button, instant response has become the norm. Mobile technology can make your business agile enough to meet those demands.

For B2B-facing operations, mobile offers a new level of efficient, responsive working. Establishing the right kind of communication networks with clients and suppliers means no one need ever be left waiting on a response to an urgent query. Meetings can conducted across huge distances, and orders and requests can be processed the moment the need arises.

Getting set up

The first step to making a business mobile is migrating at least some IT operations onto the cloud. One of the big advantages of cloud computing is that it frees users from having to connect to a physical server in a fixed location; as long as you have internet access, you can perform all of your computing tasks from anywhere. Whether that means using a hosted desktop service or moving all your operations onto a cloud server, it means all aspects of your business are ready to be conducted on the move.

Accessing your business in the cloud whilst on the move also requires the right kind of hardware. Investing in Smart phones and tablets for your mobile workforce makes sense because they are designed specifically for on-the-move use. Touchscreens are far easier to use in transit than even the most slim-fit laptops, whilst having 4G-ready devices is an absolute must if you are to be free of dependence on wi-fi connections.

Increased productivity

The final consideration is making sure that everyone in your mobile team can communicate properly. The ability to make calls and reply to e-mails on the go has been taken for granted for many years now, but mobile technology offers much more.

VoIP services – in a nutshell, communicating directly over an internet connection – have the advantage of costing less than ordinary mobile telephony, whilst also offering video and conference calling on the go simple and straightforward.

If you are interested in learning more about how to mobilise your business, Cloud 4 offers the full range of services you will need. Contact us to find out how our cost-effective services could help to improve your productivity, and your bottom line.

Is It Time to Transform Your Office?

Is It Time to Transform Your Office?As more and more millennials enter the global workforce, businesses are faced with a generational split. Older staff are seeking to work later into life, and they are used to working in the same place each day. At the same time, younger employees expect more flexibility: they want to work from home, work varied hours, and bring their own devices to work.

In the face of this shift in working practice, we’re seeing the traditional office slowly changing shape at the same time. Desks may only be occupied for part of the week, as technologies like hosted desktops allow staff to work from practically any location. VOIP telephony lets people take their phone lines with them, and hosted Exchange is shrinking the on-premise data centre.

The office of the future will be a very different place, compared to the function it has served over the last 30 years.

Millennial Perks

Millennials are a generation that has grown up with the internet. They’re the people most likely to use instant messaging to talk with a team, or fire up video calls rather than attend meetings. Google and Facebook have led the way in redesigning their workplaces to better meet the needs of millennial staff, and SMEs can learn a lot from these initiatives.

Facebook has reinvented the humble vending machine, offering free keyboards and other peripherals at the touch of a button. Google provides free gyms, pool tables, launderettes and massages to retain its best staff and keep them happy. Of course, these perks have a secondary purpose: they drive productivity and loyalty, and blur the line between work and play.

Most businesses can’t afford to repurpose meeting rooms as ping pong halls, but that doesn’t mean that change has to be expensive. We’re seeing more businesses offer relatively small perks: free burritos, shopping discounts and bowling trips, as well as a general re-think of the way their office space is used.

Changing Ways of Working

If more of your staff are working remotely, you’re going to be sitting in a partly empty office for much of the day. Reducing desk space and repurposing it can offer better utilisation of space, increased productivity, and a workplace that is more in tune with the millennial way of working.

For example, some businesses are splitting off a corner of the office and turning it into a soundproof booth – perfect for morning scrums and video conferences. Many are doing away with cubicles and introducing large desks that bring teams together.

More common space, coffee shop zones and outdoor facilities help to keep people stimulated and happy at work.

Does the office really have to contain banks of computers, and a fixed seat for every person you hire? Not necessarily. Changing technologies mean we all have the freedom to rethink how our office space is used.

Technology That Works For You

If you’re bringing in technologies like cloud file storage and online collaboration, do you really need vast meeting rooms? As we embrace the hosted desktop, is there any need for the 9-5? Millennials are already moving into management positions, and they are reshaping the way our offices function, which is aiding productivity and innovation.

To find out more about the cloud could drive transformation in your workplace, speak to the experts at Cloud4 today. From a handful of hosted desktops to a full virtual PBX, our solutions are driving change in businesses.

When Will Your Business Be Fully Cloud-First?

Hosted ServicesSmall businesses and startups are most able to take advantage of new cloud technologies. That’s according to an IDC report. It says that 70 per cent of SMEs now engage with the cloud in some way. SMEs are using 4 cloud apps per company, on average, while the fastest adoption is taking place among millennials: people who reached adulthood around the year 2000.

Consider the fact that many of today’s entrepreneurs can barely remember a world without the web. They are adaptable when it comes to new technology, and they are open to trying new ideas. It’s no wonder: they’ve grown up with the cloud. Millennials are already forming new companies that are disrupting established markets, and they’re using digital tools relatively freely.

If your business is to compete with these new, highly agile competitors, it needs to take a cloud-first approach to its business IT. That may mean invoking massive culture change.

Are you ready for the challenge?

Defining Cloud-First

The US government coined the term ‘cloud-first’ to encourage departments to use cloud technologies as a first option. This policy was designed to speed up migration to the cloud, therefore encouraging a more economical use of IT.

And it worked. Hundreds of US government data centres have closed, or are in the process of being decommissioned, because so many departments are leveraging cloud storage and processing power instead. The cloud is creating a less wasteful IT landscape, and delivering massive savings. Already, the US Department of Agriculture has saved $75 million by moving to the cloud, and expects to save another $125 million as its adoption strategy continues. That’s just one department of hundreds.

Here at home, the UK government also has a cloud-first policy, although it has failed to deliver the same kinds of savings as its US peers.

Is this a cultural issue, or perhaps a generational one?

Changing Times

By 2020, millennials will make up 50 per cent of the world’s workforce. And millennials are the people most likely to understand, accept and trust cloud technologies.

In contrast, look at attitudes within the UK civil service: 43 per cent of employees are still printing and posting documents to each other, because the cloud is still viewed with suspicion, or seen as a barrier to normal ways of working.

In a survey, 78 per cent of civil service IT workers were concerned about cloud security, while 68 per cent said time and effort were an issue when migrating.

As startups come to treat the cloud as a prerequisite for success, so established organisations are going to have to update their approach to IT and embrace the cloud, rather than shying from it. Startups are going to outpace non-cloud customers and gain that critical efficiency advantage.

Additionally, customers and service users are going to notice a marked difference between the companies that are cloud-first, and the ones that are not. Delivering exceptional service means giving customers the service they expect.

The First Step

All over the world, we’re seeing a digital revolution take hold. In public organisations and private businesses, cloud computing is driving efficiency and positive change. A cloud-first approach is essential if your business is going to retain its lead over competitors, particularly as agile startups threaten your lead.

For more information about our cloud-first email services, file storage and online backup, don’t hesitate to give Cloud4 a call. We can provide a single service or a bespoke package, supporting your business as it takes its first steps towards successful migration.

What is ISO 27001, and Why Does it Matter?

JPEG image-8F3E09CED782-1Many businesses fear security breaches and the consequences of hacks. And it’s true to say that small businesses are never immune from this threat. Cloud adoption has long been stalled by security-conscious businesses that see the cloud as a potential threat to their information.

In 2009, 68 per cent of European CIOs surveyed said that security fears were preventing cloud adoption. In 2015, security was still thought to be the single biggest barrier that was stopping businesses migrating to the cloud.

But some of these fears are based on misconceptions. In the financial services industry, and a lot of problems can be solved using risk assessments. 71 per cent of businesses now use some kind of cloud technology; the key is to be smart in the way you plan your migration and choose your provider.

Why ISO 27001 matters

ISO 27001 is an information security standard. Its sets out the minimum requirements for an organisation’s Information Security Management System (ITSM) to make sure that the organisation has a formal commitment in place. ISO 27001 covers the operation, monitoring and maintenance of information security management, ensuring staff and policies are committed to safeguarding data.

Data centres that are awarded ISO 27001 accreditation have been externally and independently audited to ensure they comply with these stringent rules. The key thing to remember is that an ISO 27001 facility has assessed risk, and put measures in place to manage it. For example, there’s a risk in storing data in the cloud, but the organisation will have evaluated this and put measures in place to manage that risk.

When you look for a cloud provider, you should ascertain whether its data centre is ISO 27001 certified, and you should check out its security policy carefully. But there’s more to check before you sign up.

What about data centre location?

The great thing about the cloud is that it’s geographically diverse; data is stored in more than one location. For businesses, this poses a new question. If data is stored in different countries, which country’s laws will protect my assets?

A few years ago, there was a great deal of fuss about the Patriot Act, a US law that allows US authorities to comb through any data within its geographical boundaries. In truth, many governments have similar laws, and data cannot be completely ring fenced, but there’s still some confusion among businesses who aren’t sure where their data should be stored. The EU has its own set of problems, with security protocols being jumbled and difficult to understand.

The safest approach is to select a provider with a data centre in the UK. You must make sure that all of your data stays in the UK, and the business does not have any operations in the USA, to avoid the potential complication of US involvement. By selecting a provider with a UK data centre, and ISO 27001 accreditation, you can move to the cloud with confidence and keep your data completely secure.

Should Your Business Ditch the Desktop Computer For Good?

Should your business ditch the desktop computer for good?Less than 30 years ago, the desktop computer was the only practical way to do business, and the only realistic choice was the IBM compatible. In 2016, the desktop computer is starting to look like a relic from days gone by.

Desktops are still valuable in professional settings, but sales are falling steadily. In 2010, globally, we bought 157 million desktops; in 2017, this is expected to have fallen to 123 million. At the same time, sales of tablets will rocket from 19 million to more than 400 million.

This change may seem sudden, but it’s been accelerated by the changing way we communicate. If your business still uses desktops, their lifespan may already be limited.

Why our offices are changing

There’s certainly nothing wrong with the humble PC. It has earned its keep for many years. And for a large number of businesses, the Windows PC on their desk will be the machine they use for years to come.

But the disruptive force of tablets cannot be ignored. Windows can now run as comfortably on a small tablet machine as it does on a large, bulky desktop. And all machines have evolved to a stage where they can comfortably do what we need them to, and do it for a reasonable amount of time.

The influence of the cloud

Software is also changing, driven by a move to the cloud, and the increasing speed of our broadband connections.

After all: we don’t need PCs to edit documents. The phones we carry around will give us quick access to the apps we need.

We can edit photos in a browser window, or on a tablet, without having to connect a camera to a PC and import.

We don’t need to purchase bigger and bigger hard drives, because cloud storage offers us huge capacity for next to nothing.

Businesses have the option of running everything from the cloud, from their email server to their desktop and applications. And while you do still need a device to access those cloud services, a tablet works just as well as an old desktop PC.

Changing needs

The desktop PC has been a trust companion for many years, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with using desktops if you prefer them. But for modern businesses, mobile devices are a more portable and convenient solution.

Internet-connected, highly portable devices allow us to work from anywhere, and free us from our desks, so we can spend fewer hours in the office and fit work around our daily lives. Our clients access the same applications that they have always accessed on their PCs. The only difference is that these applications are hosted, along with their operating system, on our secure UK servers.

If you need to take your office everywhere you go, moving from a desktop PC to a hosted desktop computer could be the best decision you’ve made, and you need not change the applications that you already use in your work.

If you want to see a hosted desktop in action, don’t hesitate to give us a call for a demo.

Is There a Stigma in Working From Home?

Working from HomeIn many UK offices, working from home is seen as an easy way to wangle an extra day off. We’re all very familiar with the stereotypes of attending conference calls in pyjamas, and writing reports while watching Fern and Phil.

But for many professional services companies, working from home provides their competitive edge. Their business literally wouldn’t survive without it.

Changing attitudes

Sir Richard Branson is a vocal advocate of working from wherever you like. Mind you, his ‘home’ is a two acre island in the Caribbean, so it’s hardly surprising he wants to stay there as much as he can.

Branson’s home office, Necker Island, relies completely on one mobile phone mast that’s located six miles away. That mast is the source of everyone’s WiFi, and allows him to get his work done each day. All of the electricity is provided via solar cells that store power in massive batteries, and he uses cloud file storage to exchange documents.

This might be an extreme example of remote working, but it does prove how times have changed. The way we connect and communicate is changing, and the cloud is the driving force that’s making it happen.

Living and working flexibly

Answering VoIP calls from a paradise island might be something of a pipedream, but we can certainly use the same principles to work more flexibly, wherever we are in the UK. In the professional services industry, even simple changes can help align your business more effectivly with your clients.

If you change your hours slightly, you could take on clients in other time zones and be available when they’re at work. When it’s time to do an audit of your client’s accounts, you could use their computer to log onto your hosted desktop, rather than dragging a crate of files over in the car. As a result, you could even walk there, and get a few more steps on your Fitbit in the process.

It’s important to note that being more flexible and connected doesn’t have to mean being constantly at work. You can work when it makes sense to work, and switch off when it’s time to relax. Cloud computing gives you that control.

Lead the way

More and more businesses are ditching the daily commute. They’re figuring out better ways to fit work in with their home life. In Sweden, workers in the public sector are seeing their hours reduced without a pay cut, in recognition that a shorter day means less stress and a renewed drive to achieve results. The key is that flexible working should make you feel happier in your job.

If you offer professional services, but you’re still working a 9 to 5, think of all the efficiency benefits a flexible approach could bring. While we can’t promise a private island or a spot of snorkelling over your lunch break, we can help you to structure a working day that is more tailored to you and your clients.

Cloud4’s cloud computing solutions will give you the freedom to work smarter, not harder, so you can focus on what your clients need and spend less time sitting in traffic. You’ll quickly realise why so many businesses are taking a new look at working from home.

It’s Time Your Accountancy Practice Moved Into the Cloud

If you deal with personal and financial data, the internet can be a worrying place. High-profile hacks have hit brands like Sony and Apple, while regulatory compliance can place restrictions on what you can do. But you only have to look at the myriad cloud financial packages to see that accountancy works brilliantly in the cloud. Companies like Xero have gained tens of thousands of clients through it.

If you’re an accountant, the cloud offers huge opportunities to cut spend and improve productivity. Besides offering cloud tools to clients, you can also use cloud technology to streamline your day-to-day tasks.

Work on site with ease

Providers of professional services are often called to work on site with a client. Accountants usually have to lug a pile of papers with them, as well as notebooks, case files and reams of sensitive data.

Immediately we can see that the cloud offers better security than carrying client paperwork. Cloud4 offers a suite of services backed by the same security protocols that are used by our high street banks. Additionally, we’re here 24/7 should you have an issue with a service. If you do end up on a client site and you run into a problem with your cloud service, you just need to give us a quick call, and we’ll get you back up and running.

How to use the cloud

Accountants generally deal with several clients in the course of a working day. Efficiency is key to serving everyone quickly and minimising delays or mistakes.

You could begin by storing your client documents with MyOwnCloud secure file storage. MyOwnCloud lets you upload and share files easily and securely, so you can send copies electronically in minutes. No more post, no more expensive stamps, and no more delays with turnaround.

Your accountancy firm could also improve first impressions with its own dedicated phone number. A geographic or non-geographic phone contact carries more weight than a mobile number, and it’ll give your clients the impression that you’re secure and here to stay.

We’d also recommend that professional service providers look into hosted Exchange email for business. It allows you to get all the benefits of Microsoft Exchange, but without the massive cost of running an email server. Cloud4 can provide you with a huge mailbox, spam filtering, virus scanning, email archiving, and the helpful business features that Exchange offers.

Build your package

At Cloud4, we’re committed to offering affordable cloud services that scale along with your business. For accountancy firms, this means convenience and efficiency, backed with the security that our ISO 27001 certified data centre offers. If you’re unsure how to migrate to the cloud, or you’d like to discuss data security, we’re here to explain how everything works in simple, jargon-free terms.

For more information about moving your accountancy business to the cloud, don’t hesitate to call us today. We’re available now on 0800 802 1989 or manchester@cloud4computers.co.uk, we’ll help you demo our services completely free.