Is It Time Your Charity Embraced the Cloud?

ChaJPEG image-568A4BE6643C-1rities and small non-profits run to ridiculously tight budgets, and a climate of cuts has only served to make their work more challenging. In an ever more competitive market, charities need to spend money on marketing in order to reach their potential donators, and they need to run at optimum efficiency so that none of those donations are wasted.

Adopting new technology can seem like an extravagance, but there are lots of examples of cloud computing actually reducing business spend. There’s no reason why your charity can’t benefit from the same efficiency.

Making the most of your volunteers’ time

Cloud computing helps you to do more work quicker, and it lets you work at more convenient times. For example, if you give your volunteers a hosted desktop, they can log on from home to contribute their time. This can help you increase their contribution, without necessarily asking them to do more hours.

We also offer hosted Lync, a communications platform for teams. If you all work different hours, and you find it difficult to work efficiently, Lync gives you the power of instant messaging, video and audio chat so you can hold meetings literally anywhere.

Keep data secure

Charities that work with vulnerable people have a responsibility to care for their data. Cloud technology lets you store your data in our secure data centre, so you don’t need to store anything locally on your office or home PC. You can use MyOwnCloud to share it with the people who need to see it, and nobody else. The convenience of MyOwnCloud helps to prevent the non-compliant use of data, such as spreadsheets being shared on memory sticks, sent via email, or shared using public cloud services that you don’t control internally.

Cloud4 offers many charities entire hosted servers, which are ideal for managing cost while also reducing the amount of space they need for their IT. We can provide Windows or Linux hardware, with or without virtualisation, and you can access the very best specifications – exactly as you would in the business world.

Making the most of your budget

Cloud4 can offer significant discounts on software, with savings of up to 33% on the cloud services you decide to use. These discounts come from top brands like Microsoft, and they let you access business grade cloud technology at an appropriate price for your organisation.

We can also give you a Hosted Exchange email system, so that your email is held on our secure servers. That gives you all the functionality of business email – including tasks, contacts and calendars – but you only pay per mailbox, and you’re never over-committed.

Friendly, impartial advice

Don’t let this year be the year your charity goes under. By improving efficiency and performance, you can make the most of the time and resources you have. Speak to Cloud4’s friendly sales advisors, and describe your IT pain points. We’ll come up with a customisable and affordable solution that helps you to decrease your operating overheads.

4 Ways to Ensure Your Data is Secure in the Cloud

Cloud ComputingGoogle+ is Google’s social network, and anyone with a Gmail address has a profile.  Officially, Google+ has more than 2.5 billion users, although not all of them are active. But Google+ holds some form of user data about every one of those people, and many of them have never checked their settings.

Head to your account, and you’ll be able to review Google’s data sharing defaults. A few settings will surprise you. Did you know that Google can use your public photos as background images on someone else’s TV? Or that your geographical photo metadata is shared when you send a link to a photo, by default? Granted, they’re not sinister settings, but it offers a hint as to why some people are reluctant to trust their data with the cloud.

Here are 4 simple ways to ensure your data is secure.

1. Choose a reputable business cloud provider

Getting the right provider is key to a successful cloud rollout. Look for a company with a proven track record in serving business clients. While many employees will default to using consumer products like Dropbox, this should be discouraged, since they are not designed to offer the robust SLAs that businesses require, and expect.

2 Ensure your data stays in the UK

Corporate cloud users should ensure that their data is stored in the UK. Once the data crosses a geographical boundary, such as being mirrored in another continent, legal rights and security requirements are less clear than they are if you ‘play safe’. Even within the EU, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly which laws would apply if you wanted to hold the provider liable for something. If in doubt, don’t export your data – choose a provider that stores it all within your geographical boundary.

3 Check the encryption

Cloud4’s customers benefit from the same grade of encryption that is used by British banks. When your data is at rest in our cloud storage service, we use a 128-bit encryption key, which would take 1,440,000,000 years to crack in a brute force attempt. That’s just an example; we use different types of encryption to keep your data secure in transit and at rest.

4.  Train employees to work securely

No matter how good your encryption, and your local laws on privacy, your security is only ever as good as the policies you have in the workplace. If your employees are using weak passwords, or logging on with infected mobile devices, security issues are always going to be a lingering threat. Make sure employees know how to use two-factor authentication, and make password training part of each employee’s induction phase.

Proactive data security

Cloud technology can be compliant. It can ensure privacy and security of data. Often, cloud technology is more secure than on-premise solutions it replaces, because you have the invaluable backing of a third party provider who adheres to the latest security standards. To find out more about the ways we protect your data, call Cloud4 for a chat today.

We’re ready to take your call on 0161 850 1264.

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.

Read our Guest Blog on the Social Media Makes Sense Website

We recently contributed a piece to the Social Media Makes Sense website talking about how a hosted desktop differs from a normal PC.

If you’d like to have a read of our guest blog simply click HERE

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.

Public or Private Cloud? Risks and Benefits of Both

When choosing cloud providers, you’ll need to look at your wider migration strategy, and consider the ways you need to use cloud technology. Part of that discussion is the consideration of public or private cloud services (and possibly hybrid cloud services that span the two types).

Every business is different, so it’s impossible to get the ‘right’ answer to this question, but having the right information will steer successful migration.

What’s a Public Cloud?Being productive in the office

A public cloud is, generally, a cloud service shared by large numbers of users. Typically, public clouds are very affordable, since usage is metered. For a small business, a public cloud storage service may cost less than a mid-range VPS.

Public clouds are great for testing and development, where a server is deployed specifically to carry out a task behind the scenes. The service is elastic, so you can run 1 or 100 servers, trashing and deploying on demand.

The potential downside is that you’re sharing resources, much like a shared hosting environment. You don’t know who else is using that public cloud. You have no control of the hardware. Your business cannot choose its hardware or monitor its performance. And, in the main, your technical team is responsible for managing its public cloud account.

Private Cloud Pros and Cons

A private cloud gives the business more control over the nuts and bolts behind the service, which means overall security can be tightened up, far beyond that in a public cloud. Unlike a public cloud, you can’t really scale up on demand; you’ll have to over-purchase resource to ensure you always have enough.

The obvious trade-off for this kind of service is the price. Once you start taking over entire servers, you begin to take on more on-going commitments, and your costs are fixed regardless of usage. For some large businesses, the cost isn’t an issue. For SMEs, it’s rare that a private cloud is an affordable option.

Misconceptions

Some businesses believe that they need a private cloud because of compliance, but that isn’t actually the case. This line of thinking stems from the fact that remote storage sounds risky, but a well-secured public cloud service can be just as compliant as a private cloud deployment.

Private clouds are seen to be less susceptible to hacks, too, but this is down to a very small number of high-profile hacking cases (targeting consumer services like iCloud, not business services). With a public cloud service, it’s up to your service provider to secure everything and pay for the necessary infrastructure.

The Case For SME Adoption

For SMEs, the public cloud (or a hybrid) is the perfect place to be. It’s affordable, scalable and secure, letting you access enterprise grade solutions for a manageable cost. In fact, it’s SMEs and startups that are leading cloud adoption, and it’s cloud technology that is fuelling their growth and flexibility.

In 2014, IDC claimed that cloud adoption would grow by 20 percent through to 2019.

Don’t let your business be left behind.

Just How Secure is Your Cloud Data?

When we think about IT security, we tend to assume that anything private should be stored on our own computer. The idea of putting a private document onto someone else’s machine seems like madness, particularly in an ever-connected world.

This instinctual reluctance to move data around has made some companies wary of the cloud. But the truth is that many cloud services are more secure than the on premise solutions we’ve used in the past.

So what goes in to securing your data in the cloud?

ISO/IEC 27001 Compliance

ISO/IEC 27001 is the international standard for security management, and it’s a standard that we comply with. Using this framework, we ensure that third party data and sensitive information is handled appropriately.

Compliance with ISO/IEC 27001 is not guaranteed among cloud service providers. But we believe that it’s an essential part of keeping your data secure. When you compare us with the competition, check to see if they have certification.

Super Encryption

When we store your data on our servers, we encrypt it. Using a special key – a string of characters – an algorithm scrambles the data, and the key is required to restore it. By protecting the key, we prevent unauthorised access.

Encryption keys are incredibly secure. A 128-bit encryption key would take millions of years to break, even if you used a computer. Consider this: our online backup uses 256-bit encryption, and our Hosted Lync and MyOwnCloud services use 2048-bit encryption. You’d need billions of years to crack either.

Location of Data

All Cloud4 customers benefit from UK-based storage for their data. This is critical, since laws on data access vary around the world. When your data is kept in the UK, you benefit from the very best in speeds, but also know that your data is stored according to local laws.

Our datacentres are located in Manchester and London, and we access is completely locked down. Only authorised security staff and technical teams can ever get into the building without a vetted escort, and we have state of the art fire suppression systems ready to kick in if there’s a disaster.

Our support team is all located in the UK, too, and we’re available 24/7/365. If you have any security concerns, we’re always here to help you.

Email and Desktop Security

To prevent system infection, and ensure your data never gets compromised, our hosted products use all of the security software you’d expect. That includes anti-virus software, anti-malware scanners, firewalls and identity verification. We do all this while allowing convenient access to your data from any location. If you use the cloud to share and collaborate, you won’t be prevented from doing anything you need to do, yet any unauthorised users will be locked out firmly and permanently.

Test Drive the Cloud

High profile hacks always grab headlines, but the cloud is inherently very secure. We don’t use weak passwords, and we don’t leave your data in the hands of fate. Instead, we used tried and tested, military grade security using the very latest technology and techniques.

3 Simple Reasons Your Business Needs a Hosted Desktop

Why use a hosted desktop?  Many sHosted Desktopmall businesses are asking themselves that question now. As cloud computing becomes a mainstream consumer product, businesses are starting to trust the cloud to access IT infrastructure and services.

If your business isn’t using hosted desktop technology yet, it will almost certainly adopt it within the next 3 years. Why? Let’s look at the reasons why this is a product so ideal for SMEs.

1. Hosted Desktops are Affordable

In a small business, it’s typical to buy each user a computer, or let everyone bring their own computer to work under a loose Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) arrangement. Either way, there’s an initial spend required, either from the user themselves, or the company.

When you need more capacity, or a broader range of operating systems, buying more machines gets expensive fast.

Instead of purchasing additional machines, a hosted desktop can let you expand without the need for capital outlay. If you need more machines, jut rent them. Need to cut back? Just scale back your contract.

2. Hosted Desktops are Convenient

There’s a certain bliss to leaving your notebook in the hotel safe, or setting off for a weekend away without the laptop bag over your shoulder. Sooner or later, though, you’ll get that urgent call that requires you to drop everything and deal with an emergency. If one critical document is saved on your local hard drive, you’ve no chance of being able to help.

The portability of a hosted desktop is one of its best assets. It’s always there waiting if you need it. Pop your tablet PC in your bag, or log on from your smartphone over 4G, and your desktop is there, right where you left it.

For summer holidays, day trips and even work engagements, a hosted desktop could pay for itself in one hour, while leaving you free to enjoy time away from your desk.

3. Hosted Desktops are Safe

How many times have you had a near miss with your data? Maybe the dog tipped a cup of tea on your laptop, and you had a few breathless moments trying to drain it out. Perhaps a giggling toddler has dropped your smartphone down the loo – just to see what happened. It’s our worst nightmare, yet accidental data loss happens all the time.

Hosted desktops are stored on a remote server, in a data centre bolstered by military-grade security. If you store business critical data in that environment, it’s secured, scanned for viruses, protected against malware and completely locked down. Critically, your host’s data centre is guaranteed to be free of clumsy dogs and mischievous toddlers, too.

Future-Proofing

Small businesses tend to lead the way in IT innovation. They’re more willing to experiment and try new things. Cloud adoption is widespread, and it’s the SME that’s gaining the most ground from this exciting new technology.

If you want to accelerate growth and limit your exposure to risk, a subscription based hosted desktop could be the ideal solution. Let Cloud4 demonstrate just how versatile and simple our desktop-as-a-service offering can be.

5 Things to Look For in a Hosted Desktop Provider

Virtualisation is a drcloud computingiving force behind efficiency and productivity, and hosted desktops are great for any employee that works in the field. They can access their desktop computer from a range of devices, and pick up where they left off no matter where they are.

Your hosted desktop provider is responsible for storing your desktop images and making them available to your staff around the clock. There are lots of providers, so what should you look for in a quality desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) host?

1. Security

Security concerns can present a barrier to cloud migration. Businesses often feel wary about putting data into a cloud environment. But with the right security, there is no need to be concerned. The key is to control access effectively, exercise common sense and increase security where you need to be sure of compliance.

For critical environments, look for two-factor authentication. With this enabled, users must provide a password and another token (such as a code sent via SMS) before they’ll be logged on. Also, make sure your hosted desktops have full virus and malware protection from the moment they’re deployed.

2. Choice

If you’re still migrating from Windows XP, you might be wondering which operating system to adopt. There are pros and cons with Windows 7 and Windows 8; technically, the former is now a discontinued product, but it’s potentially friendlier than the hybrid interface in Windows 8.

For best results, we recommend a provider that offers you more than one operating system so you can deploy a mixture of desktops for different purposes. Let users choose their OS, or assign Windows 7 for legacy use only.

3. Support

Cloud uptime is known for being much better than with a traditional infrastructure, and your hosted desktops should be available 24/7/365. Naturally, not every problem can be planned for. If there’s a fire, flood or other catastrophe, you’ll need quick support. And sometimes, it’s good just to have the reassurance that the support is there.

Look for a provider with two key provisions: support in your own language, and support in a relevant time zone. If your teams are working remotely, they might need hosted desktop support outside office hours. Factor that in.

4. Printing

Logging on from anywhere is convenient for all staff, but what happens when they need access to a printer? You need to ensure your team can quickly print out a document in the office, even if they’re in the airport waiting to board a flight.

Most good cloud providers offer some kind of remote printing, where documents are spooled through the virtual infrastructure, giving them always-on access to the printer back at work.

5. Backups

Data loss is always catastrophic when there are no backups to rely on. Don’t assume that your provider is taking care of it. Make sure your company’s file repositories are being backed up frequently, including files used collaboratively and personally.

With cloud backup, there should be multiple instances of your backups to ensure complete coverage should one host fail.

More Information

When choosing your cloud services portfolio, it’s important to assess providers in detail. There are many companies competing for your attention, but not all of them offer a five-star service. Look for the features your users need, coupled with robust security and protection against downtime. This will ensure your users get the best from DaaS.

 

Attention: Your Phone Number Isn’t Working

Businesses do a lot by email these days, but the phone is still a critical tool.  Despite the existence of teleconferencing, video calling and real-time instant messaging, it’s often better to pick up the phone and call.

Through convention, most businesses have acquired geographical or non-geographical numbers pointing to fixed landline phones.  We have also seen a surge of mobile numbers replacing geographical numbers, particularly for businesses who do not work from an office.

But there are some problems with the traditional phone system, and they can result in the competition getting an edge.

The Evolving PBX

Traditionally, businesses have installed PBX systems on premise to handle incoming calls.  An old-fashioned PBX requires engineer visits to achieve most management and maintenance tasks.

If you need more lines, fewer lines, or a repair to the infrastructure, it’s generally going to be an expensive affair.  Phones are hard-wired to desks, and there’s no freedom of movement at all.

This is where VoIP steps in to fill the void.  A hosted PBX is entirely software based, apart from the device you use to answer the call (your laptop, or your phone, in most cases).  So there’s no engineer to call out.  Need a new line?  Add one in a click.  Noticed a fault? Your host is there to fix it, under the terms of your monthly agreement.

Call My Mobile

Naturally, the mobile is more portable.  But with mobile numbers, we have another problem: people don’t trust them.  A landline or geographical number can be traced; it has longevity.  A mobile phone number could be attached to a throwaway pay-as-you-go SIM.  It could be obtained online for free, and disposed of at the end of the week.

For many businesses, mobiles don’t give their business gravitas, or a local presence.  That matters if you’re running an ad campaign and you need people to convert.

Let’s face it: the main reason people like mobiles is that they’re not in a fixed place.  What if you could use your mobile, but advertise a landline?  That’s exactly what VoIP allows you to do.  You can purchase any number of telephone numbers and route them to your mobile, laptop or tablet, providing you’ve purchased an extension for each device or user.  Numbers are available with your own local area code, or another area code, or even another country.

Switch and Save

Changing the fundamentals of your business can be costly, confusing and more hassle than it’s worth.  But if you’re still using a fixed line phone, VoIP is worth the effort.  It will free you from line rental, release you from your desk, and allow you to take more calls as you go about your main line of business.  And, most importantly, it’ll save you money.

If you’re still advertising a mobile number, VoIP’s a no-brainer, too. For a small monthly fee, you could advertise a fixed-line number without giving up the convenience of your smartphone.  And if you’ve got more than one business, you can have as many lines as you need, all pointing to the same place.

Intrigued?  Find out more.  Contact Cloud4 and find out how VoIP could work for you.