Cloud4 – Leigh Centurions Sponsors 2018

Cloud4 are excited to announce we are Leigh Centurions sponsors for the 2018 season.

Leigh Centurions Sponsors Cloud4
Phil Donoghue and Lynda Cundill of Cloud4 with the Centurions team

The company first became involved last season as a match sponsor for the game against Wakefield Trinity. We also had a range of advertising in and around Leigh Sports Village. After an exciting but ultimately dissapointing season in Super League, we quickly decided the time was right for us to step up and support the club and owner Derek Beaumont’s commitment to rebuilding for this year. The goal being an immediate return to Super League rugby.

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Hosted VoIP: The Business Case for SMEs

Business VoIP ServicesAccording to the telecoms regulator Ofcom, 95 per cent of small businesses in the UK still use traditional landline telephones.

However, the further up the enterprise chain you travel, a very different picture emerges. Amongst larger businesses, landline use has fallen into the minority, overtaken comprehensively by Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – otherwise known as internet telephony.
Continue reading Hosted VoIP: The Business Case for SMEs

Security First: How to Stay Smart in the Cloud

Cloud SecurityThe rate at which businesses moved their IT operations to the Cloud accelerated in 2016, and most forecasts see the pace of migration stepping up another gear in 2017.

According to Forrester Research, the overall number of businesses using the Cloud has increased from 10 per cent to 33 per cent since 2013. Figures from 451 Research suggest that spend on Cloud services is expected to increase from an average of 28 per cent of IT budgets last year to 34 per cent this year.
Continue reading Security First: How to Stay Smart in the Cloud

Could Cloud Make Your IT Infrastructure Obsolete?

Could Cloud Make Your IT Infrastructure Obsolete?As Cloud enterprise technology takes off around the world, analysts are starting to ponder the fate of the on-premises IT systems it is replaces.

With the number of businesses running their IT infrastructure entirely in the Cloud expected to be in the majority by 2018, in-office network servers – the bastion of business operations for the past two decades – look doomed to become yesterday’s technology.

According to a recent survey of IT professionals worldwide carried out by 451 Research, 60 per cent expect to be running operations entirely on the Cloud two years from now. Although just a forecast, that rise of nearly 20 per cent from the number using Cloud-only systems today is significant. As we stand, on-premises products are still in the majority. But once the scales tip in the other direction, the slide could be rapid.

Another report in America from Forrester Research paints a picture of profits for Cloud companies soaring whilst ‘legacy’ enterprise IT vendors have seen a steady decline for the past decade. Producers of network hardware and software just cannot compete with cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) suppliers who offer to host and manage your IT for minimal capital outlay.

Some experts are predicting competition from the Cloud could start to force traditional big-name enterprise server manufacturers – the likes of Dell, Oracle, IBM – out of the market altogether.

All of this raises the prospect of enterprise hardware becoming obsolete. The danger of this is not that the systems themselves become out-dated, but that the crucial data on them is in a form no longer compatible with the new technologies that have overtaken them. For businesses operating on their own physical systems, it would like being trapped in a technological cul-de-sac, with no option to move forward without going backwards and starting all over again.

In practice, no one is expecting in-premises enterprise networks to be cut adrift over night. Although changing rapidly, just under two-thirds of businesses still use them, which will keep the vendors in the market for some time yet. In addition, a niche industry for ‘transition’ hardware and software to growing up to mitigate for the fact that it is not that straightforward to migrate existing networks onto the Cloud. Many businesses are employing ‘hybrid’ models, which means they launch new system technologies on the Cloud, but keep existing legacy operations running on the old servers, until they are phased out naturally.

What should businesses do? It is not yet time to panic about your on-premises servers being more hindrance than help. But the Cloud is here and, looking long-term, hosted IT is the direction the world is heading. It is certainly worth considering for any new IT investment, be it replacing existing systems or launching new. The Forrester report advises decision makers to embrace innovation but ultimately, as with any business decision, make the choice that fits with your business needs.

If you are thinking of switching your IT infrastructure or would like some advice on how hosted IT services would impact on your business, Cloud4’s friendly team of consultants would be delighted to speak to you.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.