Why Professional Services Are Adopting Cloud

Professional services companies provide support to other businesses. They are in a sector often known as ‘B2B’, and are responsible for providing assistance to other companies.

Professional services providers have been quick to recognise the potential of the cloud, and we find a huge amount of our customers come from this sector. In fact, there are far more small businesses taking on cloud computing than large enterprises, partly because they are more agile.

But that isn’t the only reason.

Cost savingsCloud services

Pre-cloud, most small businesses would have had to have a server in their office – perhaps expanding this to a small data centre over time. For a startup, finding the desk space for a large, bulky server could be an issue in itself.

There’s also the cost of maintaining IT hardware, or paying someone to maintain it for you. The more business-critical applications you amass, the more important it will be to keep the server online.

And what about backups? Client data is subject to stringent checks, and if any business works with personal information, they need to make sure it’s properly cared for. At one time, that would mean creating tape backups and shipping them off for storage. None of this is cheap – quite the opposite.

Practicalities

Looking at the day-to-day side of the business, it’s easy to see why small businesses have embraced the cloud. There are fewer reasons to be stuck in the office, and far more scope to collaborate with colleagues on the move.

For people who have to do 10 jobs in the place of one, this is a huge benefit. It’s a massive advantage when you can take calls on the move, or work on a document in real time with a far-flung team mate.

Barriers

Some clients ask us why they should trust their data to the cloud, given that there are so many high-profile media stories and scares. But there are far more reasons to trust the cloud with business data, than to write it off and use on-premise IT.

Hacks like the iMessage affair are few and far between, and they come abut largely because of poor security practices by the owners of the accounts in question. In business, providers like Cloud4 put security at the core of their provision. Two-factor authentication, encryption and real-time monitoring all ensure that data is safe at rest and in transit.

Often, cloud security is actually better than a business’ own internal IT. Many small companies think they are too small to bother with intrusion detection, yet hackers do target small professional services companies to get information on bigger businesses. When you move to the cloud, you benefit from pooled security resources, and the ability to lock down your data much more comprehensively than you can in your own office or home.

Find out more

Cloud4 is changing the way B2B providers work. We’re making startup businesses more effective, more efficient and more affordable. And we’re helping more and more existing service providers streamline operations and trim costs. To find out more about our simple migration solutions, contact us for a chat.

Windows Server 2003 in 2015: Is It Worth the Risk?

Microsoft products usually remain in common usage long after they disappear from the store shelves. Take Windows XP, for example; it was released in October 2001 for PCs (and 2002 for tablets, although you’d be forgiven for missing that edition). Microsoft withdrew all support for the desktop version of XP on April 8, 2014, which is not a bad innings for an ageing OS. We’re guessing that the tablet edition was quietly abandoned some years previously.

The Microsoft lifecycle always involves a 28184160_d379a5d843_bnumber of key stages, and we see the same pattern time and again with operating systems. There will be updates, or patches, issued periodically to keep the software current as it ages. After a few years, Microsoft then announces a point where ‘mainstream’ support concludes. This means that features are frozen and the software is not updated.

A few years later, all support for the product is withdrawn. This is End of Life; no more security updates are provided. At this point, the software becomes a risk because the vendor does not make any effort to patch it, and your computer is essentially left to fend for itself. A very scary thought.

Understanding the Risk

July 2015 will mark the end of life for Windows 2003. This is the point where all support offered by Microsoft will end, as will all patches and updates.

To reiterate:

SUPPORT FOR WINDOWS SERVER 2003 IS NOW LESS THAN FIVE MONTHS AWAY

According to industry estimates, this particular End of Life will leave millions of servers out in the cold, and extremely vulnerable (around 9.1m globally). That’s a state no business should find its data centre in.

Businesses that continue to use Windows 2003 on their servers must understand the problems they will face after that critical End of Life date:

– Applications will start to falter; you’ll see 4262500695_dc3e0aa2b0_othem run more slowly, and crash more frequently, and there will be few people to help you figure out why

– Data will start to be more vulnerable to hacks and data corruption; there will be no patches or updates to defend it

– Regulatory governance problems and compliance issues will start to emerge, which could leave you at the mercy of the Information Commissioner’s office

– Your cost of support goes up as Windows 2003 becomes a more obscure, legacy product

Keeping an old server in action may feel like the cheapest option now. But for all these reasons (and plenty more), at End of Life, all bets are off.

Migration Options

If you’re currently running a Windows 2003 server, it’s best to start the migration process now. Leaving it too late means you have nowhere to go when End of Life actually happens.

We recommend that all 2003 servers are retired as soon as possible, and the data and applications on those servers is moved to either Windows 2012 or a cloud alternative.

If you’re not sure how to plan your migration, speak to Cloud4 now. We don’t just run IT services, we also support businesses that are in the process of switching. And once your Windows 2003 machine is retired, we’ll still be in the picture to offer support and on-going help.

For more information on if and how Server 2003 End of Life will affect your business visit this dedicated site www.server2003endoflife.co.uk.

How Hosted Exchange Helps You Achieve Better Compliance

Cloud 4 Computers Hosted ExchangeRegulatory compliance compels businesses to treat data with care, and according to frameworks and the law. Some industries are harder hit than others by compliance burdens, but every organisation in the EU has some kind of responsibility to treat data responsibly.

Data protection, and the safe retention of data, is the most common regulatory concern for EU businesses, and it’s not a concern that’s confined to the cloud. The mismanagement of personal information can cost a company dear, regardless of how it happens. A data breach, or mismanagement of data, is likely to pique the interest of the Information Commissioner; while the Office shoe chain was lucky to escape a fine, your business may not be so fortunate.

As your IT systems mature, and your data silos grow, it’s important to consider how that data is being stored and transmitted.

Data Boundaries

The cloud is designed to be multi-location. By its nature, it allows data to be stored in more than one place. For businesses, this is seen as a potential risk.

In fact, risk doesn’t change in the cloud. Our use of remote technologies is not a cause for concern. But businesses are right to be cautious. All of us store masses of personal data in our email mailboxes, and we also deal with intellectual property and other types of data that are subject to compliance or regulation. Once you transmit this data outside your company’s corporate network, you need to know what happens to it next.

Helping, not Hindering

Hosted Exchange involves shifting your company’s helps staff comply with policy by offering them a secure messaging platform from day one.

When you choose the right provider:

– Hosted Exchange is secure, and its ongoing security is managed by a specialised third party who are experts in their field

– Email servers are continually monitored for intruders and unusual activity

– Users can connect to Exchange on any device, including iOS and Android devices, and from any location

– All their favourite features, such as calendars, operate as they always have

– Emails are preserved and archived permanently; vital for companies who need to comply with the UK Companies Act

– Data centres comply with ISO 27001, an information security standard that suggests best practice in data storage

– Email data is always stored within the EU, not distributed to data centres around the world

The latter point is important. If email storage crosses that critical boundary, it may violate the Data Protection Directive. Note that the United States is not an approved, compliant country, which means many cloud services are unsuitable for compliance with EU law.

Cloud ChoicesCloud services

Cloud4 offers Hosted Exchange 2013 or 2010 services, hosted in compliant UK data centres and accessible all over the world. Because your service is managed by us, we take care of essential security patches and services like malware scanning. Our support teams are available 24/7 from our UK offices, ready to assist if you have any trouble accessing your business email.

 

Do You Know Where Your Hosted Desktop Image is Stored?

All businesses have to comply with certain regulations and laws. In some industries – and continents – unmanaged compliance quickly becomes a burden on profitability. If the business doesn’t take its responsibilities seriously, it can end up paying fines and losing its hard-earned reputation.

If your business has its offices in the EU, you need to be careful about data storage. Cloud computing means your data could be stored literally anywhere if you don’t keep a close eye on the services you’re using.

What’s Special About Europe?

Globally, all businesses must meet compliance and governance requirements, and this has been a barrier to cloud adoption for many businesses. It’s not that compliance changes when you use the cloud – but the nature of the services you choose can affect its impact.

In Europe, there’s a law, the Data Protection Directive, which prevents the transmission of personal data to non-EU countries unless it’s dealt with in a compliant manner. There are 11 approved non-EU countries that are considered to be compliant; all others require special care.

Choosing a Provider Overseas

When storing data in the cloud, the business is responsible for that data. It cannot pass the buck to the cloud storage provider. You need to carry out due diligence and ensure your services are fit for purpose.

If you use a US provider, you need to make sure they are Safe Harbor members and regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. US and EU law actually conflicts in some areas, too. Don’t assume that the US is vetted and allowed for data protection compliance: it isn’t.

There’s the added complication of the Patriot Act: the law that lets US authorities gain access to any data held by a US company if they have good reason to do so. It doesn’t matter if the data was generated by a UK company, or is owned by a UK company. The fact is that it’s stored in US locations, so the Patriot Act is applicable.

The issue of compliance could fill a white paper, or even a book, but one thing is clear: it’s immensely complicated. While public cloud and private cloud services sound simple on paper, storing corporate data can be problematic… and storing your clients’ data very risky indeed.

Often, if you use a very large provider, your data may be stored in multiple locations without your knowledge. That makes it impossible for a UK business to know the risk.

Safe Options

As the data controller responsible for security and personal data, you are ultimately in charge of compliance. The fact that your provider does things you don’t know about is no excuse.

For UK companies, by far the safest option is to host data within the UK. This is a simple way to make sure your data is stored according to the laws applicable to you, so you have complete peace of mind. With your data in UK storage, your risk is mitigated and there are fewer fines to worry about too.

Hosted Exchange vs Google For Work

Google has launched its Google For Work initiative with much ado and fanfare. The service brings together numerous cloud services under one umbrella – a Google login – and is essentially a competitor to the Microsoft office suites.

Yet there are plenty of reasons to consider alternatives, particularly Hosted Exchange.

What is Google For Work?

Google offered Google Apps for free for a long time, on a limited but adequate basis. It no longer offers free access, and has launched two products in its place: For Work, and Apps Unlimited.

Google For Work includes all of the basic Google services, including Gmail and Drive, plus discussion groups and YouTube. It doesn’t includes any advanced email services; for those, you’ll need to pay for Unlimited.

So what’s missing from the For Work edition? Full document search, believe it or not, is missing, as is auditing of documents in Drive. And emails are not retained forever either; there’s a 30GB limit, which is generous but not evergreen. Google Vault, its Glacier-like deep storage, is provided as a paid add-on.

Hosted Exchange: the Basics

Hosted Exchange is a product that lets businesses move their email services to the cloud. Rather than having an on-site server, the business places its data in our hands and pays us to manage the hardware. For most small businesses, this is a sensible approach, since it saves money, frees up time, cuts down on support, improves uptime and generally results in better compliance.

The key benefit here is the migration. Moving from local Exchange to hosted Exchange is a relatively simple process, with far fewer risks than a move from Microsoft to Google. If your business email is critical – surely everyone’s is – then we recommend sticking with the vendor you’re already using.

Exchange is also a mature and proven platform, while many of the services under Google For Work are fairly new. This matters in terms of downtime and availability, and it also means users are going to hit the ground running: nothing changes for them, except the server location.

Control of Your Email

There’s nothing more infuriating than downtime that you can’t fix, particularly during the working day when everyone needs their email. If you migrate to hosted Exchange, you’re putting your email in the hands of Cloud4 – a company you can speak to on the phone, or email for answers.

While Google’s support has improved, we’d argue that it cannot provide the responsiveness that a small hosted Exchange provider can provide. Likewise, we have control over your servers, and we can move quickly to find faults.

Find Out More About Hosted Exchange

Cloud email is a sensible and cost-effective solution for the vast majority of small and medium sized businesses. The solution you choose ultimately depends on the position you are in, the services you are already using, and the degree of reliance on email in your organisation. We know a Hosted Exchange has the features, reliability and performance to suit every growing business. If you’d like a demonstration, talk to us today.

Hosted Exchange vs Office 365

Cloud servicesBusinesses are increasingly using cloud computing to save money and improve efficiency. Migrating the on-premise Exchange server is a key step that can improve performance and cut costs. There are essentially two routes to the cloud: a hosted Exchange solution, or a move to Office 365.

Hosted Exchange and Microsoft Office 365 are both valid choices, but they are not the same solution. The former provides email services in the cloud, while the latter is a virtualised version of the Office suite. Both do provide reliable and scalable email services, but there are some fundamental differences that can make or break a successful migration.

About Office 365

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud version of Office, and it includes desktop software on a rental basis. It ‘feels’ the same as the traditional version, so there’s nothing new to learn. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how eager you are to stay within the Microsoft ecosystem.

Businesses buy Office 365 on a subscription model, and there are various levels of service on the menu. The most basic is Email Only. If you pay more, you’ll get access to Web Apps – online versions of Excel, PowerPoint and Word – with a license to install the desktop equivalents.

Hosted Exchange is Different

Office 365 is purchased from Microsoft, but hosted Exchange is provided by a number of third parties (like Cloud 4, for example). Hosted Exchange always includes Exchange email in the cloud with support for calendars and tasks.

Hosted Exchange providers will tell you exactly where your data is stored, and precisely which countries’ privacy laws are protecting it. This is vital if you need to follow governance procedures to protect sensitive data. If you do business in the UK, it makes sense to choose a provider that will not transfer your business data across international borders.

It’s sensible to check basics like mailbox size, since those irritating mailbox warnings are the number one bugbear people have with traditional Exchange servers. Ensure Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are in place and offer adequate protection. Note that SharePoint access is not normally included with hosted Exchange, but it may be something you can bolt on.

Weighing It Up

If your organisation uses services like Google Apps (including Google Docs and Sheets), Office 365 is overkill, since you need to rent all of the software alongside the service. Sure, you can purchase the Email Only version, but then you may as well go to a third party for hosted Exchange. Even Active Directory support isn’t included on the cheaper plans.

If your goal is to have rock-solid service and unbeatable uptime, hosted Exchange ticks both of those boxes. For small businesses, hosted Exchange provides the core functionality employees need alongside flexibility of choice. SMEs can adopt solutions from other vendors, rather than being tied into Microsoft’s systems for everything.

Your hosted Exchange provider will help you to migrate your Exchange server over to their cloud platform; this is something Microsoft cannot offer with Office 365. Your provider will also let you know how to change your email server details on any devices already in use; Microsoft offers no phone support for SMEs at all.

Convinced? Activate your free hosted Exchange trial now.

Business collaboration…which tool will make it work

A man looking for a cloud solutionWith recent changes in the law, businesses are look at ways to improve business productivity for remote workers within their organisation, consolidating both on-site and off-site employees’ needs. One of the ways business can fulfil the needs of these remote workers is by implementing cloud technology to aid in business agility and productivity. Data itself is the most important thing for remote workers. This is why cloud storage has taken off so dramatically in recent years. Continue reading Business collaboration…which tool will make it work

Hosted Exchange – A Buyers Guide

Hosted Exchange user numbers continue to grow.

Hosted Exchange for Business
Hosted Exchange Continues to Grow

The growth of Hosted Exchange as the preferred business email solution was predicted by Microsoft several years ago, and now in November 2012 there seems no end in sight to the ever increasing number of businesses going hosted. It has been widely predicted that around 70% of small and medium sized business in the UK will adopt hosted email over the next few years, with up to 30% by the end of 2013.

 

Continue reading Hosted Exchange – A Buyers Guide

Cloud4 Launches Hosted Exchange 2010 WEB Plan

Great new Entry Level Hosted Exchange Plan

WEB APP - Login
Simple to use OWA Login

At Cloud4, we’re always looking to innovate and bring our clients new services which they will benefit from. That’s why we have developed and launched our new Hosted Exchange WEB plan, for users who have more simple business email requirements and don’t need all the collaboration, sharing and multi-device sync that comes as standard in our other packages.

Continue reading Cloud4 Launches Hosted Exchange 2010 WEB Plan

Hosted Exchange Vs In-House Exchange!

Hosted Exchange 2010
Hosted-Exchange-Vs-In-House

You can’t get away from cloud computing in 2012! There is no doubt that the emergence of “the cloud” though not a new concept has expanded the range, and flexibility of services IT departments have access to for their businesses. One of the clear winners in the popularity stakes looking at the dramatic rise in adoption is Hosted Exchange email. Previously, businesses limited choices which were either to stick with a limited POP3 service, or to purchase and host their own Exchange environment.

Now with Hosted Exchange, organisations can have all the flexibility and benefits of an in-house Exchange without the capital expense and maintenance headaches associated with managing it. So, should your business go Hosted Exchange or should you manage your own Exchange environment internally? Let’s look at some of the Pros and Cons!

Continue reading Hosted Exchange Vs In-House Exchange!