3 Ways to Stop Business Interrupting the Holidays

The summer’s officially over, and the kids are going back to school. Whatever fun we had over summer is soon going to be a distant memory, and before long, the Christmas countdowns will begin. We had precious few summery days in 2015, and for many entrepreneurs, holidays had to make way for essential work.

It’s the same every year. For SMEs, family holidays never really mean true relaxation. Fortunately, cloud computing is helping more entrepreneurs enjoy the summer, while offering clients a good level of service. Here are five ways to find a better balance.

1. Turn Off the Smartphone

To an entrepreneur, the idea of disconnecting the phone lines is akin to commercial suicide. But as convenient as smartphones are, they are also responsible for keeping us connected to the world of work when we should be relaxing. Last year, the German labour minister Andrea Nahles looked at banning employees from checking emails at home, due to the risk of “psychological diseases”. While it’s not helpful to overstate the risks, there’s certainly an argument for giving yourself a break.

To contain risk, ditch the mobile number and use hosted VoIP. That way, you can give our a respectable geographical or non-geographical number, while routing calls to your smartphone or a softphone app. Using an IVR, you can direct callers to an answerphone greeting and voice mailbox, or have urgent requests forwarded through to your phone.

2. Take Your Desktop With You

Hosted desktops function in the same way as a regular desktop computer. When you log on, all of your applications are there; your files are stored in the right places, and authentication prevents anyone else logging in. Unlike a regular desktop, your hosted desktop can be accessed through a browser, so you can enjoy the familiarity of your work machine from practically any location.

Hosted desktops let you access work when you need to, without the hassle of carrying a laptop on holiday. If you really need to work, you can jump on to any computer in the hotel’s business suite, and pick up where you left off. If you’re not staying in a hotel, take a tablet PC, and use all of your usual software on a virtual version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.

3. Sync Your Files

If you get a sales enquiry when you’re lounging by the pool, hiking back to your room for the laptop is the last thing you’ll want to do. It makes more sense to sync important files to multiple devices so you always have a copy on hand.

Cloud4 has a cloud sync product that’s a holiday essential. MyOwnCloud is packed with business features, with all files hosted in the UK. Download the apps for your PCs, laptops, tablets and phones, then sign in to sync them together. Sharing is simple, and the service works offline, even when you don’t have a data connection.

Get Set Up Today

The summer may be over, but the Christmas period will be upon us before we know it. Get set up with Cloud4 now, and your next holiday will be all the more relaxing. For a free demonstration, or details of our offers, speak to a Cloud4 sales advisor today.

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.

Where is Your Data Resting Right Now?

Small businesses have been quick to adopt cloud computing. For the nimble sole trader, or the agile start-up, the cloud presents obvious advantages. It’s affordable, and it can be deployed instantly. It scales without effort. And there’s no need to assign the airing cupboard as a makeshift server room.

For larger businesses, adoption can be fraught with problems, mainly because of compliance and governance. The cloud is not an inherently risky technology, yet many gatekeepers fear handing control to a third party.

Risk mitigation is all about knowing where data is stored, and understanding the means by which that data can be accessed. Cloud storage is not a compliance risk, but you should understand where your data is resting.

Boundaries and Laws

As many medium and enterprise clients ponder the finer points of cloud adoption, they often miss the bigger picture: where the data is stored. This problem was highlighted with the US Patriot Act, a piece of legislation that as arguably slowed growth in the US cloud market.

The Patriot Act was brought in to scupper terrorist communications in 2001, and it effectively gives the US government free reign over data that crosses its boundaries. This is quite an odd concept, since data is often thought of as being transmitted in a fairly random way, and without any regard to date lines, borders or continents.

In essence, the US government can intercept any data transmitted on a US network. It can also intercept data held by a US company. It’s effectively a very broad digital search warrant, and it affects the cloud because of the way cloud data is distributed.

Is It Risky?

In the US, some see the Patriot Act as being unconstitutional, but that argument is out of scope here. The real issue for internet users is access.

If you use a US cloud provider, your data will cross the boundary into US territory. For businesses, this could be seen as an unacceptable risk. If your IP is viewed by a third party, this could violate legal agreements, non disclosure agreements and contracts you’ve got with suppliers.

The US government has, in the past, demanded access to data stored in Europe because of the company’s links with the US. Microsoft was one target, in April 2014; its Irish data centre was subject to a federal court judgement.

Like With Like

Every country has privacy laws, terrorism laws, and ‘snoopers charters’. The Patriot Act is not unusual, and there are very good reasons for governments to access data in some cases.

However, if you’re in the UK, and you only do business here, it’s safest to stick with UK cloud providers. At the very least, you should try to keep your data within the EU, if only so that you know who can see it.

If government agencies have good reason for asking to see data, responsible providers will oblige. Naturally, that’s the way it should be. But it makes sense to choose only the most appropriate locations to store data, geographically speaking. And it pays to research the law before choosing your next cloud provider.

Why Your Small Business Needs a Hosted Desktop

IT equipment is one of the biggest capital expenditures that many small businesses make. In the early months of a new venture, you could spend several thousand pounds kitting out your office, and you’ll only need to buy more as the months go on. When cash flow is so critical, it’s sensible to only buy what you really need.

Next time there’s a need for a brand new computer, consider the cheaper option: a virtual desktop, or hosted desktop. Hosted desktops aren’t just a replacement for a physical machine; they solve a host of other problems, too.

Use Cases

A hosted desktop can help you to expand your infrastructure when you need a new machine for a specific task. For an affordable monthly fee, you can deploy virtual instances of your chosen operating system (such as Windows 8), and these can be accessed from anywhere. So if you need a test machine, you can potentially roll out several and log on to them all from one physical machine.

Virtual desktops are also handy because of their portability. Not only can they be accessed over practically any internet connection, you can use practically any modern device without compromising data security. So your test machine can be deployed as a fully functional machine with remote access – no more lugging around two laptops, or dual booting one machine.

You may also feel that you’ve reached capacity in terms of support and physical infrastructure. This is particularly true of small businesses that grow rapidly; they face the point where they have to hire support teams. Outsourcing personnel is one option, but the best way to go is a hosted desktop, so that all of the maintenance is passed over to the provider – not your team.

Leaps and Bounds

Since the early days of Citrix remote desktops, hosted desktops have come a long way. If you’ve been faced with a clunky, slow and unstable remote desktop in the past, rest assured: our service is different.

You can access all of the applications you need, and your administrator can also deploy applications quickly. Desktops are served from high speed data centres rather than your own internal network, relieving pressure and resulting in fewer bottlenecks. You can also access hosted desktop machines within a web browser window; there’s no need to give over your entire machine to the system, so you can work on two things at once.

Go Hosted

Cloud4 specialise in hosted services that free up your time for business. We can offer hosted email, hosted computers, hosted backups and hosted file sync services, all with the best security on the market today. Whether you need 10 machines or 1,000, we can provide reliable, functional virtual infrastructure that takes the strain off your small business right away.

 

For more information about affordable subscription options, give us a call today. Hosted desktops are useful in practically every business, and we can help you realise their potential and deploy them in a managed way.

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.

 

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.

How Hosted Desktop Fits With a BYOD Implementation

Business MobilityLike it or not, employees are moving towards mobile working at an alarming rate. The tidal wave is unstoppable, and mobile devices are often being used as primary devices rather than a convenient extra on the side. This fast-paced adoption is the driving force behind Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), a trend that sees more employees using personal phones and tablets rather than ones that are supplied by their work.

Straight away, we can see how BYOD brings costs down. It eliminates the need for mobile device procurement or refresh cycles, and it lets the user be more productive using their preferred platform for work and play.

Moving to Virtual

cloud4-computers-hosted-desktopMobile devices work well for us because connection speeds are increasing. This is also driving innovation in two separate, but connected, industries: cloud and virtualisation. Cloud data storage is helping us to move away from fixed workstations, while virtual machines leverage the full capacity of available assets to give us more affordable IT solutions.

Mobile desktops are key to unlocking the power in mobile devices. They let users run applications on practically any modern mobile device that has a good quality internet connection. That means you can get work done no matter where you are in the world, even if you have a 3G or 4G connection to the internet.

But more importantly, all of the data your employee works with is held within the virtual machine. It’s not saved to the mobile device. Many businesses cite security as a major concern in BYOD, but using a mobile device is a great way to bypass many of the risks associated with mobile working. All normal applications work, so there’s no need to take data outside of the corporate network at all.

Additionally, with Cloud4, all hosted desktops are secured with two-factor authentication, and the images are stored in ISO-27001 compliant UK data centres. That means there are fewer compliance risks.

Economise Every Step of the Way

Small businesses have been quick to capitalise on the potential savings that virtualisation and BYOD (or even BYOX) can offer, but enterprises and large businesses are catching on fast. Over a large multi-site organisation, the potential savings in procurement and data centre capacity are enormous.

Hosted desktop also helps you cut waste. One desktop image follows each user on their desktop, laptop and tablet; there’s no need for duplication. The days of over-licensing, or hardware over-provisioning, are over.

Learn More

Cloud4 uses virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to power its virtual machines, using a RDP or Citrix framework. Your data never leaves the UK, and neither do your support calls. What’s more, we take backups, protect against spam and prevent viruses from infecting your machines.

If you’re interested in obtaining virtual desktops for low monthly subscription fee or just have a question please get in touch. Ask us how hosted desktop could fuel your move towards BYOD.

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.

5 Things to Look For in a Hosted Desktop Provider

cloud computingVirtualisation is a driving 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.