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 is Cold Storage a Hot Topic?

Have you completed your annual office spring clean? Chances are you uncovered all kinds of paperwork stuffed into files; things you’d ‘get around to’; certificates for all those courses you attended; perhaps a few photos from the Christmas party that would really be best forgotten. Most of our kids have shoeboxes full of photos, drawings and pictures – objects that they might want to look back on in their later years.

Archiving is something of a human instinct, whether it’s hoarding food or saving for a rainy day. The same is true of our digital habits. As we amass more and more data, we’ve started to run out of space on our hard drives, and all of those 1s and 0s get expensive – fast.

Cloud Storage Solutions

There are various types of cloud storage, and they’re not necessarily made equal. Choose the wrong one, and you might find that your data becomes a cost burden.

At Cloud4, we offer four services in the data storage market:

  • Business online backup, which backs up files and applications, and provides a version history
  • Synced storage for file sharing and easy access across devices; this is called MyOwnCloud
  • Network storage, a bulk storage option with a set cost per gigabyte
  • FTP, which is essentially a hosted storage option for large files, using the file transfer protocol

Across these four services, we can see some distinct use cases. Synced storage for sharing is unlikely to be suitable for a company that needs a huge amount of archival space. And storing the data on a server is not desirable if you plan to give out FTP details to that space.

Hot and Not

Cold storage is, as the name suggests, a deep freeze for your data. This is a perfect example of cloud technology coming into its own. It’s great for archiving documents, such as contracts, invoices, and your accounts for the last 10 years. It can also be used for personal storage, like the archiving of digital photos.

Cold storage is cheap because it’s not designed to be accessed often. Once you place data into a cold store, you have to pay to get it back out, and retrieval might take a few hours.

A key component of cold storage is the ability to back up incrementally. The first backup – when you send all of those documents to the cold store – might take days, or weeks. After that, you’re just going to top up the new stuff; the old files will not be transferred again. We compress data before transmission to make the backups as painless as possible.

Find Out More

If you’re currently using a mass storage solution like Dropbox, you’re probably putting your data at risk. For one thing, Dropbox isn’t a backup solution. And if you pay for it, it’s not cheap. You’d be far better off using a business grade cold storage solution for your files and slashing your costs in the process.

If you’re not sure what kind of cloud storage you need, contact us at Cloud4 today. We have a wealth of experience on our website, in our FAQs and via our Live Chat, and we’ll guide you through the different services to help you get the most from the cloud.

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.

 

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.