What Should Your IT Infrastructure Look Like in 2016?

IT InfrastructureIf you work in IT, you’ll be familiar with Moore’s Law. It says, simply speaking, that computer processing power will double every two years. Over the course of the last half-century, Moore’s Law has proven to be pretty accurate, although the pace of innovation is starting to slow.

Nonetheless, Moore’s law shows us that IT never stands still, and innovation is bringing us benefit. In 2016, business IT infrastructure looks very different to the picture of even 5 years ago; all you have to do is catch up.

Identifying gaps

As a business grows, its IT infrastructure starts to lose alignment with its processes. A bespoke application that worked well may start to become a burden to your team.

As time goes on, employees struggle to work efficiently because their infrastructure is not fit for purpose. It’s difficult to automate old systems, and data gets corrupted all the time. The gap in your provision becomes wider still, and efficiency hits a death spiral, fast.

If you let this gap widen for too long, your business is going to be left in the wilderness. Digital transformation is a disruptive force: companies that take advantage of it are more agile, and able to work in a more cost effective way. That’s one reason why startups are entering markets and sending established rivals into panic. It comes down to the fact that small companies are more willing to embrace change.

Planning for positive progress

In 2016, there are some key innovations you should be using to close the gaps in your IT infrastructure to align it more closely with what users want. The most obvious is cloud computing, since it offers cost savings, availability and flexibility in one package.

In a KPMG survey, 37 per cent of respondents said cloud drives better alignment, with employee flexibility and satisfaction being even bigger benefits for the switch.

Using the cloud doesn’t mean ditching your server room, or throwing your servers in the trash on day one. You can start by moving a few key services in a controlled migration project, focusing on the ones that offer the biggest productivity gain. With the support of a UK provider, and the backing of 24×7 support, you can capitalise on affordable cloud technology without exposing the business to risk.

One popular way to begin cloud migration is to switch your Exchange server for hosted Exchange. This gives you increased email security and uptime, with the peace of mind of an ISO 27001 accredited data centre holding your intellectual property.

2016: the time to transform

Four out of five UK organisations have adopted at least one cloud service. If your business hasn’t adopted any cloud services, there are gaps in your infrastructure.

As your competitors transform their IT, the consequences of not doing so could be severe. For every cloud success story, there is an unmodernised, inefficient failure just waiting to be disrupted and defeated.

Cloud4 can help you to modernise your infrastructure and mitigate the risk of a move to the cloud. Improve your alignment today, and give your business the technology it deserves.

Is There a Stigma in Working From Home?

Working from HomeIn many UK offices, working from home is seen as an easy way to wangle an extra day off. We’re all very familiar with the stereotypes of attending conference calls in pyjamas, and writing reports while watching Fern and Phil.

But for many professional services companies, working from home provides their competitive edge. Their business literally wouldn’t survive without it.

Changing attitudes

Sir Richard Branson is a vocal advocate of working from wherever you like. Mind you, his ‘home’ is a two acre island in the Caribbean, so it’s hardly surprising he wants to stay there as much as he can.

Branson’s home office, Necker Island, relies completely on one mobile phone mast that’s located six miles away. That mast is the source of everyone’s WiFi, and allows him to get his work done each day. All of the electricity is provided via solar cells that store power in massive batteries, and he uses cloud file storage to exchange documents.

This might be an extreme example of remote working, but it does prove how times have changed. The way we connect and communicate is changing, and the cloud is the driving force that’s making it happen.

Living and working flexibly

Answering VoIP calls from a paradise island might be something of a pipedream, but we can certainly use the same principles to work more flexibly, wherever we are in the UK. In the professional services industry, even simple changes can help align your business more effectivly with your clients.

If you change your hours slightly, you could take on clients in other time zones and be available when they’re at work. When it’s time to do an audit of your client’s accounts, you could use their computer to log onto your hosted desktop, rather than dragging a crate of files over in the car. As a result, you could even walk there, and get a few more steps on your Fitbit in the process.

It’s important to note that being more flexible and connected doesn’t have to mean being constantly at work. You can work when it makes sense to work, and switch off when it’s time to relax. Cloud computing gives you that control.

Lead the way

More and more businesses are ditching the daily commute. They’re figuring out better ways to fit work in with their home life. In Sweden, workers in the public sector are seeing their hours reduced without a pay cut, in recognition that a shorter day means less stress and a renewed drive to achieve results. The key is that flexible working should make you feel happier in your job.

If you offer professional services, but you’re still working a 9 to 5, think of all the efficiency benefits a flexible approach could bring. While we can’t promise a private island or a spot of snorkelling over your lunch break, we can help you to structure a working day that is more tailored to you and your clients.

Cloud4’s cloud computing solutions will give you the freedom to work smarter, not harder, so you can focus on what your clients need and spend less time sitting in traffic. You’ll quickly realise why so many businesses are taking a new look at working from home.

4 Simple Ways to Deal With a Challenging Customer

JPEG image-F1B78757104C-1Service providers now have to compete globally for business, both in terms of their service pricing, and also in the quality they provide. Now and again, a challenging customer can disrupt your normal activities, and learning to deal with these disruptions is an essential acquired skill.

Rather than rising to the bait, it’s your job to keep your cool, even when a customer is angry. Additionally, the systems you use to carry out your work are a fundamental part of healing these broken relationships; there may be something you can improve that will stop the same thing happening again.

1. When something needs to be discussed, reach out by phone

Email is a great business tool, and it lets us communicate globally with unbelievable efficiency and speed. But when a relationship starts to falter, and a customer becomes more demanding, there’s no substitute for a phone call. Overseas call charges can be a barrier to effective communication, so consider a VoIP service to bring the cost of calling down.

2. Set clear customer service boundaries

Offering good service means being available to customers, but that doesn’t mean you should put your life on hold. Demanding customers may expect you to drop everything to help out of hours, or send emails at 10pm asking for an urgent call. A hosted desktop is a great way to make sure you can work from anywhere, but make sure you set some boundaries – don’t let customers have a monopoly on your time.

3. Improve visibility of their project

If you offer professional services on a remote or freelance basis, it’s easy to get out of sync with your client. Sometimes, tensions arise because there’s a mismatch between what’s been offered and what the client thinks has been accomplished. If you use cloud file sharing, you can quickly update them on progress, without the worry that a file will bounce back. Make sure you use version tracking, so the client always knows which revision of the document you’ve sent.

4. Bid them farewell

As your business matures, you’ll realise that there are some people you just can’t please. It might be down to a mismatch of personality, or it may be that their needs have shifted over the years. If you really can’t satisfy a customer, knowing when to close their account can save everybody a lot of time. You can get on with the work you’re best at, and they can choose a different provider who’s more able to give them what they need.

Learning to love difficult customers

Nobody likes arguing with fee-paying clients, but they can actually teach you a lot about business. A difficult client could help you develop your negotiation skills, or better define what you can and can’t offer.

Next time you come up against a difficult customer, think about ways you can improve your IT services to communicate more effectively with them. There are times when you’ll just have to part company with a difficult customer, but if you spot ways to get around the problem and improve the relationship, the outcome of that change will benefit everyone.

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.