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.
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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.

Why Use a Hosted Server?

When you opt for a hosted server, you get all the benefits of an in-house server, but without the upfront costs for hardware and installation. Small businesses often find that servers are the most expensive items they purchase. The hardware, infrastructure and power costs quickly mount up, and the cost of maintenance and management can outstrip a business’ budget. If you run a server in-house, wouldn’t it be easier – and cheaper – to switch to a hosted server instead?

When you opt for a hosted server, you get all the benefits of an in-house server, but without the upfront costs for hardware and installation. You save space on server rooms and cooling equipment, and you’ll also benefit from the flexibility of the cloud. And because we use only the best data centre facilities, you benefit from blistering network speeds no matter where you are.

How Hosted Servers Work

A hosted server is a Linux or Windows machine that is set up by Cloud4’s engineers, and provisioned from our Manchester or London data centre. Your server is provisioned according to the specifications you choose at sign-up, and you don’t need to buy any hardware. If you want to scale up later, you can, with no penalty. Equally, you can reduce your commitment if you have more capacity than you need.

Our team can install the applications that you require to get started, or you can take control of your server and set it up the way you want it. Once we’ve handed it over, your IT team can take care of it as though it was on the premises. We give you a level of permissions equivalent to full root access, and once we’ve deployed the server, all of the management and control is handed to you.

Each server is equipped with backup software and firewall protection at no extra cost, and we provide the expertise of our specialist team to get you up and running. If you have any support queries, you can trust Cloud4 Computers to provide prompt, efficient and effective resolution, with support services provided for a fixed hourly fee.

Server Customisation

With a hosted server, you can choose an off-the-shelf solution, or ask us to put together a customised solution. From a single server through to a dedicated private cloud environment, we have options to suit every business and every use case. From testing and development through to application and database hosting, our flexible plans give you exactly what you need.

From there, you simply pay a monthly subscription fee according to the specifications and resource that you’re using. Optionally, you can bolt on a management service for an additional fee, or get support ad-hoc for a small charge.

Find Out More

When you buy a hosted server plan, you’ll get complete peace of mind. Your business data will be stored in an ISO27001 certified facility, and you have 30 days to evaluate the service. If you decide that it’s not working during that period, you can activate our money-back guarantee.

Cloud4 Computers are the experts in hosted server provision. For more information, contact our friendly sales advisors, and find out how much time and money your business could save.

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.

If Your Laptop is Stolen Tonight, Will You Cope?

If Your Laptop is Stolen Tonight, Will You Cope?None of us likes to think about our homes or businesses being burgled or ransacked by an intruder. Yet the consequences are worth thinking about, simply as a preventative measure. While we don’t wish to tempt fate by suggesting your laptop could be stolen, what would you do if it actually was?

Would there be consequences for your clients? How much data would you lose? Would you be confident in the state of your backups, or does the thought leave you in a cold sweat?

We tend to be quite complacent about data, despite the fact we’re told to back it up on a daily – or, better, hourly – basis. In business, you need a reliable, affordable and flexible solution that will scale as your business grows.

Backing up is simple

In the bad old days, backing up a laptop meant connecting it to an external storage device. This was usually inconvenient, since early external drives had to be plugged into the mains beside the laptop. Without a docking station, many users simply didn’t bother to back up on a regular basis, and it’s only since we’ve had WiFi that we’ve been better at creating backups.

In business, many backups are still made on magnetic tape, or stored using on-site backup devices. But there are still risks in using these old-fashioned methods: they are slow, they are expensive, and they may not always work reliably. By the time your IT equipment has been stolen, it’s too late to do anything about it.

Trust the cloud

Cloud computing arguably gained traction because of cloud backup services, and the cloud is still one of the safest places to store your precious business data.

Cloud4’s hosted online backup services offer both storage and recovery capability. So you can upload data whenever you like, and easily retrieve it if the worst happens.

Cloud backup isn’t just for your Word documents and PowePoint presentations. You can upload the entire contents of your hard drive, or pick out applications that you want to back up.

Why Cloud4?

You’re probably aware that we have a number of competitors offering cloud backup services. But many of these services are designed for consumers who use their IT in a very different way.

Not only is their data different, but they way they connect is different too. Consumer cloud backup rarely offers you the robust uptime guarantees you need in business. Additionally, some service providers are not very clear on where they’re storing your data.

You can trust us with your critical business files, because we store it all within the UK in our ISO-certified data centres. In fact, in the event of a disaster, we can even despatch an engineer to get your data recovered – and they’ll be with you the same day.

How many consumer grade backup services can make a promise like that?

Affordable peace of mind

We hope that your laptop isn’t stolen, and we hope that your server room doesn’t suffer a power outage. But if it does, could your business cope with the consequences of losing its data?

Pricing for Cloud4’s cloud business backup starts at just £17.99 per month, and offers a genuine alternative to business on-site backup, external hard drives and tape-based storage. Once it’s up and running, just leave it to do its job: it really is a ‘set and forget’ solution.

To find out more, call our team for a chat on 0800 802 1989

Should Your Business Ditch the Desktop Computer For Good?

Should your business ditch the desktop computer for good?Less than 30 years ago, the desktop computer was the only practical way to do business, and the only realistic choice was the IBM compatible. In 2016, the desktop computer is starting to look like a relic from days gone by.

Desktops are still valuable in professional settings, but sales are falling steadily. In 2010, globally, we bought 157 million desktops; in 2017, this is expected to have fallen to 123 million. At the same time, sales of tablets will rocket from 19 million to more than 400 million.

This change may seem sudden, but it’s been accelerated by the changing way we communicate. If your business still uses desktops, their lifespan may already be limited.

Why our offices are changing

There’s certainly nothing wrong with the humble PC. It has earned its keep for many years. And for a large number of businesses, the Windows PC on their desk will be the machine they use for years to come.

But the disruptive force of tablets cannot be ignored. Windows can now run as comfortably on a small tablet machine as it does on a large, bulky desktop. And all machines have evolved to a stage where they can comfortably do what we need them to, and do it for a reasonable amount of time.

The influence of the cloud

Software is also changing, driven by a move to the cloud, and the increasing speed of our broadband connections.

After all: we don’t need PCs to edit documents. The phones we carry around will give us quick access to the apps we need.

We can edit photos in a browser window, or on a tablet, without having to connect a camera to a PC and import.

We don’t need to purchase bigger and bigger hard drives, because cloud storage offers us huge capacity for next to nothing.

Businesses have the option of running everything from the cloud, from their email server to their desktop and applications. And while you do still need a device to access those cloud services, a tablet works just as well as an old desktop PC.

Changing needs

The desktop PC has been a trust companion for many years, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with using desktops if you prefer them. But for modern businesses, mobile devices are a more portable and convenient solution.

Internet-connected, highly portable devices allow us to work from anywhere, and free us from our desks, so we can spend fewer hours in the office and fit work around our daily lives. Our clients access the same applications that they have always accessed on their PCs. The only difference is that these applications are hosted, along with their operating system, on our secure UK servers.

If you need to take your office everywhere you go, moving from a desktop PC to a hosted desktop computer could be the best decision you’ve made, and you need not change the applications that you already use in your work.

If you want to see a hosted desktop in action, don’t hesitate to give us a call for a demo.

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.

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.

Will Hosted Exchange Save You Money?

JPEG image-063D6255745C-1We usually think of email as a free method of communication, but it can actually be a huge drain on resources. If you currently run an Exchange server in-house, you might be surprised how much you could save with a hosted solution.

In a climate of cuts and efficiency measures, public and private sector organisations are looking for ways to reduce cost. Maybe it’s time to re-think your email strategy and redirect the wasted cash elsewhere?

The real cost of email

For a business, the main cost of email is running a server in-house, and providing all of the infrastructure that goes with it. You need a secure network, reliable power, storage devices, and possibly air conditioning to keep the room cool. Some businesses have a small on-site server room that has to be maintained and secured, with fire suppression and alarms to protect the data.

Additionally, there’s the cost of keeping all of your server software up to date. You’ll need software licenses for your servers and per-user licenses for software, and someone to monitor, upgrade and patch as required. If you have an external company providing backup services, this adds another layer of admin and cost.

So it’s not just a case of running a server. It’s the cost of running a secure, modern and up to date infrastructure, and making sure the data on the server is always available. It’s about preventing unauthorised access, paying for licences and coming up with a workable support framework.

Even for a small business, this can cost thousands of pounds every year.

The cloud alternative

Cloud computing gives small business access to business grade infrastructure, but at a fraction of the normal cost. If you’re currently running email servers in-house, outsourcing could be a more affordable and sensible way to run your email.

With hosted Exchange, we offer a simple pricing model. Just pay for every mailbox you need. There are no licenses to run, and no servers to maintain. All of that is included in the price.

You might be concerned about having your email hosted by another company, but there’s no need to worry: all of our servers are located in a secure data centre in the UK, backed by a robust cloud infrastructure. Your users won’t see any difference in the service they receive, but they might notice that we offer superb uptime and speed, so your email is always available, 24/7/365.

Managing the cost of IT

If your IT department is struggling to access the funds it needs, streamlining your email service could be a great way to make some savings. We can offer hosted Exchange for any business, from micro-businesses and startups through to large corporations. We’ll also migrate all of your old data, so your users don’t notice any downtime.

Cloud4 are experts in business cloud services. Talk to us today about Hosted Exchange. The days of running expensive servers are over. It’s time to make the move to the cloud.