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.

Is It Time to Transform Your Office?

Is It Time to Transform Your Office?As more and more millennials enter the global workforce, businesses are faced with a generational split. Older staff are seeking to work later into life, and they are used to working in the same place each day. At the same time, younger employees expect more flexibility: they want to work from home, work varied hours, and bring their own devices to work.

In the face of this shift in working practice, we’re seeing the traditional office slowly changing shape at the same time. Desks may only be occupied for part of the week, as technologies like hosted desktops allow staff to work from practically any location. VOIP telephony lets people take their phone lines with them, and hosted Exchange is shrinking the on-premise data centre.

The office of the future will be a very different place, compared to the function it has served over the last 30 years.

Millennial Perks

Millennials are a generation that has grown up with the internet. They’re the people most likely to use instant messaging to talk with a team, or fire up video calls rather than attend meetings. Google and Facebook have led the way in redesigning their workplaces to better meet the needs of millennial staff, and SMEs can learn a lot from these initiatives.

Facebook has reinvented the humble vending machine, offering free keyboards and other peripherals at the touch of a button. Google provides free gyms, pool tables, launderettes and massages to retain its best staff and keep them happy. Of course, these perks have a secondary purpose: they drive productivity and loyalty, and blur the line between work and play.

Most businesses can’t afford to repurpose meeting rooms as ping pong halls, but that doesn’t mean that change has to be expensive. We’re seeing more businesses offer relatively small perks: free burritos, shopping discounts and bowling trips, as well as a general re-think of the way their office space is used.

Changing Ways of Working

If more of your staff are working remotely, you’re going to be sitting in a partly empty office for much of the day. Reducing desk space and repurposing it can offer better utilisation of space, increased productivity, and a workplace that is more in tune with the millennial way of working.

For example, some businesses are splitting off a corner of the office and turning it into a soundproof booth – perfect for morning scrums and video conferences. Many are doing away with cubicles and introducing large desks that bring teams together.

More common space, coffee shop zones and outdoor facilities help to keep people stimulated and happy at work.

Does the office really have to contain banks of computers, and a fixed seat for every person you hire? Not necessarily. Changing technologies mean we all have the freedom to rethink how our office space is used.

Technology That Works For You

If you’re bringing in technologies like cloud file storage and online collaboration, do you really need vast meeting rooms? As we embrace the hosted desktop, is there any need for the 9-5? Millennials are already moving into management positions, and they are reshaping the way our offices function, which is aiding productivity and innovation.

To find out more about the cloud could drive transformation in your workplace, speak to the experts at Cloud4 today. From a handful of hosted desktops to a full virtual PBX, our solutions are driving change in businesses.

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.

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.

How Cloud Computing Can Save Your Company From Downtime and Disaster

If there’s one thing that can cripple a business, it’s downtime. Web hosts sell their services with uptime guarantees for a reason. Every business critical service needs to be online when people are working; increasingly, that means it must be up 24/7/365.

Achieving 100 per cent uptime is extremely difficult; so called ‘Acts of God’ can take out racks of server in a flash. Yet despite its reliance on off-premise data centres, the cloud is your best bet for keeping essential services online, and ensuring constant access to the services and information you need.

Cloud redundancy

Cloud platforms are inherently robust. In fact, they were designed to withstand catastrophe. Instead of storing data in one place, software distributes cloned copies among a group, or farm, of servers. If one server goes down, the others are able to step in and cover for it, creating a seamless experience for your business.

There are rare examples of cloud downtime, but these are unusual enough to hit the headlines. All cloud providers invest in constant system monitoring to keep the chance of downtime to an absolute minimum. Cloud redundancy is still exceptionally good, particularly when you consider the cost of obtaining anywhere near the same uptime figures in the pre-cloud era.

Protecting your profits

Occasionally, your users will encounter issues with internal infrastructure. The power goes out, the phones go down, or the heating system fails completely. Prior to cloud migration, these kinds of catastrophes would have forced a complete business shutdown. Now, the cloud allows us to come up with workarounds.

If you have hosted desktops, your employees can work elsewhere, irrespective of whether their main PC is functional. If you use cloud backup for files, those files are synced to multiple devices, so you can access them from home in a pinch. In a disaster, you can keep working, avoid losing touch with customers, and keep the emails flowing using your reliable hosted Exchange service.

The Cost of Downtime and Disaster

Different businesses have different concepts of downtime, so it’s difficult to measure the cost of critical systems going offline. However, industry estimates give us some idea of the compounding effect of unavailable services.

The Ponemon institute estimates that unplanned downtime cost US businesses $5,600 per minute. For the world’s largest companies, it could be double that amount. While your business may be operating on a smaller scale, there is always a financial penalty when critical services are unavailable, and you will lose revenue if you don’t act fast.

Trust Cloud4

Cloud4 offers SLAs you can rely on, and we provide round the clock support so that your calls never go unanswered. Whatever the scale of your business, we’re here to assist you in keeping business critical services online. To find out more, contact our friendly team today, and have a chat about cloud migration. It could cost less than you think, and prevent huge unexpected cost if the worst does happen.

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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.

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.