Tips for Optimising Your Cloud Storage in 2018

Cloud Storage
Optimising your Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is a marvel of modern computing, allowing data to be stored more cheaply and accessed more flexibly than ever before. However, as the amount of business data being stored in the cloud grows, it has the potential to become an unruly monster that is difficult to manage and keep track of. There are a few things you can do to ensure your cloud-based data remains an efficient part of your business.
Continue reading Tips for Optimising Your Cloud Storage in 2018

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.

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 Your Business Taking Care of Client Data?

Is Your Business Taking Care of Client Data?We’re all used to receiving dubious emails about obscure lottery wins, and thankfully, most of us are wise to the scams. But occasionally, these phishing emails slip through the net, and employees get caught out.

Scammers are using a range of tactics to try to capture payment and login details, and it’s up to you to ensure your employees know about the latest attacks. If you work in professional services, and you handle client data, you’ve got a responsibility to protect the security of that data as well as your own.

Types of Scams

Phishing scams have been used to dupe unwitting users for more than 20 years. The premise is simple: send people an email that looks legitimate, but embed a bogus link. When the user clicks through, they are tricked into entering their credit card information or login details, which are transmitted to the scammers and used to commit fraud.

Now, there’s a new type of scamming, called vishing – or ‘voice phishing – that involves telephone calls that sound legitimate. The scammer makes a call and poses as a member of staff at a bank, or a large IT company. They convince the user that there’s a problem with their account or computer, and tell them they have to provide their card details to proceed. Vishing has been in the media recently because large numbers of people have been conned out of money.

Businesses may also have noticed an increasing number of fake invoices and payment demands that are appearing in Inboxes and Spam folders. These emails are sent to trick new employees into paying non-existent clients. While most businesses will cross-reference payment demands with client accounts, a few of these bogus demands will inevitably slip through the net.

What You Can Do

In any organisation, the IT system needs to be robust enough to filter out threats. At Cloud4, we include free virus and spam filtering to capture as many dangerous emails as we can.

On top of the automated checks we offer, we recommend that you invest in staff training. You must educate your users so they recognise these scam attempts and act accordingly. Security training needs to be part of your induction program for all new employees, with a focus on front line staff that may be handling payments or login details in their role. Additionally, you should schedule refresher courses to communicate new scammer tactics as they arise.

Protecting Your Data

Scammers are looking for login details, passwords and access to your corporate network. A file on your computer could be a source of valuable information, or could unlock intellectual property that can be misused.

Keeping data safe is a joint effort between your business and its IT service providers. At Cloud4, we always do our bit to protect the valuable data assets your company depends on, ensuring your clients and employees are less likely to be hit by a phishing or vishing scam. Get in touch to find out more about the security and spam filters we provide.

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.

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.

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.