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.

Are You Thinking of Reversing Your Cloud Migration Project?

Are You Thinking of Reversing Your Cloud Migration Project?As the initial hype over cloud computing starts to level off, many businesses are settling in to using their services and adjusting to the many productivity and efficiency benefits. But there will inevitably be a few businesses that find transformation disruptive, and discover that the cloud has not delivered the benefits that had expected.

Cloud4 is used to supporting businesses in successful cloud migrations, and we have a near-100 per cent success rate in achieving cost savings and other benefits for our clients. To avoid risk, proper planning is the best way to ensure a successful migration.

Planning for Success

One of the most important things you need to do, before migrating to the cloud, is to look at where your organisation is and where it wants to be. This is called a gap analysis, and it’s critical to determine exactly what you want to achieve.

When businesses fail at migration, it’s often because they’ve skipped this step. They haven’t decided on the benefits they expect to see, or they haven’t looked at the challenges of getting from their current situation to the ‘ideal’. If you know which parts of your infrastructure may cause problems, you can anticipate risk and be prepared for it, which is a big part of ensuring success.

If you’re thinking of backing out from the cloud, make sure you’re sticking to the plan you formed at the beginning. Getting the important parts right will allow all the secondary cloud services to fall into place.

Winning Hearts and Minds

In your organisation, your most valuable employees are the ones that have been with you from the start. They’ve probably come up with tried and tested processes for getting their job done efficiently. It’s understandable that some people are sceptical of cloud migration. They might cling on to those old processes, despite the new tools you’ve rolled out to support them.

Planning a successful migration means getting everyone on board and selling the benefits of new solutions. It helps to have one person in each department that can support everyone else as the changes are brought in. You’ll also need to make sure everyone is confident with new systems and workflows, through training or robust support.

Some users might be reluctant to change, but as an organisation, you can win them over. The key is to make sure everyone understands how new systems will make their life easier, and inspire enthusiasm that will drive culture change and support a positive outcome. Even if you haven’t done this yet, don’t give up: persevere and you’ll soon see your employees come round to new ways of working.

The Right Cloud Provider

At Cloud4, we understand that you have a huge choice of vendors. Some businesses select just one partner, while others will pick and mix solutions from different companies. Whatever approach you use, you need providers that truly care about your business and are invested in your success.

Cloud4 provides comprehensive support during and after migration. Our team is here to support your business, and act as an add-on for your in-house technical team. If you need to get in touch, we offer email, telephone and live chat help through our website.

Cloud migration can be challenging, but it can also set you up for continued profitability. The challenges are well worth facing, with the support of a provider you can trust. If you need more advice, get in touch, and our experts will put your mind at ease.

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

What’s New in Hosted Exchange 2016?

IfWhat's New in Hosted Exchange 2016 you’re already using Hosted Exchange in your organisation, you’ll be aware of the benefits and cost savings that hosted email can offer. If you’ve yet to try it, we’re confident that you’ll love the convenience and reliability once you switch.

Now, Cloud4 is able to offer Microsoft Hosted Exchange 2016 – the very newest version of the platform. We were one of the first companies in the UK to roll out Hosted Exchange 2016, and it offers a number of new features that could prove very useful.

Increased Capacity

Microsoft Hosted Exchange 2016 comes with a larger mailbox allowance: a maximum of 100GB for every user in your company. When you consider the fact that many businesses are still providing tiny 500mb mailboxes from on-premise Exchange servers, it’s clear just how much of an improvement hosted Exchange is.

The benefits of increased capacity also extend to other areas of the system. Your users can enjoy permanent email archiving with Cloud4, so your critical corporate data never has to be deleted to free up space. It’s a welcome change from the bad old days of constantly combing your mailbox for large files to free up space.

Better Security

Cyber threats are an increasing risk for small businesses, since hackers use suppliers as an entry point to acquire valuable data about larger companies. While most businesses understand the potential risk of cyber attack, UK government figures suggest that less than 20 percent are confident that their business’ cyber security strategy is robust.

Each hosted Exchange 2016 instance comes with free spam and virus protection as standard, giving you a valuable first line of defence. If your users frequently access their email from public WiFi networks, this kind of protection is essential.

Always Low Cost

Microsoft Hosted Exchange 2016 is a fantastic business tool, but it’s not just for corporate users. Charities, colleges, volunteer groups and religious organisations can all benefit from its accessible price point.

The set-up costs for hosted Exchange are very low; you won’t need a server, a server room, air conditioning or specialist infrastructure. You simply need a good quality connection to our Exchange server, via mobile data connections or a WiFi network.

Once you’re with Cloud4, you can relax: our team takes care of the technical side, leaving you free to get on with your work.

Other Benefits of Hosted Exchange 2016

Microsoft Hosted Exchange 2016 comes with a number of other benefits that can prove valuable in a busy organisation:

  • The new Outlook for the Web application has support for 17 new languages
  • When you access Outlook for the Web on your phone, you’ll get a version tailored for your OS
  • You can use emojis in messages composed using Outlook for the Web – a first for hosted Exchange
  • In SharePoint, sharing documents through OneDrive for Business and hosted Exchange is easier than ever
  • A new Compliance Search tool lets authorised personnel search multiple mailboxes

These are just a few of the changes that Microsoft has introduced this year. We think the new hosted Exchange is the best ever.

Getting Set Up

We can offer you a choice of hosted Exchange installations: 2010, 2013 or 2016. While 2016 offers you all the latest features, 2010 and 2013 offer the functionality and performance you’re used to. If you’re not sure which one to choose, get in touch with our friendly team, and we’ll explain the benefits of each version in more detail.

What is ISO 27001, and Why Does it Matter?

JPEG image-8F3E09CED782-1Many businesses fear security breaches and the consequences of hacks. And it’s true to say that small businesses are never immune from this threat. Cloud adoption has long been stalled by security-conscious businesses that see the cloud as a potential threat to their information.

In 2009, 68 per cent of European CIOs surveyed said that security fears were preventing cloud adoption. In 2015, security was still thought to be the single biggest barrier that was stopping businesses migrating to the cloud.

But some of these fears are based on misconceptions. In the financial services industry, and a lot of problems can be solved using risk assessments. 71 per cent of businesses now use some kind of cloud technology; the key is to be smart in the way you plan your migration and choose your provider.

Why ISO 27001 matters

ISO 27001 is an information security standard. Its sets out the minimum requirements for an organisation’s Information Security Management System (ITSM) to make sure that the organisation has a formal commitment in place. ISO 27001 covers the operation, monitoring and maintenance of information security management, ensuring staff and policies are committed to safeguarding data.

Data centres that are awarded ISO 27001 accreditation have been externally and independently audited to ensure they comply with these stringent rules. The key thing to remember is that an ISO 27001 facility has assessed risk, and put measures in place to manage it. For example, there’s a risk in storing data in the cloud, but the organisation will have evaluated this and put measures in place to manage that risk.

When you look for a cloud provider, you should ascertain whether its data centre is ISO 27001 certified, and you should check out its security policy carefully. But there’s more to check before you sign up.

What about data centre location?

The great thing about the cloud is that it’s geographically diverse; data is stored in more than one location. For businesses, this poses a new question. If data is stored in different countries, which country’s laws will protect my assets?

A few years ago, there was a great deal of fuss about the Patriot Act, a US law that allows US authorities to comb through any data within its geographical boundaries. In truth, many governments have similar laws, and data cannot be completely ring fenced, but there’s still some confusion among businesses who aren’t sure where their data should be stored. The EU has its own set of problems, with security protocols being jumbled and difficult to understand.

The safest approach is to select a provider with a data centre in the UK. You must make sure that all of your data stays in the UK, and the business does not have any operations in the USA, to avoid the potential complication of US involvement. By selecting a provider with a UK data centre, and ISO 27001 accreditation, you can move to the cloud with confidence and keep your data completely secure.

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.