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 it Time Your Employees Worked From Home?

Whether it’s down to workplace culture, or employee envy, working from home has a stigma attached. According to the Office of National Statistics, 87 per cent of people still have office-based jobs, despite the phenomenal opportunities that cloud computing can present. Large companies are more likely to allow remote working compared to SMEs, despite the clear cost and efficiency savings.

Sir Richard Branson is a famous supporter of home-based working, although this is hardly surprising; he lives on a tropical island. For the rest of us, is working from home a viable option?

People ARE More Productive at Home

If you prefer to have staff in your office, ask yourself why. Is it that you don’t trust them? Or you want managers to be able to easily discipline poor performers? Are you measuring people’s performance based on their attendance, rather than the things they’re getting done?

Remote working is often seen as a bit of a joke – a chance to watch daytime TV, or munch Cheerios through conference calls. In fact, remote working boosts productivity. Stanford University’s researchers found that remote workers are 13 per cent more productive. They take fewer days off sick, and benefit from fewer workplace distractions, despite the pile of laundry in the corner.

In a US survey, 65 per cent of the employees who worked from home said they felt they were more productive. You might be surprised at the boost to output.

Staff DO Need Perks to Stay Loyal

When it comes to performance and productivity, incentives are a key driver. The happier your employees are, the more likely it is that they’ll engage, and the less likely they are to seek another job.

Want to give your staff the ultimate incentive? Do away with the daily commute, and let them log on to a hosted desktop from home. Free everyone from the tyranny of tube stations and traffic jams. Give them the gift of extra hours in the day.

If you embed remote working into the culture of your workforce, they’ll likely stay loyal long term.

Employers DO Need to Offer Choice

Ask any office worker with kids how they feel about the school summer holidays. Chances are, they’ll tell you it’s miserable, stressful and expensive. The kids are out of school, but they’re stuck at work, with the only respite being an expensive holiday.

Remote and flexible working policies give your employees options. Granted, you might not be able to offer unlimited holidays, but you could let people arrange work around their children.

It’s also important to recognise difference. Some employees like coming into the office. They would feel lost with a laptop at home. Why not offer those employees a combination of flexitime and remote working, with a hosted desktop solution that gives them the freedom to take work home.

Will You Change the Future of Work?

60 per cent of office workers will work from home by 2022, according to figures from Virgin Media Business. Is it time you set your employees free?

Speak to Cloud4 today, and find out how our hosted desktop solutions can let your staff log on from anywhere, boosting satisfaction, retention and output.

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.

Can Mobile Working Save Your Business?

mobile business apps for productivityBy 2020, half of the world’s workers will be remote workers. That’s according to a survey at the Global Leadership Summit in London. Over the course of the next five years, we’re going to see some big changes. Not every business will keep pace; some will fail.

The global economic crisis continues to put financial pressure on companies, and smaller businesses are still finding it difficult to raise capital. Now more than ever, remote working could be the answer if your business is finding it hard to adapt.

Benefits of Working Remotely

Employees are looking for a good work-life balance, and that means changing the way they work. People don’t want to travel at rush hour with everybody else. They don’t want to put their kids into after-school clubs if they can avoid it. As the world’s best employers offer more flexible working, the world’s best employees will follow.

Sir Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin group, is a vocal supporter of flexible working, and says that remote access is making this easier. Virgin employees can take unlimited holiday leave, providing their productivity is not affected. That means taking time off when you’re not needed, and being around when you are. Richard himself works remotely from Necker Island, a career move that would have been unthinkable before the internet became so widespread.

While we can’t all work from a Caribbean beach, the benefits of remote working can be felt on a smaller scale when working from home. Freedom to choose when to work, where to work, and when to take breaks; the chance to get fresh air, spend more time with the family, or cut back the daily commute. Far from being less productive, remote workers get more rest, are more energised, and feel more connected with their home life, helping them achieve that work-life balance they so crave.

The company gets its share of the benefits too: a workforce willing to work, and staff that enjoy collaboration. Rather than forcing people to fit the company mould, giving them the tools they need to work anywhere means work will often ‘just happen’.

Make it a Reality

You don’t need to have complex infrastructure to let people work remotely. But you do need to invest in modern services that help keep people connected.

Here are some ways to free up your employees and let them work wherever they like:

  • To ensure everyone has access to the right software and data, purchase hosted desktops rather than a fleet of laptops
  • Issue everyone with a smartphone capable of 4G connection, plus a tablet that can be tethered to it
  • Use hosted Exchange email so that employees can access their messages from anywhere, free from the size restrictions of an on-premise Exchange mailbox
  • Invest in VoIP telephony, project management tools in the cloud, and use video conferencing in place of lengthy on-site meetings

All of these things are affordable to small businesses, helping to keep costs down and ensure the company stays competitive.

By kitting out the workforce with cloud services and relevant support, they can access company data in a secure, compliant and speedy manner, without a break in productivity or an increase in IT spend. The reality is this: if you don’t wise up to remote working, your business could be overtaken by the dynamic, youthful competitors just waiting to steal your thunder.

3 Big Brands That Do Amazing Things in the Cloud

When we use our phones and tablets, we may not consciously use cloud technology, but most big companies rely on cloud infrastructure to get things done behind the scenes. If you’re not yet using cloud storage for business, these innovators could change your mind.

Instagram

It’s hard to imagine that Instagram was once an iOS-only app, since it’s now ubiquitous on Android phones and tablets too. Shortly after it divertified its user base, it was purchased by Facebook, itself a large user of cloud storage.

Instagram used to store data on Amazon servers and used a cloud-based content delivery network to push photos out around the globe. It now stores all of that data in Facebook’s data centres. Despite the fact that Instagram has terabytes and terabytes of photo data in storage, it can pull out a single picture in a matter of seconds to anywhere in the world.

Speed and efficiency is critical, since billions of pictures and videos need to be accessed in the blink of an eye, any time. We don’t even think about the cloud technology that goes into Instagram’s service, nor do we wonder how Instagram staff migrated 20 billion of our pictures while the service was still live.

BBC

The BBC is more than just a national broadcaster. It’s also an innovator in the digital space. Its iPlayer product is undoubtedly a world leader in streaming technology, and the service gained more ground when it was migrated to a public cloud platform.

Prior to the migration, it took the BBC’s iPlayer team around 9 hours to put a video online. This was mostly due to the vast amount of rendering and processing power required. Since the cloud migration, this delay has been slashed to around 15 minutes.

iPlayer copes with millions of requests every day, and it makes content available to hundreds of different devices, all with slightly different specs. The cloud migration allowed the team to deliver content in a more flexible way and cope more effectively with periods of high demand. Phil Cluff, team lead at BBC Media Services, estimated in 2014 that the new cloud version would last at least 10 years before it needed to be changed.

Airbnb

Some websites disrupt their peer group, while some disrupt an entire industry. Airbnb is a holiday home rental site that offers peer-to-peer renting and vacations, and it relies on cloud computing to keep its site ticking over.

Airbnb uses RDS, a database technology that allows them to avoid bottlenecks in the cloud. It has allowed Airbnb to keep up with its own rapid growth, and to cope with the huge amounts of content generated by property owners in their listings. With an emphasis on big, beautiful photos and lots of holiday home details, the company needed a way to ensure it had a flexible solution that did not break the bank.

Cloud computing scales beautifully and inexpensively, even for very large websites like Airbnb. On a smaller scale, it can be useful for small businesses looking to increase and flex computing capacity, week by week.

Realise Your Potential

Could your business be more elastic, more responsive or more efficient? While you may not need cloud computing on a massive scale, our hosted products could make a significant impact on your business’ performance. Contact Cloud4 today and take your first step to a more profitable, efficient future.

Cloud Computing for Business. It is right for you?

Cloud Computing for Business
Is the Cloud for Your Business?

Moving your Business to the Cloud.

For many businesses, making the decision to move away from “the way we’ve always done it” can be a big step. This has always been particularly true concerning organisations IT infrastructure or services. Now with the Cloud developing so quickly, businesses are being asked to take a larger leap than at any other time away from the historic norm!

Continue reading Cloud Computing for Business. It is right for you?