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.

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.

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.

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.

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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Read our Guest Blog on the Social Media Makes Sense Website

We recently contributed a piece to the Social Media Makes Sense website talking about how a hosted desktop differs from a normal PC.

If you’d like to have a read of our guest blog simply click HERE

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.