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

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.

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.

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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It’s Time Your Accountancy Practice Moved Into the Cloud

If you deal with personal and financial data, the internet can be a worrying place. High-profile hacks have hit brands like Sony and Apple, while regulatory compliance can place restrictions on what you can do. But you only have to look at the myriad cloud financial packages to see that accountancy works brilliantly in the cloud. Companies like Xero have gained tens of thousands of clients through it.

If you’re an accountant, the cloud offers huge opportunities to cut spend and improve productivity. Besides offering cloud tools to clients, you can also use cloud technology to streamline your day-to-day tasks.

Work on site with ease

Providers of professional services are often called to work on site with a client. Accountants usually have to lug a pile of papers with them, as well as notebooks, case files and reams of sensitive data.

Immediately we can see that the cloud offers better security than carrying client paperwork. Cloud4 offers a suite of services backed by the same security protocols that are used by our high street banks. Additionally, we’re here 24/7 should you have an issue with a service. If you do end up on a client site and you run into a problem with your cloud service, you just need to give us a quick call, and we’ll get you back up and running.

How to use the cloud

Accountants generally deal with several clients in the course of a working day. Efficiency is key to serving everyone quickly and minimising delays or mistakes.

You could begin by storing your client documents with MyOwnCloud secure file storage. MyOwnCloud lets you upload and share files easily and securely, so you can send copies electronically in minutes. No more post, no more expensive stamps, and no more delays with turnaround.

Your accountancy firm could also improve first impressions with its own dedicated phone number. A geographic or non-geographic phone contact carries more weight than a mobile number, and it’ll give your clients the impression that you’re secure and here to stay.

We’d also recommend that professional service providers look into hosted Exchange email for business. It allows you to get all the benefits of Microsoft Exchange, but without the massive cost of running an email server. Cloud4 can provide you with a huge mailbox, spam filtering, virus scanning, email archiving, and the helpful business features that Exchange offers.

Build your package

At Cloud4, we’re committed to offering affordable cloud services that scale along with your business. For accountancy firms, this means convenience and efficiency, backed with the security that our ISO 27001 certified data centre offers. If you’re unsure how to migrate to the cloud, or you’d like to discuss data security, we’re here to explain how everything works in simple, jargon-free terms.

For more information about moving your accountancy business to the cloud, don’t hesitate to call us today. We’re available now on 0800 802 1989 or manchester@cloud4computers.co.uk, we’ll help you demo our services completely free.

Are You Spending Too Much on IT Hardware?

UK SMEs will spend £22.8 billion on technology this year. That’s according to GE’s Capital Investment Barometer. The largest category for investment is IT hardware, which will increase by 64 per cent. SMEs say that they spend this money to upgrade their IT and enhance productivity.

In the UK, small businesses spent £10m on IT hardware in Q1 of 2014. That’s a massive amount of money that could be diverted to marketing or another essential function of the business.

Is it really worth chasing the latest and greatest IT hardware when your employees already have their own equipment? For many businesses, spending on hardware is a waste of money.

Try Bring Your Own Device

Many businesses are encouraging staff to use their personal IT hardware in the office, and are setting up formal Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies to govern their use. Bringing your own device to work used to be seen as a security risk, but when it’s done under a formal policy, the practice offers a number of benefits.

When employees bring their own devices to work, they can use the operating system they prefer to use, so there’s less struggle to switch to an unfamiliar system, or find training for users that struggle.

Using a hosted desktop for business tasks, your Android-loving project manager can work alongside his or her Apple-loving colleagues, or move seamlessly from one machine to the next. By providing a hosted desktop for every user, you can provide them with the Windows applications they need, even if they’re working on a Mac. If they choose to bring an iPad to work, they can log on to their desktop from their own tablet, and it gives you the opportunity to combine hot desking and remote working.

There’s a clear cost benefit to letting people bring their own devices, in terms of reduced investment. The company doesn’t have to keep upgrading its own machines, nor does it need a pool of tablets and laptops for occasional use.

Balancing the Risk

A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is a sensible way to leverage the power of the cloud, save on hardware spend, and give employees increased choice.

While some companies are nervous about having third party devices on their networks, a robust policy can ensure that data is safeguarded without restricting the use of any device. That means:

– Encrypting mobile devices

– Blocking websites that could spread malicious code

– Educating users about the risks of public WiFi networks

– Ensuring every device is locked automatically when not in use

– Using two factor authentication to safeguard company data

– Defining reasonable use of a personal device on company time, and any activities that are prohibited, such as downloading torrents, using social media, or gaming

– Listing any operating systems that are not allowed (such as very old versions of Android, which may be targets for hacking)

– Having a policy that allows company technical staff to wipe the device if it’s lost

Of course, the company may also choose to contribute to the cost of the device, or the cost of services that employees use. However, this should be structured and organised, so that only permitted devices are used.

However you approach BYOD, the hosted desktop is the cog that makes every device work together. All you need to do is draw up the policy, and cut back on your hardware spend next year.

 

How a Hosted Desktop Can Streamline Client Site Visits

Hosted DesktopMany businesses have remote sales teams, and those teams are generally kitted out to work effectively on the road. For a sole trader, it isn’t always as easy to get work done outside the office, nor is it cost effective to carry everything you might need in a pinch.

So how do you work on a client site? How are you planning to take minutes? Or create invoices and mark down expenses? Sure, you can take a pen and paper, but it’s an old-fashioned way to get around the problem when we have so much technology at our disposal.

And while you could take your laptop to the client’s office, will you have a back-up plan if you can’t get on the WiFi?

How many times have you taken your laptop on holiday, only to realise there’s no internet access in the hotel? Perhaps it offered an old-fashioned dialup connection, and the only connection option is a mobile signal; not much use for  laptop.

Perhaps you’ve visited a client site where you’ve put in a support call to get the logon details. By the time you’re done with your meeting, the ticket hasn’t been answered, and you’ve had to make notes offline instead.

Contingency Computing

For most remote workers, connectivity is their big essential. Just carrying a laptop is not enough. In some cases, it can even weigh you down.

The vast majority of workers need:

– A device that’s easy to carry, whether they’re in the car, on a bus or on a plane

– A device that won’t slow them down at airport security

– Access to the applications they normally use (not watered down mobile versions)

– The ability to connect to their computer without WiFi

– Military grade encryption, and two factor authentication, to keep prying eyes out of their business

– The ability to work ‘on the spot’, rather than complete paperwork work home to process at night

– The ability to use more than one device to access the same things

Cloud computing answers some of those requirements, but it can still leave you short if you drop your laptop in a puddle. But if you’ve invested in a hosted desktop, all your data is there – regardless of the device you’re connecting on.

You can even work on a hosted desktop using your phone over a 4G connection.

Other Benefits

Why else would you opt for a hosted desktop to work on site with a client?

– If your laptop gets lost or stolen, all you’ve lost is the physical machine

– Your data is backed up in our data centre, so you can leave it to us to look after it – no matter where you are

– We’re your technical support team, so you don’t need to worry about your client’s support team sorting out problems

– You don’t have to worry about an upgrade wrecking your machine, since we take care of all of that for you

There are dozens of applications for hosted desktops. Mobile nail technicians, surveyors, musicians and accountants all get more done when they work in the cloud.

Move Your Business Forward

Cloud4 understands that businesses have changing needs. Working at a remote site requires a flexible solution, which is exactly what we offer with hosted desktop. We do all this without losing the personal touch that so many of our customers value.

From a one-person start-up to a multi-site enterprise, cloud computing and hosted desktops offer a proven increase in productivity. To find out how to upgrade, swiftly and easily, ring Cloud4 for a chat today.

3 Reasons Why Professional Services Are Better With Cloud Computing

Cloud servicesAs British businesses recognise the importance of being agile, they’re choosing to outsource more tasks to professional service providers who can quickly and efficiently get the job done. If you work for one of these providers, you already know how important it is to be able to serve multiple clients efficiently.

Flexible working is an important part of professional service delivery, and cloud computing supports professional service providers in working to their strengths. Here are 3 ways you could improve your services by migrating to the cloud.

1. An Office That Follows You Everywhere

Depending on your niche, you might spend a lot of time moving from office to office, working on client sites or taking your work overseas. Micro businesses tend to take work on holiday at times, too. If you have one laptop computer, you’re setting yourself up for difficulties if that computer was ever damaged or stolen.

Look into using a hosted desktop that you can access from any computer. Our hosted desktops run in a web browser, so you can log on from practically any location. This safeguards your own equipment, cuts back on the need to find WiFi, and also means you don’t have to carry your laptop when you jet off on holiday.

2. Better Data Security

Small businesses often assume that they won’t be hacked because they don’t hold valuable data. In fact, the opposite is true. A small business computer can be a goldmine for a hacker, since you probably do business with larger companies and hold data about their policies and systems.

In order to serve clients responsibly, you need to encrypt your data, and implement two-factor authentication to prevent hackers from gaining access. Cloud storage and backup is ideal for this, as your provider handles the technical side. To be fully compliant, it’s best to pick a provider in the UK so that your data never ‘leaves’ the country.

3. Uptime

When your clients outsource to you, they will have a timeframe in mind for delivery. A computer problem can wipe out days, or weeks. In a competitive space, you really need to avoid bouts of downtime; you will lose clients as a result. It’s never your fault if your email provider goes down, but if you’re using an inadequate provider, your clients may feel you could have done more to prepare.

When shopping around for a cloud provider, look for a good service level agreement (SLA) that details the uptime and support you should expect. The best providers offer 24/7 support details, as well as a reliable service suitable for business critical applications. Hosted Exchange email offers the features of a local Exchange server without the precarious technical risk of trying to run a system in-house. Cloud4 hosts all hosted Exchange mailboxes in an ISO-27001 certified data centre, giving you peace of mind and a considerable cost saving.

We Understand Professional Services

Cloud4 offers cloud services to many professional service providers. We understand the pressures you face, and the things that can make or break your success. When it comes to IT infrastructure, you’ll find that our cloud solutions allow you to be more agile, responsive and cost effective.

Contact us today on 0800 802 1989 to find out more.

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