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’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.

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.

Will Hosted Exchange Save You Money?

JPEG image-063D6255745C-1We usually think of email as a free method of communication, but it can actually be a huge drain on resources. If you currently run an Exchange server in-house, you might be surprised how much you could save with a hosted solution.

In a climate of cuts and efficiency measures, public and private sector organisations are looking for ways to reduce cost. Maybe it’s time to re-think your email strategy and redirect the wasted cash elsewhere?

The real cost of email

For a business, the main cost of email is running a server in-house, and providing all of the infrastructure that goes with it. You need a secure network, reliable power, storage devices, and possibly air conditioning to keep the room cool. Some businesses have a small on-site server room that has to be maintained and secured, with fire suppression and alarms to protect the data.

Additionally, there’s the cost of keeping all of your server software up to date. You’ll need software licenses for your servers and per-user licenses for software, and someone to monitor, upgrade and patch as required. If you have an external company providing backup services, this adds another layer of admin and cost.

So it’s not just a case of running a server. It’s the cost of running a secure, modern and up to date infrastructure, and making sure the data on the server is always available. It’s about preventing unauthorised access, paying for licences and coming up with a workable support framework.

Even for a small business, this can cost thousands of pounds every year.

The cloud alternative

Cloud computing gives small business access to business grade infrastructure, but at a fraction of the normal cost. If you’re currently running email servers in-house, outsourcing could be a more affordable and sensible way to run your email.

With hosted Exchange, we offer a simple pricing model. Just pay for every mailbox you need. There are no licenses to run, and no servers to maintain. All of that is included in the price.

You might be concerned about having your email hosted by another company, but there’s no need to worry: all of our servers are located in a secure data centre in the UK, backed by a robust cloud infrastructure. Your users won’t see any difference in the service they receive, but they might notice that we offer superb uptime and speed, so your email is always available, 24/7/365.

Managing the cost of IT

If your IT department is struggling to access the funds it needs, streamlining your email service could be a great way to make some savings. We can offer hosted Exchange for any business, from micro-businesses and startups through to large corporations. We’ll also migrate all of your old data, so your users don’t notice any downtime.

Cloud4 are experts in business cloud services. Talk to us today about Hosted Exchange. The days of running expensive servers are over. It’s time to make the move to the cloud.

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.

What to Do When Your Exchange Mailbox is Always Full

All of us use email for business communication, but it can actually be a very inconvenient way to communicate. For many years, people have used work email accounts to volley Word attachments back and forth, or distribute newsletters, images and PDFs. Each time a file is attached, it takes up space in every mailbox it lands in, and every mailbox it’s sent from. That causes everyone’s mailbox to fill up fast.

Running out of space is a hassle for everyone. Is it time we dropped email for good

CloudStorage Woes

You’re probably familiar with the ‘mailbox full’ messages that Microsoft Exchange throws out. That’s because Exchange mailboxes tend to be incredibly small. In Exchange Server 2010, the default storage size is 2GB. In a large organisation, the administrator may have set it even lower.

2GB used to sound cavernous, but these days, it really isn’t. Outlook will prevent you from attaching anything over 20mb, but that 20mb file could be forwarded back and forth for weeks. It only takes 100 big files to fill up a 2GB mailbox. If you have a 500mb mailbox – and many people do – you probably get a ‘mailbox full’ email every week or so.

For most businesses, increasing mailbox size isn’t an option, because every user needs an allocation, whether they fill it or not. Before long, you hit the mailbox storage limit, because your server has a physical limit.

What can you do?

– You can scrabble around looking for emails to delete – again

– You can drag files onto your local hard drive (and hope they don’t get deleted by accident)

– You can buy a new server, or extend storage, which will cost money

Sounds inconvenient and costly, doesn’t it.

But there is a fourth option.

A Modern Solution

Hosted Exchange offers a different solution. Instead of using your own server to store emails, you can purchase email as a service. Your email accounts are hosted by a third party, securely, in the cloud.

A hosted Exchange mailbox is an affordable way to max out the storage you can use, without investing massive amounts of money on equipment. The limits of physical servers are removed.

Cloud4 offers three tiers of hosted Exchange services. The Web tier offers a 10GB mailbox, while the top Pro tier can be upgraded right the way to 50GB. To put this in context, Google’s Gmail service is well known for its generous mailbox limit of 15GB. Cloud4 gives you the space for more than three times that amount, at the top end.

Imagine how convenient it would be to have a 50GB mailbox; enough to store 2,500 attachments at maximum size.

The other aspect is cost. If you were to buy the on-premise infrastructure to give everyone in your business a 50GB mailbox, you’d be looking at huge investment, and a lot of that space would never be used. The beauty of the cloud is that you only pay monthly, and you only pay for the mailboxes that you actually need. If more staff join, simply scale up your commitment and pay for a few more mailboxes. If staff leave, cut back any time.

The Many Benefits of Hosted Exchange

Scalable storage, and monthly payments, are just two of the things our clients love about hosted Exchange. If you’re ready to make the move, talk to Cloud4 about the many benefits of switching. Call us today on 0161 850 1264.

Will Hosted Exchange Survive in a Crowded Market?

When Google announced its Gmail back in 2004, you’d have been forgiven for thinking email would be free forever. For consumers, Gmail certainly changed the way we thought about this vital service, and we have come to take messaging for granted.

In a highly competitive market, Exchange’s continued popularity is testament to its market position as a leading email solution. But can it continue to dominate business communication with Google For Work breathing down its neck?

Why Do We Still Use Exchange?

In truth, Exchange is more than just an email service, or a mailbox. It’s a complete business management system that incorporates calendars, tasks and other functionality. Exchange also ties in seamlessly with other Microsoft technologies, such as Sharepoint. If you’re in the Microsoft ecosystem, it certainly makes sense to stay there.

One of the pain points that businesses experience is the Exchange server itself. It’s a server that comes under serious load during peak business hours, yet it needs to be up 24/7. Without the Exchange server, the whole email system falls flat.

Hosted Exchange allowed businesses to stick with the Exchange system they depended on, but to outsource the management of the server. This is a much more efficient way to run a business email service because the pain, management and availability is placed in the hands of a third party provider. This means you can cut support and stop over purchasing, one of the key reasons for overspend in IT.

Looking Ahead With Cloud

The hosted element of Hosted Exchange takes advantage of cloud infrastructure, and it allows businesses to tap into a scalable and highly available method of provisioning. As long as small businesses need cost-effective services, hosted Exchange will be a popular email system.

As businesses become more collaborative, and more geographically diverse, the popularity of systems like Exchange will only grow further. The foundations are already in place, and the hosted element means employees can connect securely to collaborative and communication tools wherever they are.

Consider also the popularity of mobile computing, and the way that faster internet connections are changing the way we work. When everyone was sitting in one office, it made sense to place the server close by. Now, we can connect to a server from anywhere, and a 4G connection makes remote connections quick and easy. The user just has to change the server details on their device.

Now’s the Time to Move to Hosted Exchange

Hosted Exchange is a secure, convenient and cost-effective way to modernise your Exchange email and cut back on unnecessary spend. With easy accessibility and instant scalability, it’s no wonder businesses are doing away with their server rooms and switching to hosted solutions.

If you opt for hosted Exchange today, you’re essentially future-proofing your business email, ensuring it’s always accessible by employees working on site or far away. Microsoft has heavily invested in the Exchange brand, and we’re looking forward to years of additional innovation that shores up Exchange’s capabilities.