Tag Archives: Cloud

Cloud for Small and Medium Businesses

Benefits of Cloud for Small and Medium Business

Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) look to get more from their technology spending. The cloud, or Internet-based computing, is an effective way to allocate your technology spend, with its flexible and cost-effective self-service model. Read on to learn more about the benefits of cloud computing for SMBs.

 

What the Cloud Can do for Your Business

 

In short, cloud computing is an internet-based model for delivering computing resources. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), important aspects of cloud computing include broad network access, resource pooling, and rapid elasticity. Broad network access means that there is connectivity between servers and storage (“backend” infrastructure) and laptops or smartphones (“frontend” clients). The access can extend to a wide range of frontend devices including smart phones, lap-tops, and desktop computers. This enables workers to access applications and other office productivity tools via the internet so they can work wherever they are. 

 

Why the Cloud is Cost Effective

Resource pooling involves a provider serving a number of clients while the service appears infinite and immediately available. Rapid elasticity, perhaps one of the most important traits of cloud computing, allows clients to use more resources (or less) as needed–for busy times of year, or special projects, for instance. This means only pay for what’s used. What’s more, measured service facilitates SMBs tracking usage and not buying more resources than they need. Companies can have the provider maintain and operate infrastructure, transforming capital expense to operating expense.

 

Cloud Service Platforms and Models 

 

As already mentioned, rapid elasticity is a reason many companies decide to adopt the cloud. According to an article by CompTIA, 44% of firms cite rapid elasticity as a key benefit. Cloud can be more cost-effective, since companies are billed for what they actually use. Whatever a company’s reason for adoption, it will need to consider options for platforms and models. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) has access as its key feature, rather than ownership. Companies can build their own applications and use cloud resources for compute power and for data storage. Software as a Service can free a company from part or all of the infrastructure responsibility, and focus on getting the most from applications that are paid for on a subscription plan. Businesses have the option of using public cloud with its rapid elasticity, or private cloud if dealing with sensitive data and/or industry regulations. A single application can be configured across a multi cloud environment (a mixture of public and private cloud).

 

Cloud computing affords many benefits as well as posing questions. For guidance in considering cloud’s benefits and how they apply to you, contact us today.

Work Anywhere Securely with the Cloud

With remote work a fixture in our economy, technology has risen to meet the challenge. From virtual desktops to unified communications, it is easy to work anywhere.  Read on to learn how technology based in the Cloud can keep your business robust in 2021 and beyond.

 

Stay Connected with Unified Communications

Unified Communications as a Service (UcaaS) provides phone, chat, text, email, web conferencing and more as an integrated solution available in the Cloud. Voice over IP (VoIP) and other Cloud technologies remove the dependency of on-premise hardware and the need for expensive phone and conferencing equipment. This lets you route calls efficiently to communicate in real time all over the world. 

 

Work Securely with DeskTop as a Service

Adopting Desktop as a Service (DaaS) means you can work anywhere, get customer information instantly and securely from home or all over the world. With Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), your access is more secure because all systems and applications are managed virtually with a defined level of security that can be centrally managed from a remote location. Since the data is in the Cloud, it doesn’t reside on individual devices, thereby increasing security. Individual users still need to practice effective password management as well as best practices in security policy. With Desktop as a Service (DaaS), the Cloud provider manages and operates the infrastructure, including security. 

 

Work Anywhere with Software as a Service

Software as a Service (SaaS), also based in the Cloud, supports a wide variety of applications, including business applications like CRM, accounting, human resources and more. With the ability to access your applications anywhere from any device (including desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile) you always have information and applications at your fingertips whether you are at home or abroad.

 

Benefits of the Cloud

What all these technologies have in common is the Cloud; expandable computing power available as service. Cloud computing makes it possible to access applications and data with just an Internet connection. The infrastructure resides with the Cloud service provider instead of on-premises, converting a capital expense to an operating expense and saving money. Cloud’s flexibility and scalability allows a company to provision more or less computing resources, according to demand. Private and public Cloud environments are available for differing business needs.   

 

Technologies used in on-site and remote work will continue to be in high demand. To learn how you can take advantage of the benefits of the Cloud and its applications, contact us today.

The Business Risks of Cybersecurity

With daily business processes as well as innovative new technologies like the Cloud Computing, keeping your company’s data and systems safe is a top priority. Damages from cybercrime, in the form of lost revenue, continue to mount; in the next few years, the cost could reach as much as $6 trillion a year. In daily business activities, companies gather, store and use a great deal of customer data. Employees, thanks to Software as a Service (SaaS), can now work anytime, anywhere, accessing company data from outside the office. Both your technology and your employees need to be ready for multiple threats to the security of your network. Read on to learn more about how to protect your business’ revenue and reputation and keep the business running smoothly.

Knowing and Guarding Against Cyber Threats

Cyber threats come from both inside your company and outside and can affect businesses of all sizes. Not only can malware and viruses attack your system and steal and/or destroy company data, lack of understanding of threats by employees can compromise the safety of your systems. Be sure to have the latest definitions of your anti-virus and anti-malware definitions up to date. Along with these protections, establish a culture of security. This should work from management downward and emphasize that everyone has a role in keeping your systems safe and your business productive.

Keep an Eye on Your Network

Another way to keep your business running smoothly is to monitor your network. Network monitoring can be done off-site, 24 hours a day, and can spot and eliminate threats to your security. It can keep even small intrusions from becoming data disasters that can interrupt business processes and jeopardize your reputation with customers as well as cause you to lose revenue.

Remember the Human Element

Make sure that your employees are not the weakest link in your network. Educate and train them to recognize malware and phishing schemes, and to respond when a threat occurs. Emphasize that as part of your company, they have an important role in keeping your systems safe. Also, inform employees of potential threats outside the office, such as the dangers of unsecured mobile “hotspots.”

To keep your business running smoothly and staying in business, cybersecurity is key. If you need help developing a cybersecurity plan, contact your technology advisor today.

Considering Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing has become more and more popular over the last several years, with that popularity continuing into 2018 and 2019. According to a report by the International Data Corporation (IDC), public cloud services will grow from nearly $70b to more than $141b in 2019. SaaS is likely to be the key consumption model for Cloud Services, and Telecommunications is expected to be the fastest-growing vertical industry. According to COMPTIA, half of all small to medium-sized businesses report having 31% to 60% of their IT functions in the cloud environment. What is cloud computing, and what are its benefits? Read on to learn more about this technology.

More Access for Predictable Cost

Cloud computing is an Internet-based model of computing, on a pay-per-use basis, with benefits to organizations large and small. Using the Cloud saves costs, partly by changing a capital expense to an operating expense. Businesses no longer need to replace aging infrastructure, but can move their data, systems and applications to a subscription-based model like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS). Businesses, at least in the public cloud environment, can share common system resources (hardware, software, operating system and application database). Usage monitoring and a utility billing model keeps the costs predictable. Cloud computing increases employee productivity by giving the business a common interface, allowing employees to work outside the office, and outside traditional office hours. Another function of the cloud is data backup, allowing the company to have data offsite for easier backup and recovery in case of a disaster.

What To Consider Before Moving to The Cloud

With all these benefits, there are still things to be considered before migrating to the Cloud. First, what’s the right environment for your business? If your business is subject to regulations such as HIPAA, a private cloud environment may be a requirement. Another consideration is where the provider’s data resides; ideally it will be in a data center close to a major power grid to ensure uninterrupted service. Finally, evaluate the current health of your network to make sure there are no weak spots to ensure rapid and consistent access to your Cloud Services.

The Cloud can benefit your business in many ways, allowing you to save costs and giving you flexible access to your mission-critical systems. Contact your technology advisor today to learn more.

Is the Public Cloud Right for Your Business?

Migration to the cloud has become more common over the years, with more and more companies moving to the Cloud each day. Benefits of the Cloud extend to many if not all business systems—Communication and Collaboration, Email, file sharing and data storage to name a few. Read on to learn more about how companies, especially small to medium-sized businesses, are using the public cloud for their operations.

Benefits and Characteristics of Public Cloud

Overall, the public cloud offers a less-expensive alternative to private cloud resources, with many of the benefits. Like the private cloud, the public cloud enables businesses to avoid investing in the purchase and maintenance of costly hardware, since the underlying infrastructure is already available via the web. Capital expenses can then be converted to operating expenses. What’s more, the cloud is scalable and elastic, giving enterprises the ability to use more or less of the total environment according to different web traffic to their business at different times. Public cloud environments are ready to use, with required resources built in. Other characteristics named by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology include the public cloud being open to more users and more enterprises. Finally, public cloud offers network access everywhere, since the data is accessible via the internet.

Considering Public Versus Private Cloud

As great as the public cloud is, it may not be right for your particular enterprise. Compliance with regulatory standards like Sarbanes Oxley, PCI and HIPAA necessitates confidentiality of information and restrictions on access to it. Companies that need to protect their customers’ and clients’ information will find a private cloud environment vital. Data residency also influences the regulations that must be followed.

These factors will change over time, influencing your choice of a public or private cloud environment. To help you determine which is right for you, public or private cloud, talk to your trusted Technology Advisor today.

Technology Trends

Building a Solid Security Foundation in the Cloud

With more and more businesses putting their data in the Cloud, most agree the benefits of doing so outweigh the risks. However, there are still risks to consider, both before and after selecting a Cloud Service Provider. Read on to find out about these as well as to learn how to manage security in the Cloud.      

Making Your Business Cloud-Ready

According to a Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) report, “Assessing the Cloud Security Landscape,” 85% of business and IT professionals are confident in their Cloud Service Provider. Cloud computing is certain to grow even more in coming years. What cloud security concerns are top of mind for business owners and IT professionals? What do they need to consider before migrating to the Cloud?

Three of the key concerns business owners have are about business downtime and disaster recovery, loss or exposure of data when it migrates to the cloud, and the safety of data, through encryption, when the data is in motion and at rest. Other concerns include the physical location of data centers and shared technology concerns in multi-tenant environment. In spite of these concerns, only 3 in 10 business owners do a comprehensive evaluation, according to CompTIA.

Questions to Ask Your Cloud Service Provider

Before selecting a Cloud Service Provider, ask yourself and the potential provider some important questions. First, should all of your data be in the cloud? If you are responsible for compliance with regulatory standards, or if your data is proprietary or competitive, the cloud might not be the right place for the more sensitive information. Be sure to have a solid IT infrastructure to handle the data that needs to be more closely guarded. Another factor related to regulatory compliance is the physical location of the provider’s data center. Where does it reside and how does that affect compliance to regulatory standards? Also ask about the provider’s encryption policies and their business interruption and disaster recovery plans. All of these considerations are key to staying secure in the cloud.

Keeping Your Business Secure

Once you have decided to use the cloud, you still need to take the responsibility to keep your data safe. Ensure that your network is in compliance; it is only as secure as its weakest point. Make sure to have the most current operating system patches as well as up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware definitions. Also, establish a policy for establishing and maintaining passwords. Educate your employees in choosing strong passwords—a combination of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters can make passwords “unhackable.” Emphasize that employees should change their passwords regularly, and that they have a stake in protecting their own and your company’s data.

Has your company reviewed how you want to handle security, reliability, compliance, and legal issues related to your cloud service? If not, consider contacting a cloud computing professional to review your cloud security policies today.

Aim for the Cloud

The time may be right for your business to move to the Cloud. With its many advantages, including cost savings, security, and flexibility, cloud computing also gives businesses a competitive advantage, allowing employees to work anytime,  anywhere. According to an article by Forbes, the trends indicate more and more cloud usage, with an increase from 19% to 57% in 2016 and 2017. By the end of 2018, 80% of all IT budgets will be dedicated to the Cloud. According to the ninth annual CompTIA Security Trends Study, more than 59% reported moderate to heavy usage, and nearly three-quarters have confidence in providers’ ability to produce a secure cloud environment.  

Benefits of Moving to the Cloud

Why move to the Cloud? One reason businesses migrate is being able to work across multiple devices including mobile, desktop and laptop computers. Cloud computing is scalable and can handle extra demand as your business grows. Not only that, but more employees work remotely, and Cloud computing enables teleworkers to access the company’s cloud-based systems when working remotely. Lastly, moving to the Cloud can, in many cases, convert the capital expense (CAPEX) of hardware and infrastructure to a predictable operating expense(OPEX).

Efficiencies of Cloud Computing

Predictability of cost is one key reason businesses make such a strategic decision. With Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), businesses can eliminate the up-front costs of hardware and systems updates, and phase out aging hardware. While the business will need to plan for customization, migration, and integration, Cloud computing allows customers to pay a predictable cost for the resources they use.

What to Consider Before Migrating to the Cloud

Even when Cloud computing makes perfect business sense for your organization, there are some things to consider before selecting a Cloud Service Provider (CSP). Be sure to evaluate a prospective CSP for security. Many companies first evaluate their provider based on encryption of data, both while the data is migrated to the Cloud and when it is at rest. It is vital for hospitals and other healthcare organizations to have a secure environment, given the need to comply with HIPAA regulations. Likewise, businesses processing customers’ credit card information must comply with PCI rules. A private cloud environment might be required for such industries. The geographic location of a data center is also important, and it is best to consider data centers near other buildings on a reliable power grid for Cloud-based Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas).

If you are considering migrating to the cloud, or are in the process of selecting a Cloud service provider, contact your technology advisor to help you move to the cloud with confidence and ease.

Cloud Migration

Cloud Adoption and Software as a Service (SaaS)

Most businesses today have adopted some form of  Cloud Computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) to run their business. According to a recent article by Forrester Research,“SaaS Improves Business Results Due To Greater Innovation and Agility — And Is Increasingly The Foundation for Business Opportunities.” Rather than investing up front in costly infrastructure, implementation and configuration, Cloud Computing using Software as a Service provides an economical and turnkey approach to access the latest technology at an affordable price. Here are some examples.

Cloud Computing to Improve the Customer Experience

Call Center, Chat, Unified Communications, VoiP and other customer-facing technologies can be rapidly deployed within your business using the SaaS model. Cloud Computing provides flexible deployment options based on your needs and an economical subscription approach instead of an upfront Capital Expense (CAPEX). Make sure your network and infrastructure is ready to handle the additional load that comes with increased Voice and Data traffic associated with these solutions.

Cloud Backup to Protect Your Business

Another popular use of Cloud Technology is for data protection in the form of Cloud Backup. Using Cloud Backup rather than antiquated tape or on-premise storage gives added protection and rapid recovery when things go wrong. What’s more, many Cloud suppliers of SaaS solutions include backup capability within their application so you won’t need to worry about business disruption in the case of a failure.

Hosted Business Applications

There is an ever-widening range of business applications including CRM, Accounting, HR, Email and more. You may be using these SaaS applications in your business and taking advantage of working anywhere and on any device (mobile, tablet and/or desktop). In many cases the subscription policies associated with these applications are flexible. Because you will rely on these systems for productivity, you will need to ensure you have reliable broadband network access to avoid loss of productivity due to slow connections.

If you are considering deploying more Cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technologies in your business, contact your technology service provider and ask about a Cloud Readiness Assessment of your business today!

Technology Trends

Technology Trends you Will Hear About in 2018

According to technology research firm Gartner Group, technology spending is expected to grow to $3.7 Trillion dollars in 2018. Communications Services ($1.387 billion) and IT Services ($931 billion) make up the majority of spending. In contrast, Enterprise Software and Data Center Systems are the smallest categories of spending expected for next year. Shifts in IT spending from Data Centric to Cloud Computing change the landscape for buyers, vendors and technology solution providers alike. Here are top Technology Trends you will hear about in 2018.

Cybersecurity

2017 was a year full of data breaches and ransomware. According to a 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study by the Ponemon institute, the average cost of a data breach in 2017 was $141 per record lost. Consider how many customer, prospect, employee, member or supplier records you may have within your organization. With the risks so high, expect Cybersecurity to be top of the list of Technology Trends for most companies next year.

Cloud Computing

According to Forbes, 80% of IT budgets will be committed to the Cloud. Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions will help line-of-business managers from Sales, Marketing, HR and Finance become more productive. Communications and Collaboration applications including Email, VoIP and Web conferencing solutions will connect employees across companies and supply chains. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will host a range of solutions including websites, online backup and more. The utility model, or paying for usage, appeals to businesses replacing technology capital expense (CapEx) for subscription-based operating expense.

Managed Services

As the “everything as a service” model gains in popularity, more companies will adopt fixed- priced managed services contracts. Rather than waiting until an issue arises, the managed service delivers proactive IT service for on-premise and cloud-based systems.

Software-Defined Everything

Technology research firm IDC predicts Software Defined Networking to top $8b in 2018. As more companies rely on technology for communications, customer experience and remotely hosted cloud solutions, cost-effective network performance becomes critical. Increased cost savings combined with improved connectivity make Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) a popular choice for companies expanding to multiple locations or those reviewing their networking expense.

Emerging Technologies

The technology industry is known for its infatuation with the “New, New, Thing.” Many technologies will impact the buzz meter in 2018–Big Data is one of them. Standards for collecting information and connecting the dots between demographics, geographics and other insights begin to provide companies both small and large competitive advantage.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the form of process automation, chatbots and other computer-to- computer conversation and learning will creep into the technology stack in 2018. You may find AI emerge in popular productivity applications throughout the workplace.

Companies wanting to stay on the edge of technology will turn to Digital Transformation to fuel growth and efficiencies. Expect large businesses to acquire their digital counterparts, while small business will deploy technologies to improve customer experience and ensure employee productivity.

BlockChain or Distributed Trust technologies will go beyond Bitcoin and other distributed ledgers to drive efficiencies in select industries including Healthcare and Financial services. Blockchain technology uses encryption to link a continuous series of records. By securely confirming agreement to complex transactions, BlockChain technology will begin to rattle in 2018 for many larger organizations. It may take more time before this technology applies to small and medium businesses.

Internet of things (IoT) and other smart devices will emerge in consumer and business technology markets. From security systems to smart cities expect more and more connected devices to contribute to efficiencies from the factory floor to the warehouse door.

As technology becomes a greater part of our business operations, it is more important than ever to ensure we have secure and reliable business systems. IF you have questions about how your business can benefit from emerging technology trends, contact your technology advisor today.

What’s Your Cloud Budget?

Most companies rely on Cloud Computing for their business. Popular Software as a Service (SaaS) applications including Voice over IP (VoIP), Hosted Email, Sales Force Automation (SFA), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can all be rapidly deployed by a technology Advisor. In fact, a recent survey by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) confirms 80% of companies adopted some sort of Cloud solution for their business. Proper planning allows companies to get the most from their technology investment; so what’s your Cloud Budget?

What do Companies Spend on Software as a Service?

Leading technology research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) suggests nearly one dollar out of of every six is spent on packaged software; one dollar out of every five dollars is spent on applications that will be consumed via the SaaS model, a popular paradigm for Cloud Computing. This information could be useful in planning your technology budgets to see if your Cloud budget is in line with industry spending trends.

Infrastructure as a Service

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), including Cloud Backup, website hosting and other application hosting services, are also available as Cloud Services. Industry research firm Gartner predicts the highest growth will come from Cloud system infrastructure services (IaaS) which is expected to grow by 36.8% in 2017. Companies turn to IaaS as a way to stay nimble and to fix technology spending. The Cloud Service model is utility based, only charging you for what you consume. What’s more, Cloud Computing may be considered an Operating Expense (OPEX) rather than a Capital Expense (CAPEX) because there is minimal upfront investment in equipment and contracting terms are flexible.

Preparing Your Cloud Budget

To prepare your Cloud Budget, consider a number of factors including strategic growth initiatives and cost savings programs where technology can easily be deployed to improve business agility and employee productivity. Also look at your existing expenses to see if they match industry trends. For help preparing your Cloud budget, contact your technology advisor for an assessment to help migrate your business to the Cloud.