Are Cloud Offerings Good for SMB?

The title for this blog came about from a number of our SMB clients asking two questions:

  1. What exactly are cloud services?

  2. Should we be looking into them?

Here is a general answer to the first question: Cloud services are on demand solutions made available to users through an Internet connection from a Cloud provider.  For instance, Office 365 provides an e-mail solution (and more) from Microsoft that users can access anywhere they have Internet access from almost any device.  I can even get to Office 365 from a certain gaming console.  In the early days of cloud computing, cloud referred to services that came through the Internet from a third-party.  However, today we have private in-house clouds as well.

As for the second question; yes, you should be looking into Cloud solutions.  Every year, IT has a buzz-word that rises to the top of the list.  In the ancient past of a few years ago, ‘client/server computing’ was the major buzz-word.  More recently, ‘virtualization’.  Though virtualization is still a major buzz-word today, ‘Cloud Computing’ is now on the top of the list.  There is a reason these buzz-words rise to the top of the list, they are a rising, viable trend for IT solutions.  Cloud may not be for everyone, but there is not a single administrator who should not be looking to see how cloud services can help their organization.  Funny, I said the same thing about virtualization not too long ago.

So, why should your organization we be looking at cloud services?  Here are some major reasons:

  • Lower IT costs without the risk. If you host a service in house, you need the hardware resources to house it, the expertise to build and maintain it, and the resources to operate it.  Most of the time, cloud services are a subscription based service.  When first looked at, the monthly cost of those subscriptions may be substantial.  However, you have to compare it to what it would cost you to have the services in-house.  Add up the cost of the server, the environment to protect the server (power and air conditioning), installation, maintenance, backup, and upgrades.  You get all of that from the cloud without you having to deal or worry about it.  The cloud service has the security and the disaster recovery resources already which means lower risk to you.
  • New methods of collaboration. Sharing ideas, files, and data can be done almost anywhere, anytime, and on any client.
  • As stated above, being able to do things almost anywhere, on any client, at any time.

Most SMB do not have a large IT staff with a wide variety of technology skill sets.  They usually have the one or two people who have to be a jack-of-all-trades.  I have seen places where this person is the head of accounting.  They have a CPA, not a BS in Information Technology.  With cloud solutions, the need for in-house expertise on a product is practically eliminated.  The burden on the ‘IT’ people is lifted and day-to-day IT tasks are reduced.

Here are few examples of cloud offerings and what they give you (some items depend on the subscription level):

  • Office 365 gives you hosted Exchange e-mail services, the latest version of MS Office for multiple devices, shared information and files, hosted storage, and more.
  • Trend Micro Worry Free Business give you cloud administered antivirus. The AV client still resides on each device, but the administration is in the cloud.  This way, you do not need to install AV administration services on a local server.  You can also get to the console from anywhere to perform tasks.
  • Carbonite offers highly compliant backup solutions to the cloud. You don’t need the storage or administration hosted in-house.
  • Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services make it possible to put any server, even your entire server infrastructure in the cloud.

There are many more cloud offerings than these.  It is most definitely worth looking at cloud services whether you are a small or large company.

Do you have any questions about the cloud and your business? Custom Systems can help! Feel free to post any questions or comments below or reach me directly by email.

 

AZS-3

 

 

Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)| Sr. Network Consultant craig.kalty@customsystems.com

 

 

©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

What’s your backup plan?

scyther5Spring cleaning. Getting a fresh start. Purging. These are all great things to do with your life, as it allows you to focus on what is important. But what about the data on your computer? Old documents, pictures, financial data, family movies, etc. The easiest way to purge this is to not backup your machine and then have the unthinkable happen. Your computer crashes and all your data is gone. It is just like a natural disaster that we all too often see where people are digging through the debris just trying to find a picture or teddy bear, just to hold onto memories.

I have often preached the benefits and requirement to complete backups of  important data. Twenty years ago, it was easy to keep your data intact, as there just wasn’t that much of it. We didn’t have 1,000’s of pictures or even video stored on those personal computers. Financial data, probably, but most of that was also probably printed out on nice green bar paper for cataloging.

Today, our data is EVERYWHERE. Literally, everywhere. If you have more than one computer in the house, which many households do, you have spread it across multiple machines to minimize the loss of data. You have pictures in iPhoto and music in iTunes on your mac. You have work documents on your PC at work and your laptop at home. That next great book you were writing is in word. Yikes. So many devices, so many files.

carbonite-logoMy main machine at home was our Mac. We have moved our data from mac to mac as we upgraded the hardware every three to four years as the machine started to get a little slow as newer technology leapfrogged earlier versions. Over 12 years, and thousands of pictures, songs, movies of our kids, etc. were piling up on that Mac. We had no backups, nothing. I tried to make copies of the data to keep them up to date, but it was difficult as things were constantly being added to that machine, and doing backups were a royal pain. That’s when I purchased a subscription to Carbonite for my home machine. I paid the annual price, loaded the application and let it do its things. Gigabytes of data were pushed into the cloud and were kept constantly updated.

I would say at least a year went by and then it happened. I did a very stupid thing. We were doing major home renovations and the electric in the home office was somehow not working. Not to be deterred, I ran an extension cord across the house to power the computer and monitor. Note, this is not a wise decision, as that afternoon, major thunderstorms passed overhead and then I heard it — POP! Say goodbye to the Mac Pro. It was completely fried, including the hard drive. Of course I didn’t know for sure that the hard drive was fried until we brought it to the Apple store and the tech confirmed it. They were going to try and repair it, as it still had 25 days left of the AppleCare warranty. In the meantime, we purchased a brand new iMac, as it was getting to that three to four year timeframe.

I got home that night, booted up the machine and did all that Apple stuff you have to do and the next thing I did was install Carbonite and begin the restore process and let it run. Two days later, the Mac was completely back up and running with ALL of our data. All the pictures, all my child’s videos and schoolwork. Everything.

To this day, I use Carbonite on my home machine and my office machine. It makes doing backups simple. You really don’t have to do anything much in the setup, it will save your files for you. That is the thing that makes this program work the best, it is transparent.

I will say that Carbonite is my backup solution, but to be honest, I do also take important steps on some of my more valuable information and spread it across different cloud based on-line storage just in case.

So what’s your backup plan? Share your experiences and questions below.
Michael Franchino

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Franchino, Vice President, AX ConsultingSr. Network Consultant michael.franchino@customsystems.com

 

 

©2015 Custom Systems Corporation