Cloud Computing’s Refuseniks: How Long Can They Hold Out?

Is your organization a “Cloud Computing Refusenik”?

This article excerpt, by Dave Cartwright, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1Wvmbu7

Umpty-squillion surveys come out every week, and they generally disagree with each other. Personally I tend to take notice of the ones that tell me that red wine is good for weight loss and long life.

I read one recently, though, in which no fewer than 51 percent of managers said they’re not presently investing in cloud technology. “OK”, I thought, half the population isn’t doing it yet. Then I read that in the same survey that 49 per cent said that in two years’ time they still wouldn’t be investing in it. And I was more than a little surprised by that.

Cloudy thinking

Bear in mind that they weren’t talking about whether they’d move their entire world to the cloud: it was whether they were investing in cloud at all. At all.

Fair enough, I understand organisations not moving en masse to (say) hosted virtual desktops. But no Office 365? No Google Apps? No DropBox? No AWS for a cheap server for a pilot project?

Some organisations tend to shy away from cloud services – specifically those with particularly high security requirements on the data they store. But even then there must surely be the temptation to adopt some kind of fully managed hosted service for applications under less scrutiny – public-facing brochureware websites, for example.

Furthermore, the cloud can be incredibly attractive in a business continuity context. Say you host your email service in a co-location data centre facility where you own all the servers and network kit, you manage the servers yourself, you have a secure remote access mechanism with two-factor authentication. Is it really that big a leap of security confidence to decide to shift it all to (say) Office 365?

And even if it is, what about that two-factor authentication system you’re using on your private data centre installation? Is that an on-site offering? I’ve recently been getting to grips with Symantec’s hosted offering – it works a treat and doesn’t need me to feed and water it.

Taking the concept further, you could even use the cloud to monitor and control your internet usage behaviour. Even the most paranoid security officer must surely find it hard to complain about using an Internet-based system to control your internet browsing.

In this sense I’m talking about services such as Websense’s cloud offering, which I introduced to my infrastructure in a previous life and which I found absolutely excellent – access gateways worldwide, synchronisation with our Active Directory, resilient services, a single management GUI, not overly expensive, and I got to throw away a fleet of god-awful ISA servers that hosted the legacy on-premises version.

I completely understand why people don’t move wholesale to the cloud. A fully cloud-based infrastructure is something that suits only a minority of organisations. But I’m still astounded to see that almost half of those questioned in the particular survey I read are of the belief that they won’t be using it at all in two years’ time.

Okay, there are concerns. There’s security. There’s the fact that it’s easy to forget what you left running and end up with a bigger bill than you expected.

There’s the fact that in all but the smallest cloud providers you have bugger all influence over their techies if the infrastructure goes down and your finance server is unavailable at year end, or your email’s not working for a couple of days. I get that.

Keeping up with the hackers

Surely, though, the people who say they won’t be using the cloud in the future are forgetting that what you can do with it is likely to change radically in the next 24 months. Security will have kept up with the hackers; connectivity will be even better than it is now (my fiver says that by then you’ll see proper quality-of-service guarantees over the Internet as if it were a private WAN).

I reckon that some vendors of traditional IT products may even entirely stop shipping software and appliances, instead stripping down their support division (supporting customers with on-prem solutions is highly non-trivial) and supplying their services as entirely cloud-based services. Will this 49% of IT managers simply avoid those services even though they’re acceptable to the auditors and the best of breed?

No, I don’t think they will. I suspect simply that when they were asked: “Will you be investing in the cloud in two years’ time?”, they’re thinking: “Hell, I’ve got so much to do now, and so much on my roadmap for the next 24 months, that I can’t even think about cloud as well”. But that in fact by the time they get part-way down their roadmap they’ll find themselves with a cloud solution.

Because by that time we probably won’t be calling it a cloud service. Or a SaaS product. Or an AnythingaaS solution, for that matter. Because by that time we’ll be so used to the idea that we won’t have a special name for it: in two years time it’ll just be called a product.

10 Reasons Why Small Businesses Choose Office 365 over Google Apps


This article excerpt originally appeared here: http://managedsolution.com/off…/

As any business owner knows, staying competitive means doing more with less. It’s about being nimble, looking professional online, and getting more done in less time. But, with the many choices that are available these days, it’s difficult to find the right tools to accomplish your goals. Office 365 delivers a full-featured, business-centric online productivity experience. It is designed from the ground up to meet business requirements for security, privacy, reliability, and manageability. Now, of course, Google also offers online productivity services with Google Apps for Work, so why should small and midsize businesses choose Office 365 over Google Apps?

Below are ten 10 reasons:

    1. ENSURE THE PRIVACY OF YOUR BUSINESS INFORMATION. Your private business information should be just that—private. Your customers and partners trust you with their sensitive information as well, and Office 365 provides enhanced security by design with our state-of-the-art data centers, premium anti-spam and antivirus protection, and encrypted anywhere access to data. Google Apps for Work adheres to Google’s single privacy policy, which is shared across business and consumer applications.
    1. WORK VIRTUALLY ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. In today’s always-on business world, being able to get work done anywhere can be a significant competitive advantage—especially for small and midsize businesses looking to deliver superior customer service and to differentiate themselves from larger competitors. Office 365 delivers a familiar, yet powerful user experience across PC, phone, and browser, intelligently tailored for each platform. Google has limited offline capabilities for its services. They are only limited to Chrome browser. And the experience is inconsistent across services.
    1. BOOST PRODUCTIVITY AND EFFICIENCY WITH A COMPLETE SOLUTION. Microsoft has been improving Office productivity applications for decades, and Office 365 is a natural extension of that process. With Office 365, you get everything you love about Microsoft Office, and then some. Instant messaging, Yammer Enterprise, real-time presence, video conferencing, and more are built right in and accessible from desktop applications or in the web browser. Customers using Google Apps for Work must rely on third-party solutions for core features such as Mail Merge, Bibliography etc.
    1. GET UP AND RUNNING FAST WITH A FAMILIAR, STRAIGHTFORWARD INTERFACE. Office 365 mobile, online, and desktop applications share a consistent yet tailored experience to give users instant familiarity across devices and locations. You get the familiar Microsoft Outlook® and Office productivity applications you already use—now powered by and working seamlessly with cloud services. Share a file in Word, Microsoft Excel®, or Microsoft PowerPoint® and almost anyone will be able to use it without thinking twice. Customers using Google Apps for Work must rely on third-party tools such as OffiSync and Memeo for functionality that is similar to what is offered in Office 365.
    1. MAKE LIFE EASY FOR CUSTOMERS AND PARTNERS. Office 365 makes it easy for users to create rich documents that convince customers, preserve ideas, and drive innovation. All that richness is preserved whether documents are edited using Office tools on a desktop computer, a tablet, through a browser, or on a mobile device. Google Docs is limited in functionality compared to Office, despite recent efforts to improve.
    1. REDUCE IT COMPLEXITY. Even if you have dedicated IT staff, it’s still likely that you want to minimize the amount of time and money you spend managing systems. Office 365 is designed to be easy for most users to administer and manage, and provides the power of trusted business solutions to meet even the most advanced IT needs. Google Apps does not provide the same level of IT management functionality as Office 365.
    1. MEET YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS WITH A FLEXIBLE SOLUTION. Microsoft believes in giving customers the flexibility to choose what works for their business. That’s why Office 365 offers a choice of easy-to-buy plans to help you get the best solution whether you are a company of one or one thousand. Google’s approach is simple, but it may not satisfy all of your business needs.
    1. RELY ON A FINANCIALLY-BACKED 99.9 PERCENT SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT. Office 365 has been built from the ground up for reliability, availability, and performance. Our proven service is powered by the same Microsoft email and collaboration products that businesses have been using for decades. Because of this commitment to reliability and availability, Microsoft is one of the very few cloud services providers that offer a financially-backed service level agreement (SLA) when any Office 365 service drops below 99.9 percent availability.
    1. PLAN EFFECTIVELY WITH A CLEAR ROADMAP AND ALL-INCLUSIVE PRICING. Microsoft updates Office 365 on a regular schedule and provides customers with 12 months’ notice of significant changes to Office 365. Microsoft also contractually commits to maintaining core Office 365 features for the term of the customer’s subscription. With a new customer roadmap to help businesses set their technical strategy, Microsoft helps you understand the company’s vision and innovations. Flexible, predictable, pay-as-you-go pricing options include everything that is listed, so you can rest-assured that Microsoft will support all of the features you purchased, helping you plan budgets more effectively and avoid unexpected expenditures. Google’s approach to innovation is to release beta features with little or no advance warning.
  1. GET THE SUPPORT YOU NEED WHEN YOU NEED IT. Small and midsize businesses don’t have the time to be disrupted. Microsoft provides easy-to-access support options that meet a variety of needs. For small-business customers, Microsoft provides moderated community forums to find quick solutions to problems faced by businesses just like yours. For businesses with advanced technology needs, Office 365 Enterprise plans supplement community support with 24/7 phone support for even single-user outages. And, of course, Office 365 is designed to be easy to manage, even for non-technical people.

 

Ready For a Storage Area Network?

Servers and data storage are a mundane topic for most executives; especially when their primary focus should be on running a profitable business.  Storage Area Networks (SAN) have declined rapidly in price and are no longer a technology for the largest corporations.  Today’s small and medium businesses (SMB) can leverage this technology to create a more flexible computing environment and reduce server costs.

If you are still buying servers with a single purpose, such as — SQL, Exchange, and SharePoint — you are wasting money on hard drives and RAID arrays that can easily double or triple your server costs.  In comparison, an SMB SAN allows you to logically group the hard drives for all your servers into one or two devices that can be connected to all of your servers — providing higher disk performance, higher availability, and faster recovery time in the event of a catastrophic server failure.

By separating the storage from the traditional server (CPU, memory, and network adapters) you increase storage efficiency by only allocating the amount of storage currently required for the server and gain the ability to add storage on the fly.  For instance, if your SQL server demands more disk space – click to allocate it. Or, if your Exchange server has recently archived much of your old email to another system – reduce the amount of disk available to Exchange and increase its performance.

Many departments such as engineering, can go through periods of large storage growth when a new project or New Year approaches.  A SAN allows you to add additional drives on the fly and then allocate them to any server that requires it.  No more surprise IT requests to get a larger server because the current server is maxed out.

Server failure with local RAID arrays are a thing of the past.  When a SAN connected server fails, simply attach the storage on the SAN to a new or backup server and bring your business back online quickly.  No more waiting for tape libraries, and cloud based services to restore all the data to a new server, which can spell two to three days of down time.

What does it cost? That depends on your storage requirements and the number of servers you would like to connect.  A small SAN with two to three servers will start at about $10K.  Your mileage will vary depending on the size and number of the hard drives you will insert into the SAN.  Since all SANs are scalable, you can start with as little as six hard drives and grow to over 200 as your demands increase.  Why not start today?  Reduce your server costs, increase your flexibility, and get back to focusing on what is really import and grow YOUR business.

Paul R. CookPaul R. Cook
Vice President, Network Services
Paul.Cook@CustomSystemsCorp.com

 

 

 

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