cloud computing

Google, Big Data, and a New Cloud Service

Google, Big Data, and a New Cloud Service 150 150 Kerry Butters

With Big Data projects, the challenge is to clean and filter the huge amounts of information involved. It takes a lot of work to get to the point where business value can be extracted.

Over the coming year, Google will focus on releasing cloud tools and services that ease development tasks, while helping companies monitor their Big Data operations. At their I/O developer conference in June, the company unveiled a number of new products to achieve this.

 

Platform

Google Cloud Platform lets developers build, test and deploy applications on Google’s infrastructure; from computing, storage and application services for Web, mobile, or backend solutions. The platform is a set of modular cloud-based services allowing you to create anything from simple websites to complex applications.

 

Dataflow

The tech giant has introduced a cloud computing service called Google Cloud Dataflow – billed as a way of more easily moving, processing, and analysing vast amounts of digital information. According to Urs Hölzle (who oversaw the creation of Google’s global network of data centres), it’s designed to help companies deal with petabytes of data – as in, millions of gigabytes.

Dataflow is based on Google’s FlumeJava data-pipeline tool and its MillWheel stream-processing system, and is seen as the company’s answer to Amazon’s Elastic MapReduce and Kinesis, all in one package.

Batch processing is a way of crunching data already collected, while stream processing involves analysing data in near real-time as it comes off the Net. Many organisations need both types of analysis, and Cloud Dataflow puts them under one umbrella.

Designed to be relatively simple, Dataflow handles very large datasets and complex workflows. All jobs use the same code, and Dataflow automatically optimises pipelines and manages the infrastructure.

A live demo at Google I/O involved streaming World Cup data against historical information, to spot anomalies. The system could be set to automatically take actions when something was detected.

 

Compute Engine and App Engine

Google sees cloud computing as a potentially enormous market, one to rival online advertising (its primary revenue source).

With Google Compute Engine (the company’s “infrastructure-as-a-service” cloud) and Google App Engine, it now offers cloud services allowing companies and independent developers to build and run large software applications. Google also revealed a number of support services.

 

Cloud Monitoring

Google Cloud Monitoring is designed to help find and fix unusual behaviour across an application stack. Based on technology from Google’s recent acquisition of Stackdriver, Cloud Monitoring provides metrics, dashboards and alerts for Cloud Platform. It comes with over a dozen popular open source apps, including Apache, Nginx, MongoDB, MySQL, Tomcat, IIS, Redis, and Elasticsearch.

 

Cloud Trace

To help isolate the root cause of performance bottlenecks, Cloud Trace analyses the time spent by your application on request processing. You can also compare performance between various releases of your application using latency distributions.

 

Cloud Debugger

Cloud Debugger can be used to identify problems in production applications, without affecting their performance. It gives a full stack trace, and snapshots of all local variables for any watchpoint you set in your code – while your application runs undisturbed.

 

Cloud Save

Google Cloud Save provides a simple API for saving, retrieving, and synchronising user data to the cloud and across devices, without needing to code up the backend. Data is saved in Google Cloud Datastore, making it accessible from Google App Engine or Google Compute Engine via the existing Datastore API.

Cloud Save is currently in private beta, but will be available for general use “soon”.

 

Android Studio

Tooling has been added to Android Studio, simplifying the process of adding an App Engine backend to mobile apps. There are now three built-in App Engine backend module templates, including Java Servlet, Java Endpoints and an App Engine backend with Google Cloud Messaging.

 

BigQuery

With Big Data analysis, timing is everything. As Greg DeMichillie, director of product management for Google’s cloud team put it, “Knowing there was a trend isn’t helpful if you find out a week later.” What’s required is data analysis in real time – or as close to real time as you can get.

BigQuery is a way of almost instantly asking questions of massive datasets. You can bulk load data by using a job, or stream records individually.

Queries can execute asynchronously in the background, and be polled for status. Using the Google Cloud Console, you can access a history of your jobs and queries with the rest of your Cloud Platform resources.

Queries are written in BigQuery’s SQL dialect, which supports synchronous and asynchronous query methods. Both methods are handled by a job, but the “synchronous” option exposes a timeout value that waits until the job has finished before returning.

There are separate interfaces for administration and developers. Access at both project and dataset levels can be controlled via the Google APIs Console. 

The first 100 GB of data processed each month is free. Monthly billing will vary, but the BigQuery website has a Pricing Calculator which provides a simple tool to help get a sense of what an application running on Google Cloud Platform could cost.

Google looks to position itself as the cloud provider most dedicated to making developers’ lives easy. As with Big Data, it’s automating much of the process – and exposing some of its in-house technologies, on the way.

Why Cloud Computing Could Save the Planet

Why Cloud Computing Could Save the Planet 150 150 Kerry Butters

Cloud computing is an attractive proposition for any organisation not wanting to manage its data in-house, for several reasons:

  • Reduction in up-front capital investment, on infrastructure.

  • New cloud-based servers can be up and running in minutes, rather than weeks.

  • Flexibility, as companies need only pay for the capacity they actually use.

  • Elimination of maintenance costs related to occasional spikes in demand.

  • Increased automation and process efficiency.

  • Added levels of service, and technological expertise.

    All this, plus the fact that carbon emissions can be drastically reduced.

     

    The Evidence:

    The Carbon Disclosure project (a report produced by independent research firm, Verdantix, and funded by AT&T), predicts cloud computing could save as much as 85.7 million metric tons of carbon emissions per year, within a decade. In addition, businesses could save up to $12.3 billion (£7.55bn).

    The study involved 11 global companies, representing several different sectors. The researchers used various financial and carbon-reduction models.

    But the good news doesn’t stop, there.

     

    The CLEER View

    A typical organisation has more servers than it needs for back up, failures, and spikes. The “green-ness” of any cloud option will depend on several factors:

  • How big is the data centre being replaced/removed?

  • How well-designed is the organisation’s data centre?

  • How does the cloud host’s cooling procedure compare with the organisation’s own facilities?

  • Does migration to the cloud leave a load of electronic waste to dispose of, or recycle?

    Most reductions in carbon emissions occur because a cloud service has a much more efficient data centre than private facilities. Some cloud hosts are located in colder climates, which offer natural cooling benefits.

    To give a clearer picture, Berkeley Lab has created the CLEER model, to help IT executives determine how much energy they could save by moving to a cloud service. The model provides an estimate; results depend on the size of the organisation, your business model, and other factors.

     

    Against the Machine

    Virtual machines (VMs) are servers, running in the cloud – bits of software that work like a real machine. Till now, they’ve been the mainstay of the cloud computing services offered by Amazon, Google, Microsoft etc. Virtual machines are also the basis of the (costly, inefficient) data centres operated by so many private companies.

    There has to be a better way. And now, there is.

     

    Containers, Now…

    Zack Rosen (of online service and website publishing platform, Pantheon) believes that we could cut carbon dioxide emissions more than electric cars do, by using a cloud technology that fits into the open source Linux operating system. Namely, containers.

    A container is a means of encapsulating software – wrapping it in discrete packages, isolated from other software running on a computer’s OS. Using a container format that runs on many operating systems, you can easily move applications from machine to machine. In the world of cloud computing, where software is spread across hundreds (even thousands) of servers, this is mission-critical.

    Containers also provide “resource isolation.” You can carefully control how much of a machine’s processing and memory resources get allocated to a particular container. By so doing, you more efficiently squeeze many applications onto the same machine.

    True, you can do something similar with virtual machines. But that requires loading multiple VMs on a server, each running their own operating systems. With containers, you can do resource isolation with a single OS. Which means less processing time, lower space requirements, and less money.

     

    It’s Good Enough, for Google

    On the Linux OS, Google pioneered this kind of resource isolation, with a container tool called “cgroups.” Simply by using this across the globe in its online operations, the company believes it has saved the cost of building an entire data centre.

    In recent months, a start-up company called Docker has made the technology easier to manage, reshaping containers so that companies and developers can more readily move them from machine to machine. Google has responded by offering to run Docker containers on its cloud services (Google Compute Engine and Google App Engine) – which could significantly expand their use.

     

    The Downside?

    Security.

    Google’s cloud services run Docker containers, sitting on virtual machines. The VMs are still required to ensure that services can run software from many different companies without letting data leak between them. Containers do have safeguards against this, but have yet to provide the level of security you get with the more established virtual machine technology.

    This is the main reason why no major cloud service has (yet) abandoned VMs in favour of containers. We’re still a long away from the completely “containerised” cloud.

     

    That Said…

    In June 2014, Rackspace introduced a cloud service that works without VMs. However, each machine offered by the service only runs software from a single customer. That gets around the security issue, but can’t achieve the efficiency you’d get by carefully packing everyone’s software containers into one enormous cloud service.

     

    A Step Closer, to the Ideal?

    Give it time.

    Once the security quibble is solved (it will be, inevitably?), and virtual machines cut out of the equation entirely, ever more computing power can be saved. And, with it, the planet. Kind of.

Security and the Cloud

Security and the Cloud 150 150 Kerry Butters

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years surrounding security and the cloud and it was something that delayed initial traction in the market until reasonably recently. However, as more and more businesses have made the transition, it’s clear that faith in cloud services has grown.

Despite a recent Ponemon Institute study, which found that moving to the cloud could triple the cost of a data breach, there’s still plenty of evidence to suggest that the cloud is much safer than many business premises.

45% of Network Attacks Due to Malware

A recent study by NTT Group found that businesses are still not doing enough when it comes to securing the company network. In fact, it was found (somewhat worryingly) that many businesses don’t even have the most basic protection, such as antivirus software and vulnerability scanning, in place.

The research looked into more than three billion attacks that had taken place affecting businesses in 2013. It found that more than half of all the unpatched systems detected had had patches available for two years. This lack of carrying out even the most simple and important tasks can of course significantly increase the risk of attack.

Further to this, it was found that a whopping 78% of those companies that suffered an attack didn’t have any kind of response planning. This means that in the event of an attack, firms would have been completely unprepared and would inevitably lost money.

The Cloud vs the Office Network

Cloud services tend to be based in data centres which have much more robust security than those seen in the study. Not only is data regularly backed up, but it’s also protected by layered security such as hardware firewalls and antivirus solutions. Unlike many of the businesses which the study looked at, good data centres also generally have disaster recovery plans set out and available as documentation for customers.

According to the report, the problem often lies with the board when it comes to network security. It seems that a basic lack of understanding when it comes to just how much an attack can affect the company leads to a shortfall in IT budgets.

For the IT manager, this is obviously something that’s very frustrating. After all, without the budget in place, it’s very unlikely that a manager can do enough to protect the network. However, it should be pointed out that vulnerability scanning and applying patches is not an expensive solution and is something that’s vital to every business.

Security-as-a-Service?

The report goes on to suggest that companies would be well placed to work with security experts and buy this as a service. This would take the pressure off IT managers and help to mitigate the risk to the business network. There’s no reason that this couldn’t take place in the cloud either, it’s quite usual for external auditors to access the cloud service in order to be able to prepare for an audit.

This could complement the skills of existing staff and that of data centre security to provide an overall complete solution.

Cost of a Breach to Business

Furthermore, it’s really very necessary that companies begin to educate executive staff on the effects of poor security at work. The outcome of a data breach is often a loss of business and of course, impact on profits.

Whilst the board might not understand the need for security, executives are often concerned with any impact a situation might have on profits, so it’s perhaps better to educate based on numbers, rather than IT.

It does seem something of a paradox in the wake of the report that businesses still claim not to trust the security of the cloud and yet have little in the way of basic protection, planning for attack or risk mitigation.

Hosted Desktops and SaaS

The most firmly established cloud offering is also the most popular and security concerns aside, SaaS (software in this case, not security) is providing many businesses with the means to gain more agility. The pay monthly model reduces capital expenditure and if the data, as well as the apps is stored in the cloud, then there’s little doubt that it’s better protected than it would be on many business premises.

Of course, there are many other benefits, not least that services such as hosted desktop allow employees to work remotely. Given that remote working is rising hugely in popularity as the work/play divide becomes narrower and narrower, the pluses certainly seem to outweigh any concerns that a company may have about security.

Image: T-Systems

How the Cloud Brings You Better Workers

How the Cloud Brings You Better Workers 150 150 Kerry Butters

The cloud has helped to bring businesses around the world closer together. Cloud storage has made documents that would otherwise have to be downloaded immediately available, and cloud computing has brought familiar software to offices that would otherwise have to go without. But perhaps the greatest impact of the cloud on businesses in the future is how it is changing the shape of our workforces.

Everyone’s Local

Whereas in the past businesses were restricted in their hiring by both their location, and their budget for relocating the talent they wanted, cloud services like storage and remote desktops mean that it’s now possible for employees to work from practically anywhere as long as it’s got a data connection and they have a device capable of accessing it.

Remote working like this used to be a burden for businesses, as it often served as a disruption to regular operations. However, now that it’s possible to unify all documents and software in the cloud, there’s no disruption. Any changes made to documents are visible immediately to everyone at the business, regardless of their location. And any new files that are added are immediately synced with the folders of everyone else.

Flexible Working

In 2013, UK telecoms company O2 released a white paper which stated that over 75% of all full-time workers considered flexible working hours to be important to them when considering a job. However, only 18% felt that they had achieved their desired level of flexibility.

This demand, matched with limited supply, is a huge opportunity for any business looking to attract the most talented workers. By offering more flexible hours in some form, be it the ability to work from home, or the ability to begin work early/start later, businesses can make themselves hugely more attractive to prospective employees.

Reduced Office Costs

By making it possible for your workers to either work from home completely/hotdesk with one another/bring their own devices to work with them, businesses have seen a substantial drop in their yearly spending. Leading analyst Gartner estimates that it costs between £1500 and £2000 a year to supply an employee with a dedicated desktop. By removing the desktop, or reducing the number of desktops required by employees, businesses can make significant savings. These savings can then be re-invested into the business to either develop more cloud solutions, or even directly into worker salaries to make employment at your business more attractive.

Hosted Desktop

Removing desktop computers from your office doesn’t mean removing desktop behaviour. Through cloud technology it’s possible for your business to provide a digital, cloud-based desktop that employees can access from anywhere, on whatever device they have to hand. So if there’s only a couch available, your employee can still access their desktop through their chosen device and review or refer to important files.

Furthermore, if an employee has gone home but forgotten to transfer you a file, they can log into their desktop either during their commute, or as soon as they get home, and it’ll be on your desk in moments. Little improvements like this not only improve your office productivity and flow, they also make your employees feel more comfortable leaving their desk. They know that if something goes wrong, or they want to check a document, they can do it from the comfort of their own home.

Better Workers

Comfort is an increasingly important word in recruitment circles. As is work/life balance. More and more employees are looking for a business that isn’t going to dominate their life too much, or interfere with important life moments like birthdays or anniversaries. By offering flexibility through cloud services, it’s possible to offer a level of comfort and life balance that previously would have been impossible for anyone in a high-powered role.

A lot has been made this year about attracting ‘knowledge workers’, people who know and love their jobs and bring that passion with them every day. These workers often have their pick of the best jobs available, so if you want your business to flourish as a result of these talented workers, you need to make it as attractive as possible. That means having cloud solutions, and flexible work options.

Less Disruption

Many employees, in my experience, have voiced dissatisfaction with being made to come into work when the conditions are less than ideal. Obviously businesses don’t always make people come in to work, indeed often they’re allowed to stay home. It was reported in the Guardian that: “Over the snowstorms of two years ago, UK businesses lost more than £7 billion due to a lack of remote working opportunities.”

In the past, businesses might try to make up for the hours lost with overtime, but this is never ideal as it costs the company more, and reduces the sense that employees have flexibility at work. However, by implementing remote working, businesses are able to function completely normally even in the middle of unavoidable disruptions (as long as the internet isn’t disrupted). As a result, employees are happier, and disruption to your business is minimised.

Cheaper Up-Fronts, Happier Workers

The benefits of implementing cloud-technology into your business cannot be overemphasised. It has the potential to revolutionise the way we do business all over the world, and bring beneficial businesses closer to one another regardless of their location. Add to that the increase in flexibility (and therefore happiness) for your employees, and there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be considering how the cloud can take your business to the next level.

Overview of Amazon Cloud

Overview of Amazon Cloud 150 150 Kerry Butters

As more and more businesses move towards doing their business on the web, it’s important that the infrastructure is in place to handle the challenges that kind of move presents. When you’re not dealing locally with one another, or even with physical objects, there’s a huge amount to take into consideration. How long does a file take to transfer? How is someone going to have access to the right software? Will there be enough processing power available to the user when they need it?

These are all problems that cloud companies are now racing to answer, and cloud infrastructure is set to be big business in the future. Very few companies understand this better than Amazon; whose cloud services are among the top services available today for businesses looking to take themselves to the next level.

Amazon Cloud listed by Gartner as a leader in the ‘infrastructure as a service’ (IaaS) section of their Magic Quadrant report for the third time in three years. They also listed Amazon Web Services (AWS) as having the best complete vision and ability to execute of all others in the magic quadrant. If you needed more evidence of Amazon cloud’s prowess, you need only consider that the Amazon website itself, which received 164 million unique visitors in the USA alone, runs on AWS.

Amazon Cloud Features

The services offered up by Amazon are broad. Ranging from storage, computing and databases, through to analytics, application and deployment. The services themselves are modular, depending on what your business needs are, and have been used in the past by companies such as COMCAST, Lionsgate, Netflix, Expedia, and many more.

Application Streaming

Appstream is a low-latency feature which allows you to intensively stream applications direct from the cloud to your device. This is a fantastic feature for any business looking to interact with mass-market devices like phones, tablets and smart TVs. While it’s nice to not have to install hefty applications on your device, the real benefit to cloud streaming is that it doesn’t strain your device. All of the heavy lifting is handled by Amazon’s computer banks, meaning that your devices should last longer and function better as a result of cloud streaming.

The streaming service itself also comes with a software development kit which allows streaming to all the key operating systems from a Microsoft Windows Server.

Cloud Desktops

Amazon Workspace opens up your business to the potentials of remote working and the bring your own device (BYOD) movement. By streaming a desktop to anyone with a decent web connection, AWS makes it possible for business owners to engage with their employees as if they were in the same room, whilst in reality they could be on the other side of the country, or in another country entirely.

Cloud based desktops allow easy access to documents, applications and resources, no matter where in the world there are, as long as they’ve got a data connection. The desktops can stream to all kinds of devices as well. Laptops, phones and tablets of all kinds can be easily integrated with Amazon Workspaces and as a result the working experience never has to change for employees.

Amazon Workspaces are also subjected to stringent security protocols, so there is no need to worry about unauthorised access to important files. There are several options available that make it easy to manage the desktop experience your workers get, as well as what files they get access to.

Cloud Computing

Amazon EC2, short for Elastic Compute Cloud, gives businesses access to a flexible cloud computing solution which can be resized on the go, making computing for the web easier. Because developers don’t have to worry about how much space they may need at the end of the project, they can start with what they need at that moment, and pay for what they need, rather than what they will need.

This flexibility of payment is one of AWS’s (and the cloud in general) greatest appeals, and the ability to quickly scale your capacity within minutes has had a serious impact on the economics of cloud computing. For those companies looking to develop their own applications and services, but are worried about the upfront costs, EC2 is ideal.

EC2 also works with Amazon VPC to ensure that all of your data is secure at all times, giving you multiple access and connectivity options without compromising your business’s integrity.

Media Focus

If you’re a company that’s dealing with a lot of media, then Amazon’s cloud services should get special consideration from you, particularly if you’re dealing with audio, an Amazon speciality. This makes sense, considering how you can stream any music that you’ve bought from amazon in the past through their cloud player service.

Modular

Perhaps Amazon’s greatest attraction to a lot of businesses is the flexibility it gives its customers in terms of how much they pay. Amazon has put together a payment system made up of different payment tiers. These tiers can in turn be mixed and matched depending on your business and your business needs. Ensuring that you don’t overpay because you may want to expand in the future.

More to Learn

Hopefully this has given you a good overview of what Amazon Cloud offers businesses both in the long and short term. It’s not the only service out there, but it’s been proven again and again to be a robust and reliable service that millions of people use daily for their business and customers. This, combined with the flexibility it offers in terms of billion, makes it one of our top picks for cloud services.

2014 Facts about the Cloud

2014 Facts about the Cloud 150 150 Kerry Butters

Cloud computing is something that’s here to stay. The legacy of the cloud has been debated for some time but now businesses are embracing this new technology at a faster rate. The cloud allows a business to free up its employees with bring your own device policies and remove them from tethered PC options.

There are plenty of reasons to jump on board the cloud bandwagon but there are likely still some areas of cloud computing (and its benefits) that remain unclear to some businesses. According to a recent study, one of the most important reasons to shift to cloud computing is to connect employees through a multitude of computing devices – ones that they already use.

The cloud is simply about removing traditional restrictions on data and making it readily accessible on multiple devices with no decrease in functionality. This better-connected world is becoming more and more commonplace. So, let’s consider some of the other benefits of cloud computing and some that you may not have thought of before.

Here are some cloud predictions for 2014.

Cloud computing will change businesses structure

With cloud computing becoming more prevalent the effects will become more obvious. The best way to put it is simply – every product and service will become more and more wrapped up in IT. All of these applications will end up in the cloud.

Cloud computing can greatly increase the ability of businesses to reach employees and customers making it easier for everyone to connect. These days smart phones can be utilized to monitor a patient’s health for example removing the need to seek medical help. The information (or data) can then be relayed back to a medical professional and the patient’s information can be updated remotely.

It’s likely that the legacy of more IT-centric businesses is that global IT spending will increase significantly. IT will move from the back of the office to the forefront of value-orientated delivery. This growth in the IT sector will out-strip on-premises capacity and eventually it will lead to a much more cloud orientated business community.

The end user will become more important

Cloud computing puts an emphasis on the end user and their experience of the product or services. Applications now have a marked reliance on the end user and how they interact with the product in question. End-users are increasingly the ones driving innovations and new products, as businesses will value their opinions more and more as time progresses.

In the cloud sector the technological advances are targeted at the end user and those companies are discovering just how important cloud based services are for reaching those users. More and more companies will realise the weight that cloud computing options has for back-end processing. This will free up space, time, and infrastructure to focus more on innovative new products instead of just maintaining company infrastructures.

Private cloud will become increasingly important

There is a worry when it comes to cloud computing that relates to privacy and security issues. Many companies have been slow to implement cloud options because of these concerns but the private cloud looks set to alleviate them.

The private cloud is an internal network that a business can use (think intranet) and it can provide a closed cloud environment. Within this environment a business can share data and other sensitive materials without the fears normally associated with wide spread cloud adoption.

There is also the growing desire for a combination of both internal and external cloud services – the hybrid cloud. This provides benefits in a number of ways and lets an organisation experiment with cloud-based alternatives in a much more bespoke and considered manner.

There are however some problems when it comes to a business implementing local, internal based cloud options. Often, private cloud based initiatives don’t succeed due to bad implementation, bad budgetary planning, and the lengthy process of training staff and increasing their skillset accordingly.

These delays do hamper the implementation of cloud-based services but really should be considered as simply growing pains. In 2014 businesses will be forced to fully consider private cloud based options for internally networking and those companies would do well to understand exactly what’s required of them for a successful adoption of these technologies.

Any cloud-based option has to be usable by not just the IT departments but employees in general. If it doesn’t no one will use it and your cloud foray will fall flat on its face. The cloud is an environment that shouldn’t be limited but instead its potential should be fully realised. Any cloud service should be agile, easy to use, and most importantly responsive to a business and its employee’s needs.

The future of the cloud

As 2014 progresses, private cloud computing will become increasingly short sighted. Hybrid cloud too will be only one of many options available to businesses looking to increase its connectivity with both employees and the end user. The idea of a single homogenous cloud environment will be increasingly challenged.

This in turn means that businesses will have to adopt multiple cloud types and incorporate them into its infrastructures. Businesses will face one increasingly pertinent need – to create or obtain the ability to manage this sprawling online environment and manage it consistently.

2014 will see cloud computing become the dominant force in the IT industry. The current successes in cloud computing are only the beginning and businesses will need to learn how to take advantage of this new and emerging technology sector.

Image: Karin Dalziel

[INFOGRAPHIC] The Future of Cloud

[INFOGRAPHIC] The Future of Cloud 150 150 Kerry Butters

Whilst cloud computing is nothing new, it is a technology that’s taken a little while to gain real traction in business environments. This was due to a lack of confidence in aspects of cloud models such as security and the assumption in many circles that it was yet another buzzword that the technology sector had dreamt up.

To some extent the issue has also been the huge job that is deployment to the cloud, when thinking about moving entire infrastructures, or even just applications from the traditional onsite network to data centres which power the cloud.

However, over the course of the past couple of years, cloud computing has really begun to take off and it’s safe to say that it’s now becoming a trusted technology. According to the infographic below, courtesy of NerdGraph, by 2016 it’s thought that a huge two-thirds of all workloads will be processed in the cloud.

The stats don’t stop there though, all of the major cloud ‘as a service’ offerings are set for steady growth, with infrastructure seeing the largest at 11% and it’s thought that the use of Hybrid cloud will start to see a bigger increase, with a growth rate of 27% expected to rise to 47%.

Interestingly, it seems that whilst concerns surrounding security are steadily declining, now businesses are beginning to worry about price instead. It’s safe to say that virtualisation offers many cost benefits, so it’s unusual that this should become a top concern. For the most part, cloud services are offered on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis, with no upfront costs and the use of the cloud also cuts down the need for capital expenditure on server and networking equipment.

Whatever the concerns for businesses though, there’s no doubt that the cloud is now taking off properly and many companies are utilising its services in order to cut costs and become more flexible and therefore innovative.

If you’re considering moving to the cloud or even if you just want to know more about it and the benefits it can offer your business, then why not get in touch today for a no obligation chat on how we can help you get the most from the cloud.

5 Signs it’s Time to Move to the Cloud

5 Signs it’s Time to Move to the Cloud 150 150 Kerry Butters

For many businesses, in-house servers have traditionally borne the brunt of its networking capabilities. However, there have been lots of innovations in this sector meaning that sticking with older methods is becoming increasingly counterproductive. It’s likely that most of you have heard of cloud computing, but it’s perhaps more likely that many of you have yet to apply those principles to your business infrastructures.

Cloud computing becomes more viable with each passing day and for a business an important first step is one backwards. It’s necessary to step back and analyse your in-house server options and consider why you’ve yet to upgrade to a cloud based alternative.

There are of course numerous reasons why the move towards the cloud should happen soon but we’ll limit ourselves slightly.

Here are five compelling reasons why it’s time you moved to the cloud.

Space saving

 

There are many points in a business’ lifespan when it needs to upgrade for space reasons. In the past this was limited to the need for ample space for employees and office furniture; however, there is now the digital space to consider on top of more traditional space saving options.

An IT infrastructure can become too small for the needs of a business and without using cloud-based services, that infrastructure has to physically grow. This means the implementation of power and cooling needs, an increase in physical tools to run the server, and potential down time that damages productivity.

Implementing cloud based options can alleviate all of the above problems and if the only way for your business to thrive and grow is major changes to infrastructure and office locations, then a cloud based move can neatly side step those issues.

Cloud based options offer plenty of online storage space which is usually highly flexible and scalable, reducing the need for physical hard drives and other data storage types.

Save money with the cloud

Businesses are obviously driven by profit so this could be the most compelling reason to switch to the cloud. Traditional IT costs are increasing, as staff need higher pay and your business needs more staff to run sensitive internet connections. Staff fluctuates and with technological advances IT changes are costing businesses a lot of money.

For a business to avoid staying stagnant and for that business to sidestep increased expense, a move to the cloud can be a huge boon. There are more options that come with the implementation of cloud services – like e-Learning possibilities that make moving to the cloud not only a smart business decision for now, but also an intelligent investment for the future.

Additionally, the cloud uses pay monthly models, therefore reducing the need for capital expenditure and its flexibility and scalability means that it can grow and shrink to suit your needs.

Business changes

If your business is going through any sort of organisational change, like a merger or moving offices, it provides a perfect opportunity to move to cloud-based networking options. During a state of transition it’s always a good idea to reflect on what’s changing. Use this point to assess your IT infrastructure and really consider what kind of upgrades would benefit your business.

Effectively, change can be seen as a blank canvass, as a place to start over. You can use this window of opportunity to mould your IT infrastructures to your exact needs and specifications.

Better costing options

Not every business needs the same volume of internet traffic at every point throughout the year and cloud computing services offer a more tailored package. The cloud can adapt to extreme shifts in the volume of internet traffic and bill your business appropriately. This means that you can use cloud computing as and when you need it and it won’t end up costing you more than you expect.

Traditional IT services are costly and due to the manpower needed, there is little leeway for price fluctuations. Regardless of what your business is using it still has bills to meet and price plans to honour. Use cloud-computing services to deliver a much more specific and bespoke IT upgrade to your business infrastructure.

Make it easier

Early adoption of cloud services can only benefit your business as the older that traditional IT infrastructures get, the more complex they become to maintain. Due to this your IT team can easily become overworked and overwhelmed, resulting in poorly managed systems. This can easily be alleviated and all of the requisite troubles of not upgrading – wasted time, under-used resources, lack of attention in the areas needing it – can be avoided simply by utilising cloud based options.

Anything that can hinder your business should be avoided and the above problems will only increase as time moves on. Cloud computing takes some of the pressure off IT staff and as it’s an area experiencing huge technological leaps and cuts in price plans, it seems only sensible to adopt its practices.

Cloud computing is where the IT structures of the future will be based. If your business is still waiting for a good time to move skywards, that time is now. Remember that the framework of the IT world is changing and the way that individuals access and consume information is rapidly adapting. Use this to your advantage and develop an IT infrastructure that is easy to manage, reflects how employees use the internet, and ensures that your business is future proof.

Image: Nanimo

Windows 9: Is your Business Ready for Another Migration?

Windows 9: Is your Business Ready for Another Migration? 150 150 Kerry Butters

The Windows OS hasn’t been doing so well of late. Windows 8 and 8.1 were both prone to errors and now it seems that Microsoft will be releasing a newer version of its famous OS. Windows 9, codenamed Threshold, which is scheduled for release in April 2015.

That’s if you believe the rumours of course, but if it’s true the OS will arrive just 18 months after the launch of Windows 8.1. Many businesses are still struggling with the news that Microsoft intends to drop support for XP in April and those organisations are scrambling to transition to Windows 7. Some businesses will have only just migrated its systems to Windows 8/8.1.

With the possibility that Windows 9 will be released next year, it seems that the current trend for migration and upgrades for users of the Microsoft OS will continue. This is bad news for IT departments as OS migrations are one of the most costly, stressful, time-intensive and manpower heavy projects possible. It appears that software has a shorter lifespan these days, but what does that mean for businesses?

Application readiness

For IT departments the introduction of a new patch, bug fix, or OS improvement makes their jobs just that little bit harder. An IT professional must utilise a complex series of Application Readiness best practice steps before the software can function properly. The deployment of the app and who will use it must be understood and clearly defined by IT.

IT must rationalise the application estate and migrate only those apps that are actually being used. This helps IT departments avoid wasted effort. The application then has to be tested so that compatibility is ensured within the environment, and the application must also conform to the company’s standards. If IT finds any problems with the application it must be fixed and then repackaged before it’s delivered to the deployment system or to the enterprise app store.

Complex task

However, migrating a network is a very complex task and IT departments themselves are also becoming increasingly diverse. Many businesses now run applications through cloud services and virtual and mobile environments, as well as on traditional, tethered desktop PCs. Any Application Readiness practices must enable new OS applications and patches to work on employees’ desktop and devices. New applications must also run on web-based apps and in virtual containers. Every time a new environment is introduced the complexity of ensuring Application Readiness grows exponentially.

Around 30% of an organisation’s applications need to be upgraded and migrated every single year. IT departments must be in a state of constant readiness and they must identify, rationalise, test and assess compatibility and fix close to a third of their organisation’s software estate on a yearly basis. This is why many IT departments are behind the curve, as the old tools and processes no longer suffice. An entire business can suffer because of IT’s backlog. Due to this, applications are not reaching the business when they’re actually needed, but instead when they can be implemented.

Lack of readiness

A 2013 Application Usage Management Study backs up the lack of readiness for new applications on organisational readiness for mass software migrations. The study, conducted by IDC and Flexera Software, shows that continual software migrations are the new normal. The study also reveals that CIOs aren’t equipped to handle it. The study reveals that OS migration and virtualisation projects are in full swing and new OS releases and technologies are constantly being considered for adoption.

Software migrations grow

Massive software migrations are experiencing growth and the continual nature means the correct application of new software becomes increasingly important. The study found however that although many IT departments understand what they must do, they have yet to actually do it. The correct implemented automation is not seen and their Application Readiness processes are ill considered. Businesses are not currently getting the applications needed, when they are needed.

Businesses that adopt Application Readiness best practices and utilise technology that automates the processes can hope for faster, more efficient and effective migration planning, testing, remediation and repackaging. This is the only way to ensure that the application estate is future proof.

Applications must be ready, up-to-date and available to users when they need them. If a business does not completely rethink its Application Readiness process to ensure anytime, anywhere capabilities then software transitions of any kind will become increasingly difficult. This in turn will significantly impact enterprises’ business performance and ultimately that business’s bottom line.

Make it as easy as possible

With Windows 9 just around the corner and businesses already experiencing difficulties migrating from Window XP, it seems increasingly important to ensure that migration is as easy as possible. The life span of an OS is getting shorter with each new update and version. A business that fails to apply Application Readiness processes correctly will be left behind, with an IT department unable to keep up to date.

If a business can guarantee better readiness practices, then the future is less intimidating. Rather than waiting nearly a decade to update an aging system like XP, perhaps it’s better to embrace new technologies as they are released and to be prepared for the future rather than lagging behind it.

In the modern IT environment, this is something that doesn’t have to cost the earth either. Cloud technology has made IT infrastructure much more accessible for smaller business, many of which can now compete on a level playing field with the big boys. With this in mind, maintaining an agile and scalable business is now easier, and cheaper, than ever.

Do you need help updating your software? Perhaps you need some advice on the best way to take your business forward using technology? Whatever your needs, we can answer your questions and help get you up-to-date, just give us a call on +44 8450 740 530 and we’ll be more than happy to help!

The Changing Face of IT

The Changing Face of IT 150 150 Simon Randall

Whoever said, “A change is as good as
a rest”, clearly wasn’t talking about IT. With its ever changing face, IT
(Information Technology) continues to evolve at break neck speed, and each new
change signals another discipline, or a change to an existing functionality,
that IT experts need take on board and master.

Keeping up with the Pace

This constant state of flux makes it
very difficult for businesses to be able to keep pace. Even larger businesses
that have their own dedicated IT departments, struggle. Most SMEs can’t afford
the expense of running their own IT department. But keeping up with the latest
developments is no less important for them. So to make sure they stay current, many
SMEs take an alternative route. They use outside, specialist IT service
providers.

But this trend is now becoming more
popular with larger organisations too, and why not? After all, it’s cheaper to
employ an outside service provider than it is to take on employees with all of
the tax and national insurance implications, plus the hassle of employment law.
With an outside contractor, you can turn the tap on and off as the need arises.

The Cyber World We Live in

Generally speaking, the larger the
organisation, the more complicated its IT needs become. Computers are a necessary
evil in this modern day and age. We live in a cyber world, whereby everything
we touch in terms of collecting and analyzing data, reporting and managing, and
even communicating, are all disciplines that are handled digitally.

From Telegraph to Fibre Optics

Communication is one of the fastest
changing facets of IT, and those changes are coming faster than ever before.
You’ve only got to take a look at the last 182 years, a mere instant in terms
of the existence of mankind, and less a nano-second in terms of the existence
of the planet. We’ve come an awful long way since the invention of the
telegraph in 1831. The telephone, the internet, the mobile, computer
networking, fibre optics, and now there’s talk of globalising video emailing.

Taking Advantage of the Digital Revolution

The digital revolution just keeps on
gathering momentum, and that’s why the only hope businesses have of keeping up
with the latest innovations, and more to the point – taking advantage of them,
is by working with an outside specialist IT service provider. It’s these guys’
jobs to stay current. Not only can they advise you what is going on right now
in the world of IT, but they can analyse an organisation’s use of IT, (all
aspects including communication), point out where they’re lagging behind, and
recommend unique, tailor made solutions.

From Cabling to Video Collaboration

One of the most important things for
anyone who happens to be casting around for an IT service provider is to find a
company that has experience and expertise across the entire digital networking
infrastructure; someone who can handle everything from cabling to video
collaboration. If you use different service providers for different aspects of
your company’s digital infrastructure, you’re simply asking for trouble. You
could well end up with parts of your system that won’t recognise and interact
with each other! Take something simple like cabling.

Looking Ahead – Planning for the Future

The larger the organisation, the larger
its cabling needs. To cut costs, or to keep them as low as possible, many
companies only put in the cabling that is required at that particular point in
time. It’s false economy! Over time, most companies will be looking to expand,
to put more computers onto the network. If the original cable installation
always looks at the “here and now”, it won’t be able to handle an increase in
users.

Of course, we now also have cloud
computing to throw into the IT mix and this can handle everything from hosted
applications, to an entire IT infrastructure, all managed by the data centre.
This is a cost effective solution for many businesses as it reduces the need
for capital expenditure and increases security.

Technology Doesn’t Stand Still

Not only that, but technology keeps
moving on too. If organisations focus on installing cheaper cabling and it’s
not capable of handling the likely increased quantity of data in the future, it
will all have to ripped out. Then there’s the issue of speed. Fibre optic is
more expensive, but it can handle tons more data that a twisted cable pairing.
So you see, even cabling, one of the most basic IT requirements has its pitfalls,
and by getting the right quality of advice, and the best installation, companies
can not only save money in the future, but they can be better prepared too.

Business Grade Communications

Business grade communications are a
key part of any organisation’s infrastructure. With the right cabling in
position, the right hardware, the best software package, and the finest
networking capability, business grade communications can be as good as being in
the same room with someone, face to face.

Video is now being used more and more
in business communication. As each generation becomes increasingly comfortable
with its everyday use, it will proliferate even further. Partnering with an IT
service provider who understands and promotes the latest video innovations is
therefore essential.

Only the Best Will Do

Let’s just drift back to a point we
touched on earlier – that of working with a service provider with an across the
board knowledge of IT. When combined with the best networking technology, the
best and most suitable video communication hardware and software will make
communicating both internally and externally, as easy and as natural to use, as
talking to the person sat at the next desk.

To get the very best out of your
digital infrastructure, both in physical performance and perceived quality, you
need to work with the very best IT service provider; so take your time, and
choose wisely.

Photo Credit: Kaptain Kobold






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