Cloud Computing

Hey You, Get Off the Public Cloud

Hey You, Get Off the Public Cloud 600 329 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

The Rolling Stones sang, “Hey you, get off my cloud,” yet businesses might want to think instead about leaving the public cloud. Weigh these possible public cloud concerns against the advantages of alternate cloud solutions.

When most people think of the cloud, they are thinking of the public cloud. Apple users are on its iCloud. Others may be storing files on Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Cloud, or other services. These all typically have a free level of service. You can pay a monthly fee to upgrade based on the resources you use. [Also please remember that if you are not paying for the product, then you are the product!]

Cloud data is easy to store and access. This can enhance business productivity and efficiency. Added advantages of hosted cloud services – public or private – include the following:

  • Speed. Hosted cloud services come on demand or self-service. It’s possible to have cloud resources up and running in a matter of minutes.
  • Performance. Cloud providers focus on running secure data centers with the latest infrastructure. It’s their job to worry about hardware setup, software patching, and network reliability.
  • Scalability. Add cloud capacity without buying equipment or software, or training employees.
  • Mobility. Employees can access the cloud from anywhere, on any device.
  • Disaster recovery. Providers build in redundancies to ensure uninterrupted service.
  • Responsibility. You don’t need to invest in on-site equipment, maintenance, and management.

Yet there are some drawbacks to the public cloud. The public cloud is affordable because businesses share resources. The cloud service provider relies on economies of scale. They bring many businesses together for the same services, and it all adds up. But if you’re in an industry with high compliance requirements, the public cloud is a risk.

Advantages of the Private Cloud

The private cloud offers the same benefits as the public cloud – and more.

A private cloud solution is dedicated to your business: yours is the only data on the server. This is a more secure solution offering greater visibility and infrastructure control.

A private cloud can be on- or off-premises. On-premise, your IT team sets up, manages, and maintains the cloud infrastructure. Off-premises, a cloud services provider customizes a dedicated and secure cloud.

The private cloud is appealing to regulated industries such as healthcare and financial services, or those needing strong controls. Costs will vary depending on your requirements but allows businesses to easily access data, applications, and backups, and with reduced security risks and the ability to meet those compliance requirements.

Cloud Flexibility with a Hybrid Option

A third alternative is the hybrid cloud. The business takes advantage of both public and private cloud solutions. You decide which apps and data workloads need more security. Meanwhile, the public cloud is available to offer cost savings and efficiency, plus, it can be a backup for sporadic traffic spikes.

The hybrid option, though, requires strong integration between private and public cloud deployments. Managing the mix of architectures can prove challenging.

Understanding the difference between these cloud offerings can help you choose the best for your business.

Need help migrating to the cloud or changing your cloud solution? Our IT experts can help you weigh the trade-offs and determine the best one for your needs. Contact us today to talk about your cloud options.

Do More with Microsoft Forms

Do More with Microsoft Forms 600 329 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

Most people are familiar with their Microsoft 365 subscription providing Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint. Those are the familiar options. But Microsoft is always evolving its cloud-based services. Microsoft Teams is a chat-based workspace integrating people, content, and tools. There’s also a Planner, To-Do application, Flow for managing notifications, and Power Bi Pro analytics. That’s to name just a few.

Another good one to get comfortable with is Microsoft Forms.

Microsoft 365 Forms Makes Data Collection Easier

Microsoft Forms allows your business to create surveys, generate quizzes, conduct polls, and capture data.

This easy-to-use application simplifies form creation: you simply select “New Form” or “New Quiz,” input the form details, add images if you want them, and you’re ready to go. You can click and drag to choose your question types from multiple choice, text, rating, or date options.

Ready-made themes allow you to pick different colours or graphics to personalize your survey. Before you go live, you can also preview and test your survey. You can even share with a colleague to collaborate on the survey design.

It’s that easy. In a few minutes you can create the tool you need to:

  • collect employee input;
  • measure customer satisfaction;
  • poll your team about how they feel about returning back to the office;
  • quiz employees doing virtual learning.

Once you have your finished link, you can paste it into an email, post it on social media, or put it on your website. You can also generate a QR code for mobile device use.

Get Results with Microsoft Forms

OK, you’ve shared your new survey, and the responses are raining down on you! There’s a dashboard for that. You can track the number of responses and average completion time. Plus, you can drill down into particular question data.

For any question, you can display your results in charts or graphs for that PowerPoint.

Since this is part of the Microsoft suite, Forms integrates with Excel, too. You can import the data there to leverage the full power of Excel’s analysis tools.

If you want to get even more advanced, upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Voice. Formerly Microsoft Forms Pro, this application helps you gather real-time customer feedback.

There are plenty of survey tools available online today. SoGoSurvey, SurveyMonkey, or TypeForm are top examples, but free versions can limit the number of questions or respondents surveyed.

Microsoft Forms integrates with other Microsoft 365 tools in your subscription. For quick intake or call center satisfaction, Forms is an intuitive application. It’s easy to keep in touch with customers and employees.

You can do more with Microsoft 365. We can help. Our IT experts get to know your technology and business needs, then we’ll identify the Microsoft 365 tools that can simplify the work you do. Contact us today!

Edge of the Cloud – The Horizon for Cloud Computing

Edge of the Cloud – The Horizon for Cloud Computing 150 150 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

According to the latest statistics, cloud computing is big. So big, in fact, that a full one third of IT budgets are now expected to be spent on cloud computing technologies in 2014. Not only that, but cloud computing is also growing at a rapid pace. It’s estimated that the cloud computing market generated $131 billion in revenue in 2013 and will grow to $181 billion within the next two years.

Oh yeah, cloud computing is definitely big.

Far from just being a popular buzzword, cloud computing offers a number of benefits for its users. For example, it’s estimated that users who switch to cloud computing will save 21 percent. And for many businesses, that level of savings creates a compelling case for using cloud computing.

cloud-computing-2014However, like most cutting edge technology, cloud computing is changing. Fast. And with many of these changes, it is important for companies that use cloud computing services and technology to learn about these changes to take full advantage of the benefits that they offer.

Five Trends for Cloud Computing

 

Bring Your Own Cloud

One of the major changes forecasted for cloud computing is the rise of Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC). This phenomenon involves employees using public or private third party cloud applications such as Dropbox or Google Docs in order to complete their jobs. BYOC is quickly increasing due to the fact that it allows workers to freely access information from any location or device, meaning that they can work on projects at home or on the go. In addition, it also allows for the easy backup of data, and many of the services used are free or extremely low cost. However, BYOC does come with drawbacks. These include the fact that sensitive work data may be subject to security breaches if employees fail to set up adequate security. In addition, if all of the work parties aren’t on board with the same cloud software, then cloud sprawl occurs, where efficiency is limited due to the fact that employees are using different software on the same project.

Better Security

With more people adopting cloud computing, the issue of creating a secure cloud platform gains more and more attention. The nature of cloud computing means that there are many security issues that companies now face when it comes to sensitive data. Issues such as moderating levels of access to various users or ensuring the security of BYOC employees means there may be a minefield of security issues to be dealt with. However, with companies such as Microsoft and Okta providing new identity management solutions to deal with the security of cloud platforms, the issue of security is one that is sure to be placed on the front burner for the next few years.

Platforms as a Service

Another development in the cloud computing sphere is the movement towards Platforms as a Service (PaaS) technology. With the availability of technology that facilitates the easy development of software apps, PaaS will be pushed to the forefront due to its ability to facilitate collaboration across the cloud. PaaS provides companies an avenue to develop and run applications across the cloud without needing to have localised hardware or software infrastructure. As a result, companies with multiple locations can work on the same project almost seamlessly, increasing efficiency and collaboration. In addition, PaaS technologies cut costs due to the fact that companies no longer have to purchase the requisite hardware and software for each individual location, but instead can use the infrastructure stored in one central cloud location.

Lower Prices

As storage technology continues to get cheaper, the price for cloud computing services will continue to see a corresponding rapid drop in price. One of the leading cloud computing services, Amazon Web Services, slashed their prices by 80 percent in 2013 alone. Other cloud companies have followed their lead, with Microsoft and Google offering competing prices with Amazon. Within the upcoming few months, it is expected that price drops will continue, allowing even the smallest of companies access to cloud technology that just a year or two ago may have been out of their financial reach.

Graphics as a Service

The rising ability of the cloud to provide graphic solutions is another key change that is on the horizon of cloud computing. Graphics as a Service (GaaS) technology allows users to harness the graphics processing abilities within the cloud, making it easier for clients to run graphic needy programs without paying for expensive hardware. This new development is expected to benefit users in a wide range of fields that need high quality graphics, from the gaming industry to science and engineering.

With many companies still trying to get a hold on cloud computing it seems as if many of its benefits have not even yet been fully realised, much yet harnessed. However, by keeping in mind some of the trends in cloud computing, you will have a higher chance of being able to tap into the benefits of cloud computing and use this advantage to propel your business into the future.

Can Cloud Computing Providers Help Small Business?

Can Cloud Computing Providers Help Small Business? 150 150 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

We often get asked what cloud computing providers can do for a small business, and whether it is a worthwhile investment. Quite honestly, it is not for everyone, and there are a number of criteria a business should be able to meet before considering these types of services.

It is important to first define what cloud computing really is, as it is such a generic term that can mean a lot of different things depending on the context in which it is used.  It’s a bit like saying ‘car’– did you mean a shiny new Mercedes, or a 1975 Datsun? When you boil it down, it basically means accessing a shared computer resource over the internet.

Why are cloud computing providers “in” right now

There are two  major driving forces that have brought about the cloud computing trend.

Firstly, decent internet access.  Most homes and businesses in the developed world can get ADSL2 or better.

Secondly, computing power effectively doubles every 18 months see Moore’s law on Wikipedia.   When you combine this with virtualisation technologies like VMware, you get a business case for renting out server resources. Now this takes a number of common forms.

Infrastructure – You basically rent raw CPU, memory and storage resources. Amazon EC2 is an example of this model.

Platform – You rent the Infrastructure plus the operating system.  Windows Azure and our inCloud Application Hosting service are examples.

Application – You rent everything bundled together, often delivered as a web application such as Google Apps or Office365.

So what’s in it for the Small Business Owner?

  1. Cost Reduction – Over time, it is often cheaper to rent the shared resources, then buy, install maintain, and replace your own servers.
  2. Increased functionality and mobility – You can typically access ‘cloud’ services from home, on your smartphone and tablet, which in the majority of cases means improved efficiency in day to day operations.

Because cloud computing providers make a living out of delivering these sorts of services, they can achieve economies of scale which brings the costs of delivering these services relatively low.

What are the downsides?

  1. You need to be connected to the internet to access your cloud service.  If the application is mission critical, it is a good idea to have a backup internet link.
  2. It is not always easy to remove your data from a hosted cloud service.  It is good to know what the process is beforehand.

Things to consider or ask your provider

Latency – this is the time it takes for data to travel to the server and back. Is the server located in Australia or overseas? If the server is on the other side of the world, it will respond much slower than if it was located in Sydney or Melbourne.

Data Sovereignty –  Do you need to have your data stored in Australia? Try Googling “US Patriot Act and data privacy” if you want more information on this.

Multi-tenancy – Is your data isolated from other tenants on the same server?  How does the provider keep you data secure?

Bandwidth – Will ADSL suffice or do you need to upgrade to something business grade like  Metro Ethernet?

 

If you want to know if a public, private or hybrid cloud is right for your business, feel free to get in contact with us.