Increase Your Support Levels With Cloud Services

Without a doubt, from a Service Provider’s perspective, managing clients from the Cloud is a god send.

Cloud based management of services not only allows for faster response times, but also for a higher quality of support to the end user. However, from the Service Provider’s angle, it allows for highly efficient operations and for one support Representative to manage and complete a much higher work load per shift compared to site work.

Take the average day of a road based IT Tech. There’s all sorts of issues to contend with, traffic, weather, road works, lazy workers taking the long way from job to job, and other unforseen issues on site such as slow computers, failing hardware and clients who are less than prepared for their IT site call. All of these issues and more are faced every day by thousands of road based IT workers, meaning blown out budgets and quotes on jobs, and lengthy delays for the customers, and increased costs for the IT Services company.

Compare this to an environment where all of the clients’ systems are Hosted, either SaaS or IaaS, the IT Contractor can access the files from anywhere, be it on an iPad with a system as simple as Teamviewer, or a SaaS system like Reckon’s Quickbooks Hosted or Xero; it allows for multiple jobs to be undertaken at once and for an instant response time.

There are many systems available too. Whether we look at Zen Desk, Asana or a full Cloud based Services suite such as Connect2Field; the choices are many, the quality is great and the costs are in some cases even Free!

Cloud Support minimises down time, increases response time and increases profits for not just the End User, but the IT Contractor or Service worker aswell.

Saas, VaaS, Paas Or IaaS – What’s Right For You?

When it comes to Cloud Computing, there are several different platforms available for use. Some of the terminology is old and some is new. Together, it is all The Cloud.

But what does it all mean and which is right for you? Let’s take a closer look.

SaaS

Starting with the most obvious use of The Cloud, is SaaS, or Software as a Service. The SaaS movement has been around for some time and in many ways is the forefather or the very definition of Cloud Computing.

Another term for SaaS might be Public Cloud. SaaS is for the single or perhaps small business user where they don’t want to lease infrastructure or have hosted space, they just want access to their individual apps from anywhere they may be. Access and cost are usually the largest drivers behind SaaS takeup.

Think of Internet Banking and Gmail as two of the most common forms of SaaS today.

VaaS

So you’re using a few SaaS services and think it would be great if you could combine them, or take your desktop with you everywhere you go, like on your iPad or Android. This is where you may look at a VaaS, or Virtualization as a Service provider.

This market is still quite young in the Cloud market, perhaps due to licencing issues or other restrictions. But think of it as unlimited VM Ware, or as a rented Desktop with fixed applications.

Hence, you may sign up to a VaaS service, for a Ubuntu desktop with Open Source Apps (Open Office, Firefox and Thunderbird) for a very small fee, or for a little more, a Microsoft platform where you are served your stable Win 7 desktop complete with its Microsoft repetoir of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office. Or a combination of Microsoft desktop with Open Source apps to save on licencing a little.

In any case, the term “rented desktop” pretty much settles the VaaS criteria. A stable virtual desktop you can take anywhere, along with all your files, settings and bookmarks.

IaaS

Next up we find IaaS, or Infrastructure as a Service. Here we may find an organisation who wants some control over their software and data, but do not want to maintain any hardware.

Here a medium sized enterprise may want control over choosing their IaaS provider, but don’t want control over maintaining expensive hardware, building a climate controlled room and employing a MCSE/CCNA to look after it. Usually with most IaaS providers, you can still choose the size and amount of CPU’s, amount of disk space, RAM and other items to suit your needs and the IaaS provider will discuss maintaining your hardware and software for you.

Best of all with a IaaS platform, it’s highly scalable, so you should only ever be paying for exactly what you need.

PaaS

Finally we may find an organisation who has custom ERP and CRM requirements, maybe an SAP or Great Plains platform requiring constant development and unlimited scalability options but don’t necessarily want the hardware and network overheads that come with a system of such size.

Here, the organisation will seek Platform as a Service such as Amazon, Microsoft or Google AppEngine, where the hardware and platform are provided for, but the platform is very open source and includes a ton of tools for writing one’s own Cloud venture or internal ERP system.

Microsoft Azure is perhaps the latest PaaS on the block.

 

 

 

What To Look For In A Cloud Host

As in any IT deployment or roll out in your organisation, you should have a plan, and perform your due diligence.

Part of this plan should be to interview a minimum of three Cloud Hosts or Providers, but what should you be looking for?

Here are some tips.

1. Data Location

This is at the top of the list for a reason. The location of where your data is going to be stored is the most crucial element to this whole exercise.

Do you need access to your data if systems go offline? If the answer to that is yes, then look for a Host close by, at least within driving distance, so in the event of a major circumstance you know you can go and physically retrieve your data at any time.

If the answer to the above question is no, then you should at least be aware of where your data is, and make sure it is on home soil. Data stored in Australia is subject to stringent Privacy and Data Protection laws.

Sure it will cost more to host your data in Australia, but we have amongst the highest certified data hosts in the World.

2. Security

Secondly, enquire regarding data security. Not just who has access to your data, but how secure is the Data Centre where your virtual servers are stored.

What are the disaster recovery plans for the Data Centre (DC), what fire and hazard prevention controls are in place? Physically what level of staff and who has access to the Server Floor and Data Halls?

You could also ask the Host for a copy of their Security standards and access lists.

3. Recovery and Disaster Prevention

Further questions to ask revolve around the Recovery of data and what Disaster Prevention and even ask for a copy of their Disaster Recovery Plan. If they are serious about their role as a Cloud Host or Virtual Server Provider then they should have this information readily available for you.

Quiz your potential host on what their Fire Prevention plan is, and how quickly they could get your data back online in the case of a total meltdown.

4. Uptime Certification

As in the earlier days of the internet, Uptime SLA’s were a major selling point for the more professional ISP’s, allowing them to charge a higher fee for a higher Uptime SLA.

Your Cloud Host is no different today.

Even better, ask them what their Uptime Institute Certification level is.

5. Price

Why put price at the bottom of the list you ask?

Well for good reason. If you are serious about a business Cloud deployment, sure price is a consideration, but really, I think this point speaks for itself.

Look for a Host that fits your Budget certainly, but also one that ticks all the above boxes first.


Public Vs Private Cloud For Small Business

There has been great debate recently over what is best for business, and what business should consider in seeking out its own cloud solution.

At the end of the day, business should engage their own research over 1. Security 2. Price and 3. Infrastructure and locality of data storage.

Business also needs to consider access to applications and what a Cloud Vendor will and will not be prepared to host.

Let’s examine the options in a Public Vs Private Examination.

Public Cloud

Public Cloud is perhaps the most pure type of cloud service today, and is the scenario whereby one accesses a service or services over the internet “as a service”. Meaning there is little control over the performance or attitude of the software being accessed or the hardware or underlying technologies. The most common examples being Internet Banking and Cloud Email services such as Hotmail and Gmail.

Public Cloud is generally shared server space and basically a WYSIWYG cloud service. Public is generally a lower cost alternative to other options. It pays to do your research with Public Clouds to ensure that your 3 checks above, Security, Price and Infrastructure are being met.

Whilst price almost certainly will be a factor, please consider security and infrastructure at the same time.

Private Cloud

For businesses with concerns regarding security and infrastructure (which can also cover location of data storage), a well sought out Private Cloud could be just what the Director ordered.

Private Cloud is just that. Rather than sharing data and services with potentially millions of other businesses, private cloud offers a more personal approach, with data being hosted in a privately selected data centre or provider, such as Reckon Limited’s APS Private Cloud solution.

Private Cloud is the ideal solution for businesses with higher concerns regarding Security and Infrastructure than Pricing alone. This is the only solution for a business with heavy demands or their own software or service requirements, or is it?

Hybrid Cloud

Many businesses may like to adopt a Hybrid Cloud solution. This is a mixture of Public and Private Clouds as detailed above.

In this scenario a business may choose to have its mission critical software hosted in a Private Cloud whilst choosing to run their Email and Office solutions via a Public Cloud such as Google’s Gmail and Google Docs, or Microsoft’s Office 365 solution.

Choose Wisely

Which ever of the above is best is really down to each individual business and their requirements. Through the adoption of a sound and secure Cloud Computing Policy, SMB’s are now able to compete with their larger competitors more easily than ever. In fact, in most cases, Cloud is just what Small Business has been crying out for.

In recent studies, 71% of small business owners agreed they require technology that enables their staff to work from anywhere, anytime.

It is the opinion of the Author that any SMB that does not adopt at least some cloud technology right now, then put a plan in place to graduate over to either one of the above solutions in two to three years, will cease to be competitive in a Global Cloud landscape.

Cloud A Major Focus For SMB’s

Microsoft have released the findings of a major research study it funded of more than 3000 SMB’s in 13 countries, including Australia.

The study was undertaken by Edge Strategies and showed that use of paid Cloud services by SMB’s would double in 5 years and that the number of very small businesses moving to at least one Cloud service would triple in 3 years.

“The cloud levels the playing field for SMBs, helping them compete in today’s quickly changing business environment, by spending less time and money on IT and more time focused on their most important priority — growing their businesses,” said Marco Limena, Vice President, Operator Channels, Microsoft.

The Facts

The study also showed that 79% believe that technology can make work more enjoyabe, 65% expect to be using Cloud email services and that 71% require technology that enables their staff to work anywhere in the World at any time.

SMB’s are growing more and more accustomed to the Cloud and are less concerned about Security with only 20% believing that data in the Cloud is less secure than data on their own premises, 49% responded that they were as confident in a Cloud system as in their own systems. Interesting 31% agreed that they wanted the data stored in their own Country.

The Opportunities

Interesting for Cloud Partners and Consulting Firms, was that 60% of SMB’s admitted they do not have the resouces to implement new technologies.

Also 52% responded that they do not have the resources to re-train staff. This shows that SMB’s would be more likely to select a Cloud Partner already providing their Desktop software or hosting a platform they know.

A Private Cloud solution with an API to interface directly with an SMB’s desktop products would be the most likely outcome for an SMB looking to head into the Cloud and minimise costs at the same time.

About the Research

The Microsoft SMB Business in the Cloud 2012 research report was designed and conducted in conjunction with Edge Strategies Inc. (http://www.edgestrategies.com) in December 2011. The research questioned 3,000 SMBs that employ 2 to 250 employees across 13 countries worldwide: Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S. A copy of the survey results can be downloaded athttp://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/telecom/docs/SMBCloud.pdf

High Res Image: Click

Source: Microsoft Blog