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.

 

 

 

2012: The Year Of The Cloud

2012. This is the year of The Cloud. This is the year that business is realising it needs The Cloud. But why?

Efficiencies is the answer.

If surviving the GFC taught us one thing, it’s how to be lean. If business, and especially small business is to survive and even thrive post-GFC, it must learn to operate on a strict diet.

To be lean and mean. This means not just micro-managing your Managers and Staff to greater productivity, but looking at your business systems and how they can serve you, not the other way around.

By choosing wisely with Public cloud services, business can selectively tailor a Cloud based system to their needs (and Budget) without the expensive implementation and overheads previously seen with proprietary systems.

For example, a small business (in a remote Country location) we are currently co-consulting with, was looking to decentralise their accounting work. They wanted access to big city Advisors but without the hefty fees of travelling or paying the Advisors to travel. Another hurdle was sending the accounting data in for adjustments, only to wait months for the data to return for adjusting. Then there were issues with quality Bookkeepers in their remote location, etc..

The solution was, as they were already using Reckon’s QuickBooks, was to move them on to a Public cloud solution, QuickBooks Hosted, by Reckon Online.

The business’ software costs were reduced, and the Advisors and Bookkeepers now had real time access to the data.

Momentum is another key factor.

Through our Consulting partners, Axis IT Consulting, we are seeing a massive push to Cloud based services recently.

Once a movement gains significant momentum in business, that movement becomes the key discussion topic amongst business owners and through Referrals and Word Of Mouth. The movement gains significant momentum that a switch in the way things are done occurs.

We are now seeing that switch taking place on a daily basis.

Whether the enquiries are for setting up free services like Dropbox, Google Drive or Mail Chimp, assisting with Social Media integration or Consulting for an Online Accounting System that integrates with Field Service Software, such as Connect2Field and QuickBooks Hosted, the enquiries are there.

Business wants and needs change, and it needs efficiency. Sitting down with a Cloud Consultant and discussing how your business can gain from The Cloud is the smartest thing you can do this year.

Use the feedback form below, we’d love to have a chat about your Cloud!

 

 

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.


Cloud Accounting Saves Dollars and Makes Sense

One of the biggest winners from the current frenzied move to the Cloud, is the world of Accounting Software, and in particular Small Business users.

No longer bound by the typical ageing model of the sales staff getting out on the road, only to come back to the office with an armful of orders for the Data Entry clerk to spend days data entering into an antiquated old version of Quickbooks or MYOB. No Sir, welcome to the age of Cloud Accounting.

There are many prominent systems available to the savvy Small Business operator, from simple browser based systems such as Reckon’s Cashbook Online or Xero, through to your fully fledged Hosted solutions, such as Reckon’s QuickBooks Hosted.

A business should do its own due diligence in deciding what is right for its purpose and budget, however thorough investigation will reveal that all online systems are not alike. View our guide to some factors to consider in this decision making process here and further information comparing cloud products here.

Special consideration should be made to looking at where the data is hosted, and if you can access or actually even own your own data.

From only $15 per month for Cashbook Online to around $25 per month for QuickBooks Hosted to $49 or $64 a month for Xero, Small Businesses really should be looking at these systems and making the move for The Cloud.

For example, from all products tested, Reckon’s QuickBooks Hosted was our favourite for Pricing, Features and Security. Aimed at SMB’s rather than micro businesses like the previous two products mentioned, QuickBooks Hosted is the great all-rounder.

Deploy a team of Sales Reps around the Country, toting nothing more than an iPad or Android tablet, to access their customer accounts, perform inventory and order lookups, view the status of back orders and deliveries and enter orders directly with their customers on site.

Prior to the availability of these systems in The Cloud, most SMB’s simply wouldn’t have been able to compete with their larger Netsuite or SAP doting competitors, with their expensive VPN’s and custom written PDA software.

We can only expect to see further growth in this area, with Reckon looking to bring Point of Sale to The Cloud in the near future as well as open up the SDK to allow for third party products such as Fishbowl Inventory and Ostendo to co-exist on the Hosted platform.

Also let’s not forget Reckon’s recent investment in Cloud Field Services startup Connect2Field as a sign of the sheer commitment typical software vendors are making to the Cloud Accounting field.

Seek out a Cloud Accounting Specialist today to see how you could not only save your business dollars, but make sense of your business goals at the same time.

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.

Reckon Enters The Mobile Workforce With Investment In Connect2Field

Reckon Ltd, an Australian ASX listed software provider, today announced a strategic 30%, or $660,000 investment in Connect2Field, a cloud based Job Management software provider for small to medium business.

Connect2Field is a secure web-based application built on the latest technologies, that allows a job to be entered into the system back at base, then sent out the the field workers’ mobile phones or tablet devices. Fieldworkers receive their jobs via Internet-enabled mobile devices including iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, Nokia, Android and BlackBerry.

Customers also have the ability to view the status of jobs, create jobs, view invoice history and even view the upcoming worker’s schedule!

Job management, job notification, invoicing and quoting are key features of the software. Transactions will be sent back to the finance package so no double entry is required.

Reckon will be implementing Connect2Field into their Cashbook Online and Quickbooks Hosted products, giving true flexibility and functionality to their SMB customer base. Reckon’s customers will soon be able to compete on a level playing field, with competitors many times their size.

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

Outsource Your Ageing Hardware With BYOD

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The Bring Your Own Device movement is not new, however with small business now having equal access to the Cloud as its larger competitors, BYOD should now be considered alongside that cloud takeup.

What Is BYOD?

Quite simply the notion behind Bring Your Own Device is simple. Rather than our Gen Y and now Millenials being expected to perform on something that belongs in a museum, they may choose to bring to work their own iPad, Macbook Pro or other device of choice to work on.

Said Gen Y and Millenials argue they will be more content and more productive working on their pride and joy gadget, and also have the flexibility of working out of hours – bonus. Or is it?

Why, and Why Not To BYOD

The advantages of BYOD far outweigh the disadvantges.

Some things to consider are this: Security, Support and Insurance claims. Should said multi-thousand dollar device be damaged whilst at the workplace or being used for work purposes, who’s policy will cover the replacement? Your insurance broker should be able to tailer a BYOD package to suit.

Your IT department will need to broaden their knowledge outside of the simple PC / Server architecture, however for Gen Y and now Millenial Network Admins, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. You could always lock the choices down to a few devices to keep things manageable.

Access at its most crudest could be kept to a secure Remote Desktop Connection, only allowing connection to the device and user account in the allowed hours of operation. Best Practice Active Directory management would ensure User Access is also restricted.

As Public and Private cloud environments gain increasing traction, the argument of access and reliable provision of services becomes almost nul and void.

Cloud Vendors do need to be Brand Agnostic in their rollouts though for maximum market penetration.

Cashflow Positive Initiative

Another benefit to the small business owner is cashflow. Whether or not you choose to provide employees with an allowance, per Kraft in the USA (who gives their employees a Device Stipend), or not depends on your requirements and BYOD Policy.

There is a real advantage to work with your employee here and show you really are an avant-garde employer.

Why not come to a Salary Sacrifice arrangement with your employee (seek Tax Advice first!), then offer to rent the device back from your Employee?

Or simply pay your Employees a Technology Allowance so they can buy the latest tech of choice safe in the knowledge the Allowance will cover the costs. The Employee simply claims the cost of the gadget in their personal income tax return (again seek Tax Advice first!).

However, the Australian Taxation Office have declared that iPads have substantially the same functionality as laptops hence would be treated the same as laptops in tax claims.

So what are you waiting for, you’ve implemented some cloud technologies, you’re considering moving to Private Cloud, now take the final step and outsource your hardware to your Employees. They will love you for it.

Or if you love Infographics, we have a great one below.

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