How cloud computing can transform the fortunes of small and mid-sized businesses
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How cloud computing can transform the fortunes of small and mid-sized businesses

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Within IT and telecoms, there's a buzz around cloud computing and its ability to harness the Internet to literally 'deliver' IT services remotely to desktops, laptops, tablets and handheld devices. ...

Within IT and telecoms, there's a buzz around cloud computing and its ability to harness the Internet to literally 'deliver' IT services remotely to desktops, laptops, tablets and handheld devices. However, many companies fail to grasp how the cloud can transform their fortunes; the inherent risks and how to overcome them; and the essential questions to ask any would-be cloud partner. This whitepaper answers these issues with clear and practical advice for forward-looking businesses.

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How cloud computing can transform the fortunes of small and mid-sized businesses How cloud computing can transform the fortunes of small and mid-sized businesses Document Transcript

  • White paper How cloud computing can transform the fortunes of small and mid-sized businesses
  • Small and mid-sized businesses are increasingly looking for new and innovative ways to cut costs while sharpening their competitive edge. They recognise the need to develop but also wrestle with the economic realities of limited budgets and uncertainty in the marketplace. Within IT and telecoms, there's a buzz around cloud computing and its ability to harness the Internet to literally 'deliver' IT services remotely to desktops, laptops, tablets and handheld devices. This radical computing model can address many of those pressing issues faced by businesses today. However, many companies fail to grasp how the cloud can transform their fortunes; the inherent risks and how to overcome them; and the essential questions to ask any would-be cloud partner. This whitepaper answers these issues with clear and practical advice for forward-looking businesses. Contents 1. What is ‘cloud computing’? 3 2. Types of cloud computing 3 3. What services can be used in the cloud? 4 4. Why switch from traditional IT to the cloud? 5 5. Essential checklist for cloud services 6 6. Conclusion 7 2
  • What is ‘cloud computing’? In simple terms, 'cloud computing' describes how computing resources are delivered to users via an outside provider over the Internet - rather than being provided on-site by the organisation itself. With the cloud, companies only use what they need, and only pay for what they actually use. Resources are available at any time, and from any location via the Internet. There’s no need to worry about how things are being maintained behind the scenes: you simply purchase the IT service you require, just like your gas, water or electricity. Because of this, cloud computing has also been called utility computing or ‘IT on demand’. This new, web-based generation of computing utilises remote servers housed in highly-secure data centres for storage and management, so organisations no longer need to purchase and look after IT solutions in-house. Cloud computing exists on three levels Cloud application This is the visible part - what you see on your screen. It's where applications interact with web browsers, hosted desktops or remote clients. There's no need to install, run, update and support applications on your PC, as everything is located and managed centrally. The cost of software licenses is incorporated into the subscription fee. Cloud platform The middle layer of the cloud provides a computing platform or framework. This dynamically provisions and configures servers, flexing to keep pace with demand from you and other users. Cloud infrastructure An IT infrastructure is created through virtualisation. Independent servers, networks and other hardware appliances are interlinked to deliver power, capacity and resilience. Types of cloud computing Public cloud Public cloud (also referred to as ‘external’ cloud) is what most people understand to be cloud computing. Scalable, dynamically provisioned resources are available over the Internet from an off-site, third party provider. Customers share the same cloud IT infrastructure, although they are unaware of each other. The provider bills its customers on a ‘utility’ basis, depending on the amount of resources they use. Colt provides cloud services to multiple customers this way. Other vendors include Salesforce.com, Amazon EC2 and Flexiscale. Private cloud Some companies may prefer to have a private cloud with their own dedicated cloud hardware, either on-site or off-site. This may be for legal reasons, business policy or security. Sometimes private clouds use fibre connectivity with its higher carrying capacity and lower latency. Hybrid cloud Private cloud Public cloud Hybrid cloud Large enterprises may prefer a mix-and-match approach, combining the resources of in-house teams and external providers. For example, a company may have invested heavily in its own IT and want to see the benefits. Alternatively, it may feel more secure hosting business-critical data on site. 3
  • What services can be used in the cloud? Many services can be delivered through cloud computing. Small and mid-sized companies can use them to save money, improve performance and become more innovative - without the costs, delays and risks normally associated with major IT investments. Hosted desktops Hosted desktops remove the need for traditional desktop PCs in the office. These desktops, also called 'thin clients', look and behave just like regular PCs. But the software and data they use isn't stored locally. Instead, it exists in the cloud ... in remote, highly-secure data centres. Simply go online and you can access everything and carry on working as usual. When you save your work, it's saved to the cloud automatically. In fact, you can access your software and data from any hosted desktop or other authorised device 24/7, using your login details. Hosted email Organisations looking for a secure, reliable and cost-effective email solution are turning to hosted Microsoft Exchange®, the world’s premier email platform. Thanks to the cloud, organisations of any size can get the benefits of Microsoft Exchange® without having to invest in the costly infrastructure. Email is stored centrally on managed servers, providing fast connectivity from any location. This allows you to access email, calendars, contacts and shared files in a variety of ways, including via Outlook®, Outlook Mobile Access (OMA) and Outlook Web Access (OWA). Cloud storage Cloud storage is growing in popularity. This service enables companies to have more extra storage 'on demand' rather than having to purchase, manage and support their own equipment on-site, taking up space and the time and expertise of employees. Your files are stored securely and can be accessed at any time via the Internet. Your monthly bill reflects the capacity you use. Server Infrastructure (IaaS) These next-generation servers are replacing the concept of dedicated servers. A provider, such as Colt, gives you access to resources that look and feel exactly like a dedicated server. However, the resources are fully scalable. You can directly fine-tune the amount of processing power and space you need at any moment without the costs of moving from one server to another. Cloud Backup One of the most popular use cases for the Cloud within business organisations is as a destination for backup data. For backups to be meaningful it is crucial to get them off-site in an encrypted state, which in a physical backup solution will delay the restore times greatly in the event of a problem as you wait for tapes or disks to be delivered back to your building. By utilising a Cloud Backup solution, you find a solution for the whole backup process – encrypting and copying the data off-site but allowing for much faster restore times and lower costs. File Sharing and Collaboration With the explosion of free consumer filesharing utilities such as DropBox®, business organisations are seeking a secure way to store, share and collaborate on business content whilst retaining complete control of the data and the user permissions. Solutions such as Soonr from Colt are allowing business to work in truly mobile ways whilst dramatically improving employee productivity. 4
  • Why switch from traditional IT to the cloud? There are many reasons why organisations of all sizes and types are adopting the cloud model of IT. It provides a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel or licensing new software. Ultimately, it can save your business a significant amount of money. Sharpens your competitive edge Cloud computing enables small and mid-sized companies to compete on a level playing field with much bigger competitors without having to invest a fortune in their IT. ‘Renting’ IT services instead makes them much more affordable. Providers like Colt have led the way in removing barriers. Quick and easy implementation Cloud services can be launched in minutes. You don't need to worry about hardware, software licences or implementation services, and minimal skills are required for on-going management. Reduces capital expenditure You can avoid spending large amounts on purchasing and installing IT infrastructure or applications. This helps cash-flow and frees up your funds for other business initiatives. With a single monthly bill, cloud computing becomes an operational expense for easier budgeting. It also prevents money being wasted on assets that depreciate in value and need to be replaced. You can also avoid having to spend more on extra capacity whenever demand goes up or down. With the cloud, you can adjust capacity at any time. Reduces administration costs Cloud-based IT solutions can be deployed extremely quickly. They are managed, maintained, patched and upgraded remotely by your service provider. Technical support is provided around the clock by reputable providers, such as Colt, reducing the day-to-day burden on your IT staff and saving you on hiring/training costs. Savings for everyone You can benefit from the economies of scale achieved by your cloud provider, resulting in lower costs for you. Typically, providers use large-scale data centres operating at higher efficiency levels and multi-tenant architectures to share resources between many customers whilst retaining security levels. Systems are always in use, rather than being left idle. This maximises efficiency and reduces overall costs. Scalability on demand Cloud computing allows you to react quickly to your changing IT needs, adding or reducing capacity and users in real time. This enables your IT to support your business more effectively. What's more, you only pay for what you use. Stronger business focus for you Moving more applications, infrastructure and even support into the cloud can free up precious time, effort and budgets. That enables you to concentrate fully on the real job of exploiting technology to improve the mission of your company. Essentially, it's about making best use of your resources while others get on with routine IT tasks on your behalf. Seamless collaboration The cloud makes it easier to collaborate with colleagues. Everyone in your team can access applications and data securely from any location via any Internet connection whether in the office, at home, on the road or using a nearby wi-fi access point. Multiple users can work together on the same project, share calendars, contacts and more. This helps with faster decision-making involving all the right people. It also supports flexible working. 5
  • Essential checklist for cloud services What questions do you need to ask before selecting your cloud provider? Although the cloud concept is simple enough, the way that cloud services are integrated, supported and protected can vary enormously. Easy integration Unless companies are start-ups then most will have some IT infrastructure already. It's good to keep and use what you can, making the best use of any previous investment in hardware and software. Colt's cloud services can integrate easily with your in-house IT. With the help of our channel partners, we provide end-to-end solutions for small and mid-sized businesses, helping them make a smooth transition to cloud services. SLAs and guaranteed uptime Always ask a prospective provider about reliability and guarantees in their service level agreements (SLAs). You need to be sure that your cloud services are always online and accessible. Quality of service If some or all of your business-critical IT is moving to the cloud, then the partner you select should offer 24/7 customer support and an immediate response to emergency situations. Reliable technical support A quality cloud computing provider will offer round-the-clock technical support. For example, as an international provider of IT and Telecommunication services, Colt offer our customers 24/7 support in 13 languages via an ITIL compliant service desk. High levels of security The notion of a company's data being stored and accessed via the Internet can raise concerns. However, good cloud partners adhere to strict privacy policies and sophisticated security measures, including data encryption. In fact, you can choose to encrypt your data before it's even stored on your cloud partner's servers. Many cloud computing providers offer greater data security and confidentiality than companies that choose to store their data in-house. Resources can be devoted to solving security issues that many customers cannot afford. However, not all cloud vendors will offer the same level of security, so it's essential to check their policies closely before using their services. Disaster recovery and backup Recent research has shown that around 90% of businesses lack adequate disaster recovery or business continuity plans, leaving them vulnerable to disruption. Providers like Colt can provide an array of disaster recovery services. These range from cloud backup (allowing you to store important files from your desktop or office network) to having ready-to-go desktops and services in case your business hits problems. For example, Colt’s Cloud Storage solution allows customers to store their data in up to 3 European locations simultaneously, ensuring even the most catastrophic situation can be recovered from quickly. Other key issues Technology analyst and consulting firm Gartner lists seven security issues to check before selecting a cloud partner: Privileged user access: Check who has access to your data and about the hiring and management of administrators. Regulatory compliance: Make sure a vendor is willing to undergo external audits and/or security certifications. Data location: Ask if the provider allows for any control over the location of data. Data segregation: Make sure that encryption is available at all stages and get an assurance that the provider's encryption schemes were designed and tested by experienced professionals. Recovery: Find out what happens to data in the case of a disaster. Do they offer complete restoration and, if so, how long that would take? Investigative support: Check whether a vendor has the ability to investigate any inappropriate or illegal activity Long-term viability: Ask what will happen to your data if the company goes out of business? How will data be returned and in what format? 6
  • Conclusion Moving to a cloud computing model can help your business to survive and thrive ... even in tougher economic conditions. The cloud equips you with the latest business tools and enables you to access advanced technologies at a fraction of the cost of purchasing and running the same systems in-house. In fact, the cloud is a highly efficient way to manage your IT because you only pay for what you use, so you can do more with less. When your business grows, your IT needs will grow too. The scalability and speed of deployment offered by cloud computing means you can expand your IT provision instantly to meet the fast-changing needs of your business. You can also scale down your IT during quieter times - and pay less accordingly. This provides your business with a much more agile, responsive and leaner IT model. Cloud computing can also enhance your security and your ability carry on working as a business, 24/7, thanks to its resilience, flexibility and responsiveness. But before switching to the cloud, ensure your cloud partner can deliver the advanced services and quality assurances that will underpin the success of your business: then you can harness the full potential of cloud computing and transform your business. About Colt Colt is the information delivery platform, enabling its customers to deliver, share, process and store their vital business information. An established leader in delivering integrated computing and network services to major organisations, midsized businesses and wholesale customers, Colt operates a 22-country, 44,000km network that includes metropolitan area networks in 39 major European cities with direct fibre connections into 19,000 buildings and 20 carrier neutral Colt data centres. Information about Colt and its services can be found at www.colt.net Discuss or simply find out more To find out more, please contact us on ceano@colt.net or visit us at www.colt.net © 2014 Colt Technology Services Group Limited. The Colt name and logos are trademarks. All rights reserved. Other names, logos and trademarks belong to their respective owners.