1 Contents Introduction What is the Cloud? How does it work? Types of Cloud Service Cloud Service Providers Summary
2 Introduction The CLOUD! It seems to be everywhere these days; you can t get away from it! Most business owners are aware of it and many wonder if they should be doing something about getting into the Cloud but don t know enough about the potential benefits it brings, or even how to or where to get started? This white paper aims to help you understand what the Cloud really is and where it s going. But most importantly, with over 30% of SMEs in the UK expected to adopt one or more Cloud services in 2012, what s in it for your business. What is the Cloud? Sounds great doesn t it? The CLOUD but, for many business owners, the term alone can make it appear daunting and unclear. So here we aim to finally give you an easy way of thinking about it. If you simply replace the word CLOUD with the word INTERNET, the whole thing suddenly makes more sense. Quite simply, the Cloud is an industry euphemism for the internet, which has been used for years. If you take away the phrase Cloud computing and replace it with Hosted IT Services, you ve pretty much got it. What s more, many of us have been using Hosted IT Services for many years Hotmail is a hosted service as a good example, and websites have always typically been hosted. How does it work? The term Cloud computing can be used to cover a huge variety of solutions and services but, throughout 2010 and 2011, many of these were categorised, and fall into the following structure. 1. Cloud Applications Also referred to as SaaS or Software as a Service, this is the most common and longest established form of Cloud computing, where users gain the use of a service or software application via a web browser, hosted desktop or a thin client device. The great advantage of a Cloud Application is that the user never has to purchase expensive software, install it on their own PC, maintain updates or pay for upgrades to the latest version.
3 An example of this is Sage Online. Instead of paying 500/ 1000 buying Sage, you essentially rent the required number of user licences for a small monthly subscription. This means that your business not only gains the benefits of use, but avoids the capital expense of buying and upgrading it. This type of Cloud computing will, over the next three to five years, create the biggest significant change in the way the world accesses and uses software, and can be applied to anything from office applications, to CRM, games and movies to services. Essentially, any type of software you may purchase today will be available to use as and when you need it, on a pay-as-you-go basis. For example, you need an expensive piece of software to complete a project you re working on. Traditionally you would have to buy it. Before long you will simply be able to download and rent that piece of software for as long as you need it, then discard it when you don t. 2. Cloud Platform Also referred to as PaaS or Platform as a Service, PaaS covers more traditional computing and is known as distributed computing, where many services pull together to deliver an application or infrastructure service. An example of this would be a Hosted Desktop service, where a number of different services work behind the scenes to deliver applications and functions to the Hosted Desktop. We ll cover more about Hosted Desktops later! 3. Cloud Infrastructure This is the foundation of Cloud computing: the delivery of IT through virtualisation. Virtualisation gives you the ability to split up a single physical piece of hardware, a server for example, into multiple, self-sustained servers, which can easily be scaled as required. Infrastructure includes servers, networks and other hardware appliances, delivering anything from web services to dedicated server resources. Later we ll cover more on servers!
4 What Cloud services are available in the Cloud? There are a wide variety of services that can be delivered through the Cloud, taking advantage of the distributed Cloud model. Here are some of the most in demand and fastest-growing Cloud services in They are services that can benefit every business, regardless of size, and most can be adopted easily without capital investment. Hosted What is it? All businesses are looking for a secure and reliable solution that is cost-effective; and the solution most are adopting is Hosted Exchange Microsoft Exchange is the world s premier platform and, with Hosted Exchange, businesses large and small can benefit without having to invest in the costly infrastructure required. Many small businesses simply cannot afford to invest k in their own Exchange Server, not to mention the costly ongoing maintenance and upgrades to hardware required on a regular basis. At the end of 2010, Microsoft themselves said that they expect over 70% of organisations with fewer than 100 users will be using Hosted Exchange as their preferred solution by the end of That is a growth of over 32 million users, and shows you just how the Cloud is already changing the way businesses communicate. What are the benefits? The key benefits of Hosted Exchange can be defined in two key areas: productivity and cost saving. Productivity: Hosted Exchange offers sharing capabilities across , calendars, tasks and address lists from any location. It also gives you the ability to read your on multiple devices including your laptop, PC, ipad, BlackBerry or Android phone, and have the whole thing synchronise automatically. So, when you read an on your ipad, or update your calendar, it s updated on all your other devices as well. Other benefits include the Outlook Web App, which allows you to simply log into your from any web browser wherever you are and send/receive, while fully syncing with all your other devices. Cost saving: The cost benefits of Hosted Exchange by far outweigh the cost of upgrading old Exchange servers, or purchasing your own Exchange servers in-house. Once you take account of the cost of hardware, software, licensing and maintenance over a three-year period, Hosted Exchange is more cost-effective every time.
5 Hosted Desktops What is it? Hosted Desktops remove the need for traditional desktop PCs in the office, and reduce the cost of providing the IT services that you need across your business. The advantages are that a user can log in to their desktop, which contains all their files, folders and applications, from any location they happen to be working where they have an internet connection, even via 3G on a smart phone. This creates flexibility that many businesses simply haven t had before. There are lots of Hosted Desktop providers around now and many approach the service in different ways, so you need to understand what you are buying before making a decision as it can be difficult and costly to reverse afterwards. Many providers only provide desktops on shared servers, which can limit what you can do with them and the applications you can install, so it s important to make sure that your business is getting its own dedicated resources when adopting this solution. What are the benefits? The key benefits fall into three areas: productivity, security and IT cost reduction. Productivity: The benefit here is the ability to essentially carry all your business resource with you wherever you go, and have instant access to all your applications and documents where you wouldn t normally. So, for a business with remote or home workers, or those who have a workforce based in the field or that changes quickly, Hosted Desktop offers a flexible solution that improves productivity. Security: All your data and applications are held centrally in the data centre and controlled only by your authorised staff. This puts you in control of your important data and avoids it being lost on individuals laptops or PCs. It also protects you, as all centrally stored data is automatically backed up for additional security. Also, in instances where employees leave the business, you don t have issues with getting back your own data; you simply switch off their access to your company resources and its data. IT maintenance and upgrade costs: These are reduced as you can centrally manage and distribute your users desktops from any location, and distribute and share applications and folders without having to bring users into the office to update their laptops locally. In addition you can access a Hosted Desktop from a mobile, tablet or thin client device, meaning you don t need to purchase expensive PCs. You also save on operating system and software licensing costs. Most Hosted Desktops include the latest operating systems and Microsoft Office software, which are upgraded for you free as soon as the next version released is considered stable. Some also include your Online Backup facility and Hosted Exchange mailboxes as well, further reducing your overall IT spend.
6 Hosted Business Telephony (VoIP) What is it? VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol has been around for over a decade now and has matured into a robust hosted service that gives businesses significant savings on their telephony costs. Hosted VoIP is now the best, most cost-effective and flexible type of VoIP solution for most SMEs. Simply put, VoIP routes your phone calls over your internet connection, rather than using a traditional copper phone line. VoIP is advancing so quickly that adoption among SMEs over the last year has grown incredibly because of the functionality, flexibility and cost savings available. You can even use VoIP on your mobile, PC or ipad and have a single landline number for each of your users that follows them around whether they are on a mobile, softphone or desk phone. What are the benefits? There are many benefits to VoIP over traditional telephony for businesses, too many to list here, so some of the key benefits can be defined in two areas: functionality and cost saving. Functionality: A good Hosted VoIP solution gives you the full-blown features of an enterprise level phone system for a fraction of the cost. It provides more flexibility and control than a typical onsite phone system, and you can configure and manage the service via any web browser. You can configure your voic , hunt groups, record calls, play hold music and open conference rooms to name just a few features. Another benefit is the ability to make and receive calls from almost any device, from any location as if you were in the office, with the advantage that your calls are still being made through your agreed call plan with your provider and internal calls are usually free. Cost saving: The driver for many businesses adopting VoIP is lower costs. You can expect to see up to 50% cost savings over a traditional telephony solution. In fact, in our own organisation with 14 users, we recently compared our VoIP with moving to the cheapest provider we could find for traditional telephony. The results shocked us, and showed that we were saving over 500 per month using VoIP. If your business is looking at reducing your telephone costs, whether you have 1 user or 50 users, Hosted VoIP is something you should seriously consider.
7 Online Backup What is it? A true business grade Online Backup provides you with a secure location in which to back up, store and restore critical data and applications for the purpose of data security and disaster recovery. The service is then charged based on the volume of data you store at a cost per gigabyte per month. Service providers have seen a huge increase in take up of Online Backup over the last two years. This appears to be driven primarily by a couple of factors. Firstly, there is a much greater understanding from business owners of the importance of appropriate disaster recovery in the event of hardware failure. Statistics show that almost 70% of businesses that suffer a complete data loss go out of business within 12 months. Secondly, in many business sectors, the legal requirements for data protection and to store a copy of critical data offsite drive demand. Online Backup is a natural choice and can be implemented quickly and easily. What are the benefits? For most businesses, the reason they adopt Online Backup is that it is cost-effective but, just as importantly, it is an automated set and forget solution. The problem historically with data/server backup is that almost every solution involves a manual process. When this is the case, all too often it simply doesn t get done, or is not done often enough. Even when it is done, often the tape or disk containing the data sits at the side of the server it is supposed to be backing up! Also because these solutions are onsite, you have no backup in the event of a fire or theft for example. The advantage of Online Backup is you simply set up the backup schedule when you install the software and leave it. Every day you will receive an confirming the status of the last backup, typically overnight. If you then have a disaster, you can log in to your account from anywhere and restore your data to another machine. Getting it right! Check what you are getting. Most service providers only provide file level backup, which is cheaper but not really suitable for businesses as it s not FULL backup. FULL backup solutions contain important agents that back up more than just the files; they can back up the applications and the important coding needed to properly recover the files to their original state after a disaster. Examples of this are SQL and Exchange databases. Without the correct agents built into the software, many users find they simply cannot recover the files after a server failure for example.
8 Hosted Servers What is it? The provision of Hosted Server resources is expected to be one of the greatest battlegrounds in the Cloud over the coming years. This is the area in which the world s biggest players, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon to name a few, are placing themselves to compete for control of this part of the Cloud. It is believed in the global industry that, not too long from now, very few organisations will purchase their own servers to operate in-house, or, where they do, it will be kept to a minimum domain controllers of database servers for example. The reasons for this are the high capital and ongoing maintenance costs attached to a large server infrastructure, which simply aren t needed because it can be outsourced to a data centre for a low monthly subscription. Doing this also passes on these headaches of having to constantly monitor and maintain your servers with updates and patches. Another bonus is data centres are often manned and supported 24/7/365, which would be costly to achieve in-house. In addition, data centres offer the ability to instantly expand or contract your server resources as your business requires, meaning the instant availability of IT resource without the capital expense of adding to your server stock. What are the benefits? Simply, greater flexibility to expand and contract your IT resources and therefore costs, as and when required, and pay only for what you use. Here are a couple of example scenarios: 1. A business with four servers that encounters short-term temporary workload increases, as with accountants at year end for example. Your IT resources may simply not be enough to cope with the extra workload. With Cloud servers this is no problem; you simply add more server resources as required and remove them when no longer needed. 2. A business needs a database or web server, but doesn t want to spend purchasing one. With a Hosted Server you get the resources you need quickly, without the upfront capital expense, for a low monthly subscription.
9 Cloud Service Providers Before you commit to a Service Provider you should ask a few basic questions, like where are their servers hosted? Many Service Providers are hosted outside the UK, or even from a server in the corner of an office or bedroom! Look for a Service Provider that s UK hosted and that uses multiple secure data centres that meet ISO 9001 or ISO standards for data security. This way you know that there are standards in place to protect your data from intruder threats. In addition, quality data centres have the highest levels of cooling and redundant power to the Service Providers servers, reducing the potential for failures. With Cloud services, it isn t always the biggest, most well-known companies that are getting it right. Some of the largest UK providers have had well-publicised issues with poor customer service and regular faults and downtime. A few things to consider when choosing a Cloud Service Provider How easy are they to contact? Are they based and hosted in the UK? What intrusion security do they employ to protect your data? What service level guarantee do they provide? What is the minimum contract term? Do they have client testimonials available? Can you meet them face to face? Can you contact support on the phone, or will they only communicate via ? Look for UK-based providers with UK data centres. This way their operations are covered by UK law. In addition you don t want your data in the US if you need to get it quickly. Quality Service Providers will invest heavily in the best firewall appliances for optimum security. Don t believe anybody who guarantees 100% uptime; there will be small print hidden somewhere. The industry standard is around 99.5% service availability. Look for providers who are confident enough in their service to provide you with a 6- or 12-month minimum term. Many will tie you in for 24 or 36 months. Find out what other clients say! Ask for testimonials or even if you can speak to an existing client who is using the services you re looking at. Not always necessary but providers should be happy to sit down and discuss your business s requirements!
10 Summary Whatever your thoughts about the Cloud, it is here to stay and it s no longer a case of whether you will adopt one or more Cloud services: it s simply a question of when. The advances in broadband speeds through improved fibre networks mean Cloud Service Providers can deliver so much more than ever before to your business, as a service, at a fraction of the cost you have paid for onsite solutions in the past. Before long you will be able to simply USE IT as and when you need it, removing the historic headaches associated with OWNING IT. The world s largest technology businesses have already invested billions in preparation for what will be the most important phase shift in the way the world accesses IT since the invention of the PC. All businesses stand to benefit from the Cloud through increased flexibility, productivity and cost savings. But perhaps most importantly, through Cloud Services, small businesses can now access the technologies that were previously attained only by enterprise and corporate level businesses, for a low monthly cost, giving SMEs a greater ability to compete! CLOUD4 At Cloud4 we put the client at the centre of our business and have become trusted advisers to the businesses we work with. We help clients to adapt their IT strategies to integrate only the Cloud services that benefit the business. The Cloud services we have built are among the highest specifications available in the UK today and have been designed to give our clients a complete service that is reliable and protects their business while improving productivity and reducing costs. We now support almost 25,000 users and our whole business, team, support and all our hardware is housed in secure private data centres, connected to one of the fastest fibre networks in the UK.