Is Cloud Computing for everyone?

I wanted to write my own post about what Cloud Computing is, but there are many articles available on the ‘net already.

The linked article to the right from PCMag explains this succinctly:

Instead, I’ll concentrate on pros and cons of Cloud Computing, as I’ve had many years of experience in working with customers, proposing Cloud based solutions.

One thing for sure, is that Cloud Computing is pervading all aspects of our lives, from personal usage (e.g. DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, WebMail, cloud apps, etc.) to professional usage (nicely covered with “X as a Service”).

From a professional standpoint, it is still argued as to whether Cloud Computing brings real value to all organisations.

It’s true that some of the main advantages of Cloud Computing are:

That costs are balanced (as they tend to move companies from CapEx costs to OpEx). It means that companies no longer have to invest in physical hardware and purchase as a Service (XaaS).

CFOs love moving to OpEx solutions as this makes more sense from a financial viewpoint and these are the folks that you should speak to.

There are no longer technical constraints on the computing power or network required. Most players in the market allow for flexibility on these elements and allow users to “pay as you go”. Customers only pay for the elements they need. FYI, the top three that most people speak of, are Google, AWS, Microsoft, but there are many others available (my personal favourite is Linode (www.linode.com) and is ideal for SMBs or home users, if you’re a Linux fan).

The Cloud provides a more secure method of backing up and restoring of local data. Additionally, most Cloud service providers will propose their own mechanisms to protect your data. There are different methods to keeping your data secured, such as local copies synchronized with Cloud copies or direct access to Cloud versions.

Disaster recovery is built in. There are no longer any needs to manage disparate Data Centres and to provide replication between them in the event of issues occurring.

Cloud Computing platform, services and data can be accessed from anywhere in the world. This provides much increased flexibility and collaboration between employees of organisations, such as sharing applications, keeping up to date documentation, etc.

Cloud Computing platforms tend to be much quicker to deploy. Most providers will have standard images which can be deployed almost instantly and allows for complete systems to be fully functional in a very short period of time, enabling users to access and customize them according to their needs very quickly. Additionally, any core licence pricing will be built in to the overall costs, thereby removing one less hassle in managing licence fees. This also applies if customers purchase applications from the provider at the same time.

Cloud Computing platforms provide a much eco-friendlier way of reducing company carbon footprints. For smaller organisations, the decreased energy usage can provide dramatic internal cost savings.

However, there are cons to Cloud Computing too.

Running Cloud Computing platforms requires internet connectivity. It’s necessary to calculate all the factors to take into account (such as average total bandwidth requirements for applications, web based services, video collaboration, etc). Is data also stored locally? Can a network interruption cause critical issues in the day to day running of a business?

It’s an important factor to consider as most Cloud Computing providers don’t provide the network connectivity to their platforms.

Tip for the day: If network connectivity is critical, use two different providers. If one goes down, then it’s more likely that the other provider will still be able to provide services.

Whilst in the longer term, Cloud Computing platforms tend to be less expensive, in the planning phase, a good TCO should be drawn up, to weigh the cost benefits between an on-premise solution compared to a Cloud Computing platform. It’s not all about the hardware. Other factors to take into account include, principally, installation, management of the platforms, training, power, network, software and service costs.

Security and data protection laws are a critical element to take into account. Numerous companies are bound by local laws that mean they need to ensure that data does not leave the country for any reason. In this respect, certain Cloud Computing providers will guarantee local Data Centres for the provision of their services, whereas others won’t.

What guarantees does the provider give to organisations for the protection of the Cloud Computing platform and its data?

Does the data that an organisation wants to place into a Cloud Computing platform have any compliance regulations attached to it?

Whilst Cloud Computing providers do tend to provide secure platforms for their customers, it remains that the customer is responsible for the security of their data.

Lawful interception. Whilst this may not be a major issue in most countries around the world (although most countries do require providers to allow for LI), there are certain countries that require methods to allow law enforcement agencies to intercept data transmissions (as well as provide them with full access to data) with very little excuse. Depending upon the Cloud Computing platform type, this can be an easy or difficult implementation. For example, a simple database server hosted by a Cloud provider would be an easy implementation to provide. A video collaboration system that allows law enforcement agencies to physically listen in/watch a video call would significantly increase costs in the development, implementation and management of a Cloud Computing provided infrastructure.

SLAs (Service Level Agreements) are a very important part for any organisation wishing to use Cloud Computing platforms. Most providers will have SLAs that they have in place already, but customers should pay very close attention to the wording of them, as they may not fit their needs, or in extreme cases, not be fit for purpose. For example, The Amazon EC2 outage in 2011, whilst lasting for nearly four days didn’t actually breach their SLAs as Amazon guaranteed 99.95% availability of the service over the trailing 365 days! So, any concerns about critical outages will need to be addressed and it’s for this reason that some organisations may prefer that an on-premise high availability or fault tolerant solution may be the route to address.

This article covers the main areas in which Cloud Computing pros and cons are addressed for companies. There is another story behind Cloud Computing Solutions (which I’ll address in a future article).

NOTE: This article was originally published on LinkedIn at the following link: Here

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Selling Service Solutions.

There’s been a significant shift over the last few years from big manufacturers to complement their portfolio with services. It’s now recognised that selling a box with a break fix contract is not the way to grow a business. By developing and selling services, there are substantial advantages.

One key advantage to a services-led approach is that there are fewer limitations so there’s much more opportunity for manufacturers and resellers to adjust features and capabilities to fit the needs of individual customers. Solutions that are better integrated into existing technologies, workflows and processes are more likely to address the specific requirements of customers, provide the business outcomes desired, and drive a faster return on investment.

A vendor’s or reseller’s services portfolio might include professional services, such as consulting or training offers, or the increasingly popular “X as a Service”, including Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, Video as a Service and so on.

However, when manufacturers talk about their services, many people still think primarily about traditional support or break fix services. Indeed, traditional hardware companies and their customers are quite familiar with adding a support contract to a hardware product purchase. For customers, support is like purchasing insurance for a high value item.

The downside of a break fix approach, of course, is that it’s a reactive service, which means that problems are fixed after they occur. For lower priced products, an organization may decide to keep spare stock on hand rather than covering their assets under a support contract. But when we begin to talk about more critical solutions, a component failure could cause serious impacts to a business.

More and more, I’m seeing customers looking for a proactive approach to the service relationship. Managed Services Solutions take a proactive approach to supporting customer’s environments thereby limiting risks and improving the reliability and end user experience. Outsourcing operational responsibility also frees up the internal IT team to focus on other strategic initiatives. Offers that encompass hardware, value-added support services and managed services are seen as end to end solutions.

Before continuing, I’d like to clear up the definition of IT in this article. IT (Information Technology) is traditionally seen as computers, servers and printers within an organisation. However today, this definition has been widely expanded to include anything that incorporates a component that will provide processing capabilities – such as tablets, mobile devices, video endpoints, etc. Company IT resources still traditionally have a primary focus on the computer/server elements, as any of the other examples require more niche skills to manage. It’s not to say that customer IT teams don’t have these skills internally, but they tend to have limited teams that will be responsible for these niche products.

More and more companies have changed their approach to assisting customers with the remote monitoring and management of their collaboration solution brings numerous benefits. Off-loading day-to-day operations to skilled manufacturer technicians that live and breathe their own solutions on a 24×7 basis allow internal customer IT resources to focus on other core areas of their business, reducing overall solution management risk, providing better uptime and ultimately increasing user satisfaction and solution adoption. With these services, manufacturers will get the call at 3am not the internal IT team.

Over the long term when all service elements are taken into account, manufacturer provided remote monitoring and management services save customers money compared with them doing it themselves. A commonly asked question is “why should we use XXX to manage our YYY?” IT environments today are more and more mission-critical. However, as customers rarely have dedicated IT teams that are focused purely on the monitoring and management of their network which means they are more reactive as opposed to proactive.

There’s also a common misconception that it’s more cost effective for customer IT teams to contact a manufacturer’s helpdesk to resolve issues as they arise. Unfortunately these internal IT resources tend to be limited and can be easily overwhelmed. This can have an adverse impact on the day to day requirements of managing infrastructure or endpoints when backups, patches, security, changes, or MACD (Moves, Additions, Changes and Deletions) arise and the internal team has insufficient bandwidth to manage them efficiently. If these elements are not properly managed, the risks of infrastructure outages and unhappy employees increases.

Increasingly, customers look to outsourcing their IT support requirements to third party IT management companies, which provide enormous benefits. However, some of these outsource companies still tend to have skill sets that are focused on certain areas of IT and not all. Whilst they can provide excellent coverage on core products, working jointly with the manufacturer on the niche products will provide complete support on all IT components within a customer environment.

By using manufacturer provided managed services as the owner for the remote monitoring and management of an IT infrastructure, customers are able to control, and reduce, their overall operating expenses. These services are provided as an OPEX offer meaning the cost is spread out over the length of the contract period (typically three, four or five years).

Many manufacturers provide additional value added services, such as design, deploy, support and optimisation offers. Managed services are often delivered by partners, but can be just as efficiently delivered by manufacturers. Many partners have close relationships with customer organisations and use manufacturer provided services to complement or augment their own offers. This approach, with its clear focus on customer success, offers a win-win scenario for everyone involved.

NOTE: This article was originally published on LinkedIn at the following link: Here

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Mobile Device Management and Bring Your Own Device

I’ve been working in the enterprise mobile arena for a number of years now, more recently I have been involved in working with customers, and partners in designing solutions that help them more efficiently manage their mobile assets. One area that I’ve seen quite often concerns BYOD and this is an area that’s not really considered as being a priority for enterprises. This article is based upon my experiences and I’ll endeavour to add statistics/supporting evidence as it develops.

Continue reading

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A big long absence.

I did say that I was going to keep this page updated and as you can see, a big gap of 2 months appeared. 🙂

The reason for this was purely because of training for my Mount Elbrus expedition and family holidays afterwards. Now I’m back into the swing of things, I’ll work on adding more posts to this page.

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The real value of BYOD

I’ve always been very sceptical of BYOD. Whilst I understand why the employee wants to use their own device, there are more concerns for the employer. I feel it’s an area that whilst everyone talks about it, not everyone understands the implications. In many cases, I feel that BYOD is forced onto companies by employees not wanting to use sometimes clunky (relatively speaking), “not cool” and in some cases second-hand devices that are provided by the employers. Whilst companies do strive to keep their employees happy by accepting the use of personal devices in the workplace, this comes at a price in areas such as security, management, etc. It’s extremely difficult to control or forbid the use of employee devices in corporate networks. The larger the company, the more difficult it becomes.

Employees will come up with various excuses about using their own device on a corporate network such as, “It’s my device, I’ll look after it better” or “I’m more productive” even “I never liked that that man anyway, I’d never use his OS” but this forces a situation that could be untenable onto the employer.

In this age of consumerism and rapid advances in technology, people always want the latest and greatest devices to play with and to also use in their work environment. Companies are, quite rightly, more hesitant in changing devices over shorter timeframes due to cost and would prefer to implement policies whereby devices are depreciated over time (3 years seems to be the industry average)

However, in opening up BYOD to employees, policies do need to be put into place. Areas that need to be addressed include:

  1. Tax and cost implications
  2. Management of devices
  3. Protection of company data and assets
  4. Device support
  5. Application management and support
  6. Device security policies

This is just for starters. As I develop this tech tidbit blog, I’ll add to this and will start to go over the points above in more detail. In the meantime, the following articles from techrepublic and zdnet make interesting reading.

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/european-technology/is-byod-here-to-stay-maybe-its-just-a-phase-youre-going-through/#ftag=RSS56d97e7

http://www.zdnet.com/revealed-the-true-costs-of-the-byod-7000016490/

http://www.zdnet.com/consumerization-byod-and-mdm-what-you-need-to-know_p4-7000010205/

 

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What is “the cloud”?

It’s important to understand the basics behind the cloud. It’s a technology that’s existed for many years now (think: webmail services such as hotmail, dejanews, etc.) but it’s really ramped up over the last few years with the addition of cloud computing applications, storage, etc. Here’s a link to an article that will take you back to basics as it’s easy to forget what it’s all about.

http://computer.howstuffworks.com/cloud-computing/cloud-computing.htm

(Note: this should have been one of my firsts posts, but as usual, I jumped right into it without giving people pointers in the right direction).

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Danger, Will Robinson! Beware the hidden perils of BYOD – The Register

A very nice clear article on the dangers of BYOD by theregister. However, there are more MDM platforms out there that will help companies sandbox confidential or sensitive data or applications, such as AirWatch, etc. Additionally the article doesn’t address the fact that there is still the need for the adoption of clear BYOD policies in companies, which is still an issue in the marketplace.

Danger, Will Robinson! Beware the hidden perils of BYOD – The Register.

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