February 2014

Why Hybrid Clouds Have an Important Part to Play in Re-inventing the Workplace.

Published on February 25, 2014 – Written for ASI Cloud

The agility, scalability and utility qualities of the cloud are transforming IT procurement and challenging the way IT is purchased, provisioned and maintained. The very nature of the cloud is creating innovation in working practices and a greater sense of collaboration; so it makes sense for businesses to take advantage of these qualities.

The word hybrid is often used to describe the result of cross cultivating two different genres; In the context of IT and cloud computing, hybrid is defined as the combination of a private cloud (either inside a corporate firewall or on a dedicated server that’s hosted by a cloud service provider), with a public cloud infrastructure, (provided externally by a trusted cloud service provider  in a multi tenant/shared infrastructure environment), to provide for differing workloads within a single business estate.

So, why choose a hybrid cloud environment and what are the advantages of maintaining some of your business services on-premise?

There are specific solutions to specific workloads that are mature in the public cloud space, and that deliver extremely high features & functionality for minimal cost, with maximum resilience, scalability & agility. However, there are niche workloads that by their very nature require some form of dedicated component and are not pre-disposed to public cloud or multi-tenant delivery; either from a regulatory, compliance or technological perspective.

Many MSP’s (Managed Service Providers) and resellers will insist on fitting their solutions around the platforms available, and not around the business needs whilst businesses appraise cloud solutions that meet their business requirements; irrespective of the delivery model. This may sometimes require adopting the cloud in a phased approach; moving disparate workloads to a cloud delivery model, whether they are Private, Public or Hybrid.

When opting for the flexibility and scalability that a cloud estate delivers, it is often most appropriate for our customers to use our cloud hosting services to focus on the services that will deliver the greatest benefit with the lowest initial risk. Some of our customers prefer to place part of their IT function in a public cloud whilst initially keeping higher-risk or bespoke functions within a private cloud (on premise), before moving to a fully managed private cloud model.

For other customers, our secure data-centre delivers a better protected, more robust platform than they can provide for themselves, helping them easily and efficiently overcome a security or compliance challenge.  In either case, IT is delivered by a hybrid cloud solution.

The idea behind hybrid clouds is quite simple; businesses adopt them to take advantage of the scalability and cost-efficiency offered by the public cloud environment, without exposing mission-critical applications and data to potential vulnerabilities. In addition, hybrid cloud models combine the best and most efficient solutions because different types of data can be moved onto whichever platform provides the most efficient environment when it’s most appropriate.

Blending public and private clouds in a hybrid solution is often the most suitable choice for many of our customers as they find that a one size cloud infrastructure does not actually fit all. Instead, combining different infrastructures enables them to create a computing architecture that can deliver better reliability, optimised performance and, ultimately, greater cost value.

Hybrids also offer you greater technical control – you can grant root access to authorised personnel and logically or physically segment your architecture where it’s needed at any time. Unlike cloud-only solutions, a hybrid cloud lets you define if and where multi-tenancy is acceptable. You can also request customised hardware as or when it’s needed, to meet performance requirements for specific applications.

Customers can also improved security with a hybrid environment; a common concern about cloud technology among enterprises is the security of multi-tenancy hosting arrangements. A hybrid infrastructure will ease this concern as on-premise and/or network devices can be isolated to restrict access to your data. You can also configure your devices so that on-premise servers and cloud servers can communicate via a private network, effectively combining two separate systems into a single integrated architecture.

If your business is required to meet regulatory compliance regarding data security, you should avoid multi-tenancy options and choose dedicated servers for some or all your hosted infrastructure. With the right network security, a hybrid solution that blends cloud and dedicated hardware will satisfy auditors and regulators.

ISV’s and our Software Partners often use our hosting services to develop and test cloud-ready applications; in many cases, a public cloud is suitable, but some of our customers opt for dedicated servers to host mission critical application launches. Dedicated servers within a hybrid infrastructure that are configured to meet specific performance needs can be supplemented with multi-tenant cloud servers to provide for overflow traffic after launch.

If you are looking into hybrid cloud solutions and want to find out which options are best for your business, contact our cloud consultancy team; we’re here to help you make the best choices.

About the ASI Cloud infrastructure.

ASI Cloud, delivers the best business productivity services that the Public Cloud has to offer. Powered by ournext generation Cloud OS platform and the latest IBM and Microsoft System Centre 2012 R2 technologies, we seamlessly manage and distribute services between our customers’ own infrastructure, our platform, and the public Microsoft and IBM cloud fabrics. Customers benefit from secure, integrated services, the flexibility, agility and scalability offered by the cloud and all the benefits of a private 

 

Published 11th February 2014 – written for Alchemy Systems International

Why Microsoft Office 365 is the better option for business than Google Apps

So you’re convinced about moving your IT infrastructure to the cloud and you’re excited by all that it offers with regard to flexible, innovative ways of running your work-teams. But you may be a little unsure which of the productivity tools, you should opt for. The major players here are Microsoft, (the elder statesman with the Office 365 suite) and Google Apps, (the young upstart); Apple’s iWorks is the new kid on the block but is as yet unproven in the workplace and doesn’t figure in this review; so, which should you go for?

Here are a few comparisons we have compiled that may help you decide which is best for your business users.

Pound for Pound Comparison

It’s tricky to compare pricing, but at first glance, Google Apps for Business looks less costly. The monthly cost per user for the basic service package from Google is a little lower than the most comparable Office 365 package, but Microsoft offers several different packages: some of which are significantly cheaper per user.  Much of the implementation work we carry out for our customers involves equipping various types of user groups within an organisation with all the communication and productivity tools they require. As few users actually need the entire suite of tools, we often save our customers money by taking advantage of the Microsoft packages that are cheaper than Google Apps for Business. With so many more choices of packages, most of our customers choose Microsoft Office 365; but to establish which vendor offers the best pricing model for you, you have to understand which specific tools all the different types of users in your business will rely on, to work in the most effective ways. Tell us what you hope to achieve and we’ll help you decide which is best suited to your needs.

Looks Don’t Always Equate to Quality

Much of the software available from Google will look familiar. Take Google Docs for instance; remind you of anything? What about Google Slides, or even Google Sheets? The important difference between these Google apps and Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, is that the Microsoft applications are market mature and have been around long enough for every user to be familiar with how they look, how they function and, most importantly for businesses, your users will be are proficient in using them. Microsoft has developed and updated all these applications over years based on real business scenarios and the demands of business users. What Google has done with their apps really only amounts to imitation; whilst this is often regarded as the sincerest form of flattery, it probably shouldn’t be the basis to make an important business decision regarding your users’ productivity. So, in addition to having to train your employees how to use the Google software to the full, you may also find that the apps simply don’t work as well as Microsoft’s established productivity tools, for all the tasks they have been designed for. For example, many of our customers that have used Google Docs, have experienced issues with formatting.

Google’s Privacy Policies Aren’t So Private

There is a major question mark over the security of Google’s FREE cloud storage; whilst your data is encrypted, Google holds the key to this encryption. We advise our customers that they won’t be protected from a number of intrusions. These intrusions include: data requests from government agencies, the cataloguing and selling of information about them (as described in Google’s privacy agreement), hackers that can gain access to the systems or even disgruntled employees. This doesn’t mean that there are individuals that read all your business emails, but rather that certain words inside these messages will trigger ads from external businesses that Google sells the data to. These blind triggers could leave them open to all sorts of intrusions from untrustworthy operators. You may choose to upgrade to Google Vault but the cost per-user, per-month can increase tree-fold; and whilst you can also purchase a number of third-party encryption or compliance add-ons, these too will increase the overall cost. Microsoft Office 365, on the other hand, protects users against this data crawling, and because it is routinely updated, it complies with the privacy standards set for all manner of different industry sectors.

Are We Being Fair? Yes, We Think So!

For a few individual users, Google Apps could ultimately be the better choice; but for the vast majority of business users, we recommend Microsoft Office 365. It is the tried-and-trusted business standard, it is far more secure, your users are bound to be familiar with all its’ productivity tools, and once you have considered all of the hidden costs of securing Google Apps, it often works out to be less expensive. For businesses that wish to dip their toe into cloud services, Google Apps is a pretty good “one-size-fits-all” option. Office 365 is much more flexible; it offers business users more service options and allows businesses to migrate their IT gradually to the cloud; it has a more seamless integration with services like SharePoint, Exchange, Active Directory and Lync, so if you’r looking for a hybrid approach for your computing environment (combining cloud and on-premises servers), the Microsoft suite is by far the best option. Presently, Microsoft is the leader in SaaS. Whether that will still be the case in the longer-term, is difficult to predict, but one thing is certain —Microsoft will not give up their cloud domination easily and will continue to develop services and applications that help reinvent the workplace.

Are you exploring the many and varied cloud options for your business users?

Peter Stephen is a Surrey based freelance creative and marketing copywriter – to hire, call 07917 36 01 01 or email peter.stephen@astutecopy.co.uk

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