Tag Archives: cloud computing

Cloud Computing: Good, Bad & Ugly

18 Jan 17
lverbik
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When a network of IT gadgets like routers, DVR machines and closed-circuit TVs can take down hardened, well-provisioned Internet giants like Twitter, Spotify and Amazon – as happened last October – you’ve got to think twice before moving your data to the cloud.

Yes, a move to the cloud can yield big payoffs in terms of cost savings, increased efficiency, greater flexibility, collaboration for your workforce and more. Yet there is a dark side. It would be naive to think otherwise. Your choices about whether and how to use cloud technology in your network merits serious consideration.

So, just what is “the cloud”?

Instead of constantly buying new equipment and software, cloud computing allows you to pay for just what you need. Just as with a utility company, you get software and storage on a monthly basis, with no long-term contracts. Chances are, most of the software you now use is cloud-based. You simply access it on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Similarly, you can store data in the cloud, where it can be easily accessed when you need it. This reduces the need to buy and manage your own backup gear and software, thus reducing overhead. Yet, as with any major decision, it’s critical to be aware of both the benefits and pitfalls of putting your company’s data in the cloud.

The Pros

There are three major advantages offered by cloud computing:

  1. Scaling up or down can be done without major investment or leaving excess capacity idle. It also enables your entire workforce to get more done, where and when they need to.
  1. With data and software in a shared cloud environment, staff can collaborate from anywhere. Everything from HR to accounting, and from operations to sales and customer relations, can be managed from diverse and mobile environments, giving your team greater power to collaborate effectively.
  1. Disaster Recovery. Typically, data stored in the cloud can be easily retrieved in the event of a disaster. It also augments local backup and recovery systems, adding protective redundancy.

The Cons

While the cloud offers obvious benefits, it also increases your company’s potential “attack surface” for cybercriminals. By spreading your communications and access to data beyond a safe “firewall,” your network is far more exposed to a whole bevy of security concerns. Many of them can be addressed with these three best practices:

  1. Social Engineering Awareness. Whether you go cloud or local, the weakest link in your network is not in your equipment or software; it’s in the people who use them. Cybercriminals are aware of this fact. And you can count on them to come up with an endless variety of ways to exploit it. One day it’s a phone call ostensibly from your IT department requesting sensitive data, the next it’s an e-mail that looks official but contains malicious links. Make sure your employees are aware of and trained to deal with these vulnerabilities.
  1. Password Security and Activity Monitoring. Maintaining login security is absolutely critical any time you’re in a cloud environment. Train your staff in how to create secure passwords and implement two-factor authentication whenever possible. Take advantage of monitoring tools that can alert you to suspicious logins, unauthorized file transfers and other potentially damaging activity.
  1. Anti-Malware/Antivirus Solutions. Malicious software allows criminals to obtain user data, security credentials and sensitive information without the knowledge of the user. Not only that, some purported anti-malware software on the market is actually malware in disguise. Keep verifiable anti-malware software in place throughout your network at all times, and train your employees in how to work with it.

Is it Time to Go to the Cloud?

26 Jan 16
lverbik
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It’s a commonly asked question: Should we get a new server or go to the cloud? The answer differs, depending on who’s trying to sell you their services. So what’s the answer? Is there just one answer?

If you’ve maxxed out your old server and it’s coming to its life’s useful end, you have an important decision to make. Buying a new server and staying with a private cloud may be beneficial for a majority of businesses, but sometimes a public cloud may work best.

There’s one story, the word-on-the-street benefits of the cloud:

  • increased business efficiency and agility
  • save on IT costs
  • employees can access your company data easily wherever they are
  • easy file sharing, collaboration and conferencing
  • eliminate file backup worries
  • free storage
  • works from any device
  • cloud users enjoy higher revenues* according to a survey by accounting software provider MYOB

All true, the above benefits of the cloud may be best suited for:

  • startups
  • very small companies
  • virtual company
  • company with global locations
  • businesses with high internal IT costs
  • businesses who require mega computing power

But wait—here’s another story to consider. Most small and medium-sized businesses who make up the core of our country’s free enterprise system-the manufacturers, the service companies, the product distributors—these types with existing application housed on their old servers–are smart, savvy, and not switching to the cloud. They instead choose to buy new servers.

Why would they NOT choose the cloud? Didn’t the media world determine it was all-around cheaper and better for companies? The answer for a large segment of the business population—and possibly you—is no.

It’s a cost and ROI story. Established companies running their own applications are finding that migrating them to the cloud and operating them using cloud based applications is in fact too costly when all is said and done—oft times more expensive than the current situation. Companies who were surveyed and did so found that it came in at roughly the same price to switch over—about $100 per month per user. That was the 2013 price for a business to switch over its current infrastructure to one that is cloud based.

So what is the answer for you? Do your cost comparisons, start small and try some free and low cost cloud tools to get your feet wet, and use some free trials to see what may be to your benefit. And let TechnoAdvantage give you a cloud analysis to see if it’s right for you. You may find that the cloud is just too high in the sky so you’ll want to keep yourself grounded with good internal server and outside support from a company like us. Either way we’re here to help you make the wise choice for you.

What can hosted workspaces do for your business?

16 Dec 15
lverbik
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As our culture continually evolves more and more toward mobility and flexibility with the use of tablets, smartphones and notebook computers, business is happening all the time, everywhere, in places we never would have dreamed. Companies are implementing BYOD (bring your own device) policies to make it easy for their employees to maintain a productive pace after they leave the office. And there’s a growing trend emerging to make it work to a company’s advantage.

The concept of a hosted workspace involves a desktop environment situated on a remote server that provides a “virtual office” where employees’ own personal devices can be used to do business seamlessly and relatively safely. Users have easy access from their various devices, from virtually anywhere they may be—inside or outside the office.

It provides a nice little setup giving users a way to interact and work with all of a company’s data, applications and programs just as they would a traditional desktop computer environment—but without the stationary, cumbersome, and costlier machines anchoring them to workstations.

The hosted workspace means that, as a business, you are saving on equipment costs and the constant software upgrades that go along with these conventional setups. Hosted workspaces work and grow with you no matter what the size of your company.

If you fear less security with a mobile environment, your fears are unfounded. The opposite is actually true. Hosted workspaces are proven more secure—providing built in security features, including virus protection and secure cloud server storage for your data. And if you think about what you could lose should your security be breached in a traditional office computer environment, you’re looking at what can be a devastating loss.

So for many businesses, hosted workspaces offer the best advantages that mobile technology has to offer, while keeping your employees nimble and efficient—to do business anywhere. We think that’s a pretty cool idea. Contact us here to find out how TechnoAdvantage can help you craft your own hosted workspace.

Is Cryptovirus back as a worm?

03 Sep 15
lverbik
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19798163_s (2)Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does—it seems likely there is a new variant to the Cryptolocker virus—that insidious virus known to encrypt all your files and hold them ransom for $300. This new strain may or may not be Crypt, but it was reported recently to have been able to replicate to other workstations and begin encrypting user folders, though many IT peers do not believe that capability exists as yet.

Whether it is possible or not, it’s something to watch out for. The affected business not only was infected across multiple workstations, but also its server by way of mapped drives. The victim in this case saw a web page open at the workstation with a threatening hijack message and links to download the solution that unlocks the user’s data.

Its evil authors no doubt immediately began working on this new poison once researchers from FireEye and Fox-IT were able to reverse-engineer the virus and provide a solution to Cryptolocker’s victims in May of this year. Of course, half a million people had already been affected and 1.3 percent had paid cash to free their files from the criminals—to the tune of $3 million.

Following the forum discussion about this new case reveals that the most likely source of this virus may actually be a flash-based ad on a compromised site that many people in the office could have accessed. It is possible that someone shared a link containing the virus, or perhaps everyone had a program installed already that popped up an embedded ad that was clicked on.

No matter whether the new strain is able to actually replicate to other stations or not, this is a good reminder to take every measure available to safeguard your files. Number one, add this virus’s file names to your file screens: *.aaa and restore_. Two, backup always! Three, get legit anti-virus and monitoring software. Four, patch your workstations. Five, contact the team at Techno Advantage for help selecting the right cloud-based or on-premise backup and storage solutions.

Need more help deciding how to protect your business from a malware attack? Contact a Techno Pro today! And watch this blog for updates on any new malware. We want to keep you informed.

The Cloud Explained Part III – A Marketing Tool

07 Oct 14
lverbik
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Now that cloud computing technology has already gone past the infancy stages, many industries are realizing the benefits it provides, and are adopting and integrating the technology to fit their businesses. One major sector that stands to benefit a lot from the cloud is marketing, as it has the ability to change the ways in which they reach and engage their audience, particularly with regard to distributing and storing mission-critical data.the benefits it provides, and are adopting and integrating the technology to fit their businesses. One major sector that stands to benefit a lot from the cloud is marketing, as it has the ability to change the ways in which they reach and engage their audience, particularly with regard to distributing and storing mission-critical data.

The most recent technology forecasts released by Forbes, Cisco, Forrester, and Gartner all reveal that there is widespread adoption of cloud computing going on worldwide. The forecasts have been unanimous in their predictions, with over one third of digital content in the world estimated to be stored in the cloud by 2016.

As for storage, it is estimated that the average data storage consumed per household will grow from 464 gigabytes in 2011 to 3.3 terabytes in 2016. Not every household will have large enough storage devices to accommodate that much data, so majority of it will be hosted on the cloud. This will result in an increase in spending towards the cloud, with the studies estimating that the global market for cloud computing will see an increase from $40.7B in 2011 to more than $241 billion in 2020.

According to Forrester’s research, majority of users in 2020 will be abandoning installed programs in favor of web-based applications. The move is not purely motivated by personal preferences as the companies themselves are pushing for migration to the cloud due to the cost savings.

One of the key effects of the cloud that will benefit digital marketing is that it has provided marketers with more venues from which to approach potential customers.  It has also allowed more individuals to become potential customers. For instance, a person who is watching TV and texting on the couch used to be out of reach of digital marketers. Now, the cloud has made it possible for the same person to access his data through his phone and his TV without even leaving the couch. There’s no need for complicated user interfaces or servers. The person is also more likely to access the Internet simply because it is now possible, making him more accessible to digital marketers.

Here are 3 reasons why marketers are migrating to the cloud:

  1. Multi-device support – with the cloud, marketers no longer need to worry about hard drives or other local storages as their files can be accessed and shared over the Internet using any internet-capable device they have on hand.
  2. Security – Security is no longer an issue with the cloud, as large and established companies have started entering the market, bringing with them their expertise and skills with regard to safeguarding the security of their customers. Additionally, marketers, no longer have to worry about losing data to a hard drive crash or acts of god, as cloud service providers have off-site backups, which means it’s almost impossible to lose data completely.
  3. Low Cost – the real crowning jewel of cloud computing technology is its cost efficiency. There’s no need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on setting up an infrastructure as a web enabled device and internet access is all that’s needed to get a cloud based system up and running.  as a web enabled device and internet access is all that’s needed to get a cloud based system up and running.

So, working with the cloud can lead to better marketing, more options, more security and best of all – more money!
Talk to the pros at Techno Advantage today to learn more about cloud computing solutions for your business.

The Cloud Explained Part II – Public vs Private

22 Sep 14
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Cloud computing comes in three major forms: public clouds, private clouds, and hybrids clouds. Depending on the type of data you’re working with, you’ll want to compare public, private, and hybrid clouds in terms of the different levels of security and management required.

Private cloud

Private cloud is operated solely for a single organization, whether managed internally or by a third-party.  It can be hosted either internally or externally.  Undertaking a private cloud project requires a significant level of engagement and requires the organization to reevaluate decisions about existing resources. When done right, it can improve your business, but every step in the project raises security issues that must be addressed to prevent serious vulnerabilities. Self-run data centers can be expensive and have a significant physical footprint, requiring space, hardware, and environmental controls. These assets have to be refreshed periodically, resulting in additional expense.

On the other hand, there are compelling reasons why enterprises may choose a private cloud.  A private cloud can be customized to fit their unique requirements and security can be optimized to address legal compliance issues such as HIPAA.

Public cloud

A cloud is called a “public cloud” when the services are rendered over a network that is open for public use. Public cloud services may be free or offered on a pay-per-usage model.  Technically there may be little or no difference between public and private cloud architecture, however, the security consideration may be substantially different.   Generally, public cloud service providers like Amazon AWS, Microsoft and Google own and operate the infrastructure at their data center and access is generally via the Internet.  A few drawbacks of the public cloud are that you sacrifice a degree of security and you have no control over hardware performance.

Hybrid cloud

Gartner, Inc. defines a hybrid cloud service as a cloud computing service that is composed of some combination of private, public and community cloud services, from different service providers.   It allows one to extend either the capacity or the capability of a cloud service, by aggregation, integration or customization with another cloud service.

For example, an organization may store sensitive client data in-house on a private cloud application, but interconnect that application to a business intelligence application provided on a public cloud as a software service.

If security and privacy issues are a concern for your business, and you don’t want to build your own private cloud, a hybrid cloud system, your own gated community within the public cloud universe may be an option.

Stay tuned to the Techno Advantage blog for more helpful articles on cloud computing.

Have questions?  Contact a Techno Advantage team member today!

The Cloud Explained – A Blog Series

08 Sep 14
lverbik
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Have you ever wondered….just what is cloud computing anyway?

According to Wikipedia, cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet). Clouds can be classified as public, private or hybrid.

Cloud computing, or in simpler shorthand just “the cloud”, focuses on maximizing the effectiveness of shared resources.  Cloud resources are usually not only shared by multiple users but are also dynamically reallocated based on demand.  This approach should maximize the use of computing power thus reducing environmental damage as well since less power, air conditioning, rackspace, etc. are required for a variety of functions. With cloud computing, multiple users can access a single server to retrieve and update their data without purchasing licenses for different applications.

Fans of cloud computing claim that it allows companies to avoid upfront infrastructure costs, and focus on projects that differentiate their businesses instead of on infrastructure.  Cloud computing allows enterprises to get their applications up and running faster, with improved manageability and less maintenance.

 

Is a move to the cloud right for you?  The term “moving to cloud” refers to an organization moving away from a traditional capital expenditure (CAPEX) model in which you buy the dedicated hardware and depreciate it over a period of time to the operational expenditure (OPEX) model which uses a shared cloud infrastructure and you pay as you use it.  Follow this link to learn more about the differences between CAPEX vs OPEX. http://www.diffen.com/difference/Capex_vs_Opex

The cloud can also help to protect your data as a back-up solution.  Each day, we create vast amounts of digital content—photos, videos, music, and documents—all of which is just a hard drive crash away from obliteration. Other data-ending events threaten, as well: You could be the victim of a fire or flood, or you may just delete data unintentionally.  But a cloud based backup service offers the advantage of securely storing your files at off-site server locations. This way, your data stays intact and available even if your local disks are stolen or your premises are hit by damage.

Did you know that Techno Advantage offers cloud back-up solutions?  Contact a Techno Pro today for more information.  Keep watching the blog for more great information on cloud computing.

 

Share your thoughts on cloud computing with us.  Love it, not sure, scared to death…we want to hear from you!