WHAT ARE CLOUD SERVICES?
Businesses are looking more and more to the convenience and reliability of Cloud technology; services delivered seamlessly over the internet. Headstart IT Solutions have experience assessing, advising and installing Cloud computing packages for businesses in Greenwich, throughout southeast London and further afield. Almost all of your business needs can be delivered via the cloud, and software vendors are increasingly offering a variety of applications by this means.
WHY ‘THE CLOUD’?
Inspired by the symbol often used to represent the internet, the Cloud can provide immediate, scalable access to computing resources and IT services. Cloud computing refers to the storage of data or provision of services from servers hosted in data centres.
WHY USE THE CLOUD
If you use DropBox, SharePoint, Azure AD, OneDrive or Google Drive you are already using cloud storage – allowing users to securely share and sync files across multiple devices. You might also be using a cloud backup solution such as Acronis Veeam or Datto. In addition, there is the option of a cloud hosting service; whereas a typical server-based service will require physical space to accommodate your requirements, a cloud-based hosting option uses virtual space, giving you the flexibility to alter your requirements and, crucially, only charging for the services you need, when you need them.
WHAT WILL THE CLOUD DO FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Migrating [IT operations] to the cloud will help companies lower their operating costs and provides secure, up-to-date IT set-ups with an increased level of flexibility.
CLOUD VS LOCAL
If you have more complex IT needs, there can be challenges such as security and connectivity to overcome. Our cloud services and cloud hosting solutions make the move simple and worry-free. Our Greenwich-based engineers will help you to identify, install and manage cloud solutions to simplify tasks, maximise performance, reach the required level of security and get the most out of your IT budget.
We work with many different types of organisations. If you have considered migrating to a cloud based system – or even if you haven’t – we can help you find the best system for you. We’ll arrange a consultation to assess your needs and advise on a solution. We’ll manage the migration and maintain your setup to ensure you get the best for your business.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
3 main categories of cloud computing (IaaS, PaaS + SaaS) – with varying degrees of management falling to you and your business.
IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-service) where you rent computing, storage and networking services from a provider such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Compute.
You have responsibility for the operating system and any data but it’s run on a system provided by a third party (data centre) leaving you with no maintenance requirements for hardware.
PaaS (Platform as a Service) where you acquire application development platforms and tools from a provider, via an internet connection. Allows you to develop, run and manage your own custom applications for use by all in the company but without any of the upkeep of hardware, or need for operating system updates.
SaaS (Software as a Service) The most comprehensive form of cloud computing – essentially renting an application and accessing it over the internet, seen, for example in Microsoft 365 hosted Exchange and SharePoint, Google Workspace and Salesforce.
Microsoft Teams [a chat-based collaboration platform] was built for the cloud using Azure and other Microsoft technology. Teams uses OneDrive and SharePoint as its default cloud storage option. As the name implies, Teams facilitates interaction between colleagues using ‘channels’ (conversation boards). Services include a chat function – between individuals, groups or whole departments – as well as document storage and sharing facilities and online meetings and audio conferencing.
Microsoft SharePoint is a suite of services – enabling users to create websites, intranet sites, document libraries and lists. The most commonly used function is providing the organisation, storage and sharing of information across devices and managing your daily routine using workflows, forms and lists. This cloud-based service allows businesses to subscribe to the services they need without the need to install a SharePoint server on the premises.
Sharing and collaboration app OneDrive is another cloud-based service; allowing you access to your files across devices and across systems. The word OneDrive is used to describe the personal storage location for files, and also the service which synchronises personal and SharePoint files between local devices and cloud storage.
Tailored services, specific to your industry, providing cloud-based alternatives for applications that were historically based on a server or workstation. Again, using a cloud-based solution allows you the flexibility to dip in and out of different apps and programmes as needs arise, increasing and decreasing subscription numbers with the ebb and flow of your business.
If you are looking for email hosting, we recommend Microsoft Exchange Online, part of Microsoft 365. Secure, accessible, reliable and user-friendly. In contrast with Exchange On-Premises, the online option allows you the flexibility to pay for the number of licences you need and alter it as your needs change.
Azure is a private and public cloud computing platform targeted at enterprises and including products and services to help you solve challenges.
Solutions include IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, offering analytics, virtual computing, storage, networking and more. Allows you to make your app accessible across the internet. Azure boasts many data centres across the world. 18 categories, more than 200 services; compute, IoT, Migration, analytics, AI and machine learning, integration, management tools. You can create an app within the cloud using the virtual machine. Azure can manage the creation, management and deployment of the app.
(SaaS) A cloud-powered productivity platform [online portal], using apps such as MS Teams, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneDrive, SharePoint, Exchange online and more; hosted online to allow greater flexibility and security. Your subscription – payable on a monthly or yearly basis- allows you access to a constantly up-to-date version – accessible on all devices across your organisation – and includes email hosting and cloud storage space.
ONLINE BACKUP FOR 365
It’s important to note that although Microsoft have a lot of redundancy built into their hosted services, Microsoft recommend using a third party provider to back up your data.
To minimise the risk of losing data, improve recovery time, allow longer retention and maintain control over your company’s 365 mailboxes and files, we’ll implement a reliable cloud-to-cloud back up service such as Acronis at low cost.
An essential tool in your cyber security armoury, email filtering is software capable of analysing incoming emails and moving anything it deems questionable to a “quarantine” folder and removing malware laden emails.
DNS or Domain Name System filtering helps to pick up any potentially harmful websites by passing your web data through a DNS filtering company, keeping company data and infrastructure secure.
2FA – or two factor authentication – is a security system requiring two forms of identification in order to access a resource or data.
Conditional access is a system whereby a user must meet certain requirements (device they are using, location where they are based, software they are using etc) in order to gain access.
TYPES OF CLOUD COMPUTING
There are several types of cloud computing. We’ll work with you to find the best option for you and your business, but here is a bit of background to show you how they compare:
Public – The option to access an entire IT infrastructure – readily available computing resource ranging from individual virtual machines to entire infrastructure and development platforms – provided and hosted by a third party in a remote data centre – essentially you are outsourcing to a specialist a role which might not be your speciality. By their nature, public cloud providers will be hosting many businesses, running on shared servers at the same time. The provider will be responsible for the maintenance, leaving you free to manage your business. In addition to the hardware and infrastructure, the provider will offer managed services such as database servers, apps and security systems for rent, simplifying the set up and management of your IT requirement.
Leading providers include; Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure (although there are others). Public cloud services are convenient and flexible and offer the benefit of scaling your requirements to suit your needs from one month to the next. There is no responsibility for installing and maintaining the hardware and physical components. Cloud vendors guarantee data centres are fully up-to-date.
Private – solely dedicated to single user or group, often at your own premises, using your own hardware. Single isolated access determines that a cloud is ‘private’, used only by you, and the benefit is that it can be fully controlled by you and be tailored to your individual requirements, allowing you to comply with strict regulatory requirements and manage professional confidentiality whilst realising the benefits of cloud computing. Secure in that all data and resource is kept inside your own security boundary but that security is down to you to uphold and update.
Hybrid – a combination of public and private elements, connected securely over the internet by VPN (virtual private network) or hosted on your premises. Can allow additional space on public cloud if you are running short on your private cloud network. Can be cost-effective way for businesses to increase computer capacity on demand whilst still utilising the already paid for on-premise resource. Or to migrate from private to public.
Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform + IBM Cloud and Oracle; We have many years of experience in researching, exploring and migrating to cloud services, as well as being a licensed reseller for Microsoft 365. We keep up to date with all the options so we can advise our clients which solution is most suitable for them, implement it and provide ongoing support. We will work with you to identify what your business needs and find a solution.
Once you move to a cloud-based solution you won’t look back!
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