The Model for a Successful Enterprise Today Includes Embracing the Cloud

Enterprises gain agility and the ability to scale up and down with an investment in the cloud.Enterprises of the 20th century were accustomed to housing their infrastructure onsite, managing all aspects of IT and navigating changes in the market gradually. As cloud solutions become more widespread, it will help level the playing field and allow smaller, more agile companies to edge out bigger, lumbering enterprises.

CIOs are seeing the benefits of paying a subscription fee rather than investing in a big hardware spend. The frequent updates and advances in software applications mean that cloud solutions make sense for enterprises that want to stay competitive both in efficiency and in the customer experience.

Scalability is leveling the playing field. It used to be that only the biggest enterprises could enjoy the advantages of the best software, but subscriptions make it easy for small- and mid-size companies to access the same tools large enterprises are using. For any size business, subscriptions make a team more agile, able to scale up or down based on changes in the marketplace.

Enterprises — the finance department, in particular — love the subscription model of cloud options because the investment can be categorized as an operational expense, rather than a capital investment. The ability to scale up or down also lowers the fixed costs of the enterprise and makes it easier to adjust spending to accommodate demand.

Everything as a Service (XaaS) is now an option. While Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) have been in use for a long time, the growing service industry is also allowing for the growth of other service areas, including security management and managed services. The XaaS mindset is dominating conversations about digital transformation as executives weigh the benefits of housing more of their IT management with service providers.

The service economy has plenty of room for growth. The market is just entering a shift from “procure and maintain” to a full-service economy. Enterprises are embarking on plans to embrace XaaS models of completing business processes, but there is a lot of opportunity for service providers to capture growth in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Big Data analytics.

The shift to the service economy is evident across a variety of industries. Examples like car-sharing or pay-by-the-hour jet rental can be compared with companies in the financial arena sharing data management services.

If you’d like to capture new opportunities in the service economy, Focal Solutionscan help you. When you choose Focal Solutions as your trusted telecom partner, you are choosing to extend the range and value of your own IT team. Contact us today to learn more.

Staying Safe When Utilizing Cloud Storage

CloudWhen it comes to data storage, many enterprises are finding better accessibility and cost savings in the cloud compared to on-site servers. If you have yet to make that move, it’s likely one of your chief concerns is the safety of your data. If so, you’re not alone.

Safety and security are the top talking points for those who haven’t embraced cloud-based solutions. However, large cloud providers are extremely vigilant when it comes to security. The resources available to large providers far exceed what even medium-sized organizations are able to produce on their own, making cloud options even more secure than keeping things in-house.

One area that still remains a challenge with security is that encrypted storage isn’t 100% impervious to attack, especially if drive-based encryption is used, and there is evidence that automatic encryption practices can be vulnerable to attack. Encrypting a server with a custom key set is the way around this issue. What other ways can you protect your data?

Protect Against Damage and Deletion
If you’ve taken every step to fully encrypt your data, it’s still vulnerable to damage or deletion if hardware failure occurs. Bad software and malicious operators can also make your data vulnerable.

If you move data to an area where it can’t be compromised, you will ensure your data is more secure. Protect data from exposure through frequent backups and by making offline copies.

Be Diligent About Management
Make sure you’re partnering with a data center that doesn’t have chaotic data management practices. They should be experts at managing partial datasets and trash. Critical files should never be allowed in low-security areas, and they should practice a metadata-driven approach that offers greater control.

Be Careful of Your Insiders
Did you know the majority of data losses have been at the hand of an insider? These are people whom you’re trusting with your data. Protect yourself by using multi-factor authentication. This may seem like too much of a time investment, but it’s not as much as the time lost in the wake of a data breach.

Human error is also a cause of data loss. Know the common mistakes and develop a strategy for when they occur in order to remain proactive rather than reactive.

At Focal Solutions, we invest in our clients by offering comprehensive solutions. For cloud services, our clients have confidence in our data center solutions and disaster recovery strategies. Contact us today and find out how seriously we take the safety of your data.

The Cloud Provides Storage Solutions for Cold Data

CloudThe cloud is gaining momentum as a storage solution for companies realizing the limitations involved with flash memory. In fact, a survey of IT directors by TechTarget indicates that 48 percent of companies plan to integrate cloud storage as a priority for 2017.

The cloud provides higher capacity storage at a lower cost, but there are other benefits, too. It gives a company flexibility and agility and is scalable for growing businesses. IT professionals appreciate the ability to keep security and updates off-site and focus on infrastructure and technology management.

Cloud solutions are great for start-ups or small- to mid-size businesses that may have limited IT resources or that aren’t sure about their growth trajectory in the near future. Here are some things you need to know before using cloud storage:

Storage for cold data: One of the great uses for cloud storage platforms is managing cold data. This refers to items that you don’t need to access on a regular basis, but are required to store for taxes, regulatory requirements, or to meet company standards. Cloud storage is a great way to keep these records in a low-cost platform.

Surprises on the bill: While you’ll appreciate the cost savings associated with cloud storage, be aware of how different items in that storage affect your costs. For instance, if you’re storing images or video that require a lot of bandwidth, don’t be surprised if doing so has a negative impact on your bill.

New gatekeepers in development: There’s promising technology being developed that may offer a type of gatekeeper for cold data being stored on the cloud. This function would monitor the movement of data, determining which items need a higher level of performance and which can be moved to a slower-moving, lower-powered area.

Experts estimate that 90 percent of data accessed on the cloud is less than one year old, leaving a wealth of data available for long-term, low performance storage. As companies increasingly gather cold data, it’s going to become more important to find low-cost ways to store it, and the cloud appears to be the most viable solution.

As the cloud develops, complementary technologies are expected to develop as well, providing ways for automation to keep costs under control while managing increasing amounts of data.

When it’s time to make a decision about cloud storage, don’t simply hire another vendor that will provide a cloud solution. Choose Focal Solutions. We don’t just deliver a service. Instead, we consider ourselves to be part of your team, invested in your growth and dedicated to helping you choose the best options for your company in all areas of telecom deployment.

 

CIOs Debate Cloud Strategy

Cloud SecurityEnterprise computing systems have traditionally comprised servers, storage, and networking devices that came from different companies. Many times those products have depended on other technology for performance and have been discounted in package deals. A similar model is emerging from the cloud as CIOs debate the best systems for structuring multiple vendors in their cloud strategy.

Single vs Multi-vendor Cloud Platforms

CIOs are trying decide if they should move toward single or multi-vendor cloud platforms. One idea is to split computing workloads between vendors, since using multiple platforms is costly and takes up resources. The problem with this model is that it means slowing down work, such as training people twice.

Many times it’s more efficient to work with one vendor. CIOs are looking for a single cloud platform that’s more affordable and offers sensible scalability and security without a vendor lock-in agreement — a package that is hard to find. While CIOs are seeking to avoid lock-ins, they will likely have to deal with them since that’s the direction the cloud is moving. At the moment many CIOs are deciding between platforms such as AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Another one of the major challenges that CIOs are facing in determining a cloud strategy is deciding between leaving data centers behind or approaching the growing market for sharing workloads between data centers and the public cloud.

Cloud Flexibility

Moving from one cloud provider to another is usually not a big issue unless custom services are initiated, which creates dependencies within the original cloud structure. If an app is dependent on the vendor’s domain name and connection with a relational database, it can pose a challenge for moving to a new provider. Otherwise, moving an app from one provider to another is simple.

Dependence on specialized cloud services is tied to how much one uses them. CIOs must decide between standardizing an app for cost and efficiency and creating a more outside the box solution that yields better performance.

Businesses might benefit by starting with a few different cloud partners to gauge quality and scalability. It’s best to test a cloud solution before agreeing to a long-term commitment. Ultimately, creating the right application architecture is the key to CIOs meeting their goals in the cloud.

Conclusion

CIOs need to establish appropriate policies and frameworks to oversee an effective cloud strategy. In recent years they have experimented with huge cloud platforms such as AWS and Azure to test scalability and cloud efficiency. CIOs must weigh the costs and productivity involved with using single or multiple vendor platforms.

Addressing BYOD Challenges Using the Cloud

Cloud, BYODBring your own device (BYOD) policies are on the rise, and not just at startups: recent surveys have shown that over 70% of organizations either have a BYOD policy in place or are planning to introduce one. The benefits, from lower hardware costs to increased employee satisfaction, are clear. Unfortunately, so are the drawbacks – increased IT support costs and heightened security concerns among them. One surprising answer to these concerns may be cloud computing.

 

The Challenges of BYOD

BYOD policies buy flexibility on the employees’ end with a decrease in centralization and standardization on the company’s. Employees may choose to do their work from different devices (such as computers, smartphones, and tablets), on different operating systems, and from different locations. This may include accessing company data from unsecured networks and using devices or browsers with security issues or ones that aren’t compatible with file types used. This increases the burden on a company’s IT department, as they may need to become fluent in supporting a number of different platforms.

 

Cloud Computing’s Answer

While cloud computing may seem like a step away from controlling company data and employee access, it actually allows a company to add a layer of abstraction between employee devices and company resources. This layer can then be optimized for security and access.

Moving documents to the cloud, for example, allows the cloud-based service to enforce its own access protocols, and may also allow for more sophisticated locking, check-in/check-out procedures, and version tracking/control. Cloud services may offer two-factor authentication and other protocols for access management. And if an employee’s device should be stolen, having documents in the cloud – rather than allowing local copies to be kept on the user’s device – mitigates the risk.

Cloud computing can also be made more secure by mandating the use of certain policies and tools:

  • DNS firewalls. Part of the appeal of BYOD policies is the ability to work from outside a company office, whether at an out-of-state conference or a local coffee shop. But these unsecured hotspots may be attractive targets for opportunistic hackers. DNS firewalls, so long as they’re kept up-to-date with accurate threat data, can safeguard activity on unsecured networks.
  • Standardized software. Even if the devices show startling diversity, the software run on them doesn’t need to. Employees can be required to access company resources using certain applications on their devices, or even to use Software as a Service cloud applications. This narrows the scope of what IT needs to keep an eye on.
  • Requiring appropriate devices. A BYOD policy doesn’t have to mean that anything goes. A company can meet employees halfway by allowing them to use one of a variety of devices – so long as those devices meet minimum hardware and OS requirements, or come from a pre-approved list. Options available could be validated by IT departments to ensure that they are free of major security vulnerabilities.

 

Implementing BYOD

There’s no one-size-fits-all BYOD implementation, and cloud computing isn’t the only tool available. To learn more about the perils and payoffs of BYOD, contact us today.

Cloud Considerations

The cloud has evolved in recent years from being just a buzz word to becoming a game-changer and equalizer. Small businesses (SMBs) to large corporations can become more scalable and agile than ever before, allowing them to cater to their customers’ ever-growing needs without having to spend a lot.

Cloud Spending

According to analyst group IDC, IT infrastructure spending growth will reach $38.2 billion for cloud environments this year. Private cloud spending gets 11% of that amount, a close second to public cloud’s 14%. Though enterprises are quick to recognize the cloud’s many capabilities, they still prefer to invest in their own data centers, or at the very least, in hybrid cloud strategies.

The reasoning behind this boiled down to security. As business processes are moving to the cloud, protection from data threats over the internet is more important than ever before. Further, some business processes are simply not ready for transitioning to the cloud for a variety of reasons, including compliance, data sovereignty, or legal limitations.

Cloud Implementation

Security, though still a priority, is no longer the topmost concern of enterprises when transitioning to the cloud. Nowadays, the problem they face is the not having enough resources to successfully implement such a transition.

For public clouds, connection can be established via the data center cloud exchange model. But this can be an inconvenient setup because of the presence of an exchange data center through which an enterprise has to cross-connect. The added step makes the whole operation tedious. Thus, the easier option is for an enterprise to use their own WAN to establish their private cloud. Without the need for an exchange data center acting as a middle man, there are fewer assets to manage, and, therefore, bigger savings to look forward to.

At the same time, it makes access to infrastructure much faster, too. Based on the 2016 State of the Cloud Report by RightScale, 62% of survey respondents consider speed as the top advantage of the cloud.

When speed is of the essence, it’s best for enterprises to look for providers who can make the adjustments for them and bring the cloud to them, and not the other way around.

Choosing the Right Cloud Technologies

shutterstock_343063568smFinding the right cloud technologies for an enterprise does not have to be difficult. There are several ways to choose cloud solutions that fit the needs of any business. With a little legwork and research, clients can avoid frustration and time-consuming searches for affordable providers. Following are a few considerations to keep in mind when selecting a vendor to meet company needs.

 

The Benefits of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing can help new or existing companies in many ways. In fact, businesses of all sizes are adopting cloud services to improve efficiency. Cloud computing offers ample storage for documents. It also:

  • enhances profit margins and reduces overhead costs;
  • streamlines and centralizes business communications and processes; and
  • reduces operational expenses by eliminating the need for outdated and bulky business servers.

What Exactly Is Cloud Computing?

The term “cloud computing” originates from the cloud-like shape used to showcase network computing environments. These usually consist of hardware, storage, networks, and services that are all intertwined to secure comprehensive and cohesive platforms. Other definitions for cloud computing include:

  • Unified digital platforms that deliver software, services, and computing infrastructure via the Internet.
  • Digital environments that allow users to share resources, applications, and documents via remote servers on Internet browsers.
  • Third party IT services that help businesses reduce operational costs, improve efficiency, and maximize profit margins.

​Vendor Selection

There are several companies that cater to businesses of all sizes with cloud-computing services. But while they stay abreast of all the latest industry developments and changes, not all are sincere in offering reliable and genuine services. When looking for an affordable and reputable provider, it is important to keep the following in mind.

Tech Support. It is vital to determine which IT support services are offered by different cloud computing companies. Further, service providers must be able to correlate with their clients’ business operation hours, which may include weekends, holidays, and any other times beyond normal office hours. This is essential in preventing downtime during routine server maintenance and monitoring. Tech support must also be designed to resolve any existing or pending issues, and agents have to be knowledgeable in meeting concerns.

Service Agreements. Service contracts are paramount. Be sure to check every term and condition, and read the fine print before signing on the dotted line. Most cloud computing agreements include:

  • services offered, response time, server monitoring, and emergencies;
  • limitations on server capability or access due to downtime and maintenance; and
  • packages that are geared towards meeting specific client needs and business requirements.

For clients that need customized cloud servers or special needs, this should be discussed in great detail before any contract is signed. Since the market is blanketed by countless vendors, customers can easily find the right providers to meet all of their company goals and objectives.

5 Obstacles Preventing Cloud Adoption

shutterstock_202968400Cloud adoption continues to increase in businesses across numerous industries. Despite this, many companies still have concerns regarding certain aspects of the service. Following are five of the barriers that cause businesses to be hesitant to adopt the cloud. Fortunately, companies can easily overcome these obstacles to successfully transition to cloud technology.

 

1. Budget and Expenses

When it comes to the cloud, businesses want reassurance that they will get what they need at an affordable price. Thankfully, many cloud providers offer flexible pricing and fixed monthly fees for customized packages that have the specific features customers desire. With the right company, there are no hidden fees to deter businesses from adopting cloud technology.

2. Security

Many companies are unsure whether it is safe to keep data stored in the cloud. To convince companies that cloud services provide the security businesses want, service providers should explain their security offerings in-depth. Good providers will offer plans that allow for effective data recovery as well as intrusion prevention.

3. Support from Upper-Level Management

While a knowledgeable IT team may be on board with the idea of switching to cloud data storage and management services, upper-level management may require additional convincing. Service providers should make the benefits of integrating cloud technology as clear as possible for clients, providing assurance that they are in good hands and receiving high-quality services.

4. Lack of IT Personnel

Another potential deal breaker is the lack of trained IT personnel working with the client. An IT team that is too small can hinder, to a degree, the ability to adopt cloud solutions. To avoid complications, service providers should gauge how much work they’ll need to do for their clients, and determine how they can help with cloud implementation without making clients pay additional unwanted expenses.

5. Lack of Trust in the Solutions

Certain businesses that have been using traditional data storage solutions may be reluctant to try something new, for fear of unreliability. The best way to eliminate these concerns is to effectively demonstrate the value of switching to cloud services. Providers should detail all of the benefits, including efficiency, flexibility, overall savings, and more. Reassuring the client of the long term benefits associated with cloud implementation can make the transition much more comfortable.

If service providers keep these potential obstacles in mind when attempting to sell cloud services, they will find it much easier to convince prospective clients that cloud technology is worth adopting. Service providers that offer effective and cost-efficient solutions can convince clients that cloud technology comes with sufficient security and control, at reasonable costs.

Getting Ready for the Future of Cloud Technology

shutterstock_97642988Cloud technology is constantly evolving, giving enterprises the ability to make business operations more efficient than they’ve ever been. Employees working on opposite ends of the globe can communicate effortlessly with each other. Recent developments in cloud services have ultimately improved overall productivity in the workplace, providing high-performance platforms for many different types of business operations. As this technology continues to develop over time, it’s important for businesses to prepare for the upcoming changes.

Following are some of the developments most likely to come to fruition as the cloud evolves.

The Importance of Hybrid Cloud

Because of its customizability, one development that should remain relevant in the near future is hybrid cloud technology. The hybrid cloud meets the requirements of a wide range of businesses and allows for multiple private line carriers to connect to data centers at once. The flexibility of this technology means that enterprises are likely to continue to use it in the years to come.

Security Developments

While cloud service security isn’t as much of a concern as it has been in the past, there are still many security risks that can severely compromise networks. Security companies are continually developing better ways to maintain effective protection against new risks that can result in data leakage and other problems. One of the biggest changes in security is the development of software-defined systems, which stems from the ability to define storage systems, networks, and other elements located on servers in the form of software.

Security is equally important for employees and cloud service providers. Company employees can each have their own logins and other identifying credentials integrated into systems to prevent unauthorized access, preventing the exploitation of private data. These newer security developments will help further protect sensitive company data and provide reassurance for employees and business owners.

Improved Network Support

In order to stay up to date with cloud technology and other aspects of its network, it’s important for a company to have access to necessary information and updates. This will allow a business to further increase productivity while reducing overall expenses. Unfortunately, without the right network support, businesses can’t take advantage of these potential updates. Businesses should make sure their wide area network (WAN) is capable of providing this support.

Without proper support, issues such as decreased performance due to heavy network traffic could remain problematic. Companies should prepare for any potential risk of decreased efficiency and other issues by ensuring that their network is fully supported at all times.

These are some of the many ways that businesses need to prepare for the future of cloud technology. More and more companies are beginning to fully realize the necessity of this technology in their business operations. In order to get the most out of available technology, it’s necessary for enterprises to keep up with trends, receive the proper support, and update security measures as the landscape changes.

5 Reasons to Use Cloud Analytics for Big Data

shutterstock_287821127Many businesses find it hard to consider using cloud analytics with big data because of all the news about data breaches, data availability, converting costs, and return on investments.

However, these same points are the reasons for converting to the cloud for analytics. Not only is it economical and more secure than a private data center, it is easier to use over diverse locations. In addition, cloud providers have the infrastructure to offer faster access to data.

 
Security of cloud data

Cloud providers have the personnel available to patch servers and software and provide 24/7 security from hackers. Using state-of-the-art security measures and infrastructure, they provide security monitoring and assess threats in real time.

Highly available data

Cloud analytics with big data is the focus of all service providers today. By optimizing networks and using superior technology, any employee or department can assess data at faster speeds than most organizations.

Easy transition

Cloud analytics offer scalability, flexibility, and a wide variety of data storage and analytics as compared to traditional software. Businesses can add licenses and increase their use as the business grows without any upfront buy-ins.

Easy to use

Speed and ease of use are top concerns for organizations. In fact, ​a recentEnterprise Management Associates survey of more than 250 businesses noted that speed was one of three top factors for using cloud analytics. In addition to speed, businesses can get actionable information to help improve performance, increase profits, and find the best way to progress.

Value added

Businesses do not have to purchase software and hardware to house their own private data cloud, and they also get upgrades, knowledgeable staff, and 24/7 support when needed. Being able to get help when needed and having staff available who can answer questions may in itself be enough to convert most.

Cloud analytics has become an easy transition for many businesses looking to secure data and gain fast and easy access to it anytime, anywhere. For many businesses, it frees up resources and is financially feasible. Many of the commonly voiced issues regarding cloud analytics are debunked by statistics that show that cloud is here to stay.