Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing2020-07-29T12:37:12+00:00

Cloud and on-premise

Technology has advanced to the point that Cloud Technology is deployed universally, both on-premises and off, reducing operational costs significantly. It’s a solid but not the only choice.

Cloud Computing

Is the Cloud for me?

In actuality, transitioning your network into the cloud with your current functions, permissions and accessibility generally ends up costing around the same amount as an on-site network amortized over time. Of course, capital expenses are shifted to predictable, monthly, operational expenses, which is infinitely helpful. The true value, however, comes from transferring the risk of hardware failure to your cloud provider. So what are the other advantages of cloud?

  • Flexibility: Cloud-based services are ideal for businesses with growing or fluctuating bandwidth demands. If your needs increase it’s easy to scale up your cloud capacity, drawing on the service’s remote servers. Likewise, if you need to scale down again, the flexibility is baked into the service. This level of agility can give businesses using cloud computing a real advantage over competitors – it’s not surprising that CIOs and IT Directors rank ‘operational agility’ as a top driver for cloud adoption.

  • Disaster recovery: Businesses of all sizes should be investing in robust disaster recovery, but for smaller businesses that lack the required cash and expertise, this is often more an ideal than the reality. Cloud is now helping more organizations buck that trend. According to Aberdeen Group, small businesses are twice as likely as larger companies to have implemented cloud-based backup and recovery solutions that save time, avoid large up-front investment and roll up third-party expertise as part of the deal.

  • Capital-expenditure Free: Cloud computing cuts out the high cost of hardware. You simply pay as you go and enjoy a subscription-based model that’s kind to your cash flow. Add to that the ease of setup and management and suddenly your scary, hairy IT project looks at lot friendlier. It’s never been easier to take the first step to cloud adoption.

  • Work from anywhere: With cloud computing, if you’ve got an internet connection you can be at work. And with most serious cloud services offering mobile apps, you’re not restricted by which device you’ve got to hand.

  • Security: Lost laptops are a billion dollar business problem. And potentially greater than the loss of an expensive piece of kit is the loss of the sensitive data inside it. Cloud computing gives you greater security when this happens. Because your data is stored in the cloud, you can access it no matter what happens to your machine. And you can even remotely wipe data from lost laptops so it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

  • Document control: The more employees and partners collaborate on documents, the greater the need for watertight document control. Before the cloud, workers had to send files back and forth as email attachments to be worked on by one user at a time. Sooner or later – usually sooner – you end up with a mess of conflicting file content, formats and titles.  When you make the move to cloud computing, all files are stored centrally and everyone sees one version of the truth. Greater visibility means improved collaboration, which ultimately means better work and a healthier bottom line. If you’re still relying on the old way, it could be time to try something a little more streamlined.

  • Competitiveness: Wish there was a simple step you could take to become more competitive? Moving to the cloud gives access to enterprise-class technology, for everyone. It also allows smaller businesses to act faster than big, established competitors. Pay-as-you-go service and cloud business applications mean small outfits can run with the big boys, and disrupt the market, while remaining lean and nimble. David now packs a Goliath-sized punch.

Cloud Computing

So why would anyone have a server on-premise?

For small business it’s very important to decide carefully after weighing both the pros and cons to choose an MSP and a solution that is right fit for them. For small business, cloud computing offers a number of attractive benefits. With the pay as you go model there are no large, upfront investments in hardware or software licenses so your IT costs will be significantly reduced in the short term. While the incremental, scalable, metered nature of the cloud has a lot going for it, a cloud solution is not necessarily the only answer. Every business has different needs. There are quite a few good reasons you might want to own and run your own physical server out of your office. Please contact us and we’ll walk you through all the benefits of each tailored to your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Two-Factor Authentication2020-07-29T13:19:20+00:00

Two-Factor Authentication requires an end-user provide a password and a code from a physical device. The term Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) has taken the place of two-factor authentication, simply because the technology deployed initially  for two-factor authentication has evolved, such that the implementation has become much broader than the initial systems for two-factor authentication, while retaining the requirement of authenticating with both something memorized and something obtained from a physical device.

Office 365 – I can really toss my on-premises server?2020-07-22T16:27:24+00:00

With a smile!

Truly – for the needs of most small business, Office 365 services, including Azure AD (Active Directory) can provide all of the network services that have been provided traditionally by the on-premises office server.

There are office applications that are well known to not work well over the Internet or other WAN. Accounting programs are a widely used example. The transition by software companies to SaaS hosted solutions is widespread – it is highly likely that any software package that your company is currently using is now available as a cloud hosted service.

That leaves the networking services – DNS for name resolution, DHCP for automatic network configuration of computers attached to the network. Both of these services can be provided by the local Internet router or firewall present on the company network.

It follows, then, that the old on-premises server can be tossed following migration to cloud hosted services, including Office 365.

 

Office 365 service – what about backup?2020-07-22T16:19:57+00:00

Office 365 services, including Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, provide highly available service through redundancy of databases, replicated both locally within a Microsoft data center and between different data center locations. These mechanisms make it highly unlikely that data will ever be lost for any of these services.

Data backup is different from replication. For instance, in the event that a corrupt file is saved, that corrupt file will be faithfully replicated to all instances, replacing the previous valid copy of the file.  To be fair, both SharePoint and Exchange Online services include provisions for retrieving an older version of the corrupt file in this example. This does not get around the fact, though, that data is not backed up by Microsoft.

Third party services are widely available for backup of Office 365 services. CTP does recommend a third party backup, both for the case of retrieving a file version that cannot be retrieved from the Office 365 system, and also from the good practice of maintaining a full copy of your company’s data in more than one location – Microsoft, and the data center of the third party service.

 

Is cloud service slower?2020-07-22T16:10:12+00:00

One reason companies have justified an on-premises server is local performance – no one wants to have time to go find a cup of coffee while waiting for a file to open!

Performance will always be faster for the on-premises server – and yet many of the perceptions of local vs hosted services (LAN (Local Area Network) versus WAN (Wide Area Network) come from days when a fast ISP (Internet Service Provider) connection was 1.5Mbps (a T1 line), and often was much less. Today a typical business Internet connection is 100Mbps – the speed of the LAN not so long ago.

The question is not really fair – “is cloud service slower” – on a technical level, of course service will be slower working over the Internet. A different question might be whether performance accessing documents and information over the Internet is acceptable, or whether it is slowing down employee productivity. One perspective is that satellite offices of large companies have been operating over the WAN for many years – larger companies typically have a central data center, and do not place servers in satellite offices.

Discussion of network performance often centers around bandwidth. As important is latency – the time required for data to be received after placing the request. Years ago latency was typically in the 80 msec (MilliSecond) range – today it is generally below 14 msec. This can be the difference between waiting an inordinately long time to open or print a document, and having that operation complete in moments time.

The short answer is that performance of cloud service has been found to be excellent and highly workable for most companies over a number of years.

Where performance falls below acceptable, there are generally good options in the Boston area, including high speed fiber, coax and microwave.

 

Do I still need a firewall after moving to Office 365?2020-07-22T15:53:21+00:00

I have migrated all services from my local on-premises server to Office 365, turned off and disposed of my local server. I now access my data via secure HTTPS connections to Microsoft services. Do I still need a firewall for the company network?

CTP does recommend that all businesses operate behind a firewall, for these reasons:

  • protect all network resources from inbound Internet connections and attempts to gain control of established connections. This includes computers, and also any other IP based devices – the Internet of Things, IoT.
  • security services provided by most firewalls provide inspection of all traffic, looking for a range of problems – virus or other malware, transmission to known compromised Internet addresses, possibly disallowing from known high risk countries or locations, blocking access to known compromised web sites, and more.
  • Throughput – as part of the processing of migrating resources from a local server to cloud hosted, attention should be given to the Internet connection. It has become commonplace for business class connections to provide 100Mbps service and faster. It follows that the firewall protecting the local network should be able to support that bandwidth, rather than serving as a bottleneck at significantly lower bandwidth. And this measure of throughput should take into account the impact of security services on data throughput.
  • Availability – Having data cloud based will not help in the event that company Internet service is down. Granted employees can work from another location. However, firewalls can generally receive connections from two or more Internet Service Providers (ISP), such that Internet service remains available in the event that either of the ISPs goes down.
  • Other security services may be available – for instance decryption of TLS connections for inspection, and restriction of web sites by content type.

 

 

Where is my data?2020-07-22T15:03:16+00:00

Information stored as e-mail and file share data often makes up a significant share of the intellectual assets of a company. Said simply, loss of e-mail and file share data would be a very significant loss for many companies. In the traditional model of the past, that data was stored on a server located on-premises, backed up daily to removable media that was then stored off-site.

Moving of all company resources to a hosted cloud service is compelling from the cost standpoint. In the case of Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint Online, company data is stored in a shared database – either SQL in the case of SharePoint, or a close relative for Exchange. These databases are replicated to other servers – it is likely that Microsoft is maintaining at least four database replicas across more than one physical location.

If data of many companies is stored in a common database, how is that data kept private and secure? Here the respective platforms, Exchange and SharePoint, rely on security structures that restrict access of data to authorized accounts, and these structures are faithfully extended to all aspects of the service – the company address book, as displayed in Outlook, for instance, shows only company employees. And not to overlook, your company data can also be encrypted on either of these platforms.

Exchange and SharePoint Online are hosted services – Software as as Service – SaaS. Indeed, the model of providing a software as a cloud hosted service is not new, and has been widely adopted by business.

And so the answer is that corporate data, hosted on Exchange or SharePoint, is stored in a common database, kept private by security structures of the software, and optionally encrypted at the file or message level via a key that is unique to your company.

How does backup work?2020-07-10T18:59:10+00:00

CTP Cloud offers a backup as an option, allowing for restore of individual files or folders from a point in time. You may elect to use an alternate backup solution. All severs are replicated within the data center, as part of the basic service availability requirement, but this should not be considered a backup solution.

Who supports my employees IT needs?2020-07-10T18:58:50+00:00

CTP Cloud does offer Managed Services, which will support employees and their assigned equipment (PC, laptop, other), as well as server updates and administration. Your company can alternately choose to assign this role to an employee or other individual.

How do I save money with hosted cloud services?2020-07-10T18:58:29+00:00

1) Shared server resources;
2) High availability managed in the datacenter
3) No responsibility for hardware refreshes.

I am interested in cloud services, but leery of the major cloud service providers.2020-07-10T18:57:46+00:00

CTP Cloud is a Boston company, with datacenters in the Boston area – only. We are local, with local people and local resources.

Will my data be secure, accessible only by my company?2020-07-10T18:57:24+00:00

Yes. Server(s) of each company reside on a separate and secure network, in a Boston datacenter.

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