Intrahost gets a new look!

You may have noticed that the Intrahost website recently got a new look, with improved usability for our regular visitors. We’ve also finely tuned the site, so that it performs well and increases speeds, as well as being compatible with an array of devices. We hope you enjoy the new website; whilst you’re here, why not check out the new services we have to offer too, or even sign up as an affiliate to our improved program.

We’ve recently introduced VMware hosting, to give customers and partners even more options when it comes to cloud computing. Virtual hosting is an ideal way of cutting costs, both in terms of capital expenditure and ongoing running costs.

VMware hosting means that you can host a number of ‘virtual machines’ on one server, all running different applications and even operating systems. This means that rather than paying out for numerous servers, you can consolidate and just use one, supplied by us, with as many virtual machines as you like.

What is VMware?

VMware is the world’s leading developer of virtualisation software and supplies cloud solutions to companies of all sizes across the globe. The innovative approach taken by VMware for many years has led them to serve more than 480,000 customers and 55,000 partners.

VMware are respected industry leaders with an excellent reputation for providing robust, proven software for cloud computing.

Why choose virtualisation?

Every business needs a competitive edge these days and choosing VMware hosting can help you to achieve this. Not only does it cut costs dramatically, but it gives the opportunity to connect from anywhere, become a greener company and improve security.

For more information see the blog post on VMware.

Refreshed affiliate program

Another change we’ve made recently is making some adjustments to our popular affiliate program. Anyone with a website can join and the benefits make it worthwhile and include:

  • £10 sign-up bonus
  • Up to 35% commission
  • No set-up costs
  • Lots of banners to choose from
  • Regular payments

All that you need to do to sign up is complete a simple form, download your favourite banner and put it on your site and then login to your Intrahost account and click on the ‘affiliates’ sub-menu.

Then it’s just a simple case of finding your referral link and using this to link the banner ad from your site.

There’s nothing to lose from our program and everything to gain!

The affiliate program offers a great way to earn extra revenue, whilst not having to do any real work to earn it!

We hope you enjoy our new site and services! Please feel free to provide any feedback about the site to help us continue to improve things for you.

Reduce costs with VMware hosting

You may have noticed a new service pop up on the shiny new Intrahost site recently, the option to use VMware hosting, something that we’re very pleased to be able to offer. This means that you can now consolidate hardware and increased server usage and effectively reduce running costs. However, we know that not everyone is highly technically-minded, so we’ve put together a brief explanation of how virtualisation and VMware hosting works.

Run more than one operating system

Virtualisation works by using one physical machine, which plays host to a number of virtual machines, powered by software from VMware. This allows you to run several operating systems on one server, doing away with the need for many.

In theory, you do still have the same (or more) amount of servers, but they are software based, rather than hardware.

VMware is the world leader in virtualisation software and has been around since 1998, so it’s safe to say that the software makers are more than just a reputable company, but also an innovative one that provides proven, robust software solutions.

It’s accepted that cloud solutions offer a flexible and scalable IT environment for companies of all sizes, including small business and VMware now serve more than 480,000 customers and 55,000 partners worldwide.

When running separate operating systems and applications on virtual machines, these are kept in isolation from each other, so they are completely secure. Additionally, each machine only uses as many of the main resources as it needs.

Why do I need VMware hosting?

The obvious starting point here is that it reduces the need for a physical infrastructure and allows substantial savings to be made in capital expenditure. Virtualisation models also often work on a monthly fee, so you can also save on licenses and running costs.

Virtualisation offers the opportunity to reduce server resources substantially, increasing performance by up to six times that of your existing infrastructure. This means if you want to add more applications, or run differently configured operating systems, then you can do so without further spending.

Of course, it also reduces your current hosting costs.

Another element to choosing virtualisation and VMware is that it can offer a host of additional back-up and recovery options that are unlikely to be used in an onsite scenario.

This is especially useful for companies that have to meet compliance regulations, as many fail to put in place disaster recovery and effective backup. Data centres have this much better covered and can be a godsend in the event of an emergency, or internal security breach.

Whilst cloud computing has been slow to take off in previous years, with just 8% of worldwide organisations using it, it’s thought that this is set to accelerate rapidly in coming years due to improved security solutions.

This will reach a penetration rate of around 60% by 2017, according to technology analysts at research house Gartner.

With more office staff choosing to connect to work systems on up to four devices a week, the trend is well and truly growing now and it makes sense to consolidate servers to improve performance with this in mind.

With all of the benefits offered by virtualisation, especially the cost savings, it offers businesses a perfect opportunity to gain a competitive edge, whatever the industry.

Bored? Waste 5 minutes with Google Easter Eggs

As you probably know, Google has been laying Google Easter Eggs in its code for years. Here's a list of a few we've found. Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 12.36.40

Type these into Google search:

zerg rush

binary

bacon number [insert actor's name]

tilt

do a barrel roll

recursion

anagram

conway's game of life

and finally, the answer you've always wanted to know:

the answer to life the universe and everything

Have fun! Let us know if you know any others? Or if you know of other sites with Easter eggs hidden.

p.s. Did you spot the bug in the image above?

Top 10 Ways Cloud Servers Cut Your Business Costs

If you manage the IT needs for your business then I can guarantee you’ve had this conversation in the last two years: “Are you using the Cloud yet?” If your response is, "No" then I bet their next statement is “But why? Cloud servers are cheaper”.

Why move to cloud servers?

Cost is a big selling point of cloud servers. There are other factors but cost is the main one.

Everyone is looking to cut business costs now. Reducing budgets and streamlining has become part and parcel of what we do in business nowadays.

Yet someone just telling you that cloud servers are cheaper is not enough to make a wise person make the switch. You want to know why, and how, is it cheaper? That answer will help you decide whether the Cloud is right for your business.

Here are Intrahost’s top 10 tips for using cloud servers to cut your costs:

  1. No need for a physical server. Let’s start with the most immediate physical difference in using the Cloud. That big server that’s taking up space in the corner of your office, (or has an air-conditioned room to itself) is no longer needed. Instead you will, basically, rent a physical server owned by your Cloud vendor, in a data centre. We call this a "cloud server". You'll store or host your business data on this cloud server. You have the same access to it but you don’t need to house it. How does that save you money? Well you need less space, for a start. You could use a smaller office. As you will see later all the ancillary costs of owning your own server, for example, the current and capital costs of maintenance, repair, upgrade and replacement will disappear. Other regular monthly costs such as energy bills will fall, as will your insurance premium.
  2. Cloud servers cut down on the costs of IT staff. No one likes to let someone go. However, no one likes having to pay for staff that they don’t need. If you have IT staff that simply maintain your physical server and manage its software then you might not need to have them full-time if you move to cloud servers. Signing up to a Cloud vendor means much of your daily IT management is outsourced to the staff of the Cloud vendor and you may no longer need the current level of your IT manpower.
  3. Do you still need the same office? If you’re replacing your big physical servers with remote cloud servers, then you're reducing the demand for space and you’re also removing the need for the whole team to continue to work from the same place. If you compliment your cloud servers with hosted SharePoint or Hosted Exchange then you’re making it easier for your team to work remotely. Whether working from home or by linking up with consultants and specialists in different places you’re gradually removing the need to have everyone working from 9-5 every day under the same roof. Read our Top Ten Tips on Remote Working to find out more about the impact this could have on your business and its costs.
  4. Software as a service, or SaaS, means that you only have to pay for the applications you’re actually going to use on your cloud servers. There’s no longer any need for ‘bloatware’ or programs that will run on your computer because you bought them as a package deal but that aren’t relevant to your business. What difference does that make? It helps to reduce costs. You’re only paying for what you’re likely to use, like a pick and mix. Say you just need an email service to link all your staff together and help them to connect with calendars and shared tasks then perhaps it’s just worth you getting Hosted Exchange. You don’t get locked into a wider, all-encompassing and expensive deal.
  5. If you're using SaaS then you'll save time and money because you won't need to perform software updates! One of the most frustrating things about buying software programs is how often you need to update them. Patches, tweaks, the list goes on and it’s all time-consuming and frustrating. However if you opt for SaaS then your cloud server vendor is likely to be the one who will update the software for you, remotely. You don’t need to plan it into your time and diary as it’ll just be done and you’ll always be used the latest version of the program.
  6. If the software you’re using it updated remotely, if you only install the software you’re going to need, then it reduces the need for expensive staff training. If you’re still using a physical server at your office then you’re still relying on your IT team to monitor and manage all of your software. It’s a bit of a clunky system as it’s expensive to run and you’re cautious about investing in wholesale changes to the programs. Yet there will come a day when the software you’re using is outdated and you need to overhaul it and modernise. It won’t feel like you’ve saved much money then. The Cloud allows you to make step by step changes helping you modernise at your own pace. Small changes remove the need for an expensive investment in training.
  7. Cloud servers allow you to change your IT capability and all associated costs for no capital outlay and just a predictable monthly fee. If you’re a small to medium sized business then making a big investment in any kind of kit can feel like a big step. Say you need to invest in more processing power. It helps you to do the work you’re doing quicker and gives you more capacity for clients but at the same it might feel like an expensive step, particularly if there are other elements of your business you could do with investing in as well. Perhaps it feels like too big a risk. The Cloud offers wider possibilities. If you sign up to a cloud server, for example, you can get guaranteed CPU power, which could be more than what you already. Alternatively you could collaborate with another small business and share the investment, both renting the same amount of space on the same cloud servers but sharing the load.
  8. What do you do with the money you save using cloud servers? The opportunity to invest and increase your business with the money you save is a good one. SMEs claim that investing in cloud servers has helped them to become more flexible and streamlined. Because they have capacity, it makes it much easier for them to research and identify new opportunities to expand and grow. It might be through working with consultants who bring a particular skill and can offer you a new service, it might be that you use that extra capacity to encourage staff to come up with new and creative ideas about how they might be able to help you grow. Whatever the way you choose to do it the extra space can be used to help you develop your business, making you stronger and more sustainable.
  9. Easy and inexpensive expansion and contraction of your IT capabilities to meet resource demands. Imagine your business does start to grow and you come up with some awesome new creative ideas. Imagine your dreams come true and you start to build up momentum and people start to take notice. Say you’re on twitter and a big magazine or celebrity retweets you, directing everyone to your website. Would it make your current website crash? Being locked into an antiquated deal that doesn't understand the growth in direct and online marketing means you could be putting all of this energy into raising your profile and reaching more customers and it actually damages your brand when they can’t reach your website. A cloud server deal with Intrahost gives you metered access, meaning it doesn’t matter how many people suddenly flood to your website, they’ll all still be able to access it.
  10. Can you put a price on a happy crew? One saving you get from utilising cloud servers isn't one you can immediately put in your wallet. Cloud servers can help you give your staff much more control over how, when and where they work. When employees have more control they are undoubtedly happier. When technology becomes less of a headache and more of a useful tool then it makes the job easier for them. Happier staff are more productive staff. In the long term it’ll make your business a much nicer place to work and far more productive.

Intrahost's cloud servers are among the most stable and fastest cloud VPS servers in the UK. To learn more about cloud servers and what they can help you, click on the button below.

see your choice of UK-based cloud servers

New website coming soon

We've been secretly working on our new website since October 2012. We alway get giddy near launch time. We're not setting a date yet. We want to know that it's right before we release it to the world, but watch this space. Here's a sneaky peek :)

Screenshot of the new Intrahost website

Top Ten Tips for: Working from Home with Cloud Computing

More businesses are starting to talk about remote working. Call it working from home, call it being switched on all the time it’s becoming a more attractive possibility for companies and workers thanks to Cloud Computing. It might mean having staff log-in from a home office, switching on and feeding into a report or conversation from a coffee shop or hotel or being able to work with a team or on a project in another city or country. There are real benefits in terms of helping employees create a better work/life balance, helping to increase productivity (no more long chats about telly at the water-cooler) as well as reducing costs.

It is a big step, though, and it promotes a fundamental shift in how we do business as well as how we view working. Gone are the days when “being at work” meant sitting in-front of a computer beavering away from 9 am to 5pm. For many it does still mean this but for others it can include using a smartphone, working flexible hours or checking in via Skype.

So why is it possible? Instead of having data stored in a hardware server in the office that everyone needs to be logged in and connected to the Cloud is removing this geographical tether. Storing business information in the Cloud means you don’t have to be sitting at your desk to work. Instead you can access reports, spreadsheets, documents or images from anywhere using any device. That same information is stored in a server off-site. Whether you opt for a Cloud Server, Virtual or Dedicated Server it means you can access the same information using  a laptop, smartphone or even a tablet, potentially.

If remote working using Cloud Computing is something you want to think about, here are Intrahost’s top tips:

1. The keyword for remote working is flexibility and that’s at the heart of the approach. When you’re looking into the deal you need to think about the kind of connection you’re looking for and what will suit your business best. There might be a lot of documents and data that each staff member needs to access, or it might just need to be communication that you need to consider. Hosted Exchange means you can access email, shared contacts, calendars and tasks with up to ten aliases per mailbox. It’s a simple solution to helping to keep every member of the team connected wherever they are. There is also ‘push’ mobile technology meaning with it can work on smartphones.

2. Don’t feel you have to invest in a whole new kit for every member of the team. If you’re asking staff to work from home then there may need to be a reasonable investment in technology but there’s no need to write a blank cheque. One of the most attractive features of migrating to Cloud Computing is saving money. You don’t have to pay for the upkeep of a vast and bulky server in your office, you don’t need the staff to monitor and maintain it and you don’t need to invest in regular updates. There’s little point spending all of the saved cash on expensive kit for your team to enable them to work from home. Only spend what you really need. Does everyone need a new Blackberry, really?

3. Security is a big issue for those looking into remote working and understandably so. They want to make sure that, while staff can access business data from wherever they are simultaneously there can be no unauthorised network access. Many believe that the Cloud will prompt businesses to think more carefully about how they store their data. Cloud Computing is just as secure as having a hardware based option. Providers like Intrahost employ techniques to ensure both physical and network security. The building where the servers are kept has a range of features like key fob access and CCTV to make sure there are no unauthorised attempts to access data. On the network firewalls are used along with multi-layered authentication to prevent spam, threats and viruses from damaging or accessing information.

4. If you’re a business looking into the possibility of remote working for your staff then you need to think about how you’re going to manage it. It has real benefits for employees in terms of childcare solutions and getting a better balance but you have to think about it from a company perspective. Does every member of staff need to work remotely? It might not suit everyone and there could be individuals who know they won’t be as productive working from home as they would be in an office. Flexibility is about choice. Similarly it may feed in to how you hire new members of staff. Trust is important and you’ll need to think of how you’ll monitor hours and activity. Understanding the difference it will make along with the benefits will help you shape the impact it will have on you and your company. If you’re the kind of manager that simply doesn’t think staff will work out of the office then possibly it’s not for you. But if you do then work out who needs access to what and how it might be implemented.

5. If you’re an individual, say a web designer or a graphic designer then remote working allows you to set-up your own business without the risk of start-up costs. You get low overheads and can work for clients anywhere in the world from your home office or the local coffee shop. It makes it easier for you to collaborate on projects, to grow your business without being limited by geography. Yet you do have things to think about; branding and consistency for one is important, as well as how you manage and report your won hours and when you’re online. Remote working is a relatively new phenomenon so it’s important to manage the process carefully and be able to communicate clearly and effectively to alleviate any concerns.

6. Reporting becomes more important when employees are working remotely. You don’t have the benefit of being able to catch up with colleagues over the top of your computer. You’ll need to set-up a series of communication tools, whether it’s weekly reporting or daily. You need to keep track of where everyone is up to and how a particular project is progressing. There are various applications you can use for this and Hosted SharePoint is just one.

7. Don’t get sold on having every application for your business. The real strength of Cloud Computing is that you pick and choose what you need and the service that suits your business. If remote working allows you to be more flexible and streamlined then don’t be taken in by someone selling you tools that aren’t in your to-do list. It should be an add-on, not completely re-inventing the nuts and bolts of the work you do day to day.

8. Does remote working mean that you don’t need an office? We’ve already discussed that it might not be for everyone. The idea of flexibility could be doing a range of different hours, rather than everyone working from home all the time. Many companies find that they still like having a business address and you might still need a space for meetings or client presentations.

9. Embrace the idea of innovation. Remote working is all about freeing up time so you have to think about how that extra time could benefit your business. How about having an ideas exchange? Staff can use an extra hour that’s not being spent in the commute to think about different ways to expand, diversify or develop their work and the business.

10. Know when to switch off. Working from home is great in terms of improving a work/life balance but it does mean your office is in your home. Also if you can access all your business information on a smartphone or laptop then it can be easy to start checking emails or finishing reports in the evening or over the weekend. Inevitably there will always be projects that need a bit of overtime but don’t run the risk of working long hours consistently. Know when to turn it off and take some time off.

Work from Home with Cloud Computing and Cloud Servers

How can a Cloud vendor be more open?

It can feel very black and white in the Cloud. Either you opt for a deal with a Cloud provider who helps you decide exactly what kind of cloud technology you use – Cloud Server, Dedicated server, Virtual server etc – helps you work out how much it will cost and what kind of service you need. Or you go Open Source. You pick piecemeal programmes and software that still does the job but you’re not linked to a Cloud provider. Both sides have their benefits but what would be really great for consumers is for both to realise they’re actually more similar than you would at first think.

Why the perceived difference? It comes from range of attitudes to the internet, at heart. For some the internet is the ultimate in freedom. You can be as far from “the man” as you choose to be, defining the software you need as and when you need it. It’s the argument used by people who’ll sign up to Google Mail instead of Hosted Exchange, although they’re just replacing Microsoft with Google (and there’s a fairly hefty company behind both products).

The issue in terms of Cloud Computing stems from where it comes from. Having software on site, like a server and IT staff that need to keep it working and updated, can make you feel like you’re being held captive. When businesses, whatever their size, are hoping to become more streamlined, more flexible and offering a more bespoke service this kind of technology “solution” can feel like a weight weighing you down.

So there’s a choice to be made. The benefit of using a Cloud provider, particularly for an SME is the time issue. Chances are you’re busy, you’re not up to date in all the latest technology and developments and you simply want to pick and choose the software you can use and reduce the cost while still handing responsibility over to someone else. Clearly this makes it important for a relationship based on trust; the Cloud provider needs to have a secure, safe and reliable network that will protect the business data they’re entrusted with.

For SMEs this is increasingly the option they’re going for. It helps them cut costs while having a technology solution that meets their needs, allowing them to grow and experiment with a new, integrated way of doing business.

Yet, if we reduce the size of the business to a self-employed entrepreneur or freelance consultancy there is a tendency to think that even this arrangement is too expensive. Or is perceived to be too expensive. When you’re setting up your own business, like becoming a web designer, or you’re offering an added service on top of your existing job, the worry can be about committing to outgoings. You want the money you earn to go straight to you. You don’t want to commit to long deals and costly expenses, however much they might benefit you and your business.

So the tendency can be to opt for Open Source, to fit together piece by piece the software and apps you need to run your business.

In truth this can be a false economy. The money you save on picking and choosing Open Source Cloud Software is often outweighed by the time you spend maintaining and monitoring it. Signing up with a Cloud provider is not as expensive as many would think, with many deals starting at a few pounds a month, cheaper than registering a domain name, for example.

Who is the onus on, then? Should entrepreneurs be spending more time researching the options available to them? Or should cloud providers spend more time courting them. It’s probably a little of both. The “open” qualities of open source software can be used to describe the services and offer of many cloud providers; a community of users, a scalability and flexibility, a choice of apps, no need for an IT administrator.

Few cloud providers target their service directly to the smallest of the SMEs but in doing so they make it seem like the service isn’t available to them, that somehow a business needs to be of a certain size before it benefits. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Cloud computing creates a level playing field, allowing even the smallest operation to expand and grow their company and the services they offer, while relying on a cost-effective and secure service that meets their needs.

5 steps to heaven. Or a cloud. Ok. A Cloud Server.

Technology can feel like something that weighs you down, rather than frees you. It can be expensive, it might not suit what you need and you might feel like you’ve been sold something off the rack that’s working so hard to be applicable to as many people as possible it fundamentally drops the ball.

If this is how you feel about your own IT solution perhaps you should think about a Cloud VPS Server. Here are the steps that might govern whether it is right for you to sign up.

1. Your IT relies on expensive hardware and software devices. It simply isn’t feasible anymore. If this is how you feel then you need to start looking for a more cost-effective and flexible solution. If your IT feels like it doesn’t fit you need to start researching one that does.

2. You work flexibly. Whether a small business or a freelance the strength in your offer means being able to work 24/7 if you need to. So you need a solution that works in the same way. You need to be able to access data around the clock. If you’re looking for a cloud hosting option you need to consider architecture; are you looking for something public, private or hybrid?

3. Not only is the time you need to access data flexible, so is the amount of space you need. If your plans come to fruition then your need a flexible storage solution as well. There is no point hobbling or limiting yourself before you’ve even begun. A Cloud Server usually comes with unlimited storage space. There’s also unlimited metering with Intrahost so if you get a spike in traffic it won’t affect your visibility.

4. You want to get what you need. Cloud Servers are often described as being “scalable”. This essentially means you can pick and choose what you need. You don’t get a one size fits no-one solution. Instead you can work with a provider to mix and match tools to help working easier and collaboration simpler.

5. You need to cut costs. In the same way you should never blindly re-sign with an energy company without looking for cheaper alternatives, the same should be said for IT. You’re increasingly thinking there should be a more cost-effective solution. Cloud Servers would dramatically cut the cost of what you need. You don’t need to host servers and an IT team to manage the service. It is pay as you go in many ways as you’re only paying a monthly fee and don’t have to sign up to a long contract. That makes it more flexible and also cheaper.

If you’ve read through each of these steps and considerations and thought it mimics your own concerns with your IT solution then perhaps you should be thinking about a Cloud Server. Flexible, cost-effective, scalable and with 24/7 support it can be exactly the partner you need to help your business grow.

cloud servers selection

What the Cloud is not!

You can read a lot of lists about what the Cloud is; how it can revolutionize business and how we interact with technology. The Cloud, if you believe some blogs, is the answer to all of our prayers rather than just a bunch of cloud servers. It’s true that Cloud Computing is fundamentally shifting the technology industry. The biggest change is that we’re moving from using desktop PCs to having all the same information and data accessible from handheld devices. It’s meant that designers and software makers have had to shift the applications, the systems and the services they are developing and offering. Not only consumers interacting with them differently but they are also expecting different things from them; look at the changes in Maps for example, rather than just giving directions we now need to know how far away the nearest petrol station, Wi-Fi zone or coffee shop is.

It’s exciting, if nothing else, and it has been a great leveller. Smartphones and tablets are much more affordable so the Cloud is more accessible. It’s something we can all use, to differing degrees, and therefore all have an opinion.

As positive as all this is, it isn’t all good news. The fact that we all have an opinion means there’s a lot of inaccurate information about the Cloud out there. Rumour and conjecture becomes fact in the course of an afternoon in the blogosphere, making it difficult for those who sell Cloud services, whether as a vendor or re-seller, to get their point across clearly.

So while The Cloud is made of cloud servers, here are five things it’s not:

  1. You can’t visit it. Yes, there are physical farms of cloud servers where real and tangible servers are held securely. But the Cloud isn’t somewhere you can visit. It’s not a state of mind, either. Think of it as wherever your data is, just a touch of a button away. That’s what makes it so flexible.
  2. Virtualization and the Cloud are not the same thing. Virtualization is the ability to run "virtual machines" on top of a "hypervisor." Virtualization can run on a physical machine, but isn’t limited to just one. It’s the process that makes Cloud Computing, particularly Cloud VPS servers possible. But it’s not the same as Cloud Architecture. That’s the framework that allows you to access Cloud Services. Confused? Think of virtualization as the technology that makes the Cloud possible. The Cloud is the ability to drive and travel to places quicker. Virtualization is the car.
  3. The Cloud isn’t a locked cell. It can be tempting, particularly if you find technology a bit jargon heavy and overwhelming, to think that signing up to the Cloud means you can simply toss responsibility over to someone else. You’re putting your data, services and information on a vendor's cloud servers. You’re entrusting a lot to an outside provider and so you need to keep an eye on it and change the service if you need to. Problems with those relying on the Cloud, like LinkedIn and GoDaddy shows there’s still a need for management. Just because it’s in the Cloud doesn’t mean you don’t have control of it anymore.
  4. It’s not one Cloud for big business and another for entrepreneurs. The Cloud is one great leveller. No matter your budget, size, resources and knowledge you can use the same Cloud resources as a multi-national even if you’re a one man band. It offer the same chance for business to test and invest in applications without taking a huge risk in terms of cost and investment. That makes it much easier for small firms and entrepreneurs to grow their offer and expand.
  5. The Cloud is not all talk. There is a lot written about the Cloud. A LOT. It can be tempting, therefore, to dismiss it as all talk. It isn’t the case and the rapid uptake of the Cloud over the past year, particularly amongst entrepreneurs and SMEs has resulted in a lot of positive case studies. It has changed how businesses and individuals relate to technology. They feel more in control of it, rather than the other way around. This shift is at the heart of cloud adoption and means that whatever is said about it, the Cloud is a game changer.

see our choice of cloud servers

The five developments that lead to the Cloud

We’re living amidst the greatest technological age since the industrial revolution. The world wide web, broadband, Wi-Fi and cloud computing; everything is designed to help us access information and communicate faster, more securely and at a cheaper cost.

Cloud Computing is proving to be one of the biggest changes to happen in business since the arrival of the PC. It’s shifting how we work, as well as when. Whether we opt for a Cloud Server or a Dedicated Server, whether we’re an SME or a an entrepreneur, being able to work from a variety of mobile devices and still access the same data we would sitting at our desk is a game changer.

So what are the changes that have lead to the arrival of the Cloud? Here’s our top five.

1. Fibre Optic Cables

We want everything faster and we want everything cheaper. Fibre optic cables have made the internet so fast that you barely have to think about a web page and it pops up. OK, that might be a little over board but you know what we mean. There’s no lag time, and whether it’s a website or video, fibre optic means it’s up in a flash (no pun intended). Admittedly it’s reliant on location but it’s fast becoming the norm. Think of all the cloud computing sites that store huge amounts of data that wouldn’t have been around if fibre optic didn’t make it possible. Netflix is one, as well as services like DropBox. It makes it easier to handle large file sizes without any drop in service, a principle at the heart of cloud computing.

2. Silicon Valley

Having an industry working hard in one place with one goal in mind has been the fuel driving the technological revolution. Steve Jobs is very much the poster boy. A melting pot of innovation, turning great ideas into reality has made the time between products getting from the drawing board to the shelf much shorter. Silicon Valley is about sharing ideas and practices. The Cloud is built on their very idea, the idea of collaboration no matter where you are. The spirit of Silicon Valley has infused how the Cloud is adopted.

3. Mobile Devices

There are those of us who are old enough to remember when, if you arranged to meet someone, you had to be there at the agreed time and place or you’d miss each other. No chance to text and apologise for running late. If you were stood up you were stood up. The growth in mobile devices has fundamentally changed how we communicate and interact with each other. It also means each of us has the Cloud in our pocket. As mobile devices became increasingly popular we decided we didn’t want any change in experience. So we demanded that we be able to access the same emails, the same documents and the same files and folders no matter the device we were working on. That has heralded the embrace of the Cloud and is what is driving the change in working practice.

4. The Web

When Tim Berners-Lee took part in the Olympics Opening Ceremony he tweeted what was his guiding principle for the World Wide Web; “This is for everyone”. The Internet is the ultimate democracy with no respect for geography, time or activity. It is everywhere and anywhere. It seems somewhat obvious to say you wouldn’t have cloud computing without the internet yet it is its inclusivity that the two share. Inviting people to work together, no matter their location, and welcoming them onto your cloud server to access data is made possible not just because of the internet but also because of how we use it. It is about sharing information.

5. The recession

The downturn in the economy has much to answer for but not all of it is negative. More and more people are setting up on their own. They might be creative like web developers or graphic designers or they might be accountants or lawyers. There is a spirit of entrepreneurship that the government hopes will help steer the country out of recession. The truth is that many of those people who have decided to set themselves up independently might find it difficult to do so without the cloud. Its low overheads without dropping any levels of service mean it’s easy to remain professional and continue to behave as a big multi-national without having to layout money on premises or staff. The flexibility it offers mean people who have been made redundant or been the victim of down-sizing can forge their own corner of the world without being priced out of the market.

Why not contact us at @IntrahostLtd and tell us what you think have been the biggest shifts to help bring about Cloud Computing.

Cloud Security rules are good news for customers

Cloud security and data privacy have been in the news again. A new working party is being set up to make it easier for the customer to know what they’re getting in terms of security, and to make it clearer for the provider to know what they should be delivering.

It means it should be much easier for those working in the Cloud to know where their data is being held and what can and can’t be done with it.

Data privacy is one of the thorniest issues in the cloud. Much of it comes from unwarranted worries. If you ask any business why they’re not in the Cloud then chances are they’ll talk about security. It means a lot, particularly for a small business to hand over their data to someone else. They feel like they’re losing control. They worry about where their data is being stored, who’s looking after it and what might be done with it.

Whether these concerns are valid is, partly, beside the point. Cloud providers have had to do a lot of work to alleviate concerns and worries. But they’ve done it with varying degrees of success.

Now the Cloud Security Alliance has set up a working party to settle the issue of data privacy.

The Privacy Level Agreement Working Group will mean a basic set of guidelines that Cloud providers have to adhere to. The CSA has put forward its proposals to the European Parliament who are already in the process of setting up its own data privacy guidelines.

Why are they doing it? At the moment there are nearly 30 different ways to implement data privacy. The worry is that that makes it harder for global providers to sell in different countries. If they want to grow and expand into new regions then Cloud providers have to know what the rules and regulations are in every country.

The new frameworks would mean there would be a system for cloud customers to read and to measure how providers handle data privacy.

What does it mean for customers? It means that cloud providers would have to make it clear what they’re doing with your data, how they’re storing it and how they’re keeping it private.

At Intrahost it’s made clear where data is stored. Intrahost has both digital and physical security plans in place to look after data. As well as anti-virus software that makes sure no junk or spam gets through to your data there is physical security in place where the severs are held. In what’s called a server farm, there are physical servers that store the cloud servers or hosting solutions our customers choose. There is CCTV, key card access and protection in place in case of natural disasters.

Intrahost is open about its security measures and also with its privacy agreements with customers. But not every cloud provider is. An industry wide agreement which make it much easier for customers to know what they’re getting, and more importantly what it means for them. It’s designed to let the customer know how one providers offer differs from another.

Instead of being something to be worried about, the data privacy rules should give customers peace of mind. The significance of cloud computing for business has been evident over the last year as the industry has grown. Adding to peace of mind and regulating the industry will help customers realise the difference it can make to them, but also how it can ensure their information is safe.

Top 5 Creative Uses For Cloud Servers

If you’ve opted to store your work, or even your business data on Cloud Servers then the chances are that you’re currently patting yourself on the back for saving yourself some money. Right now you’re probably thinking about how much it would have cost you to install a physical server into your office and to maintain it day in and day out and you’re congratulating yourself on a creative and cost-effective solution.

And so you should. But your creativity shouldn’t stop there.

Investing in a Cloud Server and Cloud Storage is about more than just saving money. Instead it can fundamentally shift how you work and how you store your data online. It helps you have control over how and where you store your data; how you can share it and have more control over your working practices. It can become the way in which you shape your business.

So here are five creative ways that you can use your Cloud Servers:

  1. Set-up an FTP If you don’t know what an FTP is then click on Windows Explorer. Basically that’s the principle of an FTP (file transfer protocol). If you need to download and upload files, perhaps if you work remotely or produce large files for clients – like video or high-resolution graphics – you can do it much more simply with a Cloud Server. Set-up at FTP and you can drop your files into newly created folders making them as public or as private as you like. Cloud Storage means you’re essentially saving it off-site but it makes it much easier for your clients to be able to access the material in a time that suits them.
  2. Making it easier to work together A Cloud Server allows you to store and organise your business data online in a separate location. The next logical step is to ask other people to join in. If collaboration is a big part of the way your work, if you’re used to bringing different individuals and specialisms into your work practice then a Cloud Server will make that much easier. Allow access, share information and remove the need for working side by side or face to face.
  3. Tidy work, tidy mind We all feel much better when we’re organised. Piles of papers, whether physical or virtual; finding it difficult to source information and files quickly and easily. It’s time-consuming and frustrating. A Cloud Server can help you to remove all of that clutter and streamline your information. A clear, concise organisation of files and data makes everything but easier to find. It also helps improve business communication, internally more importantly than externally. If you have documents, like training material or protocols that everyone needs to be able to read a cloud server can make it easier to access the information. Knowing you can lay your hands on any aspect of your business without a huge amount of stress removes a great deal of time-wasting.
  4. Keep your pictures and video in one placeIncreasingly photos and video are an important part of how we project our business. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re a photographer or video producer but in terms of communications what we’re putting there is becoming more visual. The problem with this is space. High-res video and pictures take up a lot of rom. If you’re, say a PR agency and you have six or seven clients, each with folder after folder of pictures of launches, products and videos you’re going to run out of space fast. A Cloud Server enables you to store all that data offsite, virtually. You can access it quickly and easily but it doesn’t weigh down on your storage space.
  5. Back-up, back-up, back-up! The truth is that hard drives are not what they used to be. If you’re using a computer hard drive and an external hard drive to store all your data you might be worried it makes you more vulnerable to loss. Increasingly people are using Cloud Servers as a new form of storage. Talking to your provider about security becomes even more important than normal but it’s a fundamental part of business to find new ways to back-up all your information. Cloud Servers do that quickly and easily.

 

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Cloud Computing: Top 5 Cloud Myths Debunked

When a new technology like cloud computing emerges, for the first few years you’re not going to get a consensus. When it is impacting business practice, making it easier for freelancers and creatives to get started and service their clients, helping SMEs work on the go and be more flexible it is inevitable that people will see different strengths in it. Cloud Computing has become as attractive for big multi-national corporates as it has for independent, self-employed web designers. Its strength lies in its ability to be moulded to suit individual needs. Looking for a safe and secure way to manage staff at a range of sites? Try Hosted Exchange. Want to diversify your business and add a new technology to your offer? Try Cloud Hosting.

Yet the strength of cloud computing can also be its weakness. Get five vendors in a room together and ask them what the biggest thing about cloud computing is. They’ll probably all give you a different answer. That can be good for people who want to shop around but it can also create problems. It makes it hard to define and explain to someone who has no knowledge of the technology. What do you say is the most important thing about the Cloud if the people selling cloud computing can’t agree? Leading on from that is the creation of myths. When people can’t agree on a definition it becomes easier for myths and false ideas to permeate and spread.

Cloud computing might have been in development for a generation but we’re still at the stage of myths. For those wanting to sell the advantages of the Cloud, here are the top five myths that need to be debunked.

1. The Cloud isn’t secure

This is one that just keeps coming back, even if those who work in cloud computing know it isn’t true. It can be easy to understand where the naysayers are coming from. The growth of computer technology and its explosion into all of our lives came with the PC, the Personal Computer. You could define and grow your little corner of the technology world with your own keyboard and screen. Ownership was a huge psychological factor. When people set-up their own businesses they did so with sizeable servers in the corner.

There was an element of control stemming from the fact that you could micromanage every inch of your IT arrangements.

Cloud computing throws that practice out of the window. If you use a Cloud Server or Hosted Exchange you no longer need a server in your office. You’re essentially renting space on a server owned by someone else and it’s often based in a different country. You’re handing over a lot of responsibility to a third party you really need to trust. We’re not very good at that.

Similarly the PC has always been sold by vendors as being the most secure option. It was in their interests to tell us that so they did. Perhaps this is why so many of them are now finding it hard to sell Cloud computing; they’re going against the message they’ve been feeding consumers for three decades. In fact, you lose your PC or it crashes we all know what happens. Everything can be lost. Having your work and material backed up remotely is more reliable.

In terms of security every provider will put different levels of importance on that. Finding the right solution means asking what their security provision is. There are two elements of security; making sure the Cloud itself is secure protecting you from a virus or spam and physical security i.e., making sure the servers are protected. An Intrahost, for example, there is a complex security system regulating who comes in and out of the building where the servers are housed as well as CCTV.

The information we’re putting on the Cloud, whether for personal use or business, is highly important and sometimes sensitive. Dismissing cloud computing as not being secure tars every provider with the same brush. Security and reliability are tied up in the same thing. Asking the provider exactly what they do to make sure your presence in the Cloud is protected is vital. The flexibility of cloud computing means you can scale the privacy and public nature of what you invest in depending on what you need.

2. Cloud Computing is just for big business

There can be a tendency in business to assume those that are making the most money are the most important. The knock-on effect from this mentality means that when a new technology emerges the chatter tends to talk about it in terms of how it will impact the very biggest firms. SMEs and entrepreneurs don’t feel it is applicable to them, largely because they haven’t been told it is.

It’s easier for multi-national developers and providers to shout from the rooftops when they sign a deal with a major brand. It makes them appear mainstream and successful, but it does alienate smaller firms who are often their bread and butter. The SMEs are also the ones who can drive adoption and with the growth in that sector and their impact on the economy their importance shouldn’t be underestimated.

A flexible Cloud solution can benefit a freelance web designer in the exact same way it can a global conglomerate; perhaps even more so. A freelancer can’t afford the infrastructure needed to run a huge business but a Cloud Server and Virtualization technology opens the door to an IT solution that meets their needs and helps them grow their business. The scalability of the Cloud, it’s cost-effectiveness makes the real difference for this smaller business set-ups.

Big business might have a larger budget but the strength of the Cloud comes from its ability to be moulded to suit need, rather than forcing the same solution on everybody.

3. We already use Gmail so we don’t need the Cloud

The principles of Cloud Computing have filtered through into business thinking, but much of it is based on knowledge from one small corner of the technology, rather than the big picture. A set-up like Gmail can make people think they don’t need to explore wider Cloud services. They can log-in to their email, set-up a calendar, share Docs from device to device.

However, with a Hosted exchange solution you get this and more. You get a POP Mailbox, 50MB of storage, several email aliases – vital for a small business or a creative working as part of a team – smartphone and web access, shared calendars as well as the security measures like anti-spam and anti-virus and backed up software. It’s a much easier to get in touch with a Cloud Provider than Google. If your Gmail goes down do you have 24/7 access?

Having one OpenSource solution can limit your business. Anyone who sets up on their own ultimately wants to grow. They want to be able to increase their storage needs if they want to, offer new services to clients. OpenSource is great when you start out but it isn’t scalable enough when you’re ready to expand.

4. Cloud computing is all about cost

Yes, cost is important. No, it means you probably won’t need an in-house IT team. Cost is what has made cloud computing accessible to businesses of all sizes. But it isn’t the most important factor. Being able to grow your business flexibly, securing a scalable solution to meet what your business needs and no-one else’s as well as being able to sign up and start within hours are much stronger benefits.

The economy has inevitably meant we are all working harder, more often and need our work to be more flexible. Cloud Computing has grown probably because it fits with that mentality. It can suit what we want to do when we want to do it. It has removed the frustration and the tethers tying us down to IT. Want to work from home? No problem. What to be able to answer your clients and work efficiently when you’re on the move? The Cloud can sort that. It is this basic ethos that has made the Cloud popular and is at the heart of it appeal.

5. The Cloud isn’t going to last

Yes, technology does tend to come and go. Ask anyone who’s had to invest in myriad devices from any particular software giant and you’ll know that. The minute you lay down your credit card a voice in the back of your head tells you “This will be obsolete in five years, what’s the point?” Frustrating? Yes. Much you can do about it? No.

Cloud computing will evolve. What we see as being the norm now will change. But because the Cloud is as much an ethos and practice as it is a service it will never disappear completely. Personal Clouds are growing in popularity, particularly like cloud servers where individuals look for the simplest solution that is flexible enough to meet their needs.

Remember the Pick and Mix at Woolworths? All the sweets were there but the reason we liked it was because we could pick and choose what we liked. For me it was marshmallows, fried egg sweets and cola bottles. Your pick won’t have been the same. Cloud providers are making it much easier for cloud computing customers to select the bits they need and taking away the rest.

While people can find solutions that are secure, reliable, scalable, meet their needs and is cost-effective they will keep returning to the Cloud.

Cloud computing UK

What's happening in the Cloud?

From data to innovation, how the cloud is affecting hiring and firing as well as life on the farmyard, this latest round-up of Cloud news and trends suggests big developments are on the horizon. How do you store data? Is the Cloud making you braver? Read on for news on how business is changing and the next step for the Cloud Computing industry as its take-up becomes more mainstream and less on the fringe of everyday business. The Cloud and Innovation

The potential for innovation thanks to the Cloud will be explored as businesses gather for a technology conference in Dubai this autumn. The Gitex Technology Week plans to cut through the hype surrounding the adoption of Cloud Computing and examine the impact it has on business.

The conference, which will see leading figures in the industry rub shoulders with some of the biggest firms in the Middle East as well as exhibitors, may seem far off but the effect the technology is having on the working world is becoming increasingly clear. A new study from Bain & Company, The Five Faces of the Cloud, points to a 30% to 40% price advantage from using a public cloud to have a server onsite. In under a decade they predict cloud spending to increase from $30 billion to $150 billion. It will, they claim, represent around 10% of total enterprise technology spending by 2020.

To match this shift the report calls for some changes to the industry, including a more targeted approach for customers and a greater understanding of what they’re looking for. One of the biggest shifts they predict is IT leaders in business looking to replace core legacy systems, that impacts every corner of the company. The focus will move to profitability and a sea-change in behaviour and adoption.

Read more at www.bain.com

Is the Cloud boosting outsourcing?

Many firms, small, medium and otherwise, are looking for increasingly creative ways to help their business expand. Outsourcing is great news for entrepreneurs like web developers, copywriters and designers, as well as IT specialists.

The Cloud could well be the driving force the change. Over a third of businesses, 35%, said in terms of development, hosting and the maintenance of their technology solutions they’ll be looking to outsource. It’s seeing them focus their budgets on applications that help them work more flexibility, streamline their outgoings and help foster collaboration. Big providers like Google and Microsoft obviously benefit, but so do smaller niche operators.

The most attractive factors are the features, functionality and how quickly they can get it up and running. Food for thought for those looking to grow their client list and understand what they need to start selling.

How to make the most out of virtual storage

Say you have a Cloud Server. You use it to host websites and store data. The major selling point is flexibility and the ability to help you access information wherever you are, adopt a more cost-effective solution and not worry about traffic levels. Yet if the move to core legacy transformation is what is on the cards for business then it does leave a bit of a grey area in the middle. How easy is it to move everything, wholesale, into the Cloud?

If legacy is the way to go then you’re looking for a more heterogeneous system that’s still high performance, highly reactive and sits across different departments, specialisms and environment that lifts and supports a new infrastructure, how will the Cloud fit in? It doesn’t need to be separate. Virtual storage is set to become the key adoption tool. It allows you to put data in a central pool using several different servers. It’s a virtualised solution meaning you can be working from several different locations. HP is launching a product along these lines in September.

Intelligence and Big Data

While considering how a business opts to use data and the Cloud, more consideration is being given to Business Intelligence and Big Data. As more people understand the benefits of the Cloud, and its adoption becomes more of the norm and more mainstream, how it is used and how it integrates into existing business practice will become more of interest.

One analyst says that public and virtual cloud adoption will become more of an issue for Business Intelligence in the coming years.

Coinciding with this is the growth in Big Data: more and more information stemming from social media, the growth of the digital sector etc. This analyst argues that Big Data should be parked in the Cloud. If we’re reaching critical mass in terms of Big Data, and only a small percentage of it is useful and pertinent to our businesses, then the Cloud offer the ability to store it and segment it.

The Cloud heads to the country

When we think of IT solutions inevitably we often think of city slickers, fashionable office spaces and urbanites. We rarely think of a farmyard. Yet for many farmers they are turning to the Cloud to help them run their enterprises more effectively. Cloud Computing and Internet services is helping farmers keep track of their assets. They can manage livestock figures, crops, their incomings and outgoings much more simple.

More Cloud start-ups are starting to focus on agriculture and selling in the specific benefits of the technology for the industry. At the moment the trend is limited to America but with any luck it could spread to Britain’s green and pleasant lands in the next year.

 

 

 

Why Apple’s co-founder is wrong about the Cloud

Steve Wozniak is the grandfather of modern computing. The co-founder of Apple, along with one Steve Jobs, redefined how people use computers. For many in the tech world he is a hero. Simple as that. Complete hero. Designed computers in his garage, built them, changed the world. Is that not what we all dream of doing in our lunch hours?

So it is painful for a geek to say this BUT he’s wrong. He’s wrong. Steve Wozniak is wrong.

Last week in an interview he said he foresees “horrible problems” when it comes to the Cloud. He cited issues on data and commented, "I really worry about everything going to the cloud," he said. "I think it's going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems in the next five years. With the cloud, you don't own anything. You already signed it away."

Much has been made of it, particularly the thought that he’s broken rank. This is the man who’s still at Apple and the company has been pushing iCloud for over a year now. It’s the same company that pushed the virtual ownership of books, music and the like through iTunes rather than physical ownership. It’s also allowed a lot of writers to have a dig at the Cloud in a “See, we told you so” kind of way.

But they’re wrong. And he’s wrong.

Wozniak’s biggest fear is about the ownership of information. He’s talking about security and how far the consumer (that’s you) feels like you still have control of the information you’re putting into the ether.

Security is the biggest issue many people site when they talk about the cloud. This year North Bridge published a survey about Cloud computing. Over half, 55% in fact, said security anxiety is the main reason companies don’t want to switch. There’s also, according to the survey, a big concern about regularity compliance.

As IDC research analyst has said in the past, "The richer the pot of data, the more cloud service providers need to do to protect it”.

The onus is on providers to make sure everything is secure. If you’re handing over data then they need to make sure it’s safe. But tarring every provider with the same brush threatens to damage a burgeoning industry that’s radically re-defining how people work and interact online. Most providers have a responsible attitude to security. Intrahost, for example, protects data against virtual as well as physical threats. Security at its data centres includes CCTV, managing against environmental disaster and having key and passcode entry. Virtual security protects from spammers as well as hackers. The idea that “the Cloud” and a transition to it is going to be “horrendous” ignores the fact that many within the industry are doing a great job of making sure data is secure day in and day out. One iPhone not working doesn’t mean you right off the whole brand!

Yet Wozniak’s is right in a way when he says we need to talk about ownership. And this is the second reason why the Cloud needs to be discussed more. Consumers (yes, you again) can’t blithely tick on Ts and Cs without checking what they’re signing up to. The horse has firmly bolted out of the Cloud Computing gate. It isn’t in human nature to go backwards; we always have to plough forwards. Therefore there needs to be wider discussion about the consumer’s responsibility when it comes to the Cloud. Pushing for more regulation, asking tech giants like Apple, Microsoft and Gmail if they can have more than one email and password, for example that allows people to access all of you information. Pass on your Apple ID to one third party, for example, and they can access everything from your music collection and pictures of your family to all your work.

Consumers need to have more responsibility in the Cloud. Who puts their PIN number next to their bank card in their wallet? NO ONE. Why? Because we take responsibility for our own security. No one, with their PIN number jotted down on their wallet would the blame their high street bank when their account is drained. So if we use the same password for everything, if we never change it, if we fail to ask providers what they do about security, if we fail to develop a hybrid environment combining a public and a private approach, then isn’t it just the same thing? New technology is freaky, yes, but we need to educate ourselves to know what we need to do to make ourselves safe, rather than just relying on someone else.

If Steve Wozniak’s suggestion is that we should put our fingers in our ears and whistle to ignore the growth of the Cloud then he’s doing au-turn, plain and simple. Is it OK to hand over all of your information to Apple, but no-one else? Consumers need to think carefully and know exactly where their data is and what rights they have over that information. It’s only by people power and providers pushing for it that regulation will change. So he’s wrong. The grandfather of computing is wrong. But that’s what the younger generation does, isn’t it? Tells their elders how they’ve taken their inventions and turned it into something glitzier, newer and more innovative, that’s what we’re supposed to do.

Top five trends for Cloud Computing

Technology is all about staying ahead of the curve. The best way to do that is to be able to see what’s coming and how you can fit your strategy to adapt and grow with new innovations and developments.Cloud Computing is one of the biggest factors to have changed how we work, store our data and information online and connect with other people.

Whether we choose Cloud Servers or Dedicated Servers, opt for Hosted Exchange or simple Web Hosting more and more people are becoming switched on to the flexibility of the Cloud.

Yet we still need to stay ahead of the curve. Identifying trends and how we might be using the technology in the next ten years helps us to plan and invest now to make the most of developments.

1. The growth of a hybrid solution

The power of the Cloud comes from its flexibility. Expect more of a mix and match approach in the future. Customers will expect to be able to combine a private cloud server with a public server. They want a hybrid environment. It is about managing what you need and creating the solution that fits you. As Cloud Computing grows, and inevitably the Cloud term gets dropped and it just becomes computing, it will begin to define the service offered to clients, matching their needs. That will be the key that helps companies to grow as they begin to offer much more tailored solutions for clients and customers. Software as a Service means no need for infrastructure, merely defining the set-up you want and then designing it.

2. Industry set and led guidelines for security

Expect a bigger debate on how we manage data and how we share data. Security remains the major hurdle for cloud adoption. If there is to be greater understanding then they are forced to ask big questions, the most important being “what are you doing with our information?” Many cloud providers like Intrahost, focus on security, both virtual and physical, and are already addressing the issue and allaying fears. This is not happening across the board, though. Expect more industry set and led guidelines, defining what is best practice and making sure the standards to be adhered to. This will remove much of what is perceived as the risk factor. An open cloud community or offer for a company that doesn’t set down exactly how it is secure, how it protects information from virus, spam or from being stolen will be pushed out the of the industry. It will mean a safer Cloud community.

3. How are you using Big Data?

Linked in to that last point is the question of Big Data. The onus is not just on Cloud Providers but also the companies holding data. The consumer is worried about what will leak out. There is a growth in the idea about “digital showing” managing your online profile and helping customers expect more in terms of how data is stored. Increasingly this will be the focus of the service level agreements signed with providers and also the deal you sign with your own clients. That change will mean a shift in applications as well. If more people are using a hybrid solution, companies are opting for a flexible approach, they don’t necessarily want the same information to be available on both sides. Say, for example, you’re a health organisation. You have private information, stored in a private cloud. The public cloud, say, is for organising appointments but you don’t want people in public cloud to be able same access same information about you as they do in private cloud.

4. Less of a focus on cost, more on value

There is an understanding about the cost effective nature of cloud computing. But more and more that will become less of a concern. Remember when cost was all we talked about with mobiles. It’s less of a concern now. It is seen as a human right to own a mobile so cost becomes less important, or less of the focus. It’s the same with the Cloud, increasingly the discourse will move to measuring the value the cloud has, rather than how much money it saves. That will foster a changing practice, looking at how it is adopted and the impact on culture. The Cloud will become more creative.

5. More mobile access

Mobile has changed everything and more devices are on the market helping us work on the go and stay connected. As cloud take up increases expect more access and more growth in terms of where you can use it and how. Hosted Exchange has been important driver in this, a number of email aliases, linking up with mobile devices. The trend set to continue. Why? The genie is out of the bottle. We work on the go, work from tablets, laptops, collaboratively and independently. Expect the Cloud to match that and expand.

GoDaddy’s outage reveals how hosting firms' have responsibility

There will be managers at GoDaddy, the internet hosting company and domain registrar, who will be looking forward to the end of this week. A six hour service outage on Monday affected thousands, if not potentially millions, of customers. Unable to access their websites, many of GoDaddy’s customers will be counting the cost of the downtime and will have much to think about when the time comes to renew their contracts. Whether an accident or a network failure which the company needs to improve, what happened to GoDaddy shows how important it is for web hosting companies to respond quickly to problems but also leaves lessons for users and how they store their data online. For the users affected by the outage it will have begun on Monday morning by wondering if it was just them. Perhaps it will have been a call from a customer, perhaps they were trying to refresh their own website and getting nowhere. Gradually it will have dawned on them their website was down. GoDaddy acted quickly to get news out there to its customers, confirming the outage on their Twitter feed. They kept their followers and customers updated throughout the day letting them know how attempts to fix the problem were progressing. In all, the outage began at 10am and the problem was fixed by 6pm.

The following day GoDaddy CEO Scott Wagner issued a statement. In an email the company apologised profusely.

"We let you down and we know it," the e-mail read. "We take our responsibilities -- and the trust you place in us -- very seriously. I cannot express how sorry I am to those of you who were inconvenienced."

The worries for GoDaddy won’t just be that the outage happened but it will be, as they reflect in their apology, that customers place a lot of trust in them; if that trust is broken then they might be tempted to go elsewhere. For the SMEs, entrepreneurs, bloggers, e-commerce companies who host their websites through GoDaddy they have lost a full day, at a time when many companies can’t afford to.

What is probably most worrying for customers is that, while GoDaddy were vocal in keeping them up to date on progress to get the problem fixed on Monday, they haven’t said as much about what actually caused it. On Tuesday a hacker took to Twitter to say they had caused the outage. That was denied by GoDaddy who said;

“We have determined the service outage was due to a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables. Once the issues were identified, we took corrective actions to restore services for our customers and GoDaddy.com. We have implemented measures to prevent this from occurring again.”

Scott Wagner was also quick to confirm that customer data was never under threat and their systems weren’t compromised.

This lead some to ask, which is worse; being vulnerable to hackers and showing there are gaps in your security system or to admit it was a system failure and reveal there’s something wrong with your network? The result is the same for customers; downtime and lost revenue coupled with frustration but it also shows the need for transparency.

Data has become a target for hackers, leading some to comment that hosting firms have a bit of a target on their back. Perhaps they do but it makes their responsibility even more important and the need to protect the information and data stored with them as their first port of call.

The lessons to learn, not just for GoDaddy but other hosting firms are clear and reflect how what is really a new kind of business relationship comes with immense responsibility.

First of all the importance of communication. Problems will happen. Hosting companies have a duty to make sure their network is as secure and reliable as humanly possible. When they are asking companies and individuals for money they can’t afford to cut corners or not put as many security protocols or not have the most stable network they can create. The growth of cloud computing and the way it has revolutionised the way businesses work and interact with their customers means the number of hosting companies has exploded in number. Yet not all share the same kind of responsibility in terms of security and a reliable service.

However many protocols and however secure the network there is always a risk of outage. Often these will be problems out of the hosting company’s control. If the worst does happen then keeping customers up to date, letting them know what’s happened quickly, regularly and frankly is imperative. GoDaddy was quick to take to its Twitter feed and to keep customers up to date and let them know when their sites would be back online. Good communication means customers can let their own clients know what’s happening. There’s a knock on effect that the hosting company has to understand.

Back up all your data. It’s a responsibility for both the hosting company and the customer to back up all their information. GoDaddy has been quick to say that at no time was customer data at risk but the outage shows the added responsibility storing data brings. For the customer putting all their eggs in one digital basket could result in them losing important information and exposing themselves to further threats. If websites do go down a backup also means they might not incur the same sort of downtime and loss of revenue.

Be open and be frank. While GoDaddy has been quick to get in touch with customers, also offering them a free month’s service to make up for the outage, they have not been as frank as to exactly what caused the problem. Companies do place a lot of faith in hosting firms and chances are they look to them as a source of technical knowledge. Technology can seem like a black hole to some who just don’t understand it, and are frightened by their lack of knowledge. Not being clear and frank about exactly what causes an outage can create fear and concern that it’s part of something much bigger. Honesty is the best policy to alleviate worry.

 

5 savings you could be making with Cloud Computing

To virtualize or not to virtualize, that is the cloud computing question. If you’re thinking about whether to take that first leap into cloud computing then that’s probably the question you’re asking yourself.

But the truth is the Cloud is more multi-layered than either using it or not. There are a range of steps, that start with whether you want it or not and end with how far can you use it to help you grow your business.

The first step is obviously if you’re sitting in an office staring at your physical server. It’s expensive updating to latest technology. It’s expensive having staff fix it and patch it if it crashes. There are higher energy bills to consider, not to mention the space.

But that’s just the start of cloud computing. You might have invested in cloud servers but wonder whether you should be using it across more of your business. Perhaps you only use it for Hosted Exchange, SharePoint or for hosting business data such as shared folders and calendars. But you might be wondering whether you should dip your toes in further.

There are further possibilities like using cloud servers for disaster recovery, streamlining company activity as well as sharing resources amongst offices and staff.

Not every solution will suit each and every business. Why would it? Every business and individual is different after all. There are cost-savings that, whether in real terms or as a knock-on effect, can become the most attractive proposition for the Cloud. Yet if you think about how you work and then begin to think about the technology you might use to suit it, you can consider whether investing more into cloud computing can save you even more.

Here are five areas in which cloud computing will make cost savings

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1. How much is your infrastructure costing you? The flexibility of the Cloud is its most attractive feature. This is where the real savings can occur and it’s about technology mirroring your existing practice. Do you work with staff at various different sites? Does each and every one of those staff need to have access to the same, shared information? If yes and you’re still working with physical servers then alongside your IT costs you’re probably got a fairly lengthy folder of expenses claims. Travelling around the country for face to face meetings, expensive postage fees to send material here and there. Your technology and your infrastructure aren’t marrying up. Start with writing down how you work and how technology might be able to make it easier, and cheaper. SharePoint might be the easiest solution.

2. You work isn’t the same month in and month out. With more and more people becoming their own boss they’re looking to reduce their overheads as much as possible. Relying on freelance and contract work means that your technology requirements might not be the same throughout the year. Pointless, then, to lock yourself into a deal that costs you money for twelve months but that you only need for around a third of that time. What’s the solution? Investing in a Cloud Server, for example, means you can sign up to a month by month deal. It is flexible, allows you to pay for what you will need but to reassess when you no longer need it. The benefit is that, when a project comes to an end, you don’t have the repeat bills for the technology you’re not using.

3. You want to innovate but aren’t looking for more overheads. If you work on your own then coming up with new ideas for business strands is an important part of your day to day work. However you don’t want every new idea or development to come with a hefty price tag. Extending your services to offer web-hosting as well as web-design, for example, or perhaps exploring web applications like perhaps video editing or project management tools to suit fixed term projects or that offer something new to existing clients, this is an important part of growing your business. Innovation might be vital but crippling overheads can nip your idea in the bud before it even starts. A scalable Cloud Computing solution that offers flexibility, meets your needs and could even encourage collaboration with other professionals in the same boat might be the most cost-effective solution.

4. Bring staff and skills in when you need them. Redundancy and unemployment have been the two dark clouds hanging over the jobs market over the last five years. For many SMEs the solution has been to expand and contract organically. It means bringing in the skills and experience you need on a project by project basis, rather than say having a graphic designer employed full-time or a video editor, you bring them in when you need them. If this is the way you want to work, and it has its benefits, you need technology to match. It can mean saving money. Your business data and applications can be stored on a Cloud Server in a central space. You can invest in more email aliases and access requirements as and when you need it. You can manage how much the freelance staff can see and use web applications like Basecamp or Sharepoint to have project goals and off-site project management.

5. Increased stability and the power to plan. No businessman, be they a CEO, entrepreneur or project manager ploughs on into the future without putting down a strategy or plan in place. You might be old school and think you only need to do this using a pad and a piece of paper but if you employ staff or collaborate on projects then you might want to share it with other people. There are web applications you can use, accessed via the Cloud that can help make this process easier. Even if it starts as a shared document and then evolves into a questionnaire or creative, ideas-led strategy then you want to get different views and perspectives. A cloud computing solution will make this easier helping as many people feed in at a time that’s easy for them. It makes it simpler for you to collate responses and it means being able to plan ahead and develop your business without having to spend a lot of money.

Make cost savings with cloud computing

The top 20 Twitter feeds on The Cloud

If you like your cloud news in neat short, 140 character messages then look no further than Twitter. The micro-blogging site is fast becoming the no 1 resource for those looking to keep in touch with news sites and bloggers who can keep them up to date on their industry and any latest developments. It started as a site populated by tech addicts so it’s not surprising one of the most popular avenues and accounts are those that talk about technology updates, releases and developments.

If you want to keep up to date on news from the Cloud, here are the accounts we think you should follow.

@DellCloudSolutions Followers 14, 433 Bio: Headlines from the Dell blog featuring news, analysis and a forum for discussion Inevitably a little Dell focused but the account is updated regularly and shares non-Dell blogs. There are also regular requests to submit your own ideas for blogs posts which is a good profile raiser.

@BizCloudNews Followers 1,520 Bio: Keep up-to-date with the latest news on Cloud Computing, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, Virtualization, Content Delivery Networks and Unified Communications around the globe For those just looking for headlines and a straight news feed this account is ideal. It links straight to the Business Cloud news site. Simple, effective and no nonsense.

@MSCloud Followers 36,915 Bio: A source for cloud computing news and the latest on Microsoft cloud solutions like Windows Server Hyper-V, Windows Azure and Office 365. If you use Microsoft Cloud products, whether through a provider or independently then this feed helps keep you up to date on new developments and also troubleshooting. It shares news on other Microsoft products but don’t expect anything from any other source.

@Cloud_Comp_News Followers 3,951 Bio: Cloud computing news including Saas, Paas, infrastructure, virtualization and trends A straightforward no nonsense news feed that bridges the gap between London and Silicon Valley. More UK focused than many other feeds. It asks questions - and inevitably answers them themselves - as well as linking to news stories. Whitepapers are a good inclusion and offer a wider reading resource for trends and developments.

@Mashable Followers 2, 940, 314 Bio: The largest independent website talking about news, resources and technology updates. If you don’t follow Mashable you really should. Not Cloud specific, it’s much wider than that but it’s an engaging feed that offers a good overview of anything with a microchip in it. A great breaking technology news feed as well.

@TheCloudNetwork Followers 10, 557 Bio: Simply links to their other accounts and their news site cloudcomputingarchitect.com Combining press releases with news stories it’s a good feed if you want an overview of what’s new and how the big names in Cloud are doing.

@TheTechGang Followers 10,074 Bio: A group of freelance reporters reporting for the IT Resource Network Essentially a directory for news articles and stories from the Cloud industry from a wide variety of resources. If you want to know what more than one voice is saying and get a good overview of the industry it’s a useful feed. However, they tweet A LOT so be warned.

@CloudNewsDaily Followers 401 Bio: “News of the day in Cloud Computing” The feed links to a clean looking blog site with news from all the global industry, even if they’re based in Florida. The blogs themselves are more interesting than the feed, which appears perfunctory rather than engaging and interactive.

@MSServerCloud Followers 45,732 Bio: More news from Microsoft Microsoft has as many Twitter feed as it has products. You don’t need to follow this as well as @MSCloud as they generally retweet the same articles. The MSServer blog is more about sharing the expertise of the team, instead of just tweeting about products so it’s a good knowledge resource. They also run competitions. Everyone loves free stuff!

@WorkintheCloud Folowers 4,673 Bio: Tweeting in the Cloud No website link so it’s difficult to know ether it’s an independent site or a sales push – not a greewat one with no website. They share press releases as well as news stories. A little overexcited use of hashtags but a regular feed that updates every hour or so.

@timoreilly Followers 1, 579, 596 Bio: Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media Sometimes you don’t want a company or a bot you want a real human being. Tim o’Reilly is that human being. An overview of technology stories instead of just those covering the cloud but peerless in terms of sharing stories and adding a fresh perspective.

@CloudCommons Followers 631 Bio: Cloud news, trends, advice and resources A more community focused site that offers advice and videos instead of just news. They regularly ask followers for suggestions for their “tweetchats” meaning it’s more interactive than other feeds that regurgitate headlines. They do regularly video episodes of Cloud Views, good if you like your news in a film format, rather than just text.

@CNET Followers 238,682 Bio: tech product reviews, news, price comparisons CNET is probably your first port of call if you want an independent review of products – that or TechRadar. A price comparison site for tech heads with videos and podcasts it immerses itself in the technology world and doesn’t come up for air. Unashamedly geeky, exactly how it should be.

@ForbesTech Followers 568, 005 Bio: Tech news from the Forbes team Opinion, news, insight and well-respected bloggers. It isn’t all about the Cloud and it’s focus might be more on multi-nationals and big business than the one man band in many ways but still a must-visit for an overview and insight into the technology industry and the big players.

@Arstechnica Followers 376,119 Bio: news, review, analysis and expert advice. It can be difficult wading through the tech world. You know what you want and what you do but you aren’t sure of what happens outside your office. Ars Technica is the door that opens you into the wider world. News on new products sits alongside optinion pieces easily. They also retweet articles from other voices in the tech community.

@BBCClick Followers 2, 014, 541 Bio: The Twitter feed of the BBC’s tech show Again not just cloud focused but an overview of tech news from a trusted source. Click is one of the best tech shows around and it’s the BBC so, y'know, good.

@guardiantech Followers 1, 841484 Bio: News and comment from the Guardian technology team Does exactly what it says on the tin, really. News and comment from the technology reporters at the Guardian. Bish. Bash. Bosh.

@CloudExpo Followers 56, 314 Bio: The official Twitter feed on the Cloud Computing expo in Santa Clara, obviously. Yes it’s promotion, but what isn’t on Twitter? It links to blogs commenting on industry issues, tips and ideas as well as videos. You might not be heading to the Expo but it’s a good source for industry news. Also worth having a sneaky look at their follwoers list for others in the Cloud community.

@MaureenOGara Followers 2,033 Bio: Apparently the most read technology reporter for two decades. No. me neither Purely focused on Cloud Computing the rather inflated biog actually offers an insight into a Cloud news desk. As the News Desk Editor at Sys-Con Media the feed offers comment on breaking tech stories as well as new products. A good feed if you’re looking for international cloud stories in the mainstream and technology media. She also retweets a lot so you’re not just getting one voice.

@AdobeCreativeCloud Followers 51,852 Bio: A digital hub that is all about Adobe Creative 6 application. Perhaps a little specialist for some, and inevitably full of tips, tricks and techniques for Adobe users but also links to useful articles and websites as well as webinars to improve your practice.

And of course you have to follow @Intrahostltd because, well, why wouldn't you?