Can the cloud save you money? These companies say yes

My Post - 2019-11-19T162002.639.pngHow four companies improved storage, security, scalability, and the bottom line by moving to the cloud

The cloud has long been touted as a way for enterprises to save money, whether it’s through reduced on-premises servers and storage systems, decreased software licensing, less need for equipment maintenance, or fewer requirements for in-house expertise.

But do cloud services actually result in cost savings? The quick answer is, it depends. A number of factors come into play, including the types of cloud services a company uses and from which providers, how well the services are managed by the customer, the terms of the contract, the level of existing IT efficiencies within the organization, and more.

When discussing the benefits of the cloud, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just about cost savings. There are non-monetary reasons to adopt a cloud service, such as increased agility, faster time to market, and lack of in-house resources.

It always seems to start with money, however. Here are four organizations that have actually seen cost benefits from using the cloud, compared with deploying applications and workloads on internal systems.

Avery Dennison: Cloud first approach

Avery Dennison, a global materials science and manufacturing company specializing in labeling and functional materials, has a goal of making IT a core competitive advantage. One of the ways it’s doing this is by building a hybrid cloud environment designed to deliver flexible and cost-efficient tools and services to users.

As part of the strategy, the company has invested in four key cloud-first programs: digital workplace, modern telephony platforms, cloud storage gateway, and secure cloud solutions. “Together, these programs are improving scalability, cycle times, reliability, and security so our workforce can work smarter, faster, and safer,” says Nicholas Colisto, vice president and CIO.

The digital workplace program revamps traditional processes, with the goal of boosting productivity, protecting digital assets, and increasing efficiency, Colisto says. – Read more

How IT And Business Leaders Need To Shift Their Thinking In The Era Of SaaS

My Post - 2019-11-19T160225.109.pngDecisions around foundational technology like ERP are critical to the long-term success of any organisation.

With decision-making moving beyond the IT department into the realm of business line managers, it is important that both sets of stakeholders understand each other’s concerns.

These issues are covered in a report by IRBS, sponsored by TechnologyOne, called IBRS State of Enterprise Software Report 2019.

The authors of the report outline key considerations for both IT and business executives.

For business line managers the first step is to engage with the IT department. They can offer important advice around issues such as:

  • the ability of any solution to integrate with existing solutions;
  • impact to cross-functional business processes;
  • implementation and change management;
  • and return on investment modelling.

ICT groups often excel at project management, and they have a holistic view of the organisation so they understand the impact of any one system on all other systems. Make sure you leverage that expertise.

It is also important for business managers to evaluate their organisation’s change management maturity. This needs to be matter of priority. Out of this exercise, the goal should be to implement those processes necessary to improve capabilities before the deployment of new enterprise solutions.

“While there are several change management maturity models and evaluation approaches available, choosing a model that provides actionable advice is essential,” the report notes.

Don’t just settle for conventional wisdom — there are plenty of myths around cloud computing. For instance, don’t accept ‘security’ as a catch-all excuse for refusing to adopt cloud services — professional cloud providers are likely to have more robust security protocols in place than the typical IT department.

Take a simple issue like security patches. Keeping these up to date is core business for cloud providers, whereas it can be just one more maintenance task for a typical IT department that might de-prioritise it behind other jobs.

The authors write that, while there may be valid reasons to keep enterprise solutions on-premises, these should be fully articulated from the perspective of “why not?” – Read more

Key differences between cloud storage offerings

My Post - 2019-11-14T181932.963.pngCloud storage offerings are often largely similar. We run through the key areas where they can differ, such as location, range of services and data protection

Why you should be moving to a cloud-based platform

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Cloud-based or traditional IT structure: which will benefit your construction business? Asks CCS’ Rob Matheson

The world we live in is rapidly moving towards digital for all aspects of business; one of the most aggressive moves is in the construction world. For many years, construction companies have used legacy systems, which have served their purpose. However, with the demand for connectivity and on-demand reports, how would moving to the cloud serve your construction business?

Here are the top reasons you should be considering a move to a cloud-based platform.

Reduced Capital Expenditure

The move to cloud not only offers an operational cost option for the software, it also reduces the need for infrastructure to support it. Costly hardware and back-up solutions are not required, as they are now provided as part of the software as a service offering. The scale of the infrastructure offered by the service providers generally far exceeds an in-house operation, so it will also increase business accounting security and availability, while reducing your capital outlay.

Reduced Total Cost

Not only does your online construction system reduce your capital expenditure, it actually reduces the overall cost. Cloud construction solutions can enter the market on a freemium model (base levels of the software are offered free, with the choice to upgrade for more advanced features), or a cost per role/licence model, and can be upscaled based on users and requirements as necessary. There is now no need to invest in an all-encompassing system of which you will use a minor percentage of the functions.

Scalability

A cloud-based system scales to fit your company. Entrepreneurs and SMEs can opt for a very cheap but limited system, yet this can grow to add users and functionalities, as per the requirements of your business and team. The system will grow alongside your company and will allow the addition of functions and resources as required.

Staffing efficiency

With the use of technology, manual tasks can almost be eliminated. This opens up options for a business to allow outsourcing of technical and operational functions. Many manual tasks can now be adopted by the technology, and even with a smartphone. The reduced paperwork and general efficiency allows the streamlining of business expenses and weighty salary bills.

Real-time information

From your project management to your financial directors, the information is available as live. The system allows you to build dashboards and reports tailored to the person using it. A C-level may want to see more of an overview, while a project manager may need more transactional level information. – Read more

5 Key Considerations for Choosing a Public Cloud Provider

My Post - 2019-11-14T171759.076.pngWhat are the key considerations for choosing a public cloud provider?

Public cloud vendors have seen tremendous growth over the past decade. Rather than just providing computing or storage capabilities over the Internet, public cloud vendors now offer comprehensive technology suites delivered through the cloud. More businesses are moving to the cloud every day, so choosing the right public cloud provider is essential for your business.

When determining the right public cloud provider for your enterprise, you need to know the key considerations to keep in mind during the selection process. How do you determine which public cloud provider is right for you? What does your company need to know when looking at public cloud vendors? Below, we listed five key considerations for choosing a public cloud provider!

After choosing a public cloud provider, you might want to consider a managed service provider to help you make the transition easier. Our MSP Buyer’s Guide contains profiles on the top cloud managed service providers for AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, as well as questions you should ask vendors and yourself before buying. We also offer an MSP Vendor Map that outlines those vendors in a Venn diagram to make it easy for you to select potential providers.

Cloud-based services

Public cloud providers offer a wide spectrum of services through their platform, with high-end vendors maintaining over 100 distinct services. At their core, most public cloud providers will offer computing, storage, security, and database services, but many also provide several niche cloud services that accomplish specific tasks. Depending on your company’s needs, you’ll want specific services in your cloud deployment; public cloud providers allow you to pick and choose which services your business wants to use, letting you create the best cloud environment for your infrastructure.

Ease of use

If a piece of technology isn’t easy enough to use, it will cause huge problems for your company and its employees. Your company needs to be able to get comfortable with the cloud portal interface as well as the layout of your cloud deployment. Without a solid user experience, your employees will grow frustrated with your enterprise’s cloud solutions or make a mistake in its cloud operations.

Pricing model

One of the benefits of the public cloud is that your company only pays for the services and resources it uses. Rather than being presented with a flat fee, cloud providers operate on a pay-as-you-use pricing model. Different services will cost more per resource usage, however, so you’ll want to know upfront how much using a particular service or service bundle will cost. – Read more

Migrating from on-premise OTM to the cloud for a more positive bottom line

My Post - 2019-11-14T160246.583.pngWithin the trucking industry, there has always been a push to embrace practices and adopt technology that can help fleets improve efficiency by reducing operational costs and automating redundant manual processes, which leads to better customer service levels.

Though transportation management tools have been in the ecosystem for quite a while, the storage of collected data and the services being offered were largely on-premise – within the cab.

Over the last few years, cloud-based technology has become mainstream across the freight market, helping fleets store data and receive services in real-time over the internet. However, for this to happen, fleets will have to migrate their systems from being Oracle Transportation Management (OTM) on-premise to OTM cloud, which is a process where fleets could make do with some help for transition.

“In its essence, cloud migration is really about moving from a client-managed Oracle OTM infrastructure and support to an Oracle-managed OTM infrastructure and support,” said Mark Kissell, the vice president of logistics solutions at Eminent Global Logistics, a subsidiary of Redwood Logistics. “But that’s the easy part. Managing and migrating the data from the OTM on-premise to the cloud is where the actual work is.”

Kissel pointed out that one of the primary reasons for companies to migrate stemmed from their eagerness to reduce their IT infrastructure and support costs. There also exists a functionality gap between on-premise and cloud software, with the latter having a performance edge and much more backend support, thus making it more reliable overall.

Before the advent of the cloud-based OTM, the on-premise OTM was an enterprise transportation management system tool that was mainly used by Fortune 500 companies, because the costs associated with IT infrastructure and support were not affordable for small- and mid-tier businesses.

“When Oracle came out with its cloud OTM platform, it was met with skepticism by the on-premise client base, who believed that the cloud couldn’t handle what they were doing, or simply thought it was too new to trust,” said Kissel. “But that opinion turned in a year or two of the cloud, and with the conversations I’ve had with clients in the past year, they seem to realize that they’re now getting left behind.”

Large companies are making the shift, with cloud migration now becoming a business strategy. Fortune 500 companies view this as an opportunity to reduce their IT infrastructure and support costs, with Kissel mentioning that Redwood Logistics saw a 50 percent increase in cloud migrations since the last quarter of 2018. – Read more

Why the future of data security in the cloud is programmable

My Post - 2019-11-13T131356.602.pngIt’s the way software used to be purchased, and often still is.

A CEO, or GM, or line-of-business owner calls into IT, and the security and compliance teams, to let them know that they are purchasing a new piece of software to drive innovation in how they deliver their products or services. Because the software needs to be customised, integrated and controlled in the company’s on-prem or cloud environment, the IT team needs to deploy it and the security team needs to secure it.

The problem is that IT, security, and compliance are already behind. As the “Defenders” of the business, they must now apply multiple other third-party products to that application in order to to gain fine-grained control over who accesses it and what data they can access. While a growing body of regulations state that security and privacy must be implemented “by design,” they didn’t design the application that the “Builders” delivered. At this point, everything they do is fundamentally an afterthought.

The conundrum of the defender

The job of the Defender is a difficult one, because security and privacy as an afterthought creates both complexity and vulnerability. The complexity comes especially from security products needing to be customised in order to function in lockstep with the application whose data they are protecting. The larger and more complex the application to protect, the more you have to invest to configure and maintain the products that secure it.

Vulnerabilities arise because between the application and the security products meant to protect it, there are seams—gaps in communication, coordination, and capability that occur naturally when two systems that are constantly evolving occupy two different infrastructure spaces. It is those seams that endlessly produce new exposure every day.

More vulnerabilities lead to more security products, which lead to more complexity, and you can see where this is going. Large enterprises own an average of between 50-70 security products, and lack the personnel and resources to marshal those products to deal with the sometimes hundreds of thousands of open vulnerabilities that have been created by the patchwork.

Where this is reflected in the business is that spending on cybersecurity increases every year, but that spending appears to be doing nothing to stem the tide of data breaches and privacy exposures, which are expanding at an even faster rate.

Enter the builders

The perspective of the developer, the Builders of applications, has changed. More and more, requirements around managing performance, reliability, and scalability have migrated into development processes as dev-ops and cloud infrastructure have gone mainstream. Security has followed suit, as progressive developers and dev-ops teams have adopted the mantra that the secret to fighting this battle is to get more involved in security upfront.

The initial steps in this movement have been focused on decreasing the coding of vulnerabilities, meaning that tools have been introduced into the application assembly line that analyse code for security weaknesses and prompt developers to address those weaknesses before applications get released.

This is a huge step, as those code vulnerabilities, if not caught ahead of time, are what lead to the dreaded “security patch.” Patches are software afterthoughts which IT often finds very painful to apply, as it can mean taking a system down for maintenance or other contortions that are highly disruptive to the business.

It makes sense to write more secure code, because coding is what developers do. But many developers are doing more. Now tools are becoming available that developers can embed into applications that give security, compliance, and risk-management visibility into and control over the flows of data.

These tools are not an afterthought, they are part of the application—a forethought. Most of the complexity that an IT-delivered security product introduces is avoided because the utility of the application is delivered along with security, and everything is on the same page and in the same context.

More powerfully, the seams between the application and its security products which fuel the runaway train of vulnerabilities disappear. We see at ALTR that when an application developed using the programmable model is delivered, it has tools to manage data in a changing world of security, compliance, and risk delivered along with it. Data security and governance has been “programmed in”.

Programmable as cloud-native

With the ability to monitor data access, govern it, and selectively protect data even from developers themselves wired into applications, there is another door that swings wide open: application portability.

Many companies, from traditional manufacturing all the way to software companies themselves, are looking for ways to leverage the economics and flexibility of cloud infrastructure. For most of these companies, the number 1 and number 2 concerns as to going to infrastructure that they don’t control are security and compliance.

But when a development team wires in tools to allow for the control of data regardless of where the application is deployed, the business is free to determine the best infrastructure for the application in question based on performance, cost, reliability and other IT priorities. Cloud options from platform-as-a-service all the way to serverless architecture, where IT doesn’t have to maintain any of the infrastructure stack, are all on the table.

Through this lens the economic benefits of programmable data security come completely into focus. Adopting this approach, by way of example, ALTR has been able to help a business optimise its digital footprint based on delivery of technology services, not on the security of them. Also, there are some additional savings that these organisations realise in the consolidation of security products, because many existing products are tied to the infrastructure in which they are deployed, from physical network appliances to cloud-provider-specific tools. – Read more

How cloud technology can help you keep on top of your business finances

My Post - 2019-11-12T151938.730.pngDonna Torres is an international leader in small business and is responsible for growing the Xero subscriber base throughout Europe, Middle East & Africa.

She is passionate about helping SMEs to succeed and is focussed on supporting them through the challenges they face today with the latest technology.

Cloud technology is a very effective tool that can save small businesses time and resources. It delivers servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and intelligence over the internet.  You can tailor your cloud usage and subscriptions to suit your business’ needs and budget, delivering fast and flexible results.

When it comes to finances, cloud-based technology can save businesses money and help them manage finances more effectively in a number of different ways.

Reduced costs

By taking certain business operations into the cloud, businesses can save a lot of money on setting up a costly server and storage system on their premises. Logistical costs like setting up a server can wipe out a lot of business’ budgets when they’re starting out – it will also cut down ongoing repair and maintenance costs. Enabling the cloud helps save capital for other aspects of the business that need your attention and TLC.

Real time data

Cloud technology can give business owners an accurate and up to date look at data like cash flow, to the minute. This can also be accessed remotely and from any device. This prevents financial mistakes and going into overdraft – as the business is aware of how much cash they have at their disposal at any given time.

Cloud accounting platforms like Xero will help you track and report on key business metrics in real-time. These include accounts receivables, operating margins and inventory turnover. Having a good handle on these business metrics will help you manage your cash like a pro – and take advantage of new opportunities.

Save time

Team time and resources can be one of the most costly aspects of running a business. Cloud technology unlocks the power of automation. Employees can spend less time on time consuming tasks like bookkeeping, logging expenses or invoicing. For example, businesses can now send an invoice as soon as it’s ready, see when it’s been opened and viewed, and send automated reminder notices.

Cloud technology also makes sharing large files much easier as all data is backed up using the internet. This means large assets can be shared with a simple link and with no delay.

This gives employees more time to spend on creative thinking and problem solving for your business, leading to quicker growth and expansion, and, let’s face it – happier employees!

Scalability

The cloud is entirely scalable so businesses only pay for the exact technology and services they need. For example, you may only initially want cloud accounting, like Xero, and a simple storage solution when you’re starting. You can then upscale your cloud usage as your business grows.

Xero currently has 800 apps on its ecosystem which integrate with its software, featuring innovative technology for every industry. For example, farmers could use Xero’s integration with Farmflo to improve the speed and accuracy of keeping their farm records for reporting and compliance. Retailers can access seamless point of sale and inventory keeping with Vend, which feeds into Xero to give you an accurate look at business performance. – Read more

How to better leverage the cloud for your tech business

My Post - 2019-11-12T151028.345.pngThe cloud allows companies to be more efficient and flexible with their computing resources, scaling up or down as their needs change. Here’s how to make the most of it.

A recent report by research company Gartner projects the global public cloud services market to grow 17.5% in 2019 to $214.3 billion, up from $182.4 billion in 2018.

“We know of no vendor or service provider today whose business model offerings and revenue growth are not influenced by the increasing adoption of cloud-first strategies in organizations,” said Gartner’s research VP, Sid Nag. And in the next three years, “Gartner projects the market size and growth of the cloud services industry at nearly three times the growth of overall IT services.”

Here in Philly, a recent survey of 100 Philly-based tech execs surveyed found that three of the top five most desirable tech skills involve the cloud. So why are so many companies turning to the cloud? There are several reasons driving its growth.

When we think of the cloud, many of us think data centers and hardware and less about software development. And with good reason: The cloud allows companies to be more efficient and flexible with their computing resources, scaling up or down as their needs change. Cloud providers are most likely to have better security and disaster recovery options, as well.

But you should also consider how the cloud can leverage your people. Cloud computing allows them to access applications and data from any location, as long as there is an internet connection. This increases productivity and also allows for the workforce to not be tied to one specific office location, while still allowing collaboration. Lastly, cloud providers have tools and features that let your people focus on the business problem, rather than things like authentication and mobile app configuration.

So how can you leverage the cloud for your business?

Extend what you already have.

Do you already have a Java web application? There’s no reason to throw it away and start fresh with Node.JS and AWS Lambda. Instead, look at how you can leverage auto-scaling to ensure that your application responds to changes in demand, how a load balancer can replace your existing Nginx or HAProxy front end, how you can use a content delivery network such as AWS CloudFront to reduce load on those servers, or how a cloud-based web firewall can protect you against denial-of-service attacks.

There is a lot of low-hanging fruit to be gained from an initial “lift and shift,” and the benefits of being “cloud native” will appear as you make these changes. Eventually, you will see ways to reimplement those parts of your application that can truly benefit from running in the cloud.

This advice applies to new projects as well. If you have a team that already knows a technology, leverage that knowledge and add in parts of the cloud infrastructure that make sense. – Read more

Eradicate human error and make your cloud implementation a picnic

My Post - 2019-11-08T151618.762.pngSunshine, sandwiches, scenic views, and not a care in the world besides the occasional wasp. Everyone loves a picnic.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for PICNIC, an enduring acronym in IT circles standing for Problem In Chair, Not In Computer. The term, dating back to the 1980s, was first employed by frustrated IT professionals weary of dealing with computer problems arising from user error rather than any actual issues with the technology.

Such challenges still exist today although, increasingly, they are migrating to the cloud. Data breaches resulting from cloud misconfigurations can have dramatic consequences. For example, the Capital One breach earlier this year affected more than 100 million records.

In most cases, these breaches are not the result of a particularly skilled threat actor or any advanced exploits or malware. Instead the door is left wide open through human error. Unfortunately, such cloud security issues are the result of poor data protection practices. For instance, sensitive information may be stored in unencrypted form or access permissions not locked down properly.

The Capital One data breach, first reported in July, is a particularly powerful example of how poor practices can trigger a major security crisis. The incident saw customer data including more than 140,000 social security numbers, one million Canadian social insurance numbers, 80,000 bank account numbers, and an unknown quantity of customer names and addresses accessed by Paige Thompson, a former software engineer at Amazon Web Services. It has been estimated that the breach could cost the company upwards of $150m.

The breach was made possible by a misconfiguration of the web application developed by Capital One, and not the underlying Amazon cloud-based infrastructure. Amazon also stated that the perpetrator’s specialist insider knowledge was not a factor, but rather the breach could have been carried out by anyone who stumbled on the misconfiguration.

Similar breaches have occurred at Fedex and Californian car dealership services provider Dealer Leads. Indeed, cloud-based data breaches caused by user errors are becoming so frequent that the PICNIC acronym might arguably be updated to stand for Problem In Company, Not In Cloud.

How can firms reduce the threat?

Because cloud-related mistakes can potentially expose businesses to huge and costly data breaches, organisations must do much more to mitigate the risks. It’s very difficult to remove the risk of human error entirely. Organisations need to ensure they implement robust policies to protect sensitive data in the cloud, as well as the right tool to manage them.

An audit is a good place to start. It is impossible to keep sensitive data safe if a company isn’t aware of what information it owns or where it is kept. Many organisations have spent years hoarding as much data as possible, and it’s all too easy for them to lose track as they expand and change their infrastructure.

Audits can help the enterprise get its house in order.  Their disciplined approach lets organisations locate and classify any and all sensitive information spread across on-premises and cloud servers. Audits are especially good for identifying data that is governed by regulations such as the GDPR and PCI-DSS.

The challenge with built-in classification capabilities present in many cloud-based solutions is that rule creation and tagging is often a labour-intensive, manual process. For this reason enterprises should look to automate this process as much as possible. – Read more