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Friday, 05 December 2014 15:19

Small Business Cloud Advice - How to ensure that moving to the cloud is heaven and not hell

Posted By  Andy Hinxman

A quick guide for small businesses on how you check that a possible supplier is able to offer what you need, and doesn’t sell you into a system that damages your business or costs you more money that you need to spend.

 

Whether it’s the latest tube strikes or someone breaking their leg and not being able to come to work, there will come a time when the benefits of cloud computing are inescapable to a business.  When that time comes, unless you have the time and expertise, you need to engage a supplier to manage your Cloud services.  How do you check that a possible supplier is able to offer what you need and doesn’t blind you with IT speak into a system that damages your business or costs you more money that you need to spend?

In moving onto the Cloud your aim should be to ensure that employees can work seamlessly on their systems in the exact same way that they do from your office, whilst offering the same level of security.  Your first question to any supplier should be confirmation that they are able to provide this.  If they hesitate at all move on, there is no technical reason why they can’t contractually agree to this.  Of course there will be provisos, such as the speed of your internet connection, but a good supplier will test this out for you and recommend an increase if necessary.  Depending on what sort of hosted solution you are looking for will depend on the bandwidth requirements. 

Citrix based hosted desktops require a user to have approximately 500KB download speed (for each user logging in).  Most home and business connections will have at least this, but also look out for how contended your line is too (i.e. how many people are sharing the line) as this could also impact on the performance.  Most home users would be absolutely fine though.  Alternatives to hosted desktops are systems such as Office 365 which don’t really have the same kind of bandwidth requirements as much of your work can by synchronised to an offline location.

What features do you need? 

E-mail is now standard and the Microsoft Exchange email platform, and in particular, Office 365 will allow staff to access their emails from their mobiles, from the web and from tablet devices (as well as PCs, Macs and Laptops) whenever and wherever they are.  Does the supplier offer to support all devices?

Do you need staff to access their work phones whilst on the move or at home? 

The VoIP (Voice over IP providers) allows companies to give their staff “soft phones” on their PCs and laptops, enabling them to call their office via their extension and make normal business calls over the internet.  In addition your supplier should be able to provide apps for Android and iPhone devices to allow employees to call over WIFI from their work number effortlessly.  Office 365 Lync takes this to another level by allowing employees to instant message, call or video conference staff or clients, from their phones, tablets or PCs and Laptops from anywhere in the world.

Hosted Virtual Desktops

If your employees need remote access to documents there are a number of solutions on the market including known publicly available systems.  However, for a business to offer access to shared documents and to ensure security is in place, your supplier should suggest a solution such as Microsoft Share point, Microsoft One Drive or an enterprise file sharing platform such as Soonr.   

A good supplier will be able to provide employees with Hosted Virtual Desktops.  The hosted virtual desktop gives employees the same “desktop” wherever they are and it doesn’t matter what device they are using to connect from.  This means they can access the same e-mails and documents without needing any separate systems.    

Hosted Virtual Desktops and Office 365 are becoming the preferred choice depending on the customer’s requirements and budget.  Both of these solutions come with the relevant security credentials, such as ISO 27001 and G-cloud certified. 

For Hosted Virtual Desktops you would normally expect to pay a set up cost of around £100 to £150 per employee set up and then anything from £85 to £150 per month per user for the services and support.  The cheapest option is not necessarily the right option for you.  Office 365 and other solutions would vary in price.  All good suppliers will have service level agreements; you need to compare them carefully against your needs.  How quickly will they respond if you have a problem?  

Some suppliers will charge you different fees depending on how quickly you need problems resolved.  Where is the call centre based (UK or abroad)?  It can be extremely frustrating for staff to have to deal with an overseas call centre when their IT is not working and they have to meet a deadline.  It is also worth ensuring that there are no hidden costs e.g. extra costs to add new users, extra costs to come on site etc.  It’s well worth getting references and recommendations. 

About the author

Andy Hinxman is owner and founder of Keybridge IT Solutions, a specialist London-based IT company offering support, hosting and specialist IT services to clients in all sectors. Previous to Keybridge Andy worked at IPS Group, PFJ, Carlisle Group and Harvey Nash

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