Is Cloud Computing Right for You?

Are you interested in migrating your internal systems to ‘the cloud’ or implementing a hosted service? Hosted solutions aren’t right for every company but ACS can help you decide the best solution for your needs.

When considering moving or introducing a hosted solution there’s a few basics you can check yourself to get started….

Your Internet Connection

cloud computing
Is cloud computing right for you?

If you have quite a number of people connecting to your data from one place then you need to make sure you have a decent Internet connection to support them, similarly if you are looking to implement a hosted PBX or VoIP telephone system.

For data use you need to ensure you have a fast enough connection for all your users to be able to download and upload the files and data they need. The bandwidth needed will depend on your individual business – whether you have mainly small sized documents or larger CAD drawings and the number of people that will be connected, as well as anything else you use your Internet connection for.

For telephony use, you don’t necessarily need a fast connection but it must be stable as voice traffic can easily be distorted or dropped if the connection varies in speed and quality (we would always recommend having a dedicated broadband connection for voice traffic)

Your Data

Where is your cloud data stored?

Not all files and folders can be uploaded to a multi-tenancy
environment such as Microsoft’ Office 365 service.  This is because the data is stored in a Microsoft SharePoint environment (basically a database) and therefore there are certain characters that cannot be included in file names, limits to the size of files and also the length of file names that can be uploaded.  There is also a limitation on the amount of data that can be uploaded in a Company Wide file location as opposed to an individual’s folder and this can cause problems as your usage grows.

These issues are not so much of a problem if you go for a dedicated hosted server or remote solution as the service is configured to your needs rather than you having to conform to a particular service, however this costs a lot more.

Network Security

If you want to get rid of your server altogether and moving everything to the cloud then you need to consider network security. If you are based in an office environment, as opposed to people working remotely from individual locations, your server will do a lot more than just hold your files.  It’s the server that manages each users login details, shares devices such as printers and manages your data security.  Moving away from a Server Active Directory environment means each PC or laptop acts as an individual device, with individual logins. This makes it much more difficult to hotdesk and manage things like password policies.  Also, devices such as printers have to be set up individually on each machine and everything is maintained individually rather than from one point.

In this instance you could go for a fully hosted Virtual Desktop environment where your network security, devices etc are managed all in the cloud environment and nothing is held locally on the PC’s (like the old dumb terminals) or you could look at a hybrid environment where you combine a lower specification and cheaper server with Cloud services for Email and other line of business applications.

The Cost

When considering moving or implementing hosted services do consider and add up all the cost implications. Cloud is not necessarily cheaper.  If you base your TCO over the average life of a server (5 years) do a like for like comparison between on-premise and hosted services to see what offers the best deal.

Yes, you save the upfront costs of purchasing hardware and software licenses but this can be spread with finance agreements.  Also, don’t be fooled by the ‘no support needed’ USP!

IT Support
Your on premise equipment still needs support

You still have your individual PC’s, laptops, printers and Internet Connection which need maintaining (and that is where the majority of our support calls come from) plus hosted services need maintaining too. If you have a dedicated server, this needs the same software patching and maintenance as on-premise (though you don’t have to worry about the hardware).  Some companies will manage this as part of your package but it generally costs a lot more.

With a service such as office 365, all the updating and patching is managed for you however you don’t usually have much of a say as to when this happens. Plus there is still the day to day maintenance of maintaining security and user accounts, managing data etc.

So, is Cloud suitable for your business? For many it offers a cost effective way of moving their business forward and having access to enterprise level software they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford but for some it has been an expensive learning curve.  Before you embark on your flight, let ACS help you plan and manage your project to make sure you get the right solution.

Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.

Web Design – First Steps

WebsiteEvery business can benefit from a Web presence. Whether you want to promote your products and services online, sell online, provide a service for your customers online or just provide basic contact details for people that want to get in touch there’s a solution for you.

So, if you are looking to get a web presence or want to update your current offering where do you start?

What do you want to do?

First of all, decide what you want to do online as this will determine the structure of your site and how it is developed. If you just want a basic brochure site then that’s fine and virtually any host will be suitable for you. If you want to add blog or news sections that you can update yourself, an e-commerce section or other interactive content then it’s easiest if you plan this from the start – even if this side of the site won’t be developed straight off.


Then comes the design. If you are having your site built for you then the company should come up with 2 or 3 options for you. The design should represent your business with regards to colours and logo but must also be easy on the eye and easy to navigate.

If you are building your site yourself, take a look at similar businesses to yours to get some ideas and see what works and what doesn’t. Most of the main hosts such as 1and1 and GoDaddy will provide some templates which will get you started but do try to customise them rather than sticking with the ‘out-the-box’ designs.

Some Website Designs
Courtesy of

If you are using a system such as WordPress to design your site, again, there are many different templates which can be used as a base for your site.

You should use a template page to base your other pages on. This means that if later on you want to change a menu or some part of the design, you only need to update the template page rather than every other page individually!

Content is King

So you have a design, now you need to write your content. This is your opportunity to catch your site visitors’ attention and encourage them to make contact. You only have a few seconds to do this so keep it short and catchy but informative. You are better off creating several shorter pages, each about a specific subject, than trying to cram everything on to one or two.

Google searchContent needs to be unique for each page and also unique from other online material you may have. Search Engines now recognise identical content and your Search Engine rankings will suffer if you simply copy and paste from other online sources.

Also, remember that your visitors may enter your site at any page of your site so make sure visitors can easily navigate around from every page and that your contact details and call to action are included on every page.

Use images wherever possible but keep the image file size small. Moving graphics and video are great to grab attention but again, keep it relevant and the file size small. A lot of people still have poor internet connectivity and lots of large images and animations will mean your page takes longer to load and the visitor gets a bad experience.

Finally, remember that the beauty of online marketing is that you can change it simply and easily. Keep your site up to date, especially if you promote offers, have news items or testimonials.

If you are looking to re-design your website or would like help getting started, please contact us.

UPS – Protecting your Network Equipment

UPS imageMention UPS and most people think about parcel delivery companies; however an Uninterruptible Power Supply is an essential piece of equipment that should be in your comms room.

A UPS is basically an intelligent big battery but, it does much more than giving you a bit more run time in the event of a power cut.

Any equipment that is essential to your network should be plugged in to the UPS including your servers, network switches, routers, firewalls, telephone system and any other important PC’s.

With this in mind your UPS needs to be large enough to cope with this load and to allow time to cover short power cuts and to allow for the safe shutdown of the servers in event of a longer power outage. Servers suddenly losing power is one of the biggest causes of corruption and should be avoided wherever possible.

To help ‘size’ your UPS, you need to find out the total Watts or VA (volts x amps) required for all the equipment to be plugged in (use one or the other – don’t mix them up!), add 25% for future expansion – this is your capacity. Work out how long you need this equipment to be supported by the battery and then add on the amount of time it will take to safely shut down your servers – this is your run time.

LigthningIn addition, UPS will generally protect against some or all of the 9 main types of power problems. These are brown outs, power spikes, sags, over voltage, line noise, frequency variation, switching transient, harmonic distortion and actual power failure. Even if you have a good power supply to the building, these common issues will be created by the other equipment and environmental factors in the building such as lifts, laser printers, lighting, weather and how many people are in the office. All of these can have a detrimental effect on your equipment by putting additional strain on components and power supplies. A good quality UPS will filter the power input to provide a consistent power supply to the equipment.

Once you have selected your UPS and made your purchase it needs to be installed in your cabinet, or by your servers and network equipment. A new UPS will usually be shipped with the battery disconnected and will need to be assembled prior to connection. In addition, the battery will need time to charge so you may wish to plug it in to the mains and allow the battery to fully charge before adding it to your network. Shut all the equipment down and plug in to the UPS. Some UPS will have different output sockets for different ratings of equipment. Switch the UPS on and then switch on the equipment

UPS CabinetOnce everything is plugged in, install the correct drivers and software on the servers and configure them with the correct shutdown commands, make sure you allow enough time for the servers to shut down fully whilst the UPS battery can support them. Some telephone systems and firewalls may also need configuring with shutdown commands sent from the UPS or associated SNMP software.

Finally, remember to test your UPS to ensure it will support your equipment and shutdown servers in a timely manner. Batteries will need changing approximately every 3 years, possibly more if used regularly.

If you need help selecting the correct UPS for your network, would like your existing UPS tested or require replacement batteries please contact us.

Network Security

network-security-mEvery company wants their internal network to be safe and secure. You want to keep your data away from those that don’t need to see it and make sure that no one can access or change settings that could cause problems.

It is easy to lock everything down but that causes other issues with users then not being able to access systems remotely, complaining about internal ‘red tape’ and problems in emergency situations where someone has to get information quickly but doesn’t have the right permissions.

So how can you make your internal network secure but also make it practical?

There is no magic wand solution and users will need to be on-board with the idea that they may need to change some of their working practices but, as data loss or a security breach can have serious implications to your customer, supplier and staff relationships, there is a good case to be heard for implementing some best practices.

Here are a few things that you may wish to consider for your own network which should be inexpensive and relatively simple to implement.

  1. Enforce a password policy. Make sure all users have their own user account and password to access the network and that they do not share this information with anyone else. These passwords should be changed regularly (ideally monthly) and consist of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. If you have a Server on your network then this can be enforced automatically.
  2. password-mKeep your Server Administration credentials secure. Do not give this information to everyone, it is the key to your data and whole network infrastructure! If you have 3rd parties that need to access your server or network to administer their software then give them their own log in account with specific access rights. That way you can also monitor when they are logging in. Or better still, ask them to utilise a secure remote access system such as team Viewer or LogMeIn where you need to instigate the connection.
  3. Set up you folder and file structure so that it is easy to implement security permissions. For example, keep all your HR and personnel related documents in folder, with sub folders underneath. Permission to this can then easily be restricted to the Users in the Personnel User Group.
  4. Make sure remote access is secure and via encrypted services such as a secure VPN or Windows 2012 Server Remote Access services. Ensure that remote access passwords are secure and that each user has their own credentials.
  5. Bitlocker imageMake sure that laptops, mobile phones and tablets are all secured with pin codes and passwords. Turn on remote wipe so that any corporate information and remote connections can be deleted should your device be lost or stolen.
  6. Use encryption facilities, such as BitLocker, on portable devices and ideally do not hold any data locally.
  7. Make sure your wireless network is secure. If you wish to give external users Internet access, set up a separate SSID with access only to the internet and check to make sure this does not give access to your server or network data.

This article is really just the tip of the iceberg. How far a Company goes to secure its network will depend largely on the type of data they hold and its potential importance and value to other people. For example, a firm of builders is not likely to store data or information that would be of great value to anyone else. A firm of Financial Advisers on the other hand may hold data on its clients that could be used for identity theft. But at the end of the data, any unauthorised access to your network should be cause for concern and it will be of more concern if you are not the first to find out about it!

If you would like help in securing your network or would like a free IT consultancy session to discuss security issues, please contact us.

Summary for LinkedIn & Google Plus

How secure is your network? Do you know who has access to your data? What would happen if you lost your phone or laptop with all your business contacts? A security breach and data theft can be a company’s downfall so how can you protect yourself but still give your employees some degree of freedom to work?

Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Flood SignHow many people have a DR plan in place for their business?  Would you know where to start or do you think that it’s OK as the business insurance will cover everything?

Making sure your business insurance is up to date and all-encompassing should be part of your DR plan but the main focus should be on keeping your business working should you have to move premises, lose the use of your PC’s, server and laptops and/or have restricted use of your facilities and equipment.

The idea of a DR plan is to keep your business trading and making money whilst the problems are sorted out.   After all, if you can’t keep selling your products and services where will the money come from to rebuild your business, or at least tide you over whilst the insurance company processes your claim?

A DR Plan should cover your whole business but we’ll focus on the IT side. Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  1. Pan and PaperThink about the most important things you need to have access to and use on a daily basis. That could be your accounts package, your contact list, your CRM system. Do you have a backup plan if you can’t access these such as paper records or alternative systems.
  2. Make sure your PC’s and servers are backed up regularly onto tape, external hard drive or remotely. Check your backups to make sure they are completing, that you can restore and that all your data is included in your backup jobs. If you do backup to tape or hard drive, make sure that you rotate your devices and take the latest backup offsite.
  3. Have details of all important information such as Administrator user names and passwords, email account details and any backup services securely stored offsite. Keep them up to date and know where they are!
  4. Make sure your important equipment is attached to a UPS – Uninterruptable Power Supply. This will offer a short amount of battery backup, to cover short power cuts, and should shut your servers down in the proper manner in the event of a longer power outage. A UPS should also protect against power fluctuations.
  5. Have a plan on where you can work and alternative business processes you can use in the event that you cannot get in to your offices or have access to your systems.
  6. Consider your communications.  Do you have all the information you need to hand to divert telephone calls to your main number to another landline or mobiles?  Can you access your email via a web portal if your server is inaccessible?

If you need help to put together a DR plan or would like to look at remote backup or email continuity services, please contact us.

Email Demystified

Email Demystified

These days, email is an essential communication tool for any business. But there are many different hosting solutions out there so which is best for you?

Free or Paid For Account?

New email messageEmail is generally provided on a subscription service. There are companies that provide an email service for free, such as Microsoft and Google. These free services will only let you customise the first part of the email address, so you will get something like or

You will probably get some sort of email service incorporated into your broadband package, though again this will usually carry the providers domain such as or

These accounts will also be either POP or IMAP accounts. With POP accounts you dial in to a server to collect your email but the intention is that the email is downloaded onto that device and removed from the server permanently. This is OK if you only have one PC or laptop collecting your email but if you have multiple devices it can be difficult to get a synchronised email solution on everything.

IMAP accounts are better in as much as the email synchronises with the server and is left there for other devices to download. However, this synchronisation does not work 100% on all devices and there can be some issues with deleted items not deleting permanently, especially on Apple devices.

If you wish to use your own domain name then you would need to look at a paid for email service. After registering your domain, records can then be set to either send the email to your providers POP or IMAP account for you to download or onto you Exchange server (hosted or on-premise).

POP/IMAP or Exchange?

Apple emailAs mentioned before, POP/IMAP accounts tend to be provided as free accounts or as part of a hosting or internet connection package. In addition, they will only manage email and therefore there is restriction on using and sharing other information such as calendars, contacts and tasks, which many email clients, like Outlook, have the facility to manage.

Microsoft Exchange offers a more professional communications package. As well as email, Calendars, Tasks and Contacts can be shared and facilities such as mail forwarding and Out of Office messages easily set from the desktop.

The server also stores all mail and communication items (Incoming and Outgoing) and synchronises with all your devices. This allows you to access mail from phones, laptops and PC’s and all should remain current. You can also access this remotely from any web browser.

Many companies offer a Hosted Exchange service, whereby you can utilise all these features on a subscription service. Alternatively, you may prefer to purchase the server software yourself and host it on your own internal servers.

If you would like help and advice in setting up your email, or would like to get more from your communications solution, please contact us

Choosing an Accounts Package

Choosing an Accounts Package

Pile of coinsCashflow and finances are the backbone of all companies. It’s important that businesses can manage their money in a way that is easy, understandable and legal!

But with the number of different accounts packages available, choosing the right solution can be daunting.

As with anything relating to IT (and any major business decision) planning is key.

If you are looking to move from paper records or simple Excel spreadsheets, then now is a perfect time to think about what you want from your accounts package. These days, accounts systems can do a lot more than raising invoices and reconciling the bank statement!

If you are looking to change your accounts system then write down what you like and dislike about your existing system and the additional features you require. Also consider how easy it is to export and import data from one system to the other and whether this will incur additional costs from the supplier or whether you will need external help to do this.

Here are a few pointers for consideration:-Pencil and calculator

  • If you manufacture, build items or hold items for sale, would some level of stock control or bill of materials system be useful?
  • If you are a labour-based business then a system that allows you to allocate employees time to jobs and then calculate bills based upon those figures may be helpful.
  • Do you require a purchase ledger side to your accounts? Not every company will need this if they do not resell items as part of their business.
  • If you employ staff, would incorporating Payroll into your accounts package either save you outsourcing costs or time entering data into 2 systems or manual calculations? Make sure the system allows for Real Time Reporting to HMRC of payroll data and can manage end of year reporting.
  • Are you VAT registered? If so, make sure the system you consider accounts for the different types of VAT reporting available and allows for online submissions
  • Do you require a system that can cope with multiple currencies? Many do not do this as standard!
  • Do you require a system which is installed locally on your PC or could you use a hosted solution, which you access via the Internet?

Accounts softwareGenerally, accounts systems will be available in different levels, depending on the functionality required, or will be modular, allowing you to bolt on different functionality. The more features you need, the more expensive the system will be. If you don’t need a feature right now but may do in the future, make sure that there is a cost effective and easy upgrade path, or that your base version will accept the particular add-on modules you are considering.

Make sure you understand the licensing structure. Some systems will be based upon concurrent users; for example, you may have 5 members of staff but only 3 ever access the system at once, so 3 licenses will be required in this scenario.

Some software will be based on actual users, so in the scenario above you would require 5 licenses.

There may be a licensing model per company, so if you manage accounts for more than 1 trading entity you may require additional licenses or a different version of the product.

Finally, make sure you get a fully functional trial of the software you are looking to purchase to make sure it meets your requirements, and make sure you use it with real-life scenarios! Run systems in parallel for a week or so as the only way you will ensure the system meets your needs is by using it!

If you need help choosing a system or installing a new accounts package, please contact us.

Outlook – much more than Email!

Outlook – much more than Email!

Outlook 2013Many businesses use Outlook as their email client but how many of their Staff are using all the functionality? Many people get the Email functionality, after all, that’s usually what Outlook is installed and configured for, but what about all its other features?

Outlook is a complete communications and organisation tool, with Email accounting for about a quarter of its functionality. Let’s look at some of the other features!


The calendar allows users to schedule meetings and appointments, Diarynot only for yourself but for other people too – and they don’t even have to be in your organisation. Create a new meeting and complete the onscreen form to record time and location details as well as invite attendees and give details of the event itself. Then set a reminder for either a few minutes, hours or days before the start, which will pop up on screen and remind via any mobile devices that synchronise with your mail client.


Like an online To Do list, Tasks allow you to schedule different items, again for either yourself or other people, and keep track of progress and when items have been completed. You can include start and end dates, priority and % completion information as well as details of the task itself. From within the task you can also send status reports and then finally mark an item as compete when it’s done.


Hand holding a business cardThe contact list in Outlook is not just there for keeping track of email addresses! If completed in full, contact records can be used for creating labels and mail merges and even for instigating telephone calls if you have a compatible phone system or softphone.

You can group your contacts in Distribution Lists if there are people that you mail regularly and can also choose to share and forward contacts with other Outlook users.

Other features

There are plenty of other functions which can be used across all 4 areas of Outlook.

Categories can be used to colour code and group all Outlook objects. This can be useful if you want to see or search for all items related to a particular project, event or product.

Flags can be used to quickly set follow ups for all items and also mark as completed. This can be useful for shared mailboxes. If a person sees a mail to be actioned and is going to take ownership they can click on the flag to mark it and everyone can see that mail is being dealt with. When completed, it can be marked as such so everyone knows that particular enquiry has been dealt with.

OneNote is an application included with most of the modern office suits. It is like an electronic log book or journal and is a good place to collate information on particular projects or ideas. Any Outlook item can be sent to OneNote using the button on the toolbar.

If you would like to learn more about the features of Outlook, why not contact us about our custom training courses?

Compatible Consumables – A False Economy

Compatible Consumables – A False Economy

When you look to purchase a new printer there are several things to take in to account.

PrinterFirstly you want to make sure it meets your requirements with regards to speed and quality. Secondly, does it have all the features you require – print only or do you need to scan or copy? Finally, what’s the cost of running the printer over it’s 3 – 5 year lifetime?

We’ll have a separate article on choosing your printer very shortly but that last point about running costs can be easily overlooked. Many people will look at the initial cost of the machine and not the ongoing costs of consumables.

Because of this, they often revert to using the cheaper compatible or refilled cartridges to keep running costs down. However, using these will normally prove a false economy.

Printer manufacturers spend a large amount of money in research and development of their products. That’s not just the hardware side of things but the whole package including inks, toners and the consumables hardware. This is because it takes the whole package to produce the best finish.

If you use compatible toners or inks (or refills) then the toner or ink is Toner cartridgesproduced by a third party and will generally be universal for all the consumables they sell. This will mean that you won’t get the best finish on your documents and may actually cause damage to your printer.

If you have an inkjet printer, the manufacturer will produce the ink at the correct viscosity for that particular printer, taking into account the minute outlets for the drops of ink to feed through. Too thick and the tubes and printheads will clog up, too runny and you will get washed out and smudged prints. In addition, compatibles may not offer the same fade, smudge and water resistance as the originals.

For toner printers, the toner is sealed to the media by heat as it passes through the fuser. If the toner is not engineered to fuse at exactly the right temperature you will get smudged, faded or blotchy prints. Toner powder is made up of very fine particles. The genuine manufacturer’s toner is of a high quality and the individual particles are round. Cheaper compatible toner particles have been shown to be jagged or square which, over time, can cause damage to the printer components such as belts and fusers.

For both toners and inks, you also can have issues with differences in colours, which can cause issues as your prints are made up of layering precise quantities of Black, Cyan, Yellow and Magenta to build up your prints.

Ink CartridgesFinally, the outer casings of the cartridges are often of a poorer quality. This can lead to poor fitting and issues with sensors within the printer, damage to other components and toner or ink spilling into the machine.

So, before looking at the cheapest option when purchasing your consumables consider the quality of your prints and the welfare of your printer hardware. You will always get the best results with the complete original equipment manufacturers package. If you want to manage your print costs, look at a managed print contract, where you pay a fixed monthly fee for your consumables and service based on a 3 year contract and the average number of prints you produce per month.

ACS Technologies only sell genuine manufacturers consumables but our pricing is competitive. If you would like a quotation for consumables for your current printer fleet, please contact us. We can also provide managed print contracts with new printers from most manufacturers.

On Premise vs Cloud – Which is Best?

On Premise vs Cloud – Which is Best?

This is a question we get asked time and again! When customers are thinking about replacing old servers and equipment the temptation is to cut those costs as much as possible and avoid any hefty upfront fees.

For some companies, a totally cloud solution will fit the bill perfectly, but for most people we speak to it’s not the best way to go. So how do you choose?

Write Down Your Requirements

It sounds simple but many people we go to see have not thought through what they actually need to do in their business with regards to their IT. They think they have to have technical knowledge to define any form of specification whereas in reality, any IT Provider needs to know what you use your computers for now, what you would like to do and what your plans are for the future.

This doesn’t need to be in technical terms but from a practical viewpoint i.e “John needs to be able to check his email wherever he is” or “we need any staff member to be able to access the data and email in the office should they need to work from home occasionally” or “We are looking to bring on a new sales guy next year and he will be mainly based from home”

This will help to determine which applications and services you need, from here we can determine if these are suitable for a Cloud environment or if you will need to have some data and applications on-premise.

Review Your Disaster recovery Strategy

Most smaller companies don’t even have a DR strategy so now’s a good time to think about it. How important are your computer systems to you? If your server was offline for a day or even a week, what impact would that have on your business?

Could you work from home if your office was unavailable or is this not practical (because you need other equipment, files, telephones)

Much of the monthly fee spent on Cloud Solutions is for the data Centres that host the servers and the security they provide. Yes, there are other benefits, which we will come on to later, but you are paying for redundancy of servers, multiple power and data network feeds and 99.99% uptime. If this is necessary for your business, maybe for compliance or because your business relies so heavily on your servers that any outage would be disastrous for you, then a Cloud solution would work out more cost effective than trying to implement these sorts of security and resilience features yourself.

How Good is your Internet Connection?

There are still plenty of places in the UK with a mediocre Internet connection. There is no point trying to implement a Cloud solution without a reliable and fast broadband connection. The size of pipe you need will depend on the number of users and the applications and data they are using but for a small office of say 10 people you would want a good BT Infinity 80/20 connection at least. This should be dedicated to your data traffic and not shared with VoIP phone systems or connections from Branch offices.

If considering a Cloud solution for all or part of your infrastructure you must make allowances for a good Internet connection. If your systems are vital to your business then you will need to consider investing in a dedicated line, which could add £2000 – £4000 per annum to your costs but will ensure good SLA’s to resolve any faults and a fast, reliable, dedicated connection.

Where’s Your Data?

Most of the larger Cloud Service providers these days offer regional hosting, which meets with the data regulations some industries enforce where data must be held within certain jurisdictions. Smaller, cheaper hosting options do not offer this though and your data could be held in servers all around the World.

With an on-premise server, you know your data is there, in your offices and you can retrieve and delete as you want, move it to other hardware, you have full control.

In a hosted environment, do you know where your data is? What happens if you’re hosting company goes bust or you have a falling-out? Could they hold you to ransom over access to your data?

Who else has access to those servers? Again, the larger hosting companies have very stringent security but what about the cheaper, smaller solutions?

On-Site Security & Networking

This is the area we have most difficulty with in purely Cloud environments. If a company gets rid of their on-premise server completely they are getting rid of their central network controller. It’s like going back to the 1990’s with simple Workgroup networks and nothing to offer any central security or management facilities.

It’s more difficult for users to share PC’s, unless they use generic login details. Peripherals such as Printers take longer to set up as they have to be configured individually for each PC and possibly each user on each PC.

For Companies that have mainly home-based workers or users with laptops this isn’t too much of a problem but in an office with 10 PC’s where they want the ability for any user to log in to any PC it’s virtually impossible to manage.

For many Companies, a Hybrid environment is the best solution, with a small server onsite to manage network security and other services such as Email, CRM and File Sharing based in the Cloud.

Which is Cheapest?

The simple answer is that a good, stable solution, either on-premise or in the Cloud, will not be “cheap”.

On projects we have compared so far, a good Cloud solution will have a higher TCO over 5 years than an on-premise solution, though there are other trade-offs to consider such as always having the latest versions and ongoing management of the core systems.

An on-premise solution will require higher up-front costs (though these can be managed with a finance or leasing solution). It will also fit into the Capex side of your budget. You will also have assets registered on the books and depreciation of those assets over the next 3-5 years.

A pure Cloud solution will have lower upfront costs, though don’t expect installation and configuration to be any cheaper than an on-premise solution. The majority of these costs can be put against Opex and you will not have the assets or depreciation.

With regards to ongoing support, again, don’t expect to make substantial savings on an outsourced support contract with a cloud solution unless you want to be managing this with the cloud provider yourself. Protection and support for the PC’s and laptops is just as important in a Cloud environment and, although you don’t have a physical server to support and maintain, User support is still as important in a cloud environment as with on-premise.

So, which is best?

The simple answer is that Cloud, on-premise and hybrid are all good solutions if they fit your needs.

Take time to consider your options and your requirements and do not just consider the bottom line figures. It will be more costly if you make the wrong choice!

Choose an IT provider which has experience of all 3 scenarios so they can give an unbiased opinion based around your needs and not their margins.

Be honest about how much time and technical ability you have in house to dedicate to implementing and supporting a new solution. Some Cloud services are advertised as ‘out of the box’ small business solutions. In reality, they take time and expertise to set up properly. Can you afford a week out of your business to dedicate to setting this up or would you rather concentrate on running your business?

If you would like more information on any of the solutions discussed here or would like an informal chat about your future plans, please contact us.

Technical Tips, News & Views