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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

Banks-of-servers
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.

Choosing an IT Support Company

Choosing an IT Support Company

IT SupportWhether you have just decided to outsource your IT Support or are looking to change provider, choosing the right company to work with can be a daunting and time consuming process.

Here are a few tips to help ease the process and demystify the  world of IT Support outsourcing.

Do Your Homework – make a list of your strengths and weaknesses, your budget, plans for the future.  Be honest with future providers about these things as they will determine the cover to offer.

What Level of Cover is Needed? – Think about which areas of IT are important to your business i.e email or printing?  What hours do you need cover and how long can you afford to be down before assistance reaches you?

Telephone, Remote or Onsite? – Do you want an all-inclusive insurance style policy – one fee covers everything – or can you live with remote and telephone support, paying extra for someone to come onsite if you need it?

Small and Local or Large and National – Do you need cover for multiple locations or just have a single office?  Do you want to work with a smaller local company where you will get to know all the Engineers and they get to know you or look to a larger national company who may have more enterprise level expertise but have many more engineers and lack that personal touch?

The Final Choice – Make sure you meet with all your providers.  They should want to visit your site and check what equipment they will be supporting.  Ask to see a sample contract to check the small print.  Try calling the helpdesk number to see how easy it is to contact the company (you may need to check if they have a designated contract telephone number).

Choosing an IT Support provider should not be a quick decision based purely on cost.  There is a lot to consider from both parties.

For more information and for a more detailed copy of this article please click here.

Are you ready for Windows XP End of Support?

Windows XPOn April 8th 2014 Microsoft are retiring all support for its Windows XP operating system and Office 2003. XP has been a reliable and stable operating system for more than a decade, but increasing demands for faster, more secure, highly functional computing have now brought about its demise. In fact the last major upgrade Service Pack 3 was released in April 2008 so XP computers are generally at least 4 years old and we know of some systems that are 10 years old and still working!

If you are still a Windows XP user and it does all you want; “So what” you might say. “I can do all I need with my current computers and don’t want to spend money on replacing or upgrading.”

The first thing we would say is that you can’t expect your computer to last forever, one day it will fail and will need to be replaced (possibly urgently). Compatible spare parts will become even more of a rarity as time moves forward so repairing becomes less of an option.

Putting aside the possibility that you may have lost all of your historic data if you haven’t been diligent in regularly backing up, users will have a steep learning curve to cope with the most modern Windows operating system; currently Windows 8.1. There are also compatibility issues with other software and devices to consider and, if replacing a PC in an emergency situation, this can turn into a costly exercise when discovering that printers or accounts software also needs to be replaced in order for it to work.

Microsoft issued “security patches” are designed to plug holes in their operating systems (and applications) where “hackers” are trying to compromise the program for their own uses. You could ask “why isn’t the product 100% secure from its initial launch” but when you consider there are billions of programming instructions in multiple languages it is an impossible task. You also have to consider that hacking tools have been greatly advanced since the release of Windows XP and what was secure a decade ago is no longer so. In fact all Microsoft operating systems have improving inbuilt security as you move towards the current releases.

What are hackers trying to do on your computer?  Primarily extortion, getting their hands on your money, or using your computer to impact the operations of larger corporate organisations. Wide publicity on the impact of hackers is routinely seen in the press and having good quality fully updated antivirus is a must as a first line of defense.

Windows 8 laptopUsing scare tactics, we could be quite justified in saying that from 9th April 2014 Windows XP computers are open field for hackers. It is believed that areas of Windows XP have already been exploited but the hackers are keeping a lid on these loop holes until they know that a fix will not be issued; i.e. wreaking havoc on all XP users. Conversely we could point you back to the beginning of this century when it was suggested that many computers would become vulnerable to hackers due to their inability to roll over the date from 1999 to 2000. Commonly known as the “Millennium Bug”, it really turned out to be a non-event.

Undoubtedly XP computers will be targeted by hackers and really the impact is unknown but there is most definitely a greatly increased risk of infiltration and possible exposure of personal information.

The purpose of this article is to highlight these risks so you can make a judgment on what to do. Are you prepared to risk that this will be a non-event and can be ignored or do you need to take action.

If you decide that action is required the import thing is that this is a managed process. Give yourselves time to assess which PC’s need to be replaced or upgraded, assess if any compatibility issues will arise and get users trained on new systems.

Putting aside the scare factors, due to age XP computers will fail and need replacing. Managing this process on your timescales and budget will be a far easier and cheaper transition than picking up the pieces in a disaster scenario.

ACS Technologies can help your migration from Windows XP in a variety of ways and manage the process from initial assessment to installation and training if you require.

1. Assess your current IT systems and review which systems need to be replaced and any systems which may be suitable for upgrade

2. Look at associated hardware and software to confirm compatibility

3. Put together a quotation and project plan. This can include finance options and roll out plans for staged migrations on larger projects

4. Supply, install and configure new systems onsite

5. Train users

6. Provide ongoing support to cover the hardware, software, network and users for trouble-free IT infrastructure.

We are currently offering FREE initial review sessions if you would like to discuss upgrading your systems and find out any implications. Please contact us if you would like to book a session with one of our consultants. We do have a limited number of free sessions available so please don’t delay!