Author Archives: Florence

How You Can Take Advantage Of The Cloud

How You Can Take Advantage Of The Cloud

IT leaders have accepted the fact that cloud computing is here to stay. Thus, they are agreeable to the idea of moving their operations to the cloud. For cloud computing implementations to be successful, IT and business must be able to collaborate and communicate. According to James Staten of Forrester Research, Chief Information Officers of corporations are the key personnel for the success of cloud services. In Forrester Research’s survey, more and more corporate IT leaders are turning to Software-as-a-Service.

However, these leaders view cloud computing services as second-rate to their own internal applications. This is not true. Businesses and organizations which have direct experience with cloud computing services have reported that these applications are able to deliver, provide ultimate security, scalability, cost efficiency, and performance as compared to traditional IT deployments. However, for this to be true, these organizations and businesses must be able to accept direct responsibility with regards to the service configurations in order to achieve the above objective.

In order for cloud computing to be successful, IT leaders must be able to obtain hands-on experience with cloud computing. These people must first have a direct experience and let their staff learn cloud computing before they can admonish them for their shortcoming. It is best to assign a group to study various public cloud platforms to learn the cloud’s capabilities. Also, IT leaders are afraid of shifting to the cloud because their companies belong to industries which are highly regulated. Because of this, cloud computing services do not satisfy some compliance requirements. However, if they will only look inside their companies, they’ll realize that there are certain applications that they’re using which also do not comply with the standards. It is best to learn cloud computing so that these IT leaders learn how to place compliant applications to the cloud computing platforms. By doing so, they can also think of ways to solve probable security and risk issues.

IT leaders can argue that they can implement internal applications at a less costly manner. However, cloud computing services do have other important improvements which can help a business. For one, cloud solutions do provider greater agility than any internal applications. Cloud computing services are highly automated. The Chief Information Officer of a company can control the cloud solutions and is given autonomous access. However, before the CIO can do it, he must be able to understand cloud computing fundamentals. It is best to learn from the experiences of those who built private clouds. It is also possible to build one’s own cloud or tap the services of a provider which can offer private cloud solutions.

Although there is too much hype about cloud computing, it is best to know which ones are offering real cloud computing solutions. There are a lot of companies which offer traditional hosting, application outsourcing, and virtualization and advertise such to be cloud computing solutions. IT leaders must be able to determine which of these numerous suppliers do offer cloud computing benefits. In general, a cloud computing provider offers cloud economics, economies of scale, highly automated services, and self-service applications. A cloud computing service is a standard service and is deployed to every customer without any major customization.

By Florence de Borja

How Can Cloud Computing Help Small And Medium Enterprises

How Can Cloud Computing Help Small And Medium Enterprises

Cloud computing is becoming more and more popular, especially for businesses and organizations. A lot of enterprises are shifting to the clouds because it offers a lot of benefits. With cloud computing, SMEs no longer have to maintain software and servers on their premises. There is no need to employ highly technical personnel to maintain the IT infrastructure. What businesses do now is that they rent a space on a server located anywhere in the world so that they can access their software applications. A lot of large businesses have moved to the clouds and it is expected that small and medium-sized businesses will follow suit.

SMEs can enjoy a lot of benefits when they shift to the clouds. One of such benefits is that they can save on costs. There is no need to invest on hardware and not use it fully. With cloud computing, SMEs can pay only for what they have utilized. They have the option to choose the kind of service level they require. Cloud computing service providers take care of IT support, licenses, and costly equipment. They also ensure that they have the newest software versions installed on their systems. Thus, SMEs need not worry about software installations and updates. Also, cloud computing service providers employ IT experts who can help users with their needs.

In general, as businesses grow and succeed, they need more storage space or additional software. These enterprises need to upgrade their servers, buy new software, and train their employees on new processes. Such moves can entail additional costs, time, and effort. However, with cloud computing, a growing company can just buy additional services and space from its cloud computing service provider. Training the staff is also a breeze because most providers offer intuitive online interfaces.

Cloud computing also allows SMEs to use high quality software which they may not afford had they chosen to buy the software themselves. SMEs can an inexpensive yet professional-looking website by accessing WordPress. They need not maintain a server to host their websites. Sales and customer management is also effortless with SalesForce. Files can be shared among employees through Box and can be accessed anywhere in the world as long as there is internet connection. Costly solutions are now available even to the smallest businesses.

SMEs can save up to 70% of IT costs if they move to the clouds because they are charged only for what they have consumed monthly but the best infrastructure, platforms, and software are offered for their use. With the increased popularity of Software as a Service, buying data storage is very much the same as buying electricity from a grid. With internet bandwidth becoming more and more affordable, there is no need to spend a lot of money on infrastructure. Another benefit of cloud computing is SMEs can use it quickly. A business can be up and about at the shortest possible time. Also, it is much greener when companies take advantage of cloud computing because IT equipment is utilized to the fullest. Electricity consumption can also go down because each SME need not maintain its server on site.

By Florence de Borja

How Microsoft Can Recover Its #1 Spot

How Microsoft Can Recover Its #1 Spot

Microsoft must do something to retain the top spot it once held. It is widely believed by experts that the company has lost out to its competitors such as Apple and Google. End users are not really very keen on Windows anymore, although businesses still use the operating system. Additionally, Microsoft hasn’t really got any innovative products which merit customer attention. However, in some respects the company is still lording over the productivity and operating system markets. Internet Explorer is still widely used. Also, Microsoft has proven time and time again to be a highly profitable company with a lot of cash. The question, however, is can Microsoft sustain its spot in the future?

It must be noted that although there are external factors that might determine Microsoft’s success or failure, it can combat such factors by coming up with initiatives and products with which to sustain its standing in the future. With the planned launch of Windows 8, end users may like its new design and make the product a success for many years to come. However, if there is no positive response to the product, then Windows may lose its stronghold and give way to other operating systems.

Microsoft has released Surface Tablet, which could compete with the iPad. Windows 8 Pro is integrated with its tablet. If it succeeds in claiming the top spot in the tablet market, then Microsoft is still in the running for the overall top spot in the IT market. However, if it fails, then its mobile division’s future may be bleak. Bing, the company’s search engine pitted against Google Search, had a big update recently. It now has three columns. However, Bing is still far behind the leading search engine. Microsoft must create innovative changes on Bing for it to close the gap to Google Search.

In terms of gaming, its Xbox 360 is now enjoying top sales in the gaming device field in the US. Microsoft is also set to release a new console next year, and with Azure and SkyDrive, the company is inching its way into the cloud computing market. However, it is not actively pursuing the cloud even although experts the future of cloud computing to be very bright. Microsoft also has to deploy a lot of online services in order to sustain or retain its number one spot. It must come up with products providing streaming services, and might also consider expanding SkyDrive.

Microsoft Office has been enjoying the top spot for so many years now. In fact, it is widely used in schools, offices, and even in the home. Although its competitors have released a lot of products to compete with Microsoft Office, it has continued to dominate the market. However, with the cloud computing trend on the rise, it must also penetrate the cloud. The company is not known to adapt quickly to changes. Its competitors continue to produce various products and models to satisfy the market’s needs and wants, whereas Microsoft seems to be taking its sweet time to get ahead of the pack.

By Florence de Borja

Common Threats To Cloud Computing

Common Threats To Cloud Computing

The core agencies of the US government have a central plan, Cloud First, which aims to shift the majority of their operations to the cloud. Before the plan can be implemented, it must go through a process of evaluation by the agencies concerned. In December 2010, a Cloud First policy was released by the Office Of Management and Budget so that federal agencies could implement the shift to cloud computing services if such agencies could find a cost-effective, reliable, and secure cloud computing service. The target was to move three of the core agencies’ technology services by June of the following year.

The Government Accountability Office recently released an overall progress report on the implementation plan. It reported that the Office found common challenges which the organization feels represent a hindrance to the Cloud First initiative. According to the report, one of the common threats is that cloud computing providers must first meet federal security requirements. Each of the government’s core agencies has their own security requirements, which cloud computing suppliers must satisfy first before such suppliers can be provided with a service contract. The problem is that most of these agencies have very strict requirements which suppliers find hard to meet.

Another problem is the incompleteness or insufficiency of current federal guidance for the use of cloud computing services. Guidelines such as assessment of security levels and purchasing must be created in order to hasten cloud computing implementation. A third problem is the acquisition of expertise and knowledge. Most of these agencies may not have the necessary staff, resources, or tools needed to deploy cloud computing services. Such agencies sometimes find it difficult to instruct their staff with the cloud computing tools and processes. Thus, some agencies are reluctant to implement the Cloud First Initiative.

Also, core government agencies have difficulties with the certifications and accreditations of cloud computing suppliers. This is partly because the first operational capabilities of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program have not been reached. Another common challenge is that these government agencies must search for cloud computing vendors who can assure interoperability and data portability so that these offices can change suppliers in the future. These core agencies must be able to determine if these vendors have a lock-in with a certain product technology or platform.

There are also cultural barriers within a government agency which must be overcome. Cloud computing may pave the way for leaks of sensitive information to the public. Thus, government agencies are reluctant to move their operations to the cloud. Finally, due to the scalable and on-demand nature of cloud computing solutions, budgeting and contracting may face constraints. It will be difficult to budget for cloud computing services because of the fluctuating costs due to the on-demand and scalable nature of the service. According to the General Accountability Office report, cloud implementations must be planned wisely, and old systems must be retired in order for each government agency to enjoy the benefits of cloud computing, such as the improvement of operational efficiencies and reduction of costs.

By Florence de Borja

The Failure Of Private Cloud Initiatives

The Failure Of Private Cloud Initiatives

For some, it may be fast and easy to set up a private cloud, as long as technology is available. But technology plays only a small part in it when compared to the demands of business culture and user requirements. Most companies who have set up a private cloud have been disappointed because they have not able to adapt to it, or because their users have not been able to adapt to it. Expenses typically increase, and provisioning takes time. Therefore, if a company sets up a private cloud without the right objectives or configurations, a lot of unnecessary things happen and management is typically disappointed.

Disappointments can arise because cloud computing is seen only as a virtualized environment; however, cloud computing is more than this. When objectives are properly defined, a private cloud deployment can be successful. Most IT practitioners can’t differentiate a cloud environment from a virtualized computing environment. A virtual environment is one which is made available to a user by spinning up a virtual machine, whereas a cloud environment allows users to access a portal, picks out the services they want and provisions the services automatically for their use. Furthermore, users pay only for services they actually use. Any private cloud initiative will fail if IT personnel cannot successfully provision a cloud environment.

Another reason that private cloud initiatives fail is that users resist private cloud initiatives. Even at the conception stage, users quickly resist change because a public cloud is hyped as something easy to deploy and use. To successfully implement a private cloud IT personnel must be able to set long-term goals, as well as use some marketing skills. Due to the hype of the public cloud, business users often think that it is easy to provision a public cloud. With just the use of their credit card, they can provision a server, set up their applications, and have their cloud computing services available within an hour. However, more often than not, this doesn’t hold true because companies may have software applications that are not compatible with the cloud system. IT personnel must be able to inform business users of the limitations of the public cloud, as well as the advantages of a private cloud.

Another reason why plans to shift to a private cloud fail is that IT personnel don’t consider business users. Users are often cynical about IT and believe that any private cloud run by IT only reduces user productivity. This cynical attitude can often be traced back to IT personnels’ “we know best” mentality. If IT personnel are deaf to their users, any private cloud initiative will be doomed to failure.

Lastly, a private cloud initiative will fail if IT personnel market it as a highly flexible cloud that can accommodate every whim of the user. IT personnel fail to use an effective and efficient chargeback model to charge various business departments for what they actually consume. Failing to provide a chargeback provides the opportunity for users to press for items on a whim because such actions are not charged to their departments.

By Florence de Borja

How Are Canadians Affected By The USA Patriot Act And Cloud Computing?

How Are Canadians Affected By The USA Patriot Act And Cloud Computing?

Whether Canadians like it or not, they are affected by the US Patriot Act. While some of the previous issues have been settled already, some new issues are already popping up – issues with cloud computing. The US Patriot Act, otherwise known as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, was passed after the World Trade Center attack in September 2011. The law provided a way for US law enforcement agencies to seize business records and block electronic communications. Under this law, any law enforcement official can ask an electronic communication service provider to provide them with information without first letting the affected organizations or individuals know. By issuing a National Security Letter, the service provider can easily hand over any information.

In section 215 of the Act, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) can ask a federal judge to issue an order which requires parties to produce any tangible items so that the FBI can investigate any clandestine intelligence or international terrorism activities. Said provision is also believed to cover electronic business records. Because of cloud computing, any data from Canada can be mixed with other data from across the globe and housed in a datacenter which is located in the United States of America. As a result, Canadian data can be accessed by the US because it is under the jurisdiction of the USA and, as such, subject to US law. This can pose a Canadian privacy dilemma because under the privacy laws of the Canadian federal and provincial states, any organization which collects data is primarily responsible for data security. Such responsibility is even included in the privacy policy of the organization, as well as in the terms of service or contract.

Canadian organizations themselves are not precluded from tapping cloud services based in the USA if they are only servicing the private sector. The privacy laws of Canada do not prohibit any personal information transfer for storage and processing as long as the said transfer doesn’t make use of the personal information in any manner which wasn’t agreed upon by the organization and its clients; the organization maintains accountability for the personal information protection; the organization will provide the same level of data security as is required by Canadian law; and the said arrangement is disclosed to the client.

In 2009, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada conducted a survey, which compared Canadian surveillance laws with those of France, the UK, and the US. From 1990 up to the present, the US and Canada have had a Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters wherein both countries have committed to helping each other with criminal investigations – even the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service Act issues secret warrants for the seizure and interception of electronic data. Communications relating to foreign parties can be intercepted by the Canadian Communications Security Establishment upon the order of the Minister of Defense, acting on the powers provided to the minister by the National Defense Act. The Criminal Code of Canada also allows electronic data seizures.

However, when an organization is servicing the public sector in Nova Scotia or British Columbia, it must seek legal advice. There are laws in Alberta, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia which prohibit data storage outside Canada.

By Florence de Borja

What To Do With Humongous Student Data

What To Do With Humongous Student Data

Some US states are taking the bold step of resolving the problem of streams of student data scattered everywhere. Usually, voluminous student data is stored in various programs. For instance, testing scores are saved in testing programs, and grades are kept in instructional software and learning management applications. More often than not, this data resides in the program and is never extracted and combined with the other data. Now, there is a new project underway that is being supported and funded by large foundations and state education leaders. The project aims to provide a place for all student data in the cloud through the use of open-source software.

With this new initiative, information about student achievement can be integrated with Web resources and instructional applications. The success of this project is highly dependent on the privacy, technology, and willingness of academes to create products for the proposed system. The Shared Learning Infrastructure is supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers and began in 2011. It is funded by the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation. Currently, the Shared Learning Collaborative has signed up at least nine states for the project and promises to create a cost-effective system to better store student data.

With the Shared Learning Initiative, student data such as attendance, test results, demographic information, student names, discipliniary history, teachers, grades, standards mastered, and graduation requirements will be stored in the cloud. All this data will be put in the same place, in the same data structure, and be made available when needed. The data will use open-source technology and will be used by districts and states for free. Student data can be made shareable and modifiable. The student test data is then connected to the instructional materials found in other parts of the cloud. Because data and instructional resources are already in the cloud, school administrations can utilize Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in order to access the available data.

Once implemented, the Shared Learning Initiative will greatly benefit students and schools. Since student data is already in the cloud, the new school administration can access and update the data if the student shifts to another school or moves up one grade level. New teachers will better understand student performance because they can access the data in the cloud to check past academic performance. Teachers can even come up with personalized instruction to help a particular student cope. The student data in the clouds is connected with the Common Core Standards so that a better academic path can be provided to the student.

However, there some issues the Shared Learning Initiative needs to address. Firstly, it must ensure that the all the technology used in developing the system works. Secondly, it must ensure that student data is kept private and secure. The Shared Learning Initiative assures us that this is the case, saying that schools, districts, and states own and control their own data. The technology being developed is even said to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Thirdly, the academe must be willing to create products that will utilize the Shared Learning Initiative, and finally, companies which have created their own proprietary products could lose their competitiveness because of the Initiative.

By Florence de Borja

How To Choose A Cloud Computing Service Provider

How To Choose A Cloud Computing Service Provider

With all the hustle and bustle brought about by cloud computing, small and medium-sized enterprises are really very confused when it comes to searching for a service provider who can deliver on his promises such as streamlining of operational expenses, reduction of capital expenses and the like. Because many entry-level users have doubts, fears, and uncertainties regarding cloud computing, it helps them if some entities can provide information about the subject so that they are well informed when they decide to move to the cloud.

In essence, a cloud computing service provider must be able to deliver on his promises to provide a reliable and secure environment in the most scalable, cost-effective, and simple manner. The service supplier must have state-of-the-art technology so that he can provide the best availability and performance. Aside from that, the cloud computing vendor must provide 24/7 access to the cloud environment from anywhere in the world using various platforms and devices. Technical support must be in place 24/7 so that users can quickly get help when they need it. The cloud computing provider must be able to build a network infrastructure that is fault-tolerant and comprehensive.

A cloud computing service supplier must be able to solve client dilemmas. Aside from that, the service provider must not make any unwarranted promises just to sign up a customer. Most of these vendors make it appear that when a customer shifts to cloud computing, there is no more need to invest in hardware or any internal infrastructure. The customer will be in shock when he later learns that this is not the case for cloud computing. Some suppliers also suggest that the return on investment on cloud computing is only financial in nature. The ROI of cloud computing can be operational, productive or financial.

When choosing a reliable cloud computing vendor, a customer must have an assurance that the chosen supplier has a competent backend. The supplier must be able to demonstrate both competence and capacity in a convincing manner in order for a customer to buy the services on offer. Infrastructure must be secure in order to defend customer data from threat. The service provider must be able to provide resources for internal audits as well as offer assurances that customer business processes are preserved even during disruptions.

A true cloud computing solution design allows customization for every client engagement and does not offer a one-size-fits-all service for all types of customers. The platform or infrastructure must be located in a high-performance facility and supported by various experienced engineers who can provide 24/7 technical support, and the cloud computing provider must be able to provide optimum bandwidth for all its users. It is advisable that such suppliers have datacenters in various countries, because this can offer data longevity and more robust security. The Service Level Agreement must be signed by both parties in order to formalize the cloud relationship. Performance measurement must be clearly stated in the SLA, together with responses and sanctions for the management of disputes.

By Florence de Borja

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