Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Managed Cloud Services and The Small Business

Managed Cloud Services and The Small Business

Managed Cloud Services

The age-old adage jack of all trades, master of none, is as true today as ever. Companies are often required to focus on so many diverse fields in the basic running of their businesses that they spend less time focusing on the reason for their business. With the legal and security implications surrounding IT and data management, it is essential that these services be top of the line and entirely current, but the cost implications for many smaller businesses can be excessive. As with many other divisions such as HR, payroll and maintenance, IT services can be outsourced, though this often comes at a high cost too. Another option is managed cloud services.

Managed cloud services give businesses the ability to tap into cloud services without being experts in the field. Benefits include excellent security, high availability and back-up, as well as cost efficiency. The flexibility this offers is indispensable, and ensures that the back-end is always cutting edge, thus giving you the best resources available to pursue your business’s potential.

Niche Operations

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

While all of the large IT outsourcing companies offer managed cloud services, niche operations have come to the fore offering fast, focused and flexible services at reasonable prices. Rackspace is one of the larger managed cloud service providers, and promises infrastructure provision with system monitoring, DNS management and backup and disaster recovery, as well as management of applications and tools such as specialised database management and application deployment, scaling and lifecycle management. Keytech Managing IT offers similar services in the United Kingdom, Cloud Solutions Group operating out of Melbourne, Australia is another up-and-comer. The list of companies offering these solutions is as substantial as the variety of management options they offer.

As well as offering the basic cloud solutions that any business requires to run efficiently, managed cloud services also level the playing field for small businesses by offering access to complex tools that would otherwise be too costly to consider. The expertise available from these specialised companies far outweighs what any small or medium business could provide in-house, and is provided at a budgeted monthly cost.

Internap is another provider of managed cloud solutions, and offers its customers additional flexibility in its ‘solution builder’. Businesses are able to tailor-make their solution by building an environment that meets their specific needs while filtering out any unnecessary excesses. With the constant evolution of services, reliability and customisation provided, it seems likely that managed cloud service providers will be indispensable to any small business wishing to compete in today’s market.

Sponsored by Keytech Managing IT 

By Jennifer Klostermann

New Cloud Security Certification In A Maturing Industry

New Cloud Security Certification In A Maturing Industry

New Cloud Security Certification

Cloud security certification is getting a new dimension. At the RSA conference earlier this month the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and (ISC)² announced a new cloud security certification: Certified Cloud Security Professional, or CCSP for short.

(ISC)² is most famous for its flagship certification: Certified Information Systems Security Professional or CISSP. More than 100,000 professionals maintain this certification and it is widely recognized. The Cloud Security Alliance pioneered the cloud security field a few years ago, and runs the CCSK (Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge) programme.

cloud-security-certification

The CCSP body of knowledge covers 6 domains:

  • Architectural Concepts and Design Requirements
  • Cloud Data Security
  • Cloud Platform and Infrastructure Security
  • Cloud Application Security
  • Operations
  • Legal and Compliance

CCSP is supposed to be a more extensive certification than CCSK. It has a more formal exam and a requirement for five years in IT of which three years must be spent in security and one year in cloud computing. On top of that, similar to CISSP, there is a requirement to uphold the certification by earning CPE (continuing professional education) points.

It is a sign of a maturing industry that these two forces are combining their best practices. Cloud computing has left the pioneering stage, and there are currently multiple cloud providers that count their yearly revenue in the billions of dollars.

jim-reavisMany enterprises have told us that cloud computing is becoming their primary IT system,” says Jim Reavis, CEO of the Cloud Security Alliance. “An effective cloud security strategy and architecture adds several nuances to traditional security best practices; which is why it’s critical to accelerate efforts to address the cloud security skills gap. CCSP helps to set the highest standard for cloud security expertise. The program we have developed with (ISC)² creates strong incentives for information security professionals to obtain both the CCSK and CCSP, which will create a workforce of experts who possess a mastery of the broadest cloud security body of knowledge.”

While (ISC)² coming to the game underlines the relevance and maturity of cloud security, there will be some questions left for people who either have or are pursuing CCSK certification. (Disclaimer: I am an active CCSK trainer, and I wrote one of the chapters of the CCSP study guide.)

According to the founding fathers of CCSP, both certifications will co-exist. The (ISC)² website states: “The typical cloud security professional will likely achieve the CCSK first, and then the CCSP credential. Attainment of the CCSK can also be substituted for the one year of cloud security experience

Other text on the website suggests that CCSK can be seen as somewhat of a broad base, on top of which CCSP is built as a more extensive certification. However, in my experience as a CCSK trainer, even though CCSK is a good introduction into cloud security, it is not shallow. It takes a few days of dedicated training and study to pass the exam.

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So is there any sense in still going for CCSK, or should you wait for CCSP to become available? To answer that question you first need to consider why you would want to take the training and the certification. If you want to collect badges, you might want to attain both certifications. If you need to address cloud security in your job right now, it makes sense to do CCSK soon. Participants in my CCSK training report that it helps them now in their day jobs, even more so if they take it as a team. Looking at the CCSP release schedules gives the impression that general availability of training is still at least months away. On the other hand, if you are already very knowledgeable and experienced in cloud and cloud security, CCSK may not add much to your current business value other than public recognition.

By Peter Hj van Eijk

Using Mobile Technology To Price, Quote and Engage Customers

Using Mobile Technology To Price, Quote and Engage Customers

Using Mobile Technology To Price, Quote and Engage Customers

To remain competitive in the e-commerce age, companies are starting to recognize that one price does not fit all, and in fact, the marketplace demands a great deal of versatility. Individual consumers have experienced this when dealing with sophisticated B2C retailers such as Amazon, a company well known for adjusting prices by the minute. A TV that is on sale for $450 might quickly change down to $397 a few minutes later, thanks to algorithms that constantly check the prices and inventories of its competitors. That is how e-commerce business is done – dynamically and in real time across all channels.

algo

In many cases, the customization of an order is now essential to its successful completion. With buyers legitimately feeling more empowered and educated, there is no longer patience for static ordering and pricing systems owned and controlled entirely by the vendor. Today, the sales rep must visit the customer with wireless tablet in hand, ready to review and construct an order and pass it back to the customer, either for a signature then-and-there, or for review by the buyer’s team. Consumerization of the enterprise is happening, and so, too is enterprise mobility.

Configure Price Quote (CPQ)

One of the most dynamic demonstrations of this mobile approach can be seen in the technique of configure-price-quote (CPQ). This refers to a software solution that helps companies become more aware of their own data, especially pricing and inventory, in order to stay more competitively in line with the market. CPQ helps companies calculate discounts and close sales while still maintaining a margin.

price-quote

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Although such competitive pricing techniques might not be new in and of themselves, the way in which sales reps can now access them, wirelessly and through the cloud, means the process of selling can move forward and stay at the leading edge of both competitiveness and cost-effectiveness. Similarly, the other areas of the vendor business, such as back office/ERP, which have traditionally existed in siloes, have access to the same cloud-based data, thus improving the other support elements in the transaction, including shipping, support, and commission management.

CPQ software generally includes price sheets, catalog information and inventory data. They form an integral part of a customized sales process, assisting and even predicting a customer’s needs based on past purchases and the intelligent use of big data and predictive analytics. In short, CPQ software pulls together a range of market pricing variables, including discounts and up-sells, and configures for idealized pricing. Hence the acronym, CPQ.

 

CPQ helps companies better manage their pricing, which can be a challenge as they grow larger and employ more sales representatives and related support staff, while maintaining a growing customer base. Sales are lost when up-to-date pricing and quote opportunities are lost, and this is something that is no longer acceptable in a mobile first economy.

Though innovative practices such as CPQ are gradually inserting themselves into the commercial world, they continue to be hamstrung by legacy systems, outdated management attitudes, and inadequate communication of knowledge and data. This becomes part of the challenge of being, as KPMG calls it, “responsibly mobile.”

Companies today must build:

  • a sound strategy and roadmap for all the devices and apps that they identify as useful, competitive and cost-effective
  • a delivery method for an effective and consistent customer experience
  • an operational structure to manage data, both inbound and outbound

As Martin Sokalski and Max Hanson, both of KPMG IT Advisory Services, write in their white paper, A Framework for Responsibly Mobile, “many [companies] attempt to address these challenges [of mobile commerce], but their efforts are often siloed and fragmented. For example, some will focus all efforts on securing data on mobile devices, but fail to consider business use cases, user experience or alignment to a broader enterprise strategy.” The authors of this piece call for a coordinated “mobility center of excellence to better pull things together.”

Although CPQ is not the only solution available to companies, it represents the dynamic and centerless cloud-based world in which all businesses must exist. Some C-level decision-makers may observe cloud technology as simply an external storage space, or at best a communications and marketing vehicle. But the evolution of customer pricing and quotations as embodied by CPQ demonstrates that the entire sales process can benefit from being mobile and cloud-based. There are both cost savings and profits to be realized by moving to a state of true mobile.

This post is brought to you by The CIO Agenda.

KPMG LLP is a Delaware limited liability partnership and is the U.S. member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. The KPMG name, logo and “cutting through complexity” are registered trademarks or trademarks of KPMG International. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG LLP.

By Steve Prentice

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – New Responsibilities

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – New Responsibilities



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By Al Johnson

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What Did Cyber Week Achieve?

What Did Cyber Week Achieve?

What Did Cyber Week Achieve?

Last week’s “Cyber Week” was all about cybersecurity and the ongoing threat of cyber attacks against the federal government, non-profits and private companies in the US. But what did it achieve?

Ultimately, two new bills were passed by the House both aiming to enable both companies and government to withstand cyber attack and increase the country’s cybersecurity.

One aims primarily to strengthen government’s ability to deal with the ongoing cyber war in an attempt to effectively fight hackers more effectively. The other strives to enable companies to legitimately share cyber-threat and -attack information without the fear of being held liable.

Recent cyber attacks include the Home Depot hack last year that involved credit cards and effectively exposed 56 million card numbers. In January this year hackers accessed insurance provider Anthem’s database and accessed information relating to 80 million people, reportedly targeting social security numbers. In 2014 there were in excess of 1,500 data breaches reported worldwide – an increase in 50 percent from 2013.

cyber-security

While both pieces of legislation have been widely welcomed, there is some concern that they overlap and possibly undermine one another. For instance, during the floor debate, Colorado’s Democratic Representative, Jared Polis drew attention to this fact, stating that there seemed to be “some kind of turf war” going on between the government’s Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.

While both bills have privacy protection that has been designed to restrict companies from sharing personal information, and in that way safeguard personal data, there are differences. Perhaps the most obvious difference is where cybersecurity issues must be reported.

The Protecting Cyber Networks Act (also referred to as the Intelligence Committee’s information sharing bill) is aimed at US companies, and encourages them to report any high-profile data breach to any federal agencies except the Department of Defense. Information will be shared with civilian agencies and not the Department of Homeland Security.

The National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act focuses on liability protection for companies sharing information on cyber attacks and cybersecurity breaches. Introduced by the Homeland Security Committee, the Act specifies that information must be reported to the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. It may then be shared with other companies to increase “network awareness.

It has been reported that the legislation will be “merged” before it goes to the Senate.

In spite of the focus on US cybersecurity during Cyber Week, some have warned that the new legislation will not be enough to stop the ongoing threat. Even the White House has conceded that the liability protection offered is too broad, and could protect “grossly negligent and even reckless” entities.

In a statement of administration policy  issued on the eve of Cyber Week, the White House said that appropriate liability protections should not “grant immunity to a private company for failing to act on information it receives about the security of its networks.” Instead, it was important that liability protection was in place to ”incentivize good cybersecurity practices.

Further, since the first major cybersecurity breach was reported in 2005, more than 40 bills have been introduced to Congress, and yet the threat appears to continue to increase.

It has been reported that President Barrack Obama has earmarked an amount of $14 billion to fight cyber attacks. He has also announced that a new government agency will be created. The Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center will be the pivotal body, presumably relying partly on the new legislation voted on during Cyber Week. In addition, the Senate is expected to consider the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act and additional data-security very soon.

At the end of the day (or week), it is not clear how much was achieved during Cyber Week 2015, if anything.

By Penny Swift

5 Ways Unified Communications Can Benefit Your Employees

5 Ways Unified Communications Can Benefit Your Employees

Unified Communications

Could you imagine a world where successful companies no longer needed office space to function on a day-to-day basis. Defined as “an industry term used to describe all forms of call and multimedia/cross-media message management functions,” unified communications is quickly making this dream more of a reality for any firm looking to achieve long-term scalability and success in today’s business world.

Helping Employees

Embracing UC technology can assist company leaders in helping employees better navigate their daily tasks while also keeping communications reliable by deploying this new technology in the workplace. In addition, UC systems help businesses promote remote work capabilities, which are becoming more popular by the day. Jumping on board with this movement assists your employees with staying productive and engaged by allowing them to step away from their desks without running the risk of missing phone calls or emails. By focusing on achieving the work anywhere at anytime mentality, employees can maintain a sense of teamwork and collaboration regardless of where they are physically located. In addition, unified communications offers a simple solution to centralizing communications in your firm, meaning that any employee has access to any necessary information for their telephone, email, or conferencing needs.

Here is an infographic courtesy of ShoreTel which shows you 5 excellent examples of how unified communications can benefit your employees:

Shoretel_5Benefits_72-01 (1)

The Future Of CleanTech, Data Centres and Cloud Computing

The Future Of CleanTech, Data Centres and Cloud Computing

CleanTech, Data Centres and Cloud Computing

With the shift of focus to cloud computing, sophisticated data centres providing energy efficient design as well as high reliability are indispensable. While old designs are being upgraded to keep up with new demands, industry experts suggest that fresh and innovative designs would offer far more to the industry than the typical upgrades of outmoded centres. New technologies today focus on reducing hardware and system costs, advancing the efficiency of resources, and offer far greater flexibility. Businesses need to adapt to changes faster than ever and thus top quality data centres have become indispensable.

clean-tech

This year’s Nordic Digital Business Summit happens in Helsinki on the 24th of September, and focuses on Data Centres, Cloud and Internet of Things/Industrial Internet sectors, ideally situated considering the expansion of such technologies in Europe.

Finland is considered an excellent home for data centres with its environmental advantages in energy and climate. Cold enough to keep down cooling costs, and with plenty of water available for renewable energy, Finland offers many potential sites for new data centres. In an effort to increase such investment, Finland has also lowered its electricity tax for data centres. Already home to Google, Yandex and Microsoft data centres, ZDNet suggests Finland may be the world’s next data centre powerhouse.

According to the Global Cleantech Innovation Index (2014), the following countries represent the most promising eco-friendly industries of the future and entrepreneurial startups to commercialize clean tech innovations over the next 10 years… Read More On This

Global-Tech

With Finland’s connection through Sweden presenting a privacy problem, the need for a fast speed data connection directly into Europe is essential. Cinia Group has recently announced that it is building a digital highway between Finland and Germany with Hetzner Online, using Cinia’s new Sea Lion submarine cable system. The 20-year contract allows capacity extension up to 15 Tbit/s and is currently worth over €10 million.

Apple is also set to invest in new data centres in Europe, and announced in February a €1.7 billion plan to build and operate 100% renewable energy data centres in Denmark and Ireland, with operation expected to begin in 2017. Facebook has opened its newest data centre in Sweden, and suggests that it may be its most efficient and sustainable to date. Using server and storage hardware from the Open Compute Project, this data centre will be powered on hydroelectricity.

Currently, the EU carbon tax regime for data centres causes much complaint in the industry, but the rate at which they are being built hasn’t slowed due to demands of Cloud. With Google and Apple both announcing renewable energy deals. Yandex is investigating environmental data as it attempts to offer sustainable and energy efficient solutions and reduce its carbon footprint, and opportunities such as wind and solar are being considered as well as the recycling of waste heat.

Event-Nordic

Finland has the biggest take up of cloud computing services in Europe, with more than half of Finnish enterprises on the cloud. As knowledge and security increases, data centres are emerging and expanding worldwide, and Finland is well positioned to provide excellence with infrastructure that nurtures and promotes ICT from the ground up (Computer Weekly).

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Jennifer Klostermann

You’ve Moved Your Data To The Cloud…What Now?

You’ve Moved Your Data To The Cloud…What Now?

Data To The Cloud…What Now?

You’ve done the research. You’ve vetted multiple cloud solutions. You’ve chosen the right vendor. And you’ve migrated your data to the cloud. All done, right?

Not so fast…

While it has become a bit of a scary proposition for many organizations to put their trust in the cloud and start working in this new environment, getting there is only half the battle. You are now going to have tens, hundreds, or even thousands of your employees working on a new platform, and it will be your job to make it as easy and secure as possible.

While many vendors will talk about their solutions being the best of both worlds right out of the box, that tends to be a bit of a fallacy. The cloud is a constantly evolving technology that consistently adds more features and functionality. So while your initial move is a great start in the right direction, there are some additional steps you will want to take to ensure you are getting the most out of your new cloud investment.

1) Integrate Your Apps

According to Netskope’s most recent cloud report, the average number of cloud apps used, both sanctioned and unsanctioned, within an organization is 730.

cloud-app

These apps can range from social tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat to productivity tools like Google Docs, Office 365, and Evernote. By integrating approved applications with your cloud solution, you will be able to cut down on rogue usage and create a much more user-friendly ecosystem for your organization. Enabling seamless integration across applications will also empower your users to be more productive while bringing more control to your IT department.

2) Enhance Your Security

One of the most common fears about moving to the cloud is security. With recent breaches, including Target, Sony, and JP Morgan, it is understandable that organizations are hesitant about putting their data into the cloud. However, there are extra steps you can take to further secure your cloud investment. We often see customers in highly regulated industries take advantage of two-factor authentication, which forces their users to authenticate themselves with two components during login. The authentication includes any two combinations of the following:

  • Something They Know: username, password, PIN
  • Something They Possess: key, bank card, USB stick w/ token
  • A Biometric: fingerprint, eye scan, voice scan

Beyond two-factor authentication, there are also other measures you can implement, such as mobile device management (MDM), which allows you to have complete control over all of the devices within your network, and digital rights management (DRM), which allows you to control the viewing, copying, printing, or editing of files once they have left your network.

3) Create Usage Reports

reports

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Now that your employees have become active in the cloud, they will be engaging in all new interactions with your organization’s files – previewing, editing, uploading, downloading, and more. These new interactions will create insightful usage data that can transform the way you do business.

It will be in your organization’s best interest to harness that data and create insightful reports that can be used to optimize your business processes. For example, if you find that your most successful salespeople are utilizing specific files to win accounts, then you can arm the rest of your sales team with this information to align them for improved success for the entire company.  If you implement a cloud solution and don’t monitor your employees’ activities, you will be missing out on a major opportunity to optimize productivity.

Moving your organization to the cloud can be a daunting task in and of itself, but as you can see, there is a lot more that can be done to bolster your organization’s cloud experience. App integration, upgraded security, and custom reports are a great place to start, and if you have chosen an enterprise-grade service provider, those should be fairly easy to leverage. If not, I suggest you look into a solution that can give you these options and be more than just a storage tier for your files. In the rapidly evolving world of business, the benefits of a secure and efficient cloud solution that can scale with you will be invaluable.

By Vineet Jain

CloudTweaks Comics
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