Category Archives: Cloud Computing

How Companies Are Cleaning Up The Cloud And The Earth

How Companies Are Cleaning Up The Cloud And The Earth

Over the past decade, our use of the Internet has increased dramatically. Once used just for information, the Internet is now the primary source of entertainment. While most still use it to look up information, we also use the Internet to watch the latest movies and television shows through Netflix, we play games online through Steam, XBox Live, and PlayStation Network, and we stream music through Pandora and Spotify. Because of this, many companies have resorted to storing almost all of their information in the cloud. The biggest users of the cloud are exactly the companies you might expect: Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Apple. But what exactly are they doing to clean up the cloud?

data-centers

They’re Using Renewable Energy

The statistics don’t lie: By 2020, there’s going to be an estimated 50-fold increase in the amount of information we access digitally. Because these data centers need to be up constantly, they use a tremendous amount of energy. Some data centers even consume the equivalent energy use of 180,000 homes!

Three companies have started to take a stand against the massive amount of data consumed. Google and Yahoo are the first companies to take a stand and use renewable energy as they expand their reach via the cloud. Facebook, now with more than 700 million users, has also realized the importance of using renewable energy, and their data center in Sweden is powered only by renewable energy.

On the other hand, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple are all using “dirty energy“, which is essentially electrical pollution. They have no plans to switch to renewable energy anytime soon, and are all expanding with complete disregard to electricity usage. In fact, they market the cloud as “green“, which is incorrect. It may be a “green” concept for individual consumers, but that impact is just transferred over to the corporations.

Of the largest tech based companies, Dell, Yahoo, and Facebook have the highest energy index, while Apple, Amazon, Oracle, and Salesforce have the lowest.

They’re Strategically Placing Their Data Centers

When it comes to installing data centers, location matters. For companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon, they’re not worried about where they expand to. For companies like Google and Yahoo, however, they take the availability of renewable energy into account. In addition, some companies are also looking at “free cooling” as an important factor. This technique allows the outside air to cool off the data center instead of wasting more energy on energy-intensive chillers.

The projected prevalence of renewable energy makes Sweden and Germany attractive to certain companies, like Facebook, Spotify, AT&T and IBM. Meanwhile, Microsoft is in the Netherlands, which has very little renewable energy.

In order to make a quick dollar, many companies are utilizing low-cost dirty energy, which increases the demand for coal, as well as the associated pollution.

Chicago has one of the top five largest data center markets in North America, even though renewable energy use is less than ten percent of all energy used in Illinois. As more companies move to Chicago, this will only get worse as more choose to use the low-cost option. Should Microsoft start a push for renewable energy use, they could make it a trend in the area, with the majority of companies switching to either renewable energy or wind power.

As most people browse the net, they most likely don’t take into account just how much data their both sending and receiving to the cloud. However, the energy is transferred to a data center, which may or may not be using renewable energy. As we continue to utilize the Internet in our day to day lives, think of the data centers that are processing this information and how they’re powered. Do you want to financially support a company that doesn’t care about the earth and utilizes dirty energy, or would you rather support a company that’s using innovative techniques to clean up the air and create a better future? The next time you have the opportunity, support the company that cares about the world that we all share.

By Miles Young

Miles is a freelance writer, tech geek and world traveler. He’s currently interested in mobile devices and satellite Internet technology. Follow him @MrMilesYoung on Twitter.

Cloud Computing Offers Key Benefits For Small, Medium Businesses

Cloud Computing Offers Key Benefits For Small, Medium Businesses

Cloud Computing Benefits

A growing number of small and medium businesses in the United States rely on as a means of deploying mission-critical software products. Prior to the advent of cloud-based products — software solutions delivered over the Internet – companies were often forced to invest in servers and other products to run software and store data. The advent of cloud services as well as their steady improvement in such areas as security and reliability make these solutions a logical choice for business owners and principals who want the latest innovations, functionality, and efficiency as well as cost effectiveness.

cloud-computing-benefits

Many businesses garner considerable cost savings by migrating their software systems to the cloud. In addition to reducing reliance on the purchase and maintenance of servers, companies often lower their information technology costs in such areas as dedicated personnel and software upgrades. Most cloud services upgrade and update software via the Internet with little or no downtime for end users, decreasing the wait time associated with installing and testing software on an on-site network. Moreover, according to Australia-based Dynamic Business, cloud-based products are scalable; unlike conventional software, cloud services can be expanded as needed to encompass as many end users as required without server upgrades to handle added workloads.

Companies also reap significant functionality from cloud services. The cloud allows designated employees to access data from anywhere. That means that an employee on vacation or in an airplane can examine information and work on projects using a laptop, tablet, or smart phone. It also increases an organization’s ability to outsource many functions without sacrificing collaboration. Because employees and contractors can work together effectively from numerous locations, companies also gain the opportunity to hire people with very specialized skills or superior capabilities even if they live in a different part of the world.

Cloud-based services also provide virtual storage options that protect data and make it readily available even in the event of an outage at a company’s physical location. Information Week reports that software-as-a-service vendors are expanding their offerings to make them extremely efficient and cost effective for small and medium businesses, often giving the smallest organizations the ability to integrate into their business operations the same class of technology used by the largest enterprises.

By Glenn Blake

Cloud News Round Up – February 5th

Cloud News Round Up – February 5th

CEO-Microsoft

Microsoft Appoints New, Cloud-Focused CEO – It’s been a headline maker for months, as many media outlets have been asking the question of ‘who will be Microsoft’s next CEO?’, with these articles analyzing who would be best to lead Microsoft into an era where tablets are as much of a must have item as their own Windows-running PCs. That person is Satya Nadella, recently picked to head up the company and most interestingly about Microsoft’s new boss, he was also one the key figures who got Microsoft into the cloud. What Nadella’s appointment could mean is that Microsoft will put more of a focus on SaaS technology, with some suggestions being that he could take Microsoft’s Xbox brand and find a way to add game streaming – via the cloud – to their new console, the Xbox One. (Image Source: Microsoft)

Comcast to Launch X1 DVR With Cloud Technology – It is no secret that even the biggest cable television providers are losing out on customers and sales due to cloud streaming services such as Netflix and LOVEFiLM. In an effort to combat this, Comcast have now announced that they will launch their ‘X1 DVR’, which is set to offer users usage of the cloud. Xfinity TV customers, whom the X1 DVR will be available to, will be able to stream TV shows within their homes, as well as being able to use the cloud to watch their DVR recordings on their mobile devices and computers via Comcasts’ IP network. The X1 DVR also reportedly allows users to download their DVR recordings via the help of the cloud, allowing them to watch their shows even when they aren’t connected to the Internet. The service is currently available to Comcast customers in Boston.

Intel To Begin Providing Cloud Tech Certification – Getting into cloud technology, even in 2014, can be a risky business, as despite the world currently existing in a time where we are beginning to understand and accept new-fangled technologies rather than shunning them on a basis of non-understanding, people are still vary much wary of the ‘big data banks in the sky’. As a result, Intel, who are a well recognised and well trusted brand across the globe, have come up with a solution. The computing company will now begin to offer ‘Powered by Intel Cloud Technology’ badges to those cloud service providers who take part in Intel’s Cloud Technology Program, a visible endorsement which could perhaps see more people sign up to cloud tech in the long run.

By Jennifer Livingstone

Cloud Infographic – Big Data Survey: What Are The Trends?

Cloud Infographic – Big Data Survey: What Are The Trends?

Big Data Survey Infographic FINAL_001

Jaspersoft Big Data Survey Shows Rise in Commitment to Projects and Decline in Confusion

Nearly 1,600 Jaspersoft Community Members Participate in Second Jaspersoft Big Data Survey

San Francisco, February 4, 2014Jaspersoft, the Intelligence Inside applications and business processes, today shared results from its Big Data Survey. Nearly 1,600 Jaspersoft community members responded to the survey on enterprise use of Big Data in corporate decision-making — 60 percent of respondents were application developers.

The follow-up to Jaspersoft’s August 2012 survey, revealed a greater commitment to Big Data projects. While 42 percent reported still being in the process of experimenting or performing general research, 36 percent have a funded Big Data initiative compared to only 15 percent 14 months ago.

What we’re seeing from our community is a better understanding of Big Data and more willingness to commit to projects,” said Brian Gentile, CEO of Jaspersoft. “The survey suggests that experimental Big Data projects are on the rise while funded initiatives continue to increase as the tools and understanding of Big Data mature.”

Of the 56 percent of respondents with Big Data projects, 32 percent are in production or in development while 23 percent are in the planning stage. Of known deployments, 66 percent were on-premises with 34 percent were in the cloud.

The survey reveals that confusion and lack of business justification have decreased as reasons for not pursuing Big Data projects.

Top reasons for “No plans” with Big Data

1. Don’t understand Big Data: 27% — an 47% decrease from August 2012
2. No business justification: 20% — a 56% decrease since August 2012
3. Most data is structured and relational: 33% — a 19% decrease from August 2012
4. Doesn’t apply to my applications: 23% — remained the same as August 2012

Most Popular Data Sources

1. CRM: 40%
2. Financials: 38%
3. e-Commerce: 27%
4. Retail POS: 15%
5. Supply Chain Management: 14%
6. Human Capital Management: 12%
7. Product Lifecycle Management: 11%
8. Support Case Logic: 10%
9. Bug Tracking: 9%
10. Other: 7%

Most Popular Data Stores

1. Relational databases: 56%
2. MongoDB: 23%
3. Analytic databases: 14%
4. Hadoop HDFS: 12%
5. Hive: 4%

Top Big Data Use Cases

1. Customer Analytics (churn, segmentation, etc.): 48%
2. Customer Experience Analytics: 45%
3. Risk Analysis: 37%
4. Threat Analysis: 30%
5. Regulatory Compliance Analysis: 28%
6. Campaign Optimization: 26%
7. Location-based Targeting: 23%
8. Fraud Analysis: 22%
9. Brand Sentiment Analysis: 16%
10. Product Placement Optimization: 16%
11. Other: 9%
12. Drug Discovery: 1%

About the Respondents

The respondents were primarily application developers – 60 percent with 40 percent of the developers working in software, Internet and computer, or the electronics space, followed by financial services (9 percent), and government (8 percent).

About Jaspersoft

Jaspersoft empowers millions of people every day to make better decisions faster by bringing them timely, actionable data inside their apps and business processes. Its embeddable, cost-effective reporting and analytics platform allows anyone to quickly self serve to get the answers they need, while scaling architecturally and economically to reach everyone. Thanks to a community that is hundreds-of-thousands strong, Jaspersoft’s commercial open source software has been downloaded millions of times and is used to create the Intelligence Inside hundreds of thousands of apps and business processes. Jaspersoft is a privately held company with offices around the world. For more information visit http://www.jaspersoft.com and http://community.jaspersoft.com.

TSG And Microsoft: Let Your Sales Force Spread The Love

TSG And Microsoft: Let Your Sales Force Spread The Love

In the highly competitive world of IT service companies, it can be hard to find one you trust. But to find one you both trust and love would be quite remarkable. Love is not a term that echoes very often around the virtual hallways of the cloud, but it certainly resonates with the 400 strong team at UK-based TSG (Technology Services Group) who recently celebrated the company’s 10th anniversary.

tsg_logo

As they continue to help customers move forward by adopting the latest technologies, love is certainly a term that they would apply to the ground-breaking new CRM application from Microsoft called Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013.

Keeping the funnel full and keeping sales reps and support people connected to their customers is as important as it ever was, but given the speed of expectation and communication in the marketplace, a new and better mousetrap is always welcome. With Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, the TSG team believe they have that.

Microsoft’s new take on the CRM business actually does use the word “love.” They want their users to love the experience of keeping in touch with prospects, customers, suppliers and stakeholders by transforming the data and activity trail into something that better resembles a portal than a database. User experience is everything and Microsoft’s huge R & D budget has been applied to excellent effect.

Physically, Microsoft has shuffled the screen interface to better resemble its new Windows 8 style of boxy colored tabs, which now hang from the top of the screen rather than occupying the left-hand side. This not only provides a better flow of information (according to Microsoft), but also ties in with latest generation touch-enabled tablets and laptops. In fact Microsoft has been careful to ensure the interface is compatible with a wide range of browsers and screens, thus helping usher in the new age of BYOD, mobility and on-demand for the account rep and business owner.

More practically, perhaps, the entire relationship is available in a collection of easy-to-navigate screens, including notes, a map (Bing, naturally), and the capacity to identify and relate to all stakeholders in the relationship. Microsoft packs this into a series easily navigable windows and focuses on dynamic concepts such as the Activity Feed and Quick Create, for adding data on the fly.

The idea behind Microsoft Dynamics CRM is to create a powerful, game-changing alternative to some of the other well established CRM solutions out there – one which dovetails perfectly with other Microsoft solutions and, of course, can be delivered on the Windows Azure cloud.

We believe strongly in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013,” says TSG representative Paul Ince, and we are working with a number of our customers to take full advantage of what it can offer. It also underpins our new member relationship management product, Tribe, which launches in the Spring and already has a waiting list of customers signed up to join the CRM revolution.”

With their head office based in Newcastle upon Tyne, TSG serves the entire UK from its network of twelve regional offices.

According to David Stonehouse, CEO at TSG, whilst much has changed in the industry, there have been many constants. “In reality, it’s very rare that the technology itself is actually the story,” he says. “What matters is what technology can do to enable effective and efficient processes and most importantly drive excellence and best practice.”

The emperor has worn many new suits of clothes over the last decade and our industry is undoubtedly prone to hype and over-excitement, much of which drifts meaninglessly above the heads of business leaders and owners who are too busy doing what they do to notice. However, cut through the hyperbole and I believe there’s little doubt that technology is more important than ever for businesses who are determined to drive their competitive advantage and that’s certainly where Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 will come into its own.”

Their diligent approach, under Stonehouse’s watchful eye, has resulted in an impressive collection of accolades from the industry heavyweights with whom they work including five Gold Competency partnership awards from Microsoft, as well as high-level partner accreditation from Sage, HP, Dell, Symantec, VMWare and many more.

CIE-Group, for example, a provider of audio-visual services, chose to work with TSG and Microsoft Dynamics CRM to improve a wide swath of operational issues which had slowed in recent years, including integration of customer, product and pricing databases and the integration of the CRM system with its e-commerce CMS.

ROCOL, the UK arm of the U.S. Fortune 200 multinational, needed an effective method to consolidate its siloed business units, each of which used separate databases. The company needed to ensure that not only was the data centralized, but that it was also available offline.

CRM has always been touted as offering a “single source of truth” for organizations but, depending on the skill with which system has been deployed and developed, that’s often been far from the reality in practice. TSG believes that Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 offers the potential for a genuinely different experience.

By Steve Prentice

Post Sponsored By TSG

Your Personal Cloud Space

Your Personal Cloud Space

My personal cloud…  

The concept of the personal cloud is intriguing to me right now. Why? For the most part, it has a lot to do with what people consider to be a personal cloud. Where private clouds are dedicated solutions built around a single customer or agency using them, the personal cloud is a solution built for a single user. If you search the internet for the concept “personal cloud” you will find an interesting mix and match of answers.

What is the first thing you will see once the search engine returns your results? Storage = personal cloud. Much as vendor’s tried to associate their name with private clouds a couple of years ago storage vendors are trying to align Personal Clouds with personal cloud storage. There is a personal cloud organization however that is arguing a much broader implementation of what Personal clouds should/could/may be. I find myself liking the concept they create. 

On the homepage of the organization, they have an interesting table that denotes the delta between a personal cloud and a personal computer. The area that I find most relevant is the concept of the Personal Cloud and connected Peripherals.

In the past year, the concept of personal weather stations has grown so that now you can publish the weather at your domicile and consume that information anywhere you are. Thermostats allow you to log into them remotely and using your personal cellular device manage the temperature in your home. There are sensors that allow you to measure remotely the amount of hydration in your house plants and well if your washer is leaking water on the floor when you aren’t there.

Your personal cloud is expanding.

I wrote here on CloudTweaks about the potential reality of overtaxing the overall available bandwidth on the internet. Lately as I dabble with Personal Cloud I am even more concerned about the “personal bandwidth” I have available. The number of devices that need my Wi-Fi password has increased in the past 12 months exponentially. From the home security system, home weather station, Smart Pens, tablet’s, televisions and SmartGlasses the network at home is getting a little saturated.

Beyond a simple network connection or complex depending upon your home network there is the concept of applications in your personal cloud. Mobile devices support applications that are not installed locally today, rather they are enabled in the cloud. Most cloud hosted applications run on a mobile device as well as on your laptop and desktop.

You can also have your own VM environment in your personal cloud by simply installing one of the many applications that support virtual machines on your home computer. You don’t get all the automation with the workstation products, but you can run iterations of the management solutions in a VM as well.

Today your personal cloud represents the devices that you want to connect to where you are. It’s the broad concept of your information at your fingertips. The areas of concern in the short run will be around bandwidth in your home. The last area of concern will be the security of your personal data. The reality is that your personal cloud exists today. It is going to continue to expand and fill your device with the information you need to succeed.

By Scott Andersen

Scott works as a software architect and has been involved in IT projects over the past 17 years. 

(Image Source: shutterstock)

The Verdict Is In: Legal Services Are (Finally) Moving To The Cloud

The Verdict Is In: Legal Services Are (Finally) Moving To The Cloud

Legal Services Are (Finally) Moving To The Cloud

For early adopters, it may seem ridiculous that moving to the cloud is still a topic of conversation and hesitation for some industries. According to IDC, cloud computing is poised to be a $798M industry in 2014, but there are business sectors that are only now picking up speed in utilizing the technology. The combination of security concerns and faith in traditional systems has resulted in the legal industry being as one of the slower sectors to adopt the cloud.

But at long last, it looks like that is changing: A recent report by LexisNexis revealed that 40 percent of attorneys used cloud-based tools in 2013, a 10 percent increase over the previous year. Read on for why the legal professionals are finally coming around to the cloud – and how that shift is helping clients.

legal

From a Paper-Based World to a Virtual One

If you picture a traditional law firm, that image likely contains rows and rows of file cabinets. Customarily, legal documents have been housed in physical locations. The thought of taking these sensitive records to a virtual environment has been a major reason law firms resist taking the plunge to the cloud. But there is a level of risk in any storage format, as even physical documents could be stolen or damaged. As practice management software systems are proving, the cloud can be a highly secure place for the most important of documents to live.

Beyond the hurdle of security concerns, legal practitioners are often nervous about how cloud adoption will change the structure of the entire business. Where clients once had to pick up the phone and speak to their attorneys in order to get answers about their case, the cloud offers a way for them to be in more frequent contact – and have more transparency into day to day legal affairs. And where a law firm may have needed multiple personnel to handle administration tasks in the past, a cloud-based business requires far fewer general office staff. While these are all positive changes, it can take a while for an industry to make significant overhauls to procedures that have been relied upon for decades.

Despite treading with caution, however, the legal industry is picking up speed in its cloud adoption. In fact, the same report previously cited also found that there was a 10 percent increase in cloud use by attorneys in 2013 – and this number is likely to grow even more substantially in the coming year.

Changing the Legal Industry, One Attorney at a Time

Despite the hesitations of lifelong attorneys who are reluctant to change their tried and true practices or new attorneys hung up on certain anxieties around new technology, it’s undisputed that the industry at large is moving steadily toward widespread utilization of Web-based systems. One reason for this movement is a response to client needs. Even the most technologically skeptical of lawyers can see the advantages of giving clients options that help them better manage and understand their legal experiences.

So why do clients appreciate law firms with cloud capability? The answers are many. For starters, consumers now expect constant access to information and communication. They expect to be able to gather details on their cases when they want them, and to be able to get a response from their attorney within a reasonable – if not instant – frame of time. Clients want to be more deeply informed, and being able to access case alerts, documents, and attorney communication through a portal they can access at any time grants them this. This expectation gives attorneys who offer a cloud-based portal a competitive advantage.

Beyond the simple factor of accessibility, additional features that cloud computing offers are a big draw for both clients and law firms. Take billing, for example. Before these innovations, client invoices would be sent through the mail, and both parties were often not clear on the status of payments. By way of a Web-based billing lifecycle, law firms can now enter billable time as it occurs, clients can pay bills through an online portal from anywhere they choose and both sides of the equation don’t have to guess about what’s been paid and what’s still due.

Other features like secure document uploads, secure message portals and alerts about important dates serve to better apprise the client of important information. This eliminates the need for attorneys to spend time on administrative tasks and allows them to get back to practicing law. It’s no wonder the LexisNexis report cited previously found that 40 percent of attorneys feel that cloud-based tools will completely surpass premise-based solutions within the next three years.

Next up to Bat: More Mobility

With all these up-and-coming features available within Web-based systems, what’s next for the legal cloud? Well, as with most industries in 2014, mobile usage will continue to skyrocket. Customers and attorneys alike can expect to see more mobile apps become available, and more software accessibility through smartphones and tablets. The convenience of mobile devices is not lost on the legal crowd, and busy lawyers whose days are chock-full of meetings and court appearances will keep demanding faster and easier access to the system functions they consider most crucial. Clients who are concerned about the outcome of cases that could bear a significant impact on their lives will continue to call for more frequent case updates, more in-depth communications and more transparent insight into case status.

In other industries, the service and mobility advantages of the cloud are so obvious it’s hard to believe there is anyone out there still resisting. Finally the legal field is starting to embrace its power as well. It will be exciting to see where the cloud goes in the next few years, but one thing is for sure – among attorneys, it’s here to stay.

By Matt Spiegel

matt-spiegelMatt is the founder, vice president and general manager of My Case, a cloud-based legal practice management software. A lawyer himself, Spiegel founded the business in 2010 to address the number one complaint across all state bar associations: insufficient attorney/client communication. Prior to its acquisition by AppFolio in 2012, Matt was CEO of MyCase. He maintains a leadership role with the company and continues to advocate for better, more efficient legal services through the use of Web-based tools.

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