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Evaluating Private Cloud Versus Public Cloud Options

There are times when private cloud is the right option, such as in instances where customization is necessary.Legacy systems can no longer keep pace with the performance and agility requirements of today’s enterprise. As a result, CIOs are feeling the pressure to move workloads to a cloud solution — but the public cloud’s standard offering isn’t a great fit for every enterprise. In some cases, where customization or scaling are part of the equation, private cloud makes more sense.

While many enterprises do choose the public cloud, there are still plenty of workloads housed in legacy systems and some in the private cloud. Choosing private cloud requires careful consideration, because it’s not as simple as buying a standard, off-the-shelf public cloud offering. Here are a few reasons to consider a private cloud solution:

Customization needs: Public cloud solutions often require companies to alter existing business processes in order to accommodate system operations. If there are particular tasks that cannot be altered to adjust for public cloud requirements, you may need to consider a private cloud solution.

Regulations and compliance: If you are in the healthcare or financial industries, there may be regulations that prevent you from implementing a public cloud environment for your IT needs. This may be due to security or privacy concerns, or because the data center may be in the wrong geographical location to meet industry standards.

Security: It can be argued that security in the public cloud is superior to anything that an on-premises legacy solution or a private cloud server can provide. What private cloud offers is a higher level of control over security. This equates to better visibility and the ability to make changes as necessary, without going through a public cloud services provider.

Option to switch to a hybrid environment: If you choose private cloud, you always have the option to utilize public cloud solutions through a hybrid approach. Once you’ve established your private cloud, you can access a public cloud solution that easily integrates with your private cloud, whereas choosing public cloud first can introduce some limitations to your ability to choose a hybrid solution later.

Public cloud doesn’t need to be a default setting for enterprises wanting to access the speed, scalability, performance, agility, and cost savings of a cloud environment.

T2 is here to help you achieve your business goals, whether you’re in the Bay Area or anywhere else in the world. Contact us today to learn more.

Prioritizing Cloud Security in a Cloud-First Approach

Enterprises embracing a move to the cloud must prioritize cloud security to protect data and the enterprise network. As enterprises experience the benefits of housing certain business processes in the cloud, many are taking a cloud-first approach, employing the mindset that Everything as a Service (XaaS) is the ultimate goal for digital transformation. While prioritizing cloud services comes with cost savings, better agility and performance, and a host of other benefits, it also requires a prioritization of cloud security.

Enterprises should keep security at the center of their process in choosing a cloud services provider. Ultimately, data belongs to your company and is your responsibility, but it’s important to identify a provider whose terms and conditions align well with your enterprise. There should also be a discussion of data sovereignty, as well as who will be responsible for damages in the event of a breach.

The decision to place data in the cloud is enough of a risk to warrant a careful plan to protect assets. An initial cloud security plan needs to address the exposure that occurs as soon as the data leaves your company’s system. Encryption is a critical step, and should be done before the data hits the cloud provider’s server.

A Hybrid Approach to Cloud Security

Your company must also decide which types of data you want to store in the cloud. You may determine that it’s prudent to store more critical data on-premises and within your own security.

As a result, prioritizing cloud security often lends itself as an argument for a hybrid cloud environment. The IT team is able to retain a high level of visibility into the security of mission-critical data, while your company enjoys cost savings on cloud storage of cold and non-critical data.

A Solution for Cloud Security

Identifying ways for your enterprise to capitalize on the benefits of cloud storage while emphasizing the importance of cloud security presents a challenge, but there are options that can make cloud storage more secure.

An important step is to increase the authentication that devices require before granting access to publicly-stored cloud data. This allows your organization to retain control over who can access the data and from which devices. Enterprises can add a variety of conditions, including who the user is, their location, what types of data they are attempting to access and the device they are using.

Enterprises can set up a virtual private cloud (VPC) to increase visibility with a virtual layer, but it would be better to take your company’s own firewall, virtualize it, and put it in the cloud as an added layer of protection. This allows the IT team to see the entire system from a single cloud security management platform.

T2 has contacts across the industry, bringing enterprises the best the 21st century has to offer in cloud, connectivity, and collaboration partners. Our expert staff connects companies with the right providers for the services they need and manages day-to-day operations so that all they see is the end result. Contact us to see if a partnership with T2 is a good fit for your company.

 

Minimize Cloud Sprawl With a Hybrid Approach

Cloud sprawl is a common problem for multi-cloud environments, but a true hybrid solution minimizes sprawl.Many enterprises call their cloud environment a hybrid solution, but in many cases, what’s really in place is a multi-cloud approach that uses both public and private cloud solutions without a unified infrastructure. The difference may seem semantic, but multi-cloud environments are at risk for cloud sprawl.

Enterprises are largely drawn to cloud solutions because of anticipated benefits surrounding scalability, visibility, and performance, but in many cases, the main drivers are cost savings and revenue growth. The ability to categorize software subscriptions as operating expenses and the elimination of hefty investments in hardware and management costs can free up resources for innovation. There is also the opportunity for revenue growth with the ability to roll out new user-friendly, mobile-first technology to a market that demands a highly personalized customer experience.

But in one corporation after another, cost savings and revenue growth are not coming to fruition. The lack of a broad strategy for digital transformation leaves enterprises with a cobbled-together solution, where public and private cloud solutions combined with legacy, on-site systems make for a messy infrastructure.

Cloud sprawl occurs when companies lack a vision and execution plan for managing cloud environments. Service level agreements with vendors and the costs of processes like cold data retrieval or bursting can eat up the potential savings anticipated from cloud solutions.

Enterprises also lack a digital transformation plan, with line-of-business managers driving the push for cloud adoption in isolated segments of the organization. If there’s no set of guiding principles for which workloads will be housed in the public versus private cloud and no strategy for how to prioritize those changes, IT will continue to be in reactionary mode, watching cloud sprawl spin out of control and facing pressure from line-of-business managers.

Keeping Cloud Sprawl Under Control

There is a solution, but it requires a change in infrastructure. A true hybrid solution combines public and private cloud solutions with legacy systems in a single infrastructure, with networks, storage, hardware, and related components all united to achieve greater control, visibility, and optimization of workloads.

A hybrid approach significantly reduces maintenance cost and time, and allows for better application mobility. It also provides options for automation in areas like configuration, provisioning, and management of upgrades and updates.

When you partner with T2, you have direct access to 30 of the most trusted names in telecommunications providers and a partner that will be by your side month after month. Whether you’re suffering from cloud sprawl, connectivity problems, or another telecommunications challenge, T2 has the cure. Contact us today to learn more.

True Security Threats in a Cloud Environment

CloudIf you’ve ever implemented a cloud application, you likely navigated a number of discussions surrounding cloud security. No doubt you had to do some fast talking to explain what IT professionals already know: the cloud is safer than many on-premise systems.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t security threats when you implement a cloud solution. The problems that are most likely to claim your data or infiltrate your network, though, don’t tend to be the types of issues that most people associate with cloud systems. Here are the security threats that you’ll want to protect against:

A lack of defined ownership: When you implement a cloud solution for the first time, it’s important to have a plan in place for who will oversee the security protection for each part of the technology. You’re likely to overlap with your provider in some areas, but it’s better to have the discussion and put a plan in writing, rather than discover later that you both thought one another was overseeing a certain aspect of security.

Shadow IT: With large corporations sometimes managing thousands of applications, it’s no surprise that it’s easy for employees to download an application onto the network without authorization. Likewise, they may be using a personal mobile device for business activities or vice versa. It’s almost impossible to eliminate every risk from Shadow IT, but it’s good to be aware and protect against this weak spot.

Compliance: The compliance standards currently in place were established when the cloud was largely conceptual. There’s so little guidance for how data should be stored and which types of data should not be mixed that it makes it challenging for any company to know how to make decisions related to storage.

Lack of physical access: Some companies are troubled by the idea that they don’t know exactly where their data is being physically stored. This is a concern particularly in the public cloud, where companies’ data may be stored in ways that they aren’t protected from potential problems with other enterprises. For instance, if a company’s data is seized by the government for legal reasons, an unrelated company may be unable to access their data, too.

Additions and updates: Any disruption in your cloud environment has the potential to allow for a security breach. Even if the update is simply to improve speed, you should take precautions against any possible security problems.

Planning for a migration to the cloud? Talk with the consultants at T2. We can help you walk through the entire security process, from evaluating your current situation to establishing protocols to protect against shadow IT. Give us a call to set up an initial appointment.

 

It’s Becoming Harder to Come up With Reasons Not to Choose Cloud

CloudWhen you first heard about replacing your on-premises software with a cloud solution, you likely had some of the common fears shared by other business decision makers. How could cloud storage safely guard your data? Wouldn’t you put your IT division out of a job? Where exactly was all your information going to be stored?

As cloud offerings have expanded and pioneering companies took the dive into cloud solutions, it has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible software environment, and a more secure storage option for your data in many situations. Here are a few of the reservations that are no longer limiting adoption, making the future of cloud technology even more promising:

Flexibility: Introducing a cloud solution into your software mix gives you a product that is easily adaptable to your business needs. As you hear about features that integrate well with your cloud system, implementation is just a phone call and a quick update away. Adding business units or completing an acquisition is no longer an IT nightmare with the flexibility of the cloud.

Cost: This is an area that requires caution. If you start asking around, you’re sure to hear a story of ballooning cloud costs that were a significant disappointment after promises of reduced software costs. Overall, though, you should experience some cost savings. Cloud solutions require little-to-no hardware investment and because they are subscription based, you’re never paying for extra users. Be prepared for ongoing support and subscription costs.

Staffing: Selling an IT team on a move to the cloud required a lot of fast talking at first. After all, why would an IT professional get excited about a software solution that might eliminate their job? The reality is that IT is still critical for supporting your software, but their roles pivot from managing updates and fixing glitches to optimizing the infrastructure and operations that support storage and manage bandwidth.

Security: You need to evaluate your cloud choice for its security features, but while this was formerly the biggest concern about a shift to the cloud, it’s not a problem for many who have adopted cloud software. In some cases, the security support exceeds anything a company can host with an on-premises storage solution.

Accessibility: One of the best features of cloud software is its accessibility for smaller enterprises. At first, it was assumed that the cloud would be championed by the big guys and then filtered down to smaller businesses, but small- to mid-size companies are experiencing access to the same great software tools at their own subscription size.

If you still have reservations about a transition to the cloud, talk to our consultants at T2. We can help you work through any concerns you have and ensure you have reliable network connectivity with access to the most advanced technology at prices that fit your company’s budget.

How Managed Services and Cloud Technology Can Compliment Each Other

Cloud TechnologyIt is becoming apparent that many MSPs in the marketplace today are making a distinction between cloud technology and managed services that is actually hindering rather than helping their bottom lines. The prevailing view seems to be that customers want to either go with managed services or want to make use of cloud technology solutions, and that these two types of service are in competition with each other.

The fact of the matter is that customers don’t generally care what’s going on under the hood, as long as they get where they want to go. Customers want solutions for their business problems, irrespective of the technology being used. Understanding that both managed services and cloud technology are complementary components of a comprehensive, customer-based solution strategy is key to opening up new, more agile business models to MSPs who want to remain competitive.

Cloud as a Core Component

Cloud technology, rather than being an outsourced add-on that MSPs can offer their clients, should be a core component and part of a robust and flexible suite of solutions available from the outset. There are some use cases best served by managed services, and others that are better dealt with by cloud services. Clever MSPs are increasingly able to offer both in-house, and are providing the option on a wider scale than their competition.

The problem with widening the scope of offerings in this way, some MSPs point out, is that cloud technology requires more clients than managed services to be financially viable. It’s generally accepted that a cloud services provider needs to engage more than the 50-100 clients to make managed services profitable. Many smaller MSPs aren’t prepared to or capable of expanding their operation to accommodate the increase in client base.

Making a Larger Customer Base Work

There are ways to make a larger customer base work without significantly increasing the scale of operations:

  • Specialize in niche areas of cloud services such as security or compliance
  • Focus on high-growth areas such as application development
  • Be willing to branch out into new technologies and ecosystems
  • Run as efficient an operation as possible by making use of professional management tools
  • Identify the elements that can still be outsourced to reduce costs and inefficiencies as much as possible.

Running a lean, focused operation is an effective way to be able to offer clients as diverse an array of complementary services as possible while maintaining solid profitability.

The Explosive Growth of the Cloud

Cloud GrowthThe IT landscape is shifting, and cloud services aren’t just center stage – they’re overwhelming the stage.

The Worldwide Semiannual Public Cloud Services Spending Guide, a publication of market intelligence firm IDC, analyzed Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) spending numbers across various global markets and a range of industries. The findings are clear: with a 2017 spending increase of 24.4% over 2016, cresting $120 million worldwide, cloud growth outstrips all other IT growth by a factor of seven. And the rate of growth is forecasted to remain high — above 20% per year through 2020.

SaaS Domination

Cloud computing is still dominated by SaaS applications, though there’s no guarantee that SaaS will remain the flagship offering of the cloud. SaaS represents about two-thirds of current cloud spending, but its growth is slower than IaaS and PaaS trajectories: through 2020, PaaS is expected to grow at a rate of 30.1% each year, while IaaS outstrips it at 32.2% annually.

Adoption by Industry

Not all industries are seeing equal cloud adoption. Manufacturing, professional services, and finance are forecasted to spend the most on cloud services, accounting for around a third of all cloud spending. The professional services industry also leads the pack in cloud growth, with a spending rate growing by almost 24% per year.

Cloud Spending

Despite the potential expense of moving large organizations (and entrenched infrastructure) to the cloud, companies with over 1,000 employees aren’t shy about migration: they account for over half of all cloud spending, and their spending rate is increasing faster than companies with fewer employees.

Global Cloud

Generating almost two-thirds of all global cloud revenue, the United States is the largest current public cloud market – though the Asia/Pacific region (Japan not included) and Latin America are each growing at faster rates: Asia/Pacific at 28%, and Latin America at 26.6% annually. In fact, globally, the US has one of the slowest cloud growth markets, increasing at a rate just shy of 20% per year.

As the market matures, it’s likely that previously untapped markets will come to regard the cloud as an essential piece of infrastructure. In particular, European markets have been more resistant to cloud adoption than those in the US, but they show healthy growth which is forecasted to continue through the end of the decade.

Domestically and worldwide, for large companies and small, the cloud is growing – and it’s not predicted to stop any time soon.

Making the Right Choices in the Cloud

shutterstock_328634297While it may be true that cloud services are not the perfect solution for all business computing needs, almost every business has at least some applications for which cloud is, indeed, the best solution. Premises-based solutions will continue to become less prevalent as time goes on. The focus of cloud services on scalability, efficiency, and flexibility is the primary driver of the move away from premises-based computing.

The biggest problem with traditional solutions is that in order to maintain capacity for peak loads, it’s necessary to maintain a great deal more computing resources than are needed the rest of the time. Overspending becomes a necessity. There is also the onerous process required to upgrade server capacity or other infrastructure.

Cloud solves these problems admirably by placing the onus for hardware purchasing and maintenance on someone else’s shoulders. There are three ways in which cloud services can be deployed, each serving a slightly different set of needs.

SaaS

Software as a Service (SaaS) involves the hosting of individual business applications in the cloud, to be accessed remotely by end users. The business has no control over the environment in which the application ‘lives’ under this model.

PaaS

Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides all the infrastructure, management, development, and deployment tools a business needs to create and maintain their own software applications.

IaaS

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) consists of hardware and other components (networking, storage, servers, and software) and gives businesses more control over the system than SaaS.

One of the most difficult aspects of moving to the cloud is not deciding what type of service a business needs, but rather what parts of the business can best utilize the cloud in the first place.

What Not to Move

Business critical applications should certainly not be among the first to transition to a new environment. Nor should any applications where performance is touchy, or that require intensive number crunching. Any system with a high level of complexity and tight integration with multiple apps should also probably wait until the organization has more cloud experience.

What Should be Moved

Non-critical systems are a good first step, including departmental applications where a smaller number of people will be affected by growing pains. Email servers and other well-established and easy to maintain apps are also likely candidates.

Other Considerations

Before making the jump into the cloud, it’s important to consider a few other details:

  • What are the company’s requirements for a service level agreement (SLA)?
  • Is a service provider able to provide the required level of security with the type of cloud model that fits the business’s other needs?
  • Do any of the apps that will be hosted in the cloud have special requirements?

The cloud isn’t more difficult to understand than on-site resources; it’s the same, only different. The differences can, however, complicate individual situations and turn wrong decisions into costly mistakes. Contact us for help simplifying the complicated.

 

Cut Through the Confusion to Understand the Benefits of the Cloud

shutterstock_127598501One of the most powerful benefits of cloud computing is that it creates a virtual work environment that can accommodate an increasingly distributed workforce.

More and more employees work in the field or from remote locations, which creates challenges when team members must work together. The cloud facilitates collaboration among employees in different locations by allowing them to access common data and applications wherever they are.

Businesses of all sizes are embracing the cloud to capitalize on this and other benefits, including the ability to access files on different devices. But many companies, especially small businesses, remain confused about what cloud computing is and if it’s the right choice for their company.

Cloud Benefits

Any major shift in IT operations deserves careful consideration and evaluation of its pros and cons. Following are three major benefits to consider when contemplating a move to the cloud.

Scalability. A business considering an investment in IT assets should assess which assets are currently needed, as well as how much capacity is necessary to meet existing demands. Further, planning for long-term needs is equally important.

Determining current needs is not too difficult, but understanding future requirements is a different story. The downside to guessing incorrectly is overspending for capacity that is never needed, or underspending and having to buy additional equipment later when the budget might be unavailable.

The cloud offers a tidy solution for companies that prefer not to roll the dice on predicting future requirements. When buying into a cloud service, companies can purchase the capacity and services they know they need now and then scale up or down later to meet future needs. The cloud also allows companies to adjust to operational peaks and valleys by allowing them to purchase capacity on an as-needed basis.

Simplified Project Management. In today’s electronic world, documents and files move easily among people and devices. Yet files and applications are still largely decentralized. Cloud services allow companies to centralize their data and applications, which allows for increased collaboration among employees and easier project management.

Document and correspondence history are stored and automatically updated, tasks can be created and tracked, and calendars can be generated to keep project members up to date. These tools can eliminate less efficient manual project management tools that require multiple platforms, such as spreadsheets and even handwritten notes.

The Bottom Line. Saving money usually tops the list of goals for any company looking to make an IT system change, and cloud computing offers several opportunities to realize cost efficiencies.

  • Eliminating capital expenditures on expensive physical equipment and software is a huge cost savings from day one.
  • Cloud services can eliminate some costs associated with employing in-house staff to maintain equipment.
  • Cloud computing services often provide a predictable and manageable pay-as-you-go billing model that is easier to fit into a budget than a large purchase of in-house equipment.

While many companies have already made the jump to cloud computing, some companies are waiting on the sidelines, trying to sort out fact from fiction. In reality, the cloud provides several potential benefits worth considering.

There are a number of cloud models to evaluate when making a cloud decision. Understanding the company’s current requirements and future goals will help determine the best path toward unlocking the potential of the cloud for any business.

Finding the Silver Lining in the Cloud

shutterstock_92683114With cloud services continuing to blanket the market, analysis paralysis has truly set in for countless clients and agencies. Cloud computing and storage is the next big thing, and the overabundance of services has resulted in a quagmire of uncertainty and endless options. No truer is this than when it comes to finding the right vendors to meet a company’s needs. The only way for a business to tackle this challenge is to focus on one clear and simple cloud goal.

 

The Cloud Dilemma

Cloud-based services are now visible in several industries and applications. From digital cable to telecommunications, it is next to impossible to keep up with all of the changes and developments. From Cisco and Microsoft to NEC and Shoretel, there are now over 40 different ways to utilize and implement cloud services on-site or from remote locations. As such, it can be overwhelming for a business to effectively analyze and assess which services meet its goals. Additional complications include:

  • new cloud products, services, and changes happening at a moment’s notice,
  • cloud services evolving based on existing industry trends and changes,
  • shifts within the landscape that are affecting how cloud experts offer services to clients, and
  • clients possessing little to no knowledge of cloud benefits.

With seismic shifts happening in the cloud industry at rapid rates, only organizations that know precisely what they need are benefiting.

Cloud Cover

Sifting through the many cloud options available today can be an obstacle that limits productivity and performance. While it’s great for clients to carefully weigh their options and choices, selecting the right vendor has become a time-consuming and tedious process. In order to secure the best possible outcome, there are many factors to consider:

  • Company executives and staff must be on the same page to meet cloud initiatives and directives.
  • Effective and strategic planning is needed to find the right and most affordable cloud solutions for enterprises.
  • Businesses must take into account all potential opportunities, risks, expenses, and management challenges.

Only with these options and facets in mind can a sound and lasting decision be made about which cloud provider or service to attain.

Gray Clouds

Unfortunately, this level of strategic planning rarely takes place anymore. Many businesses simply do not have the time, and even having a solid management plan does not guarantee finding the right cloud solution. It can take several attempts along with trial and error to finally secure a cloud provider and achieve desired results.

By firmly establishing a single clear goal, clients can amend or modify solutions based on their particular needs and aspirations. Company objectives must be precise throughout the chain of command. Setting the simplest goal is the only way to truly find the silver lining in the cloud.