Make those minutes count

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.

 

What an IT Manager Can Do to Bridge the Gap Between IT and the C-Suite

The C-suite often misunderstands the priorities of the IT manager, but there are steps IT can take to bridge the gap.How an IT manager views the enterprise is often different from the view of the executives in the boardroom. It makes perfect sense, because executives are viewing the scope of the business with a wide lens, and the IT manager’s perspective is colored by the specific needs and role of technology in business operations.

The impact of this disconnect is that IT may not receive the support it needs to keep the enterprise moving forward at the pace necessary to gain a competitive edge. Executives may have a limited understanding of how decisions made in the IT division may help or hinder them in a variety of ways.

A recent survey highlighted this challenge with results including the responses of C-suite employees and IT managers from large enterprises. It found that conversations between IT and executives need to go beyond simply discussing budgets for hardware and infrastructure to support network needs.

The key findings of the survey included:

  • Most companies continue to use on-premises security solutions and plan to spend more on them in the future, despite the ready availability of cloud options.
  • Most of the respondents plan to continue to rely on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for handling increasing bandwidth requirements.
  • The majority of both C-suite executives and IT managers agree that changes need to be made to handle network requirements, but may disagree on how this should happen.
  • Among IT executives, 80 percent were not confident that data exchanged over mobile connections is secure, but only 56 percent of C-suite executives share that view.

Securing mobile data transfer is a critical topic as the remote workforce continues to grow. The difference in perspective means that executives may not have a clear picture of what’s necessary for managing network security when it comes to mobile use. Boardroom executives are woefully misinformed about the level of security needed to protect mobile data and the increased pressure on bandwidth needs because of mobile devices.

The scope of the survey included topics broader than just mobile security plans, but this area highlights the challenges an IT manager faces in communicating the needs of their department to get adequate support.

For instance, despite the major increase in bandwidth demand due to mobile device use and the advance of the Internet of Things, most of the companies surveyed said that they would increase their investment in VPN, rather than choosing a cloud gateway option. Some enterprises are relying on a mix of cloud and on-premises gateway solutions.

IT managers struggling to get the support needed for bandwidth requirements and security must change the way they communicate with board members. Avoid words like “latency” or acronyms like VPN or MPLS. Instead, speak in terms that highlight the perspective of the executive, such as performance issues and how they impact the customer or other end user.

In addition, simply talking in terms of cost savings when it comes to cloud solutions often makes a big difference in the conversation between executives and IT. Both groups are motivated by reducing costs, so this can be a good starting place.

T2 is the bandwidth-boosting partner who can ensure that enterprises have access to the connectivity provider that best meets location, pricing, and service level requirements. Contact us today for an initial appointment.

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.

Leaving Your Cloud VoIP Provider Can Be Easy

VoIPParting ways with a vendor is something all businesses have to do at one stage or another, yet the process can be extremely complex. If you don’t make plans for what to do at the end of a contract, you’ll find the workload intensifies and interruptions in service are likely to occur. When it comes to cloud Voice over IP (VoIP), you can’t afford any downtime.

For that reason, it’s important to have a few key things in place before you even begin your contract with a cloud VoIP provider. No matter how great you think the relationship is going to be, things can still go wrong. The sales person may change; the tech support that you like so much might go to another vendor; the provider is acquired by another that doesn’t approach customer care the same way. Any of these things are possible and can turn a star provider into a disappointment very quickly.

To that end, here are a few things to have in place before you sign on the dotted line:

Points of Measurement – What will indicate to you that you’re getting the service you selected? Is it all about uptime, quality, or a combination of the two? Make sure you outline expectations and include them in the SLA.

Regular Reviews – It’s important to examine the points of measurement on a regular basis and compare them with the SLA. Determine how often you will review these outcomes with your cloud VoIP provider to ensure they are held accountable.

Continuity of Operations (COOP) Plan – This type of plan actually lays out what will happen in the event that you do switch providers. It determines who is responsible for what and the timelines by which any actions will take place.

Renegotiation strategy – This is something you’ll want to have regardless of your relationship with the provider. It’s important to protect your rights at all stages, especially the end. Establishing pricing and performance thresholds for what constitutes a justifiable change in vendors will help you lay the groundwork.

The goal of putting these steps in place is to ensure you have options when it comes time to change your cloud VoIP provider. Know the analytics of your current arrangement and your expectations at all times. When reviewing with your provider, hit on those things that matter to you and your bottom line. If they aren’t responsive, you know it’s time to do something different. If you’ve completed these steps, you’re ready to start researching other providers to determine if a switch makes sense.

When you’re ready to start that process, call us at T2. We have relationships across the cloud VoIP provider industry and can help you assess potential partners and whether or not they will be a good fit. Plus, we’ll help you when it’s time to pull the plug. Talk to our experts first to ensure you never go without the service you need.

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.

Approaching Cybersecurity from a New Perspective

CybersecurityEvery day a large number of cyberattacks are launched. Malicious software is often initiated by intelligent attackers that many scanners can’t even detect. An entire IT infrastructure can be riddled with a virus. When it comes to cybersecurity, what can you do to protect yourself and your organization?

Is Proactive Cybersecurity Possible?
While a proactive cybersecurity measure would be ideal, the cards are currently stacked against such an approach, at least in a comprehensive way. Scanners don’t know what to look for and nothing can be done until after an attack has occurred, driving the need for a reactionary response.

The History of Cybersecurity
To understand where we are now, it’s helpful to take a look behind us. Many older systems would leave doors open open for whomever needed to get in and work to improve the operating system. This goes back to the old mainframe days. Slowly, they began to develop protection strategies to lock down vulnerable areas.

As computing went more mainstream, better security practices were implemented. However, there was also a move from mitigation to risk management, a trend that continues in terms of how we perceive cybersecurity strategies today.

Rather than mitigating the probability of attack and the impact that such an attack would have, IT security has turned to jumping on issues as they arise, working on solutions to minimize damage after it has occurred.

Data Protection
In many IT circles, the idea that an organization needs to protect its data border, so to speak, has come to the forefront. This circle includes such giants as Google, which has adopted a zero-trust, end-to-end encryption initiative. Rather than protect devices, the move is aimed at protecting the data itself.

Therein lies the question: do you protect your software and hardware, or do you lean toward protecting data with encryption? For some, neither of these approaches begins at the right point and neither is foolproof, mostly because they don’t consider what to do when something goes awry. This is why many say cyberattacks will never be eradicated.

Putting Security in the Cloud
There is hope, however. Organizations are moving data and processes to the cloud, which means security issues are often placed on the vendors with which they partner. You want reliable network connectivity and business continuity that provides the level of disaster recovery that keeps your data within reach all the time.

At T2, we’ve given our clients the promise that we can save time, reduce costs, and provide the connectivity that makes a difference. Contact us today to talk about how we can eliminate the burden of managing services while providing you the infrastructure you need to succeed.

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.