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September 1, 2015

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Why SMBs are Using the Cloud to Leverage Mobility

One of the core drivers behind the emergence of cloud-based services for small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) is flexibility. Having the flexibility to access applications, data and infrastructure anytime, from anywhere, leads to faster decision-making, improved customer service and responsiveness, greater productivity, more collaboration and more innovation.

 

In fact, a recent study found that 91 percent of organizations using the cloud have at least one employee working remotely. Nearly one in five companies say the majority of their workforce works remotely.

 

SMBs are increasingly turning to an Infrastructure-as-a-Service model in which applications, hardware, software, storage and other tools and services are hosted by a third-party service provider and accessed on virtually any Internet-connected device. These resources can be scaled on demand and shift the financial burden of IT procurement, management and maintenance to the provider.

 

Of course, another big reason for the popularity of the cloud is the popularity of smartphones and tablets. Mobility and the cloud are speeding forward side by side as employees demand the highest levels of performance and reliability when accessing the corporate network from their favorite mobile devices. To meet this demand, organizations are making investments in mobile-friendly infrastructure and ensuring that devices, applications and data are running in the cloud.

 

The cloud fills a very basic need for the mobile workforce – the ability to remotely access files and applications. Documents can be reviewed, edited, stored and sent from any device. Manager approvals no longer require a trip back to the office.

 

Unified communications and collaboration tools allow employees to use a variety of channels to seamlessly communicate with colleagues and customers. Videoconferencing no longer requires high-tech conference rooms and complex planning. All an employee needs is a smartphone or tablet and login information.

 

The key advantage of the cloud – anytime, anywhere access to network resources – also creates a downside. Organizations that rely upon the cloud to support mobility are also relying upon mobile employees to establish and manage their own Internet connectivity. This can lead to service degradation, which prevents users from taking full advantage of a flexible working arrangement. The cost of access to cloud resources, if not monitored and controlled, can quickly wipe out any financial gains of cloud computing. Finally, security can be compromised by users who visit questionable websites, download malicious software, utilize unsecure networks, or fall prey to phishing scams.

 

Mobile policy management (MPM) can overcome these issues by establishing and automatically enforcing policies that provide greater control over how the cloud is used. Networks used to connect to the Internet are prioritized and selection is controlled by policy. This can significantly reduce support costs and optimize data usage while simplifying the user process for accessing cloud resources. From a security standpoint, MPM protects corporate data and applications by preventing the use of rogue networks that are often labeled as “free Wi-Fi.” It also allows users to roam between networks without security or compliance issues.

 

ICG’s IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) solution is focused on making businesses more flexible and agile. It includes virtualized server infrastructure, hosted email, automated and managed backup, Microsoft Office licensing, remote desktops, and a comprehensive suite of security tools. Let ICG show you how our cloud services can help you take full advantage of mobility and flexible working.

December 19, 2014

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Why IaaS Makes Sense for Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

The ability of an organization to recover company data and applications and continue business operations with minimal disruption is absolutely essential. If a major power outage, hurricane, flood, fire or security breach occurred, how long would your organization be out of commission? Would it take minutes, hours, days or weeks to recover? How much money would be lost? How much would your company’s reputation suffer?

 

Increasing technology investments and an increasing reliance upon real-time data and communication have led many organizations to update and overhaul their disaster recovery and business continuity strategies. Challenged to minimize the impact of disaster while simultaneously reducing costs, more and more organizations are finding that the best solutions reside in the cloud. In fact, a recent report from Infiniti Research estimates that the global infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market will grow approximately 43 percent annually over the next five years, driven in large part by disaster recovery and business continuity planning.

 

IaaS is a model that enables an organization to leverage a third-party service provider’s technology, including storage, servers and networking infrastructure. The provider is responsible for managing, updating, maintaining and securing this infrastructure. Business applications, operating systems and other tools can be controlled by the organization’s IT department through an online management console.

 

The first and most obvious benefit of IaaS is that it significantly reduces capital hardware investments and operational costs for maintenance, power and cooling. Organizations pay for what they need and can automatically scale resources up or down according to business requirements. Rather than investing in IT resources that may only be used periodically, workloads can be transferred to the cloud during peak periods.

 

From the perspective of disaster recovery and business continuity, IaaS provides redundancy that removes the risk of having a single point of failure. Instead of spending days waiting for the data center to get back up and running, the service provider simply shifts IT resources to remote infrastructure, which can be accessed through any secure Internet connection. IaaS ensures a reliable IT environment with little or no disruption to business operations. Security, traditionally a top concern for organizations considering cloud deployments, is typically more robust when using the IaaS model.

 

Simply put, IaaS minimizes the risk of an outage while reducing capital and operational costs. Let ICG show you how to use the power, flexibility and cost-efficiency of IaaS in your disaster recovery and business continuity strategies.

October 2, 2014

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Are You Struggling to Manage Branch Office IT?

The two biggest IT priorities for organizations with branch offices are providing a consistent end-user experience and improving security. But while most remote sites have basic IT infrastructure and services, they typically rely on the main office for IT resources and support. Failure to provide branch offices with the same capabilities as the main office can drag down productivity and increase risk for the entire organization.

 

Branch office users require the same level of performance and secure access to applications, data and services as the main office. They must be able to securely collaborate with other employees and have the same level of responsiveness when IT issues arise. At the same time, data must be backed up and regulatory compliance must be maintained.

January 20, 2014

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Is It Time to Ditch Your Desktops?

icg-ditch-PCs-post

In our last post, we talked about the cost and effort associated with traditional desktop maintenance and support. Organizations have long looked for ways to increase efficiency, but a number of issues are driving more organizations to reevaluate their desktop strategies.

One is the impending “sunset” of Windows XP. On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer support XP, which has been the foundation of PCs in the workplace for more than a decade. Organizations that are still using XP need to determine how to migrate to Windows 7 or 8, or an alternative such as Apple OS X.

Another factor is the growing use of mobile devices within the workplace. Gartner estimates that sales of tablets grew more than 53 percent in 2013 as the PC market saw a decline of more than 8 percent. Although PCs are still expected to dominate the end-user computing landscape for the next couple of years, organizations are looking for ways to support an increasingly mobile workforce.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has helped to alleviate these issues, but VDI can be costly and challenging to deploy. Plus, the virtual desktops are still managed through an onsite data center, which requires a significant upfront investment for infrastructure and ongoing maintenance, monitoring and upgrades.

An emerging alternative is Desktop as a Service (DaaS), which is essentially cloud-based VDI. Virtual desktops are hosted, monitored, maintained and delivered by a cloud service provider, eliminating the need for onsite hardware and software. Users can access these desktops on any Internet-connected device.

Because DaaS is so new and definitions are still evolving, there hasn’t been a definitive analysis of the scope of the DaaS market. However, IDC expects the market for Workspace-as-a-Service — which it defines as anytime, anywhere access to end-user applications and data — to reach $661.1 million by 2016.

DaaS and related solutions are increasingly popular because of the unique benefits they bring to the table, including:

  • Reduced implementation and maintenance costs. DaaS allows companies to avoid the upfront capital expenses associated with VDI. The VDI infrastructure – and the costs associated with it – moves offsite to a cloud service provider and is accessed for a monthly fee.
  • Fast, easy deployments. Instead of researching, purchasing and installing in-house IT infrastructure, and finding qualified IT professionals to manage it, companies simply need to find a service provider they trust to deploy, manage and maintain a DaaS solution. Because DaaS is cloud-based, it’s possible to try this type of solution before committing to full implementation.
  • Flexibility and mobility. With DaaS, virtual desktops are hosted in a remote data center, linked to a company network through a private connection, and available from any computer or mobile device – anywhere, anytime. With an increasingly mobile workforce, DaaS helps users stay connected and productive.
  • Simpler maintenance, support and security. Forget about keeping hardware, software and apps up to date, backed up and secure. With DaaS, this burden now lies with the cloud service provider. Updates happen automatically, new desktops are made available quickly, and availability is maximized.

If you’re looking to improve your business model to reduce costs, provide mobile workers with greater flexibility, and simplify the management of IT infrastructure, contact ICG to learn more about our cloud-based DaaS solution.