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Cloud has the ability to become the foundation of a business, especially small businesses. In this digital age no matter the size of your business, one just can’t survive without an online presence. Cloud is cost effective for small businesses and requires little to no investment. The entire idea of having an off site infrastructure became a trend in 2008, while nowadays it has become the groundwork of many IT companies.

Flexible and Convenient
There was a time when placing an infrastructure for an entire organization required a lot of time with an extremely slow ROI. Comparing this to cloud computing, the very same infrastructure with the same resources and size can be up and functional in less than an hour!
The ideal cloud solution for small businesses can be Platform as a Service (PaaS).  Small businesses that sell web services can productively utilize PaaS. Install an access application seamlessly without making investments on in-house servers. Pre-configured apps are easily available a click away providing leverage to your business, saving considerable time as you prepare to go online.
The cloud service also offers great flexibility should the small business plan to increase the size of their infrastructure while avoiding any downtime. Such flexibility allows small businesses to mold the servers according to their needs. This includes the ability to create, re-create, upgrade, or even compromise servers with minimum costs.

Cost Effective
Cloud services can remove and/or reduce considerable costs of various elements relevant to a small busines business:
• License fees
• Training costs
• Infrastructure costs
• Hosting costs
• Redundancy costs

Cloud Utility
The main benefit of the cloud is the abundance of storage capacity. Store anything from documents, pictures, videos or any other form of data you can think of. This includes an added functionality which is the niche of cloud computing, the share feature. Share any file with anyone anywhere, while the data stays securely backed up on your servers.
In other words cloud technology not only lowers costs, but increases your productivity as well by streamlining business processes. Many young businesses are implementing cloud into their businesses giving them an upper hand over competitors. Since not everyone has caught up to this latest technology, doing the same will allow your own get ahead as well. The ability to auto update without licensing issues, negating the need of IT staff and equipment as well as reducing maintenance costs makes installing cloud services a no brainer.

By now we have all heard of cloud computing, but there are so many half-truths, sales pitches and flat out lies regarding the cloud. With all the misinformation out there, how do we know what to believe? Here are the top 5 myths about cloud computing with honest explanations debunking the claims.
Seeing past these myths is critical to make the right decisions about if migrating to a cloud solution is right for your organization.

1. The Cloud is Not Secure – This is probably the most prevalent of all the myths about cloud computing. To put it simply, not all clouds are created the equal. A cloud is only as secure as the team of Engineers who designed and manage it. With that said, having a team experienced Systems Architects and Security Engineers design a highly redundant infrastructure is typically out of the budget for most small to medium size businesses (SMB). The cloud has allowed SMBs to have access to such systems. Pick your cloud vendor wisely, do your research and make sure their data center is SSAE 16 Compliant. This is a good start and you know that their infrastructure has been validated by an independent third party for security and redundancy.

2. The Cloud is the Perfect Solution – Well nothing is perfect. While the cloud can solve many problems and is quickly replacing premise-based computing, it is not without shortcomings. Namely, legacy software. Older versions of software typically do not operate well in the cloud and often require a great deal of manipulation to get working. The cloud is new, and employees are often resistant to change. Even if a new system is better, has more features and costs less, you will not go without your share of complaints.

3. Cloud Computing is a Fad – If you hear this from somebody, they probably have their pager and fax number on their business card.

4. The Cloud is Not Reliable – To go back to my first point, all cloud are not created equal. The design of any cloud is rooted in redundancy, so it is likely more reliable than the average in house server room. The level of reliability is all up to the team behind it, so make sure to do your research first and make sure the cloud service provider maintains a stellar uptime record.

5. The Biggest Benefit of the Cloud is Lower Costs – While there are potentially huge cost savings when moving to the cloud, that is not always the case. The biggest benefits typically are the ease of management, lowered administrative overhead, increased productivity and auto-scaling of systems. The flexibility gained by utilizing the cloud is often the biggest benefit and indirectly can result in a lowering your bottom line.

To sum it up, the cloud is here to stay and is a viable solution for all size businesses. Make sure you get the real story on the costs of the cloud for your organization, migration has costs and can impact productivity, you don’t want a whole new set of problems. Do your homework and understand all your options. A good cloud service provider will ask about your organization objectives and work with you to design a custom solution.

Remember the cloud is not a one-size-fits-all solution. If you are interested in learning more about cloud computing for your organization, call us at 949.631.7000. We help all size organizations move to the cloud. The consultation is free.

Are your IT systems in-house, but you’re wondering if cloud computing can benefit your business?  Here are 8 signs that your organization is ready for the cloud.

1. Monthly Maintenance Costs Getting Out of Control – Is your IT infrastructure taking too much time or costing too much money to keep up? With a cloud solution all these overheads become the responsibility of your IT support company.

2. Aging Systems – Are your systems starting show signs of instability? Is a system crash becoming an all too regular event or are you worried about what would happen if one did happen? Cloud solutions utilize the latest hardware and software, which have built-in redundancy.  This ultra redundant configuration allows for regular system upgrades with no downtime.

3. Disaster Recovery and Preparedness – Are you certain that if your current IT systems failed that your business would survive? Do you have a documented plan of action on how to recover in the event of a disaster or total system failure? Cloud solutions are designed to be highly fault tolerant and globally available.

4. Upgrade Costs are Sky High – Is the price to replace your server so high that you can’t justify the upfront capital expenditure? A cloud solution requires no investment in hardware upfront, you pay monthly for only the services you use.

5. Remote Access and Mobility – Are you in need of remote access to your systems and data? Do you have an existing system that is more of a hassle than it is worth and resulting in lost productivity for your mobile workforce? Cloud solutions were designed from the ground up for remote access and mobility.

6. Backups – Could you use a better backup solution for routine tasks such as file restores and pulling from archives? Do you need a longer retention period or off-site storage for compliance? A cloud solution typically bundles a backup strategy as part of the solution.

7. Security is a Concern – It’s not uncommon for workers to save data to their computers or worse, removable storage devices that get lost. With a cloud solution, the data is securely available from anywhere. There is just no need to keep it anywhere else.

8. Go Green – Instead of having to run a host of servers and services in a climate controlled environment with all the power consumption considerations, your systems are moved to the cloud service provider whose systems will be streamlined and more efficient.

At d2 Business Solutions, we help all size organizations migrate to the cloud.
Interested? Contact us at 949.631.7000. We are happy to discuss your options and the consultation is free.

On April 14, Google formally acknowledged via a Terms of Service update that Gmail messages, both incoming and outgoing, are now being automatically scanned for the purpose of creating targeted ads. If that alarms you, keep reading!

Last month, a U.S. judge ruled that the courts would not combine the various lawsuits accusing Google of violating privacy rights into a single class action suit. Why are users suing Google over privacy rights? Because the company now admits that it scans the messages of its 425 million active email users – not just when the messages are in transit, but also when they are stored on Google servers. Google argues that users, who agree to terms of service “implicitly” (if not passively), should recognize this practice as part of the email delivery process.

Gmail’s Terms of Service now state, “Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.”

Users have a history of rolling with the changes when it comes to Google’s increasingly looming presence in their private lives – but naturally, some will decide that the company has finally gone one step too far. Those users, specifically business users, will need to find a new email support service –preferably, one that commits to a “zero knowledge” policy. They can find it in outlook2go.

outlook2go is a hosted Microsoft Exchange email service that caters to small and mid-sized businesses. The company offers three service tiers, with plans that start at only $6.95 a month per user. The highest tier includes HIPAA and FINRA compliance and encrypted email delivery – plus, the zero knowledge policy that Gmail refuses to offer.

For businesses that want to leave Gmail behind, outlook2go is offering the opportunity to try its product for free. You can request a 30-day, risk free trial of this hosted Microsoft Exchange email service by signing up at http://outlook2go.com.

Article originally posted on outlook2go blog – Google’s New Privacy Policy, Users Seeking Alternatives for Hosted Email

The Blank Stare
When I speak to corporate audiences, I encounter few professionals who understand cloud computing inside and out. They’re called information technology (IT) employees, and at the average company, they only represent a microcosm of the workforce. As for the remaining departments who sit in the meeting, it is fairly typical for me to be met with their blank stares when I delve into topics that address the business they work for shifting its data over to the cloud. Inevitably, someone near the back will timidly raise her hand after a few minutes and ask the question that is on the minds of 80% of the people in the room: “So…what is cloud computing, exactly?”

“I’m glad you asked,” is my standard response before I begin explaining – and, really, I am. For too long, companies have left employees in the dark about where their data goes. That is not helpful to anyone, for a number of reasons. More on those in a moment. For now, let’s just answer the question by addressing what the cloud is.

What is the Cloud?
First, let’s define what it isn’t. For the purposes of computing, the cloud is not a physical place in the sky – nor is cloud computing a singular method or service. Instead, cloud computing is a set of computing concepts, and the cloud is the informal expression we use to describe them. What are those concepts? I call them the “3 I’s of the Cloud.” Every company that is on the cloud receives services based on these three “I” concepts:

Interconnectivity – Many computers (a cloud’s “network”) are connected via the Internet. A cloud host, which is a third party cloud services provider with its own servers, manages the computers belonging to its network members from a remote data center. This data center is what facilitates cloud-based services, such as the offsite backup of data. For companies that use the cloud, backing up data offsite (away from their location) eliminates the worry of losing important company data in the event of a system failure, power outage or weather disaster.

If you have ever heard a television or radio advertisement for a cloud services provider, you know that the #1 selling point these providers emphasize is their ability to offer companies disaster recovery solutions. That isn’t mere hype; disaster recovery is a valuable service that the cloud makes possible.

In any event, the interconnectivity of the network is what keeps cloud services providers on their toes, maintaining the uptime of the network and allowing services like disaster recovery to happen. Because a cloud hosting service provider will work hard to make sure his network doesn’t go down, the interconnectivity of the cloud should be viewed as one of its strongest assets.

Infrastructure – In order to maintain a manageable IT budget, members of the host’s network rely on the cloud to provide the IT infrastructure for their respective companies. Rather than breaking the bank building an onsite data center, those companies can rely on the cloud for the raw computing capacity needed to create, store and share data internally.

On average, the cost of depending on a cloud services provider for infrastructure is 74% less than the cost of developing the infrastructure and operations force in-house.(1) That is one clear cost comparison that makes the cloud worth exploring.

Intangibles – In a word, software. The cloud can be used to deliver one or more software applications for companies to effectively manage their workforces: email, calendars, data and document sharing, spreadsheets, etc. Nearly any IT service a company needs to manage itself can be delivered in the cloud. When a cloud host provides these software-based intangibles, that is defined as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Cloud computing is all about delivering business offerings as a service; software is just one of three.

As you embark on choosing Orange County computer support services, it is advisable to consider different vendors. This will assist you in making the best choice for your business. The most effective way of identifying the most suitable Orange County computer support for your business is by interviewing each provider individually. Note the use of the “most suitable” instead of the “best.” This is because businesses have different needs and what might constitute the best services for one company may not be relevant to another. The following are some things to consider when reviewing IT support companies to help you achieve your business objectives.

First, you need to inquire about the business hours of the IT support services that you are considering. It is imperative that you know what hours the IT support will be available to your business. While majority of computer support companies offer 24-hours a day services, their main offices may keep specific hours. This can be important information because you need to be confident that your business activities will not grind to a halt if a big problem occurs in your network. Some computer network support providers may troubleshoot your problems at any hour, but only provide maintenance and updates during given times. Obtain all this information upfront.

An important question that you should ask the computer technician representing the IT support service is, “How do we get support?” It is wise to ask the computer networking support provider about communication. Ask the computer technician how you will be getting in touch with the Managed Service Provider (MSP) he is representing. Do they have a single point of contact and will you be assigned a case manager? Also, inquire about the means of communication – Skype, email, phone, etc. Find out what hours your contact will be available. Having someone who works for the provider on your side can be a lifeline when things go awry.

Find out from what the Irvine computer support provider gives the highest priority to when hiring staff – customer service or technical knowledge. The response can tell you a lot about the potential vendor. However, you need to decide before hand what the acceptable answer may be i.e. which one of the two options is most important for your business. Note that there is no wrong answer. Excellent computer networking support includes technical support as well as soft skills.

In addition to that, you need to inquire about the process for adding new services. Majority of businesses plan to grow in the subsequent years and they need business IT services to grow with them. Discuss with the prospective providers how they plan on implementing additional IT support products and the parameters they use to warrant expansion of the IT department. Business IT services have become an integral part of modern businesses as IT systems are the platform on which majority of business activities rest. It is, therefore, important to factor them into your business’ short and long term strategies in order to ensure success.

 

Originally posted on d2 Business Solutions Blog – Procuring Computer Support Services

According to some experts, the traditional VC model is broken. In fact, it has gone the way of Palm Pilots and dial up. If that is true, then how are startups supposed to…well, start up? The answer is in the “sharing economy,” with models such as AirBnB, Lyft, Surf Air and BlackJet leading the way. These companies, which make money by helping consumers share their tangible assets with other consumers for profit, have the right idea. Thanks to the convenience of our digitized world, they create efficiencies from portable assets. How does that apply to raising capital? Because of another aspect of the sharing economy, crowdfunding.

CrowdfundingWhat is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding, wherein individuals each contribute small amounts of funding to a project in return for a tangible or non-tangible benefit, is an aspect of the sharing economy that has the potential to significantly diminish the need for small business loans. For that matter, it stands to wipe out the demand for VCs. Crowdfunding has many permutations, as it can be used in nearly any project that requires vast resources: movie production, scientific research, invention development.

How Crowdfunding Applies to Startups

Tech startups can benefit from crowdfunding as well. There are plenty of ways a new mobile app, video game or web-based service can compensate its crowdfunders. If film producers can give a producer’s credit to all the crowdfunders that send them a few hundred dollars, why can’t a tech startup do the same?

Thanks to the effectiveness of crowdfunding, the traditional venture capital model may be on its way to being replaced. According to well-known VC expert Fred Wilson, more VCs are waking up to the fact that they will have few assets to work with in the future. At one forum recently, Wilson was asked a question commonly attributed to Paypal’s Peter Thiel: “What do you believe that very few people agree with you about?” His answer was this: “In the venture capital market, there ultimately won’t be a need for VCs to ever have funds.” Huh?

Here’s one explanation. Today, VCs raise money from Limited Partners (LPs), who trust the VCs to invest in companies that will grow over the next 3-10 years and deliver a good ROI. Because their money is not their own, VCs may eventually become obsolete as LPs begin to take a more active role in identifying opportunities.

The Shift is Beginning

Although Wilson admitted the transition will happen years down the road, he believes this is already starting to happen for early-stage investing. “Expect to see more and more ‘out-there’ experiments,” he said, when it comes to the seed round for new startups. Crowdfunding is one of the tamer models of experimentation, but as more startups see its value (providing user validation is just one example), more experimental funding methods are bound to start sprouting up.

Established VCs have little to worry about now, but as any former Palm Pilot user will tell you: Things can change very quickly. That’s why we believe those with smart money need to smarten up about the traditional VC model, and look to crowdfunding as a new way to make ideas happen.

Article originally written for BizHack.IT blog Is the VC Model Broken? Smart Money Needs to Smarten Up 

Check out drive2go’s latest press release addressing growing concerns over the PRISM scandal and how it is affecting business and consumer views on cloud computing.

Revelations About PRISM Have Businesses Seeking Data Storage Alternatives

 

Now that we know the “Big Three” cloud providers – Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive – complied with National Security Agency requests to turn over their customers’ private data as per the data mining efforts of the PRISM program, businesses who once trusted the cloud have found that trust waning lately.
It’s a logical conclusion: If the biggest names in data storage can’t be trusted, shouldn’t businesses write off the cloud altogether? No, they shouldn’t! Instead, they should make the shift to a smaller, more exclusive cloud file service like ours. Here is why.
Unlike Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive, drive2go provides companies concerned about privacy with airtight data security. Our service secures client data with 448-bit, military grade encryption. And while the biggest names in cloud storage are putting their customers’ data at risk with shared keys, drive2go utilizes private keys. We are also committed to our ‘zero knowledge’ policy, which guarantees that even we never see your data. These are massive differences between our service and theirs.
At drive2go, we understand the new privacy concerns; it is for that very reason that we refuse to allow your data to be breached. No matter the size of your company, your information is yours and yours alone. It is your property, and often, the it is the lifeblood of your business. No one – not your competitors, the cloud file service storing it for you, or any agency of the federal government – is entitled to have access to this information. In any situation, drive2go is committed to protecting your privacy.
Now that they know the truth about their data security, companies are abandoning the “big” cloud service providers and trusting us instead. If you are ready for the cloud file service you deserve, contact us to request a free 30-day trial, with no credit card required for sign up.
Originally posted on drive2go.com blog – After PRISM, Have Big Names Damaged the Cloud’s Reputation?
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Updated August 2016 - Matt Dubois