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Some Benefits in Using Cloud Computing

Selecting a cloud storage provider depends mainly on your environment and your intentions. Whether you’re a small business, or an individual looking for the best (and often most inexpensive) way to store your wealth of files, cloud storage can be a great solution.

Why the Cloud?

So, why go with the cloud? Aren’t all the external hard drives out there enough to manage all your photographs, video files, music files and other important data? Maybe, but those items eventually break down and become obsolete—which isn’t too helpful when they’re your main method of backing up data. Not to mention they’re very costly to purchase when you have a good amount of data to store.

The benefit of the cloud is, not only is it inexpensive, and in some cases even free, but it allows you to store your data in a secure format that will help alleviate backup issues, while providing access to your files whenever you need them. Cloud services are generally easy to use with just the basics—an Internet connection, a computer, and a browser. This makes it super user-friendly for even the most basic computer users.

If you travel often, cloud storage is a great choice, because you can access your data from anywhere in the world. Much like your own computer, or back up hard drive, the cloud allows you to store information in an organized manner, so you don’t have to sift through endless amounts of data, in the end, saving you a good deal of time and energy.

Cloud Privacy

The cloud uses what is referred to as a software service model, which allows users to access their files by using a username and password. You can access the cloud from any computer with Internet capacity, allowing you access to your files in pretty much the same way as if you were working at home or in the office.

Yet, privacy is one of the major concerns for those considering cloud storage. And it goes without saying that whatever cloud storage company you choose, you want to make sure that your data is safe and that nobody can have access to your files.

In order to do this, you need to understand how certain servers store your data, in a way that is accessible and that you can communicate with the service should anything happen. Let’s say the server crashes for some reason, does this mean that your data is at risk? In most cases, with cloud storage companies, the answer is no, as good cloud storage companies will have backup systems in place that ensure your information will never be lost.

The best cloud storage services also employ the most advanced security options out there, in most cases better than what most small businesses or individuals can afford on their own. But even with these security measures, there’s always a slight chance that something could happen, so just be preventative, and make sure that your important files are backed up elsewhere. This will also give you some peace of mind, even if nothing should occur.

Another benefit of cloud storage is that it eliminates the need for an IT staff and expensive backup servers. If you have a small business, you can have your staff access all files via the cloud, therefore eliminating the need for an on-site server and thousands of dollars in IT staff paychecks. With cloud storage, if a problem arises, you only need to contact your company’s customer support should any problems arise.

Suffice it to say, the cloud obviously has it detractors, who feel that it’s an unsafe way of storing private information. Yet, with recent developments in safety, the cloud has basically revolutionized the way we manage our data, as well as how we do our business online. If you’re still wary of making the switch to online cloud storage, talk to some who use it. See what their feelings are. Most have found it quite beneficial, with cloud storage offering a great alternative to backup servers and hard drives.

New Ways of Working – Cloud Computing and Serviced Offices

Finding innovative solutions to problems has always been a hallmark of small and medium businesses keen to differentiate themselves from the pack. Being able to adapt to new ways of working in a modern business environment means looking at emerging technologies such as cloud computing, as well as considering alternative solutions to the traditional working environment such as serviced office spaces. We’ll look at each of these in turn to consider how using both these options work to your advantage in order to maximise the potential of any small business venture.

Cloud Computing

The main advantages of cloud computing for small business users are cost, scalability and flexibility. Gone are the days when it was necessary to purchase and maintain expensive physical infrastructure such as email servers or separate storage systems; cloud computing usually works on a subscription based model and allows your workforce to produce and collaborate on projects no matter where they are based.

Serviced Office Space

An increasingly popular option for small businesses, serviced offices offer all the benefits of more conventional office spaces but with a number of important advantages, chief amongst them being the reduced cost and flexibility that such an arrangement provides.

Fees are usually all-inclusive, saving you the trouble of having to account for additional costs such as building security and office maintenance, whilst giving you access to fully serviced premises. In Scotland, for instance, businesses looking to find Glasgow office space at can experience all the advantages such arrangements provide.

Small businesses can only benefit from advances in fields such as cloud computing and flexible working arrangements which allow them to keep costs down whilst providing an excellent service to their customers. Using the two in combination allows users to maximise their profitability at a time when economic circumstances have made it all the more difficult to survive those critical first few years and they are a welcome development for any potential new business.

The World of Cloud Computing and Online Storage

Cloud computing and cloud storage have revolutionized how we as businesses and individuals work. Think of how we used to work before the cloud entered our consciousness—we’d have to print documents, make copies, and deal with temperamental servers, as well as crashing computers. Sure, these things are still part of the bigger picture, yet doing our work and business online has made it less of a cumbersome experience and that much more user-friendly.

The Advantages of Cloud Computing and Cloud Storage

Think about the last time you actually sent someone a letter by regular mail. Was it years, or decades ago? Depending on your age, you may never have actually physically mailed a friend a letter before. As technology changes, so does the world around us—what we once considered science fiction has now become our reality. The good news is, however, this brave new world does offer some pretty cool advantages.

Cost is perhaps the biggest selling point for cloud computing. Businesses that use cloud computing and the best online storage methods almost always see a major decrease in cost, as cloud storage companies are able to charge significantly less than a company would pay not just to purchase, but to maintain and repair their servers. With a cloud storage company, you also get top of the line service and the best technology, again at a significantly lower cost than you’d be paying on your own.

With cloud computing and storage, we can also all seamlessly share our data with other businesses or clients or even friends across the world. Remember the days of overnighting fed-ex packages (and paying enormously painful international rates)? Those days are now thankfully gone, at least for the most part—with cloud computing and storage the ease in which we do business has greatly improved.

Travel and gas costs have significantly decreased as well, as the cloud allows us to work with others without having to travel “door to door” to accomplish our daily business. Businesses can now have clients and employees access related files from anywhere, simply through an organization’s cloud.

The Cloud Critics

Every advance in technology has its critics, and the cloud is certainly no exception. But the truth is, the cloud is actually a much safer alternative to more traditional methods of data storage.

Though hacking is often listed as the #1 concern of most considering cloud storage, what most people don’t realize is that your less at risk of being hacked with a cloud storage company than you are with your own backup methods. This is because most cloud storage companies have made security their top priority, and they’re equipped with more advanced security technology than most companies or individuals could even begin to afford on their own.

Systems inevitably crash; the advantage of cloud storage is that you’ll still have a backup of all your data. And unlike expensive hard drives, the cloud will not just one day conk out on you.

With cloud storage, your files can also be reconfigured automatically, complying with computer languages that are always changing, therefore allowing your information to be accessible for many years down the line.

The Online Data Backup Revolution

There is no doubt that in conjunction with online management and collaboration, online data backup and storage into the cloud has revolutionised the way organisations do business and in turn, these are reshaping the marketplace of business itself. This is part of the revolutionary change that cloud computing represents and is building a truly global market place where even small companies can trade throughout the world. A major benefit of this is that companies are no longer required to be confined to one physical office or location meaning employees can now be found scattered all over the world. In turn, this new “cloud marketplace” is brings increased opportunities for sales, as the global network enables connections with more and more companies and by extension, they are able to reach significantly more end users.

Until now all businesses have husbanded their data and controlled it as far as they can by keeping it exclusively on their own premises. The main change with the cloud is one of mentality; it’s now OK to have your data held and managed by someone else and the supporting economic justifications for doing so are now compelling.

To properly analyse this revolution and the drivers behind it we need to set this in the context of the way data has been backed up until now. Essentially backups are not a glamorous, high-profile task in any business and particularly in a small or medium-sized business, there is always something more pressing to do than to work on them. Consequently many businesses operate backup with processes that that are incomplete or in some other respect inadequate:

  • Critical data is not backed up or is backed up infrequently, putting recovery at risk.
  • Backup is a manual process based on tapes which are frequently over-written and seldom checked so consequently they may be impossible to read rendering the process pointless as restore is hopeless.
  • Backup processes rely on the expertise of one individual who may not be available if a recovery is needed.
  • Backups may be stored only locally, close to primary servers, putting the business at serious risk if that local site is compromised.
  • Backups may be taken off site but again this is a manual process reliant on human intervention.
  • Backups do not meet regulatory requirements or industry standards for data protection and retention

Most small and medium-sized business use some form of backup solution, however these solutions are typically time-consuming to operate, used inconsistently, or offer inadequate protection from disasters such as fires and floods. Lack of time, staff and expertise means many businesses have used a backup solution for years that is costly and/or out of date.

Here is where we see the true value of the online data backup revolution in delivering a quick and easy method of doing state of the art backup. Online backup aka “remote backup” delivers enterprise-class data protection to small and mid-sized businesses without the associated complexity and cost of management. Online backup runs as a service by sending backup data securely over the Internet to a highly available data center where it is held on highly available storage arrays which in turn are managed by data protection experts. High availability is a key element here; it specifically refers to redundancy built into the hardware and the data center such that any single part of the system can fail without losing either data or access to the data. So, every system will always have at least 2 power supplies, hard drives are held in arrays configured to allow for failure of individual hard drives and yet still deliver the data held on the array, data centers have redundant air conditioning systems, power feeds etc. In this way should your business suffer a disaster your data should be accessible at any time from any point in the world with internet access.

Like any cloud backup service, it should be self-provisioning with an administration console accessed on-demand through a Web browser. In this way the organisation eliminates the need to purchase hardware, manage complex installation, or manage software upgrades. The system adds new features seamlessly which are delivered automatically to all customers simultaneously. These services use a pay-as-you-go model based on storage usage with some optional cost features and the monthly or annual subscription fee includes 24×7 support. Most providers deliver an elastic service meaning customers may adjust usage up or down without penalty and costs are predictable.

The automated nature of online backup services delivers “always-on” protection with backups either triggered by file changes or run to a schedule, which means they eliminate the requirement for staff to perform manual backups or manage storage media. Once the initial backup has been performed, only block-level changes are sent over the Internet, which means bandwidth is used efficiently.

Online Backups run on all computers in your company – not just the file servers and even laptops not connected to the office network full-time can be backed up. Online backup software backs up all the proper files without needing to run several types of backup software to back up various file types. Online backups are properly versioned for point-in-time restores with multiple copies kept and automatically verified.

Using online backup services means files are encrypted prior to transmission, and are stored in encrypted form on the backup servers. In this way they are compliant with privacy and data security regulations. Backed up data are encrypted with a password known only to you which means nobody except you – not even the Backup Service Provider has access to your information which means nobody can steal your data. Reports are emailed after every backup and these can be used to audit business practices and to keep track of your backups. Should your backups encounter any kind of problems, you will receive an email describing the problem.

Restores can be achieved in minutes by the end user by choosing files from a list, or running a wizard. Restores can done from anywhere on the Internet using a web browser and operate 24/7/365 without the need for outside expertise or end user intervention. Restores can be done any time – weekends, holidays, and nights and so are quick and easy to test. Worries about running out of drive space, or replacing old drives disappear as the provider handles all that.

Security Concerns for Electronic Signatures and Cloud Technology

Signing documents has been a part of business contracts since before paper even existed. Having something in writing has always been what makes a transaction truly “official.” Lately, the next chapter in the written agreement is unfolding on the digital frontier. Electronic signatures are becoming the new standard for completing transactions all over the world.

As with any new technology, e-signatures raise almost as many questions as the problems they resolve. Are they legally binding? How can one know they are safe? Combine these concerns with the trend toward using cloud computing– and you have additional reasons for concern.

Let’s address some of the common issues and questions about e-signatures and cloud computing in this article.

Why Use Digital Signatures?

The reasons why digital or electronic signatures are preferred over hard copy are obvious. Contracts can easily be signed with people in other countries without waiting for mail, scanning documents or any of the other issues normally associated with getting something signed.

Digital signature systems that are properly designed also make it easy to maintain an audit trail of who signed what. This record keeping is very important in the event that legal action related to the contract must be taken. While scanning signed hard copies can provide quick response, it offers little of the audit trail that a third-party electronic system provides.

Are Electronic Signatures Legal?

Like anything that goes digital, people are always a bit worried about if it’s legal and safe. As far as legality goes, electronic signatures have been completely legal for over a decade. In 2000, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce law, or ESIGN, was passed making e-signatures legally binding and acceptable for transactions around the world. Europe and Canada followed suit and adopted similar legal laws.

Does this mean any kind of digital signature is a safe bet? Not really. Electronic signatures have been challenged in court. Important factors in making the signature legal was how secure the archiving and retrieval system was as far as the overall audit trail provided by the system. Knowing exactly who signed a document and verifying their identification was very important. Any electronic system used for collecting and archiving signatures should provide this level of authentication.

Electronic Signatures and Cloud Computing

With dedicated hosting on the decline and cloud computing becoming the new standard information technology infrastructure, some serious questions come up about how safe and secure your documents really are. How does cloud hosting of e-signing solutions present a security concern?

Many alarmists point to the shared nature of cloud hosting solutions as an automatic security risk. The fact that several computer systems share a single storage area network that may contain private data make some people nervous. The truth of the matter is though, the same level of risk exists on any system that is not properly designed and maintained.

Cloud computing systems have matured from an unreliable and unsecure prototype technology to a fully functional well-supported trustworthy infrastructure solution. Clear security protocols audit what all users do and partition data from one client away from that of another. Of course, any computer system is only as good as the technicians who maintain it. For this reason, it does pay to investigate what technology is behind the electronic hosting system that you select.

Fortunately, the industry of cloud hosting has lots of standardized security certification programs that include regular audits and a commitment to keeping systems up to date. If you make sure your e-signature solution is using such a system, you can rest easy knowing that your authentication and archive processes are safe and secure.

Electronic signature systems are definitely here to stay and have the legal and security behind them to make them a valid solution. Find out how you can streamline the legal aspects of your business by setting up one of these systems today.

Best Practices for Managing Data in the Cloud

Managing Data In the CloudThe importance of data management is increasingly evident as companies find themselves having to respond to change faster than ever to remain competitive. Without best practices, volumes of data cannot be leveraged effectively to give companies a competitive advantage.

The way to mitigate this is to implement efficient business practices that are regularly evaluated and streamlined to generate results in a real-time environment.

What Are Best Practices for Managing Data in the Cloud?

Businesses hire analysts to manage data in real time. Online analytical processing (OLAP), online transaction processing (OLTP) and specialized reporting are all required to help businesses improve processes and increase revenue.

Data warehouse information and OLTP data may be combined in cloud-based solutions to provide organizations with more flexibility. For some enterprises, cloud-based solutions meet the “practical sense” test and for others these solutions do not. Common factors of the “practical sense” test include: Cost effectiveness, scalability, migration capability and return on investment. Once these factors are determined, a set of best practices can be implemented.

Efficient Infrastructure Solutions. Efficient infrastructure solutions allow IT professionals to focus on mission-critical tasks rather than managing infrastructure problems. The infrastructure supports the integration, design and configuration of a database in a cloud-based solution. Consolidation efficiency should be monitored and a set of practices should be developed to achieve optimal performance. With efficient best practices, IT can use the cloud to eliminate some customization issues and deploy solutions in a fraction of the time.

Data Migration. Best practices for data migration require that businesses learn to convert data efficiently at a database level. Efficient migration must occur regardless of the format generated. Databases, which are not required to be combined for security or operational reasons, can be migrated to a virtualized server. All source data must be converted into a standardized format to facilitate consolidation before migration to a shared server. 

Consolidate to Minimize Costs. Consolidation reduces costs associated to hardware, cooling and power. It also reduces operational complexity which reduces the time required by IT management to complete projects. Consolidation can also assist IT managers with developing disaster recovery strategies and adopting best practices for a uniform backup routine. Best practices for an update and patch schedule should also be established. 

Use Cloud-Based Data Center to Meet Demands of Faster Service. A cloud-based data center allows companies to share the capacity and equally divide the workload of applications across numerous servers for more efficient data manipulation and recall. This allows for faster innovation and ability to meet customer demands. Overall performance will not be affected when large amounts of data can be processed in the cloud.

Next Steps…

JD Edwards helps businesses integrate data management best practices into organizations. Consultants help clients understand how to apply best practices and how to maintain competitive advantage in a fast paced work environment. The result is an affordable and high performance cloud-based solution. Cloud-based solutions are easily scalable, easy to deploy and cost effective.

The result: lower operating costs and increased efficiency.