Cloud Computing

The benefits of Cloud Hosting for SMEs

Commensus‘ CTO Alex has written an engaging and succinct guide to the benefits of Cloud Hosting for Small to Medium Enterprises. Many of the points raised in his article are clearly relevant to other sectors.
Cloud Computing

“In our increasingly globalised world, small businesses need an operating communications network to span the geographically dispersed parts of the company. But the business applications required to achieve this are an pricey proposition in our current economic climate. This is making it progressively hard for small companies to compete with large corporations who hold seemingly infinite budgets. But we are now seeing the emergence of multi-tenanted business applications based upon a price-per-user model, or in other words, the Public Cloud. This is allowing youthful organisations to enjoy enterprise level services, security and products, at a fraction of the price.

Now is the time to begin “Thinking Big” – and utilizing communications to get there. With Cloud Computing, instead of running Desktops, Applications, Exchange or Voice through physical in-house servers, they are hosted on centralised virtual servers in a data centre. This entire process is instant to setup and easy to use; you just login, customise and begin. Applications are more scalable, more secure and more reliable as you don’t need a copy of an app for every department using it, just one app which is variable enough for everyone to customise for their own particular needs. You can instantly provision applications whenever you need them as the end user directly controls the resources they require. This allows firms striving to adapt to the pace and dynamism of business today to deploy highly resilient virtual machines for their staff, dawning a new era of flexibility.

Managers are beginning to realise a change in the dynamics of their businesses now that staff can be networked more cost-effectively, no matter where in the world they are. Employees can benefit from enhanced mobility with access to their individual desktop user profile from any device – Laptop, Thin Client or iPad – from anywhere in the globe within reach of a 3G network. This makes it easy to connect individuals and offices in one cohesive, responsive unit in which users share and synchronise emails, diaries and files. Small organisations can hire home-based workers, or open small branch offices, or more effectively connect employees on their mobiles to deliver seamless, customer service as easily as a large corporation. Cloud Computing also furthers employee productivity and innovation by offering access to the latest technology without the need for any investment in upgrades so small organisations get first class IT on a global scale without having to spend a penny.

IT executives have raised some concerns about the security of their data in the Cloud. But since all data and applications are centralised in a data centre, it is vastly simpler to enable and enforce processes and procedures to ensure security, privacy and other best practices. No data is stored on a device, so you never have to worry about proprietary data coming into the wrong hands if the device itself is missing, stolen or breaks. This is particularly significant with potentially gigabytes of sensitive corporate data sitting on the desk of each member of staff.

But some executives are still hesitant to take the step: their thought is that they would no longer be able to ‘touch and feel’ the systems which drive their company. Alex Parker, CTO of Commensus PLC is not surprised by this reaction, but feels there is enough experience of remote working to relieve those fears. “Data centres have been on the scene for three decades or more: Cloud computing is simply a logical progression of that service. There has been little evidence of businesses experiencing problems with access to data and with comprehensive service level agreements that specify virtually constant availability, any remaining concerns should be set aside.”

Most businesses are small (over 98% have less than 100 employees) and they like it that way: they value the flexibility, responsiveness and customer interaction. It is clearer than ever that the competitiveness of an organisation is now less based on its size than ever before. By having effective use of today’s communications capabilities, small firms can contend against anyone, anytime, anywhere, of any size. If you think it, you can do it. With the development of cloud technology and the applications and solutions available to small business, the sky really is the limit and size is no longer an issue.”

Follow Alex @WhatistheCloud

ZuiTube – Watch, Laugh, Learn, and Share

ZuiTube is a safe place for young people to search, watch, tag and share videos they like.
ZuiTube
ZuiTube is powered by YouTube and has over 60000 parent and teacher approved videos. New videos are added everyday.

Google Maps, London and Cholera in 1854

This is a great use of Google Maps and Earth to show overlays of historical maps in different places and different times. Visit London and see John Snow’s Cholera map of 1854.
Cholera London 1854
Built on the idea that every past is a place, HyperCities is a digital research and educational platform for exploring, learning about, and interacting with the layered histories of city and global spaces. Developed though collaboration between UCLA and USC, the fundamental idea behind HyperCities is that all stories take place somewhere and sometime; they become meaningful when they interact and intersect with other stories. Using Google Maps and Google Earth, HyperCities essentially allows users to go back in time to create and explore the historical layers of city spaces in an interactive, hypermedia environment.

The London Underground Live

I’m enjoying a little look around the web to see what people have been up to with Google Maps. This real-time view of the London Underground rocks – and could be very useful too!?

London Underground Live

Matthew Somerville, Frances Berriman, James Aylett, and Tim Diggins have worked a bit of maths magic with the live departure data from the TfL API to give us this tool.

http://traintimes.org.uk/map/tube/

Clever use of Google Maps and Street View

This is a very cool example of how Google Maps, Street View and Directions can be combined…

Create your own TripGeo at http://www.tripgeo.org

UK Government seeks a common infrastructure built on open standards

The UK Government’s Cabinet Office has announced a strategy to deliver real financial savings and efficiency gains through the agile implementation of an ICT infrastructure that will enable the reuse and sharing of our ICT assets.

In a move that is believed to reduce the high level of risk associated with large scale ICT projects, the infrastrtucture will build upon the successes of smaller projects that have transformed services through the use of common and open standards.  By encouraging and in some cases mandating the use of open standards, joining-up all of these pockets of smaller projects to form a supportive, comfortable and long lasting king size infrastructure mattress will be simpler.

Some key points to note:

The Government will push ahead with its agenda for data centre, network, software and asset consolidation and the shift towards cloud computing.

The standardised cloud platform will also allow developers, especially SMEs, to generate innovative solutions.

A common infrastructure based on open standards will allow for greater flexibility of policies and services delivered at lower cost and within a shorter timeframe.

The use of common standards can make ICT solutions fully interoperable to allow for reuse, sharing and scalability across organisational boundaries into local delivery chains.

The adoption of compulsory open standards will help government to avoid lengthy vendor lock-in, allowing the transfer of services or suppliers without excessive transition costs, loss of data or significant functionality.

Modern, knowledge-based service delivery underpinned by effective information architecture and open standards will support government to build more transparent, trusted and efficient information exchange processes.

Read more at http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/content/government-ict-strategy

At Number 5 in The Gadget Show’s Top 5 Tech for 2011 is…

…Cloud Computing.

 

http://fwd.channel5.com/gadget-show/videos/top-5/top-5-tech-in-2011

What life is like ‘Off Net’

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Is the kind of fitting intro to a roll-up, or crawl, for this F2MKE blog. For I have moved home – from rurality to city heights – and in theory far more and better connectivity! Well you’d think!? Mental note – quick mention of how to switch on Caps Lock on the iPhone later… However, despite being in a dead centre postcode I struggle to get a full Vodafone GPRS signal, let alone 3G. So bang goes my plans to use my Vodafone dongle, or tether to my iPhone. So instead I have to wait nearly a full month for Virgin to activate my line and send me whatever kit comes with the bundle. Why??

So, my only option seems to be the iPhone for the next few weeks… That and much time spent at Starbucks, or McDonalds. The latter options could wind up expensive and defeat any plus points gained from lots more walking and on the doorstep convenient swimming?

Having never read the iPhone 4 manual – or any tech manual probably – And with even more use and necessity of said device, I stumbled across activating Caps Lock yesterday. A simple double-tap of the Shift key turns it blue and voila, your in capitals! How did I cope before?

Help me with part 4 of “Every cloud has a silicon lining”

Hello!  You may have already read parts 1 to 3 of Every cloud has a silicon lining?  If not check it out at http://bit.ly/f5o3eF.

For part 4 I need your help!  Help needed!  Does Cloud Computing make sense in these times of austerity?  Is it a real green alternative?  And any other thoughts and ideas that you may have – just use the reply option below.

Every cloud has a silicon lining | Part 3

In this F2MKE.co.uk blog series I explore cloud computing.  What is it?  What are the advantages versus risks?  What must businesses and schools check before putting their heads in the Cloud?  Does Cloud make sense in these times of austerity?

To read parts 1, 2a and 2b of Every cloud has a silicon lining head for:

http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2011/01/18/every-cloud-has-a-silicon-lining-part-1/

And

http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2011/01/20/every-cloud-has-a-silicon-lining-part-2a/

And

http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2011/01/20/every-cloud-has-a-silicon-lining-part-2b/

Cloud Computing : Top 5 checks

1)   Does your cloud provider offer security appropriate to the service?  For example, ISO/IEC 27001 Information Security and CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks where access to data about children is concerned. Where does the service operate from and is it covered by Data Protection Act (DPA)?  This is crucial where personal data is sent outside of the European Economic Area (EEA)!  Safe Harbor is an alternative safeguard http://www.export.gov/safeharbor/.

Remember the 8 key DPA principles are:

  1. Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless –
    (a) at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met, and
    (b) in the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3 is also met.
  2. Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes.
  3. Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed.
  4. Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.
  5. Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes.
  6. Personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under this Act.
  7. Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.
  8. Personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the European Economic Area unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data.

2)   What are the stated availability targets for the service and against what timeframes are these measured?  How quickly will the service be recovered in the event of a major incident, or even disaster?  What penalties, or credits, are in place if Service Level Agreement (SLA) targets are not met?

3)   Do you have enough bandwidth capacity?  Remember, you, your colleagues and your customers may be accessing multiple services from differing bandwidths with varying contention ratios.  Whilst most web traffic is efficient over HTTP and HTTPS (ports 80 and 443), other methods for accessing services such as Citrix, or Terminal Services, can be less efficient – even when encapsulated within HTTP/S.

4)   What options are available for offline productivity?  Gears is Google’s way of offering access to some online files offline by adding additional features to your web browser.  However, Google’s strategy is shifting from Gears to online storage and development ceased in February 2010.

Features available in HTML5 offer equivalent alternatives to Gears and can clearly be taken advantage of by all web service providers.  Unfortunately, HTML5 as a ratified World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard is some way off!  However, parts of HTML5 are already implemented in browsers including Web Storage and DOM Storage (Document Object Model) – web application software methods and protocols used for storing data in a web browser.

5)   And finally portability!  How easy will it be to move, or share, your data?  Look for open standards for data migration and interoperability.  In the education marketplace the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) is your best bet!  You may also consider options to improve your customer experience through standards for Single Sign-on such as OpenID or Shibboleth (SAML 2.0). This will allow you to provide many cloud services from many different providers, whilst maintaining a single set of access credentials with one-time login and increased security.