What is cloud computing?
- Cost savings (hardware, software, facilities, people)
- Flexibility (easy to scale up or scale down – only pay for what you use)
- Opex rather than capex
- Agility – do new things quickly and to scale
Everyone you ask has a different definition. ‘Cloud’ basically means a centralised computing and storage system that you access over the Internet. This is never owned; the space required is rented. What you do own is the data that you populate it with (e-mails, documents, databases, etc.). If all your IT is in the cloud, all you need is a device (PC, laptop, tablet, phone) and an Internet connection. This means that as well as being able to work from a traditional office, you automatically get two extra benefits: 1) people can work from anywhere, on any device; 2) if anything should happen to your office/work station, you haven’t lost your IT, and 3) it eliminates the need to work from a traditional office setting – you can take your office home with you, access important documents while abroad, or even work from the local park!
The traditional alternative is that you buy the hardware (PCs, servers, storage, Internet, etc.) and software (Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office for all the PCs, Microsoft Windows Server, Microsoft SQL and Microsoft Exchange for the servers, etc.), house it (in a server room with power, cooling and connectivity), maintain it (hardware and software maintenance) and manage it (a person responsible for IT who looks after all this on a day to day basis and makes sure it is up, running and secure). Then, on average, all of the equipment will need replacing every 3-5 years.
So, in essence it’s straightforward economics. Is it better to rent a slice of something big and shiny that has money, time and skill invested into building it scalably and securely, with professional management in place, or, is it better for lots of companies to buy, maintain and manage their own equivalent individually?
Generic benefits of using the cloud are:
Where is my data stored?
Microsoft have invested over $15 billion in building their cloud infrastructure composed of more than 100 globally distributed data centres, edge computing nodes, and service operations centres. This infrastructure is supported by one of the world’s largest multi-terabit global networks that connects them all.
Subscribers to Microsoft online services (for example Office 365) in the UK have their service delivered by the data centres in Dublin and Amsterdam – so your data is stored in these two data centres, which replicate to each other for added resilience.
Microsoft delivers more than 200 cloud services from this global platform, including Bing, MSN, Outlook.com, Office 365, OneDrive, Skype, Xbox Live and the Microsoft Azure platform. Today, more than 1 billion customers and 20 million businesses in 90 global marketplaces use these cloud services.
Is it secure?
- restrict physical data centre access to authorised personnel and have implemented multiple layers of physical security, such as biometric readers, motion sensors, 24-hour secured access, video camera surveillance, and security breach alarms.
- enable encryption of data both at rest and via the network as it is transmitted between a data centre and a user.
- use customer data only to provide the service; Microsoft doesn’t otherwise look in your mailbox without your permission.
- regularly back up your data.
- won’t delete all the data in your account at the end of your service term until you have had time to take advantage of the data portability that we offer.
- host your customer data in-region.
- enforce “hard” passwords to increase security of your data.
Is it private?
- Microsoft do not mine your data for advertising or for any other purpose other than providing you services that you have paid for.
- If you ever choose to leave the service, you take your data with you with full fidelity.
- Microsoft tell you where your data resides, who has access, and under what circumstances.
- Access to your data is strictly limited, non-destructive, logged and audited.
When you entrust your data to Office 365 you remain the sole owner: you retain the rights, title, and interest in the data you store in Office 365.
It is with this clarity of principles that Microsoft ensure that they maintain your privacy and operate their online services with certain key principles:
Beyond this, Microsoft have privacy controls that allow you to configure exactly who has access to what within your organisation. Strict controls and design elements prevent mingling of your data with that of other organisations using Office 365 and from Office 365 data centre staff having access to your data.
As a customer, you need to be able to trust that governments will respect your privacy as a citizen. Microsoft encourages government inquiry to be made directly to you unless legally prohibited and will challenge attempts to prohibit disclosure in court.
Is it in the UK?
Subscribers to Microsoft online services (for example Office 365) in the UK have their service delivered by the data centres in Dublin and Amsterdam – so your data is stored in these two data centres that replicate to each other for added resilience
What sort of Internet connection do I need?
You need a reliable Internet connection, i.e. one that is stable and doesn’t suffer regular blips and outages. In terms of speed, the Office 365 software lives in a Microsoft data centre and is accessed over the Internet, so having high-speed Internet access available on a regular basis is important.
For some of the components of Office 365, such as the Outlook Web App, high-speed Internet access is not required, but as a general rule, you want to make sure that your users have a pleasant experience and that equals a high-speed Internet connection when dealing with the cloud.
Because Office 365 can be accessed from any computer anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, you have no control over the network connectivity.
The good news, however, is that the types of things your users will do from on the road are check e-mail, edit documents in the browser, or download a quick document from the SharePoint site — tasks that work fine with slower connection speeds (with the exception of downloading documents).
How reliable is the service, and what happens if there is an interruption to the service?
Microsoft measure service availability as the number of minutes that the Office 365 service is available per calendar month. This is worked out as a percentage of the total number of minutes in that month. Microsoft call this measure of availability the ‘uptime number’, and publish this figure on a quarterly basis. Over the last year it has varied between 99.96% and 99.99% (latest figures and more information).
The tiny fraction of the time for which the service may be down equates to about 5 to 15 minutes per month (24 hour day, 7 day week). Microsoft offer 99.9% uptime via a financially backed service level agreement. If a customer experiences monthly uptime that is less than 99.9%, Microsoft compensate that customer through service credits.
If there is an interruption to the service during your business day, then all the applications and data on your local devices continue to work, and will re-sync (if set up to do so) with their copies in the cloud when the services comes back online. For example, any emails written and sent in Outlook will then actually be sent, and new e-mails will be delivered. So no data is lost.
Is my data backed up?
Your data is replicated from a primary data centre to a secondary data centre, meaning replication is constant and your data will always be backed up in the cloud. Data is stored in a redundant environment with robust backup, restoration, and failover capabilities.
How do I get support?
All the Microsoft online services (Office 365, Dynamics CRM online, Power BI) come with 24×7 support included, which is provided direct by Microsoft. You can access this support either by telephone or by raising a support request online. If you don’t wish to deal with support yourself, Compete366 can manage this for you for a modest additional cost.
Can I recover my data if I want to move providers?
Many Microsoft services enable customers to download a copy of their data without requiring assistance from Microsoft or its partners. For example, Office 365 supports this through supplying import and export wizards for Exchange Online so that end users can download emails, calendar appointments, contacts, and tasks to their local computers at any time.
Additionally, this service provides Windows PowerShell “commandlets”, or scriptable commands used to administer Microsoft PowerShell-compatible services, which enables administrators to download end-user metadata as necessary.
You own your data and retain all rights, title, and interest in the data you store with Office 365. You can download a copy of all of your data at any time and for any reason, without any assistance from Microsoft. In addition, upon expiration or termination of your Office 365 subscription or contract, Microsoft will provide you, by default, additional limited access for 90 days to export your data.
Who else uses Office 365?
Thousands of businesses both large (e.g. British Airways, M&S, Aston Martin) and small are using it worldwide in over 125 countries. Many Governments, including the UK Government, are also using it.
How do I buy?
Once we have advised you on the most appropriate Microsoft solution and plan, then you can either buy direct from Microsoft online entering Compete366 as the Partner of Record, or you can buy from Compete366. The choice is yours and we can discuss these options with you. If you also require professional services from Compete366, you can buy these direct from us.
What is a Partner of Record?
This is the Partner (in this case Compete366) that Microsoft recognise as having advised and sold the relevant online service to you.
What do Office 365, Dynamics CRM online, Power BI and Windows Intune cost?
There are a number of different plans for these online services, and Microsoft publish all prices on the web. In our planning workshop we would agree on the most appropriate plan for your business needs. But to give some guidance based on the most popular plans our clients choose, Office 365 is typically around £8 per user per month, Dynamics CRM online is around £40 per user per month and Power BI is around £20 per user per month. Note that you can use each of these services on their own, but if you want the capabilities of some or all of them, then they all integrate seamlessly. You can also mix and match your users and services as needed.
Does it work on my iPad?
Yes! All of the Microsoft online services we offer (Office 365, Dynamics CRM online, Power BI) can be accessed and used on an iPad. In addition you can download the latest version of Office (Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Lync etc.) onto your iPad.
What is a tenant?
A ‘tenant’ is the name Microsoft use for your company’s area of its online services – so for example your company would have its own Office 365 or Dynamics CRM online tenants which contain just your company’s data and are configured uniquely to your requirements.
What is Software as a Service (SaaS)?
A piece of software that you use over the Internet. Instead of the software being installed on your own company’s computers (servers and PCs) and managed by you, it is hosted in the cloud and managed by someone else. Also the way you pay for it is different. Traditionally you buy the license for a piece of software, buy the hardware to run it and pay someone to manage it all. With Software as a Service, you typically pay on a per user per month basis for the whole service and don’t have to manage anything.
What is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?
This is a cloud alternative to buying and housing your own servers and storage (hardware). You can have exactly the same set up as you have now, but in the cloud. The difference is that you don’t own, house, power or cool it – it is provided for you in the cloud and you typically pay for monthly usage. You still need to manage these servers and the software that you put on them.
What is Public Cloud?
A common platform that is shared by lots companies is called a Public Cloud. A cloud provider designs, builds and operates a large, scalable and secure infrastructure that is then divided into logically isolated sub-units for each of the companies that use it. This way all the companies gain from the economies of scale, both financially and in terms of quality of service and security.
What is Private Cloud?
This is when a cloud service provider builds a bespoke infrastructure for a company, which it alone uses. This is much more expensive than public cloud.
What does Hybrid IT mean?
If you put some of your services and data in the cloud, but retain some other services and data on premise, then you have hybrid IT. Most companies have hybrid IT. So, for example you might move all your office productivity applications into the cloud with Office 365, but keep a number of servers running other applications (e.g. Accounts, HR, CAD etc.) on premise. Your users access all of these over the network; it’s just that some of the services come from your own servers in-house and some come from the cloud.
Has your question still not been answered?
Contact us directly for more information