Advantages of a Hosted Email Service

An increasingly mobile world requires agile computing solutions. In this context, swapping the on premise Microsoft Exchange servers for hosted email services is not a bad idea. It saves money, improves productivity and reduces maintenance. The economics of it all is too attractive to ignore.

Having said that, it is important to point out that each organisation is unique and has unique needs and cost savings from the swap will be as little as 30% or as much as 70%. The actual or ball park figure will have to be arrived at by each organisation individually at the start of the exercise.

Cloud productivity suites present an option. For instance, Google Apps will cost users $5 per user per month. If Google Vault is added to the soup, the costs may go up to $10 per month per user. HyperOffice may start at $15 per user per month. Microsoft Office 365 has plans that range from $8 to $22 dollars. Each of these cloud based applications will include a full suite of productivity tools and some minimum storage space per user.

The advantage of moving to a hosted email service is that a number of collaboration and communication tools come with the package. File storage, social networking and document editing tools are often thrown in to enhance their appeal. Furthermore, all or any of these applications can be used by the end users from anywhere, anytime and from any kind of device.

As a result, all sizes of organisations can institute and implement Bring your own device (BYOD) policy without worrying about mobile device management and security of organisational data. The hosted system is not tied to any particular hardware or software and releases the organisation from the shackles that held it down to a particular geographical location.

However, hosted email services demand their pound of flesh. A lot of planning and implementation efforts are needed to successfully commission the service in any organisation. The implementing entity must have a clear understanding of what the business demands and what its processes involve. Without that understanding, the implementation efforts will fail from the word “go”.

For those who are wary of venturing into the unknown, Microsoft Exchange can be abstracted to the cloud using Amazon Web Services or Rackspace.

Poised for Breakout—Hosted Unified Communications

There have been many aggressive changes in technology over the last one decade. The changes have been driven by changes in network technologies and communication technologies. Networks have moved from ATM and Frame Relay to MPLS and VPLS and communication has moved from traditional POTS to long distance services→Cetrex→SIP trunking and so on. The advance seems unstoppable. Hosted UC (Unified Communications) is the next big revolution that is on the cards.

Hosted UC is expected to bring in greater flexibility to an already flexible cloud. The Hosted Unified Communications technology eliminates the need for PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems and the costs of maintaining them. The on premise PBX is abstract to Tier 3 data centres. Wide area networks like MPLS, VPLS and Layer 2 are used to connect the different hosted services or cross connect them in ways never attempted before.

A user friendly GUI (Graphical User Interface) built into the cloud offering will make communication simple and extremely redundant. End users can operate a whole gamut of telephony services using a single interface. Data collected over telephone lines will integrate and feed the databases existing on the data management system and be instantly available to business leaders for analytics and decision making. As a result, the phone will cease to be a mere communication device, but becomes a powerful adjunct to enterprise computing.

The above discussion naturally raises questions about advantages enterprises see in hosted UC vis-à-vis on premise UC. Perceived benefits of hosted UC include cost, installation, maintenance, disaster recovery options and much more; the top factor being the reduction of capital expenditure and installation costs.

The process of migrating from on premise UC to Hosted UC is also fairly simple. IT teams have to merely add new UC features to the existing communication systems, and deploy them on the cloud service already in place. There are no special hosted infrastructures to be purchased, installed or commissioned. The existing hardware of the data centre with the IP address can be used, and landline connectivity can be provided in the cloud on a per user basis. Software updates and maintenance problems can be shunted out to the cloud service vendor. Redundancy and disaster recovery can be made the responsibility of the service vendor.

So, hosted UC is poised for breakout into the cloud. Convergence is on the cards.

Hybridisation for Business Advantage

Hybrid clouds straddle the chasm between public and private clouds. The conceptualisation is highly recommended for small and medium organisations as–will be admitted—not all business data is mission-critical warranting the use of highly expensive private storage facilities that small organisations can ill afford. Most of these businesses may draw upon and use repeatedly, bits of information that may exist in the public domain or can comfortably exist in the public domain without compromising the security, integrity, and privacy of the enterprise customers. Storing such data in the public cloud is a reasonable and cost effective option.

When questioned, almost all small and medium enterprises agree that a hybrid cloud strategy is what they would like to look at. The hybrid cloud can be built up from either end—the public end or the private end. If the enterprise has been using a wholly private solution, change can be efficiently managed by gradually migrating non-mission critical information to the public cloud while continuing to operate the purely private bits as before. If end users have been working with the public cloud, more private, mission-critical information can be gradually privatised without creating unnecessary ripples in the production environment.

From the above discussion, it is clear that there is a need for a closer look at how the small and medium organisation works across cloud boundaries. The relationship across the public-private cloud boundaries will determine how they will proceed with the hybridisation of your cloud.

If most of the enterprise applications burst across private to public cloud boundaries, hybrid cloud solutions will have to begin at the SMB data centre and pan out to the remote cloud server. They will have to look at public cloud resources that will run these applications on similar configurations even when the operating system used is different.

If the enterprise applications are designed to permanently reside in a public cloud, but are expected to burst through the private cloud, it is imperative that the SMB start the cloud saga by focusing on the public cloud end and then integrating it across the boundary with the help of the cloud service provider.

Moving on to a discussion of the economics of hybridisation, it must be pointed out that the SMB budget has a deterministic role to play in decision making in context. Organisations with a large budget, can afford to splurge on a private cloud and move out to the public cloud in stages. Organisations that are budget constrained may prefer to reverse the option with an emphasis on consolidation and cost effective redeployment of existing resources. A validation exercise with budgetary focus is a must in strategy formulation. Detailed planning will reduce risks involved in migrating data across cloud boundaries, and making appropriate hosting choices for their applications.

VMware for Cloud Computing

Continuous availability is the promise of the cloud. Tech refreshes sans downtime is a part of this promise. One of the factors that enable cloud services to deliver this promise is the use of VMware as part of their service offering.

VMware comes with a number of computing kits. VMware vSphere enables scalable server consolidation and functions as a high performance virtualisation layer.

vSphere abstracts server hardware resources and makes servers sharable across virtual machines . It consolidates workloads, automates business continuity, and facilitates centralised management of all applications.

VMware vCenter Site Recovery manager is a disaster recovery solution for multi-site environments. The Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) aligns computing resources to business needs and orchestrates load balancing across host machines, and optimises power consumption during peaks and troughs in the business.

vMotion eliminates the need for planned downtime by allowing live virtual migrations between machines.

Hadoop workloads can be run with vSphere to enhance utilisation, reliability and agility of the data center.

VMware delivers greater control over the network to the end user. It allows users define priority access to network resources in synchronisation with business policies. Network provisioning can be centralised and administration / monitoring of the data centre can be achieved by a process of network aggregation.

High availability is the foundation on which VMware promises are made. But, VMware does not confront the IT Administrator with the complexities of traditional clustering and builds in a fault tolerance that promises zero data loss in the event of server failures. It automatically detects and recovers systems even when the operating system fails. The agentless disk backup (with data de-duplication) reduces the amount of disk space consumed and eliminates any third party costs that may be incurred by users for replication of data.

VMware was designed to automate common tasks. The technology allows users deploy and patch vSphere hosts in minutes or create / configure profiles instantly. The update manager performs most tasks in the background non-intrusively.

Interestingly, security is never compromised even when performance is enhanced by eliminating anti-virus footprints. Security is offloaded to a virtual appliance called vShield Endpoint provided by partner organisations. vShield Endpoint is designed to eliminate anti-virus storms, implement end user access policies, and manage custom access configurations while facilitating compliance with existing legal mandates.

Actionable Network Intelligence for Cloud Computing — The Need of the Hour

What are the factors that are forcing the direction of cloud and network technology development?

First, there is an explosive growth in the mobile / computing device market. Enterprises are being forced to adopt BYOD (Bring your own device) policies. The outcome—variety in the nature and types of devices that are used to connect to the enterprise network, a demand for an intelligent network management system that will ensure reliability, security, and availability 24 x 7 x 365! In other words, there is an urgent and overwhelming need to create network “connections” that are thought-through constructs and not a set of pipes put together anyhow. The protocols must address core issues, recognising the complex and dynamic nature of the relationships between the network and the device connecting to it. Network management must keep pace with the current developments and synchronise IP address management concepts to provide the necessary network intelligence and control.

Second, the infrastructure is a moving target. Virtualisation has resulted in continuous movement of virtual environments between data centres and networks. As a result, there is an overwhelming need to keep track of when, where, and how virtual servers and devices are being stored at any given point in time, and how they can be accessed. Therefore, implementation of an automated network infrastructure is a business imperative. Businesses can no longer afford to be bogged down with IP address conflicts and network configuration errors or lack of visibility into address usage. IP address management will have to be integrated with self service portals to prevent bottlenecks in provisioning for virtual and physical devices in the cloud.

It is no secret that connectivity is the key to business competitiveness in the modern world. The network must provide the actionable intelligence that businesses need to survive and grow in the increasingly global world that is battered by big data and unquenchable hunger for information. Businesses that are slow to adapt are doomed to fade away and die. Commonsense dictates that enterprise IT system developers focus their energies on the development of solutions that facilitate smarter ways of connecting system resources, mobile devices, applications, virtual environments and clouds together, and infuse it all with a unified sense of purpose. The felt need is to build an integrated IT system, a mobile security system, resolve address management issues, and encourage automation / self service while preserving scalability, reliability, security, and at the same time reducing costs, enhancing delivery, and optimising user experience.

Mobile Device Management in the Cloud Era

The greatest worry about Bring your own device (BYOD) strategy is security. With larger cloud service providers and hardware device manufacturers giving a serious thought to acquiring and consolidating mobile device management services, the problem of security may get resolved in unexpected ways. However, for the present and perhaps for all time, cloud users are advised to focus on data protection and security management and leave mobile device management technologies and integration efforts to the professionals and cloud technology developers.

Traditional data management services assume that data resides on the devices from which it is accessed. With the advent of the cloud, data no longer resides on devices, but in the cloud. The device is merely the access gateway and not the storage repository. Users no longer need to store the information for ease of access or email it to themselves for their use. The data can be accessed from anywhere, anytime and form any device with a simple browser based application and an Internet connection. As a result, administrators need to focus their attention on the institution of data and user governance policies and implementation of these policies enterprise wide, rather than on the technologies that make it possible for them to manage mobile devices connecting to the enterprise network.

Collaborators operating on the same network are freed from the burden of providing their team with the latest versions of the documents. All versions of the document are stored in the enterprise cloud and are available to them at all times. The documents can be accessed and viewed by multiple users and even modified collaboratively, using sophisticated tools that are made available with the cloud software. None of the users need to grapple with technicalities of file sharing protocols or file synchronisation, etc. These activities are abstracted to the cloud software, and the end users are left free to work with the files in real time over the Internet.

The key to effective mobile device management lies in acceptance of the changed reality. Enterprises, launching into mobile device management technologies must begin their journey with a complete understanding that they are creating a new paradigm in technology management. They must get ready to abstract almost all technology related managerial tasks to the cloud service provider while retaining the core of their business data management with themselves. They should focus on the task of setting up a policy driven user management system, creating security awareness among their employees, and instituting policies for monitoring and reporting on the quality of cloud services they receive.

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