Business Process Re-engineering for Cloud Computing

Obviously your manual processes and offline processes will not work just as efficiently in the cloud. There are both technological and configuration issues that need to be addressed when your data moves from local data repositories to remote servers and is accessed by many more people from many more locations. Your processes will have to be re-engineered with intelligence and understanding of the factors involved in the transformation that is brought by cloud computing. Cloud service vendors understand this and tailor their systems to take the right inputs from their customers and create the right delivery mechanisms, so that cloud based issues do not degrade user experience of the network.

The first step in the direction of cloud migration lies in your understanding your business process. Obviously, you are expected to know the process you use. So, you need to drill down to individual processes and understand the logic of it all, before you migrate it to the cloud. The exercise will make each individual process more visible to you, and will help you understand how it contributes to the entire value chain. Once you have the grasp of the process logic for every process, it is a simple matter of modelling the entire business value chain by linking together the different contributing processes without losing sight of the measurement of systems and activities within each process. The monitoring mechanism that is built in parallel will give you a clear view of the process chain and its functioning from start to finish. Migrating all this to the cloud keeping an eye on latency and configuration issues will be simplified by cloud vendors using GUIs (graphical user interfaces) that are user friendly and interactive.

Cloud services distinguish their services from other similar offerings in the niche by extending expert help to their customers in specific directions. A few cloud services use Wizards and agent user interfaces to guide their users through the process of setting up their applications and analytical systems or customising their cloud. They allow business rules to be integrated into the process logic even before the data is fed into the storage repository. The database is then automatically organised (in accordance with business logic and rules) and decision-making is simplified, automated by policies translated and integrated into the systems as rules. The system then guides human activities and initiates corrective actions for exceptions that may occur when users access data and attempt to manipulate it for business uses. You can certainly use these services to your advantage while migrating to the cloud!

Other cloud services that you can use in your re-engineering efforts are: archival services, de-duplication and compression services, and disaster recovery services.

The Logic of Versioning

Everyone who has worked with someone else will understand and appreciate the need for versioning. One member of the team may create the document and others may engage in critical evaluation of the contents of the document. Each modification to the document results in the original contents of the document being lost forever. If at some point, the team would like to go back to the original version of the document, the same may not be available to them if all changes have been made to the original document, and the changes have been saved. Versioning helps teams save the first document as the original version and every modified document as a modified version of the original. In the circumstances, if the original document has to be revisited or restored, users will simply have to call up the document saved as the original.

Versioning technology is often packaged as part of a Document Management System (DMS). Each vendor of the technology may apply a different versioning algorithm and logic for identifying and numbering different versions of a document. But, fundamentally, versions are registered sequentially. For instance, a versioning algorithm may number a Document as A v.1 and all subsequent versions may be numbered as A v.1.1, A v.1.2, and so on till the ceiling on the number of versions that can be stored is reached. The date of creation of the document version (generally the system date) may also be used as the version numbering mechanism.

Most backup and recovery systems have a limitation on the number of versions of a document that can be saved on the DMS. Some vendors allows users save only a few tens of versions while others may permit storage of a hundred versions of the document. As new versions of the document are added to the database, older versions may be archived, deleted or removed automatically from the storage repository. Users who wish to store more than the stipulated number of versions of a document may have to rename the document and store versions of the new original.

Versioning technology may be linked with de-duplication technology. Since de-duplication technology looks for exact duplicates for elimination, all versions of a file that are duplicate of the original will be automatically eliminated. Versioning may be linked with incremental and differential backup to ensure that only portions of the file that are modified are stored in the new version of the document with references to the original portion of the file for file build up during recovery.

With the advent of cloud backup and cloud computing, versioning technologies have become immensely sophisticated and document management has been fine-tuned to accommodate the multi-various needs of its patrons.

Render Faster Service over the Cloud

Your customer is the reason why your business exists. Without the customer, your business may not have started or created products or found markets. So, rendering faster service to your customers online and offline makes a lot of sense. Making your business available and accessible to them is to your advantage.

The advent of the cloud and cloud based technologies, has transformed the world of business. It has changed the expectations of your customers and created new paradigms, markets, and marketing systems. Customers are comfortable shopping online and offline and expect to see your company’s presence online. They expect you to service their online orders with the same commitment with which you service their offline orders.

Let us look at some of the ways in which the cloud has changed the way we do business.

The cloud enables rapid deployment of customer online portals and makes for a faster return on investment. Your adventure into the cloud will result in a significant increase in revenue with higher conversion rates, opportunities for sell, and cross sell as customers visit your portal, browse the information you provide, and define their needs or make their purchases. You will gain the trust of your customers with every successful sale and every opportunity to interact with them. Your customers will become your product champions and opinion leaders on discussion forums and social media sites.

Since, cloud portals require minimal capital investments, you can do more with less. You will find that you can provide enhanced customer experience with colourful displays of your products, in-depth analysis of features or reviews from satisfied customers, who have used your products and/or services and benefited from it. Your customers can email you or chat with a live person at the drop of a hat. Your customers will feel engaged with your products and your services and your business at large. All this for a small outlay and some organised effort.

You can make your business completely flexible and agile. Your websites and portals will be accessible 24 x 7 x 365 to customers from their homes or offices or on the go. Customers can write to you, interact with your experts or place an order for a product from anywhere, any time and with whatever device they have at hand. This will keep your business humming round the clock.

Recognising Cloud Risks and Dealing with It

Cloud computing is not free from risks. Smart organisations recognise the risks and deal with them. If your organisation is migrating to the cloud and is worried about security, it is a healthy sign. You are gearing up to identify possible risks and deal with them. We have listed a few commonly talked about risks below for starting you off on your journey of discovery.

Risk #1 – Data security. This is a real concern. You are entrusting your data to a third party cloud vendor. You may or may not know where your data will actually be stored, who will be given access to your data and how many times and on to what servers it will be replicated for redundancy and high availability. You do not have to take this risk blindfolded. You can get your vendor to spell out the details for you. You can evaluate the level of risk involved and take steps to ensure that your data remains your intellectual property, and will not be compromised in any manner by the activities of your cloud vendor. The good news is that most cloud service providers are ready to provide you with any information you may want in this direction and even willing to commit to keeping your data secure from unauthorized entities. You can retain control over your data by employing “user defined” encryption keys to encrypt your data on their storage vaults.

Risk #2 – Integration APIs require validation. True. Cloud services provide standard APIs. Customers using the cloud service must evaluate these APIs for any flaws and understand the extent of risk involved. Ask your cloud service provider all the right questions about the APIs and also about the underlying infrastructure sharing protocols, so that you are fully aware of how and where your data is stored and how accessible it is to others who are sharing that same infrastructure over the cloud. With the right tools and technology, you should be able to address the risks involved.

Risk #3 – Cloud can complicate IT budgeting. True, if you have not centralised your cloud service purchases, your budget could get a bit complicated. If multiple branches of your organisation are purchasing services from multiple cloud vendors, the risk of disintegration is great. Budgeting can get complicated, and confusion can prevail. Ensure that cloud service purchase is centralised and all your branches ride the same cloud. Centralizing your cloud services could even safe you money as the provider could add additional services as a package for smaller fees. Centralised management is convenient as usage can be monitored and users can be tracked from a single window interface.

Integration Myths—Are you the Victim?

Are you a victim of misinformation? Have you ignored integration because you believed any or all of the myths that surround the concept of cloud integration? Stop now and have a re-look at what you believe to be true. You may be wrong about the importance of integration.

Myth #1 – Integration is a quick fix solution. Not true. It is quick but not temporary. It delivers recurring value and continuously drives down costs. The reality is that integration puts in place a set of solutions that permits the organisation advantage itself on disruptive technologies. Efficient integration supported by best practices—such as use of application specific APIs or standards, data formats or facilitation of data format management, transformation, logic management and monitoring—help make integration the foundation upon which you can build a successful business. It makes information more accessible at granular levels and increases productivity. Costs are driven down as custom applications are replaced with standardised applications and costs of supporting these processes are brought down. Use of Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to support business applications and processes further reduces costs.

Myth #2 – Integration in the cloud is time consuming. Not true. Cloud computing relies more on standardisation and modelling than on premise custom made applications. The logic and configuration do not have to be developed anew. They are available and ready to deploy. This makes it faster to adopt and easier to adapt. The learning curve is shorter and less steep. Development time schedules can be rearranged for alternate focus. The integration process itself can be timed and budgeted accurately.

Myth #3 – Integration requires expertise. Not true. The on premise hardware and software can be quickly and easily integrated with cloud services. The setup is uncomplicated, user friendly, and a number of set up wizards are available to guide the user through the process of setup. The configurations are platform independent and do not demand special attention to underlying hardware resources. The integration platform comes with fault tolerance and failover mechanisms. Additional resources or features can be added on the fly and provisioning can be managed with ease by Administrators or invoked instantly. In other words, there is greater visibility into the health of the integration platform.

Myth #4 – Integration does not have a direct impact on the business. Not true. Integration is all about expanding the reach of the business efficiently and effectively. Customers, suppliers and mobile workforces can reach out into your databases for needed information and initiate faster communications. Customers can have more information on command and orders can be processed faster.

iomart and BTL accredited for UK Government G-Cloud 6

3 February 2015.

Protect more than 100TB of data for public sector organisations. 

Backup Technology (BTL) and parent company iomart (AIM:IOM), one of the UK and Europe’s leading cloud companies, have been awarded places on G-Cloud 6, the UK Government’s Digital Marketplace.

BTL has been accredited as a provider of Specialist Cloud Services which covers a wide range of services including: cloud strategy and implementation; the set up and management of service structures and data transfer between providers. BTL has been on G Cloud since it was first created by the UK Government to make buying cloud services easier for the public sector and to open up competition for contracts to SMEs.

iomart has been accredited to supply Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS); Platform as a Service (PaaS); Software as a Service (SaaS); and Specialist Cloud Services. Among the services it offers are: vCloud and vCloud IaaS – self-managed and hosted virtual infrastructure services based on a VMware vCloud environment; Desktop as a Service; Hosted Exchange and Storage; Business Mail plus Mail and Web Filtering; File Sync and Share; and Advanced DDoS Protection using Arbor Network’s Peakflow solution.

In total iomart and BTL now protect more than 100TBs of data for public sector organisations including the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, two councils in Northern Ireland, and Essex County Fire & Rescue Service (ECFRS), one of the largest county fire services in the UK.

Jan Swanwick, Head of ICT for Essex County Fire & Rescue Service, explains, “Traditionally procurement has been a long, protracted process. With G-Cloud it is very straightforward because all the supplier and product information has already been collated and validated.”

Angus MacSween, CEO of iomart, says, “For public sector organisations the benefits of procuring services through G Cloud are manifest because they don’t have to go through costly and time-intensive due diligence on potential service providers. Cloud services can be bought off-the-shelf quickly and easily because the background checks have already been done.”

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