This is where all your applications and data are put on the other side of the firewall (in the cloud) and accessed through various devices (laptops, desktops, iPads, phones) via the Internet.
Although “pure” cloud computing has valid applications, for many it’s downright scary.
And in some cases it is NOT the smartest move, due to compliance issues, security restrictions, speed and performance.
A hybrid cloud enables you to put certain pieces of existing IT infrastructure (say, storage and e-mail) in the cloud, and the remainder of the IT infrastructure stays on-premises.
This gives you the ability to enjoy the cost savings and benefits of cloud computing where it makes the most sense without risking your entire environment
Single Point Solutions
Another option would be to simply put certain applications, like SharePoint or Microsoft Exchange, in the cloud while keeping everything else on-site.
Since e-mail is usually a critical application that everyone needs and wants access to on
the road and on various devices (iPad, smartphone, etc.), often this is a great way to get
advanced features of Microsoft Exchange without the cost of installing and supporting
your own in-house Exchange server.
Public Cloud Vs. Private Cloud
A public cloud is a service that anyone can tap into with a network connection and a credit card.
They are shared infrastructures that allow you to pay-as-you-go and are managed through a self-service web portal.
Private clouds are essentially self-built infrastructures that mimic public cloud services, but are on-premises.
Private clouds are often the choice of companies who want the benefits of cloud computing, but don’t want their data held in a public environment.
FAQs About Security, Where Your Data Is Held And Internet Connectivity
How long will it take to transition my on-premises server to the cloud,
and what’s the process?
This all depends on how many programs your company uses but a typical
migration will be about a month.
What if my Internet connection goes down? How will we be able to
While this is a valid concern, we overcome it in the following way for our
clients in the cloud.
The best way to order another internet connection and then create a
failover in the firewall.
What happens if there is a disaster of there is significant downtime
with the cloud?
We resolve this by keeping a synchronized copy of your data on your on-site
server as well as in the cloud. Here’s how this works: Microsoft offers a feature with
Windows called “DFS,” which stands for Distributed File Systems.
synchronizes documents between cloud servers and local servers in your office.
So instead of getting rid of your old server, we keep it on-site and maintain an up-to-date synched copy of your files, folders and documents on it.
If the Internet goes down or
slows to a grind, you simply open a generic folder on your PC and the system will
automatically know to pull the documents from the fastest location (be it the cloud
server or the local one).
Once a file is modified, it syncs it in seconds so you don’t have
to worry about having multiple versions of the same document. Using this process, you
get the benefits of cloud with a backup solution to keep you up and running during slow
periods or complete Internet outages.
What about security? Isn’t there a big risk of someone accessing my
data if it’s in the cloud?
In many cases, cloud computing is a MORE secure way of accessing and
Just because your server is on-site doesn’t make it more secure; in fact,
most small to medium businesses can’t justify the cost of securing their network the way
a cloud provider can.
And most security breaches occur due to human error – one of your employees downloads a file that contains a virus, they don’t use secure passwords
or they simply e-mail confidential information out to people who shouldn’t see it.
Other security breaches occur in on-site networks because the company didn’t properly maintain their own in-house network with security updates, software patches and up-to-date antivirus software.
That’s a FAR more common way networks get compromised versus a cloud provider getting hacked.
What if YOU go out of business? How do I get my data back?
We give every client network documentation that clearly outlines where their data is and how they could get it back in the event of an emergency.
This includes emergency contact numbers, detailed information on how to access your data and
infrastructure without needing our assistance (although our plan is to always be there to
support you), a copy of our insurance policy and information regarding your backups and licensing.
We also give you a copy of OUR disaster recovery plan that shows what we’ve put in
place to make sure we stay up and running.
In fact, you should never hire ANY IT professional who won’t give you that information.
Do I have to purchase new hardware (servers, workstations) to move to
That’s one of the selling points of cloud computing. It allows you to use older workstations, laptops and servers because the computing power is in the cloud.
Not only does that allow you to keep and use hardware longer, but it allows you to buy cheaper workstations and laptops because you don’t need the expensive computing power required in the past.
What To Look For When Hiring An IT Consultant To Move Your Network To The Cloud
Unfortunately, the IT consulting industry (along with many others) has its own share of
incompetent or unethical people who will try to take advantage of trusting business owners who
simply do not have the ability to determine whether or not they know what they are doing.
Sometimes this is out of greed for your money; more often it’s simply because they don’t have
the skills and competency to do the job right but won’t tell you that up front because they want to
make the sale.
From misleading information, unqualified technicians and poor management, to terrible
customer service, we’ve seen it all, and we know they exist in abundance because we have had
a number of customers come to us to clean up the disasters they have caused.
Automotive repair shops, electricians, plumbers, lawyers, realtors, dentists, doctors,
accountants, etc., are heavily regulated to protect the consumer from receiving substandard
work or getting ripped off.
However, the computer industry is still highly unregulated and there are few laws in existence to protect the consumer – which is why it’s so important for you to really research the company or person you are considering, to make sure they have the experience to set up, migrate and support your network to the cloud.
Anyone who can hang out a shingle can promote themselves as a “cloud expert.” Even if
they are honestly trying to do a good job for you, their inexperience can cost you dearly in your
network’s speed and performance or in lost or corrupt data files.
To that end, here are questions you should ask your IT person before letting them migrate your network to the cloud:
Critical Questions To Ask Your IT Company Or Computer Consultant BEFORE Letting Them Move Your Network To The Cloud (Or Touch Your Network!)
How many clients have you provided cloud services for to date and can you
You don’t want someone practicing on your network. At a minimum, make sure they
How quickly do they guarantee to have a technician working on an outage or
Anyone you pay to support your network should give you a written SLA (service level agreement) that outlines exactly how IT issues get resolved and in what time frame. I would also request that they reveal what their average resolution time has been with current clients over
the last three to six months.
They should also answer their phones live from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and provide you with an
emergency after-hours number you may call if a problem arises, including on weekends.
If you cannot access your network because the Internet is down or due to some other problem,
you can’t be waiting around for hours for someone to call you back OR (more importantly) start
working on resolving the issue.
Make sure you get this in writing; often cheaper or less experienced consultants won’t have this or will try and convince you it’s not important or that they can’t do this. Don’t buy that excuse! They are in the business of providing IT support, so they should have some guarantees or standards around this they share with you.
What’s your plan for transitioning our network to the cloud to minimize
problems and downtime?
We run a simultaneous cloud environment during the transition and don’t “turn off” the
old network until everyone is 100% confident that everything has been transitioned and is
working effortlessly. You don’t want someone to switch overnight without setting up a test
Do you provide a no-risk trial of our network in the cloud to test the proof of
concept BEFORE we commit to a long-term contract?
Answer: We provide all of our clients a free 30-day cloud “test drive” using your servers, applications and data so you can see, first-hand, what it will be like for you and your staff to
move your servers to the cloud.
While this isn’t a full migration, it will give you a true feel for what cloud computing will be like BEFORE committing to a long-term contract.
There is no charge for this and no obligation to buy anything. At the end of the 30 days, you’ll know whether or not this is a right fit for you, or if you would prefer to keep your current on-site network.
Do they take the time to explain what they are doing and answer your questions in terms that you can understand (not geek-speak), or do they come across as arrogant and make you feel stupid for asking simple questions?
Our technicians are trained to have the “heart of a teacher” and will take time to
answer your questions and explain everything in simple terms.
Where will your data be stored?
You should receive full documentation about where your data is, how it’s being secured and backed up and how you could get access to it if necessary WITHOUT going through your provider. Essentially, you don’t want your cloud provider to be able to hold your data (and your company) hostage.
How will your data be secured and backed up?
Answer: If they tell you that your data will be stored in their own co-lo in the back of their office, what happens if THEY get destroyed by a fire, flood or other disaster? What are they doing to
secure the office and access? Are they backing it up somewhere else? Make sure they are SAS 70 certified and have a failover plan in place to ensure continuous service in the event that their location goes down. If they are building on another platform, you still want to find out where your
data is and how it’s being backed up.
Do they have adequate errors-and-omissions insurance as well as workers’
compensation insurance to protect YOU?
Answer: Here’s something to consider: if THEY cause a problem with your network that causes you to be down for hours or days or to lose data, who’s responsible? Here’s another question to
consider: if one of their technicians gets hurt at your office, who’s paying? In this litigious society
we live in, you better make darn sure that whomever you hire is adequately insured with both
errors-and-omissions insurance AND workers’ compensation – and don’t be shy about asking to
see their latest insurance policies!
True Story: A few years ago Geek Squad was slapped with multimillion-dollar lawsuits from
customers for the bad behavior of their technicians.
In some cases, their techs were accessing,
copying and distributing personal information they gained access to on customers’ PCs and
laptops brought in for repairs.
In other cases, they lost clients’ laptops (and subsequently all the
data on them) and tried to cover it up. Bottom line: Make sure the company you are hiring has
proper insurance to protect YOU.
Is it standard procedure for them to provide you with written network
documentation detailing what software licenses you own, your critical passwords, user information, hardware inventory, etc., or are they the only person with the “keys to the
All clients receive this in written and electronic form at no additional cost. We also perform a quarterly update on this material and make sure certain key people from your organization have this information and know how to use it, giving you complete control over your
You should NEVER allow an IT person to have that much control over you and your
If you get the sneaking suspicion that your current IT person is keeping this under their control as a means of job security, get rid of them (and we can help to make sure you don’t
suffer ANY ill effects).
This is downright unethical and dangerous to your organization, so don’t
Do they have other technicians on staff who are familiar with your network in case your regular technician goes on vacation or gets sick?
Yes, and since we keep detailed network documentation (basically a blueprint of your
computer network) and updates on every client’s account, any of our technicians can pick up
where another left off.
Do they INSIST on doing periodical test restores of your backups to make sure
the data is not corrupt and could be restored in the event of a disaster?
We perform a monthly “fire drill” and perform a test restore from backup for our clients to make sure their data CAN be recovered in the event of an emergency.
Upon completion, we
then give our clients a report showing this test restore was conducted and that all systems are a “go.”
If there’s a problem, we notify our clients immediately and start working to resolve it the
After all, the WORST time to “test” a backup is when you desperately need it.
Question: Is their help desk US-based or outsourced to an overseas company or third party?
We provide our own in-house help desk and make sure the folks helping you are
friendly and helpful. We consider this one of the most important aspects of customer service,
plus we feel it’s an important step in keeping your data secure.
Do their technicians maintain current vendor certifications and participate in ongoing training – or are they learning on your dime?
Our technicians are required to keep the most up-to-date vendor certifications in all the
software we support.
<<Insert info here on your technicians’ certifications and training.>> Plus,
our hiring process is so stringent that 99% of the technicians who apply don’t make it through.
(Guess who’s hiring them?)
Question: Are they familiar with (and can they support) your unique line-of-business
We own the problems with all line-of-business applications for our clients. That doesn’t mean we can fix faulty software – but we WILL be the liaison between you and your vendor to
resolve problems you are having and make sure these applications work smoothly for you
instead of pointing fingers and putting you in the middle.
When something goes wrong with your Internet service, phone systems,
printers or other IT services, do they own the problem or do they say, “That’s not our
problem to fix”?
We feel WE should own the problem for our clients so they don’t have to try and
resolve any of these issues on their own – that’s just plain old good service and something many computer guys won’t do.