Cloud Storage

Big clouds for small businesses

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Choosing the right cloud service has become a major dilemma for the modern small business. At the forefront of cloud technology, Amazon, Google and Microsoft are aggressively competing against each other for a bigger slice of the cloud storage market. This fierce competition has resulted in three very diverse and very competent cloud services.

Small business owners are spoiled for choice as each service offers state-of-the-art technology, a unique array of features, distinct and tailored configurations, alternate interfaces, compatibilities and elite customer service, all with competitive pricing.

In light of this, here’s a quick overview of the three big cloud services to make finding the best-fit solution a little bit easier for small businesses, as well as a look at how suitable cloud technology is for contemporary small businesses.

What do cloud services offer small business?

“In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the internet instead of your computer's hard drive,” says PCMag’s Eric Griffith.

Cloud services help small businesses avoid the stress associated with managing technology infrastructure, provisioning servers and configuring networks. They additionally feature tailored applications to augment everyday business activities, communication and data use.

Cloud services are highly scalable and multifaceted. They can host, share and analyze your data, with state-of-the-art analytics that provide business and customer insights. They can also host your website and provide e-commerce platforms while facilitating application creation, network management, system monitoring, data logging and web diagnostics.

What are the options?

Essentially there are three main options when it comes to cloud server use: Amazon Web ServicesGoogle Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. Each offers its own unique variation of the cloud, and they aggressively compete with each other across all aspects of cloud technology, covering customer service, quality, speed, availability, usability, reliability and even pricing.

Cost difference

The most significant difference between platforms is pricing, where Microsoft comes in last at an estimated $14,300 per year for a standard eight-server web app package, compared to Amazon at an estimated $6,415 and Google at an estimated $6,092 for the same standard package.

The pricing difference between Amazon/Google and Microsoft is massive, with Microsoft’s cloud platform sitting at just over double the price for essentially the same service. As a small business, you likely would not need or be able to utilize all the features on offer to warrant spending $14,300 on Microsoft’s cloud technology.

Service choices

Google offers almost everything a small business would need in regard to cloud services, with the most competitive price on the market (based on an eight-server web application package). Google Cloud Platform is additionally run off the same supporting infrastructure used by the ever-popular YouTube and Google Search. It even offers support to existing Amazon Web Services users.

Google effectively rivals Amazon and Microsoft in all aspects of cloud technology and most critically through competitive pricing. Amazon and Google offer the best cloud services available in the market today, but choosing between the two – as they offer comparable features, prices and functions – is difficult.

James Watters, vice president and general manager at Pivotal, suggests Amazon has a “first-to-market” advantage since it launched its cloud service earlier than its competitors. Google is seen as having an advantage with “at-scale infrastructure,” giving customers a highly advanced and stable option for running apps.

ROI for cloud

Calculating return on investment (ROI) for cloud services compared to in-house means knowing the cost of the required equipment, its projected life span and the cost of capital – in other words, the cost of the equipment plus interest costs over the projected life span. The next task is adding estimated operating costs like floor space, electricity and staff to run servers.

Other costs in moving to the cloud include the time and money spent on migrating applications, training staff and the cost of third-party cloud services. Use an online cloud cost calculator, such as the one provided by Amazon, to make an initial comparison.

While these three cloud services offer many similarities, they do significantly differ on price. Currently, Amazon and Google offer the best value, but choosing between them may come down to user experience and industry preferences. Current Technologies can help you find which system will be best for you and set up a turnkey cloud storage system that will help you the first day.

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Separate the Cloud from the fog

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You’ve surely heard about the much-hyped idea of cloud computing—and whether you know it or not, you’re probably already using it. Web mail, Facebook, and Instagram are all popular examples of cloud computing, as are more business-focused services like Salesforce.com and Microsoft Office 365.

The basic idea behind cloud computing is that your data is stored on a computer that you do not own, manage, or maintain. This lets you and your employees focus on doing your job instead of worrying about keeping your systems running smoothly. It’s also cheaper—since you typically rent access to the systems for a monthly or annual fee that’s often quite competitive—and more flexible. Cloud services can be accessed via any Web browser, and most also offer mobile apps.

Public: putting it all out there

Your employees are almost certainly already running "public cloud" services on their phones and computers, whether they be cloud storage services like Dropbox or photo-sharing services like Flickr. These types of services are either called Software as a Service (SaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings, from the likes of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, and offer higher-end environments that run your company servers on their systems.

The flexibility of cloud services have changed the computing world quickly. Yet cloud’s ubiquity and ease of use have created problems, as the lines between personal and business are blurred and "shadow IT"—unsanctioned and unmonitored business use of public cloud services by employees—becomes common.

Without oversight, companies have no way of stopping or even knowing if sensitive corporate data gets out of their control. Employees are just trying to do their job better, but that will be little consolation if next year’s budget spreadsheets end up on the Web for competitors to see.

Hybrid: the in-between approach

In spite of the benefits of cloud computing, there are some circumstances in which companies may still want to keep data in-house—for example, to comply with industry regulations around the handling of sensitive data, concerns about cloud security, or because of regulatory restrictions that prohibit storing a companies data in overseas cloud systems.

As a result, few organizations have committed to the cloud 100 percent. Instead, most are pursuing so-called "hybrid" strategies that combine specific cloud services—often business systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) or human resources (HR)—with conventional on-premises systems that are owned and run by in-house technical staff.

This approach complicates things somewhat, because it means that businesses must keep track of two different types of computing environments. Yet new tools are bridging on-premises and off-premises cloud services, making it easy to track and secure data as it moves around the new computing environment. Most companies will use the hybrid cloud model for some time to come.

Private cloud: reinventing the business

While many companies are searching for the best approach to upgrading their applications to take advantage of the cloud, others are using cloud computing's ascension as an opportunity to rework the way they deliver applications to their own employees.

In the "private cloud" model, businesses effectively set up their own cloud-computing providers, running cloud services inside their network. These providers run applications on behalf of various business units, with the idea being that it’s cheaper and easier to centralize computing than it is to have each department run its own IT as in the past.

Building private cloud services requires a massive amount of effort, since it often involves upgrading old applications and moving large quantities of data into the new environment. Yet many businesses are also using the private cloud to offer entirely new services to business partners and customers. For example, a bank might run an application for finance brokers on its private cloud, giving them direct access to relevant banking systems.

Private cloud services also let banks connect their applications with those of other software providers using application programming interfaces (APIs) that let third parties easily access cloud services offering specific functions. A simple example might be an API that lets a third party retrieve current currency exchange information for use on their own website.

Less nebulous every day

There’s no doubt about it: cloud computing is here to stay. And while it’s still not perfect—issues such as telecommunications outages, security, and data ownership are still worrying many would-be adopters—its many benefits have made it essential for every business.

Current Technologies can help your business establish a clear cloud strategy now that will help you modernize your systems in order to take on nimbler competitors today and stay relevant for even more cloud-savvy customers in the future.

You don’t want to be the last one on the cloud

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How the Cloud is Transforming Education

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School IT departments have generally been on the forefront when it comes to embracing new technologies, and teachers who also embrace the latest technologies can reap the benefits faster. The cloud has opened up their world, and technology is poised to finally deliver on its promise to transform education.

Assisting teachers

The cloud has reversed a disappointing trend for teachers. Previously, clunky hardware and failing technology meant wasted time and frustration – hindering rather than assisting them.

All that is changing as the cloud delivers a more flexible, responsive and less device-specific form of technology into the classroom, and the way information is stored, accessed, presented and managed is transformed. Coursework can be retrieved anytime, anywhere. But it’s more than just storage.

Education apps are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the tracking of individual student performance. In a context where there is a five or six-year difference between the most advanced and least-capable student in a classroom, distinguishing instruction is not only a worthy goal, but a practical necessity. And that's where cloud-based technology can help. Connected apps and services such as Mathletics and Duolingo allow students to work at their own pace and adjust the order and difficulty of tasks in line with their progress.

With such innovative data on students, teachers can make better informed decisions about the next steps in learning.

Improving student outcomes

Exercise books and textbooks are increasingly becoming relics. Cloud-based student learning management systems such as EdumateMoodleEdmodo and Blackboard are now staples in most schools across The United States and other countries. Their connectivity means students have access to the most up to date case studies instead of relying on textbooks, which quickly date and become unusable.

Cloud based applications like Microsoft Outlook and Google Docs allows students greater opportunities for collaboration, as documents can be edited simultaneously by multiple authors – including the teacher. This allows for more instant, targeted feedback.

Saving money

And perhaps the biggest impact the cloud can have on academics is the resolution of overstretched budgets. The security and maintenance of expensive infrastructure and internal servers are becoming redundant. Cloud-based storage services such as Amazon, Google and Office 365 provide huge amounts of space with the added benefit of the collective skill of world-class engineers to protect information.

Large upfront costs for software are also giving way to modest subscription fees for services that are continually improved and updated. And even better, many are free! The flexibility of these apps also means students no longer have to shell out big bucks for a laptop, with the ability to access many of the applications on their smartphones or tablets.

For initiative-fatigued teachers who are after a more convenient and efficient way to improve the teaching and learning cycle, a cloud solution from Current Technologies might just be the technological breakthrough they need to re-engage with technology.

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Cloud or Dedicated Server?

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Should you be entrusting your data to the cloud or keeping it down to earth on your own servers? This is a decision facing every CIO, and it’s one they’ll be forced to justify and revisit regularly for the foreseeable future. That’s because there’s been no knock-out blow in the argument between the cloud and the in-house server. There’s plenty to be said for both, which means there is no blanket answer. Each individual company must make a decision based on what makes the most sense for the business.

Looking cloudward

Surely the chance to ditch your servers and outsource to someone who is steeped in server management seems like a gift from the universe. The arguments in favor of cloud computing are easy to make, especially to someone frustrated by the intellectual overhead and raw cost of maintaining their own servers.

The promises of the cloud include the following.

  • You pay only for what you use, so it’s incredibly flexible; you can scale up or down at will.

  • Security, upgrading, and server configuration are in the hands of experts.

In these days of everything being “as-a-service,” the idea of owning anything like a server seems downright old-fashioned. If Uber can run the world’s largest taxi service without owning any taxis, why on earth would you need to own servers?

Where to look closely

There are a few things you need to factor in to make sure you’re comfortable with any potential compromises.

Power: Cloud providers can’t match the power of a dedicated server that’s properly configured.

Speed: The scalability of the cloud has to do with getting more or less storage, not faster storage, which might be a concern when another customer is flogging the server you’re on.

Latency: If your cloud host uses dispersed locations or it’s not nearby, you might have latency issues

Taking a dedicated approach

The promise of cloud computing is most clearly seen in companies meeting one or more of the following criteria.

  • Tight budgets

  • Growth they can’t predict

  • Business-to-consumer models

  • Jobs that don’t need lots of computer power or storage or much time to run

A company that has a business-to-business model or has well-established usage needs and predictable growth will likely find running its own servers cheaper and more efficient. This is something you can quickly run the numbers on, and the results might surprise you, considering that “cheaper” is a clarion call of the cloud industry.

The issue of security

It’s also worth running the decision through the filter of security. Hackers fish where the fish are, which makes cloud hosts attractive targets. You’re not just outsourcing server configuration, you’re trusting another company with your security. If security is a concern, you’re probably better off keeping your servers in-house, where you can tailor security to your needs. Current Technologies can help you determine which solution would provide more value to your business and then set up a custom solution for your business.

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Do you need to upgrade your network?

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Upgrading your company’s network isn’t likely to be easy. Your network affects every aspect of your business, and downtime or making the wrong decisions will negatively impact everyone.

Whether you’re replacing outdated technology or expanding your network infrastructure, regular upgrades are essential for keeping your business productive and profitable as well as your data secure. On the other hand, if your network is already fit for purpose, upgrading too early will mean unnecessary expenditure and hassle.

If you're the one responsible for making that call, you should be able to evaluate your network’s suitability and decide whether it really needs an upgrade now, what type of upgrade and how to make the switchover with as little impact on the day-to-day operations as possible.

What types of upgrades?

Networks aren't a one-size-fits-all solution – they’re as diverse as your business needs them to be. Networks can be upgraded to:

  • Expand your range or capacity: As your business grows, so does your network. You could be adding more computers to your office, linking to remote locations or hiring more cloud storage to host your growing data.

  • Improve security: Network upgrades are an opportunity to improve your business’s resilience to cyberattacks. Updating hardware and software will help protect your company’s data and the privacy of your staff.

  • Boost productivity: Like any good investment, your network upgrade should pay for itself before long by improving productivity, saving time and reducing maintenance.

Figuring out what you need

Everyone on your network has unique needs and, while an upgrade may not be able to satisfy them all, you should aim for the best compromise. Talking to department heads and sending out surveys can offer valuable insights that you might not have considered. Remember that a decision of this magnitude effects everybody on the network, therefor the goal of network upgrades should be to make life easier for everybody.

You should also check capacity and usage statistics to see whether network speeds and storage need improvement. If you don’t have the resources or the know-how to evaluate your network capabilities, you can hire consultants to do it for you.

Planning the upgrade

Your survey results offer an idealistic guide to work from, but you first need to think about practicalities, such as:

  • How many devices need to connect to your network?

  • Will people connect to your network outside the office?

  • What type of software will they be using?

  • How much data is sent and received every day?

Any upgrades you make should primarily help your business achieve its objectives, which also means minimizing the negative impact on the business and on users as much as possible.

You’ll never truly be finished upgrading your network but, through careful planning and projections, you can establish a flexible network capable of supporting future growth. Technology comes and goes, but the infrastructure you lay down today can future-proof your business for years to come – not to mention making subsequent upgrades a lot easier.

Wired or wireless?

One decision you could face when rolling out your new network is whether to replace your wired connection with a wireless network hosted in the cloud.

While wireless connections are more convenient, on-premise networks have traditionally been faster and more reliable, as they experience less downtime and don’t have the same range of limitations. This has started to change, however, and cloud services also offer adequate security for most business needs.

For many companies, a hybrid model is the ideal middle ground – storing less sensitive data and apps in the cloud while keeping more critical data on your premises. This can reduce costs and improve convenience while ensuring you’ll always have access to your data when you need it.

And that’s the key consideration – are you providing the people who use your network the speed, access and capabilities they need? If not, then it’s time to upgrade and ensure you’re not holding your business back.

Get a quote for your upgrade now!

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Storing Medical Data in the Cloud

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From doctor-patient confidentiality to insurance non-disclosure agreements, we do all we can to ensure our medical data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands—and for some healthcare organizations, this makes the idea of storing such data in the cloud quite alarming. Though the cloud promises to reduce costs and streamline records management, it’s all too often (and wrongly) associated with the specter of cybercrime and other security breaches. Fortunately, it’s much safer than you might think.

A slow revolution

In 2011, only 4% of healthcare providers had moved to the cloud. Adoption rates have since skyrocketed to over 70%. However, it appears that some in the industry are still reluctant to make the leap, and the main concern among detractors appears to be the possibility of a security breach.

However, when it comes to sensitive data, a security breach isn’t the only thing you have to worry about—data might also be lost as the result of a physical event, like a fire or flood. When keeping your data in the cloud, it is being secured by IT professionals at groups like Microsoft and Google, whose only job it to secure your data. In other words, storing data in the cloud might be the safest option available.

Meeting industry standards with HIPAA

The good news is that you no longer have to determine for yourself whether or not a cloud provider is able to protect sensitive medical data. In 2013, the federal government expanded the privacy and security protections established under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) so that they now apply to electronic health records. The act outlines strict procedures for storing such records using data encryption and destruction. It also imposes significant penalties on non-compliant organizations.

From the clinic to the cloud

When a healthcare organization decides to move to the cloud, it should check that its cloud provider is HIPAA compliant. The U.S. Department of Health doesn’t itself authorize any HIPAA certification programs. However, cloud providers can voluntarily undergo an audit that takes into account the HIPPA Audit Protocols. If they pass, you can be confident that they’re capable of storing your data in a safe and secure environment—which means that the prognosis for your organization’s medical records is very good indeed.

Current Technologies is here for all your data storage needs

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Safe Data Storage For SMB's Made Easy

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Secure and Stable Storage Strategies for Small and Medium Sized Businesses


Even the smallest business can generate a huge amount of data, and that data has to go somewhere.

Government regulations require businesses to keep and back up certain data for legal reasons; many firms choose to retain information like employee records, emails and instant messages; and every new version of a software application has to be stored somewhere. All that information must then be backed up to protect the business against viruses, ransomware and spyware that might infect their system and put a halt to trading. And that’s not even considering those firms that want to analyze their big data to further profits and business goals.

What are the Options?

Despite the mission-critical status of all this data, many small- medium businesses lack an overarching storage strategy that can ensure the business keeps trading no matter what. There are a number of options, and the good news is the price-per-gigabyte of storage has never been cheaper – even outside the cloud.

Small- Medium Businesses can opt for:

  • Direct attached storage (DAS): Devices connected to PCs or servers, usually via USB. Good for information that's frequently accessed.
  • Network attached storage (NAS)Devices that connect directly to the network and operate as a file server. Good for storing large files.
  • Cloud storageOnline storage that comes in public, private or hybrid configurations. Good for mobile access.
  • Offline media: Backing up data on to tape drives, DVDs or Blu-rays sounds a bit old-fashioned, but Google still backs up Gmail on to tape as a last resort and Facebook has its Blu-ray Cold Storage Data Center. Good for archiving.

How to Choose your Storage Strategy

Mission-critical data, like operations-related software applications and the business website, is the most important regardless of the size of the company. Firms need to consider having at least two complete separate copies of this – with one offline – to ensure business continuity.

For most SMBs, a combination of those aforementioned storage solutions will make up a good strategy, but figuring out the ideal combination can be challenging. SMBs need to analyze their storage needs closely, looking at which applications generate the most data, how quickly and from where most data needs to be accessed. They also need to assess how old the data is, if it’s being unnecessarily duplicated, and if it’s business related or operations related. 

In the end, the budget and volume of data will help determine the combination of solutions an SMB requires. However, careful assessment of the data, the legal and regulatory ramifications, and business continuity are all essential for a secure and stable storage strategy. For more information, talk to the IT professionals at Current Technologies. CT is partnered with Dell Technologies to bring your business the best possible storage solution.

You Still have Questions, we have the Answers

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