How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cloud-Based Products

At this point I think it’s safe to say everything is cloud-based. From cloud cars to Everything as a Service, the cloud has invaded more than just our email addresses. As a result, more and more organizations are moving all of their data into the cloud, including their more sensitive data.

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Recent Cloud Growth

According to a recent study from Ponemon Institute and Thales e-Security, a third of businesses admitted their data is completely unprotected in cloud-based systems. This development should be alarming to anyone paying attention to security news. Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA’s massive surveillance program over a year ago, exposing the stark truth that the United States government is snooping on its citizens for controversial reasons. Snowden’s massive information dump to news organizations continues to leak out and scare the hell out of people every few weeks.

Recently the internet’s had the epidemic scare of Heartbleed, a massive bug in the basic encryption safeguarding bank and personal websites. The Heartbleed bug has been patched, but most of the old, compromised keys went right back into use, according to the latest security news.

So with keys compromised and the United States government potentially spying on everything we do, why would we store our private information on a cloud-based platform? The answer is quite simple, if you’re willing to do the work.

Basic Security: There are many arguments from crypto alarmists that since no one truly knows where their information is being stored, cloud-based platforms are completely unsafe. In truth, the cloud is no more or less safe than the average personal computer hooked up to the internet. Yes, cloud systems can be hacked. So can unprotected personal servers. In my opinion, SaaS based programs are no more dangerous or vulnerable than legacy software systems.

Encryption: In the wake of Edward Snowden, encryption has become a hot-button issue. From NSA-proof phones to SaaS encryption platforms like Vaultive, everyone wants to lock up their information. That’s a good thing. Even basic, free encryption offers vastly more security than an unprotected system. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shop around, though. While Google Apps are offering Zix encryption, that doesn’t mean every cloud-based email is protected. Do your homework.

Personal Vigilance: Perhaps the most important form of security. Whether cloud-based or not, most people use the same simple passwords and do not change them. Most people leave their personal devices laying around unlocked. Keeping an eye on your credit score and using tough passwords goes a long way, even in our cloudy, stormy present.

Have you migrated your information to a cloud base platform, or are you still too leery? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Thinking About Cloud Computing on Earth Day

First started in 1970, Earth Day is now celebrated as a day to promote environmental awareness by over 190 countries. Typically people use this day to plant trees and clean up litter, but we should also consider clouds. No, not the fluffy white ones above our heads. I mean the revolution that is cloud computing.

Rob Phillips, StrataBlue’s Director of Services, has mentioned the benefits of the cloud in his previous post, but the numbers are still staggering. Cloud spending is posed to grow by as much as $180 billion by 2015, according to a recent study by Gartner. People and organizations have embraced the cloud definition for much more than simple storage and email, making the cloud a powerful ally for apps and programs. But what does all this have to do with environmental issues and Earth Day?

IBM and Trinity College recently unveiled Stratus, a set of powerful cloud computing algorithms that proved a connected set of data service centers could effectively lower carbon emissions by 21% while still performing essential duties. While this is great news for future users, current cloud converts are still benefiting when it comes to environmental issues. Here’s how.

Less Space

The cloud is up in the air as they say. Some people struggle with the location of their data in the cloud, but the simplest definition is that it gets virtualized in servers on other people’s machines. No matter the location, your data is currently taking up less space in the cloud than it would in your own private data center. Virtual technology today like VMWare allows companies to consolidate up to ten servers into one virtual server. With a shared virtual server, everyone’s data is taking up less space.

Less Power

According to a recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, cloud computing could save up to 87% more power than traditional systems. Since everyone is sharing data service centers, less power is going to all of those old private data centers. This is a quick answer, but you really need to look at the whole picture. With less private servers, less power is going to air conditioning, alarm systems and basic electricity to all those private buildings. Since server space is shared, there is also less power being used to move data around. Also consider the environmental issues that companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple take into consideration when they build a new data center.

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Cloud Energy Savings on Earth Day!

Less Waste

Traditional IT practices are dying out. Prior to the cloud, an organization had to spend a lot of time and energy buying legacy software if it wanted to upgrade. Now many software packages like Office 365 can easily be updated, or even automatically update on their own. This saves time, money and resources since IT doesn’t have to upload software onto individual computers from CDs. Just consider the reduction in cardboard, packaging and plastic waste from all those software products!

The Future of cloud computing is a dark path. I don’t know exactly where this technology will take us. However I can feel a little more proud on this particular Earth Day. I know I’m supporting a platform that is greener than the last. Rob Phillips couldn’t say it better: “Moving to the cloud is the fastest way to reduce a company’s carbon footprint while recognizing significant savings.”

How has the cloud saved you time and energy? Let us know in the comments below!

CRM and the Cloud Platform – A Match Made in Heaven

The concept of “heaven” has been debated by countless philosophers throughout history and there are various theories on size, temperature and location. While there is some debate on the specifics, most people agree that heaven is where various personalities and types can co-exist in complete peace. Until now, that concept was a bit hard to swallow.

Heaven is a place on Earth? The story is an old one: sales and marketing often butt heads. Sales doesn’t see the point of marketing campaigns and blames marketing for lack of leads. Marketing blames the sales department for not properly implementing marketing strategies or driving the campaign in the correct direction. However, all this strife can be avoided with cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software.

The CRM: Customer relationship management systems are nothing new. As far back as the 1980’s, database management systems were tracking customer behavior to send out personalized communication for better sales. This software continued to mature, but it didn’t really take a large step forward until companies like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics began to create CRM that integrated customer data with other software like Outlook. However, the best was yet to come.

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The Cloud: The cloud platform is quite powerful and Software as a Service (SaaS) has only shown the greater potential of working straight out of the cloud. Applications like Outlook and Office are available on the web as a scalable application that can be accessed anywhere. Since the products don’t technically exist on computers, there is no need to upgrade the software. Suddenly organizations aren’t investing fortunes on software. The cloud offers fast, cheap freedom to large organizations and SMBs as well.

The Connection: Cloud-based CRM has been available in some form since 2007, but recent improvements to cloud platforms have completely changed the game. Suddenly SaaS allows access to customer data 24/7 from virtually any mobile device. That means that CRM can be used by small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) as well as giant companies with smart phones. Smart Point of Sale (POS) systems allow every sale to be monitored and stored in the cloud. Social Media and Big Data work together so that customers’ personal data is more readily available, making customer touch-points that much easier to track. Now the sales department is receiving reliable leads and truly customized customer information. The marketing department can easily trace the success rate of their campaigns because of tracked sales and touch-point interactions.

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The Future: CRM is growing and it’s only going to get bigger. In 2012, CRM grew by 12.5%. Gartner predicts $36 billion will be spent on the industry by 2017. Companies have taken notice and they continue to expand into the market. In fact, IBM is spending $1.2 billion this year to expand its cloud network. Everyone is banking on cloud-based CRM. Can your organization really afford to ignore that?

The easy part is accepting the cloud-based CRM. Now comes the hard part—how do you find the right CRM software and begin to make all that data work for you? Well, that’s where we come in. If you want more information on cloud-based CRM, please contact us for more information.

Adopting the Cloud in 2014

Two years ago, the cloud was something tech companies were suggesting we get excited about. But for the average user, the power of cloud technology was amorphous. Now we’re hearing all about cloud apps and the “Internet of Things.” Everyone knows they should adopt the cloud—it’s faster, cheaper and safer for your data. The real question is, why aren’t more companies adopting?

Concerns of the Past

This was a typical business response to cloud adoption in 2013. In the undisclosed future, a business (might) be interested in adopting a cloud platform. Maybe. I’m not poking fun at these business leaders; they had reasons to be worried. Public clouds have been criticized for their security gaps and their vulnerability to everyone from hackers to the NSA. On top of that, the cloud is just… new. So you have a new platform that is under scrutiny and possibly vulnerable to attack.

So, why would your organization migrate to the cloud in 2014? Because the cloud continues to become more versatile, reliable and secure. Let’s look at some improvements that are going to be big in the coming year:

SaaS. Software as a Service is going to grow by 14.7% this year, but what exactly does that mean? Put simply, SaaS is any application that can be accessed via the cloud, usually through a web browser. A great example would be Office 365. Previously, this program had to be put on every organization’s computer and required a large IT budget to get the job done. Now, companies can access what they want when they want it via the cloud. SaaS is also cheaper than typical enterprise software—companies are renting what they need instead of buying large software packages they might not fully employ.

The Hybrid Cloud. If everyone has access to your cloud, how safe is your information? Many organizations have opted for the hybrid cloud to ensure data availability while still protecting their sensitive materials. In brief, the hybrid cloud is a combination of a company’s own private cloud platform and the public cloud that all employees can access. This mix of openness and security allows for a greater employee adoption while still protecting organizational data. For that reason, Gartner predicts half of all large organizations will have a hybrid cloud by 2017.

Encryption. If 2013 was the age of NSA revelations, 2014 may very well be the Age of Encryption. And this is a good thing. Encryption of sensitive data allows an organization to move onto a cloud platform with less fear of breach. Not only have huge companies like Google and Windows pledged to encryption their data, but now smaller organizations can afford SaaS encryption. Companies like Vaultive offer encryption-in-use technology that protects sensitive data at every stage of delivery, even while it is being deployed by the end user.

As you can see, not only are cloud platforms getting more secure, but they are allowing an unprecedented level of control and customization. That optimization can lead to real savings on software and time, especially for smaller organizations. Cloud innovation has already happened. Now innovations will get refined for all users. The real question is, when are you going to adopt?

Interested in migrating to a cloud platform? Please contact us.