As the owner or senior executive of a small to mid-sized business, you’ve probably been wondering about all the fuss over “The Cloud”. Having been a Microsoft partner for almost two decades, and now as a certified Microsoft Cloud Service Provider (CSP), we want to bring you up to speed on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud service. While we also offer other cloud options, Azure is the perfect solution for many of our clients.
Just how popular has the cloud become? 80% of businesses are currently using the cloud, if not extensively, at least in some form. It is currently estimated that $43 billion will be spent annually on cloud managed services by the end of 2018, an increase of 60% over 2014, and that doesn’t include enterprise level firms with in-house teams that are able to manage it themselves.
One reason for this popularity is the cloud’s “hyper-scalability”. With in-house IT infrastructure, an increase in the size of the business can mean adding new hardware and making sure the old works with the new, not to mention replacing outdated or worn-out equipment. This isn’t a concern with the cloud. Need increased storage space? Adding new employees? A quick call to your CSP (Cloud Service Provider) and in minutes, it’s all taken care of, including new licenses.
If you are in an industry where the number of employees increases or decreases as projects are added or completed, or as economic conditions change, the clouds flexibility means you won’t be paying for data storage or licenses you don’t need. In larger companies, these tasks fall on CIOs, but in smaller companies, where the owner, or CFO, or Office Manager functions as the de facto CIO, these tasks are often left undone until real problems arise.
A Cloud Service Provider’s our job is to ease the transition to the cloud so clients can benefit from this paradigm shift in technology, guiding them with consultation, through migration, and into operations. We can use the best features of AZURE to work with you to design “solutions”, such as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), or Saas (Software as a Service).
Anything-as-a-Service (AaaS) is a cloud computing term for the extensive variety of services and applications accessible on demand over the Internet as opposed to being accessed through on premises hardware.
Anything-as-a-Service originated as software-as-a-service (SaaS) and has since expanded to include services such as infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, storage-as-a-service, desktop-as-a-service, disaster-recovery-as-a-service and even nascent operations like marketing-as-a-service and healthcare-as-a-service. (Adapted from www.webopedia.com).
Today, most business people are taking the cloud seriously. The question is, do they have the knowledge to effectively plan and build a powerful cloud strategy on their own? Most do not. That’s not surprising. After all, as a CSP, we don’t know how to manufacture widgets, or service your car’s engine, or build tall buildings (or leap them in a single bound!) That’s your job…running your business. Our job is to make your business more profitable by using the cloud to help you increase productivity, decrease costs, minimize risk and maximize your growth. We begin this with in-depth assessment and planning.
The answers can be different for every business…which is why we are so gung-ho on in-depth assessment.
Once we have assessed your environment, your workloads, and your applications, and then carefully planned your migration strategy, we put that strategy into action. Our goal is zero downtime migration. This is what makes a successful migration, and provides a seamless client experience.
Ok. Now that your data is in the cloud, your CSP enters the operations phase: the ongoing daily routine of monitoring, managing and maintaining your I.T. infrastructure. This includes patching updates, configuration management, identity management, backups, and preparing for the possible necessity of disaster recovery (FYI, it needn’t be a major “disaster” to require data recovery. Minor data losses through cyber intrusion, employee error, etc., will sometimes necessitate recovery.)
Simply put, you have a right to expect your CSP to develop backup plans based on your needs as well as regulatory requirements. Your needs: while we work towards and almost always achieve 99.999% uptime (that’s about five minutes of downtime per year), we have to prepare for the remote possibility that your system will go down. We do our disaster recovery planning hand-in-hand with you to determine your comfort level, your business requirements, and your budget. For example: if your system does go down, how much downtime can you afford? 15 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day, not one second?
What severity level requires what response time? We range from Severity Level 1: the entire network is down, to Severity Level 4: there is no work stoppage, but someone on your team may require instructions or we may have to set-up a new user. Response times range from less than 15 minutes to less than 90 minutes, with target resolution times ranging from As Soon As Possible to 24 hours. It’s all a matter of structuring a service relationship that makes workload and economic sense for your company.
ID management has become an integral part of infrastructure management. Simply put, you want strict control over who has access and input to your network and your data. Your CSP/MSP needs to work with you to develop mature, agile ID management policies that don’t become obsolete as you invest in new business initiatives, while remaining in compliance with regulatory requirements. Additionally, your ID management policies should also simplify your employees’ work processes.
Single Sign-On: Instead of requiring multiple sign-on procedures for different applications, an efficient ID program will enable use of a single set of sign-on credentials and authentication.
Multifactor Authentication: While a single set of sign-on credentials is a plus, ID authentication that requires a second layer of authentication when signing-in or executing certain transactions is a powerful security tool.
10 to 15 years ago, the term “Managed Services” equated to Remote Monitoring & Management (RMM), and although the tools and requirements have largely evolved, the basic question remains: How do I continually monitor my IT infrastructure? The reality is, most small to mid-sized businesses simply don’t have the resources to monitor, manage and maintain every aspect of their IT networks. The choice is usually: A) use the services of an outside professional managed I.T. service provider, or, B) wing it and hope for the best.
Those companies that have tried doing it on their own often find that their small (often a single person) in-house IT teams have neither the band width, nor the broad expertise necessary to achieve an acceptable level of infrastructure scrutiny.
Types of Cloud Monitoring
“What will it cost?” CSP customers are often concerned that I.T. spending will run amuck when converting to the cloud. The PAYG model (Pay as You Go) often sounds like a utility bill, which can be hard to forecast. This really needn’t be the case. Qualified Microsoft CSPs are fully capable of closely estimating your Azure costs and controlling them with you. They can also help attribute cloud expenses proportionately by departments and projects.
But there is more: experience shows that while the costs of cloud computing may slightly increase your basic I.T. infrastructure expenses, the reduction in overall operational costs, the increase in employee productivity, the minimalizing of security risks, and improved customer satisfaction way more than offset any direct cost increases.
The focus of this White Paper is intended as an overview of Microsoft Azure, and the importance of Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) that have been authorized by Microsoft to provide direct cloud management services to their Azure customers, so we want to share some of our own history with Microsoft.
DynaSis was established in 1992, 25 years ago, and, for almost two decades, we have been a Microsoft Partner. We have more than 55 I.T. professionals on staff, including more than 30 engineers, many of whom have been certified in a wide range of Microsoft products and services. We were also early adopters of cloud technology and now as one of the very small percentage of Managed I.T. Service Providers (MSPs) in the country that have been designated as Microsoft CSPs, we are proud to offer the Azure Cloud. We offer a complimentary Cloud Readiness Assessment from which we can provide a detailed explanation of the benefits your company can receive from this service.
It’s a great place to start, so give us a call at: 678.373.0716 or visit our website: www.DynaSis.com.