Category Archives: Cloud Computing

How to Work from Home Efficiently (Tips for Individuals and Organizations)

work from home

During this unprecedented time, nearly every business in America has transitioned to a work-from-home environment. This shift happened almost immediately and without notice. The transition has been harder for some organizations than others. This article describes the three most common ways organizations are set up for remote access and provides tips on how to ensure you and your team are working as efficiently and securely as possible.

These are the three most common ways that employees access their systems remotely:

  1. Your organization’s data is hosted in the cloud.
    Team members can easily access everything they need from virtually anywhere because all company data and programs are cloud-hosted. Organizations that have already made the jump to the cloud have had the smoothest transition to a remote workforce.
  2. You use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to login to a server or desktop.
    In this scenario, employees are using VPN software to access the corporate network.
  3. You use remote control software to remote into your desktop.
    This option allows employees to access the computer in their office by using remote control software such as LogMeIn, GoToMyPC, or something similar.

In every scenario, there are fundamental things you need to consider to ensure you are working efficiently and securely.

Essential Things to Consider When Working from Home

Setting up an Efficient Workspace. Many of our office desks are equipped with multiple monitors, a docking station, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and a comfortable chair. Our company-supplied computers are usually robust and running the latest operating system. We have access to a corporate high-speed internet connection, commercial-grade printers, and all the office supplies needed to perform our jobs efficiently.  So how do you replicate this setup at home?

Here are some areas to focus on when setting up an efficient workspace at home:

  • Set yourself up in a room that allows for some privacy and separates you from typical family distractions. Make sure your workstation is ergonomically friendly and includes a comfortable chair and desk, as well as whatever office supplies you may need (e.g., pens, paper, stapler, etc.).
  • Confirm your home internet connection is robust enough to support your workflow. If using a secure home wireless network, make sure the room you are working in has proper coverage.
  • Will you be using an office computer or your home computer? Make sure your computer is robust enough and updated to the latest operating system.  (More on this later.)
  • Do you have all the right peripherals (i.e., a printer, scanner, webcam, additional monitor, etc.)? Make sure you have supplies for all these devices, such as ink, toner, paper, etc.

Security. Security plays a crucial role in maintaining a remote workforce successfully, no matter how you’re accessing your data. Hackers are paying attention to this opportunity. They know people are working from home in less secure environments than their offices, and they’re looking for ways to exploit this. It is important to remember that every individual’s home network provides an entry point into the corporate environment. Therefore, it is critical to secure every computer and home network. 

Here are a few things to confirm:

  • Are you working behind a firewall or secure router?
  • Is your wireless network secure?
  • Is your computer’s Operating System up-to-date and patched for vulnerabilities?
  • Does your computer have an up-to-date anti-virus program that runs regularly?
  • Be aware of an increased amount of spam and phishing attacks. Hackers are using this pandemic to get access to your personal information. 

Company Data, Applications, and Backup.  When working remotely, we may access data differently than when we are at the office.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to accessing company data and applications remotely:

  • Where are the applications and corresponding data stored?
  • How will you ensure that data is saved properly within the company’s structure, and not inadvertently on your local hard drive? Doing so would increase the likelihood of version control issues and even lost data once returning to work.
  • If you are saving data locally, are you backing it up?

Management, Communications, and Collaboration. When working remotely, it’s a little harder to pop by someone’s desk and ask them a quick question.  Cloud-based (VOIP) phone systems are perfectly designed for this type of situation. They are portable and allow you to remain as available as if you were in your office. Clients and co-workers can call you, and your extension will ring right in your own home office. 

Also, consider how you will communicate with your team members and supervisors. Will you host conference calls or video calls to maintain a sense of how things are progressing? Is it important to maintain a particular culture, encouraging individuals to live chat or get together for virtual happy hours?

There are numerous options available to do this, including Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, Skype for Business, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, and UberConference, to name a few.

Clearly, numerous areas need to be considered when working from home and supporting a remote workforce. Do not hesitate to give us a call if you need guidance on how to create a more efficient and secure environment for your company and yourself.

Technology is Changing Fast. How Can Your Organization Keep Up?

Technology changes fast. Software upgrades are made available each year, often requiring companies to repurchase and reinstall each license. Plus, with the ever-growing amount of applications and data you need to access and archive, computers and servers frequently need to be added or upgraded, resulting in rising technology costs each year.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you tired of repurchasing and reinstalling new software every time an upgrade is required?
  • Are you using old computers and running older versions of software to minimize your costs?
  • Are you experiencing compatibility issues with applications, other computers, or outside companies?
  • Are you increasing your risk by allowing people to share logins and passwords because you are short on licenses?
  • Are you 100% confident that your operating system and every device connected to your network is secured?

The problems above can be resolved with two distinct services: Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) and Cloud Computing. They offer businesses flexibility, reliability, security, accessibility, and scalability.


Hardware-as-a-Service is similar to leasing or licensing. The hardware (e.g., computers, servers and networking devices) is installed in your office but belongs to the managed service provider. You pay a flat monthly fee, allowing you to set a reliable budget that can include your hardware, software, maintenance, and installation.

Let’s face it: hardware is a depreciating asset. Therefore, investing in HaaS provides certain advantages, such as:

  • Minimal upfront costs;
  • When hardware reaches the end of its useful life, it is refreshed by the managed service provider at no cost to you; and
  • Should the hardware fail or become outdated, it is the managed service provider’s responsibility to repair or replace it.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing is another service that is tailored to the specific needs of your business and can be budgeted as a fixed monthly expense, rather than incurring a large upfront cost. Below are some of the many advantages to cloud computing solutions:

  • 24/7/365 anywhere, anytime access
  • Increased employee productivity
  • Immediate remote IT support
  • Highly secure and reliable
  • Data centralization
  • Automated data backup and archiving
  • Hosted email, providing uninterrupted access
  • Efficiently roll-out new software, with minimal interruption to your staff
  • Expandable file storage and sharing
  • Unlimited capacity
  • Minimal space needed to house equipment. Ditch that server room and use it for something more profitable.
  • Significantly lower IT expenditures annually

Many companies offer cloud computing services, so it’s important to understand what you need and what you are getting before you sign a contract. Here are some key questions to ask your provider before committing:

  • Can I pay for only the resources that I need, adding space when necessary?
    Your contract should provide some flexibility, allowing you to add – and even reduce – your commitment as your needs change.
  • How do I know my data backups are working?
    Don’t wait until you need the backups to discover a failed implementation. Someone should periodically test the backups to ensure everything is working.
  • Can you describe your redundant server architecture?
    A redundant server environment must protect your data. Then, if the server housing your data were to fail or become compromised, the redundant server can be brought online immediately, minimizing and even eliminating your downtime. The best environments will include multiple power sources, multiple generators, and redundant internet providers.
  • Do I need any on-site equipment?
    There are different options available, ranging from maintaining a local server in your office to operating completely remotely. Understand the pros and cons before you choose.

As a final note, to help your company not only keep up with technology but also leverage it most advantageously, assess the IT resources you have in place. Whether you have an entire technology department, a single professional managing your needs, or outsource everything, it is critical that you have the right professionals watching over you. Their ability to maintain your network, secure your infrastructure and troubleshoot daily needs can mean all the difference in the world.

An Objective Look at Hosting Data in the Cloud vs. In-House

Cloud Storage vs In-house Hosting

For the past few years, there’s been a lot of buzz about migrating data to the cloud. For many, making the decision as to whether or not to rely on cloud computing and storage is not an easy one.

It’s a bit like the renting vs. buying argument. When you upgrade your current on-site infrastructure you are faced with a larger upfront cost for hardware and software, along with installation and ongoing maintenance costs. If you choose the cloud, the upfront costs are smaller but the monthly cloud fees are never-ending. There are other considerations as well. Let’s take a closer look and compare these two options.

Hosting Data in the Cloud

Cloud HostingHosting data in the cloud means you are paying a hosting company a monthly fee to host your information in their datacenter. The physical security of these facilities is pretty intense; some require a retina scan just to enter. Included in the monthly fee are services such as redundant internet, power sources, and servers; as well as other things like regular backups and email services.

Here are some of the benefits of migrating your business to the cloud:

  • The Lights Are Always On! Datacenters where cloud providers host their infrastructure have both redundant power and internet access. The power is usually sourced by two or more providers and backed up with enterprise level battery backups and generators. The datacenters also host a number of internet service providers, giving redundant internet access to all their clientele.

  • Flexibility. With the pay-as-you-go model, it makes it easy for companies to scale up or down as needed. Datacenters can easily accommodate companies in growth mode that need to add more bandwidth or resources; and can just as easily scale back resources when not needed. In both cases, your monthly fees get adjusted accordingly.

  • Low Capital Expenditure Costs. Most businesses have to replace their servers every three to five years. This recurring investment can have a significant effect on a company’s cash flow. Hosting your data in the cloud eliminates the need for hardware refreshes, as this becomes the cloud provider’s responsibility and is included in your monthly fee.

  • Work from Anywhere! When your data is hosted in the cloud, all you need is an internet connection and you are at work. Although remote access isn’t a new concept for most companies, the remote technology used by cloud providers is quite superior to the applications typically used to remotely access office computers.

While interviewing potential cloud providers, be sure to ask for a full list of what is and is not included in your hosting agreement. Different providers include different features. For example, there may be licensing and firewall costs that need to be considered, along with bandwidth and data transfer capacity limits that you need to understand to avoid running into performance problems or overages. Remember, knowledge is power!

Keeping Data Hosted In-House

In-House IT storageThere are some business owners who have a tough time with the idea of their data sitting on someone else’s servers. The cloud can be scary when you don’t know where your data is kept, who has access to it, and who is securing it. The most important thing in this scenario is to ensure you are securing and backing up your data regularly, as well as testing your backups to ensure they are in working order should you ever need to restore it.

Here are some reasons for keeping your data stored in-house:

  • Peace of Mind. With an in-house server, you know exactly where all your company data is at all times. In addition, some companies must keep certain applications in-house for compliance reasons.

  • Costs. Cloud storage is essentially “renting space” vs. “buying space.” While many cloud providers advertise cheap monthly hosting fees, it’s important to add up all the expenses involved in order to properly compare the investment. In addition to the monthly hosting fee, you’ll need to consider backups, security updates, maintenance, and more. These fees can really add up over time, and in some cases far exceed the costs of an in-house network.

  • No Outages or Connection Issues. Just because your cloud provider claims 99.95% uptime, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can always access your data. In fact, earlier this year Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of the largest cloud providers in the country, suffered a half-day outage. This left thousands of companies without access to their data. Other disruptions, such as power and internet outages, can also leave you without access to your data when stored in the cloud.

  • Security. Now this is an area that can be argued on both sides. In the virus/ransomware era of cloud computing, securing your data should be your number one priority. Cloud providers are a target for hackers, leaving some with the feeling that their data is more secure when stored in their own facility. Questions to ask a potential cloud provider include: “What measures have they taken to protect your data from the next cyber-attack?” And “Could another customer’s threat affect your data?” On the other hand, some cloud providers offer real-time security updates and patches; but be sure to verify that it’s included in your monthly service or your data may be vulnerable.

No matter how you feel about it, cloud computing and storage is here to stay. When deciding whether it makes sense to migrate your company’s infrastructure to the cloud, be sure to weigh all the factors involved and clearly understand the benefits of each. Don’t jump on the cloud bandwagon simply because everyone else is; but don’t ignore it simply because you may be unfamiliar with how it works. Ultimately, your decision should support your anticipated growth and add to the productivity, profitability, and success of your company.