Monday, 30 November 2009

Windows Azure - Do You Run The Risk?

With the launch of Windows Azure into the Cloud computing marketplace, do CIO's and CFO's run the risk of having the wool pulled over their eyes, in their desire to reap the benefits of Cloud computing?

What I mean is, if organisations are tasking their IT teams to move into the Cloud, do they truly know what does get moved into the Cloud and ALL the benefits the organisation should enjoy as a result?

If the mission tasking is based on the supposition that cost savings can be made by running applications in the Cloud, then one needs to be a bit clearer about what aspects of Cloud computing are to be exploited.

The media are getting more specific about what the Cloud is; Infrastructure, Platform and Software -as-a Service (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, respectively). But for the Executives, here in comes the risk of Azure.

On the face of it, Azure might offer a cost benefit as a PaaS, but the move or redevelopment of legacy Windows applications to Azure may be an iceberg in your cost reduction strategy.

Software-as-a-Service has an attraction, in that it delivers all the functionality of an application for the masses. Organisations have moved to this type of service, after they have realised that all the customised application development they have undertaken to deliver their bespoke application in the past, had delivered no more of a return than if they had taken an off-the-shelf package in the first place. A SaaS application might not be perfect in all its functionality, but if it will deliver over 70% of ALL the features you require, and the core of the functionality is very user-friendly, you will achieve a very high level of adoption and deliver a quantifiable return. If you want to customise the SaaS application thereafter, you can do in typically 20% of the normal development time.

So, before you let your IT teams go running off and start redeveloping your Windows applications to be able to run on Azure, in the Cloud. Take the time to assess what's out there as SaaS, and take the opportunity to ditch some of those burdensome applications that have cost you dearly, so that the exploitation of the Azure platform is cost effective and delivers new efficiencies for the organisation.

Understand what PaaS is all about, what you want to redevelop onto the platform and take the opportunity where necessary to subscribe to a SaaS application if it will offer a more cost effective, efficient and productive solution.

cloudfortyseven - 01344 454333

Friday, 2 October 2009

Are You Or Your Company Doing Something Illegal?

As I get around to visit more organisations talking about Cloud computing, the same well answered concerns get brought up.

Most people assume that you shouldn't put your data outside the UK and what about the security of the data?

The answers are simple. All the major Cloud vendors have Safe Harbor policies that comply with both the US and EU Data Protection acts. Many people forget that their own personal banking data is already handled offshore for the purposes of processing. So why should it be any different for your company data?

Similarly, you can well imagine that these major Cloud vendors are prime targets for all manner of hackers, phishers etc.. You should reassure yourself that your data is most probably substantially better protected that you could ever achieve. When was the last time you really proactively monitored your network security, or put security patches on in a timely fashion? If your Cloud supplier is SAS70 type II audited, then you have got all bases covered. They're betting their business on securing your data. So, despite being prime targets, they are most probably managing their network security by the minute and security patching will not be a 'to do' list item.

The other concern is about having security agencies, accessing your data without your knowledge. If you have not got something to hide, why should you be worried? The security agencies aren't going to use your data for competitive advantage! So long as you advise your client of how you are handling their data, then they can advise you of their concerns and storage of their data can be provisioned elsewhere.

Microsoft, IBM, Salesforce and Google all have data centres in the European Union, as well as in other regions of the world. It is very easy to be reassured that your data is safe in their hands, and you as the responsible data owner only need to be concerned that the data is managed and handled in compliance with any company policies or regulatory requirements relevant to your business.

Sleep easy, Cloud computing is well protected and you can include it as part of your IT strategy.

Friday, 18 September 2009

It's All So Simple - When You Know How

I marvel at the technological world we all now live in. Nothing is impossible, and everything is available, now.

Software technology is no longer exciting, there are no more 'killer apps' to solve your every business problem.

What we now have is an open technological world. It's all been simplified so we can point and click our way to the solutions we each believe will fix our problems. But even in this simplified world why can't we do certain things? It comes down to two things - knowledge and skills.

I can't imagine what the world would be like if we were all brainiacs. But because we are not, we are dependent upon each other. We are all unique, despite each of us being able to categorise ourselves into stereotypical pigeon holes.

We work and socialise with certain groups because of unique characteristics. Those characteristics are the creation of skills and knowledge.

We have got where we are today by working as individuals and as part of teams we have created to achieve particular tasks. We are Team-World, (for all it's good and bad parts).

We as individuals might have the vision of a solution, but have neither the skills or the knowledge to realise it. So we team with people who can help use their skills and knowledge to achieve. In-house or externally, it doesn't matter, but we do need each other.

When you have a business problem, you don't know it all. So, get to know the team around you and any other 'teams' who have the skills and knowledge that can fulfil your needs.

It's that simple, when you know how.

team - cloudfortyseven

Friday, 14 August 2009

To Google Apps Or Not To Google Apps? That Is The Question

It's free or very cost effective, say the analysts. Google Apps, that is.

So what is it, and who will use it?

Well, its a suite of productivity applications containing a word processor, spreadsheet, email and website (internal or simple types) applications. If you are not concerned about service levels or having a Gmail email address, then use it for free.

Many businesses (ours included!) are paying the nominal annual per user fee of $50 to get a service level and use their own domain name in the email service.

Email to me is ubiquitous, so long as I can download onto an email client and have web access, the rest of its functionality is fairly academic.

The other applications, I would suggest from personal experience, are more user sensitive. Most productivity applications have hundreds of great features, which we all use differently. We have become familiar with them, we know the short-cuts and they are second nature to us.

Organisations need to be aware that while products appear very similar, they are not the same. Move too quickly to achieve the substantial savings over the Microsoft Office software license, and any savings will be dwarfed by a more intangible but real cost of lost productivity and reduced staff morale.

To deploy Google Apps to a first time IT or productivity tool user, is not a problem. They don't know any different. But for established and experienced users, if there is no transition training or support given, it can be painful. Familiar features, may not behave in the same way and such like. Bang goes your user productivity and morale. (Think what it is like to change to a different model of car, they have the same features lights, indicators etc,. It's a while before you drive and handle the car by second nature).

So, if you want to take advantage of the substantial cost savings of Google Apps, then invest a little time with a user group to understand the differences. You can then identify any training needs or create knowledge tips to help smooth the transition.

Due diligence is not just a process that is used in mergers and acquisitions, it has a place in any aspect of change. The cost in lost productivity and staff morale is far greater than any cost in planning correctly for change.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Quality of Service is Everything!

Quality of Service (QoS) is a big thing in the world of I.T. and even more so now in the era of cloud computing. Microsoft, IBM and cannot afford to allow the QoS to drop for a second, especially in a multi-tenanted cloud environment. Too many people will be instantly affected, and many will consider looking for a service provider that can give them better QoS. Anything below 99.9% and these vendors start throwing money at you to apologise (not literally, but your subscription charges will be reduced next month).

It's a shame that when we want to relax, that some people don't realise that QoS is the life blood of their business.

I had a very pleasant birthday treat recently, and spent the day at a health spa doing absolutely nothing but reading newspapers from cover to cover. It was very theraputic.

On the way home, my wife and I decided to pop into a gastro-pub that we had visited before, to grab a quick bite to eat and have a drink. My wife popped up to the bar to order drinks and food, and so started our quality of service challenge.

Bear in mind the current Swine flu pandemic. Whilst waiting to order, she observed the barman have an almighty sneeze into both hands. He apologised to those waiting, and then went straight to cutting up strawberries for somebody's Pimms. (Do not got to the sink, do not disinfect your hands, just proceed to handling customers food with your germ-ridden hands!).

My wife ordered our drinks and food, and made a note to speak to the duty manager before we left, regarding her observation. Our food arrived, but sadly that was lacking in quality. In due course,
a member of staff came by and asked if everything was OK? We replied that the food was well below it's normal high quality. The young lady then went into all the reasons as to the probable causes for the poor quality, before taking it back to the kitchen, (no offer to immediately replace it).
She returned a short while later to brief us on the thorough forensic analysis that had been done on the said food, but there was no apparent reason for the poor quality. Would we like a fresh portion or a refund?

We decided as time was rapidly passing by to have the refund, and asked if there was a manager on duty. There were a few, she informed us and proceeded to start describing them to us. We cut to the chase and asked to see one of them.

One of the many duty managers arrived, and we explained about the bar issue. The duty manager acknowledged that was very bad practise and would speak to the member of staff. She also said that the Pimms drinks didn't get served in the end. We observed that they did. She then went on to say, that the member of staff wouldn't have known better, as it was only his first day working in the bar. That surprised us, as he'd served us on many occasions previously!

Suffice to say, things were going from bad to worse, so we paid our bill (less the refund), and got out of the place never to return.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Perception Is Everything

It is my perception that Cloud computing is the next big thing in information technology, and another person's perception that it is limited, unsecure and unreliable.

Once we get a perception it can stick with us for a long time, sometimes years. We see something, form an opinion, and that's it our perception of an entire subject is cast in stone.

As change is a constant, we should always look to change our perceptions on all things, even if just to reaffirm them. I have watched Cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service evolve from the Application Service Provision of 10+ years ago.

10 years ago, I had a laptop but with a dial-up connection, there wasn't broadband just ISDN and email was the thing we all needed. 10 years ago, I thought ASP was a great idea, but I wouldn't have switched to it. Today, I come to you from the Cloud. I have a laptop and broadband and wireless and a mobile phone that's more powerful than my laptop 10 years ago. ASP has morphed into the Cloud, and I have morphed into a SaaS and Cloud user.

I've changed my perception, it was a great idea - but I wouldn't use it, and I still think it is a great idea and now I live by it.

Have you re-visited your perceptions lately?

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Marketing a New Concept

One of my Business Partners has a dilemma, how to get their new SaaS product found on Google Adwords, and get the correct leads.

For those unfamiliar with Adwords, you can subscribe to this Google marketing platform and specify keywords that you would like your advert to appear next to in the search results. Each time a user clicks on your advert, you are charged by Google dependent on the bids other advertisers placed to get their adverts listed as well. So, its a bit of an advert auction.

The concept of Adwords is great, you sign up, you specify your budget, identify your keywords, and hey presto you're advertising online! You can't overspend, because as soon as your budget is used up Adwords takes you out of the auction, until you top up again.

The challenge comes in trying to identify keywords that attract the right type of customer to click through the advert. That's the dilemma. Choose the wrong words, people click through, you get charged, they get to your site, realise it's the wrong thing and move off to another site.

So, in this particular case the company in question has an event networking SaaS application to enable visitors to register their profiles, look at other visitor profiles and click to meet them at the event, in a designated area and time. It's speed dating, but for business people.

The company in question want to target people who run events to subscribe to the service, register their events, allocate a meeting area and publicise this feature in their event marketing.

But what keywords will catch an event managers attention? 'Event Management software' attracts the totally wrong person, as that is IT geek stuff to manage their systems. You don't really want to use the word software, as there is none, it's software as a service.

Networking is not a new concept, but being able to see who is visiting an event and arrange to meet them at the event, in a designated area, is new. The system is fully automated, and allocates all your desired meetings within the parameters the users specify.

So, I throw down the gauntlet to you dear reader, visit the site and see if you can suggest what the keywords should be?

Friday, 15 May 2009

The Trust Pillar

This week in the UK has seen a flurry of publicity surrounding the expense claims of Members of Parliament, from all parties.

Most claims are related to allowances to which they are entitled as part of their jobs. But the scandal surrounds the inappropriateness of some of the expenses in relation to the claimants jobs.

The allowances have rules under which MPs should claim, but the publicity has come about as to the extent to which members have stretched the rules. In all rules there are written as well as implicit meanings, and the latter are entrusted to individuals to interpret them with good ethics and morals.

The episode has tarnished all MPs, and has further broken the trust we empower them with to represent us in Parliament. In a bid to win back that trust many MPs are now making public apologies and committing to paying back monies for inappropriate claim items.

Trust is a very powerful thing and a founding pillar of all civilised societies. People and businesses build their reputations on trust.

One company that has built it's business on trust is They knew that for them to be successful, people had to believe that their highly sensitive and valuable data would be safe and secure out in the cloud of the Internet. So, the company has to be transparent in its operations and set up a dedicated website - to show the performance of its systems and security state.

When you break people's trust, you can't win it back in an instant. The British MP's cannot believe that by offering to pay back expenses, that somehow people are going to start trusting them again. Trust has to be earnt, and companies such as run their business on it, for them to break that, in this on demand world, would be the death of them.

There are many SaaS and Cloud Computing companies and the first thing they have to win from potential customers is trust. You can almost forget all other aspects of the relationship in the shadow of that most important pillar.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Customer Service - It's a System Problem

I watched the BBC TV Watchdog programme on Monday 4th May and was amazed at some of the comments from BT, 3, Sky and Tiscali, all communications companies that the programme investigated over their answering of telephone calls. Sky was the winner with a wait time of 2 hours and 10 minutes!

What perplexed me about the responses was that all the call waiting issues were blamed on technology and not on call volumes. BT's system was slower than normal due to a recent system upgrade and the ensuing teething problems. Sky apparently could not take calls for a WHOLE day due to a telecoms problem. 3 had also just recently upgraded their systems and were experiencing problems.

Well, the programme made 100 telephone calls to each company over 3 days, and to me it is an amazing coincidence that several of them upgraded their systems at the same time!

So, two things were lacking. Either, the companies didn't have enough call centre operatives or they can't scale their call centre IT systems, to handle the call volumes. Based on their responses to the programme, the latter seems to be the 'problem'.

If I.T. was to blame then you don't do a system upgrade that is going to give you a worse system performance or roll out a system that hasn't been capacity tested. Similarly, all these communications companies shouldn't do their upgrades at the same time! Maybe they need to consider running Software-as-a-Service applications and or utilising Cloud Computing, both of these paradigms are designed to be highly scalable, resilient, responsive and have SLA's of at least 99.9%. If I was the managing director of these companies I'd be asking awkward questions of the CTO/CIO.

But why don't the companies admit, having seen the programme and all their responses, that it's a manpower issue and maybe there might be a system performance issue as a secondary cause. Their reasons for failure are too similar for them to be real.

Friday, 1 May 2009

The Lucky Penny

Well 24 hours can be a long time, and in my case a good time also.

My daughter found a penny on the walk to school and gave it to me. I said a single penny is a lucky penny, and so it was to be.

I previously mentioned that someone had 'nicked' the .com domain of the website name I was going to use, and what made it worse was I knew the person in question. I went to chase this person up, to see if he would let me buy the .com name off him, and thankfully after some intervention by a friend I am soon to have the domain transferred to me. So, with the .com, and .net domains secured let the website design begin.

No sooner than getting that good news, I get an email from one of my previous customers offering some temporary part time sales work. When you are in start up mode there is nothing better than the opportunity of some income to top up the coffers whilst you get up to speed.

To top the day off nicely, a contact who has helped me develop the brand name, then offered to do the logo design for me and we could sort out the pennies later. Nice one.

Suffice to say, the penny my daughter found has turned out to be lucky and is now safely secured on my study wall.

Long may the good luck continue.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Careless Talk Costs Lives

This was a poster campaign in the Second World War, and was to raise awareness of talking in public and of who might be listening around you.

After an event that occurred to me today, and thinking back to an incident at IBM, it is frightening to see what people will do in desperation.

Today, I went to register the .com, and .net domains for my next business venture only to find out that the .com domain had been registered only four days ago. That's the luck of the draw I hear you say. But what galled me was to find out that the registrant of the domain was none other than the work colleague of someone who had been guiding me with the company set-up. Suffice to say, we can only assume that this colleague over heard part of his telephone conversation outside the building, and decided to spite him by 'nicking' the domain name. So I'm having to deal with trying to buy the .com domain name for my purposes. Thankfully, I know the person concerned and hopefully get them to see sense and sell it to me for little or no profit.

As for the case in IBM. IBM sponsors certain Business Partners to have access badges to the public spaces in their buildings to allow smooth running of their community and facilitation of meetings. Apparently, a couple of years ago IBM had to withdraw all the Business Partner access badges after it was revealed in an investigation, that a Business Partner had acted upon information they had overheard between IBM'ers in a public space that lost them the deal, but won it for the Business Partner. Suffice to say that was a major breach of trust that cost the company financially, inconvenienced the whole Business Partner community and alienated the IBM sales teams toward working with partners.

So think about who's listening, next time you are having a conversation on a train, plane or in a public space.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Cloud Computing Gets A Much-Needed Reality Check - Plug Into The Cloud - InformationWeek

Cloud Computing Gets A Much-Needed Reality Check - Plug Into The Cloud - InformationWeek

I am working with former colleagues to set up a business to resell software as a service products, providing a range of consultancy, delivery and training services to compliment the associated products for our customers.

There is a lot of positive information to read about cloud computing and software as a service and this is a good article to see, it will help us to make sure our plan is real and how we develop the proposition for our potential customers.
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