Posts Tagged ‘cloud’

It’s a New Year!

Posted on: January 1st, 2014 by jiml | No Comments

Happy New Year to everyone from the team at Colden Company! We wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2014. Last year at this time, we wrote a blog posting about how 2013 could be the year of the cloud for many of our customers.  Certainly we saw activity in that direction and we see continued movement toward cloud-based applications.  One of the unanticipated stories of the year was the NSA spying scandal and how our very own government has been spying on us and most of our largest cloud vendors like Google, Microsoft and many more.

Computerworld – U.S. cloud firms face backlash from NSA spy programs

These revelations made many who were considering the cloud to ask the question “How secure is my data in the cloud?”  The answer to that is not as simple as we once thought. It is now clear that our government has the ability to hack very high levels of encryption.

NY Times – N.S.A. Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web

Many cloud solutions can offer higher levels of security than businesses can afford to provide themselves.  On the flip side of that coin, large hosting providers are more likely to be targeted by hackers or governments.  Hence they are bound to be targeted by more sophisticated attacks by the law of averages.  Does that make your data safer or less safe in the cloud?

The answer is, of course, it depends on what you are comparing it to. How secure is your internal infrastructure should you choose an on-premise solution? What are the costs of bringing the internal security up to a sufficient level to be comparable?  The answer to these questions can push a business in one direction or another.  Of course, there are other considerations besides security to base a decision on.  Usability, manageability, disaster recovery, feature sets, and application integration are all notable factors that can greatly impact the final decision to use the cloud or not. All are topics we could spend time discussing, but will defer to another date in favor of a discussion on cloud security.

There are new security questions to ask when considering the cloud as a place to store our important data.  “Who do we want to protect our data from?” is now a legitimate question to ask. The thought that we have to protect our data from our own government’s spying is a terrible affront to our rights but a topic for another forum.  From a technology perspective, we want to protect our data from our competition, hackers, and in general anyone who should not have access to it.  As we mentioned previously, cloud solutions are a double-edged sword and proper vetting of your cloud vendors is a must. Not all vendor solutions are equal in terms of functionality let alone security.  The next logical question is “What data are we protecting?”  Are we protecting sensitive data like credit card numbers, social security numbers, financial or health information?  Those protecting what we would term as “sensitive information” need to take extra precautions with that data.  The type of data is a factor in determining the required levels of data security. Also consider that there is a big difference between protecting data “in-transit” versus protecting stored data. Data in-transit is more susceptible to wiretapping such as that used by the NSA as opposed to stored data, exposure of which would require a direct attack on the data centers of hosting or service providers.

Colden Company is still a proponent of certain cloud solutions and the NSA scandal has not changed our view. The cloud is not going away, nor is it for everyone.  Each business brings a unique set of circumstances, and while security of your data is a discussion to have, it is far from the only discussion. The important thing is to have the discussion. The best decisions are informed ones. If 2013 was the year of the cloud, let’s make 2014 the year of security!

Need help getting the conversation to the secure cloud started or finding a solution to secure your data – no matter where it resides?  Call on us at Colden Company today.  We can be reached at (888) 600-4560 or at info@coldencompany.com.   Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@coldenco) as well!  Happy New Year All!







What Kind of Cloud Does Your Business Have?

Posted on: June 28th, 2013 by jiml | No Comments

Cloud computing and its place in the business world can be a confusing topic for even the most IT-savvy business people. Should we be using the cloud?  What should we be using the cloud for? Is it cost-efficient for our business to use the cloud?  These are all legitimate questions that business decision makers face every day.  The wrong decision can turn your cloud into a thunder cloud for the business!

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Which is your cloud?

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At Colden Company Inc., we have experience helping businesses not only implement cloud solutions, but in helping businesses decide on which cloud services are a fit for their business. We can help you navigate around the clouds, to stay with the analogy. Our role as trusted advisor to our clients is one we take pride in; after all if our customers are doing well, we do well.  Our customers think of us as an extension of their business and as their “Virtual CIO,” if you will.

Our position in favor of email in the cloud has been regularly communicated in our blog postings, so it should be no surprise where we stand on that topic.  Email needs to be highly available – which the cloud provides – and it does not require the same persistent connection that many line of business (LoB) applications require, making it a great fit. There are many options for email in the cloud and we have advised our customers on a range of solutions from Google Apps to Office 365 to Hosted Exchange. Each has it benefits and Colden Company can deliver any of these solutions to your business with the skill and expertise needed to reduce downtime and maximize efficiency.

Office 365 in particular has been generating interest because of its inclusion of Microsoft Office 2013 licensing in its offerings. In fact, each license of certain versions of Office 365 allows installation of Office 2013 on up to five computers. Microsoft Office becomes a subscription-based purchase rather than an up-front out-of-pocket expense as it has been traditionally. As with any Microsoft product, there are a confusing range of options to navigate when considering Office 365.  Our experts can help.

Email and productivity applications are only scratching the surface; there is a wide range of services that can be moved to the cloud. Colden Company can help your business move, for example, your phone system, shared file storage, backups, and even comprehensive disaster recovery to the cloud. Cloud alternatives to traditional on-premises solutions are easier to manage and maintain and require significantly less up-front investment. Cloud solutions bring formerly enterprise-class IT services into the range of affordability for small and medium businesses.

If your business is not utilizing the cloud effectively and you would like assistance turning that thunder cloud into a fair weather cloud, contact us today at (888) 600-4560 or at info@coldencompany.com, or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.







Put Your Money Where It Counts

Posted on: April 30th, 2013 by jiml | No Comments

Technology in a business for the sake of technology is not an effective strategy. Technology should be used for only two things:

1)      Improve efficiency and other revenue generating tasks

2)      Reduce risks and other expense lowering tasks

Businesses can be more profitable only in these two manners – either increasing revenue or decreasing costs.  A lot of technology advertising is focused on the first point and perhaps rightfully so.  Improvements in technology do bring efficiencies and opportunities for revenue generation.  The second point is perhaps of greater value.  A dollar saved has a greater impact on your bottom line because there is no assosciated cost to generating that dollar, consider savings a “force multiplier.” We will spend time talking about how thinking about your technology  differently can lower your expenses, so you can put your money where it counts!

Hardware and software expenses are a necessary evil in many cases.  Although you can mitigate some expenses with cloud computing, there still needs to be end points for users to work on.  One way to reduce costs is to buy in bulk.  If you are a small business, perhaps you do not have the opportunity to do so. In that scenario partnering with Colden Company Inc. can benefit your business.  Colden Company does larger volumes of equipment purchasing and is eligible for discounted pricing on desktops, laptops, network equipment, and software. Why not save on your next purchase?

Another method of saving is through the use of automation. Colden Company customers benefit from automated task to keep their technology environment running at peak efficiency and also reducing support costs. Colden Company uses technology to automate as much as practically possible on our clients’ networks with the idea of working toward networks that not only detect problems, but are programmed to respond and repair, thus lowering support costs. One common example is PCs that experience decreased performance over time due to file build up that require a support call to fix with other vendors. The use of automation to prune that file build up can improve the performance, reduce the frequency of support calls, freeing up money so you can put your money where it counts!

A third way to reduce costs is by planning.  Colden Company distinguishes itself from the competition by providing a variety of planning services such as our life cycle planning process. This process allows our customers to plan ahead and budget for expenses while making qualified decisions about their infrastructure.  For example, a business may have a policy to renew the hardware maintenance on the office desktops and laptops. That seems like a noble and well considered policy. At Colden Company Inc., our approach is different.  We do not advocate for such blanket policies.  Our advice is to determine which workstations (laptops and desktops) are deemed important and critical and which ones are unimportant.  The unimportant PCs do not need extended hardware maintenance agreements as long as there is a backup or spare PC that could fill its role without needing too much time and expense to transition it into a production role. The exercise of planning can yield savings in an example like this. Put your money where it counts!

Finally, as previously mentioned, cloud services can offer savings for businesses.  The use of hosted solutions can not only eliminate the upfront costs of server hardware but also pay dividend down the road with reduced maintenance, reduced power consumption, and reduced risk.  For example, Colden Company Inc is a supporter of email in the cloud. The stability of guaranteed uptime for such a critical communication method is just one of several reasons why email is the perfect application for the cloud. But did you also know that many Hosted Exchange solutions like the one offered by Colden Company include Microsoft Outlook licensing? As Microsoft releases new versions, your software licenses upgrade along with it without having to repurchase.  In addition, in a cloud model, software is often delivered as a service, meaning if you have ten users in January you pay for ten users.  If you have five users in February, you pay for five users. In a traditional model, you would buy ten licenses in January and then have five unproductive copies around in February that you paid for but are now not being used.  The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model can generate savings particularly if your business has fluctuations in staffing levels.  Isn’t that right, accounting and construction firms? Why put money into licenses that you are using?  Put your money where it counts!

Contact Colden Company today at (888) 600-4560 or at info@coldencomany.com, or visit us on Facebook or Twitter and see how we can help your business put your money where it counts!







Your Voice in the Cloud

Posted on: January 30th, 2013 by jiml | No Comments

There has been much talk about the migration to the cloud and how cloud technology will reshape the technology sector.  In fact, our very own blog posting last month spoke to the benefits of the cloud.  Like anything else, no one solution is a perfect fit for every business and certainly the cloud is not a ubiquitous solution to all businesses’ IT issues.  The cloud has a place.

The real question is “what is that place for your business?” In our past postings we spoke to the advantages of email in the cloud.  Colden Company offers several options ranging from Google Apps to Hosted Exchange to Office 365.  Email is a natural fit and a good place for the cloud to benefit most businesses. We have also spoken about Line of Business (LoB) applications and file data and considerations for both of those when contemplating the cloud.

The cloud can also have a place in your business for areas like hosted phone service.  In today’s business climate, having a reliable and broadly functional phone system is a real advantage. Missed calls mean missed opportunities.  There is so much functionality available from hunt groups, to cell phone integration, to voice and fax messages in your email inbox that businesses can and should be taking advantage of.  Integration with instant messaging (IM) tools like Microsoft Lync can really improve internal communication as well as communication with partners and vendors. Hosted PBX should be considered as a place where the cloud can benefit your business, not just because of the feature rich options, but also because often times the solution leads to a reduction in monthly recurring costs and a dramatic reduction in capital costs for the business.

Are you happy with the functionality of your phone system?  Is it integrated with your IT systems the way you would like?  Do you have your remote offices linked into your phone system seamlessly? Are you paying too much per month for phone service? These are considerations your business should be thinking about.

As we like to say at Colden Company “If your business is running the same way it was a few years ago, you are not staying the same, you are falling behind.”   Contact us today to find the right place for the cloud in your business.  We can be reached at (888) 600-4560 (which is in the cloud), at info@coldencompany.com (which is in the cloud), or on Facebook and Twitter (@coldenco) (all cloud!).

(BTW, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for more informative posts!)







The Year of the Cloud

Posted on: December 30th, 2012 by jiml | No Comments

We have a saying at Colden Company Inc. which is “If you are running your business the same way you were two or three years ago, you are not staying the same – you are falling behind.”.  Your competition is not standing still, and unless your business is progressing as well, it is not keeping up.

Technology is one of the variables that can help make your business successful or cause it to fall behind. At Colden Company Inc., we specialize in bringing pertinent technology into businesses to help keep their competitive edge. It is important to realize that all the technology in the world will not make your business successful on its own.  Technology is a piece that compliments business directives.  It is important that the business directives are the drivers – not the other way around.

One of the reasons we often hear from businesses for maintaining the status quo is uncertainty. The business environment is uncertain and the rapid change in technology can also lead to uncertainty about which direction to take.  We have seen many businesses hold off on upgrades because of financial uncertainty and the byproduct of that is risk to the business because of older or more frequently unstable technology.  This increases short term maintenance costs but saves the larger investment dollars.

Businesses are longing for certainty. Cloud technology can help bring more certainty to monthly costs and also reduce the large upfront costs that accompany traditional on-premise upgrades.  According to research at Gartner, 80% of businesses are already using some type of cloud-based service.  If you are a regular reader of our blog postings, you already know that we feel email is a great application to migrate to the cloud. In today’s world of mobile devices, there are many ways to send and receive email, leaving your business not dependent on the office Internet connection for availability. From a technical perspective, email does not require as much of a persistent connection as line of business (LOB) applications, making it a natural fit for the cloud.  In addition, the consistent monthly recurring cost (MRC) brings that certainty that businesses need. Many cloud services include license upgrades as newer products are released, further reducing the periodic large expenditures that on-premise solutions are prone to.

If your business is looking for certainty and you have found yourself standing still over the last couple years, then 2013 is the Year of the Cloud! Colden Company has successfully assisted customer in this type of migration and we would be happy to provide our expertise to your business.  Call us at (888) 600-4560, or via email at info@coldencompany.com.  Find us on Facebook and Twitter (@coldenco) as well.







Email: Into the Cloud!

Posted on: February 29th, 2012 by jiml | No Comments

There has been a lot of discussion about cloud computing in recent years and major companies like Google and Microsoft are investing millions of dollars into competing for that space. At Colden Company Inc., we are often asked about the cloud and whether or not our clients should consider the move into a cloud environment. The answer to the question “is the cloud good for my business?” is, of course, “it depends”. It is important to review what line-of-business (LOB) applications that your business relies on and whether or not cloud options are available and an improvement over traditional on-premise applications. Obvious benefits to cloud solutions include improved business continuity, less upfront hardware expense, and fewer ongoing maintenance expenses, while downsides include reliance on a stable Internet connection for access to data and perhaps decreased performance of certain applications.

In general terms, we prefer our data files stored locally, but backed up to the cloud. This insures fastest access and the safety of having a backup in the cloud, protecting against a site-level disaster. We prefer our email in the cloud for reasons will we discuss shortly and we prefer to examine our LOB applications on a case-by-case basis. Let’s focus on email since we feel it is a great cloud application.

Cloud applications rely on Internet connectivity so having a solid connection is vital. In today’s mobile computing world, email comes not only to PCs and laptops but also to smart phones and tablets. These devices often use 3G or 4G connections which are really separate Internet connections than the office network, providing a layer of redundancy in case the office Internet goes down. Secondly, email is not an application that requires a 100% persistent connection and is not as large a bandwidth user as many LOB applications. These two points make email a natural fit for the cloud.

Many people think that cloud email will only offer a reduced feature set as was evidenced by Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access for many years. This is no longer the case. Microsoft Hosted Exchange, Office365, and Google Apps for Business offer fully functional and web-based feature sets compared to on-premise solutions. With both the Microsoft and Google offerings, you can even continue to seamlessly use your local Outlook client while realizing the benefits of the cloud. Reduced functionality is no longer a reason to stay out of the cloud.

Email is just so critical to business today that having the guaranteed up-time that many cloud services provide is a great way to ensure the reliability of this critical business tool. Google and Microsoft both commit to a Service Level Agreement (SLA) of greater than 99.9% for their business cloud offerings. Cloud email is secure and reliable, making it a great fit for such an important business tool.

Finally, no evaluation would be complete without considering costs. Studies have shown that cloud email has less up front cost and in many cases, lower long term costs for the business as a result of less maintenance and fewer lost hours in productivity. With a cloud-based solution for your email, expenses are stable and predictable – both very attractive traits to business owners.

Are you interested in hearing more about how your business can migrate its email to the cloud? Contact Colden Company Inc. at (888) 600-4560, info@coldencompany.com, see us on Facebook or Twitter @coldenco.






Microsoft announces Office 365

Posted on: November 30th, 2010 by jiml | No Comments

Microsoft announces Office 365, a new service that brings familiar applications, including Office desktop software and Office Web Apps, together with SharePoint, Exchange and Lync in the cloud, for the first time.

In October 2010, Microsoft unveiled a new product offering called Office 365. While the Office 365 brand is new, the actual products behind it are not – Microsoft Office (the most popular productivity software in the world), Microsoft Exchange (email, calendar, contacts, collaboration, etc.), Microsoft SharePoint (web-based collaboration), and Microsoft Lync (instant messaging, conferencing, telephony, etc.). The most important distinction is that Office 365 is a cloud-based solution and offers options that are a good fit for businesses of all sizes. In Microsoft’s words, “Office 365 is more than a new brand. It’s a progressive approach to cloud applications,” said Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division. “We designed Office 365 to work for a business of one – or a business of one million and one.”

Office 365 is not the first time Microsoft has provided cloud-based productivity solutions. BPOS, Business Productivity Online Suite, which included Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online is Microsoft’s current cloud business productivity suite.  Office 365 will be Microsoft’s marquee cloud solution, updating the technologies in BPOS, Office Live Small Business, Live@edu (hosted email, calendar, and contacts for educational institutions), and Office Web Apps. The key difference in Office 365 is that Microsoft is consolidating these formerly disconnected services under a single brand and a single scaling pricing and licensing structure. From a customer’s standpoint, Microsoft is simplifying their menu of options while increasing the flexibility that customers have in choosing the package that is right for them.

Microsoft has been working to move their business productivity solutions into the cloud for years, all while dealing with rapid advancements in the cloud space by competitors such as Google (Google Apps) and IBM (LotusLive). Cloud solutions offer huge benefits to Microsoft and its competitors. Cloud solutions reduce the cost of producing software products because there is no physical product to manufacture, ship, sell, etc.. Cloud solutions improve the ability of a software developer to make incremental changes and improvements (particularly security patches) to their software without maintaining a costly infrastructure to deliver updates to locally-installed software products. And, of course, cloud solutions offer a source of recurring revenue to software companies because they now charge for software on a subscription basis.

The benefits of cloud solutions are not only for the manufacture; customer can reap huge rewards as well. With Office 365, Microsoft can provide their technology to customers on a more frequent basis, while customers save money at the same time – typically anywhere from 10-50% when considering licensing, administrative costs, etc. Today, the average mid-sized company only upgrades Office every six to seven years.  With Office 365, they can always be on the cusp of the next wave in productivity-boosting technology.

Consider a small sample of the benefits of cloud solutions.

  • Less in-house IT infrastructure reduces cost, complexity, and risk.
  • Reduced burden of tracking software licenses; you only pay for what you need, and all licenses are tracked based on your online purchase.
  • Lowered administrative burden of locally-installed software; you no longer need to worry about when or if you should upgrade Office to the next major version, how much the upgrade will cost, how much of an impact and downtime the upgrade will impose on your staff, whether or not you have all the latest security patches applied, etc.
  • Your data is protected, private, and secure at all times. Consider this: is your data more protected and secure on a server in the office with tape or disk backups, or in one of Microsoft’s geo-redundant industry-leading data centers at multiple locations across the globe?

Microsoft understands that customers want choices.  With Office 365, Microsoft offers a range of options from basic email for $2 per user per month to a complete enterprise solution for $27 per user per month that includes full Office Professional Plus desktop software, along with Office Web Apps; the most advanced versions of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online; 24×7 phone support; advanced IT administrative controls; and on-premises use rights for voice. Microsoft is not limiting customers’ choice by restricting higher-end options to a minimum license purchase; even sole proprietors can opt for the enterprise-level Office 365 and enjoy all its benefits.

Office 365 is currently in very limited beta. Microsoft Partners, such as Colden Company, are learning about the service and rapidly getting up to speed on behalf of their customers. When available, Colden Company can assist your business in migrating to Office 365 and administering it on an ongoing basis, allowing you to focus on your business and less on your technology. For more information, visit the Office 365 website or read the Office 365 press release.

If you’re interested in Office 365 or any other Microsoft technologies mentioned in this newsletter, Colden Company can help. Please contact us at 518-885-2857, toll-free at 888-600-4560, email to info@coldencompany.com, or on Twitter for assistance with Microsoft or any of your business computing needs.


Options for Business in Uncertain Economic Times

Posted on: November 1st, 2010 by jiml | No Comments

As we prepare our budgets for 2011 and evaluate the business needs, there are some extenuating circumstances that should be considered.  The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 allows for greater write-off of capital expenses, which means less tax for your business. Please see the following links to get complete understanding of the ramifications of this legislation.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/09/27/president-obama-signs-small-business-jobs-act-learn-whats-it

http://www.sba.gov/jobsact/

Unfortunately, computers and networks do not care about the economy.  They age and fail regardless of the economic climate surrounding them.  There are options that should be considered so that your business is not left with failing infrastructure during difficult times. 

  • Leasing is often a forgotten option.  Equipment and certain services can be leased over time eliminated the upfront cash expenditure. 
  • Cloud-based services such as Software as a Service or Backup as a Service also can help reduce the upfront costs by eliminating the hardware expenditures and using the cloud for that purpose.
  • Virtualization can also reduce on-going maintenance costs by reducing hardware and better utilizing the existing hardware. For example, in our own office we have reduced the number of physical servers by 50% by virtualizing which has reduced our hardware maintenance costs.

In uncertain economic times it can be difficult to justify upgrading your technology infrastructure, but it can be even more costly when equipment fails when your business needs it most. There are responsible options for organizations who cannot afford to have that happen.

July 2010: Cloud Computing

Posted on: June 30th, 2010 by jiml | No Comments

One of the technology buzz words that has been in the news over the past year is cloud computing.  What is cloud computing?  The true meaning is Internet-based computing where applications and computing resources are provided as services through a distributed and massively scalable network of hardware and network resources.  In a nutshell, computer services are provided like electricity is provided; it comes from somewhere outside of your organization and is paid for on-demand.

The benefit of cloud computing is that organizations no longer need to support the server infrastructure that is normally necessary to provide email, database services, CRM, backups, etc.  The misconception is that the server architecture is not out there somewhere – it is.  There is still hardware behind the application servers, but someone else is maintaining and supporting it.  So the first question to ask, when someone is pitching you cloud services is “Who is behind the cloud supporting it?”  If you do not know that answer, beware! Many cloud providers will offer SLAs (Service Level Agreements) which provide you guarantees related to uptime, performance, and other key indicators.  These are important documents to understand and review if your organization is considering a cloud-based solution.

There is no doubt that there are many benefits of the cloud computing approach for businesses. Both large and small businesses can benefit in different ways. Large companies can transfer the risk of large complicated infrastructure to IT professionals who are paid to handle it.  Small companies can avoid spending large amounts of money on hardware by using cloud services. Businesses of all sizes can benefit by shifting the cost of their computing infrastructure from capital to operating budgets.

If you have questions about how cloud computing may work for your organization, please contact us at 518-885-2857, info@coldencompany.com, or http://twitter.com/coldenco.