Web Favourites Aug 18 2010

imageThis post is part of an occasional roundup of things that I read and found interesting. There won’t be a lot of comment from me, but hopefully you will find the links useful. Enjoy!

Interesting stuff I came across recently:

Could the Freemium model work in legal services? – I suspect most readers of this blog have already read this article. If you haven’t, I insist you go read it now. If you have read this article before, you should perhaps go back because there’s a really good discussion in the comments now.

Optimal Workloads for the Cloud – Bit of a geek post this one, but it captures beautifully in four simple graphics the kind of server demand profiles that are best suited to cloud computing. If you work in IT, this is a link worth saving.

Darwin’s Finches, 20th Century Business and APIs – An awesome slide deck drawing parallels between evolution theory, successful 20th Century business models and how you can apply those rules in a 21st Century, Web 2.0, Cloud Computing world.

Cloud Computing Explained

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What is Cloud Computing?

Put simply, Cloud Computing means that your computing resources live outside of your computer or physical premises.

What’s All the Fuss About?

Cloud computing is the key driver behind a new emerging economy based on lower costs and higher productivity than before: an economy holding great potential for smaller, agile businesses. The promise of the Cloud is that it enables all sizes of companies to benefit from the economies of scale that until now only large corporations could afford.

What is the Cloud?

The idea may seem strange at first, but the chances are that you are already using the Cloud if you use an online web editor for your website; host your website with a hosting company, or use a web analytics package to measure web hits. Even if you don’t have a website, the simplest forms of Cloud computing already give you remote access to your email, files, photos, online calendar, and instant messaging (IM).

Access to Data

The Cloud makes a lot of sense for those of us who can’t afford or don’t need our own server, but it can go further than that. For example, web conferencing and IM applications store your contacts and details online and can be accessed from any computer running the client software, or often with just a web browser. Email can managed from your PC, your phone or a web browser – any time, anywhere.

Applications in the Cloud

Stepping beyond basic data storage, cloud applications enable business systems such as finance and accounting packages, CRM or HR systems to run externally too. These kind of cloud applications together are called Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, and are typically accessed via a web browser.

The Upside

With your business applications hosted remotely, there are real cost and efficiency benefits.

  • No capital outlay on software or hardware
  • Predictable annual running costs
  • You have the peace of mind that your data is protected and backed up by a service that will not be affected by anything happening to you physical premises
  • Time and labour saving automatic upgrades that don’t need to be downloaded or paid for outside of the software subscription
  • The ability to grow and scale your IT systems easily as your business grows
  • And perhaps most important of all, you get to focus on what you do best: running your business, not running an IT operation

And the Downside

The potential risk of keeping company data externally is security. Most service providers take this risk very seriously and use highly-encrypted communications and storage systems – it’s worth checking when shopping for providers.

Consider too the financial risk: This is a young market with lots of new service providers competing for a share of the market. If your provider runs into financial problems, your service may be compromised. Check to see what protection you have in that situation.

There is also the imperative to be connected to the web when using SaaS applications – not always possible for the mobile worker or anyone who experiences broadband downtime for any reason.

How We Can Help

At Connectegrity we have partnered with Microsoft, one of the most stable and financially secure companies in the world,  to ensure the strictest security and resilience of all of our Cloud Computing offerings. All of our services include:

  • Built-in antivirus and spam filtering
  • Highly secure data access for users via HTTPS
  • Geo-redundant data centre architecture
  • 99.9% scheduled uptime backed by a financial guarantee

And, unlike some other vendors, we believe that the combination of Software plus Services (S+S) provides the best balance of benefits and risks. Unlike SaaS, you get the best of both worlds. Your data lives in the cloud, but smart client applications enable you to continue to work when disconnected, then automatically synchronise with the Cloud when you are next online. You don’t need to do anything at all!

(p.s. The image at the top of this post links to a great 3 minute video from Common Craft explaining Cloud Computing “in plain English”. It’s a great one to share around your company if you are trying to socialise the Cloud Computing concept).

Web Favourites Jan 10 2010

Frozen Britain Jan 2010 This is the first of what I hope will be a weekly or bi-weekly roundup of things that I read and found interesting. There won’t be a lot of comment from me, but hopefully you will find the links useful. Enjoy!

(The picture here is from NASA’s Terra satellite last week and show the extent of the snow and icy conditions on frozen Britain.)

Interesting stuff I came across this week:

A Case for Operating in the Cloud – “Microsoft’s ‘cloud’ enabled me to survive this downturn, will help me thrive in the upturn”. One law firm explain how they cut costs and moved to Exchange Online and SharePoint Online with Microsoft BPOS.

10 Things SharePoint can do for Your Law Firm – How to use SharePoint to “improve attorney effectiveness, deliver better client service and reduce costs”.

Why Some People Are Reluctant to Share – Rajesh Shetty explains the knowledge capture problem of KM tools: When something becomes obvious people tend to stop sharing.

Cloud Computing to Top IT Spending in 2010

Gartner has published it’s annual prediction of the Top 10 strategic IT investment areas. They are:

  1. Cloud computing
  2. Advanced analytics
  3. Client computing
  4. IT for green
  5. Reshaping the data center
  6. Social computing
  7. Security
  8. Flash memory
  9. Virtualization
  10. Mobile applications

Of those, cloud computing, social computing and analytics are core to the Connectegrity vision and strategy for professional service firms.

Here’s what Gartner goes on to say about why they are strategic investment areas in 2010.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a style of computing that characterizes a model in which providers deliver a variety of IT-enabled capabilities to consumers. Cloud-based services can be exploited in a variety of ways to develop an application or a solution. Using cloud resources does not eliminate the costs of IT solutions, but does re-arrange some and reduce others. In addition, consuming cloud services enterprises will increasingly act as cloud providers and deliver application, information or business process services to customers and business partners.

Advanced Analytics

Optimization and simulation is using analytical tools and models to maximize business process and decision effectiveness by examining alternative outcomes and scenarios, before, during and after process implementation and execution. This can be viewed as a third step in supporting operational business decisions. Fixed rules and prepared policies gave way to more informed decisions powered by the right information delivered at the right time, whether through customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) or other applications. The new step is to provide simulation, prediction, optimization and other analytics, not simply information, to empower even more decision flexibility at the time and place of every business process action. The new step looks into the future, predicting what can or will happen.

Social Computing

Workers do not want two distinct environments to support their work – one for their own work products (whether personal or group) and another for accessing “external” information. Enterprises must focus both on use of social software and social media in the enterprise and participation and integration with externally facing enterprise-sponsored and public communities. Do not ignore the role of the social profile to bring communities together.