Success stories

Our customers come in all shapes and sizes.

We work with organisations from all walks of life, with different ambitions and requirements. Explore how we’ve helped them reimagine everyday, and align technology with their culture and business goals.

5 reasons to use a CSP for your Microsoft 365 licensing

Here we explain why procuring your Microsoft 365 licensing via a CSP brings numerous benefits including no up front costs, pay-as-you-go billing and lots of added value from partner expertise.
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How to calculate the cost of cloud migration

How can you calculate the cost of cloud migration? Here we explain how a Cloud Economics Assessment provides the answers.
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Print anywhere with Universal Print on Azure

Printing setup and management has been a headache for IT Admins for many years. Moving printing into the cloud with Universal Print on Azure solves these headaches and has many other benefits. Find out more here >
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How secure is the cloud?

In this video, Gary Duke, answers the common question "How secure is the cloud?" and explains what a Shared Responsibility Platform means in the cloud.
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The future is virtual: benefits of moving to Azure Virtual Desktop

Azure Virtual Desktop (the new name for Windows Virtual Desktop) can completely transform the way a business does work. Moving to AVD has a plethora of benefits to any business, regardless of size. Learn more >
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What is a Microsoft Secure Score?

Microsoft Secure Score is a measurement of an organisation's security posture in the Microsoft 365 stack.
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Passwordless authentication: security and convenience with Azure AD

It may seem like security and convenience are mutually exclusive terms, but with the advent of passwordless authentication both are now possible. Find out more about methods of passwordless authentication and how they easily integrate with Azure Active Directory >
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Small business IT priorities 2021

Looking to 2021, SMBs need to set their IT priorities and leverage technologies to regain efficiency. We’ve listed those priorities here >
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microsoft cloud assessment

Why book a Microsoft Cloud Assessment?

Learn more about our Microsoft Cloud Assessment service and how it can help you become the business you want to be.
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cloud vs. on-premise

Cloud vs. on-premise: cost differences

Is cost a key driver in your IT decision making process? As with most business decisions, cost is inevitably a key consideration when choosing between different solutions. When it comes to your IT infrastructure, understanding the cost difference between cloud vs. on-premise IT solutions is an important factor. Here we look at the different costs involved in storing data, and compare cloud storage with on-premise servers. Are you ready for the cloud? Download our Cloud Readiness worksheet to find out > Cost differences between cloud vs. on-premise servers Start up costs It is clearly cheaper to opt for cloud storage over on-premise servers when considering start up costs. The cost of hardware, server room and power needed to implement on-premise storage is far greater than signing up to a cloud solution. Labour costs should also be factored in, setting up a new server and integrating it with your existing IT needs resources. Cloud storage is a clear winner if you’re starting from scratch. Maintenance costs Cloud providers are responsible for all upgrades, patching and other maintenance. You’re responsible for your on-premise servers. While your monthly cloud subscription fee pays for maintenance, as cloud providers use a shared service business model long term it’s a fraction of the cost of maintaining on-premise IT hardware. Day-to-day running costs for on-premise servers are mostly confined to power usage, however regular upgrades are needed to ensure optimal performance and therefore you need to factor in labour costs. Whether this is done by someone in-house, or an external IT technician, these costs add up considerably. Over time cloud storage is cheaper than on-premise. Security costs As with general maintenance, cloud providers are also responsible for implementing and maintaining appropriate security tools. Although it is your organisation’s responsibility for ensuring that data is protected, stored and managed in a compliant way. As well as the cloud provider’s your business may also need to implement security solutions which might range from basic security best practices to additional tools. On-premise servers are your responsibility to protect and ensure that security tools are fit for purpose. Cloud storage providers include IT security tools which may reduce overall costs. Cost of storage Here’s how cloud providers make their money. They charge for storage. While they’ll probably give away some free storage, many will offer between 5GB to 15GB free, many organisations need a lot more than that. On-premise servers are effectively free. Scalability costs Is your organisation growing and may need to increase its data storage? Here’s another cost where cloud storage wins hands down. The cost of increase data storage on-premise, if you’re operating at capacity involves those initial start up costs again. Buying hardware, installing it, having the physical space, an increase in power usage and additional maintenance costs. One of the cloud’s USPs is it’s scalability, you can upgrade your service at a click of a button for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new server. Cloud storage beats on-premise for scalability and respective costs. Legacy costs A major challenge for many organisations is their legacy IT infrastructure. When systems and hardware have been superseded with new technology, maintaining legacy IT infrastructure can be expensive and can limit IT’s ability to develop solutions that support the business proactively. Cloud providers are responsible for their technology and need to be innovative to be competitive. Many businesses choose to use a cloud provider to get access to technology they can’t afford to continually upgrade on-premise. Cloud wins with no legacy costs. Downtime and loss of productivity costs A cost that can be difficult to quantify but an important one. Any disruption to critical systems that causes downtime or a loss of productivity, costs organisations. Cloud providers are not immune from outages and other service disruptions, but on average on-premise solutions experience more downtime than the cloud. In fact, migrating to cloud solutions to reduce the risk of downtime is another common reason that businesses move their storage. Cloud providers use failover solutions to ensure business continuity, and any remedial costs are incurred by them. Cloud providers stipulate their commitment to service uptime and connectivity in Service Level Agreements, which are legally binding. They also set out how they will compensate customers if they fall short. However, it’s important to conduct a risk analysis when considering cloud storage which  includes the cost of downtime on your organisation. Cloud storage may not be risk free but remediation won’t cost your organisation. Total cost of ownership Try out Microsoft Azure’s Total Cost of Ownership Calculator here to get an estimate of the cost savings your organisation could make by moving from on-premise to the cloud. Ultimately, while the cloud offers many benefits and cost savings, it will depend on your organisation, internal capacity, the amount of storage required and your risk analysis whether it’s a better and cheaper solution for you. If you want to discuss any of the subjects raised in this blog post, please get in touch.
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What is Microsoft Azure and is it safe?

Many enterprises and SMEs are migrating their IT infrastructure to the Microsoft Cloud. Which begs the question "how secure is Azure?"
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What’s the difference between Microsoft Azure and Office 365?

In this post Chad Stigant explains the difference between Microsoft Azure and Office 365, what they do and whether you need both.
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5 reasons to use a CSP for your Microsoft 365 licensing

Updated: On 19th August 2021 Microsoft announced some changes to its Microsoft 365 licensing plans. As well as a price rise of between 10% and 20% per user per year, the ability to scale down your licence pool via your CSP will no longer be available. Instead your subscription term (monthly, annual or, soon, 3 year terms) will be enforced.

Why purchase your Microsoft 365 licensing, or Azure plans, via a Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) when you can buy direct from Microsoft? 

There are many benefits of using a CSP, here are our top 5: 

1: Licensing optimisation 

Choosing the right Microsoft 365 licensing plans for your organisation is not as straight forward as you might think. With Microsoft now rigorously enforcing its subscription terms, with only a 72 hour cooling off period after buying, it’s even more important to ensure you’re on the right plan/s.

A CSP / Microsoft Partner knows 365 licensing inside out, and has the experience of working with many other organisations who may have similar requirements to yours. We help you can identify the most cost licensing SKU, which may often be a combination of different plans to give you the right licensing levels. We also advise you on the most advantageous subscription term for your plans. For example, if your organisation has seasonal spikes or needs additional licences just a few months at a time, a monthly subscription term for some licenses will give you the flexibility you require. Whereas an annual term may be appropriate for your core team, with the associated cost savings of a longer fixed term.

2: Flexible billing 

No credit cards needed! A CSP will bill you for your cloud consumption – 365 licences and Azure consumption – on a monthly or annual basis, depending on your requirements. CSP agreements are also more flexible than a Microsoft EA or Open Licence, with shorter contract terms, lower (or no) penalties for adjustments, and no upfront licensing costs. 

3: Cost savings 

Going the CSP route unlocks opportunities to gain discounts on the RRP. A big win against paying direct. Potential discounts from RRP are dependent on your licensing requirements and may be greater if you are also procuring wraparound services from the CSP.  

A Microsoft 365 Licensing Health Check can also uncover further cost savings. You might find that you’re not using all the services covered by your plan and could potential switch to a different plan or initiate a user adoption programme so you do get the benefits of your cloud services. We often see organisations with an EA who can get all the services they need and use from a Microsoft 365 Business plan, at a much lower cost to the business. 

4: Licensing expertise 

With one partner looking after all your Microsoft 365 licences, you can draw on our expertise and skills to maximise the benefits of your technology investment. Tell us what your IT strategy is, and we will ensure your licensing is aligned to your goals. Our Microsoft licensing management service continuously monitors your licensing usage, managing your licence pool and making sure you’re not over-provisioned or under-utilising your resources.

5. IT support 

If you have an EA, your organisation has to provide 1st line IT support and then purchase support directly from Microsoft for escalation. With a CSP we become your 1st and 2nd line point of contact for the service, and already have a built-in escalation agreement to Microsoft for additional support, at no cost to your organisation. With a marketing-leading IT service desk, the support your users receive is best in class. 

Your CSP partner is also the point of contact for billing and subscription support and may also offer other services like Service Integration & Management, which will help you get the most from all the services you’re paying for. 

Find out if your organisation is on the right plan, book a Microsoft 365 Licence Health Check here >

Common questions about Microsoft Cloud Solutions Providers 

Will I still maintain Admin Control? 

Yes. You can still have full admin control over your Office 365 tenancy and Azure subscriptions. 

Can I migrate existing Azure Services to CSP Azure? 

Yes. We will first need to undertake a review of your environment to understand if there are areas that will not easily move e.g. Backup Vaults and Express Route. We then schedule some engineering time to move you to the new subscription. We aim to achieve this without loss of service. We would obviously discuss options for items that are not so easily moved between Azure subscriptions. 

Who will invoice me? 

Yes. We will invoice you monthly (unless you require annual billing). We get invoiced indirectly from Microsoft on a monthly basis for all the CSP spend attributable to our customers. We just take this data and generate an invoice for your specific spend. 

Do I need to sign any agreements? 

Yes. You will need to agree to the Microsoft Cloud Agreement. 

Can I license my on premises licenses via CSP? 

Yes. SQL Server, Windows Enterprise and User CALs are available through CSP. This gives the customer the ability to utilise Hybrid Use Benefit to run services on premises or in the cloud 

Can I change CSP provider? 

Yes. You are free to transfer to any other provider of your choice, but we hope our people-centric approach and focus on your user experience, alongside other services we deliver, are good reasons to stay. 

Can I leave CSP? 

Yes. If you have a monthly subscription term you can enter in any month of the calendar year and stop at any time. Remember, a CSP gives you the flexibility to alter your subscription, in numbers and services, per month. 

Will access to my tenancy or subscription be terminated if I do not pay my bill? 

Ultimately yes. But clearly we all want to avoid this situation. We follow normal processes to retrieve the money for services provided, but we are within our rights to terminate if your invoices are not being paid in a timely manner. 


As a Microsoft Gold Partner we can provide licensing and management for Microsoft 365 and Azure services. We also have specialist expertise in planning, migrating, monitoring, and managing on-premises, private, and multiple cloud provider environments. Speak to our team if you would like to learn more, or book a Microsoft 365 Licensing Health Check to find out whether we can save you money on your current licensing.

How to calculate the cost of cloud migration

One of the biggest concerns IT teams have about the cloud, is how much it will cost. In the video below Gary Duke highlights how a Cloud Economics Assessment will answer that question and more, including what workloads are best suited to the cloud and would be best staying on-premise. However, to understand whether migrating to the cloud will drive cost efficiencies, you need to start by knowing how much your current on-premise environment is costing your organisation.

When you know how much your on-premise hardware and software costs, you can then compare that against the cost of cloud migration and running your IT in the cloud.

The cost of cloud migration vs. on-premise costs

Calculating and comparing cloud versus on-premise comes with some challenges. Your on-premise environment is typically a CapEx model, whereas cloud resources subscribe to a OpEx-based cost model. 

For this reason it’s helpful to consider the lifespan of your upfront CapEx investment and compare against cloud costs over the same timescale. It’s not an exact science but will give you a baseline figure to get started with.

Lift & shift or refactoring?

Another consideration is whether you go for a lift & shift migration model where all apps and data are moved to the cloud ‘as is’. While this is a quick solution your apps might not get the full benefits of cloud features, including the cost efficiencies you may be hoping for. 

Alternatively, refactoring, where apps undergo architectural or coding changes before migration, is more complex and will incur more upfront costs but they will be more cost-effective to run in the cloud.

A Cloud Economics Assessment uncovers all the assets that currently sit on your network and visualises what they will look like in the cloud. From this you can understand whether a lift & shift approach is suitable, or if refactoring will deliver the ROI and business outcomes you desire.

Watch the video below to learn more, or get in touch with our team to discuss your organisation’s digital transformation journey:

Print anywhere with Universal Print on Azure

A relatively new addition to cloud computing family is cloud printing, specifically Universal Print on Microsoft Azure. While many of us would like to be an entirely paperless office, there are still scenarios where documents need to be printed, and some industries and companies still rely heavily on printing every day. Cloud printing brings your printing solution up-to-date, by managing your print infrastructure through cloud services.

Universal Print is a Microsoft 365 subscription-based service that enables simple, secure printing, whilst reducing time and effort for your IT team. It runs entirely on Azure and requires no on-premises infrastructure whilst allowing users to print from anywhere without the need to install drivers. It’s fully integrated with Azure Active Directory and supports single sign-on scenarios.

Although some new printers are Universal Print ready, older printers can easily be connected to Universal Print with a software connector that allows the necessary communication protocols.

Benefits of Universal Print on Azure

Regardless of how often a business uses print services, Universal Print has a host of benefits including:

Centralised management

Like most solutions that are deployed in Azure, one of the key benefits of Universal Print is the ability to have robust management capabilities through the Azure Portal. In the Azure Portal you can set up new printers, set up automatic conversion of documents, diagnose any problems, and view reports and insights into printer usage. Centralised management capabilities allow IT admins to manage all Azure functionality in one place without the need to be physically in the office space. This is particularly beneficial with the move to a hybrid work.

Insights into print environment

IT Admins also have access to reports and insights into their printing environment via the Azure Portal. These reports include the status of all printers and connectors, including any jobs that did not print. This allows Admins to diagnose issues quickly and easily. In the Universal Print Usage and Report page there are also reports stating how many print jobs have been sent, are pending, and are remaining in the tenant’s plan.

Print anywhere, effortlessly 

One of the benefits of moving a printing setup to the cloud is that it allows users to print from any device to any printer, regardless of where they are. Provided the printer has Universal Print capabilities, and the user is logged into their Azure Active Directory, they will be able to print. As there are no drivers to install, users can print from any device without going through the hassle of searching for a printer and installing the required drivers. Universal Print also allows location-based printing, so users can submit a print job to the closest printer that they are authorised to use.

The ability to print anywhere also presents an opportunity for remote workers to use their home printer and conform to the security policies of your organisation.

Increased security

In some organisations, printers can be a weak security link. Printers often require multiple ports to be open and therefore can be an attack point for executing malicious code or as an entry point for a threat actor to move laterally within the network. Moving printing to the cloud applies all the security benefits of Azure, including storage in accordance with Microsoft’s data management guidelines, the use of security groups, protected communication over HTTPs connections and backing by a X.509 certificate.

Universal Print on Azure has the potential to unblock the move to the cloud for companies with a complex legacy print setup. It has a range of benefits that suit end-users as well as IT Admins, does not require on-premises infrastructure and can make the move to a hybrid workplace smoother for many employees and businesses. 

If you want to find out more, please get in touch to see whether it’s a good fit for your organisation.

How secure is the cloud?

There is a common misconception that the cloud is not as secure as on-premise infrastructure. Even with a significant increase in cloud adoption over the last year, many organisations believe that keeping their data on site is safer than migrating it to the cloud.

In fact, you might find your data is more secure in the cloud. Protecting your data on premise is no easy task. A firewall doesn’t stop you getting hacked it’s the people who deploy that firewall and manage it that prevent data breaches. If you haven’t got the right in-house expertise, or cyber security services, your on premise infrastructure is vulnerable. Migrating your data to the cloud will provide many of the resources and skills you are currently missing. In Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, cloud assets accounted for 24% of breaches, compared to 70% of on-prem assets.   

Cloud providers like Microsoft give you access to cyber security tools, best practice and governance protocols, continually updating their solutions to protect customers from evolving threats. 

The cloud is still a target for cyber criminals 

Of course, the cloud is still a target. In 2020 cloud-based attacks rose by 630% between January and April, as cyber criminals took advantage of vulnerabilities created by the pandemic and remote work. The most common threat vectors for cloud-based attacks are compromised credentials and misconfigured cloud servers.

In the video below, Gary Duke explains how the cloud is a Shared Responsibility Platform so it’s down to you as a business to make sure that the access to your data and systems is secure. 

According to Verizon’s findings, misconfigurations are the fastest-growing risk to web application security. Misconfiguration errors have increased significantly since 2017, from below 20% to over 40% of total breaches covered; now more common than malware and outranked only by hacking.   

How to secure your data in the cloud 

To get the security benefits of the cloud it’s important to make sure your cloud is configured by experts, regularly audited, updated and patched. As Gary says, it’s a Shared Responsibility Platform so the configuration and management of the cloud is shared between your organisation and your service provider. 

If you’re a Microsoft customer using 365, check your Microsoft Secure Score to understand your organisation’s vulnerabilities across identity, devices, information, apps, and infrastructure. Find out more about Microsoft Secure Score here >

The future is virtual: benefits of moving to Azure Virtual Desktop

Before the days of cloud computing, virtual desktops were deployed by running VDI pods that end users would connect to and share the pod’s resources to run the operating system and business applications. This method of VDI often resulted in a poor experience for the end users due to the performance impact of sharing resources, and a costly endeavour for companies having to update the pod’s architecture as applications became more resource intensive. The move to cloud computing has vastly improved the VDI experience for end users and businesses alike, as there is no need for expensive, outdated on-premises hardware.

Azure Virtual Desktop (formerly Windows Virtual Desktop) is deployed through Azure and allows end users to access Windows 10 desktop and apps from anywhere, on any device. Regardless of the size of a business, Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) has a host of benefits and provides a comprehensive solution, especially as businesses are planning a hybrid workplace model. Below are some of these benefits.

We offer an Azure Virtual Desktop Proof of Concept service so that you can explore whether it’s a good fit for your organisation without the financial investment of a full deployment. Further details can be found here >

The benefits of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)

Flexibility & mobility

One of the key benefits of AVD is that it allows users to access everything they need to work from anywhere on any device. This opens the possibility of implementing Bring You Own Device (BYOD) programmes as employees can use a Windows, Mac, iOS or Android device and still have the same experience as if they were using a corporate issued Windows PC. This is especially beneficial when considering a hybrid work environment: employees are able to work from anywhere with no loss to productivity or computing power.

Reduce costs

It can be difficult to manage IT hardware and devices as they need to stay up to date and there needs to be more devices than employees, in case a device fails. As a result many organisations have devices not in use that still need to be replaced when the technology becomes outdated. With WVD the device cost can be much lower as devices do not need to have high specifications. If a device can run HTML, it will be an effective work device for most users. With a BYOD programme this further reduces costs as there is no initial device cost for the business. AVD also reduces costs as there are no additional licence fees. It’s all included in your existing Microsoft 365 licence.

Increased security

Azure Virtual Desktop has built-in security features that keeps data safe no matter where an employee is working. As the name suggests, AVD is hosted on Azure so all data is stored in the cloud instead of the local desktop. Multifactor authentication is easy to deploy within Azure creating an added layer of security to prevent a security incident. Defender ATP also provides in-depth threat and vulnerability management to ensure the virtual desktop stays secure and identifies threats before they become a problem.

Centralised management

Virtual Desktops can be managed from a single point, making it significantly easier for IT administrators to patch and update all machines at the same time. This is an added benefit for hybrid working as devices can be updated and fixed without needing to be physically with the device. The benefit of centralised management extended to disaster recover too, as all data is stored on the cloud so if something does go wrong the IT administrator can restore to a clean desktop image to ensure business continuity.

Increase scalability

Business needs change over time, both in relation to the number of devices in use and the level of computing power needed per device. If a company were to hire multiple temporary workers during a busy period, this would traditionally mean buying a new device and licence for each employee. AVD makes it simple to deploy new virtual machines in minutes without needing to invest in new hardware. Session hosts can also be scaled automatically to balance loads to give a better user experience for those using more computing power whilst optimising their session host VM costs.

New name, new features, new pricing options

With the recent announcement from Microsoft that Windows Virtual Desktop is now Azure Virtual Desktop, come new features. These include:

  • Improved support for Azure Active Directory (AAD), and that will be in public preview soon
  • Automatically enrol virtual machines with Microsoft Endpoint Manager
  • Ability to manage multi-session Windows 10 Enterprise VMs with Microsoft Endpoint Manager
  • Streamlined boarding experience for Azure Virtual Desktop in the Azure portal
  • New QuickStart option for setting up virtual machines that will let users deploy them in a few minutes

And in the pipeline:

  • Future support for single sign-on, FIDO2 authentication, and more…

New pricing options for remote app streaming to external user

Microsoft also announced a new pricing option for Azure Virtual Desktop. Organisations can pay a monthly fee per user to make their apps available through Azure Virtual Desktop, instead of paying for more than what they need. This allows companies to make software available to external users as a streaming service, with each user covering their own costs.

While this new option will launch in full on January 1, 2022, Microsoft is launching a promotional campaign. From July 14 through the end of the year, companies can make apps available to external users at no extra cost. Please get in touch if you would like to find out more.


Virtual desktop technology has evolved extremely rapidly and the modern AVD is worlds apart from the original VDI pods of a decade ago. AVD is now an integral part of many businesses, both large and small as it reduces expenses, provides flexibility, and simplifies management. This technology is becoming even more prevalent with hybrid working becoming the new normal.

If you want to find out how Azure Virtual Desktop can benefit your business and save you money, book a discovery call to discuss further >

What is a Microsoft Secure Score?

The Microsoft Secure Score helps admins benchmark the tenant security posture of their organisation within the Microsoft 365 stack. Secure Score, available in Azure AD, provides a user-friendly interface with technical steps to improve the score, with the tools they need to take advantage of Microsoft 365 intelligent security capabilities. 

The following key features form the basis of the Secure Score.

  • A graphical report on the current state of the organisation’s security posture.
  • Improve security posture by providing discoverability, visibility, guidance, and control.
  • Comparisons with other organisations to provide key performance indicators (KPIs).

How does Microsoft Secure Score work?

Points are allocated for the following actions:

  • Configuring recommended security features.
  • Completing security-related tasks.
  • Addressing the improvement action with a third-party application or software, or an alternate mitigation.

Some improvement actions only give points when fully completed. Some give partial points if they are completed for some devices or users. Recommendations are tailored according to the products that an organisation has licenses for. 

Secure Score Analysis

If you would like support understanding your organisation’s Secure Score and prioritising the recommendations, we provide can help. We offer a free Secure Score Analysis* to guide you through the process. Further details here >

*subject to availablity

Passwordless authentication: security and convenience with Azure AD

With 4 in 10 UK businesses reporting security breaches in the last 12 months it can be difficult to keep up with the best methods of protecting your business and its data. One of the ‘easiest’ methods of keeping hackers out are long, complex passwords. Although this is simple in theory, in practice it can be difficult to remember a new complex password for each application, not to mention there is still the risk of replay or phishing attacks.

This difficulty may explain why the most common password is still ‘123456’. Multi-factor authentication has definitely improved security, regardless of the complexity of a password, but it has come at the cost of convenience. For passwords, it may seem like security and convenience are mutually exclusive terms, but with the advent of passwordless authentication both are now possible. 

The term ‘passwordless authentication’ sounds like a security nightmare, however through innovations in biometrics, identity protection and the FIDO alliance, it is now easier and more secure than ever. With phishing being the most common form of attack vector for cybersecurity incidents, passwordless authentication makes these attacks impossible as there is not a password to phish. The security benefits alone make this method of authentication an attractive option for businesses, however it is also more convenient to no longer require a password. Gone are the days of forgetting a password, writing it down on a sticky note or having to change it every 6 weeks.

There are three methods of passwordless authentication that can be easily deployed in Azure Active Directory that suit a wide range of business requirements, a short summary of each is provided below.

Passwordless authentication methodology

Windows Hello for Business

Windows Hello for Business is an option that utilises two-factor authentication with a PIN and biometric authentication. If this option is deployed when a user reaches a login screen, they are promoted to enter their PIN and can either scan their fingerprint or use facial recognition to gain access. The PIN rules can be set by an administrator for the minimum and maximum length and what requirements it must have. The biometrics can be either a fingerprint or facial recognition depending on the hardware and user’s preference. This option works by using a public/private key pair where the biometrics is stored on the local device and is never sent to another device or server making it impossible for a potential hacker to steal biometric information.

This method is more secure and convenient than a traditional password as it uses multifactor authentication, and the biometric authentication only requires the user to touch a sensor or look into their camera.

Microsoft Authenticator app

The Microsoft Authenticator app is another method of passwordless authentication that uses either biometrics or a PIN, similar to Windows Hello for Business. This option requires users to have the Microsoft Authenticator app installed on in their Android or IOS device. When the user reaches the login screen and enters their username a push notification will be sent to their phone, opening the Microsoft Authenticator app. They then enter either a PIN or use their phone’s native biometric features and Azure AD performs a public/private key validation and the user is automatically logged in. This method is user friendly, secure, and easy to deploy in Azure AD as many users already use the Microsoft Authenticator app.

FIDO2 Security keys

FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) Alliance aims to promote open authentication standards and reduce the use of traditional passwords as the main form of authentication. FIDO2 security keys are unphishable and come in many form factors, allowing the user to sign into resources without a username or password, using an external security key. This option is similar to how a key works for a house or car, where you must physically have the security key to gain access to a system or resource. The security key is typically a USB device, but can also be Bluetooth or NFC from a phone. When a user reaches a login screen they only need to select ‘Sign in with a security key’ and plug in their FIDO2 security key and Azure AD will perform a public/private key validation and they will be granted access. This option is perfect for businesses that are particularly security sensitive or have employees that would rather not use biometrics or their phone for authentication.

The advent of passwordless authentication streamlines user experience whilst greatly increasing security. With multiple options for simple integration with Azure AD, make forgotten passwords and phishing attacks a thing of the past. If you want to find out more on which passwordless authentication solution is best for you, get in touch with our cyber security team today.

Small business IT priorities 2021

Small businesses are poised to enter a new year that, for the first time, is focusing on creating fewer in-person connections with customers, rather than more. The rapid digitalisation of the past year has created an environment where SMBs must adapt to remain competitive.

The priorities of small businesses are shifting as a result, towards the creation of secure remote work environments and the necessary adoption of cloud technology. As part of this digital transformation, small businesses must consider several more priorities as they move into a new year.

1. Low-cost artificial intelligence (AI) technology

After the sudden technology adjustments forced upon companies in 2020, many small businesses will need to make up for lost productivity. With additional resources unlikely to materialise, low-cost AI will become even more of a requirement.

A solution like Microsoft Azure offers affordable computer vision, face recognition, and conversational AI services – many of which are built-in to the business offerings. As the digital era progresses, SMBs should start to take greater advantage of these AI opportunities in order to remain resilient; subsidising customer support departments with chatbots, for example.

Another business area AI can have the biggest impact on is logistics. Small retailers could utilise the technology to gain AI-driven insights from their data. Warehouses could predict stock shortages and delivery drivers could benefit from AI-driven knowledge regarding delivery routes.

2. Increased use of data virtualisation technology

Businesses will also look to regain efficiency via data-driven insights. Tools like Microsoft Power BI can make data more useful and actionable. Simple dashboards of customer and sales data enable analyses which ultimately help SMBs focus on the aspects that will have the most impact.

3. Mainstream adoption of cloud collaboration and calling solutions

Microsoft Teams usage increased by 70% to 75 million active users in April, mainly due to the mass shift to home working. Even as workers return to the office, however, that usage has remained steady. As of October 2020, its daily active users had reached 115 million.

Much of this continued growth may be attributed to a shift in mindset, predominantly by smaller businesses. As IT managers realise the efficiency of cloud-based communication and collaboration tools, they become open to investing in those solutions long-term. In addition to efficiency, cloud solutions like Microsoft Teams and Teams Calling solutions, offer flexibility in both in costs and global calling requirements – perfect for SMBs who want to start small and scale.

4. Streamlining the remote onboarding process

Even with the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines underway, SMBs will continue to work remotely until government guidance suggests otherwise. Though organisations have been onboarding remotely for many years, the coronavirus pandemic has increased the volume of workers than need to be brought online in a short period.

As a result, it’s now time for SMBs to prioritise the creation of a remote onboarding strategy that’s efficient, engaging and focused around the benefits that cloud technology can offer.

5. Support remote workers with the right cloud IT support

Cloud productivity apps like Office 365 and Teams come with excellent Level 0 IT support. Knowledge banks and chatbots provide self-service cloud IT support so that users can troubleshoot common problems and access ‘how to’ style content.

However, remote workers also need human IT support in the form of a 1st and 2nd line service desk to keep productivity levels high. Responsive cloud IT support can also boost user adoption of new technologies and new ways of working, ensuring you get good ROI from digital transformation.

Remote workers often feel isolated so it’s really important to have open lines of communication between them and your service desk. As well as ensuring they can contact IT support using their preferred channels (email, phone, support portal etc.), consider introducing engagement feedback tools too. Personalised surveys can help you better understand what support users need to improve the remote working experience.

If you would like to discuss any of the subjects or technology covered in this post, please get in touch. Our Digital Productivity team and Microsoft experts are happy to share their knowledge and experience. Likewise, our Operations team are available to share best practice for supporting your remote workers and providing effective cloud IT support.

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Why book a Microsoft Cloud Assessment?

Discovery workshops are an important part of any cloud migration or digital transformation project at Cloud Business. Workshops like our Microsoft Cloud Assessment are designed to lay the foundations of a migration project and set organisations up for success. Investing time at this stage of a project is rewarded time and time again throughout the process, and continues to deliver value as your users get the benefits of the Microsoft modern workplace. 

What is a Microsoft Cloud Assessment? 

We’ve developed a 2 day service that gives you and your team access to our Office 365 experts*. They will tailor the service to your needs and what you want to achieve from digital transformation, deliver the workshop and then provide a migration roadmap for getting there. 

To start with, our approach is to take a step back from the technology. You may have decided that Office 365 is for you but our first question won’t be “when do you want it?” Instead we’re interested in what’s driving this decision, so we can really understand what you want to achieve. We’ll also encourage you and your colleagues to look at your requirement with fresh eyes – inviting you to Reimagine everyday. By taking a holistic view we can ensure the technology is aligned with your business strategy, infrastructure, users and culture. 

The Microsoft Cloud Assessment explores your cloud readiness, where you are today, critical business considerations, what products you have and what you don’t, and what’s required for a painless implementation. We identify challenges and determine next steps.  

The output from the assessment is a report fully illustrating how your Office 365 tenant will be produced for you. This report includes recommendations for increasing security, optimising licensing, user adoption, governance, cost management, and detailed costs for implementation. 

Whether or not you decide to go ahead and engage our team, the report effectively provides you with a roadmap for a successful Office 365 migration.  

What is the structure of a Cloud Assessment workshop? 

We’ve refined our service over the years to deliver maximum value to our customers, whatever their challenges and business objectives. Cloud Assessments are tailored to your specific needs, but normally look like this: 

Briefing call: a 60 minute Microsoft Teams call with introductions, background to the organisation and understanding priorities and knowledge across the service. We can then ensure the workshop day is aligned with your requirements. 

Day 1 – Onsite or Virtual Workshop: a deep dive into Office 365, your technology environment and what you want to achieve. A typical agenda includes: 

  • An introduction to Digital Productivity in Office 365 
  • A ‘Day in the life’ demonstration illustrating modern ways of working based on some common scenarios. 
  • An overview of popular productivity apps in Office 365 and use cases 
  • Infrastructure review and current challenges 
  • Demonstration of the capabilities of Azure 
  • Licensing 
  • Security and governance 
  • User Experience and Adoption strategies 
  • Discuss options and priorities 
  • What is needed to get started 
  • High Level Plan and example Architecture 
  • Summary and next steps 

Day 2 – Decision Support: we document notes and research from Day 1. You will receive a detailed overview of the session including: 

  • Analysis of existing infrastructure 
  • Recommendations and steps for moving your business to Office 365 and Azure* 
  • Current challenges affecting your business and how these may be offset by cloud migration 
  • A roadmap for a successful Microsoft cloud migration 
  • Our experts are also available to provide support on key decisions 

For a more detailed overview of the Microsoft Cloud Assessment structure and output, please download the information sheet here > 

Are you ready for the Microsoft Cloud? 

It is not uncommon for an organisation to embark on a cloud migration and discover that they’re not actually ready. As a result they might struggle to get the ROI from the technology deployed, the user benefits, or achieve their digital transformation goals.  

A successful cloud migration involves detailed discovery and planning, and cloud readiness is a vital factor in this. A Microsoft Cloud Assessment can help you decide if you’re ready, and if you’re not it will provide you with the next steps to get there.  

To see whether the time is right, our Cloud Readiness Worksheet will give you an idea. Download it here to see > 

If you would like to discuss booking a Microsoft Cloud Assessment workshop please get in touch. You can email hello@cloudbusiness.com or  book an initial online meeting here > 

*we can also deliver an Azure Cloud Assessment workshop with a similar structure to the one above. 

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Cloud vs. on-premise: cost differences

Is cost a key driver in your IT decision making process?

As with most business decisions, cost is inevitably a key consideration when choosing between different solutions. When it comes to your IT infrastructure, understanding the cost difference between cloud vs. on-premise IT solutions is an important factor.

Here we look at the different costs involved in storing data, and compare cloud storage with on-premise servers.

Are you ready for the cloud? Download our Cloud Readiness worksheet to find out >

Cost differences between cloud vs. on-premise servers

Start up costs

It is clearly cheaper to opt for cloud storage over on-premise servers when considering start up costs. The cost of hardware, server room and power needed to implement on-premise storage is far greater than signing up to a cloud solution. Labour costs should also be factored in, setting up a new server and integrating it with your existing IT needs resources.

Cloud storage is a clear winner if you’re starting from scratch.

Maintenance costs

Cloud providers are responsible for all upgrades, patching and other maintenance. You’re responsible for your on-premise servers. While your monthly cloud subscription fee pays for maintenance, as cloud providers use a shared service business model long term it’s a fraction of the cost of maintaining on-premise IT hardware. Day-to-day running costs for on-premise servers are mostly confined to power usage, however regular upgrades are needed to ensure optimal performance and therefore you need to factor in labour costs. Whether this is done by someone in-house, or an external IT technician, these costs add up considerably.

Over time cloud storage is cheaper than on-premise.

Security costs

As with general maintenance, cloud providers are also responsible for implementing and maintaining appropriate security tools. Although it is your organisation’s responsibility for ensuring that data is protected, stored and managed in a compliant way. As well as the cloud provider’s your business may also need to implement security solutions which might range from basic security best practices to additional tools. On-premise servers are your responsibility to protect and ensure that security tools are fit for purpose.

Cloud storage providers include IT security tools which may reduce overall costs.

Cost of storage

Here’s how cloud providers make their money. They charge for storage. While they’ll probably give away some free storage, many will offer between 5GB to 15GB free, many organisations need a lot more than that.

On-premise servers are effectively free.

Scalability costs

Is your organisation growing and may need to increase its data storage? Here’s another cost where cloud storage wins hands down. The cost of increase data storage on-premise, if you’re operating at capacity involves those initial start up costs again. Buying hardware, installing it, having the physical space, an increase in power usage and additional maintenance costs. One of the cloud’s USPs is it’s scalability, you can upgrade your service at a click of a button for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new server.

Cloud storage beats on-premise for scalability and respective costs.

Legacy costs

A major challenge for many organisations is their legacy IT infrastructure. When systems and hardware have been superseded with new technology, maintaining legacy IT infrastructure can be expensive and can limit IT’s ability to develop solutions that support the business proactively. Cloud providers are responsible for their technology and need to be innovative to be competitive. Many businesses choose to use a cloud provider to get access to technology they can’t afford to continually upgrade on-premise.

Cloud wins with no legacy costs.

Downtime and loss of productivity costs

A cost that can be difficult to quantify but an important one. Any disruption to critical systems that causes downtime or a loss of productivity, costs organisations. Cloud providers are not immune from outages and other service disruptions, but on average on-premise solutions experience more downtime than the cloud. In fact, migrating to cloud solutions to reduce the risk of downtime is another common reason that businesses move their storage. Cloud providers use failover solutions to ensure business continuity, and any remedial costs are incurred by them.

Cloud providers stipulate their commitment to service uptime and connectivity in Service Level Agreements, which are legally binding. They also set out how they will compensate customers if they fall short. However, it’s important to conduct a risk analysis when considering cloud storage which  includes the cost of downtime on your organisation.

Cloud storage may not be risk free but remediation won’t cost your organisation.

Total cost of ownership

Try out Microsoft Azure’s Total Cost of Ownership Calculator here to get an estimate of the cost savings your organisation could make by moving from on-premise to the cloud.

Ultimately, while the cloud offers many benefits and cost savings, it will depend on your organisation, internal capacity, the amount of storage required and your risk analysis whether it’s a better and cheaper solution for you.

If you want to discuss any of the subjects raised in this blog post, please get in touch.

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What is Microsoft Azure and is it safe?

More businesses than ever are migrating to the cloud. Companies need more security, flexibility and scalability than ever before, whilst benefiting from lower costs and reducing or eliminating the need to maintain hardware.

Most of the big tech players – and many smaller firms – are providing cloud-based solutions for businesses. You can do everything from file your annual returns to run your telephony systems through cloud software. 

Microsoft, one of the largest, most well-established providers on the market, launched Azure in 2010, an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud platform. Over 90% of the US Fortune 500 uses services within the Microsoft cloud. Microsoft Azure is a cloud brand that encompasses over 100 different services where enterprises and SMEs can combine and scale as many services as they need to create the technology infrastructure that their organisations require.

What can we do with Microsoft Azure?

Anything and everything.

Whatever you’ve been running in-house can be moved to the cloud. Made bigger, more secure and more effective. Scale up and down according to operational needs. And most importantly, improve on what you’ve been doing. Save costs and become more efficient. 

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Microsoft Azure provides a secure technology environment to create and deploy cloud-based applications. Either create your own – work with an in-house team or external developers – or integrate services you’re already using.
  • Azure also includes Platform and Software (PaaS and SaaS) solutions, making it easier than ever to scale and deploy the technology your organisation needs without complications. It has never been easier, quicker or more cost-effective to create an application and roll it out for team members or customers.
  • Storage and databases. Organisations are producing more data than ever before. Cloud storage is an essential operational feature that most organisations can’t manage without. Microsoft provides a range of solutions, including Virtual Machines (Microsoft or Linux), managed databases, and storage offerings that go down in price when you don’t need to access some of your data very often. 

Azure is plugged into a marketplace of apps and complimentary services. So whether you are looking for a new CRM or design software for the marketing team, chances are you should be able to find it through Azure. Of course, what we’ve outlined here is merely the tip of the iceberg. Ready to start your Azure journey? Find out more about our Azure Migrate packaged services here >

However, before you do, we know you may have a question about security.

How secure is Azure?

As a global technology leader, Microsoft knows it represents an attractive target for cyber criminals and hackers. If they can exploit a weakness, they will. Keeping customers secure is a top priority for Microsoft, which is why they invest $1 billion every year into security, which includes protecting the Azure infrastructure.

Here are a few of the security precautions Microsoft takes to protect Azure customers:

  • Automatic encryption. Everything sent within the Azure environment is automatically encrypted. The Azure network has automatic detection to prevent distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, similar to some of the largest services on the Internet, such as Xbox and Microsoft’s Office 365.
  • Other safeguards include automated smart traffic monitoring and profiling. It is easier to detect and deflect threats when systems know when something looks out of the ordinary, reducing the risk any threats pose that may have breached external security systems.
  • Smart access control. Management (admin) accounts are run over separate networks than most team members. Managers can also control and restrict access to a limited time period, device, or even a specific document.
  • Microsoft goes to great lengths to protect hardware and firmware, constantly reviewing and revising code, even creating hardware that can automatically detect threats before software is loaded and active. If anything malicious is detected, it can pause software activity until the threat is removed.
  • Azure is the first cloud platform to support both software and hardware-based Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs). TEEs ensure that encrypted data – whether it is stored, in transit or inactive is – safe from unauthorised access and tampering.
  • Operational security is serious business. Microsoft employs 3,500 cybersecurity experts, including 200 who continually look for weaknesses. Any that are found are input into the operational security procedures Azure uses to improve against potential external threats.
  • You don’t even need to worry if you are working off-site and need secure access. With ExpressRoute, you can access to Azure through an encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN), wherever you are in the world. 

Providing you are always sensible about password use and storage, Azure is one of the most secure working environments that organisations could use for software, data storage and numerous other uses. In fact, it may be more secure than your current on-premise IT infrastructure…

If you would like to talk to us about migrating to the cloud and learn more about Microsoft Azure, please get in touch.

What’s the difference between Microsoft Azure and Office 365?

For many businesses, Microsoft products and services are integral to the smooth running of IT systems. Microsoft has been a reliable provider of software and solutions for decades, with many sectors still picking them over Apple or new competitors.

Microsoft, along with the rest of the technology sector over the last couple of decades has been moving core services into the cloud. Office, for example, used to come on a disk, with businesses able to purchase as many licenses as a company needed, depending on staffing levels. Now you can access those same suite of services – such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel – through Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), a cloud platform for business.

Is your organisation ready to migrate to Azure? Get support here >

Microsoft Azure is another enterprise cloud platform, with a much wider range of capabilities. Unlike Office 365, which is a software as a service (SaaS) product, Azure has IaaS and PaaS components. To understand the difference between Microsoft Azure and Office 365 we need to understand what each of these cloud platform terms mean.

Cloud Platforms: SaaS, IaaS and PaaS explained

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Even if your company doesn’t use Office 365, you will almost certainly have several SaaS subscriptions. From finance software to customer relationship management (CRM) systems, SaaS solutions are everywhere.

Instead of downloading software (applications), or uploading it from a disk, you can pay a monthly subscription – often depending on the number of users that need access – to use a piece of software. The majority of SaaS products are cloud-based, which means users can login anywhere in the world, on any device.

Office 365 is designed to be as convenient and powerful as possible, with the full suite of services that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. Businesses can either pay monthly or annually, and part of the convenience of SaaS products is they’re not tied to a particular device. You can use Office365 on Apple Macs or other devices; you don’t need to have PCs to run the software.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 

IaaS is a little more complex. With Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), companies can scale-up and down computing powers without needing to invest in hardware and servers. IaaS gives companies an almost instant computing infrastructure, such as data centres, security applications and servers, managed over the Internet.

Instead of managing all of this themselves, companies can pay Microsoft a monthly subscription for Azure, creating and deploying as much or as little cloud computing power as needed. From web hosting to solving big data challenges to providing storage, backup and security solutions, IaaS is an integral part of many companies IT infrastructure.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Platform as a Service (PaaS) environments makes it possible to run SaaS solutions, such as Office 365. Developers can manage the infrastructure, with the advantage that this secure environment gives companies more control over operating systems, software and the way you can configure software for the unique needs of your business. Everything is managed in the cloud, giving you the flexibility to scale solutions up and down as required. 

Depending on what your business needs, Microsoft Azure is PaaS and IaaS. Azure includes Compute, Data Services, App Services, Networking and Store services. Companies can create and configure everything they would need in a secure cloud environment, which is something a dedicated IT partner can help with. Designing flexible, scalable, cloud solutions within a cloud platform gives businesses a great deal more control and computing power than many could access when these systems and platforms were on-site. 

As you can see it’s not a question of either using Azure or 365, they both do very different things. But combined these cloud platforms can provide most businesses with the IT infrastructure, development framework and software they need for business operations. 

Migrating your IT infrastructure and applications to the cloud makes good business sense. Instead of being tied to legacy hardware and systems that are often inflexible and costly to maintain, cloud platforms give businesses scalable solutions that flex with their business’ requirements.

What would your workloads look like in the cloud?

In the video below, Gary Duke explains how a Cloud Economics Assessment can help you understand what your assets will look like in the cloud and how much it would cost.

If you are thinking about migrating to Microsoft 365, our Microsoft Cloud Assessment service will help. This 2 day service explores your cloud readiness, aligns digital transformation with business outcomes, and provides you with a roadmap for transitioning to Microsoft (Office) 365. Sessions are tailored to your organisation, IT infrastructure and objectives. We also run this service for organisations interested in Microsoft Azure. Further details can be found here >

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