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.

Cloud economics in a hybrid multi-cloud world

The hybrid multi-cloud world provides organisations with all the benefits of the public cloud, as well as predictable costs. Learn more.
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Microsoft Ignite 2022

How migrating to the cloud accelerates digital transformation

How can migrating to the cloud accelerate your business' digital transformation journey? Find out here.
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The second digital transformation revolution

The second digital transformation revolution is here! What tools and strategies does your organisation need to be part of it?
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Employee wellbeing: a key consideration for future technology adoption

Is employee wellbeing at the core of your business? As companies look to enhance their technologies and develop their operations, wellbeing of workers should be at the heart of transformation – find out how >
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remote working connected collaboration

Keeping remote employees connected and collaborating successfully

Remote working doesn't equate to a loss of productivity or lower levels of collaboration. With the right technology employees can work successfully.
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network infrastructure

Is your network cloud ready?

Discovery and planning is a vital part of any cloud migration project and one factor that needs to be addressed is 'is your network cloud ready?' Find out here
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What makes a good IT services provider?

How do you know if an IT services provider offers a good service? Read this post to understand the things they do, and don't do.
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How to get started with Microsoft Azure

In this post our Microsoft Azure experts share best practice to help you get started with Microsoft Azure. Learn how to get the most out of the platform
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Windows Autopatch

Please sir, I’ve forgotten my login!

In this post Head of Education Services at Cloud Business explores common ICT challenges school IT managers face, and how to address them.
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Cloud economics in a hybrid multi-cloud world

If the last two years has taught us anything, it is that all organisations need more flexibility so they can rapidly adapt to change. No more so than in the cloud where there are opportunities to attain that desired agility and business efficiencies, but often unknown challenges and costs. 

Predicting cloud costs and the total cost of ownership (TCO), regulatory governance and, to a lesser extent, security risk factors are increasingly driving conversations about whether it is appropriate to go all in with the cloud. Or whether a hybrid multi-cloud world is a better way of managing costs

If NASA can’t predict cloud costs, what hope is there for the rest of us?!

In 2019 NASA selected AWS to host its Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) programme and make data from its Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) available to end users.

However, a 2020 audit report [PDF] from NASA’s Inspector General revealed that EOSDIS hadn’t properly modelled data download charges. NASA’s legacy Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) don’t incur any costs when end users (researchers and commercial users) download data. 

The audit suggested that there would be an increased cloud spend of around $30m a year by 2025, because of the egress charges, on top of NASA’s $65m-per-year deal with AWS.

While you might expect NASA to have factored in egress charges, there are numerous other examples where organisations haven’t fully factored in all the costs associated with the public cloud.

Why cost governance is driving the hybrid multi-cloud

Typically, organisations fall into three groups:

The pioneers – organisations that moved everything into the cloud approximately five years ago, full lift and shift. Many of those organisations are now repatriating workloads back to on premise.

“Cloud repatriation is not a new concept. In 2019 IDC predicted that up to 50% of public cloud workloads would be repatriated to on-premises infrastructure or private cloud, driven by a mix of security, performance and cost issues.”


That’s because the pioneers have had the luxury of doing a cost evaluation of how much the public cloud has cost them, and in many instances the answer is a lot more than anticipated.

The followers – organisations that decided, maybe two to three years ago, that a public cloud first approach was the answer. Most of those organisations are a long way off being fully in then public cloud. Many of them have only moved a fraction of applications and workloads into the cloud and are struggling to migrate more. This is often because of legacy applications and workloads that are difficult to put into the cloud and are expensive to get there. Refactoring and re-platforming can cost three to four times more than if you’d kept it on prem.

Hybrid cloud evangelists – these are predominately new organisations that have been born in the hybrid multi-cloud world. As such, they can easily decide which workloads are best in the cloud, and what are better on prem. They have designed their whole infrastructure to be cost optimal.

Across all these groups we’re seeing a trend towards organisations making better decisions about which workloads or applications should sit on prem, and what should sit in a hybrid multi-cloud.

Hybrid multi-cloud means some workloads sit on prem, perhaps in a colo location or in your own data centre, and some resources sit in Azure, AWS, GCP or a smaller cloud service provider.

Which workloads and applications should go where?

The biggest challenge in a hybrid multi-cloud world is knowing what should go where. It’s about considering your static, predictable workloads versus your flexible or highly variable workloads. The public cloud is great if you need to run something for a few hours or days each week, but if it needs to be run 24/7/365 it can be very expensive in the public cloud.

Analysing the data and having visibility on what you’re spending and where, will help you manage costs and make better informed decisions so you can move workloads and apps to the most cost effective location. 

This enables organisations to be public cloud appropriate. You can use the public cloud and demand the resources you need where you can save money or it’s giving you the cheapest price. But don’t put apps and workloads in there that are going cost you more than if you put it, or kept it, on prem.

By using solutions, like Nutanix Beam, which abstracts the resources in the public cloud, in colo locations or running on your on prem data centre into a single pane of glass, you can achieve the cost governance required across a hybrid multi-cloud environment. In turn this will give you the scalability and flexibility desired and address your risk governance challenges too. 

Ultimately, it shouldn’t make any difference whether you’re using compute power from the public cloud, colo or on prem, all you should care about is whether you’re doing it in the most cost effective way possible.

How to have conversations about the benefits of a hybrid multi-cloud world with decision makers

For the organisations who are fully in the cloud, born in the cloud or perhaps on a cloud first trajectory, a conversion about hybrid multi-cloud can be difficult to have. It can be perceived to be a step backwards, or an admission of failure, and introducing the subject with decision makers may be challenging.

Total cost of ownership (TCO) is a key metric that will get people’s attention, and there are examples of cloud first organisations that have slashed their costs by adopting a hybrid multi-cloud approach. A cost evaluation is the first step to really understand how much your on premise and public cloud is costing, and then run a cost comparison to see what some of those workloads might look like on prem, colo and public cloud. If the saving is big enough, it should be quite easy to have that conversation with the CFO and CEO without anyone pointing the finger at whoever suggested going all in to the cloud to start with.

It’s not about saying the public cloud is bad, it’s about running the right applications and workloads in the right place. This helps your organisation get all the benefits of the public cloud without the unpredictable costs. 

If you would like to discuss hybrid multi-cloud and how you can get some certainty back in your life, please do not hesitate to contact our team.

Microsoft Ignite 2022

How migrating to the cloud accelerates digital transformation

The term ‘digital transformation’ has become increasingly widely used in the past five years. The term refers to the adoption and integration of digital technologies to transform the way a business functions.  Digital transformation aims to the improve processes within a business to deliver a better experience for employees and customers. 

The pandemic and the rise of remote and hybrid working has been a catalyst for many businesses to start adopting new technologies and speed up the process of digital transformation. One of the key technologies that can enable digital transformation is the cloud. 

Is your organisation ready for the cloud? Download our cloud readiness worksheet to find out >

In this article we will discuss how migrating to the cloud can accelerate digital transformation through increased flexibility, reliability, automated processes, increase productivity and stronger security.

Migrating to the cloud: 5 reasons it accelerates digital transformation

1: Flexibility and scalability

One of the key goals of digital transformation is business growth through improved processes. This means that business must be equipped with technology that can scale as a business grows and has enough flexibility to enable these changes in process. 

On-premises technology has a significant upfront cost involved in hardware and setup, and as a business grows, they are forced to upgrade the technology. This lack of flexibility slows the process of digital transformation and can decrease a business’ profitability. In comparison, with workloads being hosted in the cloud, businesses can quickly and easily increase resources to a workload to suit the current needs of the business. Being able to respond to these changes in demand creates an agile workplace and accelerates digital transformation.

2: Speed and reliability from anywhere

The past 18 months have made it clear that for a business to succeed their employees must have reliable access to IT systems, no matter where they are located. With services being delivered through the cloud, if employees have internet access they can access all necessary files, applications and systems. Furthermore, cloud applications run faster, making work more efficient, and services hosted on Microsoft Azure are extremely reliable with a 99.9% uptime.

3: Automated processes

Using cloud technologies, it is possible to automate many processes. These changes in process are a key component of digital transformation, and can save significant time, allowing employees to focus their time on growing the business. Some processes that can be automated with cloud technology include virtual machine management, customer relationship management, database management and security protocol management.

4: Increased productivity

Moving to the cloud can significantly increase employee productivity and accelerate digital transformation. A major factor to this increase in productivity is through effective collaboration. 

As many businesses operate globally or with teams located in different locations, collaboration is extremely important. With cloud and cloud-based applications and services, there is better connectivity and collaboration amongst workforces. Cloud technology also enables employees to have easy access to information and data from anywhere, at any time. The increased collaboration and productivity can help grow a business faster, and lead to innovations in processes that aid in digital transformation.

5: Stronger security posture

Rapid digital transformation can result in a weak security posture, as the introduction of new technologies carry an inherent security risk. Thankfully, the use of cloud technology has a lower risk than on-premises technology. 

Most cloud technologies use end-to-end encryption, ensuring that data can not be intercepted and improving a business’ security posture. Similarly, there are many cloud technologies dedicated to improving security. For example, within a Microsoft 365 or Azure subscription there are many features that can be enabled to improve security and reduce the risk of a cyberattack. 

For businesses looking improve their processes and take the next step towards digital transformation, migrating to the cloud can accelerate the journey. Introducing cloud technologies can fundamentally change the way a business functions and be the key to sustainable growth. If you want to find out more about how your business can leverage the cloud, contact us today.

cloud readiness

The second digital transformation revolution

Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s Vice President for Modern Work, recently told The New Yorker that the Covid 19 pandemic has created the right conditions for a ‘second digital transformation’.

The first revolution, driven by the PC, digitised paperwork and emptied filing cabinets into servers. Physical location was still important as computing technology was local, on-premise. Since then, cloud computing has emerged and in recent years adoption has accelerated rapidly, laying the foundations for this second revolution – the digital workplace.

Digital transformation in 2021 is all about Work from Anywhere (WFA), especially for information workers. Flexible work is here to stay, with the predominant trend being ‘hybrid work’ where employees yo-yo between office and remote working. In its Work Trend Index research, Microsoft found that 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue (post-pandemic), while over 65% need more in-person time with their teams. In response, 66% of business decision makers say they are exploring redesigning physical spaces to accommodate hybrid work models.

Digital transformation in 2021 is people-centric

A key difference in this second digital transformation revolution is that the focus is on people. It’s about the employee experience and engagement: enabling seamless transitions between office and home, ensuring an equal experience wherever someone is working, creating innovative collaborative spaces (blending virtual and physical) and using data to monitor work patterns, employee wellbeing and performance.

So, if your business or organisation is going to be part of this digital transformation revolution, what tools do you need?

Your digital transformation toolkit

The basics

Microsoft’s Work Trend research uncovered an anomaly, “Even after a year of working from home, 42% of employees say they lack essential office supplies at home, and one in 10 don’t have an adequate internet connection to do their job. Yet, over 46% say their employer does not help them with remote work expenses.”

While technology barriers were frustrating during the first lockdown and ‘stay at home’ directive, everyone was in the same boat. Now, as employees transition to hybrid work, there is a danger of inequalities developing between those working remotely and those working in the office.

Ensuring everyone has the right technology to work from anywhere, promotes digital equality. Desktop virtualisation, broadband support and high-quality audio-visual technology help to level the playing field and support seamless transitions between the physical and virtual workplace.

High performing laptops and tablets are also a vital part of an employee’s hybrid work toolkit. In 2020 many people ‘put up’ with their home PCs and devices, often sharing these resources with other family members, and struggling to work on devices that weren’t designed for corporate use. Long term, if employees are expected to work from home for part of the week, they need corporate devices.

Device as a Service has thrown companies a lifeline, turning what was traditionally a CapEx investment into OpEx. Solutions, such as Surface as a Service, provision employees with corporate devices and accessories for a fixed monthly fee. Add ons, like IT support, can also be part of the package. Learn more here >

Workplace technology

To enable a seamless transition between remote work and the physical office, cloud apps like Microsoft Teams come into their own. We’re now all familiar with integrated tools for file sharing, instant messaging, time and project management, online meetings and calls.

Other technology to support hybrid work includes e-signatures so employees don’t have to be in a physical space to sign, or have documents signed. And to ensure that employees and guests can access and use physical workspaces safely, we need room and desk booking technology, visitor management apps and virtual scheduling tools.

Collaborative technology

Creating the right virtual and blended environments for collaboration is a significant challenge. Face-to-face contact – whether it’s a brainstorming session in a meeting room or a quick chat in the breakout area – promotes collaboration. We need to provide employees with opportunities to collaborate wherever they are, and make sure that people not in the physical office space are included.

Good quality audio-visual tech is a must. Remote workers joining a meeting online need an equal experience to those in the room. This involves provisioning meeting and conference rooms with the right equipment, and providing individuals with high quality webcams, microphones and headphones. Is it fair for a remote sales person, who needs to hit their target every month, to conduct online prospect meetings using their phone earbuds and camera when their colleagues working in the office have access to state-of-the-art audio-visual tech?

Digital whiteboards also help ensure individuals are not excluded when working from home. These capture everything on the whiteboard which can then be sent to remote workers. Even better are real time tools like Microsoft Whiteboard, which integrates with Teams meetings. This means that meeting participants can collaborate on the same whiteboard. A useful feature, Ink Grab, can also convert physical images like photos of notes or a physical whiteboard, into a vector-type image on the virtual whiteboard.

Other technology to promote impromptu collaborative moments includes ‘always on’ screens positioned in shared spaces which allow team members to see who’s in the space and chat to them. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) tools could also play a role in the hybrid workplace. Think of how game developers use the technology to provide immersive experiences for gamers and apply it to a meeting scenario or brainstorming session.

The use of your company Intranet also becomes important to help employees collaborate. Simple ideas like a skills directory hosted on your Intranet, join up distributed teams and individuals. Our own experience, at Cloud Business, has highlighted the importance of this. Our acquisition of another technology company in late 2019 meant that when the pandemic hit we were still in the process of integrating our teams. Coupled with a recruitment drive during 2020 we now have many employees who have never met their immediate colleagues in person, and certainly not the wider team.

Skills directories allow employees to identify the people they need to collaborate with and make connections that would normally occur naturally in an office environment.

Business intelligence

There are three trends identified by Microsoft that point to the need for more meaningful insights to support decision making, employee engagement and wellbeing, and improve performance. They are:

  1. Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call – in general, business leaders have thrived during lockdown compared to many of their employees who have struggled.
  2. High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce – in a global survey, one in five respondents say their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance, 54% feel overworked and 39% feel exhausted.
  3. Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energised – 60% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 in the workforce say they are “merely surviving or flat-out struggling”.

Fortunately, most organisations already have the data needed to identify, monitor and manage problems with employee engagement, stress and overwhelm, performance and productivity. As the stats below show, data can be easily accessed from the workplace technology you deploy. Creating user-friendly dashboards for leaders and managers is an effective way of providing them with the real picture of how the workforce is doing.

Microsoft compared collaboration trends in Microsoft 365 between February 2020 and February 2021. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled (2.5X) globally.
  • The average meeting is 10 minutes longer, increasing from 35 to 45 minutes.
  • The average Teams user is sends 45% more chats per week and 42% more chats per person after hours, with chats per week still increasing.
  • The number of emails delivered to commercial and education customers via Microsoft Exchange Online in February, when compared to the same month last year, is up by 40.6 billion.
  • Microsoft has seen a 66% increase in the number of people working on documents.

Data can also be used to monitor working patterns and ensure employees have the right technology, and environment, to perform at their best. Then other tools can be deployed to help nudge employees into better working patterns or behaviour, tackling both wellbeing and performance issues.

Putting people at the heart of digital transformation

As IT professionals and business leaders you hold the keys to many of the tools to create the right environment for a successful (second) digital transformation. However, in our view, being led by the technology is the not right approach.

Instead focus on your people. Find out how they’re doing, what they need, what hybrid work looks like for them, who they need to collaborate with, and how they need to use physical and remote spaces. As stated above, you probably already have the data needed to take a temperature check of where your organisation and people are today. Combine this with research, surveys and polls to map out what technology your people need to thrive going forward.

If you need help doing this, we’d be delighted to share our expertise. We’ve been spearheading flexible work strategies for many years and can help you develop a roadmap to navigate our current digital transformation revolution. Please get in touch if you’d like an informal chat >

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Employee wellbeing: a key consideration for future technology adoption

Even before Covid-19 disrupted our everyday working lives, employee wellness programmes were growing in importance in businesses of all shapes and sizes. And with good reason.

Statistics from the UK’s Health & Safety Executive show that in 2019/20, pre-pandemic, there were an estimated 828,000 workers affected by work-related stress, resulting in an approximate 17.9 million working days missed. That’s a huge amount of lost productivity and strained working relationships.

Employee wellbeing shouldn’t be an after-thought in the workplace. The pandemic has shown us many things; one being that the resilience and flexibility of workers has been key to continuing to achieve bottom-line results. It’s clear, say leaders at Deloitte US on, that employees who feel less stressed perform better, and are more engaged and satisfied with their work. The pandemic has also increased our reliance on technology and accelerated adoption of IT solutions that enable remote working.

Technology and employee wellbeing (best practice)

So how do businesses embed employee wellbeing at their core? And how do emerging technologies and IT trends fit in? Here are a few ideas from us:

  • Companies should look to give tech and HR managers the opportunity to work alongside business leaders to create a holistic strategy that embeds employee wellbeing into everyday work life. Encourage everyone, from the CEO down, to discuss and understand the link between wellbeing and success. Buy-in from the entire company is vital.
  • Given how interwoven work and technology have become (both WFH and in the office), it’s key that IT leaders are central to addressing the complex challenges of stress-free working. Machines are great at aiding productivity, but tech can also add to employee stress, providing a 24/7 link to work and no escape from an ‘always on’ mindset. Consider introducing an ‘unplug lunch hour’ and/or enforcing a 5.30pm watershed for emails. Importantly, leaders should be seen to adhere to these new wellbeing initiatives themselves, achieving their own improved work/life balance and leading by example.
  • Provide remote user support to avoid worker IT frustration and stress. Flexible working, training, and learning is here to stay, but you don’t want technology to get in its way. Wherever your team are based, you should also provide access to ergonomic equipment and furniture, promoting healthy bodies as well as minds. Support such as this signal to your workers that they are valued, visible and appreciated – all great building blocks towards better performance and higher staff retention.
  • Invest in technologies such as the newly launched Microsoft Viva to help you nurture employee wellbeing and development. Described as the “first employee experience platform to bring tools for employee engagement, learning, wellbeing and knowledge discovery, directly into the flow of people’s work”, it could prove to be an extremely useful tool for your future wellbeing strategy. Microsoft Viva enables employees to access company resources directly from their screen and explore a wide variety of training and professional development through its learning platform. Watch out as it evolves through 2021.

It’s our experience that once the process of looking closely at employee wellbeing begins, a whole raft of ways in which technology can combine with empathy to improve the health and happiness of workers becomes visible. People are your power: invest in their wellbeing and you’ll see a positive return in everything from the bottom-line, to retention, to sick days.

For more information on how we can help businesses keep wellbeing front of mind when planning technological developments, speak to us today.

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remote working connected collaboration

Keeping remote employees connected and collaborating successfully

Whether your organisation is considering giving employees the flexibility to work remotely even when social distancing restrictions no longer apply, or if you’re currently unable to offer a Covid safe workplace, there are ways to boost productivity and collaboration remotely.

Here we share how to leverage technology for short term and long term successful remote working.

Develop a strategic plan

Does your organisation have a long term strategic of how technology can support your business goals and ambitions? If not, you may find that some of the decisions made about the technology needed to facilitate remote working during lockdown, are not aligned with the direction the business is taking.

We recommend taking stock and exploring what systems and applications you have or need that support business goals and the modern workplace. Then develop a strategic plan that factors in the technology needed to support remote working, hybrid working practices, and provides your organisation the agility needed to respond to unexpected change.

XaaS, everything as a service

In many cases the businesses that successfully transitioned to remote working and business as usual back in March, had already embraced SaaS, PaaS and IaaS models. This gave them the flexibility to scale up, or down, the services they required such as providing more users with access to collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams.

The benefits of the ‘as a service’ model are well known. A shift from capital to operational expenditure (capex to opex) often leads to lower total cost of ownership. Organisations get access to up-to-date technology, with fast implementation times and maintained by service providers that can leverage the economies of scale. Pay-as-you-go provides scalability to meet business requirements and react quickly to change. And they free up your IT team so they have more time and resources to focus on other projects and priorities.

Central digital hub

One of the problems we’ve seen companies struggle with over the last few months is how to keep employees connected with a distributed workforce. This is not just about ensuring employees can communicate and access information, but also have a sense of belonging that is easier to achieve in a physical office environment.

Companies that do this successfully often have a history of remote working and therefore have the tools and well-established processes to promote unity across the workforce. If your organisation has had remote working thrust upon it because of current events, you may not have had time to develop and optimise the infrastructure needed. In fact, it probably hasn’t been a priority with everything else the IT team has had to deal with.

As a result you may now find that different teams have adopted their own tools and processes to keep connected. Perhaps the Marketing department is on Slack, while Sales has discovered Yammer and Finance are relying on a weekly Zoom session.

While there is no right or wrong, and a combination of different tools for different types of communication can work successfully, a central place for all your people to connect and access company information is vital.

A modern corporate intranet creates a central digital workplace to engage employees, promote collaboration and unite a remote workforce. Intranet solutions powered by SharePoint can also help you maximise your investment in Microsoft 365. Content can be aggregated from SharePoint sites so that employees have a single view of the information they need. It can also be used to signpost employees to other collaboration tools, such as Yammer communities for different interest groups or integrate with Microsoft Teams.

24/7 IT support

Proactive and reactive IT support is more important than ever. Remote workers can only get the most out of the technology provided if they have back up should something go wrong or they get stuck. Over the last few months we’ve seen the following trends develop:

Increased demand for IT support: initially we experienced a dramatic spike in demand for support as users unfamiliar with some of the remote working tools they were given, needed more help. This has now levelled off but we’re still seeing higher ticket volumes than this time last year.

Out-of-hours IT support: with many employees continuing to juggle work and family commitments, the IT Service Desk is often required into the evening to support employees working outside of normal business hours.

Self-service support: tech-savvy employees know that if they experience a problem they can often find a solution on the internet. This has increased demand for self-service IT support solutions like ChatBots, and Knowledge Banks. Community forums are also on the increase, perhaps to replace that knowledgable colleague who employees might have previously called on when in an office environment.

If you need guidance to help you navigate the next few months, or to support long term digital transformation ambitions, do get in touch. You can book a free discovery call with one of our digital productivity consultants or speak to any of our subject matter experts about leveraging your technology.

network infrastructure

Is your network cloud ready?

In the excitement of migrating to the cloud and transforming your organisation into a high performing digital workplace, some important factors can get overlooked. Not least your network which will be critical performance and security once you’ve migrated.

Insufficient network coverage will quickly scupper that dream of increased productivity and flexibility. If your network is not fit for purpose, users may find accessing the cloud problematic and cloud applications will not perform at their best. Moreover, if cloud migration is part of your organisation’s growth strategy, network limitations will make it hard to scale on demand.

As part of our cloud assessment workshops we explore cloud readiness and whether the network is robust enough to ensure a successful cloud migration. You can find out more about these workshops here >

Network considerations for a successful cloud migration

Analyse the applications you plan to migrate

Different applications have different network requirements demanding on how much data they move across the network. High bandwidth might be critical for some, whereas delay and latency may be more of a factor for others.

Don’t forget remote employees and sites

What level of connectivity is required by users working from remote sites, such as regional offices, from home or elsewhere? Do they need to move large amounts of data across the network and therefore require high bandwidth?

Legacy on-premise applications

Applications that are either staying on-premise or will be migrated at a later date, still require network resources. However network configurations designed for on-premise platforms don’t work well in the cloud, and vice-versa. On-premise systems work well with a static network limited to a physical location but the cloud requires flexibility to manage all the network resources available universally. Network virtualisation can help you overcome these challenges.

Back up Internet Service Provider

Continuous service becomes vital when an organisation migrates to the cloud so a back up ISP is essential.

Network resources for cloud migration

You’ll also need to allocate network resources to the cloud migration to ensure a successful process. Legacy applications like on-premise email systems need a large amount of networking resources, so it’s vital that you have capacity.

Network security

The virtual and highly distributed nature of the cloud presents some challenges when it comes to security. Cloud resources not only need to be protected but it’s also vital that they’re available as more business functions are moved to the cloud. Your cyber security strategy, policies and tools must now be aligned with the cloud, as well as any hybrid solutions.

Network monitoring

As well as security considerations it’s also time to think about how you’ll maintain and monitor network performance throughout the cloud migration project and beyond. Now’s the time to find out whether your corporate LAN network monitoring tools can be integrated with a public IaaS, to give visibility on network performance inside of the cloud. Alternatively, cloud-focused network performance monitoring platforms may be an option.

If you want to understand whether your network is cloud ready, book a cloud assessment workshop with our cloud migration team. This workshop is tailored to your organisation’s requirements and cloud strategy, and will provide you with a roadmap with key recommendations for decision makers and stakeholders. Click here for more details, or get in touch directly to discuss next steps.

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What makes a good IT services provider?

With numerous IT services providers on the market, it can be hard to identify the right IT company to work with. Not all providers offer the same level of service, and unfortunately not all IT companies can be described as ‘good’.

Use our checklist to benchmark your current provider against SDI 4 star accreditation, or use it to shortlist IT outsourcing providers if you’re planning to move your service desk.

So how do you know if an IT service provider is good? As well as looking at reviews and testimonials from their customers and asking for recommendations from trusted associates, here are a few things that differentiate the good providers.

3 things good IT services providers do, and 3 things they don’t

Good IT service providers DO

Understand their customers and their users – these providers will take the time to understand your organisation, business objectives, challenges, IT function and requirements before proposing how they can help you. Their on-boarding process is customer focused too, ensuring that by the time their services go live they have a complete understanding of how their services will impact your business and users.

Offer specialist services – there are so many different aspects to IT that to provide a comprehensive outsourcing solution an IT service provider has to have a large team of skilled IT professionals, with numerous specialisations. While providers like Cloud Business can offer a range of services because of our internal capacity, we also specialise. For example, we’re though-leaders in the Managed Services arena, we’re digital transformation experts, we have a market-leading cyber security services team and we’re Microsoft Gold Partners with extensive experience in deploying Modern Workplace solutions.

Add value – increasingly business leaders understand how IT is not purely an operational function but can also be a strategic partner in achieving business objectives. Good IT services providers also understand this and will work with your organisation to align their services with business strategies and goals. Great IT services providers will go a step further and look at where they can deliver even more value, working with your organisation and IT team as a strategic partner.

Good IT services providers DON’T

Try to fit your organisation to their business model – while Managed Services are more cost effective because providers are able to offer multiple customers the same services, good providers align their services with your organisation not the other way around. Good providers won’t force their customers to pay for services they don’t need because they’re part of a ‘package’. Instead they’ll offer a variety of options that can be tailored to your needs.

Offer general IT services – the saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ is very true in IT. For many IT services providers it’s not possible to have, and maintain, the skills needed to provide a vast range of IT services. IT is constantly evolving with new technology and threats impacting how services are delivered. Keeping up-to-date on such a diverse range of specialisations is not feasible unless the provider has large team of specialists.  

Stick to Service Level Agreements – good providers deliver more than the bare minimum. They are constantly looking to enhance their service and go above and beyond SLAs by doing more for their clients. Instead of just monitoring IT systems and responding to incidents, they will be exploring ways to make your IT more efficient, driving cost savings and increasing performance.

Is your IT service provider good? If you want to benchmark the IT support your organisation currently enjoys, download our checklist to rate it against industry standards. Click here >

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How to get started with Microsoft Azure

Not sure how to get started with Microsoft Azure? Well good news, it can be easier than you think. By thinking about things like goals, security and budgets before you start using Azure, you can ensure you’ll get the most out of it. Here are several tips for getting started with this cloud platform.

Make room for failure

Like anything new, getting set up on Azure takes some getting used to. So don’t just throw any old workload into the cloud. If it fails, the results could be counter-productive and costly. Instead, think about the workloads that have room for trial and error and use these as you get used to the platform.

Consider corporate policies

Your company rulebook may have something to say about moving data and apps to the cloud. Before you move anything here, make sure you know the rules and if there’s anything you need to do before you begin setting up Azure. 

Set your goals

What do you want to get out of Azure, exactly? Whether it’s reducing running costs or improving IT infrastructure, knowing what you want will help guide your actions in the cloud.

Explore our Azure Migrate packaged services to start your Azure journey >

Work out your budget

Along with knowing what your goals are, you should get an idea of the budget you have to achieve them with. Take a look at your current IT budgets and spending patterns. Then think about what it would cost, and what you could save, by moving certain aspects of this to the cloud.

Develop your identity strategy

What access you do you want to give, to who, and when do you want to give it? Think about your users. Among them you may have:

  • On-premises users
  • Mobile users
  • IT admins
  • B2B partners
  • B2C customers

Active Directory (AD) used to be the way for authentication. But this was for a time before the cloud. Azure Active Directory (ADD) offers an updated approach. Here are some differences between the two you should know about:


  • Made for on-premises devices and software
  • Works best with single-platform Windows
  • Used mainly for directory services via DNS
  • Hierarchal structure: forests, trees, OUs and GPOs
  • Authentication mainly via Kerberos


  • Made for the cloud
  • Works cross-platform on any browser
  • Used mainly for identity services via HTTP and HTTPS
  • Flat structure: no forests, trees, OUs or GPOs. Has domains, users and groups
  • Authentication via multiple protocols

When you’re starting your cloud journey, you may want to enable users to access your platform with their existing AD or Office 365 credentials. Later on, you may need to put some controls in. With ADD, you get flexibility in setting out which users get access to your applications, and how much access they get.

Think about security

If an unwanted or malicious guest gets into your cloud, how do you get rid of them?

No industry is entirely bulletproof from cyber-attacks, whether they’re using the cloud or not. Although Azure employs a lot of best practices for dealing with intrusion, it’s up to you to come up with a security strategy.

Do you send an alert to the intruder and shut them out as soon as you spot them, or do you wait until they start doing something suspicious? Do you run your data centre within your organisation, or ask a Microsoft partner to do this for you?

Be aware it’s not easy

Remember: the cloud doesn’t run itself. It needs:

  • Architecture design
  • Database administration
  • Network management
  • Backup monitoring
  • Operating system patching

Can you handle all of this in-house, or would it be better to let a third part supplier handle this? There’s never any shame in asking for help.

Windows Autopatch

Please sir, I’ve forgotten my login!

Our experience in the education sector gives us some real insights into the key issues affecting IT departments in schools. It’s a challenging environment as on one hand there is a drive to equip schools with technology that will give students the best chance of meeting Government standards in maths, science and literacy; whereas on the other, schools have to manage tightening budgets and criticism that IT does not improve performance and results*. 

Key challenges of integrating ICT into education

As Head of Education Services at Cloud Business I share your pain! Talking to Heads of IT and Network Managers at schools on a daily basis I know that forgotten logins and updating software are the least of your concerns.

Are any of these challenges familiar…?

IT infrastructure

Many schools are faced with legacy issues as old PCs, laptops and servers are no longer fit for purpose. The problem is knowing where to invest IT budgets to get the best ROI, and having realistic expectations about the longevity of your school’s IT infrastructure. This is an education process in itself, as often members of the school Board do not appreciate that IT infrastructure is an on-going investment, here lies the reason for your legacy issues… Getting a high level of IT investment is the first hurdle; the next is keeping that investment current through replenishment.

Many schools are looking at alternatives to making large investments in IT infrastructure. For example, leasing IT equipment with a five-year replacement cycle and / or moving infrastructure into the cloud. Our experience with schools like Little Heath in Berkshire, whose ICT infrastructure is fully virtualised, is that there are clear savings to be made by reducing the total cost of ownership of IT estate, and moving to a more flexible and scalable virtual solution. This removes the problem, and cost, of running and updating platforms out of the school’s ICT estate.

Mindset challenge: For some School Boards the concept of reducing the school’s ICT estate and having monthly service fees for a virtual solution instead, is a hard to grasp. Network managers need to be able to demonstrate that the total cost of ownership of purchasing, running and maintaining IT infrastructure can be far higher than utilising virtualisation. If your school is looking to partner with an IT service provider, they will be able to provide you with this evidence.

Internet connectivity

Broadband connectivity continues to be a major challenge for schools, even after incentives such as the Harnessing Technology Grants that was available a decade ago. The difference between connectivity experienced in the home environment compared to school can be marked, with students and staff finding that poor performance prevents them from using technology effectively. We hear of teachers aborting attempts to get online during lessons and students making slow progress when using the school’s WiFi. Furthermore poor bandwidth also impacts on school admin systems such as payment and catering systems.

The problem is that many schools have insufficient bandwidth that causes overloading issues and WiFi blackspots. Many schools would benefit from new access points, continuous monitoring of the network and failover services to maintain connectivity at all times, ensuring that demand from end users is managed and bandwidth is controlled.

While an ICT technician could not be expected to do this, as well as managing all the other demands on their time; this is a key area that could be outsourced to a managed service provider and have a real impact on teaching and user experience within the school.

CPD and training

A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)* published in 2015 suggests that investing heavily in school computers and technology does not improve performance and results. Controversial stuff. However, in defense of ICT suites around the country one of key problems for schools looking to accelerate learning with technology is training.

Or the lack of.

In a British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) 2011 report, 54% of secondary and 45% of primary schools thought that more than half of their teachers still needed training to use digital content; while 71% of primary and 68% of secondary schools thought more than half their staff needed training in learning platforms.

Training costs money, but it’s essential if the investment in technology is to deliver the results desired. While those teachers who deliver Computing Science in schools naturally require regular CPD, in an arena that is constantly evolving all staff need training to enable them to get the most out of technology.


Another important issue for schools is that of safeguarding students whilst also allowing them access to the Internet, email accounts and other digital networks. At Little Heath School, Cloud Business closely monitor network access as part of our network management service. A diligent and robust approach to security is required and also includes monitoring of Bring-Your-Own-Devices (BYOD). Many schools benefit from students using their own smartphones or tablets, rather than the school’s own equipment, and these need to become part of e-safety policies.

Schools may have robust e-safety strategies in place but should be aware of this rapidly changing landscape. Students are often the first to access to new digital technology and platforms before the school is even aware of them, and so safeguarding requires a very proactive approach.

If you school are looking to partner with an IT managed service provider – safeguarding and security should be high on the agenda.

How to address these ICT challenges

There are no easy answers when the solutions generally require funding, but there may be better ways to manage your IT budget and deliver value for your school, students and staff.

  • Virtualisation can be a very cost effective solution reducing the cost of ownership of desktop infrastructure, applications and servers, and removing the problem of legacy IT;
  • Leasing computers also offers many benefits, again removing the issue of outdated hardware;
  • Sharing technical support among a group of schools. We’re increasingly seeing schools with good IT provision supporting feeder schools and other partnership schools in this way;
  • Managed service desk is a good solution for those schools who do not have on-site IT support all the time, ensuring that IT issues are addressed quickly without disrupting teaching. It can also help free up IT departments’ time allowing those key members of staff to focus on more productive areas of their role;
  • Training is essential if you are to get value from your IT assets. If you can save money, and time, by using some of the solutions above you could focus more on training and supporting teachers in the classroom.

To talk about how Cloud Business can help your school implement, run and maintain IT in a cost effective, flexible and responsive way, please get in touch.

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