Thursday, May 24, 2012

Public Vs Private Clouds

As an alternative to the three tiered classification of cloud based services - Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) - cloud computing can also be classified based upon how the underlying networks are implemented and accessed by the client. The following article provides and overview of the two principle models Public and Private Clouds.

These models do not describe strict architectures and so a variety of configurations can be employed to achieve each model of cloud computing. Furthermore, each model can be used to offer each tier of cloud service as mentioned above.

Public Cloud

When most people think of cloud computing they think of a typical public cloud model where the services on offer are available to public customers through a public network, usually the internet. The accessibility of this model allows for cloud services to be supplied to a mass market and for the provider to centralise/pool (and share) the physical computing resource they require to offer the services; utilising virtualisation where they need to establish operating environments. As a result, consumers and providers of public cloud services can benefit from considerable economies of scale to reduce their costs as well as sheer scalability to respond to fluctuations in demand.

Public cloud services can often be free to the consumer, funded for example by advertising, however where a charge is applied they usually follow a pay as you go (PAYG) type model - that is the consumer is supplied with the computing resource they need as and when they need it and are only charged for what they use. Many of the cloud services that are most familiar to the general consumer, particularly Software as a Service (SaaS) applications such as Google Docs (cloud based 'office' applications), Gmail (web based email) or Dropbox (cloud storage), fall under the public cloud model.

For some consumers, the mechanisms of the public cloud which bring such cost savings and widespread availability can also bring undesired security vulnerabilities. Although the security of these services is always improving, the fact that data is transferred across public networks and stored on shared physical and/or virtual servers may provide obstacles to some clients using the public cloud for processing sensitive data. Instead they might look towards to private cloud services.

Private Cloud

Cloud clients who are handling, processing or storing sensitive data that they need ensure remains private and secure and who want to take advantage of some of the cost, availability and scalability benefits that cloud computing usually offers, can utilise private cloud services as an alternative to the public cloud.

The concept of a private cloud is harder to define than that of public cloud and no strict definition really exists. It is best to categorise private clouds by some of the features that they provide and the issues that they address in comparison to public services, such as data security and ownership control (of servers etc), rather than the mechanisms they use. They will of course also display the tell-tale features of cloud computing in general - virtualisation, instantaneous scalability, PAYG charging and automated allocation of resources on demand.

The entirety of a private cloud will only be accessible by a single organisation (in contrast to multiple clients using services within the public cloud) and some examples therefore also allow the end user organisation to have control over the management of the cloud network and its set-up so that they can tailor it to their own needs. The flip side of this control however is that some of the cost savings generated by the centralised management of public cloud services will be lost in private clouds. Instead the service becomes closer in structure to a traditional local network based service, but with the benefits of virtualisation mentioned above.

The network of servers itself can be hosted internally by the organisation (as required by some regulatory bodies for sensitive data) or externally by a cloud provider (e.g., a Virtual Data Centre, VDC ) but access will be restricted to connections made behind the organisation's firewall. To provide the security and control private clouds can employ certain characteristics techniques including closed networks of servers (not shared between clients), hosting of servers on site and leased lines to access these networks where they are hosted off site.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Could IT Financing Be the Solution for Your Business Startup?

If you wish to make it into the "major leagues", then having your own IT equipment in place is a must. Not only will this make communication easier between your employees, but it will also help to make sure your customers are happy by allowing you to fulfill new orders with relative ease. If you've decided that it's time for your business to take advantage of new technological advancements, then one of the most important questions you will need to ask yourself is how you plan on paying for it. This is where IT financing comes into play. IT financing is a very lucrative option that could free up cash to be used in other aspects of your business.

IT Financing: The often overlooked option

No matter what type of IT hardware/software you need for your business, it will usually be quite expensive. So expensive in fact that it often becomes the number 1 barrier for new entrepreneurs looking to start a business. A lot of these entrepreneurs do not realize is that the capital for the technology needed can be financed. Yes, there are plenty of IT financing companies around that can easily accommodate whatever type of hardware/software you need to buy.

IT financing instead of buying is very advantageous because it will allow you to use your limited startup capital in other ways that may bring more benefits to your company. This could mean putting a bigger deposit down on the lease for your building, or perhaps even buying necessary supplies so that you can get started immediately.

A few things to watch out for when looking for a lender

Believe it or not, not all IT financing companies are created equal; when looking for a company to finance your IT infrastructure, there are a few tale-tale signs to stay away from. These include:

- High APR lenders.
- Lenders that require a substantial amount of upfront collateral. There are plenty of companies that do not require any at all.
- Contract managers that know little about how the IT industry works.
- Fixed non-negotiable contracts.

While there are of course other negative signs to stay away from, these in particular are the most important and widespread. If the company that you happen to be researching shows any of these signs, then it may be a good idea to simply look elsewhere. There are plenty of lenders on the market that are hungry for your business and will allow you to negotiate more favorable terms.

The bottom line

As you can see, IT financing can be a very lucrative option for those looking to start a new business or perhaps even upgrade an existing one to a better and more technologically driven infrastructure. If you think IT financing could be right for you and your business then finding a reputable finance company will be your first step. If you take the time to do your research correctly and find a lender with favorable terms, then you will surely put yourself ahead of your competitors who may still be struggling while using outdated or perhaps even non-existent IT systems.

Monday, May 14, 2012

IT Leasing: To Save Money at the Same Time Using Latest IT Equipment

As reported by the Equipment Leasing Association (ELA), over 80 percent of the companies of the US lease a certain amount of or all of the IT equipment. You may be wondering why have such a large number of enterprises chosen to lease their IT equipment instead of buying. The simple reason is that these companies have realized that the true benefits of the equipment they own comes from the use, not from ownership, which is notably true if the company has rapidly depreciating office equipment like computer equipment. Generally IT equipment is the most leased type of office equipment.

Why Would You Choose IT Leasing Over Purchasing?

IT leasing can be a very useful financial strategy if it is implemented in a proper manner. This strategy will appeal not only the finance executives but also the IT and legal executives of your company for a large number of reasons. Some of the most important of these reasons are listed below.

Leasing Can Reduce The Total Cost of Your Company

Due to the fact that IT leasing agencies intend to resell the IT equipment after the lease term is over, they do not need the client to finance the whole IT equipment cost. So you see, the present value (PV) of the lease installments is practically always lesser than the cost of the IT equipment, in the case when those are purchased. So if your company decides to lease it will be benefited, because usually all the companies realize increased savings from the leasing services if they choose to do so.

It Can Help You Save Working Capital and Keep Your Lines of Credit Intact

You do not need to do a lot of financial calculation to understand the years' old rule of thumb which tells you to buy appreciable assets such as land and gold and lease depreciable assets such as IT equipment. Instead of spending a large amount of money in a rapidly depreciating property such as a computer or a printer, you can very well pay very small mount for the property as you simultaneously reap the added benefits of its use.

By paying a moderate amount of expense for leasing each month, smart companies save their current level of line of credit and working capital for more income producing activities. An additional financial benefit of IT leasing is that it would keep debt off the financial statements such as the balance sheet, thus improving the performance ratios of your company. This will help you get more financing in the future.

Rule out Book Write-Downs at the End of the Useful Life of Your IT Equipment

Many companies that opted to choose purchase over lease have faced book write-down problems at the end of the equipment's useful life. For instance if a company has an IT equipment that is being depreciated over seven years, but the useful life of the equipment is only five, then at the five year mark, the mismatch will create a troublesome internal and bookkeeping conflict.

If you face such situation, then you will be forced to choose among continuing using your old IT equipment, placing it in a corner to go on with depreciation, or facing a book loss. IT leasing can always mitigate this headache, allowing you to match your bookkeeping procedures to the useful life of the IT equipment.

Get Tax Advantage

You can also have the tax benefits from IT leasing because in almost all the cases, lease payments are fully tax deductible in the form of operating expenses.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

American Infighting Creates Opening For Cyberspies

The United States has the most powerful military in the world, with nearly 1.5 million active service members. We are prepared to meet threats delivered by land, air or sea - but not threats delivered by computer code.

Yet a bill that would have asked operators of vital infrastructure systems, such as power grids and water-treatment plants, to comply with voluntary cybersecurity standards recently died in the Senate.

In its original version, the bill, backed by President Barack Obama, would have implemented mandatory standards. The bill's sponsors, Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, backed down only when it became clear they would not be able to muster enough votes, offering a voluntary program instead. Still, Senate Republicans saw the voluntary program as little more than a stepping stone on a path that would eventually lead back to the sponsors' initial vision.

The proposed compromise bill would have at least given us a start on efforts to improve cybersecurity. I wish it had passed. But I understand why Senate Republicans were reluctant to help the current president gain more authority to tell businesses what to do. Another president might have spent his time in office building the ties and trust with the business community that would justify taking a leadership role in the face of an emerging threat that should concern practically every business manager. Obama has not.

Now, rather than attempting to assuage critics' fears, Obama has moved in the opposite direction, suggesting that he may just implement the voluntary standards, as best he can, through executive order. The message is obvious: The president is set on getting his way. "An executive order makes clear the administration's intent to put a mandatory program into place to regulate businesses," Matthew Eggers, senior director of national security at the Chamber of Commerce, said in an emailed statement reported by Bloomberg. (1)

The price of this infighting is that we are unlikely to get a substantive legislative response to the threat of cyberterrorism any time soon.

Many people still think of hackers as rogue individuals, bent on wreaking destruction for destruction's sake or on hijacking passwords for personal gain. Those sorts of hackers do exist and are a threat. Just earlier this year, the anarchist hacker group Anonymous claimed responsibility for a second attack on the CIA website. Meanwhile, the Conficker worm, which recruits computers into a botnet, a network potentially capable of being used remotely by hackers, infects around 7 million computers. The botnet could be used to crash particular websites by flooding servers with requests, or it could be used as a supercomputer to break encryption systems and steal financial data. So far, the creators of the network seem more interested in the second purpose. "The people behind [the botnet] apparently want to use it for criminal reasons - to make money," said Mark Bowden, an expert on Conficker. (2) Last year, officials in Ukraine arrested a group of people using a portion of the Conficker botnet to drain millions from American bank accounts.

Hacking, however, is no longer the sole province of individual rogue programmers. Foreign nations and corporations are increasingly turning to computer-aided espionage as well, C. Frank Figliuzzi, who heads the FBI's counterintelligence division, recently told Congress.

In one of the most striking examples, the Chinese company Sinovel converted itself from Massachusetts-based turbine manufacturer AMSC's largest customer to one of that company's biggest competitors by appropriating its proprietary software, with the aid of a bribed employee. It also recently came to light that one of the Russian spies arrested in the well-publicized bust in 2010 spent some of his time in the U.S. working as an in-house computer expert for a high-profile consulting firm, a position that was likely intended to give him access to proprietary information.

So far, the cyberspies have apparently focused primarily on stealing intellectual property from private companies for the benefit of their own industries, but similar methods could be used for more sinister purposes as well. Four years ago, the public got a glimpse of how cyberwarfare might function when cyberattacks played a minor role in the Russian attack on Georgia, crippling government websites before the military advance. Around the same time, the U.S. was itself secretly advancing the role of cyberwarfare with its coordinated attacks on the Iranian nuclear program.

To prevent a similar attack on American infrastructure, we first need to push CTRL+ALT+DEL on our political conversation on cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare. For that to happen, the president must show more respect for the business community and Republican senators must show renewed willingness to work with Obama and his administration, despite its less-than-business-friendly record. It won't be easy, but it will be easier than rebooting infrastructure networks if we continue to leave them open to attack.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Best Way to Find a Good IT Management Firm

If you've struggled to manage your own IT in the past, then you have probably realized by now the benefits of having an outside firm do it for you. Not only can outsourcing this task save you money, but it can also give you the extra time you need to focus more energy on marketing and satisfying your current customers. But believe it or not, not all IT management firms will be able to deliver the performance you'd expect. Even the best and most reliable companies will have faults that could end up costing you money instead. If you need a little help in making your decision, then below you'll find a few of the top warning signs of a bad company, as well as some of the positive signs that you should be looking for.

Warning signs of a bad IT management firm

Unacceptable follow-up: One of the best signs of a bad IT management company is poor or slow follow-up. The very nature of the IT environment requires quick adaptability and performance by management personnel in order to insure that any downtime you may experience due to technical problems gets corrected immediately. Not doing so could become very costly. This will not only cost you new customers, but can also annoy and drive away the customers that you may already have. If your IT management company takes days just to respond to a simple inquiry, then just imagine how long it could take them to respond if a major problem were to develop.

Placing a big emphasis on "free" consultations: T This may come as a big surprise, but not all "free" consultations are necessarily free. The majority of IT management firms use this as a ploy in order to upsell you on expensive services. This is done by telling you that you have major problems with your IT, and then offering you a guaranteed solution that only they can provide. While "free" consultations aren't always necessarily a bad thing, you should be on the lookout for suspicious "problems" and services that they will likely recommend.

The signs of a good IT management firm

Expertise followed by a real portfolio: The ideal firm for your business will not only have extensive education and experience, but they will also have a rather large portfolio of current or past clients that have also used their services with success. This is very important, because certifications and education mean nothing, if a company cannot deliver on promises and expectations. When asking to see a firms' portfolio they should also be willing to allow you to contact the companies that have used them in the past so that you can get a good idea of what to expect.

Fast communication: When you first contact an IT management firm it is important to pay attention to just how fast the company follows up with you and answers your questions. If you find a company that is very speedy in this regard then this is a definite sign that the particular firm could be a winner.

A dedicated account representative: When selecting a firm, it should be obvious that you won't be the only client that the company is working with. This is why it is so important that you have your own dedicated account representative that knows all about your business and your needs and will be able to work with you directly. Not only does this cut out the "middleman" process, but it also cuts down on internal confusion and frustration.

As you can see, choosing a good IT management company does not have to be complicated at all. In fact, it can be very easy if you stick to these tips and compare multiple services. Not only will this help you to pick the right firm, but it will also make the entire process less time consuming than it would be otherwise.