When you make it easier for employees to do their job, you generally free up their time to get more done … and Cloud Computing can help.

Products such as Microsoft 365, (formerly Office 365), offer businesses the functionality they need to get on with the day job. Whether you require secure anywhere/anytime access to company data, the ability to set up virtual meetings or collaborate on a project with someone based miles away, cloud computing can deliver.

What issues do businesses without cloud computing face?

For some, the idea of saving your valuable documents using a software system that distributes those files across multiple data centres based far away seems risky.

Some businesses prefer to keep their files and folders on a physical server, neatly tucked away in the corner of the Office, or even on their own Laptop, which goes everywhere with them. It feels safe to keep things close, but in the case of where you save your data, it can be counter-intuitive.

Servers can be compromised, be damaged by flood or fire and if your data isn’t properly backed up to another device you risk permanently losing everything. Your laptop could break, be stolen on the train, and then not only have you lost your data, but someone could hack it.

Business that haven’t embraced cloud computing will be increasingly limited in our mobile world. They will struggle to access data and VPN connections are not as secure or flexible as the encryption inherent in Microsoft 365. In addition, businesses may want to reduce overhead costs (rent, electricity, hardware etc) by having more staff work from home and cloud commuting gives you that choice.

How can cloud computing alleviate issues and improve productivity?

Aside from the security considerations listed above, traditional ways of working where you have to be physically in the office to access data on your server, are disappearing.

Global pandemics aside, businesses need to function remotely. Employees want to read email and work on projects away from the office. They need to do this securely using any WiFi connection, any device, (including your kid’s laptop), and from any location. Cloud computing gives you that ultimate freedom with the reassurance of incredible security. It also saves you the considerable expenditure of buying a new server when the old one fails and the on-going maintenance costs.

What is included in a cloud computing service?

Depending on your business, you will need to choose the right type of cloud computing services. For the majority though, email is a no-brainer and Microsoft’s Email and Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc) have been the backbone of our working lives for years now.

In addition, how you store your data (SharePoint and OneDrive), host your Apps, (Azure Virtual Machine) and ensure your backup and security is A-class (Azure Disaster Recovery) can all be answered by cloud computing.

What is the average cost of cloud computing?

Cloud computing is supplied via licenses. For Microsoft 365, this is called Software as a Service and it is priced according to the functionality included in each ‘plan’ and is charged on a per user basis either monthly or annually.

For virtual servers, this is called Infrastructure as a Service and what you pay is influenced by a number of factors, including usage levels and data retention periods.

Cloud computing can be increased, decreased or even, in the case of archive data, switched off when you don’t need to access it. If an employee leaves, you cancel their license. Basically, you pay for what you use and scale up or down depending on your business needs.

If you want to talk to a professional who has implemented cloud computing for many businesses, saving them money, increasing their security, and enabling them to embrace remote working, call Susannah now on 02392 007850.

From Helpdesk support for every day break/fix issues to Infrastructure monitoring and maintenance, there are a bewildering variety of services you can sign up for. This article summarises the core types of IT support services, exploring their pros and cons to help you in your decision-making process.

What sort of business or size of business is IT support suitable for?

All businesses will require some form of IT support. Whether you are a small business with under 10 employees or a large corporate, you should have an IT strategy and the right structure in place. Businesses of all sizes can choose to outsource their IT. The more appropriate question is what type of support should you go for?

What sort of services are included in an IT support package?

The majority of outsourced support services for IT falls into two broad categories; onsite and remote. Onsite support usually means that an Engineer will attend your workplace in the event a problem occurs with your IT that cannot be resolved remotely. Remote support does what it says on the tin; it provides you with and telephone number and email address you can use to report issues and ask for help.

The devil, however, is in the detail. Whether you choose onsite or remote support, the price you pay for support may be predicated on a per-user or per-device basis. The majority of modern Managed Service Providers (MSPs) will charge on a per-user basis because people often have more than one device and an IT issue can be caused by one or more devices failing to interact correctly.  At Westlake, we want to make sure our clients can keep working and minimise productivity loss, so we support the person, including all the IT they might use.

What sort of services are included in an IT support package?

In addition to how your contract is priced, its important to understand what is and isn’t included. The following lists what you need to consider when appointing an IT partner:

Fixed times or unlimited access?

The majority of MSPs will provider their services Monday-Friday and within business hours, however, some will also offer premium packages covering out of office hours and weekends. Some MSPs may give you a fixed number of hours you can use per month and others may offer you unlimited access to their Helpdesk.

Variable Service Level Agreements

Some clients want a faster SLA for all or some of their employees and you will pay differently for Fast Track IT support.

Desktop Monitoring and Maintenance

Some MSPs may bundle your break/fix IT support for your employees with other endpoint services such as desktop monitoring, automated software updates and patch management. These services are usually provided by an endpoint monitoring and maintenance software system which is linked to your IT partner’s Helpdesk software and alerts them to issues with your PC estate.

Security and Backup

Another benefit that might be included in your IT support is antivirus software for your PCs and Backup for your shared data.

IT Asset Management

A good MSP will be able to audit your PC estate, ensure it is licensed correctly and patched and regularly updated. In addition, they should be able to offer PC procurement, installation and disposal services. Often these services are an integral part of an IT support contract.

Service Delivery

When choosing an IT partner, make sure you know what is included in your contract. Will you have a dedicated Account Manager? Are monthly or quarterly update meetings included? Do they have an ITIL-driven operational model and best practice mindset? Do they use Professional Services Automation (PSA) software which includes Ticket allocation and resolution tracking? Finally, do they offer monthly SLA Performance Report

How can a business identify what areas of IT support they will need?

As part of your tender process you should share as much detail as possible about your core business, your operational infrastructure, your current IT set up and your future business goals. This will enable your prospective IT partners to put together a Proposal that outlines what they think is the right IT support for you.

Why might businesses not see the value in IT support?

Spending money on something that is not your core business may seem like a nice to have, but bad or no IT planning can lose you money in the long run. The CAP EX cost of investing in physical servers is huge. What if you can get the job done with virtual ones instead?  What if your PCs aren’t licensed correctly and you are fined? What if you buy new PCs and their specification is inadequate for the job you need them to do? What if a global pandemic happens and you need your entire workforce to be able to work from home in the space of a few days? What if your office floods, and your data isn’t backed up so its irretrievably lost?

Why is IT support worth the cost?

The right IT support is strategic and proactive and should help you contain your costs so that you spend your budget wisely. The best IT support protects your business’s data, keeps you working with minimal downtime, and helps your business to grow by being an enabler and not a weight around your neck.

What is the average cost of IT Support?

Prices vary depending on the services you will receive and the only way to get a genuine idea is to compare providers as part of a tender process.

Does your business need IT Support?

Contact our team today to see how Westlake IT can help to alleviate the burden of IT from your business. We’ve been providing IT managed services to businesses like yours since 2005 and many of our customers who joined us early on are still with us today.

IT Support

You’d be forgiven for picturing fluffy white clouds floating in the sky when someone talks about Cloud computing. While the majority of us know enough about how the Cloud works to use it in our everyday lives, can we confidently answer the question “what is the Cloud?” And more importantly, just where has our data gone when we save it to the Cloud?

Before Cloud computing existed, we would go to work, turn on our PCs and open a document that could be found in one of two main places: in the My Documents folder, located on our actual Desktop or Laptop, or in a Shared folder that you and other people in your company could access. That shared folder could be located on a separate PC, but for the majority of SMEs, it would be located on a Server.

Server & VPN Reliability

Servers are linked to your PC by hardwiring your WiFi connection inside of your physical offices. If you want to work from home or during a business trip, then you’d either need to download your files onto your Laptop to take with you or log onto your physical server via a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which allows you to create a secure connection to your server using the Internet.

All good so far, but VPN connections are not always reliable and security is a consideration. Plus, if you download confidential data onto your Laptop and that Laptop is lost or stolen, not only have you lost important information, but your Laptop could be hacked, and then you’re potentially facing a whole host of IP and GDPR issues. Finally, Servers get old and cost a lot of money to replace, and what happens if your office is broken into? Or there’s a fire? If your server is fatally damaged or hacked and your back up isn’t excellent, you could lose one of your most valuable assets…. your data.

The advent of Cloud computing gave us something new. The ability to replace our onsite Servers with the immensely powerful and incredibly secure Servers, owned by providers such as Microsoft, Google or Amazon. These Servers are located in Data Centres built on ships or massive campuses and are spread around the world. Data Centres are very real, and not at all white and fluffy. It’s how we connect to them that explains the Cloud concept. We use the Internet.

Think of the Internet as replacing the cable in your office that connects your PC to your office server.

The Internet is ubiquitous, and providing your broadband strength is sufficient, you can access your files and data anywhere at any time. The security and encryption that is built into Cloud computing solutions such as Microsoft 365 far outstrips that of VPN. Your data is saved and replicated across different locations, which you can choose, meaning better resilience, faster access, with no bottlenecks and greater collaboration.

Considering Cloud Computing for your business? Westlake IT can help.

At Westlake, we have a proven track record in migrating businesses to the Cloud and we have the experience to advise you on the optimal Cloud-based solution to meet your unique business needs. Our solution will deliver you the maximum benefit with the tightest security. Get in touch today to see how we can help.