Everyone is now starting to become familiar with "Cloud" Computing, and Microsoft are playing a large part in making it happen at the moment, with the launch of new products and solutions that are available now or coming very soon.
So, what is available at the moment in regards to cloud based solutions from Microsoft
There are currently 5 areas that have been covered which are as follows:
- Management & Security
- Sales & Service Productivity
- Cloud Platform
- Private Cloud
Windows InTune (Management & Security)
Windows InTune from Microsoft is a PC Management and Security Cloud Based Service which helps keep Business IT Systems Up to date with the latest Microsoft Updates and keeps the systems healthy. It allows IT Administrators to monitor the network health and provide statistical information to Senior Management.
Windows InTune Provides you with the following:
- Windows Endpoint Protection (Based on Windows Live Security Essentials)
- Manage Policies Centrally (Firewall, Applications etc.)
- Reporting and Monitoring (Status, Health, Errors, Faults and Application Installs)
- Provides you with Windows Upgrade rights to Windows 7 Ultimate (helps businesses make use of Microsoft Bitlocker Encryption Software +)
- Service is Run on Microsoft Hardware and Managed by Microsoft Engineers which also provides you with a Financial SLA
- Secure Communications (HTTPS)
- + More
It is the perfect tool for Small/Medium Sized Businesses oppose to them purchasing other expensive systems to look after there internal network infrastructure. For businesses whom just require simple and effective PC Management this is a much more cost effective approach.
From Experience Small & Medium Businesses purchase Central Internal Servers because it helps keep there systems secure, with Windows InTune & Microsoft Hosted Exchange (Online Services) or/ Microsoft Office 365 this provides them with a significant cost reduction, less maintenance and support costs.
Because this service is provided from the 'Cloud' it doesn't just protect users whom work in the office, but if they were to take there systems offsite (laptops) to client or home locations there systems are still protected and are able to operate at peak performance from virtually ANYWHERE!
Windows InTune Costs just £7.35 (Excluding VAT) Per Desktop Per Month. Discounts apply to organizations whom have a SA (Schools Agreement).
Microsoft Office 365 (Productivity)
Microsoft Office 365 is the new Productivity Suite hosted in the cloud, Office 365 enables businesses to maintain a level of security by keeping there data secure in the cloud and also allowing it to be accessed from anywhere not just there internal network. As most people are aware if you were to require access to your 'Documents' stored on your businesses server you would have to purchase another service which brings forward further costs such as Software, Licenses and Hardware not to mention the increase in support and service costs. Microsoft Office 365 allows your employees to access the company data from anywhere weather they be in the office or at home and also allows them to collaborate as team much more efficiently.
Most companies may prefer to keep there data local on there internal network oppose to in the cloud, but even with doing this you are able to make use of Microsoft Office 365 from an communications perspective on it's own. Businesses are able to pick and choose what they wish to use within Microsoft Office 365 so you could just have Hosted Exchange Services, or you could have Hosted Exchange Services and Presence or you could go the full hog and have Email Communications, Presence and Online Storage and Collaboration. This is one of the main points for myself is that you don't have to take the whole package, you can pick and choose what you would like to use, and also limit how many people use the services so your only paying for what you require as a business.
I do find that many people have questioned weather there data is secure in the cloud, but using Microsoft Office 365 you have all the assurance you could possibly need as Office 365 gives you
- Financially Backed, Guaranteed 99.9% Update SLA
- Up to Date Anti-Virus and Anti-Spam Solutions to Protect Email
- Safeguarded data with geo-redundant, enterprise-grade level reliability and disaster recovery with multiple datacentres and automatic failovers
- Best Of Breed Data Centers with SAS 70 and ISO 27001 Certification
So, What does Office 365 actually provide in terms are service:
- Microsoft Exchange Online (Exchange Online is for you to have the benefits of Cloud-Based Email, Accessible from anywhere and with all the tools you need to manage your mailbox. Patches and Upgrades Completed by Microsoft Engineers and Backups All in Hand) More Info
- Microsoft SharePoint Online (Latest Release in the SharePoint Server Technology, Enabling you to Create Sites, Share Documents and Insights with your Colleagues, Partners and Customers!) More Info
- Microsoft Lync Online (Next Generation in Cloud Communications and Presence which connects you in new ways, anytime, anywhere! Providing Instant Messanging, Audio/Video Calling, Online Meetings and Web Conferencing) More Info
- Microsoft Office Professional Plus (Latest Version of Office Applications, Including latest version of Office WebApps) More Info
Office 365 can actually be accessed anywhere, weather you be on a Desktop PC or a Handheld Device (Phone/PDA/Tablet).
Microsoft Office 365 has not officially being released to the General Public to date but it is only around the corner and will be available for you to purchase soon.
I don't believe the pricing has been finalized yet for Small / Medium Businesses and Enterprise Sector but I believe from reading some documentation it could be from as little as £6.50 Per User Per Month.
Education Pricing looks something like this (Not 100% sure on UK Pricing)
Sales & Service Productivity (Microsoft Dynamics CRM)
Microsoft Dynamics CRM allows you to Combine your Microsoft Office Applications with the power of a Microsoft CRM Cloud Solution, Having a CRM within your businesses allows you to improve marketing effectiveness, boost your sales and improve your customer service overall. Having your CRM system online allows your employees to access your customer information anywhere and allows enhanced collaboration and real-time business insights.
I Personally have not done much with the CRM Cloud Solution, But if you visit the Microsoft Website you can find out further information:
Cloud Platform (Windows Azure)
Windows Azure allows you to develop and deliver your core applications in and from the cloud, with Windows Azure it allows you to stop worrying about keeping internal systems healthy, up to date and secure and allows you to host your applications in the cloud not only does this give you plenty more time to deal with important business but your also able to have more control over the costs of these applications and services. Rather then you having to pay for the increase in hardware when you are in demand, and then find that when it is not in so much demand you have hardware wasted and therefore you are wasting money. (different times of the year we all know business changes!) so, using Windows Azure it allows you to scale up or down in a heartbeat to meet the demands of your customers and your business. If you need more bandwidth you get more bandwidth, if you need more power you get more power! if you don't need as much power or bandwidth then it will decrease but then increase again as soon as it needs it. so you ONLY pay for what you USE and NEED and this happens in a heartbeat! One month you may get a slightly higher bill due to more services used but then the next month it may be alot less due to the decrease in demand for example! So you don't waste your time and money and the systems are always up to date, secure and managed by a team of Microsoft Engineers.
To learn more about Windows Azure visit the Microsoft Website Here: Application Development & Hosting Solutions
Private Cloud (Windows Server Hyper-V)
Windows Server Hyper-V allows you to harness the power of the cloud on your own terms, you can build your own private cloud or use a pre-configured or hosted solution. A private cloud gives you the flexibility and control. Improve the scalability, provisioning and agility!
Private cloud is the implementation of cloud services on resources that are dedicated to your organization, whether they exist on-premises or off-premises. With a private cloud, you get many of the benefits of public cloud computing—including self-service, scalability, and elasticity—with the additional control and customization available from dedicated resources.
There are two models for cloud services that can be delivered in a private cloud: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). With IaaS, you can use infrastructure resources (compute, network, and storage) as a service, while PaaS provides a complete application platform as a service. Microsoft offers solutions that deliver IaaS and PaaS for both private and public cloud deployments
For Further Information Visit the Microsoft Private Cloud Website, where you can find more in-depth information about what the Private Cloud is all about and how to get started.
I hope this has help provide you with an overview of what is currently available within the cloud from Microsoft, I am looking forward to the FINAL Release of Microsoft Office 365 and future Cloud Services from Microsoft!