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Azure ExpressRoute Interconnect: Navigate to Azure

Our UK Cloud Snapshot Survey 2017 exposed a number of challenges facing UK organisations, including GDPR, Brexit, Data Sovereignty and the increase in Cyber Security attacks. One of the less difficult issues to address, for over 70% of the surveyed respondents, are the options to connect a private network to the cloud, such as Azure ExpressRoute. 35.7% use Azure, and yet very few use Azure ExpressRoute, in fact only 28.3% used a direct Cloud Connect to any of their cloud services.

Why use Azure ExpressRoute?

As I’ve covered before, in Cloud Connectivity Providers Explained, Azure ExpressRoute is a service that enables customers to create private connections between Microsoft Azure data centres and their own networks, such as on-premise infrastructure or colocation. Azure ExpressRoute connections are direct, they don’t rely on public internet, and offer far greater reliability, significantly more security and lower latency (speed) than can be achieved over a typical internet connection. Almost always Azure ExpressRoute connections can result in cost-savings. You can find out more detail regarding Azure ExpressRoute here: ExpressRoute Overview: Extend your on-premises network to Azure.

Azure ExpressRoute Network Overview

Azure ExpressRoute Network Overview

How to get Azure ExpressRoute

In order to take advantage of all the goodies Azure ExpressRoute can provide, we work with ExpressRoute connectivity partner providers. One of our partners is Megaport, who are one of the most accomplished ExpressRoute partners in the world, supporting 18 ExpressRoute locations across the globe. Megaport was the world’s first SDN-based Elastic Interconnection platform designed to provide a secure, seamless, and on-demand way for enterprises, networks, and services to interconnect.

Provisioning connections between data centres and external services has always been a problem, either due to cost or due to complexity. A decade ago I remember the only viable option was a direct Point-to-Point, which unless the two locations were within reasonable proximity, high capacity connections were an eye-watering expense. Connections between diverse geo-locations, such as between countries, required backhauls and XConnects between friendly data centres or peers, often taking weeks or months to provision. You can read more about the many DIY options in Cloud Network Providers | Connect Your Private Network to the Cloud.

Why use Serviceteam IT & Megaport

Megaport want what we want, consistent connectivity to optimise the provisioning process, and contractual terms, making connectivity options broader, simpler, and far more streamlined. Ultimately, “How can I do this simply from my phone?”.

“For the last three years, we have rapidly expanded our network and one of the biggest values of Megaport is the ability to provision service to Azure specifically from any location to any Azure region in less than a couple of minutes. Our business model complements the cloud business model: no lock-in contracts, pay-as-you-go, and you only pay for what you need.”
Matt Simpson, Director of Global Cloud Strategy, Megaport.

True multi-platform cloud connectivity

One of the things that allows Megaport to stand out against their competitors is our shared commitment to a vendor-agnostic vision of the cloud. By consolidating multiple cloud vendors into a single user interface, enabling customers to quickly and simply deploy multi-cloud environments, leveraging multiple public cloud options as well as their own data centres, which are all accessible from a single interface.

With over 20 years of experience, Serviceteam IT design and deliver sophisticated connectivity, communication, continuity, and cloud services, for organisations that need to stay connected 24/7. We take the time to fully understand your current challenges, and provide a solution that gives you a clear understanding of what you are purchasing and the benefits it will bring you.

To find out how we can help you, call us on 0121 468 0101, use the Contact Us form, or why not drop in and visit us at 49 Frederick Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 1HN.

We’d love to hear from you!

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Cloud Security elements every business should consider

Cloud Security has been a serious issue since the concept of the cloud began. The classic example was initially the discomfort of a shift from physically seeing the IT security infrastructure to simply trusting someone else with it virtually. Back in 2012, Serviceteam IT carried out major business process project for an insurance sector organisation. The conversation regarding data being located in the the Cloud was very short. Under no circumstances, no matter how much cheaper or how much more flexible, as cloud security was considered low.

Thankfully both the marketplace, and the organisation in the example above, have moved on and are cautiously adopting the benefits the cloud can offer. Last year the Enterprise Cloud Computing Survey from IDG revealed concerns that cloud security are still significant at 52%. Our own UK Cloud Snapshot Survey reveals 43% of respondents from UK organisations still cite cloud security as being the greatest barrier to cloud adoption. We can take encouragement from the downward trend, perhaps due to both improved cloud security and better end-user understanding.

One way to ensure a full understanding of cloud security, and security in general, is to understand the levels of your infrastructure that require protection. A simplistic multi-level infrastructure model, from the physical level, to the network level, to the applications.

Physical Security

Not so long ago physical security was a significant issue, as data centres were vulnerable and accessible to anyone almost, especially an in-office comms room. Companies recognised this risk, and therefore took the necessary steps to safeguard the physical infrastructure. Cloud has been has been a key player in alleviating physical security concerns. The expansion of the data centre for colocation, to the then centralisation of servers to purchase a ‘slice’ to now deploying applications without having to consider the server.

With almost all cloud providers, physical security concerns almost completely disappear, Partially due to the additional checks and measures carried out at data centre locations. Partially due to the distributed nature of the application, as the data will not only be encrypted on disk, but most probably meaningless as it’s balanced between multiple buckets.

Network Security

The second area to consider is the network, which is of upmost concern to Serviceteam IT. As an industry, cloud and IT professionals have made a great deal of progress in securing operating systems and basic networking.  Almost all organisations have the necessary cyber security tools, firewalls, access control lists and intrusion detection to safeguard against outside attacks to an internal network.

The greater challenge has come with the adoption of an ‘outside’ network, where the end-point is trusted, however, the traversal has been via the Internet. Cloud Connectivity can now take care of the network cloud security concerns, as the links have become both dedicated and secure.

Application Security

As the bottom of the ‘funnel’ has been, and can be, better secured, this has forced potential attackers to target higher up the stack. A common trend is tampering with customised applications, impersonating users or compromising some other user end-point. Whilst application security is a continual challenge, businesses can implement tools such as application monitoring. multi-factor authentication or group policy for additional protection and user verification.

Within the application layer, the emphasis should be on identifying vulnerabilities. Simple house keeping such as log file analysis, patch management, filters, scanners and yes, good old back-up! The digital world can be rather dangerous, therefore, security-aware application design, application security testing, and runtime application self-protection all combined with context-aware and adaptive access controls are needed.

Cloud Security Conclusion

Positioning as “inside” or “outside” security is very much for the past. Along with three digit passwords, open relays and no user-access controls. The simple recognition that perimeter defence is simply not enough. Applications need to be considered more actively in regards to their impact upon security as a whole.

Perhaps in the coming years the number of organisations expressing concerns regarding cloud security will continue to fall. Most probably when organisations are more comfortable with network security and application security is more robust.

With over 20 years of experience, Serviceteam IT design and deliver sophisticated connectivity, communication, continuity, and cloud services, for organisations that need to stay connected 24/7. We take the time to fully understand your current challenges, and provide a solution that gives you a clear understanding of what you are purchasing and the benefits it will bring you.

To find out how we can help you, call us on 0121 468 0101, use the Contact Us form, or why not drop in and visit us at 49 Frederick Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 1HN.

We’d love to hear from you!

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Making Sense of the Cloud | Glossary

Upon starting the position as a Market Research Intern at Serviceteam IT I was overwhelmed by the vast quantity of technical language surrounding the technology industry. Drowning in the sea of seemingly endless acronyms and jargon, I felt it was going to be impossible to get to grips with the enormity of knowledge I would need to make the most of this position. I began to compile a glossary of key terms often used in the tech industry in order to begin to make sense of the vast amount of technical jargon. I hope this blog will be useful for any individuals who face a similar task to me.

Making Sense of the Cloud

Cloud is one of the key buzzwords in the business world, with the Cloud Industry Forum claiming 4 out of 5 businesses currently use some form of cloud service and it has been claimed that the cloud is ‘reshaping the face of IT’ (Webster 2016). Coming from a background in Geography the technological meaning of the cloud differs extensively from those that I have studied at university. The dominance of cloud technology in businesses drove me to first try to gain a greater understanding of the extensive terminology regarding cloud services.

  • Amazon CloudWatch: this is a monitoring service for all the applications running on AWS (Amazon Web Services). This can be used for a number of functions including the collection and tracking of metrics and setting alarms.
  • API: (Application Programming Interface) this refers to an interface that allows the user to access information from another service and integrate this service into their own application.
  • AWS: (Amazon Web Services) AWS is a cloud services platform offering multiple functions that aid business growth. Such functions include compute power, data storage and networking, which is available with pay-as-you-go pricing.
  • Broadcloud Cloud PBX: This is a phone system based in the cloud that provides greater flexibility, allowing you to take your desk phone anywhere there is an Internet connection.
  • CCMM: (Cloud computing maturity model) a five stage model outlining the transition of a company’s data centre to cloud computing. These five stages usually refer to consolidation, virtualisation, automation, utility and cloud.
  • CDN: (Content delivery network) A distributed system consisting of servers in discrete physical locations, set up in a way that individuals can access the server closest to them on the network, thereby improving speeds.
  • Cloud: The cloud refers to the provision of computing services over the Internet. Such services include storage and databases. The cloud allows you to access stored data and programs over the Internet as opposed to on your computers hard drive.
  • Cloud Connect: this is simply a physical link, using fibre technology, between your network and the cloud.
  • Cloud Native: Applications developed specifically for use in the cloud.
  • Cloud Portability: the ability for data and applications to be moved between cloud service providers.
  • Cloud Service Provider: A company that is responsible for the provision of a cloud-based platform to other organisations, usually for a fee.
  • Cloud Storage: A service that enables customers to save data in an offsite storage system through transferring it over the Internet.
  • Cloudware: Software that enables running or managing applications in the cloud. The software runs on a remote webserver as opposed to on a mobile device or PC.
  • Community cloud: A cloud infrastructure that is shared by several organizations and supports a specific community.
  • Disruptive Technology: An innovation which leads to an improvement in the way tasks are completed. Cloud computing is considered a disruptive technology.
  • Eucalyptus: An open source cloud computing and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform for enabling private clouds.
  • External Cloud:  Cloud services provided by a third party organisation. It refers to a cloud solution that is located outside of the physical boundaries of the organisation in question.
  • Federation: the process of combining data across multiple systems.
  • Hybrid Cloud: This is the amalgamation of public cloud provider, such as AWS, with a private cloud platform. Companies are realising they need many different types of cloud services to perform a variety of different tasks. The aim of the hybrid cloud is to combine the services and data from different cloud models in order to create a successfully managed computing environment.
  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): The provision of cloud infrastructure services by a cloud service provider. This infrastructure includes servers and software amongst other things.
  • Internal cloud: The provision and maintenance of a private cloud by an IT department for internal use.
  • Microsoft Azure: Microsoft’s cloud computing platform.
  • Multicloud: the use of numerous different cloud computing services at the same time- for example using a different providers for infrastructure and software services. There are a number of different third party tools that enable organisations to manage multiple cloud systems.
  • Multitenancy: The existence of multiple clients sharing resources (services or applications) on distinct physical hardware. The individual data of each client is kept secure and cannot be accessed by the other users of the resources.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS): Method by which a whole computing platform can be operated remotely over the Internet. PaaS provides a way to essentially outsource the entire infrastructure needed to implement a solution without needing to purchase and implement a new platform. The company is only charged for the share of the resources that they actually use.
  • Private cloud: The private cloud is a combination of networking, storage, services and applications owned and operated by a specific organisation that can only be accessed by its employees and partners. It is possible that a private cloud can be created and managed by a third party to be used only by an individual enterprise.
  • Public Cloud: The public cloud is a combination of networking, storage, services and applications owned and operated by a third party and used by organisations and individuals over the internet.
  • Scalability: the cloud is elastic so can get bigger or smaller depending on demand. This encompasses scalability as the cloud can be scaled up when demand is high and scaled down when demand is low.
  • SLA: (Service Level Agreement) this is a formal agreement or contract between a client and a cloud service provider which states the level of service, availability and performance that is guaranteed by the cloud provder.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): Cloud services in which the applications are provided over the Internet so that they do not need to be installed on the customer’s computer.
  • Vendor lockin: The dependency on a specific cloud provider and a low ability to move between vendors due to a lack of support for standardised protocols and/or service models.
  • Vertical cloud: A cloud environment build around the specific needs of a particular industry such as financial services.
  • VPN: (Virtual Private Network) the creation of a secure connection between networks over the Internet. The enables local network resources to be accessed in a different country.

Although it may seem daunting at first, cloud computing can be broken down relatively easily and this makes everything far easier to understand. There are also additional blog posts outlining the key terminology regarding Microsoft Azure, AWS and Cyber Security that may be an interesting read for anyone just starting out in the technology sector. Please feel free to share in the comments any further terms you feel should be included in this glossary.

Finally, for anyone interested in cloud services Serviceteam IT is part of a wider research project looking into businesses use of the cloud and the future challenges businesses are likely to face as a result of Brexit and the implementation of GDPR. The findings of this report will be made available on the website for anyone with an interest in the use of cloud computing in businesses.

With over 20 years of experience, Serviceteam IT design and deliver sophisticated connectivity, communication, continuity, and cloud services, for organisations that need to stay connected 24/7. We take the time to fully understand your current challenges, and provide a solution that gives you a clear understanding of what you are purchasing and the benefits it will bring you.

To find out how we can help you, call us on 0121 468 0101, use the Contact Us form, or why not drop in and visit us at 49 Frederick Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 1HN.

We’d love to hear from you!

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Multi-Cloud: 3 Reasons for a Managed Provider

Multi-cloud Provider: Due to the vast choice in public, private and hybrid cloud offerings, launched and launching, organisations don’t need to limit themselves to a single cloud environment. According to a study carried out by 451 Research, commissioned by Microsoft, 50% of organisations believed that independent providers, such as Serviceteam IT, are vital for future digital transformation. 2017 Microsoft Hosting & Cloud Study.

More than ever before, customers are looking to a single trusted advisor to provide transformation-oriented managed services and hybrid implementation. Customers are looking to service providers to not only transform IT but also transform their entire business – to rewire the building and support new requirements, all while keeping the lights on.

 -Melanie Posey, Vice President, 451 Research

While a multi-cloud strategy has the benefit of greater scalability and reduced risk, managing more than one cloud isn’t easy. That’s where a managed multi-cloud provider comes in handy.

Serious About Cloud?

Odds are if you are serious about the cloud, you’re already using at least one of Microsoft Azure, AWS, HPE Helion, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud or somebodies cloud. There are benefits to each of the many cloud providers, however, it’s not only just good practice to have more than one, it’s also probably a necessity as each has its own unique features. Quite simply, not one vendor has the perfect answer to absolutely everything. If that were the case, there would be no competition!

Why use a Multi-Cloud Provider?

Expertise: Simplicity is not always a characteristic of some of the providers. The multitude of platforms, and the depth of the options available, that allow you to support hybrid, multi-cloud environments requires considerable expertise. That’s talent that can not only be hard to find, but enormously expensive to recruit.

Control: There are still many organisations that resist moving resources to the cloud, quite often simply because of the fear of the unknown and that they will lose control. Quite the opposite can be the case with a managed multi-cloud provider. Due to the extensive monitoring and reporting, provided by Serviceteam IT, and pro-active design, delivery and maintenance, rather than less control, you get a lot more.

Security: Even though many of the providers have extensive resources for reliability and security, with some notable exceptions, nothing is perfect. Outages are an inevitability of any IT infrastructure, no matter where it is and who is responsible for it. However, any weakness can be mitigated with a multi-cloud design, especially regarding availability and service interruption. Security can be optimised with sensible pro-active processes and procedures and the implementation of Cloud Connect, restricted access mechanisms and user verification & authentication beyond merely passwords.

Having a managed multi-cloud solution provider can empower your precious IT staff, freeing internal IT teams from “fire-fighting” and tedious IT maintenance, in order for them to focus on more strategic, engaging projects that support organisational growth and delivery of business strategy.

With over 20 years of experience, Serviceteam IT design and deliver sophisticated connectivity, communication, continuity, and cloud services, for organisations that need to stay connected 24/7. We take the time to fully understand your current challenges, and provide a solution that gives you a clear understanding of what you are purchasing and the benefits it will bring you.

To find out how we can help you, call us on 0121 468 0101, use the Contact Us form, or why not drop in and visit us at 49 Frederick Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 1HN.

We’d love to hear from you!

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Cloud Connect Explained | An Introductory Guide

Cloud Connect uses the latest in fibre hardware technology to create a physical link between your network, and the cloud. While most data will travel across the public Internet, Cloud Connect is a dedicated connection between your network and your cloud services. Learn what it is, how it works, why you need it.