Here's a selection of some of the many questions we get asked. If you have any question that is not answered here then please do get in touch via the form at the bottom of this screen
The cloud is really just a marketing term to denote products that are 'hosted' by a provider as opposed to delivered to your office to be installed on site. Traditionally, companies that have invested in IT equipment have bought hardware that sits 'on-premise', i.e. in your office. This has also included the hardware and software used to run your business on a server. Having a server on site requires installation, configuration, maintenance and security considerations and that's before you can start to think about upgrades. Cloud solutions mean you can forget about the physical infrastructure entirely as it's hosted in a high-performing data centre run by a reputable company, such as Microsoft. And that's just the start. The solutions available through Microsoft's Azure Service mean you can handover much more than just the concerns about the hardware. Maintenance, configuration, upgrades, and even the software itself can be managed within the same ecosystem, leaving you with nothing to worry about other than using the system as you need. Ben (Chief Geek of the company) has written a blog about what to look for when considering a cloud solution. You can read it here
Different cloud providers run their own data centers. In the UK, Microsoft have two data centers. One in London and one in Cardiff. Both run on an ultrafast network
This refers to the ability of your solution to grow (and even shrink) in terms of power based upon the amount of work it is asked to do. It used to be the case that you needed to plan ahead for what you thought (or hoped) your system would need to cope with meaning you either purchased overly powerful hardware upfront that remained under utilised for some time until you reach the limit of the system's capabilities, only to then worry about it not coping with further growth without purchasing more hardware, upgrading or migrating software on to new systems. None of these options is easy to manage and can be costly. Cloud scalabilty refers to the ability of your system to scale up, which means to be run on more powerful hardware, or scale out which means to run on multiple instances - so having more machines to cope with the work. All of this cannot only be done with the flick of a switch but can even be configured to automatically apply this scaling based on the feedback from your systems.
Downtime refers to any period of time in which your system is not available. In other words, it's generally a bad thing. In the best case scenario it can be planned (i.e. during off-peak times) but it's often caused during high demand when systems cannot cope. The cloud can provide solutions to minimise downtime. Not only does Microsoft provide guarantees of uptime (the opposite of downtime), but thanks to the scalability options mentioned above, systems can be configured to help avoid them going offline during peak demand.
In a word, lots! And the list is growing. You can run your website, your database, your intranet and documents all in the cloud. But that's just the start. Automatic email and text notification, data analysis, reporting tools, machine learning and artifical intelligence engines. All are available through Microsoft Azure.