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Your Office Anywhere - Cardium Outsourcing Ltd
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What's the Difference between Hosted Servers and Hosted Desktops

Our price for a Hosted Desktop is probably the best in the UK, so I was very surprised when a potential customer asked if we could come up with a better price for a Hosted Desktop, as he had been quoted what appeared to be a substantially cheaper rate.   As we always try and beat any like for like quotation I asked the customer to give me some more details of the competing offer.

It turns out the offer was for a hosted server rather than a full Hosted Desktop solution but it highlighted that for businesses looking to host their applications in the cloud it may not be obvious what the differences are, so this article sets out to help rectify that. 

A hosted server is just that, a virtual or physical server hosted in someone else’s data centre, it could be running Windows, Linux or another operating system.   Hosted servers are designed for IT professionals to replace some or all of the physical on premise servers with something hosted “in the cloud”.

With a Hosted Desktop you still get a hosted server but on top you get everything else you need to logon and run your applications anywhere in the world over the Internet, and on any device.  It’s a complete, managed service, solution not just a component, and critically you don’t need an IT professional to start using it.  In fact you don’t need any IT skills whatsoever.

The difference between Hosted Desktops and Hosted Servers is a bit like the difference between a train and a car.   If you don’t know how to drive a car you aren’t going to get to your destination, with a train you don’t need to know how to drive it, you just use it.

If you are looking to have your business applications running in the cloud, maybe to save money, reduce risk or increase mobility these are all the things a Hosted Desktop solution will give you above and beyond what you may get with most hosted server offerings:

Windows Active Directory to provide secure logon to the server and any other management of resources you require such as restricting access to files or folders.  You want multiple domain controllers for resilience.

Remote Desktop Services correctly configured on the server to enable multiple users to run their client applications.  This includes the licencing server.

Remote Desktop Gateways to allow connection to the hosted server over the internet using https (secure web access) avoiding the need for complicated VPN solutions.  We have about a dozen gateway servers for load balancing.  This also enables you to run the applications from a web browser or as a remote application (also known as WebApps and RemoteApps)

Certificates to ensure communication to your server is secure and encrypted

Backups of not only the server but also your database and any other files/documents on the server.  Our backups are offsite for resilience and kept for a minimum of 20 days.

Managed anti-virus on your server

Managed Windows updates on your server

Installation of your applications, databases and documents to make sure everything is working properly for you.

All the relevant Microsoft licences included and declared to Microsoft on your behalf.  This would include Windows CALS and Remote Desktop Services (Terminal Services) CALS, and optionally licences for applications such as Microsoft Office, Project or Visio.
 

Hosted servers are about moving part or all of your IT infrastructure to the cloud, but they still need to be configured, maintained and managed by somebody.  Hosted Desktops are about forgetting about IT altogether and just running your business wherever and whenever you need to.
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Many people’s first introduction to “The Cloud” is the use of online data stores such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft’s One Drive; conveniently giving you access to your cloud data from multiple devices including your home PC, mobile and (if allowed) your work PC.

In a recent article in The Register IT professionals cited one of the things that most scared them about the cloud was company employees, from the CEO downwards, saving confidential documents or sensitive personal data in public cloud based storage so they could access them from home. Onedrive for Business

Businesses, however, want the flexibility that cloud storage can give them, especially for remote workers, so how do you provide that functionality and at the same time apply the same level of security you would apply to sensitive files on your company’s internal network without introducing expensive on premises document management systems.

This is where OneDrive for Business with Hosted SharePoint comes in.   Microsoft SharePoint, for those unfamiliar with it, is a web based collaboration platform that includes sophisticated document/records management as one of its core features.   Hosted SharePoint is the same but rather than buying and administering your own servers you take advantage of the services of a Cloud hosting provider who may provide a site on a shared “Multi-tenanted” platform or your own dedicated SharePoint platform.

Granular security can be applied to specific sites, folders and files at an individual and group level and full version history and audit trails can also be applied.   Document folders can be accessed over the internet using a URL and will appear as a folder in Windows Explorer enabling access from most Windows applications in exactly the same way as the likes of Dropbox.

The ability to connect to SharePoint folders over the web is nothing new, but recently Microsoft have introduced OneDrive for Business which enables users to connect to SharePoint folders and synchronise them to their local computer so they can be opened, edited and saved in offline mode when no internet connection is available and then synchronised back to the server once you’re back online.   “OneDrive for Business” gets installed as part of Office 2013, or can be downloaded as a standalone application.   It shouldn’t be confused with “OneDrive” which is a service aimed mainly at personal users.

Microsoft promote OneDrive for Business for use with their Office 365 subscription service; but Office 365 isn’t right for everyone, particularly if your organisations data protection policy requires you to ensure data is kept in the UK.

Your Office Anywhere offer Hosted SharePoint as part of their Cloud portfolio either as a secure site within a shared multi-tenanted platform or, if specific requirements dictate it, can offer a dedicated Hosted SharePoint server giving you all the flexibility of your own SharePoint platform but we do all the hard work: offsite backups, support, maintenance, anti-virus and critical updates, as well as providing hardware failover for added resiliance.

To find out more about what Hosted SharePoint can do for your organisation visit yourofficeanywhere.co.uk email sales@yourofficeanywhere.co.uk or call us on 01282 500318 to speak with one of our technical sales team.

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One of the most popular reasons companies use our Hosted Desktop service is the hosting of Microsoft Access databases.  With typical prices being just £19.10 per user per month you can run your application in the cloud just like using online applications like Salesforce only better as this is your application built by you.  Read more about it in this article here: http://www.yourofficeanywhere.co.uk/news/hosted-applications/cloud-access-database-hosting/

If you are an Access developer then why not offer hosting as a service to your customers and save them the expense of buying onsite servers, read more here: http://www.yourofficeanywhere.co.uk/news/remote-application/access-database-hosting-for-developers/

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How Hosted Desktops can underpin your Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy

Cloud hosted desktops make Bring Your Own Device a flexible, popular, cheap and secure option for many businesses.

Yes, I did say secure. I’ve listened to many heated discussions about BYOD over the years and while most people can see the benefits of flexibility, productivity and employee morale the concerns over security and manageability often shackle the business to the status quo. However, hosted desktops or hosted applications can allay many of the Data Security Officer’s worries and provide the user with a familiar working environment regardless of location or device.

Employees are becoming more mobile as connection speeds are increasing and expect to be able to work from hotels, trains and home just as they do in the office. They want their mobile device to be their primary one, very often BYOD - Your Office Anywhereopting to use their own phones and tablets in preference to the company desktop.

Forward thinking companies are embracing this new way of working, it has the potential to cut costs as they are not supplying users with multiple devices, there is also an increase in productivity as employees and company owners can effectively work during their daily commute, or at home in the evening, and on devices that they are totally familiar with. It is rare to find a small business owner who doesn’t at least work on his or her emails while on holiday, with hosted desktops they can work on any application.

Hosted Desktops are part of the modern cloud portfolio. Working like a normal PC desktop, the business applications used by the company’s workforce are installed on a cloud based hosted terminal server and connect to the company’s databases and documents which are also on the same hosted server. This is a point worth re-emphasising; all the data, documents, and applications all reside on the cloud server, so there is no need to have any data or any applications on the user’s device. This provides a lot of benefits:

If a device is stolen the company’s data is not. Even if there was not a security password on the device, the hosted desktop user account can be disabled or password changed within minutes.
Lost or faulty devices can be replaced and the user back up and running very quickly, without the need to reinstall dozens of applications.
The desktop environment and applications are the same regardless of which device the user uses to run their hosted desktop
If internet connection is lost, say while working on a train, the session continues to run on the server. As soon as internet is back the user can continue where they left off, even if they haven’t saved their documents.
Data is backed up regularly throughout the day, so even if a device was lost, stolen or broken, the presentation the user was working on all evening is still safe.
Companies adopting a BYOD policy do need to consider and implement corporate wide security policies, which may include ensuring devices are password protected, and users resist the temptation to copy data locally. They should also ensure their hosted desktop provider uses secure connections (https) as users will commonly connect on unsecure wi-fi networks.

All in all the Hosted Desktop tips the balance firmly in favour of adopting a BYOD policy and give modern, mobile companies, of any size, the flexibility and security demanded by the business.

Your Office Anywhere are one of the UK’s longest established Hosted Remote Desktop and Hosted Application providers, managing servers for small and medium businesses in secure, tier 3, UK data centres. For more information on Hosted Desktops please vist www.yourofficeanywhere.co.uk

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Do you have Issues or Problems with Sage Drive or Sage Drive Crashes but still want Sage in the Cloud? – How Hosted Desktops have the edge over Sage Drive.

Many software companies nowadays are focused on developing Cloud based applications, software as a service. Our modern mobile world demands the ability to access all our applications at anytime, anywhere and software vendors are falling over themselves to comply.

However, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that many of these web based applications don’t appear to be as functional or as feature rich as their locally installed counterparts, and all too often their performance is underwhelming.

A simpler option is to host the feature rich client application, the operating system it runs on, and the data or database it uses altogether in the Cloud and access the whole lot as a remote desktop or remote application. This solution, commonly called Hosted Desktops or Hosted Applications provides the best of both worlds; the performance, functionality and features of a locally installed application with the flexibility, resilience and security offered by the Cloud.

A slightly alternative approach has been adopted by accounting software company Sage, for their popular Sage 50 Sage DriveAccounts package. Here they have gone for a combination of a locally installed client plus synchronisation to the Cloud with their Sage Drive solution; but how does it compare with the traditional on premise server or a hosted desktop?   A quick Google search on “Sage Drive Problems” highlighted some frustrated customers on AccountingWeb so we asked one of our partners who are a leading Sage implementation consultant for their unbiased view, here’s what they came back with

Sage Drive is Sage’s attempt to “catch-up” in the Cloud arena, but it isn’t really Cloud in that the solution still heavily relies on local installs and a local database.   The “Master” install of Sage synchronises the database with Sage’s cloud servers which in turn synchronises changes to other installations in the customers’ business.

There are a number of issues with how this works, primarily the master installation has to be online for the whole thing to work, so if that version is on the Finance Manager’s laptop and he’s turned it off then Sage Drive doesn’t work. So it pushes the customer to rely on an on premise server to hold the database, so not really in the spirit of Cloud computing and what if this computer crashes or is out of action for a time or even stolen?

If the master installation is given an updated version of the application then all the other installs must be updated before they can use it. If you have an organisation with 10 users this takes a bit of time, and in our experience, doesn’t always work, so you have to raise a helpdesk call with Sage.   This is so different when using a Cloud Hosted Desktop with Sage installed as the application only has to be updated once on the hosted server and everyone gets the new version instantly.

The Sage Drive also appears to be the cause of a lot of corrupted databases, which in our experience never seems to happen on a Hosted Desktop platform.   This again requires another call to Sage support.

Incidentally we understand Sage Drive is hosted with Amazon Web Services, so not held in the UK, this may be important to customers who have compliance policies regarding where data is kept.

All in all, in our view a hosted desktop platform provides a much more stable, trouble free and flexible way of running Sage as a proper Cloud application.

So what are hosted desktops? In short hosted desktops are simply a hosted Windows server running as a hosted Terminal Server to provide the user either a full remote desktop or just individual remote applications, depending on preference. The application e.g. Sage and its database also reside on the server, so they can be accessed anywhere via the Internet and on any device, including Mac, iPads and Android tablets. A good hosted desktop provider will manage the server, providing backups, anti-virus, patches and updates to your application when required.

Your Office Anywhere are one of the UK’s longest established Hosted Remote Desktop and Hosted Application providers, managing servers for small and medium businesses in secure, tier 1, UK data centres. To download a white paper on Hosted desktops please follow this link or for more information on hosted Sage, Sage 50 Accounts or other versions of Sage in the cloud please visit our website yourofficeanywhere.co.uk or call 01282 500318.
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Cloud to the rescue - When Australian fashion firm Manzoni Accessories had a key on-premise server die on them they had two choices: buy another one, wait for it to be delivered, wait for it to be setup, restore their backup, reconfigure the client on every PC, and then wait till it happens again; or take the opportunity to move the database to a cloud based server with Your Office Anywhere.
Read this article about how we managed to get their database back up and running in less than a day on a cloud server on the other side of the world. http://www.yourofficeanywhere.co.uk/news/hosted-applications/access-database-hosting-cloud-to-the-rescue/
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How safe is your data in the cloud?
This is a question lots of people ask and at Your Office Anywhere we want to be completely transparent about this. Lots of businesses have concerns about moving their data to the cloud and rightly so.
For example did you know that Microsoft don’t have any UK data centres and you have no control whatsoever where your email or SharePoint data is stored?  If you are lucky it might be in Southern Ireland or Holland. If not it could be in the USA. This does pose issues for regulated companies where data must be kept within the UK and therefore rules out offerings from Microsoft such as Office 365. Other larger providers such as Rackspace provide other obstacles. Some customers have chosen our platform as Rackspace wouldn’t allow them to visit the data centres they were hosting the customer data in. This is something we will routinely do with our customers if they want to see where their data is stored.
The question that customers should actually be asking is “how safe is my data in the office?” How easy would it be for someone to come in and actually steal the server from the office? How easy is it for a disgruntled employee to take gigabytes of sensitive data or data that would be beneficial to a competitor? Just because you can “see” the data and having a server in the office gives you a warm feeling doesn’t mean that the data is “safe”.
Some of the common questions we are asked regarding resilience and security follow and you should consider when asking a potential provider for pricing “would I be able to come and see your solution before I commit to purchase” – I know I would and “we” (Your Office Anywhere) would let you come and see our solution – we have nothing to hide.
Q. What resilience/security is available at the Data Centre?
A. The data centre is manned by security 24 hours a day and access is only allowed with a photo ID and by pre authorisation by a member of the authorised Cardium team which expires after 24 hours. The building has UPS battery backups and also diesel generator backups to keep the Data Centre running in case of power failure.
Q. How is resilience ensured at the internet network level?
A. Multiple providers provide internet services into both our data centres
Q. How is resilience ensured at the DMZ level?
A. Your Office Anywhere has two separate firewalls so that should one firewall fail the other can be used to service the traffic until the other firewall is replaced. There is a 3rd firewall at Data Centre 2.
Q. What about power failure at the server level?
A. For specific key servers and ApplicationsAnywhere servers there are dual power supplies which are connected to distinct power rings in the Data Centre.
Q. How is resilience ensured on the internal network?
A. All systems that are identified as key to the infrastructure have multiple network cards and these are patched into separate network switches.
Q. What resilience is there at the actual Data Centre level?
A. Your Office Anywhere operates key services out of two data centres. Data centre 1 hosts the majority of servers – email, database and terminal services. Data centre 2 houses an additional backup server (for copies of backups), domain controllers, DNS Servers and a firewall to ensure that key services are available in the case of an absolute disaster at Data Centre 1. Data Centre 2 is available to customers also to provide business continuity of services should Data Centre 1 fail completely. We can provide a PDF document of the infrastructure deployed.
Q. How is logon ensured to Your Office Anywhere?
A. Your Office Anywhere has multiple Windows Domain Controllers at both locations
Q. DNS. How can you ensure you can find “me” or connect to what I need to in the Data Centre via the Internet?
A. Your Office Anywhere has multiple DNS servers that do this, and these are located in both Data Centres.
Q. What about backups if Data Centre 1 burns down?
A. Backups from Data Centre 1 are replicated immediately to Data Centre 2 ensuring that your data is safe if Data Centre 1 burns down.
Q. How can I ensure that I have access to applications if Data Centre 1 is not available?
A. You can request for business continuity services from Your Office Anywhere who will be more than happy to provide you with a cost for this additional service.
Q. What would happen if my physical server fails in the Data Centre?

A. The ApplicationsAnywhere solution (remote desktop/cloud desktops) are housed on a HYPER-V cluster containing up to 16 physical servers. Should a physical server fail, the ApplicationsAnywhere server running on that hardware will fail over onto available resource on another server automatically and bring the system back up. Each server has redundant power, dual quad core processors and 48GB memory using Dell Enterprise Server hardware.
Blog post by Michael Carter Your Office Anywhere
 
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Why is our SQL cloud server offering is so competitive
Later on in this article I will describe how by using our economies of scale renting a Microsoft SQL license and SQL Server client access license CAL (Microsoft part numbers 359-05717, 228-09884, 359-01005, 228-04628 if you would like to research the costs of these) would take 48 months to recover compared to renting these licenses from us on a month by month basis.
We have had a few of our customers (resellers in particular) stating that our solution appears to be significantly cheaper than other quotations  and they were questioning the specification of the solution from a competitor for example a Sage 200 solution required two servers with 12GB memory and 8GB memory respectively.
At first we were struggling to understand why the costs were so high and the specification, however we soon realised what was being offered. We also consider the resilience requirement of this solution further down this article.
In this case they were not being offered a true cloud computing solution. Cloud computing is designed to give you the benefits of scale that a provider (like Your Office Anywhere has) and pass the cost savings associated with this onto the customer. What this particular customer was offered was exactly what they have in an “on premise solution” but moving this solution into a data centre or “the cloud!”. By doing this the customer is missing out on significant benefits and apart from providing easier access from remote locations what other benefits does this type of solution provide? In our view you are still having to provide all the  components you would need in an on premise solution – antivirus, security patch updates, servers to provide authentication (active directory) the list is endless and is covered in more detail here – http://www.yourofficeanywhere.co.uk/news/general/comparing-cloud-solutions-the-yourofficeanywhere-way/
The Your Office Anywhere solution uses “shared” resources on multiple high performance Dell Servers each with 8 processors and 96GB of memory connected to EMC storage. Using shared resources we get benefits in terms of scale that we can pass onto our customers. These benefits include:-
Ultimate scalability in terms of what the customer may eventually need. We don’t have to provide a server with 12GB of memory to begin with or a SQL server dedicated to the customer. This is different from the competitor offering because we can specify how much memory we believe will be required initially from our real world experience of running these solutions and let the customer know what any additional memory costs will be over and above this per month, and the same applies to processing power. We will actively monitor the servers for performance and if memory is an issue upgrade the memory (a five minute shutdown and restart will give the memory to the server) having confirmed with the customer. Initially there is no cost for the memory upgrade until the customer has confirmed that the additional resources have improved performance. Additional memory or CPU is not as expensive as you may think – 1GB memory is (at the time of writing this article) £17.50 and the cost for an additional processor is also the same at £17.50
The solution provides enough spare capacity within our server cluster to ensure that should a physical server fail there is enough capacity available to bring the customers server(s) up on different hardware within a matter of minutes. Think about the additional cost that would be required for an on premise solution or a solution where it was just moved to the “cloud”– effectively in the scenario above you would need 4 servers not 2 (a Sage remote desktop server and a separate SQL server) to provide resilience.
By sharing hardware with other “customers” (which we ensure does not affect individual servers on the host) the customer also gets the benefits of scale associated with Microsoft licensing. We can use our scale to purchase the correct types of licenses for our customers and pass this onto them in terms of significant savings. For example to purchase a SQL Server license under the a Microsoft Open License program equivalent to the license we provide  would cost (at the time of writing) £1041.85 for the SQL Server License (Microsoft part number 228-04628) and  £238.18 (Microsoft part number 359-01005) for each user that connects these require a SQL Server Client Access License (CAL). Your Office Anywhere can rent these particular licenses for just £7.00 per month which includes both the server and the client access license. For a 10 user SQL Server to recover these upfront (CAPEX) costs would take almost 49 months compared to our license fees and our solution is declared as an OPEX cost for accounting purposes and this saving is just the cost for the SQL Server. This doesn’t include the license fee for the Windows Server at £1050.00 (see below). If we factor this in the time to recover these licenses is 63 months.
Although we have singled out a particular example here by declaring the correct licenses via our Microsoft agreement means for example that the customer doesn’t need to pay for
A Windows Server License (£1050.00) just a license for the users who connect
A SQL Server license (as described above)
Additional hardware to fail over to in case of server failure
Using our economies of scale ensures that Your Office Anywhere will provide you with the most cost effective solution in terms of Microsoft Licensing and server hardware utilisation that you will struggle to find anywhere else in the UK

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Sage 50 Accounts Client Manager for Accountants Hosting
Sage Accounts Client Manager allows accountants a centralised view of their customer’s data for month end year end etc. It is a single installation that will install all supported versions of Sage on one system and allow multiple users to access the data in a centralised location. Your Office Anywhere offers the missing link for a lot of companies – the ability to centralise the data or access it from “Anywhere”.
Now that is fine for larger organisations but for smaller organisations they need a central location to install the data that everyone can access from within the office and an installation of the software on each client PC. Now this is fine but what if:-
You don’t know how to create a shared network area or don’t have a server?
What if you have multiple practises or locations that you would like to Accounts Client Manager on so that all practises can work on all customer data at the same time?
Each time there is an upgrade of Sage Accounts Client Manager you need to upgrade all PC’s with new software.
So what does Your Office Anywhere bring to the table?
Your Office Anywhere allows you to access the Sage Accounts Client Manager software via an Internet connection. This means that you don’t need to install the software locally the Sage Accounts Client Manager software is installed on the Your Office Anywhere platform and data is uploaded to your Shared network drive. Once the backup data is on the platform from your customer all accountants and bookkeepers who connect to the Your Office Anywhere platform can work on the data. So no costly local support to set this up and more importantly you can do this from anywhere there is an internet connection. Even a 2 user accounts company with two offices one in Lands End and one in John O’Groats can access the same application and customer data at the same time.
Your Office Anywhere brings the elements that large accountancy practises have (they will be running the same solution in house) to small and medium accountancy practises providing them with a large corporate IT solution paid for on a monthly basis (the cost for of this Hosted Desktop solution excluding the costs of Sage Dataset Manager are less than £19.10 per user per month).
 
 

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Remote Desktop FREE Trial – Trial Any Software for 7 days FREE
YourOfficeAnyWhere are now offering an option for potential customers to trial their bespoke software or software we haven’t come across before on one of our test servers. No catches, no tie-ins nothing to sign. Obviously this can only be done with software that is easy for us to get hold of either from a web download or can be sent to us via FTP for example. If required we will work with the software developer to get this installed on our system.
Recently we came across some software called Saxo Trader from Saxo Bank that a customer needed to host as they had employees/users in multiple locations. We hadn’t come across this software before despite having hundreds of different versions of software running on our platform. We downloaded a copy of the trial software and installed this. We ran this in “simulation” mode (this is a mode available in this particular application). The customer trialled it through a Hosted Desktop within a couple of hours and had placed an order for a server to be built for them the same day –this solution works for both parties – the customer can trial the system to ensure it gives them what they want risk fee, and for us it proves we do what we say on the tin – provide access to ApplicationsAnywhere!
If you would like a free trial and installation of your bespoke software please contact the office at the link below – we will also provide a quote based on your requirements before we proceed so you know what the costs will be once you go live – and you will be pleasantly surprised we think – this solution for a 2 user Saxo Trader solution on a hosted server for this company was just £38.20 per month for 2 users (£19.10 per user) – plus a one off setup fee for their actual server of £125.00.
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