Managed hosting

Retail challenges: the story of fluctuating demand

Despite being regularly categorised as a single industry, the challenges facing businesses in differing retail sectors vary considerably. The immediate issues occupying the high-end fashion boutiques are likely to be significantly different to those of a multi-store supermarket chain, for example. However, one constant battle that retailers must face is fluctuating demand.

As much as retailers review past sales figures and factor in market conditions, it’s very difficult to anticipate customer requirements. Aside from having a lack of clarity over generated revenue, businesses face a logistical nightmare around resource allocation, stock distribution and the possibility of being unable to process increasing customer orders.

By migrating to the cloud, retailers can function safe in the knowledge that their IT infrastructure has the scalability to store and process information as their operations grow. With hosting platforms paid for on a ‘pay as you go’ tariff, organisations can scale up and down as demand dictates. This is of particular benefit to retailers who expect significant fluctuations in the call for their goods due to the seasonality of their products such as summer clothing or Christmas decorations. These businesses can operate in a cost-effective manner and only pay for the storage capacity they use.

Why independent software vendors should consider a SaaS model managed by a managed services provider

Software-as-a-service, the process of delivering and accessing applications through the web has become the defacto method of software deployment.

End users want to access software on any device, anytime and anywhere. Independent software vendors want to be able to move toward a cloud based service model to meet customer demand, stay competitive and introduce recurring revenue streams.

The problem then is working out who should support the delivery of your software. At the outset there appears to be two options: either manage it in-house – requiring extra resource and expertise you may not possess– or work with a hosting or managed services provider.

In reality there may however be three options. Hosting providers only cover one part of the picture, the end platform, what they are not able to do is manage the application experience from the data centre to the end user’s device. This leads to a grey area where nobody is taking overall control for the application’s successful delivery. If there is an issue where performance is impacted or downtime occurs, this can turn into a finger pointing exercise between the host, the network provider, end users, and the software provider, as they seek to apportion blame on each other.

Managed services providers can provide the end-to-end infrastructure and management expertise to most effectively deliver your application. However, not all managed services providers are equal, and working with less evolved providers who don’t take the time to understand your business goals can lead to damage to your brand and revenue.

Informed consumers: how IT decision makers best leverage MSPs to optimise their IT strategy

In order to optimise their IT strategy, IT decision makers need to learn three things: firstly, generally they can’t accomplish everything they’d like using only in-house resource, secondly, they need to understand what services an MSP (Managed Services Provider) can offer, and thirdly they need to view their chosen MSP as a trusted partner for the relationship to be as fruitful as possible. If you manage to do all of these things, you become an informed consumer, and your organisation will benefit because the IT strategy supporting it will be stable, flexible, future proof and cost efficient.

By leveraging the expertise of an MSP, IT decision makers not only have access to an extended operational IT team who can take away some of the rigmarole of ‘keeping the lights on’, but also, they gain access to a consultative partner who can guide their business through the process of cloud adoption, migration, and work with them to develop technology roadmaps for the future.

The great thing about becoming an informed consumer is that you begin to understand the benefits of working with an MSP, by getting to see the processes which underpin their results. This in turn allows you to contextualise the monitoring data provided by an MSP and take these insights back to other areas of your business. It is of utmost importance that an MSP helps you in this process, by guiding and transparently showcasing its inner workings, keeping you in control.

From keeping the lights on to lighting the way – the changing role of the CIO

In recent years the CIO’s role has changed from simply delivering an organisation’s IT, to performing an essential role, supporting and facilitating business strategy, directly contributing to the generation of revenue and profit.

With this change the CIO has also seen a shift in reporting lines. A few years ago the head of the IT department would report to the CFO/FD as IT was seen as overhead rather than part of the strategic outlook for the organisation. Increasingly CIO’s are now reporting directly to the CEO/MD. This shift clearly underlines the way in which businesses are viewing IT as a vehicle for helping an organisation achieve its goals.

CIOs are now not only being tasked with “keeping the lights on”, but also supporting customer acquisition and retention, and helping the organisation reach its revenue goals, while at the same time completing major enterprise projects and product innovation efforts.

A customer's perspective: Journeying to the cloud - migrating away from a legacy platform

This blog is used with permission from Sift, the digital agency, who are a customer of Claranet's. The original blog can be found here.

A few years ago a venture capitalist told me the secret of success when growing a technology business was to sell the company within a single technology cycle. His reasoning was that you really didn’t want the hassle and risks of transitioning your platform from one paradigm to the next. This post is for those of us with longer term aspirations.

In our case, the project started in 2007 and culminated six years later with Sift’s CIO Chris Wood switching off our servers at Verizon just before Xmas last year (as evidenced by the empty racks and redundant servers below), consolidating everything with Claranet and Amazon.

Developer? Is managed application hosting right for you?

Claranet has offered managed application hosting for many years, but when you look out into the hosting market I am constantly surprised by other hosting companies running for the hills at the very thought of taking over the control and ownership of a customer’s live environment, and offering an SLA based on anything above the OS.

Why are most hosting companies scared of taking control above the OS?

It's clearly no mean feat, you simply can't take over a customer’s application and not expect issues. You have to learn how the customers application works, the issues it faces, and devise a contingency plan just in case something goes wrong. Organisations need to invest in processes such as ITIL which is a best practice framework for the provision of quality IT services, build the processes and documentation, and ensure they have sufficient qualified engineers to be able to support an application and all the infrastructure around it 24/7/365.

Why should developers care about managed application hosting?

It's simple, the developer’s core focus is usually based around delivering great code. However, we typically find that they somehow manage to also get burdened with having to run the hosting environment as a side-line. This generally happens because they possess the technical ability and understand their app, but running infrastructure is not what they have studied for years and trained for, and when problems happen this diverts their attention from core business projects.

By letting Claranet manage the application, developers can concentrate on spending more time delivering code, meeting deadlines, and adding more value to the strategic projects their organisation demands.

Cloud adoption through the prism

Whether you label it cloud, or managed, or hosted, or as-a-service, or something else – its lexicon is growing with its ubiquity – it is clear that more businesses in the mid-market are beginning to take advantage of the many benefits ‘it’ entails.

According to findings from the 2013 Claranet Research Programme 73 per cent of businesses were using some form of cloud service compared with 62 per cent the year before.

The benefits from utilising cloud - scalability, resiliency, efficiency and sustainability - are beginning to outweigh the concerns businesses previously had in terms of adoption.

Particularly for SMBs where the IT function of organisations is often not that developed, the pressure to succeed with less internal resource is more pronounced. Therefore the need to outsource day-to-day responsibility, while retaining executive control, is a particularly attractive option, as it allows stretched IT teams to concentrate on making a noticeable difference on a more strategic level.

Speeding up your website with Managed Application Hosting

Most websites contain both static content and dynamic content, a combination that can really slow down user experience.

Of course, you want to avoid this slow-down at all costs and improve your user experience which can be achieved by scaling the web layer.

You might think to throw more server instances at the issue, though ultimately this is both ineffective cost-wise, and eventually not scalable.

Fear not, however, there is a solution, and it’s called caching.

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