Month: August 2012

The Perfect Backup: Low-Cost And Effort-Free

The costs of data storage have never been cheaper. At the same time, for most businesses the price of failing to protect and preserve data has never been higher. Reasons for the enlarged importance of data security include: 1) the fact that many businesses now accept, handle, process, and store the credit card information of their customers; 2) information has become an asset of extraordinary value, determining how well a business serves its customers, outmaneuvers its competitors, targets and executes its print and electronic marketing strategies, keeps it shelves stocked with viable merchandise, etc.; 3) even companies without market-based incentives have been forced by recent industry and government regulations (mainly related to privacy concerns and disclosure requirements) to improve their data security. Organizations have several options to choose from when it comes to company-wide data backup. All of the backup methods have their advantages,  but only integrated cloud-based data backup has the reliability, ease-of-use, and cost-efficiency demanded by the business world’s IT security requirements.

With the integrated method, a hosting provider will combine a cloud-based solution such as an infrastructure, platform, application, or desktop with automatic data backup. The user does not have to set up anything or perform any actions. At the same time, companies can still customize the data backup process in coordination with the hosting provider. Common alterations to the backup process include: minimizing the effect on the performance of the cloud-based solution by delaying backups until the business’s after-hours; using higher encryption levels when transferring sensitive data (credit card info, financial records) to storage; and halting the backup of unimportant data (spam emails, rarely-accessed files) to preserve bandwidth and reduce costs. In addition to simplicity and flexibility, integrated data backup also benefits from the dedicated technical support and maximum reliability of private cloud hosting providers. However, companies should be careful about selecting their hosting providers based upon data backup. Not all hosting companies provide automated backups; only a small number offer the service for free; and even fewer have the necessary skill and experience to be fully trusted with preserving a company’s important files.

In contrast, on-site and non-integrated cloud backup are less simple, flexible, cost-effective, and reliable. With on-site backup, companies have to purchase and manage their own data storage hardware. They also have to coordinate the backup process itself. Large enterprises that already have a lot of on-hand IT hardware and personnel resources may prefer this backup method. But it’s safe to say that most companies do not have high-capacity data storage hardware and senior-level IT experts just lying around. Most businesses could probably not afford to install and maintain a rudimentary on-site backup system, much less one that matched the flexibility and reliability of most cloud-based backup services. And because on-site solutions and backups reside in the same location, this method does not protect against power outages, physical theft, and natural disasters (earthquakes, fires, and flooding).

Meanwhile, non-integrated (or standalone) cloud backup services are much more cost-efficient than on-site backups. Like with the integrated cloud backups, companies do not have to purchase any additional hardware or hire any new personnel. However, many non-integrated online backup services lack the flexibility and reliability of their integrated counterparts. Companies cannot customize the scheduling, encryption, and the inclusionary/exclusionary aspects of the backup process. And like with any public cloud-based service, standalone cloud backups do not include advanced security features, are more vulnerable to hacking attempts, and are not maintained and monitored by a dedicated technical staff.

IronOrbit provides integrated data backups with all of our cloud-based infrastructures, platforms, applications, and virtual desktops. With our solutions, any data not beyond the last recovery point (the user-determined duration of time between backups) that gets lost or destroyed can be restored. And with our patented Atomic Speed Technology, we can provide complete data backups with AES-256 encryption and an ambitious Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of 4 hours without raising costs or affecting the performance of our solutions. IronOrbit’s dedicated personnel will oversee the data backup process and, with 24x7x365 availability, will work to restore critical files no matter when an incident of data loss occurs. We can also customize the backups according the exact IT requirements and preferences of the customer. With the speed, security, and reliability of fully-supported solutions, our customers don’t worry about data loss—they’re confident that IronOrbit has their back.

Synced and Secure With Private Cloud Solutions

Cloud-based infrastructures are centralized, easily accessible, and secure. They are ideal platforms for a company to host its databases on. With web-based file systems, authorized employees can access their documents anytime, anywhere. For people working together on projects, the cloud database will ensure that everyone gets the same up-to-date version of a file. Cloud-based platforms can also be configured to make sensitive documents read-only. Employees would still be able to access the important files, but there would be no danger of someone mishandling the company’s financial records (for example) or storing them on a less secure device. Organizations can also maintain comprehensive and precise records (audit trails) of activity in a web-based database due to the centralization of the cloud. In responding to an incident of data loss, it would be easy for an administrator to tell which user had mistakenly or deliberately mishandled the files.

As a result of the advantages of hosting files in the cloud, online storage syncing has become one of the more popular forms of cloud computing among consumers. Despite the limitations of these storage services, casual technology users have flocked to them because of their low cost and easy setup. Also, with the syncing (or synchronizing) feature of some online storage applications, a user can change a file or folder and the service will automatically make the same changes to the same files and folders on all the user’s devices (for example, on a personal laptop, an office desktop, and a smartphone). This saves people the trouble of manual downloading and having to check versions like on a normal web-based file system.

These online storage services were designed and built for individual consumers. They have limited or no backup, management, and data protection features. They cannot be integrated with applications and other file systems. By no means should companies of any size use these online storage services as their central database. Prohibiting public cloud data storage from the enterprise does not mean that users have to say goodbye to syncing, however. Private cloud solutions databases can also be configured to synchronize data across multiple devices:

-Self-hosted file-syncing software. Some file storage and syncing software can be deployed in a private cloud. There are commercial and free versions. With these programs, employees can synchronize their files without dealing with the insecurity, unreliability, and lack of control of the public cloud storage services. In a private cloud deployment, companies can increase their data protections with firewalls, encryption, backups, and other security measures. Customized file synchronization—for example, restricting it for certain files or folders and scheduling it in intervals to reduce bandwidth consumption—would also be easier.

-Sync-enabled applications. Many of the programs that can be hosted on a private cloud have built-in synchronization features. For example, employees can sync their emails across multiple devices with a hosted version of Microsoft Exchange. With the same application, companies also have the ability to synchronize team- or department-level calendars and contact lists. Hosted project management and document management applications and collaboration platforms have similar features that automatically maintain consistent and up-to-date files on all the integrated devices in an organization.

-Virtual desktops. Files don’t exactly sync across multiple devices with a hosted desktop. In fact, many companies set up their virtual desktops to prohibit the end-user from transferring important documents to their local hard drive. But in the end, hosted desktops and syncing file systems have the same effect of making consistent and up-to-date versions of files accessible from multiple devices. Users can access their hosted desktop from any desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Regardless of the device, however, the files of the virtual desktop will always be the same.

IronOrbit can design, build, and customize any cloud-based database, application, or file syncing solution. We have the flexibility to host file systems and web-based software of any size and type. Our talented engineers will customize solutions according to the exact IT requirements and preferences of our customers. And our lightning-fast, Atomic Speed Technology-enabled virtual desktops make files quickly and easily accessible from anywhere. Only with cloud-based solutions from IronOrbit will your files always be in-sync, up-to-date, and always-available.

APIs: How Clouds Grow, Speak, and Integrate

Flexibility is a key characteristic of cloud computing. This refers not only to the cloud’s scalability—its ability to add processing power, storage capacity, and users quickly and on-demand. The flexibility of the cloud also incorporates its underlying hardware, platforms, operating systems, and applications. A given cloud can be made up of any number of different types and brands of hardware and software. Any application that can be installed on a hard drive or a shared local server can also be hosted in the cloud. In addition, clouds and cloud-based solutions can communicate with each other. Integrating a Facebook account with a Flickr album is an example of an overt and well-known form inter-cloud communication. But most cloud-to-cloud (i.e., software-to-software) transmissions take place behind the scenes and involve much more important processes. This means that clouds not only have unlimited capacity (scalability) and unlimited customization but they can also combine with other clouds to create an infinitely powerful and useful web-based solution.

The cloud’s impressive flexibility is mostly a result of application programming interfaces (APIs). In the most basic terms, an API is what allows two separate software programs to integrate or interact with one another. It is a list of software codes that correspond with certain actions in a given application (software A). In order to get a different application to interact with software A, programmers only have to design their applications to generate and send the API codes of the actions they want software A to perform. Any kind of software-to-software communication, including application-to-operating-system, will be mediated by an API.

Cloud APIs are special for a couple reasons. First, a lot of major cloud service providers such as Twitter and Facebook will release APIs to the public (a so-called Open API). Not only for-profit software developers but also amateur programmers will have the opportunity to build modules and standalone applications that extensively interact with cloud-based services. This leads to higher creativity and better functionality for the software on either end of the API. Second, it is more valuable for applications to be able to interact with cloud-based solutions than with software and operating systems on the same hard drive. Cloud-based applications can be accessed from anywhere, do not require local installation, and are often much cheaper than on-premise software (pay-per-use versus expensive and long-term licenses). Applications that interact with cloud solutions via APIs also do not need much hardware support because cloud-based applications take care of their own processing. Finally, cloud computing is mainly a software-driven technology. Its infrastructure depends on database and virtualization applications that connect and coordinate with each other via APIs. The titles of the articles “The API is everything for cloud computing” and “Without APIs, there is no cloud computing” demonstrate the extent to which APIs account for the cloud’s flexibility and functionality.

Also underlining the importance of application programming interfaces for the technical world were the controversies over the Oracle-Google patent case and Twitter’s recent adjustments to its API. The Oracle-Google legal battle concerned 37 Java APIs that Google allegedly stole for its Android mobile operating system. Commenting on the case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation warned, “Treating APIs as copyrightable would have a profound negative impact on interoperability, and, therefore, innovation. APIs are ubiquitous and fundamental to all kinds of program development. It is safe to say that all software developers use APIs to make their software work with other software.” The Oracle v. Google judge ended up ruling that APIs were not copyrightable material. Meanwhile, Twitter announced changes to its API that would increase the maximum amount of “data grab” requests of third-party applications such as Hootsuite from 350 to 720 per hour. However, the new API would also limit the number of total users of third-party applications to 100,000 or 200% of their current user base. Thomas Claburn of InformationWeek criticized this and other changes to the Twitter API, saying, “Many third-party Twitter apps will disappear or be forced to remove the functionality that differentiates them from official Twitter software. Twitter has in effect outlawed innovation, except in a narrow, approved range of activity.”

Like any hosting company, IronOrbit utilizes APIs as connections between applications, database systems, virtualization platforms, and private and hybrid clouds. However, our talented engineers fine-tune the interactions between all the components of our solutions to maximize performance, reliability, and security. And more than any other hosting provider, we take advantage of APIs in building fully customized clouds (any hardware, any application, any virtual desktop) that match the IT requirements and preferences of our customers exactly. With other hosting companies, APIs are the equivalent of wires and cables—basic connections—running between different hardware units. But with IronOrbit, APIs are the key to infinitely flexible and customizable clouds.

The Cloud in Action: the CDC‰Ûªs Lifesaving Collaboration Platform

Many government organizations have embraced cloud computing in order to reduce costs and inefficiencies. It makes financial and operational sense for most departments, research groups, and agencies to adopt hosted infrastructures. Government organizations have work that requires them to collaborate and communicate with the public and local and state groups, but also have restrictive budgets and need an infrastructure that satisfied the above conditions without sacrificing security or control. Only cloud computing fulfills of all of these requirements.

The BioSense 2.0 program illustrates many of the benefits of cloud computing for government organizations. Congress mandated the creation of the original BioSense in 2002 in response to the 2001 anthrax attacks. It was a ‰ÛÏsyndromic surveillance system‰Û designed to analyze public health data for signs of bioterrorism. With this arrangement, hospitals would send their data to the on-site data centers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC would analyze the data for patterns and send out reports of suspicious illnesses and suspected attacks.

In 2010, the focus of the BioSense program shifted from bioterrorism to health crises of all types. This necessitated that the CDC‰Ûªs data sharing and management system would have to change, too. It would have to give state, local, and individual health officials more control over their own data (to be able to analyze and respond to localized diseases) while maintaining the nationwide system (to coordinate different regions and prevent the spread of epidemics). It would also have to be cheap enough for health officials at every level‰ÛÓincluding poorly-funded hospitals and districts‰ÛÓto be able to participate in the program. In other words, BioSense 2.0 required the unique combination of flexibility, high-performance, and cost-efficiency of cloud computing.

According to the CDC, the cloud-based BioSense 2.0 has already helped to manage multiple public health crises, including the 2009-2010 H1N1 Flu Pandemic, the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill, and the 2011 U.S. Heat Wave. Surely it will also play a role in the government‰Ûªs response to this summer‰Ûªs record-breaking heat wave and a recent outbreak of the West Nile virus in Texas.

Cloud-hosted applications and data can be accessed any authorized employee from anywhere with a web-enabled device. Also, the centralization of clouds maintains the consistency of files and makes the infrastructures easier to manage and protect. Hosting companies‰Ûª economies of scale also lower the costs of hosting infrastructures, platforms, and applications compared to on-site IT infrastructures. With cloud computing, offices that could not afford an on-site IT infrastructure in the first place can either join a cloud shared by all the offices of their organization or adopt their own cloud-based solution for a reasonable price. For all of these reasons, cloud computing should be the preferred hosting option for larger, highly-dispersed, or cost-efficient groups.

Companies do not have to be as large or as widely-dispersed as a government agency to benefit from cloud computing, however. Cloud-based solutions from Ironorbit will help smaller organizations improve their flexibility and mobility while lowering their IT costs. All of our clouds feature elite security (including 24/7 monitoring, firewalls, and antivirus) and unbeatable performance (our patented AST Speedy Technology combines speed, reliability, and quick deployment). We will also build your cloud according to your exact IT requirements and preferences. At Ironorbit, we don‰Ûªt expect our clouds to save lives like the BioSense 2.0 program‰ÛÓwe‰Ûªll just settle with dramatically improving the IT efficiency and security of all our valued customers.

IronOrbit Partner Focus: Cisco

IronOrbit delivers the most secure, reliable, and high-performance hosted solutions partly thanks to its partnerships with IT software and hardware leaders. Our approach to hosting combines best-of-breed hardware and virtualization platforms (developed by our partners) with complete customizability and dedicated 24/7 technical support (provided by IronOrbit). The purpose of this Partner Focus blog series has been to familiarize our customers and readers with our partners, to recognize the role of our partners in our success, and to describe how we utilize their great products to build and deploy the best hosted solutions. Today’s post features the networking hardware and software leader Cisco.

Just this week, Cisco released its quarterly financial report. The company raised its revenue 4% to $11.7 billion and its profits to $1.9 billion, up 55% from last year. Though its orders from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa declined 6%, sales from the Americas and Asia rose 4% and 12% respectively. According to the financial reporter Brandon Bailey, the company’s strong performance bodes well for the high tech industry as a whole: “Cisco is often viewed as a bellwether for the commercial tech industry, since it’s the leading supplier of network routers and switches used by businesses, government agencies and telecommunications providers.”

Cisco was founded in 1984 by Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner, a husband-and-wife team that worked on the computer operations staff at Stanford University. The company’s first innovative product was the multiple-protocol router. At the time, networks were less standardized and had compatibility issues. The multiple-protocol router made it possible or at least much easier for computers on formerly incompatible networks to communicate with one another. In addition to their innovativeness, Cisco’s early products were also noted for their longevity. The software of its routers were capable of being updated to support the latest advancements and tweaks of hardware and networking technology. This flexibility allowed Cisco to thrive in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when mainstream computing and network technologies were evolving quickly and haphazardly.

Cisco firmly established itself as the leading developer and manufacturer of networking hardware and software in the 1990s. Its products put it at the center of the dot-com boom. In 2000, Cisco was the most valuable company in the world with a market capitalization of $500 billion. A decade later, the company still dominates the competition in terms of market share. Its products hold the lead in the categories of switches (69% market share), routers (53%), wireless LAN (53%), VoIP (37%), network security (31%), and home networking (23%). The average person will probably be most familiar with its Linksys modems and routers.

IronOrbit’s data centers utilize Cisco’s industry-best networking hardware and software. Their products are a key ingredient of our patented Atomic Speed Technology. IronOrbit’s talented engineers calibrate Cisco’s hardware to optimize the speed, security, and reliability of our hosted solutions. Like with any true partnership, Cisco and IronOrbit contribute equally to success of our products. Cisco provides unparalleled raw materials in the form of routers, switches, and other networking devices to IronOrbit—and millions of other hosting companies, IT departments, and data center owners. The difference with IronOrbit is that we enhance our Cisco hardware with advanced calibration and 24/7 infrastructure monitoring and maintenance. We also uniquely combine Cisco’s products with other industry-leading technologies (VMware hypervisors, Citrix VDIs) and customize our hosted solutions according the exact IT requirements and preferences of our clients. With IronOrbit, no two clouds are the same—except that all our hosted solutions combine best-of-breed hardware and software with in-depth customization and dedicated support.

Decreasing E-Waste with the Cloud

The United States throws away about 3 million tons of e-waste every year, including about 30 million desktops, 12 million laptops, and 30 million computer monitors. The amount of e-waste increases year-to-year at the highest rate (5%) of any category of trash. E-waste accounts for 20-50 million tons or 5% of all the world’s solid waste. Many of these discarded units contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and the carcinogens cadmium and chromium.

John Biggs of TechCrunch recently discussed the effect that a design change of Apple’s devices would have on the amount of e-waste. Reportedly, the company will switch from its current 30-pin port (the rectangular outlet that connects iPods, iPhones, and iPads to docking stations and chargers) to a smaller 9-pin or 19-pin port. Biggs estimates that 45 million devices will become “partially” obsolete as a result of this minor change. This case illustrates one of the unfortunate downsides of rapid technical innovation: it creates e-waste on a massive scale as older (and sometimes still perfectly functioning) devices get put aside or thrown away.

Also, David Meyer of ZDNet reported that the European Union has instituted new e-waste disposal rules this week. The updated regulations increased the recycling goal for e-waste from 20% of all electronics to 45%-65%. They allow any consumer to return any unit of e-waste less than 25cm long to a large retailer to be recycled for free. The rules also discourage manufacturers from using lead, mercury, cadmium, and other hazardous materials in any of their products. As this article shows, businesses need to start planning to reduce their e-waste output. Otherwise they will face increased government and public scrutiny or be forced to pay penalties.

Cloud computing can help companies reduce their e-waste in several ways. First, companies no longer have to purchase, repair, or replace hardware for an on-site IT infrastructure when they sign up for cloud-based solutions. They will not have to dispose of all of their obsolete or broken servers, storage devices, networking hardware, and cables every year. Second, cloud hosting companies utilize hardware more efficiently. They can host multiple applications and infrastructures per server. As a result, cloud hosting providers purchase relatively small amounts of hardware and fully utilize their servers, storage devices, and networking hardware before disposing of them.

Third, companies that adopt cloud-based solutions do not have to frequently repair or replace their end-user hardware such as desktops, laptops, keyboards, mice, and monitors. The servers of the hosting company will take care of the majority of the processing and storage. Old devices will perform as well as brand-new hardware with cloud-based solutions. Businesses may not even have to purchase any new hardware: employees can also access cloud-hosted applications and infrastructures from their personal laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Unlike other revolutionary technologies, cloud computing does not require people to get rid of their old devices. Instead, the cloud revitalizes older computers and infrastructure hardware.

IronOrbit provides private and hybrid cloud solutions that will significantly decrease your e-waste output in the long term. IronOrbit can customize your infrastructure to decrease its power consumption. Our patented Atomic Speed Technology also ensures that our hardware will be fully utilized before the end of its lifespan. IronOrbit provides the industry’s most environmentally-friendly cloud-based solutions—and without sacrificing security, reliability, or performance.

How Secure Are Public Clouds? The Superior Protection of Private Clouds.

Not all forms of cloud computing are the same. In general, private clouds (a hosted infrastructure or solution built for a single organization) are more secure and reliable than public clouds (a pre-existing web-based service that any user can sign up for). Private clouds not only have more in-place data security than public clouds, they can also be customized to include advanced protections such as firewalls, antivirus, and content filters.

Perhaps nothing has illustrated the differences in security between private and public clouds as starkly as the recent hacking of the journalist Mat Honan. The ex-Gizmodo reporter described in an August 6 Wired article how cyber-thieves infiltrated his public cloud Amazon, Google, Twitter, and Apple accounts. The hackers changed all of his passwords, posted obscene messages to his Twitter feed, and deleted all the files on his phone and laptop, including the only copies of photos of his infant daughter. The attackers breached his accounts by exploiting the weak security controls and impersonal customer support of the public cloud providers. One of the hackers actually contacted Honan afterwards and explained step-by-step how they infiltrated all of his accounts:

-The hackers visited the reporter’s personal website linked to his Twitter page and found his Gmail address.

-Using the Gmail account recovery interface, they were able to find out his secondary email (where the public cloud service would send a password reminder or a new code), which was an iCloud address.

-The hackers found out Honan’s home address from an online search. They then called Amazon’s customer service and supplied a fake credit card number and the reporter’s name, email, and address in order to gain access to the account. From inside the account, they were able to view the last four digits of all Honan’s real credit cards.

-Finally, they called Apple customer support and provided Honan’s iCloud address and the last four digits of one of his credit cards to receive a new password. With access to his iCloud account they were able to request a new password for his Gmail account. And with access to his Gmail account they were able to request a new password for his Twitter account. Through iCloud the hackers were also able to remotely delete all the files on his iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

A private cloud would have prevented this attack in several ways. First, private clouds do not have the same automated account recovery process as a public cloud service. To receive a new password for a private cloud solution users have to contact the hosting provider directly and identify themselves. The user population of the service may be small enough for a technician to remember an individual user’s voice or writing style. Otherwise, the unknown phone number or IP address of the hacker will tip off the technical support personnel to the scam.

Second, private clouds have automated breach detection and notification systems. These programs search for and detect unusual behavior (unknown IP addresses, strange login times, mass deletions or migrations of data) and send alerts to the on-duty technical personnel. And unlike public cloud technicians that have to monitor and support millions of different users at the same time, the dedicated staff of private clouds can actually respond to a breach quickly enough to prevent or mitigate data loss.

Third, even if hackers were able to infiltrate a private cloud, they could not have permanently deleted its files in the same way they wiped Honan’s iCloud. Most private clouds provide automated and complete data backups for all users.

With security features that include around-the-clock monitoring, dedicated technical support, and full daily backups, IronOrbit’s private clouds offer the best protection from threats like the Honan breach. Whether your organization requires the data security equivalent of a picket fence or a fortress, IronOrbit will design and build your private cloud to match your security requirements. Don’t risk your data with a public cloud—trust with a private cloud from IronOrbit.

Thin Provisioning: True On-Demand Storage

The average data center has a storage problem. At times, seventy-five percent of its available storage capacity remains unused. The data center has to allocate large amounts of free space to applications, which can create or delete a lot of data at any time. While this system prevents users from ever running out of storage space, it is also costly and inefficient. Certainly, most data center managers would compromise higher costs to guarantee the reliability and availability of applications. But they would still prefer to be able to utilize the vacant three-fourths of their infrastructures without negatively influencing the stability of their applications.

A technology called “thin provisioning” provides a solution to the 75% problem. It allocates storage to applications on an as-needed basis. With thin provisioning, each application does not require its own dedicated physical storage device. Neither does thin provisioning require the same amount of hands-on management and oversight as a Storage Area Network. Explains George Crump of Storage Switzerland, “The challenge is that even though the tools and OS support exists, the process of expanding a volume is a multi-step manual process which risks application disruption and cannot keep pace with the rapidly changing data center.” In contrast, a thin provisioning data center provides applications with storage automatically and intuitively during the process of data creation or “writing.”

Thin provisioning not only maximizes available computing resources but also lowers the hardware requirements of applications. For example, a program that formerly required its own 1 TB storage device would be able to share a 500 GB unit with multiple other applications, resulting in exponential savings.

Some experts warn about the technology’s possibility of overprovisioning. An unexpectedly large amount of users can access all the applications of a thinly provisioned data center at once, quickly exhausting the capacity of its storage devices. However, Crump of Storage Switzerland says that the odds are against such a scenario. He compares thin provisioning to the insurance business. While it is technically possible for every insured person to break their legs or crash their cars all at once and bankrupt the insurance company, usually only a small percentage of subscribers will file an insurance claim in a given year. Similarly, not every user will access an application at the same time or simultaneously execute processes that require large amounts of storage. Crump adds that system administrators can further protect their data centers from overprovisioning by monitoring capacity and usage rates closely and reserving extra hardware as emergency “stand-by” storage.

IronOrbit, a leading private cloud, hosted application, and virtual desktop provider, employs technologies such as thin provisioning, SAN, and virtualization in order to provide the most powerful, reliable, and cost-effective cloud-based solutions. Though we aren’t the only hosting company to utilize these data center technologies and strategies, only IronOrbit combines these and other industry-best products into customized solutions that we build according to the exact specifications, requirements, or preferences of our customers. We don’t stop with just designing and building great solutions, either: IronOrbit oversees, manages, and repairs our customers’ clouds with around-the-clock monitoring and technical support. We ensure that your solutions continually perform as well and as reliable as possible; we also protect your infrastructure from threats such as malware and overprovisioning. Like thin provisioning, IronOrbit always gets what you need from your IT infrastructure, how and when you need it.

Microsoft Office 2013: Built for the Cloud

Microsoft Office 2013 :Built for the Cloud

It has taken Microsoft longer than consumers and the technology world to fully convert to the cloud. The company’s Windows 7 and Office 2010 had limited cloud computing integration, despite the fact that at the time the public had already shifted heavily towards web-based email, software, storage, and social media. But because so many people and businesses still rely on Microsoft operating systems and productivity applications, the tech world’s decisive step towards the cloud was like a body trying to move forward without its legs. Microsoft finally corrected this imbalance these last two years by announcing the cloud-centric Windows 8 in June 2011 and Office 2013 in July 2012. Finally, the direction of computing technology of a whole, the focus of the leading operating system and productivity application suite, and the preferences of businesses and consumers are all in lock-step.

Microsoft Office 2013 has all the usual applications: the big four of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, as well as the more business-focused SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, Visio, Project, Publisher, OneNote, and Access. The new cloud-centric features that have been announced include:

Cloud-based storage and sharing

Office 2013 makes it easier to save your files to a cloud. You can also save a file as a link that your colleagues can access, view, and edit via their web browser, even if they don’t have a copy of Office 2013 installed. The new Office can also upload only the changes to an existing document instead of the entire edited version of the file, conserving bandwidth and storage space.

Optimized for tablets and smartphones

Due to the symbiotic relationship between the cloud and mobile devices, Microsoft has designed Office 2013 to be tablet- and smartphone-friendly. For example, all of the suite’s applications can be operated by touch. The ribbons (the multilayered menus at the top of the screen) of the applications have been “flattened” to perform and be seen better on mobile devices. Holding your finger over a part of the screen initiates the same action as a right-click on a PC. You can even write something in Word using your finger or a stylus and the program will convert your handwriting to text.

Integrated with cloud-based social media and collaboration tools

Aside from email, the most commonly-used cloud-based services are social media websites and applications. Office 2013 integrates its applications with sites and programs such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Yammer, and Skype. For example, the new Outlook will retrieve the Facebook and LinkedIn content (profiles, recent updates) of all of your contacts. The new Word will let you search for and embed YouTube videos and Flickr photos from within the program. Also, Office 2013’s SharePoint will integrate with Yammer, offering a unique combination of file-sharing and project management with intra-company social networking.

(Business users of Microsoft Office 2013 will also be happy to learn that the new suite includes PDF editing in Word, more intuitive data parsing and analysis features in Excel, and timekeeping, teleprompter, and slide selection features in a vastly-improved presentation mode in PowerPoint.)

IronOrbit hosts Microsoft products in the form of cloud-based Office suites, standalone applications, Windows virtual desktops, and Windows virtual desktops integrated with the Office suite or Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other specific applications. Undoubtedly we will be able to deploy Windows 8 hosted desktops and Office 2013 hosted applications upon their release (with the operating system scheduled for release in October and the suite’s release date so far unannounced).

Our hosted solutions are more centralized, manageable, and business-ready than Microsoft’s proprietary cloud products. When you select hosted Microsoft products from IronOrbit you benefit from our 24x7x365 technical support and the world-class performance and security of our private clouds. We can also assist you with your upgrade to Windows 8 and Office 2013. IronOrbit will save your company money and maintain the consistency of your records and business operations by helping you transfer your files, settings, and licenses to your new deployment at no extra cost. For the best performance, security, and cost-efficiency, deploy all of your Microsoft products with IronOrbit’s private clouds.