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The 5 Priorities You Need for a Cloud for Business Outlook.

New year resolutions! They tend to be all of the same: attending the gym, giving up smoking, living a better  life. All laudable goals, but how many of us actually see it through to the end of the year?

At The 848 Group we see the same in some of our dealings with clients. With just cause, ideas around cloud for business are very often considered by businesses and sometimes they are dismissed because of legacy decisions, business priorities, cost (contrary to many popular beliefs the cloud is not always the cheapest!), or politics between departments.

But the advent of the cloud is undeniable, and if you are CIO, a business owner, an end user who wishes that the IT department would react to your needs more effectively then cloud solutions can help you.

The team at 848 presents you with 5 ideas that should be part of your business agenda, and 5 suggested new year resolutions for you! Death to on-premise software!

Well, not quite, but it is true that there are many business applications that are better suited to the cloud. Email, collaboration, CRM and even accounting systems from the likes of +Box and +xero are giving businesses of all sizes the opportunity to carry out key business functions more efficiently in the cloud.

We have written previously on the benefits of +Box and the abilities it brings to share and collaborate with customers and partners. Box is capable of co existing with on premise systems and gives you functionality you simply cannot get elsewhere.

So your first new resolution could be:

1. Arrange for a free trial and consultation with 848, to see how your IT plans for 2013 are providing what your business needs. All without obligation of course.
Take mobile opportunities seriously.

Despite some of the negative press around tariffs for 4G from Everything Everywhere (EE), there is no doubt that 2013 is the year that many of the cloud services you can now use in business will benefit greatly from the speeds on 4G, and of course the ever increasing amount of wifi coverage. The 848 Group is part of the Apple Consultants network and we can help you link your business to your mobile workforce using Apple, Android, and the Windows platform.

Mobile access to the internet has already taken over desktop access according to recent estimates. Facebook, Twitter and Google UK products are already in use by many of us and this ability to access what you want, from anything and from anywhere, creates new possibilities in working more closely with your customers and partners.

So, your second resolution:

2. Contact 848 to find out how we can help by matching your mobile requirements to your business objectives.
IT is no longer the gatekeeper in a business.

As you read this article, this section will mean different things to you. If you are a business owner of any size, you will have a view on IT, either from your own department or from your current supplier.

If you are CIO, we assume that the fact you are reading this at all means that you know that change is coming and IT departments can no longer operate independently of the business (there are a surprising number of companies that still have this view).

And finally, if you are an end user, then you are not alone in expecting more from your IT department or supplier.

The oft used phrase of the ‘consumerization’ of IT is more true than ever. It is now possible to run key business systems on any device and a department head can purchase an IT solution without ever talking to the IT department.

Your 3rd resolution therefore:

3. Ask 848 for examples of our work where we have helped businesses use IT more effectively- and yes, we have also helped IT departments deliver the value to their user base and get a ‘thumbs up’ from the users.
Social data is critical to innovation and business growth.

Monitoring your brand on the social networks was so 2012, and at 848 we follow the trends as best we could. We could tell how many people ‘liked’ us, but how does it translate into business innovation and connecting to our customers in a better way?

We are not all the way there yet but you can interact with our helpdesk via any media you wish, and if you venture an opinion on our service, good or bad, we will know and be able to react immediately.

We have helped our clients build social media platforms that deliver similar innovation- it is worth remembering that text messaging is now bigger than voice calls on mobile. Why does this matter to social data strategy? It is simple: people are far more likely to vote with their keyboards and phones these days than they are to ring up and tell you why they are not happy.

Resolution number 4 henceforth is:

4. Arrange to speak to our digital media consultant on how these services can help your business.
Increase skills, capacity, and innovation with crowdsourcing.

Do you have the capacity in your organisation to cope with demands that you cannot see? Can you accurately predict the resource requirements for a new product, launch or brand? Crowdsourcing is a hot topic right now and at 848 we are starting a programme with  local universities, to request help and suggestions from the local talent to solve problems for our clients.

Therefore your 5th resolution should be:

5. Speak to your local faculty, set up the right social media channels to get input, invite people to submit their CV’s and sponsor local innovation by working with your local education authority.
So, take a few minutes to evaluate your IT priorities for 2013 and see how cloud for business fits into your thinking.

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A fantastic win for Microsoft Office 365 with JC Penney


JC Penney Chooses Microsoft Office 365 in Its Mission to Reinvent Retail
Jan. 10, 2013.
REDMOND, Wash.

A national retailer has upgraded to the cloud to create a new customer service experience and better communications environment for thousands of team members.
As part of its effort to simplify and modernize technology solutions, JCPenney is rolling out Microsoft Office 365 to team members throughout the company. With Office 365 as its communication and enterprise social platform, the company aims to improve customer service and increase information-sharing between team members through the ease and accessibility of the cloud.
“In selecting a cloud solution, we were looking for a partner who would support our goal of becoming America’s favorite store,” said Kristen Blum, the chief technology officer at JCPenney. “And when we realized that we could improve customer service even more by providing cloud-based collaboration tools to increase communication between team members, it was easy to choose Microsoft and Office 365.”
Office 365 will improve remote access for employees who can now stay connected virtually anywhere, anytime from smartphones, remote PCs or other mobile devices. And perhaps most importantly, ease of communication will increase between stores, allowing team members to work seamlessly with colleagues at other locations while assisting customers.
“We always aim to help customers at every touchpoint, from entering the store to finalizing a transaction. Office 365 will be a big driver in supporting that pursuit,” Blum said.
Microsoft’s Tracy Issel, general manager for Worldwide Retail and Enterprise Solutions said, “We’re excited JCPenney employees will be able to utilize technology such as Office 365, which is custom tailored to fit their needs. Better yet, I can’t wait for ordinary customers to experience the benefit of this newly connected shopping environment for themselves.”
848 Group comments
This is a fantastic win from Microsoft that seems to indicate that Microsoft are starting to prove the argument for Office 365, along with the recent win with Tesco as well for Office 365 it has been a good week for Microsoft.
You can trial Office 365 by clicking here.

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The 848 Group becomes a Box Premier Reseller.

We are delighted to announce that we have been selected to become a Box premier reseller- one of the first in in the UK. This is something that we have been working towards for a while now, as we establish what our customers want and need.

Box is an important product. At 848, we have built our advisory services around the core offerings of flexibility, mobility and the ability to use whichever device you wish to do your job. Box is one of the most advanced tools for achieving this and allows you to view, share and collaborate from almost any device available today.

What it adds as well is the enterprise grade administration and security that a company needs to protect sensitive content and know that it is not being abused- as is so often the case with file sharing services, USB pens or indeed the simple mailing of email attachments.

We have deployed Box to a firm of Estate and Letting Agents, an engineering company, a leisure management group and a fashion retailer. Each one of them has a unique story but they share the common themes of wanting to access data quickly, provide a secure place to store that data, and use it to collaborate with their customers and suppliers.

In every case, we have also linked the box environment to other systems. Digital Signature, CRM and ERP systems, Microsoft Office deployments and existing storage solutions to allow clients to use the features of Box without having to replace existing systems and processes. As a box premier reseller, we’re happy to implement Box into your business!

In the meantime, here is the CEO of Box, Aaron Levie being interviewed by Coleen Taylor from Techcrunch. Bear in mind, Aaron is 27 years old!

Office 365 and Google Apps: Which all in one solution should you choose?

Understanding the differences between the all in one solution applications such as Google Apps and Office 365 is a little bit like the comparison made a few years ago by an Italian journalist Umberto Eco between Apple and PC’s.

Umberto argued the following:

‘The fact is, that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counterreformist and has been influenced by the “ratio studiorum” of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach – if not the Kingdom of Heaven – the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation. DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.’

The current face off between Google and Microsoft is not dissimilar. In the pursuit of the perfect all in one solution, take a look at our overview of each.

Office 365
Following the point made by Umberto, Office 365 for Enterprises is a product that offers salvation to those who are prepared to put the effort in. Out of the box you can set up a powerful messaging and collaboration platform (using Lync), and you can set up the saving of documents to an online SharePoint platform. Effort is required, however, to commission the collaboration features of Office 365- and in our experiences you will need to employ SharePoint expertise as part of the roll out of such technology.

Mobile connectivity is also impressive on Android and Windows mobile but there is an extra charge for BlackBerry. Connectivity is the same as people are used to with BlackBerry services today.
Office 365 also includes impressive Unified Communications capabilities. You can federate users on Office 365 to other company’s using Lync, and it has superior sharing and collaboration facilities borne out of its Live Meeting service.
The Office Web apps also offer a similar look and feel to Office, therefore there is a shorter learning curve than using Google Apps.

Google Apps

Google represents the purest form of cloud computing, built from the web up. It means that anyone with access to an internet browser can use the suite of applications within Google Apps. It offers mail, calendar, contacts, sites and Google Talk, with the ability to use a custom domain (we are surprised how many people do not realise that you can use your own Internet domain) and also include an Office compatible web apps suite for good measure.

Google offers a range of features in its Google Apps for business service that offer immediate gratification and ‘out of the box’ features that include superb collaboration and the ability to use your existing Microsoft Applications with the Google back end. The integration is not perfect and would need to be tested, but it is a pretty compelling experience for the investment required. Mobile connectivity is well catered for, as all of the leading mobile devices are able to connect via Google Sync and sync mail, contacts and calendars. In the case of the iPhone and Android (arguably the two platforms that will be left standing in the coming months) you can sync and search server side, a service that has only really been available for people with a large Exchange environment until now.

Google apps includes Google Hangouts, based on the Plus service, this allows up to 20 people to talk in real time and perform a variety of sharing and collaboration tasks. It is likely that Google will charge for this in the future, but for now it is a very attractive add-on for people using the platform.

The Future

The soon to be released Office 2013 will see Microsoft further consolidate their strategy to make their products ‘more cloud like’. Critically it will appeal to corporate IT departments where the new functionality in Office 2013 will allow public sharing via SkyDrive, and of course integration with enterprise storage such as Sharepoint.

Google Apps have, as expected, modified the Google Plus offering so that it is far more enterprise friendly with restricted sharing and integration with calendar and email. Using video conferencing as a part of on line collaboration is a natural extension and Google has a superb integration.

One cannot rule out the importance of federation either. Box.com is leading the way here with a tight and well managed service that integrates with Google and Microsoft solutions. People using Box can easily setup secure areas to create virtual deal rooms between partners and suppliers, and integrate this into existing applications. Box is a leading light in the BYOD strategy as it allows an enterprise client the chance to give the users what they want, by allowing use on devices whilst maintaining enterprise security. It is not always that easy to move email systems, particularly with larger numbers of users.

Which all in one solution should you choose?

Choosing a cloud based mail and collaboration service from any of the big players is akin to choosing a luxury car. All luxury brands can get you from A to B but they will do it in slightly different ways, and portray a view of the type of decisions you as the driver have made to choose that car. Google and Microsoft want IT to be fun and productive, and these products go some way towards offering this.

For the IT departments in Mid Market to Enterprise, Microsoft is a logical choice- it is more complex to set up and in larger deployments the lower disruption should not be underestimated. A business can deliver a cloud based solution and if they wish the users can almost migrate with a minimum of disruption.
In a more disruptive and indeed more maverick type company, Google Apps is the friend of the anti microsoft brigade, but it has a strong enterprise pedigree and has won a considerable amount of paudits with their larger corporate wins with Rentokil, BBVA, Hillingdon council and others. There is also much to be said for the simplicity of its licensing model and cross platform and device support.
Either way people are not going to put up with a lack of choice for much longer. People want their own devices and their own way of working. I cannot think of a time where it has been easier to achieve this.