Getting the most from Cloud Computing

We hear a lot about cloud computing technologies these days with an increasing number of businesses offering cloud services. Despite the growing number of cloud offerings, some companies still have reservations about using cloud computing in their businesses.

What some business owners don’t realise is that chances are, they’re using cloud computing in their personal lives. Whenever you update your Facebook status, check your bank balance, pay for your online shopping with PayPal or curl up to watch a new series on Netflix, you’re accessing the cloud, so what exactly is cloud computing and what should you be looking for when considering using this technology as part of your IT infrastructure?

A true cloud solution should be able to flex up and down to meet your requirements – all the way from nothing through to very significant amounts of computing and storage. Not only this, it should be able to be scaled quickly, easily, and in many cases, automatically.

One of the great things about cloud technology from a business point of view is that it is pay-as- you-go, so at the end of each month you only pay for what you have used – no more, no less. This makes it an efficient service for modern businesses.

When considering which cloud service is best for your business, its important to ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do I really just pay for what I need?

  2. Can I flex it quickly and easily?

  3. Is this offering the best possible value?

In reality, there are only a small handful of global suppliers that can provide a true cloud solution for

your business and, we’re proud to work with two of the largest suppliers in the world for this service – Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

If you’d like to find out more about true cloud computing, watch this short video blog, call our cloud computing experts on 0191 201 2111 or email truecloud@perfect-image.co.uk

On your bike! Perfect Image team members are set to cycle from Vietnam to Cambodia…

As a company with 100 employees, you can imagine that members of our team are often participating in fundraising events but, in 2017 two members of the Perfect Image team are quite literally going the extra mile to raise money for charity.

Next February, HR Manager Kay Lees and Accountant Gail McCamley will be embarking on an epic 450km bike ride, from Vietnam to Cambodia, to raise money for Women Vs Cancer.

The pair will join a group of around 100 fellow female riders from all walks of life as they cycle from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City to Angkor Wat in Cambodia in just six days. Along the course of the ride, Kay and Gail will cycle through some truly breathtaking scenery, visit some beautiful ancient temples and experience a fascinating culture.

Over the past few months, Kay and Gail have organised office bake sales, a pop-up sweet shop and football scratch cards, as well as packing bags at local supermarkets and collections at Whitley Bay and Blyth Football clubs to meet their £6,400 fundraising target.

Kay said: “Training for the bike ride is starting to step up despite the recent decline in weather! We recently went to Scotland with local bike club Wat Bikes and spent two days riding through the rather hilly landscape. We also have a staff cycling club going on with a number of team members bringing in their bikes and riding together on evenings after work.”

The money raised through the Women Vs Cancer will be shared equally between three very worthy charities; Breast Cancer Care, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Ovarian Cancer Action.

Gail said: “Raising money to help find a cure for cancer is a cause close to both of our hearts. We were encouraged to take part in the challenge after a mutual friend who has herself battled cancer, signed up and, while I’m a little worried about the distance, I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Kay added: “We would like to thank Perfect Image for their generous donation, their excellent support and giving us the flexibility to fundraise and train. I’m starting to get excited and can’t wait for it to be here.”

We’ll be giving the ladies a Go Pro camera to record their ride and keep us up to date with their progress while they cycle across Vietnam to Cambodia.

If you would like to show your support for Kay and Gail, you can visit their Just Giving Pages and read their own personal reasons for taking part in the charity bike ride.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Kay-Winfield

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gailmccamley00

What is a true managed service?

As our reliance on IT grows, it is easy to neglect the resources that support our ever increasingly complex technological environment but what happens in your business when something goes wrong with your IT?

In many small businesses, IT resources are scarce and can quickly be overwhelmed with the day-to-day responsibilities of keeping the IT infrastructure up and running. If you fall behind when it comes to performing backups, checking security and updating software, an outage can spell disaster for your business.

A managed services approach to your IT solutions is much better for your business than a traditional break-fix support contract. The phrase ‘managed services’ means a lot of different things to different people even within the industry. We believe that a true managed service is something that goes well beyond simple support and the break-fix mentality that many other suppliers adopt.

To us, a true managed service is about taking end-to-end management and control of a customer’s IT service, including the underlying network all the way through to the applications, making sure that these elements are delivered reliably, securely and that all users are well supported.

In addition, it’s about proactive improvements; providing planning and advice to make a customer’s IT service better over time. It’s not just about keeping your systems running, it’s about making them better, ensuring the solutions are aligned to your business needs so that they get even more from their IT.

The true managed services approach is engrained in everything that we do. From account management, where we aim to understand our customer’s business, to the technical skills our team of experts use to deliver the right IT solutions for our clients. We do this by working with our customers, ensuring each client understands how and why the recommended solution is fit for their business.

Even our monitoring tools are designed to not just look at whether elements of a customer’s hardware are broken, but they monitor the availability and reliability of the applications that sit on a network.

We know there isn’t a one size fits all approach. Crucially, we tailor each of our managed services solutions so that our IT solutions meet your individual needs in a way that provides the very best possible value.

We understand that most of our customers don’t want the traditional break-fix service; instead, they want a reliable managed service. Our advice to anyone reviewing their IT solutions is to ask for a managed service – you’ll not only find a better value IT service, but it will also benefit your business for the long term.

For more information about managed services, visit: http://blog.perfect-image.co.uk/what-is-managed-services/

Celebrating 25 years of success at Perfect Image

1991 was the year Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web, the year the first website went online and the year that PC World opened its first store. It was also the year Perfect Image CEO, Andrew Robson set up Perfect Image.

Having previously graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MA in Computer Science, Andrew originally set up and ran the business from his bedroom, achieving a turnover of around £100,000 in the first year. The first Perfect Image employees joined a year later and the company has gone from strength-to-strength ever since.

Our focus has always been on using the best technology to benefit our clients’ businesses, not for the sake of technology. What we expect from IT has come a long way in the last 25 years – as a company, we’re about six months younger than the web – so the game has changed tremendously and it’s vital that we continue to help businesses stay up-to-date and embrace new ways of working.

It’s a very exciting time here at Perfect Image and we’re delighted to be celebrating our 25th anniversary with our stakeholders, loyal customers and staff. It’s a wonderful milestone, especially following on from the announcement that our turnover reached £7.5 million last year after growth of over 30 percent – an increase which we’re working to build on again this year.

Our 25th anniversary celebrations kicked off with our recent race day event at Newcastle Racecourse. The event, which was attended by more than 150 of our stakeholders, team members and customers and included presentations from Microsoft and PwC, focusing on emerging technologies and cyber security.

We’re on a mission to use technology to get the very best for our clients and are dedicated to offering excellent service. As part of this, we believe in recruiting, training and retaining the best people to do this, so we’ve worked really hard to provide our staff with a great working environment.

The success of Perfect Image is because of our people, their substantial knowledge, dedication and skill, and it’s a pleasure to work with such a wonderful team. We’re incredibly proud of our staff and the outstanding results they deliver for our customers – they always go the extra mile, and beyond!

Race Day

Record-breaking year at Perfect Image: we want you to be part of our future success

Here at Perfect Image, we’re delighted to tell you that we’re celebrating a record-breaking year after announcing our audited annual results.

From our home on the Cobalt Business Park in North Tyneside, we’ve seen turnover for our latest financial year reach £7.5 million, a 30% increase on the previous year. And as if that wasn’t cause enough for a celebration, we’ve also surpassed the targets set for this financial year by 8% – with our initial target for 2015/16 being £6.9 million.

Last year we had a really strong performance and good growth too. When we set the targets for this year, we felt they were ambitious, yet achievable with hard work and dedication, so we’re thrilled with our performance and to have exceeded our goals – it’s all down to a buoyant IT market and, of course, a great team too.

There is no doubt there is continued confidence growing in the IT market and as cloud computing becomes the ‘new normal’, we’re certainly seeing a tipping point in the sector. Our strategy of aligning ourselves to cloud computing back in the early days and providing a managed service around clients’ applications in a true cloud environment is paying dividends now. As new and existing clients want to harness the business benefits cloud computing can offer them, we are often their provider of choice, due to our track record and the close working relationships we enjoy with our two key cloud partners – Microsoft and Amazon Web Services.

Here at Perfect Image, we work collaboratively with our clients to foster business transformation through the intelligent use of IT. We design and support cloud, traditional and hybrid IT systems, providing an end-to-end service across business applications, infrastructure, networks and data analytics. So much so, while Perfect Image as a whole has surpassed the set annual turnover target, each individual department within the business has also out-performed their annual goals – we couldn’t be happier!

A huge contributing factor to the fantastic results of the past year is due to winning a number of new customers across the North East including Fairstone Group, Auckland Castle and Arcinova, helping to establish Perfect Image as a major IT player in the region. What’s more, we’re also gaining traction across the rest of the UK with a number of big wins with household names such as Halfords, Zurich Insurance and BGL – owners of ComparetheMarket.com.
And the good news doesn’t stop there; due to our exceptional company growth, we’re now recruiting across the business into a number of roles. If you want to work in a fast-paced, challenging but hugely rewarding environment with state-of-the-art technology by global providers of IT solutions, then we want to hear from you.

After all, the success of Perfect Image is down to our people. Without their skill, knowledge and expertise, we could never service our clients the way we do and, ultimately, it’s this that makes businesses want to work with us – we’re committed to our clients and work hard to design and deliver technology solutions that produce real business benefits for them that can help transform their organisation.

This time last year we had approximately 75 people working at Perfect Image. Now, when we fill our latest roles, our head count will grow to 99 people. It’s really a very exciting time with even more ambitious targets set for next year. We’re looking to achieve a further 20% growth in our turnover for 2016/17 and to do this we need the right people on-board. So if you’re up for the challenge, why not check out the roles available with us?

Avoid hefty fines as new data protection guidelines come in to force

With enhanced data protection rights set to come into force in 2018, Perfect Image and its compliance partner, Evolve North, will be reviewing the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and suggesting ways your organisation can remain compliant.

On 20 July Perfect Image will host a free-to-attend practical workshop, which will help you prepare your organisation for the upcoming changes in Data Protection. While the changes laid out by the GDPR do not come into force until 2018, it is essential for all organisations to put plans in place as soon as possible, to allow time for your organisation to ensure it is fully compliant, while avoiding hefty fines when the changes come in to force. Any organisation which fails to comply with the GDPR will be subject to either fines of around £60,000 or a percentage of their turnover for each breach.

While many of the main concepts and principles within the current Data Protection Act will remain valid under the GDPR, there are some significant changes, as well as several new elements, which organisations must prepare for. Under the new rulings, businesses will have to appoint a Data Protection Officer, undergo mandatory Privacy Impact Assessments and all software, systems and processes must be compliant with data protection.

At Perfect Image, we’re committed to best practise and wanted to share our knowledge on a subject which, if not handled correctly, could have a huge impact on your organisation. Despite having two years to ensure compliance measures are put in place, we want to help you make the transition as simple as possible.

Mark Dennis, managing director and information governance lead, at Evolve North will be talking about GDPR’s implications for organisations and individuals, as well as reviewing the Information Commissioners’ 12 Steps for compliance. Mick Keeble/Michael Steen, JOB TITLE, at Perfect Image will also discuss how organisations can plug the gaps in their data and security, to ensure that they remain compliant when the new guidelines come into force.

As all organisations must comply with the new GDPR, our workshop is open to any organisation which processes data, and will give attendees an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals.

The workshop will be held on Wednesday 20 July at 9.30am at Perfect Image, Equinox House, 3.2 Silver Fox Way, Cobalt

Coming of age: cloud computing is the new normal

This time last year, when it came to cloud computing, we found a lot of our clients and potential customers were talking about ‘when’ the time was right for their organisation to make the move into the cloud. Fast-forward 365 days and the tone of the conversations have certainly changed.

Today, more and more people are realising the business benefits of hosting their organisation’s IT infrastructure in the cloud – particularly in a true cloud environment – with providers such as AWS. So rather than talking about ‘when’ the time is right to move into the cloud, our conversations with clients are now very much about ‘how’ is the best way to make the move.

What better testament to prove that in 2016, cloud computing is certainly coming of age and very quickly becoming the ‘new normal’ when architecting an IT infrastructure? In fact, recent statistics show that in 2015, AWS was top for cloud computing solutions and was even the best when it came to systems reliability.

The study was carried out by CloudHarmony, which is owned by Gartner, and aimed to monitor the health status of cloud computing providers by testing their systems over the course of a year. The results were impressive; despite AWS having the largest cloud offering on the market, it actually had the least amount of outages among other major vendors, like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

To put some figures against this, during the 365 days of monitoring last year, the study recorded 56 outages at AWS across four major services for a total downtime (and keep in mind this is over the course of a year and across all of their global data centres…) of about two and a half hours. In comparison, the other cloud computing platforms had more than five-fold downtime; Azure suffered 71 outages totalling 10 hours and 49 minutes, while Google’s cloud suffered 167 outages over the course of 11 hours and 34 minutes. In other words, that means that AWS was up and running 99.9974% of the time.

With over 10 million customers world-wide ranging in size, scale and sector, it’s clear that when asking yourself about ‘how’ to move into the cloud, AWS should be up there on your shortlist of preferred providers. Compared to other providers, it is clearly the most robust and reliable, meaning you can be sure your systems are running smoothly, so you can get on with the running of your business rather than dealing with systems outages.

Working with an IT consultancy, like Perfect Image, can help you to determine the best cloud solution for you and your organisation, and then help you to make the move, so you can realise the business benefits of true cloud as quickly and smoothly as possible. What’s more, at Perfect Image we offer our clients a full managed support service, so once your systems are safely in the cloud, we look after your infrastructure for you too – it’s one less thing for you to worry about while you’re busy running your business.

We monitor, measure and make recommendations for further improvements, so that you’re always getting the best return possible on the investment in your IT, ensuring your systems meet your evolving business needs.

Artificial Intelligence – no longer a thing of the future

Say the words ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and it all seems very X Files or Men in Black – certainly not something that is every day at least. But what if you were wrong? After all, Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that this year he wants re-create his very own Jarvis from Iron Man – he’s actually going to build his own robot assistant!

However, when it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI) in IT, it is really very much a ‘thing’ and it can certainly help to benefit your business too, beyond being a virtual butler and making you a cup of tea…

There’s something called ‘Machine Learning’ that is part of the AI family. Essentially it means computers have the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed – no hours of coding required. Rather, machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can teach themselves to grow and change when exposed to new data.

Unlike data mining, which searches through data and looking for patterns to present in a meaningful way to be understood by humans, machine learning uses data to improve the program’s own understanding and adjusting the program’s actions accordingly – it’s about patterns, probability and predictions based on what the program has learned through the inputting of historic data.
It means that through looking and learning from volumes of historic data, machine learning produces actionable results. It really is a very clever piece of kit for any business or organisation that needs to consider external factors affecting business decisions – anything from market challenges to customer behaviour.

For example, imagine you’re a business and you sell umbrellas. Through machine learning, by inputting the data from historical weather patterns for the past year, the results may show you that in 2015, December was the wettest month of the year and so may predict that the same will happen this year. However, by ‘feeding’ the programme more historic data going back many years, the results may show you that actually, December isn’t always the rainiest month of the year and that it tends to be more around April/May time instead. In essence, the more info you can give the programme, the more it learns and better predicts the most probable outcomes.

Thinking about the umbrella business, armed with this information, you can use the results from the machine learning exercise to inform your purchasing decisions. The system could, for example, learn what the typical linkage is between the actual weather, the forecast weather and how many people buy your umbrellas. If you know it’s less likely to rain in August, you don’t need to order in as many umbrellas. If you know it’s likely to be a very wet September, you can make sure you have enough stock to meet demand and set your price point accordingly. While some of the results (like this one!) may be intuitive and obvious, this isn’t always the case.

It’s all really impressive stuff and it’s a product offering Amazon Web Services is taking to market. And what’s great is it’s not really expensive either (certainly not as costly as Mr Zuckerberg’s bill for building his own Jarvis!). With Amazon Machine Learning there’s no upfront hardware or software investment, and you pay as you go, so you can start small and scale up if you need to. The predictions are presented in real-time too, so it helps when you have to make a quick business decision with little time to consider the options.

AI and machine learning may sound like the stuff of MI5 and the Secret Service, but the truth is most businesses, regardless of shape, size or sector could benefit from the insight it can offer. It’s an affordable and effective way to stay ahead of the competition and something you might like to consider as part of your IT and big data strategy sooner rather than later.

Does size matter?

Does size matter? It’s a question that many have pondered over the years and no doubt will continue for years to come. But in answer to the age old adage, when it comes to your IT, the answer is a resounding yes!

At Perfect Image we offer a true cloud computing solution through Amazon Web Services (AWS). It’s something that our clients and potential clients frequently want to know more about. How does it work? Is it safe? Will it really benefit my business? The list goes on.

When we’re consulting with our customers about the best IT infrastructure for their business needs, we’re finding more and more that once we recommend AWS as a solution and people can see how it would be of benefit to their business, one of their main concerns is then measuring up. Let me explain…

AWS is a true cloud computing solution, meaning there’s no servers stashed away in the corner of your office and no off-site datacentres either. Because true cloud is quite an abstract idea, people often struggle with the concept. After all, how do you measure something that you can’t see? And if you can’t measure something so abstract, do you know where to begin when it comes to choosing the right ‘amount’ of cloud computing power?

Well, through Perfect Image, clients can have access to a new service that has the answers to all your questions around size and whether or not it matters – when we’re talking about your IT! It’s called Cloudamize and is a software tool that runs alongside your current IT infrastructure for one month. After the 30-day period, it then tells you how much computing power you need to invest in when migrating your systems over to AWS and how much it would cost to run on a monthly basis.

This in turn helps you to put a business case together, clearly highlighting the ROI of true cloud computing with AWS; if you’ve got too much tin in your existing servers, you need less. If your systems are stressed and at capacity, you need more. Just think, if the report showed that you needed more computing power, how much extra would it cost to buy in another server? Or, if the report showed that you’ve got too much computing power for your needs, think about how much money you’ve wasted in buying the bigger server. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could have measured this and told you in advance before making the purchase?

True cloud computing with AWS is totally Pay As You Go – you only pay for the computing power that you use – no wastage, no fuss. It means that you’re never going to be over paying for a piece of kit that’s totally redundant.

In addition, because AWS is so flexible, the amount of computing power you use can be quickly dialled up and just as easily dialled back down to help meet peaks in the demand of your IT infrastructure. Again, you’re only paying for what you use, so if you don’t need a little extra capacity it’s absolutely fine! If you do dial things up for a period of time, capacity levels will go back to normal as average levels resume, you’re only charged for what you’ve used, and in turn haven’t needed to buy in an extra server that is now sitting doing nothing in the corner of your office as the peak period is now over.

At Perfect Image, we’re expert at helping our clients to achieve real business benefits through the intelligent use of IT, and AWS along with Cloudamize are just a few of the tools we have in our kitbag.

Customer Conference – 27th November

27th Nov 2015

Time:

9am – 4pm BST

event-detail-banner

Overview

This year’s customer conference is focused on ‘Intelligent IT solutions’ that enhance business process, improve communications and ensure a secure and a compliant data environment. We will explore the “fears” around Cloud Computing, provide insight to Business analytics, cyber security and control through network access. Keynote speakers from PwC and Alteryx will provide real insight, whilst our technology workshops will showcase the latest technology in cloud, security and business analytics.

Agenda

Time  
9.00 – 9.30 Registration & Coffee
9.30 – 9.45 Introduction – Andrew Robson (CEO, Perfect Image)
9.45 – 10.30 The Cyber security risks that organisations face and key findings from PwC’s Global State of Information Security Survey 2016 – Asam Malik (Director, PwC)
10.30 – 10.45 Coffee break
10.45 – 11.30 ‘Intelligent Data’ – Alteryx provides intuitive workflow for data blending, predictive and spatial analytics – Stuart Wilson (VP for EMEA, Alteryx)
11.30 – 12.00 ‘Security Check’ – How secure is your business?
12.00 – 13.00 Lunch
12.15 – 12.45 ‘Big Data in Enterprise’ – Executive round table discussion (by invitation)
13.00 – 14.00 ‘Intelligent Working’ – Microsoft Dynamics CRM & Mobile
14.00 – 15.00 ‘Intelligent Infrastructure’ – Infrastructure platforms and security
15.00 – 15.15 Wrap up
15.15 – 16.00 Networking and drinks

Audience

The Perfect Image customer conference is open to all existing customers and any organisation that has an interest in understanding how the latest innovations in IT can help drive your business. We aim to cater for both business leaders and techies alike.

Book your place

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