Do you really need a Cloud Broker?

A cloud broker is someone who can serve as your trusted adviser when it comes to your dealings with a cloud service provider. Sort of an IT consultant who: is familiar with cloud computing, can negotiate a mutually beneficial relationship between you and a provider, and help you manage usage, performance and delivery of cloud services.?But do you need one?

Is it even time for cloud adoption?

Of course, if you haven’t even started considering moving your IT systems to the cloud, what’s the point of reading this article, right? Well, if you’re running a business in Ireland or the UK maybe you should start thinking about it. The benefits (of moving to the cloud) are simply overwhelming. But then that’s for another post.

For now, let’s just briefly talk about the rate of cloud adoption so far. This should give you an idea what other decision makers nearby think about cloud computing and what they’ve done in this regard so far.

According to research conducted by the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), the number of first-time users of cloud computing in the United Kingdom has risen by about 27% compared to last year.

The study, which was carried out by research company Vanson Bourne and which involved IT decision-makers from both the private and public sector in UK, also showed that 61% of companies are subscribing to cloud-based services. A similar research conducted last year (2011) revealed only 48%.

In Ireland, plans are underway to adopt cloud computing. According to Pricewaterhouse Coopers, 75% of Ireland’s CIOs and IT directors are already adopting a cloud computing strategy.

Definitely, the number of cloud adopters is growing. If that number already includes your hottest competitor, then perhaps there’s no time to waste.

But while a migration to the cloud should be in your pipeline, it shouldn’t be something you should rush into. Generally speaking, there are at least three kinds of services offered by cloud service providers: IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and SaaS (Software as a Service).

Some providers offer variations of these services. You might only need one type of service or a little of everything. There are also technical and regulatory compliance issues that need consideration.

Obviously, if you have no idea where or how to start, you’ll need someone who can help you. But what kind of help do you need?

Let’s proceed by talking about the kinds of services cloud brokers offer as these are obviously indicative of the needs of current cloud customers.

What cloud brokers do?

Cloud brokers offer three main types of services.

Cloud?inter-mediation

Cloud inter-mediation services are designed to add value to existing services and improve capabilities. ?Examples of cloud inter-mediation include managing access to cloud-based services, carrying out performance reporting, and establishing stronger security.

Cloud aggregation

As mentioned earlier, some cloud customers may end up subscribing to multiple cloud services; most likely from different cloud service providers. To get optimal return on their various cloud subscriptions, these customers will need to apply data integration and make these disparate systems work together. They will also have to make sure data flowing from one system to another is kept secure. This is where cloud aggregation comes into play.

Cloud arbitrage

This entails finding the best cloud service provider(s) to solve a particular problem. One example is comparing different providers offering data storage services and identifying the one offering the most competitive rates.

Other cloud arbitrage brokers develop new solutions by combining the services of different cloud service providers and then offer them to cloud customers. While there are similarities between cloud arbitrage and cloud aggregation, the former is more flexible and allows the customer to transfer from one provider to another where conditions are more favourable.

Problems a cloud broker can help you solve

Just like with natural clouds, your experiences in cloud computing won’t be all white and fluffy. You’ll also encounter gray and uncertain (or even stormy) clouds.

One major issue in cloud computing is cloud security. In fact, cloud security (or the apparent lack of it) is the one thing that’s really clouding up the sky of cloud computing. But that doesn’t mean the cloud is totally insecure. Besides, there are certain types of information that really don’t require a high level of security. These types you can easily migrate to the cloud.

For sensitive information, you really need to conduct due diligence to make sure your cloud service providers’ data centres are secure enough.

Where exactly will your data be stored? Are there enough provisions for regulatory compliance? How will your data be segregated? Does the infrastructure readily support ?data forensics? Is there a sound disaster recovery/business continuity plan? These are just some of the questions that need clear answers before you sign a contract with a cloud service provider.

Suggested reading: 9 Cloud Security Questions You Need To Ask Service Providers

Also, before you sign, you need to study the SLA (Service Level Agreement) very carefully. Look at the guaranteed uptime. Is it enough to meet your own desired service levels?

Bear in mind that the answers to these questions may be too technical. This is one of those instances when a cloud broker can come in handy. As your trusted adviser, your cloud broker can break down the technical jargon and present everything in a language that you can make intelligent decisions from.

A cloud broker will also be able to study the cloud provider’s security architecture and policies and determine whether they’re sufficient to meet your own security requirements. Basically, a cloud broker will not only help you obtain answers to your questions.

He will also know exactly what vital information to extract from providers in order to ensure that you find the best deal possible.

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UK Government Updates ESOS Guidelines

Britain?s Environment Agency has produced an update to the ESOS guidelines previously published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Fortunately for businesses much of it has remained the same. Hence it is only necessary to highlight the changes here.

  1. Participants in joint ventures without a clear majority must assess themselves individually against criteria for participation, and run their own ESOS programs if they comply.
  2. If a party supplying energy to assets held in trust qualifies for ESOS then these assets must be included in its program.
  3. Total energy consumption applies only to assets held on both the 31 December 2014 and 5 December 2015 peg points. This is relevant to the construction industry where sites may exchange hands between the two dates. The definition of ?held? includes borrowed, leased, rented and used.
  4. Energy consumption while travelling by plane or ship is only relevant if either (or both) start and end-points are in the UK. Foreign travel may be voluntarily included at company discretion. The guidelines are silent regarding double counting when travelling to fellow EU states.
  5. The choice of sites to sample is at the discretion of the company and lead assessor. The findings of these audits must be applied across the board, and ?robust explanations? provided in the evidence pack for selection of specific sites. This is a departure from traditional emphasis on random.

The Environment Agency has provided the following checklist of what to keep in the evidence pack

  1. Contact details of participating and responsible undertakings
  2. Details of directors or equivalents who reviewed the assessment
  3. Written confirmation of this by these persons
  4. Contact details of lead assessor and the register they appear on
  5. Written confirmation by the assessor they signed the ESOS off
  6. Calculation of total energy consumption
  7. List of identified areas of significant consumption
  8. Details of audits and methodologies used
  9. Details of energy saving opportunities identified
  10. Details of methods used to address these opportunities / certificates
  11. Contracts covering aggregation or release of group members
  12. If less than twelve months of data used why this was so
  13. Justification for using this lesser time frame
  14. Reasons for including unverifiable data in assessments
  15. Methodology used for arriving at estimates applied
  16. If applicable, why the lead assessor overlooked a consumption profile

Check out: Ecovaro ? energy data analytics specialist 

Choosing Routes for ESOS Compliance

Along the introduction of Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme in UK is the quick emergence of various companies that offer ESOS compliant services. While some energy audit providers can help, qualified businesses should understand what their compliance options are, how these routes work and learn both the pros and cons in order to carefully take their pick.

Independent ISO 50001 Certification

ISO 50001 comprises the integration and application of processes geared to motivate energy saving and overall improvement. Simply stated, it is a framework that drives the organisation’s governance to realise energy saving strategies by allocating resources and participating in energy management. The good thing about ISO 50001 is that it includes an energy review that documents ideas and opportunities to save more energy.

However, ISO 50001 does not obligate organisations to cover 90% of their overall energy consumption. In case of partial coverage, the company needs to undergo additional energy assessments to evaluate all the significant energy consumption areas.

In order for an ISO 50001 certification to be valid, it must be certified by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), by an accreditation body which is a member of the International Accreditation Forum, or by a body accredited by another EU member state?s national accreditation body.

Display Energy Certificates and Green Deal Assessments

These two kinds of energy assessment reports can also contribute to ESOS compliance. Both of them are carried out by qualified lead assessors and valid for 10 years. However, they are only based on the building structures and services. They do not cover the overall significant areas in energy consumption. Since these reports are valid for 10 years, they would be used for two ESOS reporting periods. Thus, they would not be as current as the ISO 50001 certification. Aside from that, the assessments are purely based on energy efficiency and anyone can qualify to use the software that produce the certifications after taking the accreditation course.

Energy Audits

A successful energy audit leads to better understanding of the company?s energy consumption, identify alternatives, determine cost-effective energy saving opportunities and stimulate energy efficiency. Energy audits are beneficial to the organisation. What makes it complex is that the organisation applying it, needs to clearly define the scope and type of energy audit to use in order to comply with ESOS. Furthermore, the organisation also has to identify the teams that would be competent enough to do the audit work for the building, transport and industrial area, respectively.

Each route is not formed equal. Thus, organisations have the option to either choose one or combine the routes and meet their company needs. The options mentioned are different approaches to ESOS and the core value is to grab the opportunity towards acquiring more savings through efficient energy system.

How Ecovaro Can Help

Ecovaro is passionate about making a difference. We are knowledgeable when it comes to ESOS legislation and regulation, ISO 50001 energy management system, DECs and Green Deal Assessments. More than that, we recognise the great impact of efficient management system to your organisation. And with this, we provide an enthusiastic team of software engineers and expert project managers to offer you our professional help at reasonable price. Ecovaro comes to you fully equipped with services tailored to your organisation’s energy management needs.

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Business Turnaround Tip for a Successful MBO Turned Awry

When you acquire a company through an MBO, your hopes are always high. You know the business more than anyone else and you’ve got too much at stake to do a sloppy job. So how could things go wrong? Well sometimes they do. And if you don’t make a quick business turnaround, you could end up losing more than just your company.

If that management buyout was financed by a bank, then chances are you were required to invest a sizeable amount from your own pockets. I won’t be surprised if you even remortgaged your house for it.

Regardless of your source of funding, whether it was a bank, a venture capitalist or through a deferred consideration, the mere thought of losing your job and getting buried in enormous debt at the same time might be too much to bear. If you get too overwhelmed by your emotions and can’t think clearly, you’ll have to step out of the driver?s seat and have someone take over.

That someone can’t be a member of the management team that took part in the management buyout. Like you, he/she might be in panic mode as well. You need someone from the outside who has no emotional attachments to the company and hence can view the crisis from a clear perspective.

Here’s what’s needed:

Review and Plan

Take a closer look at all factors affecting your business: governance and organisational structures, employees, suppliers, systems and procedures, roles and responsibilities, etc. Identify potential risks and assess the likelihood of them affecting your business.

This will give a clearer picture of cause-and-effect relationships as well as the specific tasks on hand.

Thus, when it is time to draft a plan, you can do so from a well-informed standpoint. This will enable you to target specific areas of improvement and avoid pointless activities.

Assure all stakeholders

Once a watertight plan has been formulated, you will have to approach your stakeholders. They?ll need to know what your directions are. Once they’re all sold on the plan, you could implement our strategies unimpeded.

This is a very crucial part because a sceptical stakeholder can serve as a major stumbling block in our efforts to improve the situation. You need to convince your banks, sponsors, and investors in order to avoid additional financial obstacles. You need to convince your suppliers too. If they cut off or limit supply, you won’t be able to continue doing business.

Most of all, you need to persuade your staff and employees that the proposed major changes have to be carried out in order for the company to survive. You can’t run your operations without them on board.

Redesign and set up new systems and procedures

Any company requiring a turnaround will certainly have systems and procedures that are no longer working well in the current conditions and hence would require either major changes in key areas or a total revamp. You need to study personnel roles and responsibilities as well as systems and processes, including financial and IT systems, and supervise the implementation of necessary changes.

You will need to evaluate your existing IT architecture and determine how you can best maximise what you already have and propose what you think will work more efficiently for our proposed systems and procedures. Every piece of hardware or software recommended will take into consideration your present resources. There are many solutions out there, you just need to find the best fit.

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