Hosted Desktop - Operators

Introduction

If you’re seeking a Hosted Desktop supplier for your business, then this article is for you. We’ll take you through some of the key considerations and subsequent questions that you should put to your prospective hosted desktop supplier.

So, sit back, grab a coffee, get comfortable and allow allow us talk you through a blend of technical thoughts coupled with some creative analogies!


Asking the right questions

It’s funny how depending on what it is we’re purchasing, we either ask lots of questions – or none.

For example, you walk into a pub, you see a reputable French beer that rhymes with Paul Weller, and provided you’re not driving, you’re all in.

Whereas when the same pub offers its “pie of the day” you put no less than 5 questions to the landlord:

  1. What is it?
  2. Steak huh, how well cooked is it?
  3. Does it have mushrooms?
  4. What pastry does it come with?
  5. Does it come with gravy?

What makes the difference here? Why so many questions? You probably know, but it’s the unknown factor isn’t it.

The pint of well-known lager, it’s like your Premier Inn, your Starbucks; it’s a standardised offering which is largely the same across the land.

The pie however, well that’s different. The extremes between dismal and utterly amazing can be seismic. 

I myself was in the depths of Southern Exeter with my wife and our friends a couple of years ago in a lovely place called Kingsbridge. Upon return from a day out, we found a quaint, olde world, local pub in the middle of nowhere. 

Feeling adventurous we stopped to sample what drinks they may have on offer. They were still serving food – perfect.

On the specials board, “Game Pie”. Uh ha, I thought. I could go with the trusty burger, known the world over for its “solid choice” attributes. Or, roll the dice… it could be good, it could be terrible. A voice in my head was also saying, You’ve never had a “game” anything before, don’t be a wimp, try it. With barely any questions, I went for the pie (I attribute my boldness to the Dutch courage).

At this point, I’ll save you the John Torode commentary of the pie, but it was amazing. A sentiment shared by my friend Tom who rolled that same dice.

However the outcome that we experienced there, was pure luck.

Of course this has become a little bit tongue in cheek, comparing pie of the day to a critical component for your business. But there’s a thread here, of where we hope an unknown entity ticks many boxes and meets a high level of expectation.

Getting to the subject matter for this article, a Hosted Desktop service is effectively your IT service in a box. It’s critical to the operations of your business, ensuring that you and your staff have a platform that’s:

  1. Accessible
  2. Well performing
  3. Reliable
  4. Secure
  5. Well supported

Whilst being a hugely popular technology for businesses of all shapes and sizes, inevitably there are many Hosted Desktop suppliers out there to choose from.

A mentor of mine many years ago (Jonathan, a professional commercial pilot/trainer) told me a story of repeated negligence by a particular captain piloting an Airbus for a passenger airline. In my naïve, inquisitive manner, I queried how this could be so. To which Jonathan replied quite simply, “You get negligence in every professional trade: doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.”. This quote hit home with me and is one I’ve kept close ever since.

Now I’m not suggesting that there’s a raft of negligent Hosted Desktop suppliers out there. Far from it, there are some brilliant companies with many satisfied long-term customers. 

However your job…is to find them.

Unlike the pilot, whose plane we are about to board, or the chef who is cooking our sushi, we do have the opportunity to question our Hosted Desktop supplier. 

Without further ado, here are our top questions, to put to your prospective Hosted Suppliers:


1. Are they a specialist within your business sector?

Hosted Desktop - engineer operator

As the saying goes, knowledge = power. This is much the case for a service provider that is superb at their core offering. Let’s take this wider than IT, for example great lawyers, accountants, estate agents, travel agents or recruitment consultants. If a law firm is sublime at their key profession, they are of course going to do a good job at the varying cases for their clients.

But what about if they build upon their already great core professional knowledge and start to gain a sixth sense into a specific client sector? Using the example of the law firm, they may wish to double down on the construction industry. After a few years of this, they’re going to become very familiar on types of cases and therefore the legal aid which the construction industry requires from them.

They will inevitably start to gain a reputation as being one of the go-to legal firms for the construction trade. This won’t be by accident however. Their clients will revel in the extra value they receive from them over the non-specialist legal firm.

The same can be true of a Hosted Desktop supplier. There are suppliers that are superb at serving all sectors, but then there are those that either exclusively serve a particular sector or, more likely, have a specialism within a sector.

An example of this is ourselves at Cloud2Me. We host pretty much all sectors from veterinary, legal, engineering, recruitment and construction – and we’re very happy doing so (and like to think our clients are too!). However due to our career backgrounds, we have built up a specialist area within the accountancy sector. 

In particular we know the typical software applications that accountancy firms tend to operate, such as IRIS, Digita, Virtual Cabinet, Sage Accounts and Quickbooks. We also have in-depth experience in the general IT methodologies in which accountants tend to operate. Then of course word gets around and the blessing is that we create a critical mass due to referrals.

So, when you’re searching for a Hosted Desktop supplier, you may wish to ask them what the key sectors are for which they host. Of course, remember to ask them before you tell them what sector you operate within! #pokerface .


2. How long have they been operating?

Hosed Desktop - Lighthouse

This one doesn’t require too much context, it’s a cut to the chase Mr pink elephant, type of question.

It’s also a question which you can answer yourself for a supplier in which you’re prospecting. Simply pop over to the fantastic Companies House look-up tool here; https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk . If you can, locate your prospective company’s company number from their website and you’ll get an instant match, otherwise type in their business name.

It goes without saying that you’ll be entrusting your Hosted Desktop supplier with two key things:

  1. Your business data. Which likely contains sensitive details of your clients.
  2. Your business’s IT platform.

That’s basically the Crown Jewels of your business! One heck of a responsibility for your supplier.

That said you must locate your IT services somewhere and, on balance, an excellent Hosted Desktop (Cloud) service is about the best place, given how the industry stands presently.

Therefore, you need a supplier that is established and building up a decent company track record. That said, we don’t want to be too harsh on a young business as every company needs to start somewhere. But in essence, look for a business that’s at least a couple of years old. You can then download a couple of sets of annual accounts, whilst checking out the stability of the owners and directors (again, all easily obtainable publicaly and for free from Companies House).

This point might be telling you to suck eggs as you’ll likely be performing these basic checks for other key suppliers. But for some of our suppliers, we don’t always see the criticality of their service and so are not as prudent with background checks. 

Make no mistake, your Hosted Desktop supplier is a critical supplier for your business. Take all the time you need in background checking their commercial status.


3. Where is your data stored and how is it stored?

Hosted Desktop - data centre

The word “data”, for me at least, gives me visions of The Matrix with lots of flashing counters running through with 1’s and 0’s. Just tapping out that thought has subsequently made me recall Boris from Golden Eye, with his clicky pen and penchant for “hacking the mainframe”! 

I was born in the 80s. Therefore, with “my generation”, I generally associate the word data with the digital sort. I.e. floppy disks, CDs, hard disks, USB sticks and of course, now The Cloud (which for the most part is still hard disks!).

But in reality, the concept of data; i.e. a collection of information, has been around ever since we got going as a human race. What a mad statement that seems, but if you consider the scriptures and drawings that we’ve discovered in caves from thousands of years ago, this was data. These were collections of information, gathered together, fictional or not, that would mean something to the next human being that read them.

Wind the clock on a few thousand years, and we have the holy books that we recognise today from religion. Again, collections of information gathered together in a way that would mean something to the next person.

Wind the clock on to… I don’t know, let’s say the mid-70s at a Fleet Street legal firm. You would find various rooms (often basements or attics) stuffed to the rafters, full of filing cabinets with enough paper to start The Great Fire of London MK2. Again all of this is consolidated information, i.e. data, which of course is important.

Now a curious observation from these examples, from cave man to 70s legal firm, is that generally speaking data increases to become more critical and therefore sensitive to our existence as human beings. 

To take another example and wring out the point, only a short while ago the UK’s defence secretary Gavin Williamson was dismissed from his position due to him allegedly causing a data breach. He had, according to Mrs May, spoken to a tabloid newspaper, relaying critically sensitive information that was discussed at the UK National Security Council.

Mr Williamson had apparently spoken to the journalist on the telephone when this breach took place. But to wind this back a touch, the actual information that was discussed in the original meeting, whilst discussed round a table, would have subsequently made its way into digital form in one way or another. For example, an audio recording of the meeting would have taken place on digital media. Then this audio recording stored (data), which would have subsequently been transcribed into a set of minutes (data). It’s then possible that such minutes may have been securely distributed to the members of the meeting, as well as stored centrally on a server within government. 

Post meeting at the UK Security Council, we now have critically sensitive data potentially located in multiple locations. It begs the question, what if a set of that data got compromised? Well, perhaps a scapegoat would be chosen and a certain Mr Williamson might lose his job!? 

We’re only speculating of course with this example. But the point I’m getting to is that in today’s age, everything that is important today to humanity is stored in sets of data. Furthermore this data is, in 99% of all current cases, going to be electronically stored. 

As a business owner, you will have data and you, too, are going to need to store this somewhere. 

Hopefully you won’t be like the example of the legal firm mentioned, with paper records all over the place, which are of course extremely vulnerable to theft/fire/flood! Besides this would be a GDPR train wreck by today’s standards! Instead you are probably using a document management system that can digitally store and organise your customer records.

Firstly consider where your data is going to be located and then how.

What to ask your Hosted Desktop Supplier

Keeping to the topic of this post, you should ask your Hosted Desktop supplier:

  1. The where;

Firstly your production data (i.e. your live set of business data). By this I mean your day-to-day business files which you and your staff collaborate on. Also, your email data.

Ideally you should have this data located in the same country as where your business is located. Firstly, access to your data is likely to be quicker, but also the data protection laws will be easier to adhere to.

Then consider the quality of the data centres of your hosting supplier. Are they at least “Tier 3” data centres? Are they ISO27001, ISO9001, and PCI DSS compliant? What is that data centre’s service record for the past 5 years?

Then taking this down to the next level of the servers themselves. Does your Hosted Desktop supplier use public cloud (Amazon/Azure/Office 365?) or a private cloud (i.e. its own hosting cloud). Debatably, you want a supplier that has its own private cloud (but this subject will be another blog post on its own!).

If your supplier operates its own private cloud, great! Does your data ever leave that cloud?

What about your backups? Where are these stored? Hopefully off site from your production data! Or do these get stored in a public cloud?

  1. The how;

This is one of the items that can be easily overlooked when entrusting a 3rd party to host your data. But how is your data being stored?

One of the key points here – is it stored encrypted? For example if somebody got a copy of your private cloud server and tried to boot it up, could they do so without an encryption key? The concept here is that only your entrusted Hosted Desktop supplier should be able to power on your Hosted Desktop server.

The same concept of encryption needs to be factored into your backups too. Are these also stored encrypted? Again, to satisfy the concept that should your backup data fall into the wrong hands, only your Hosted supplier can utilise the data on your behalf.

A different point here is how your Hosted Desktop supplier is running your production data on their physical servers. For example are they using RAID hard disks? If so are they using “Direct Attached Storage” or “SANs”? 

Many hosting suppliers still use SANs but this is now an antiquated concept with all leading vendors such as Microsoft strongly recommending Direct Attached Storage. The reason for this is that Direct Attached Storage is considered to be more reliable and better performing. 

Data is everything in your business; client records, HR records, order records – you name it, it’s the life blood. You owe it to your clients and staff to ensure that you’ve fully considered the where and how, when it comes to your business data.

Put the questions to your Hosted supplier!


4. What is the retention period of the Hosted Desktop backups?

Put another way, how far back in time do the backups for your Hosted Desktop service (your data) go?

Interestingly, it’s a point we don’t often get asked by prospective customers. We do get asked questions with regards to the methods by which we back up their data, such as dual data centre locations. But the time retention period for which their backups are stored rarely gets queried.

However what we do get asked a lot, once a customer is within our managed hosting, is whether we can recover a file or folder from 2 weeks ago, or 2 months ago! 

More often than not it’s due to a colleague innocently deleting a file or folder. The key here is how much water (time!) has passed under the bridge since the deletion of that data.

If the time period is within your backup retention time period, good news, your Hosted Desktop supplier will be able to easily retrieve this data for you. However if you are outside of your backup retention window, there’s a bleak outlook for your deleted data.

An example here, Mary in accounts believed you had a duplicated set of Excel sheets within a folder in your company drive. These Excel sheets were various financial statements for your business 2018 – 2019. In a bid to keep the house tidy, Mary deleted the parent folder in complete assurance that these were duplicates.

Five weeks later you’ve gone to retrieve some of these spreadsheets upon the request of your accountant and to your frustration you cannot locate them.

You promptly speak with Mary the next day and, with a quivering bottom lip, she confirms your fears, they have been deleted; she believes four to six weeks ago. Oh dear.

And so, you hastily get in touch with your Hosted Desktop supplier who state they only backup your data for a month. To confirm the worst, they check their oldest backup (from 30 days ago) and there is no sign of the deleted data.

In this situation, there is no comeback for your lost data.

However, in a different scenario, let’s say your Hosted Desktop supplier retained backups for twelve months. Your data would be restored for you in a matter of minutes and the case would be closed.

Whilst we’ve so far spoken of the files and folders within your Hosted service, it’s also worth pointing out that your business email also needs the same consideration.

A similar example could occur, in that a colleague deletes an important email folder from 3 weeks ago by accident, and has only just raised the alarm that this folder is gone. Provided your email supplier is backing up your email data for a retention period longer than 3 weeks, you’re safe!

It’s probably worth mentioning here as a side note that the ever popular Office 365 email service is not backed up by default. Therefore in the event that you need to receive email data from two weeks ago, you don’t have many options! However if you use a Hosted Exchange supplier, the likelihood is that they’ll back up your email data with a good backup retention period.

As you know yourself, it’s hard to put a price on data. It’s a bit like losing a collection of photo albums, it can be very difficult to replace.

When seeking a Hosted Desktop supplier, firstly ask yourself what backup retention period makes you feel comfortable. To help guide you on this point, ask yourself/colleagues:

  1. What backup retention period have you had until now?
  2. How many occasions can you recall that you’ve really needed to recover data?
  3. What disruption would it cause your business to lose key data over a month old?

A good supplier will be able to wax lyrical on their backup retention period. We ourselves retain backups for 12 months and, as it happens, we recently dedicated a blog post to the subject here.


5. What does the Disaster Recovery plan look like?

hosted desktop disaster recovery

Disaster Recovery, the term alone can send shivers down the most hardy of business owners. Yet it’s one of the topics whereby you need to stare the devil squarely in the eye, and get the measure of him.

It’s a topic that we find particularly interesting at Cloud2Me and one we’ve spent countless hours discussing, implementing and testing for our customers.

You see the interesting thing about DR is that it’s of course, an immensely important topic. Yet it’s exceptionally subjective and varies from business to business.

Coffee machine disasters

We work above a delightful coffee house in a leafy Surrey town. Spoilt we are, with an endless supply of freshly ground coffee, the scent of which blesses us throughout the day.

That is until a recent 4PM round of coffee, when the faithful coffee machine developed a problem with its waterworks. Firstly I was in disbelief, I must have gone about 1000 cups with no issue whatsoever, but alas, our beloved coffee machine was mortally unwell. 

Oh well, tea it was for us and with little complaint from the team.

The following morning I got in for about 8AM to a very stressed out barista, Jo. It turns out the coffee machine problem had not been addressed overnight and now there were customers arriving, in their zombie-like state.

It was now a coffee house – that couldn’t produce coffee.

Now this may not seem like a disaster, however the establishment employs 10 people. It is also acutely aware that the previous time this happened, upset customers were quick to express their feelings on Trip Advisor and Facebook.

In terms of a worst-case scenario for the plucky coffee shop, it was in the top three. But the key thing here is, the owners of the business had no contingency for this situation. Due to their own reasons, of either over entrusting the equipment/the 24-hour support service/staff intuition, they had no viable disaster recovery plan.

The coffee machine did get repaired later that day, but not without some upset customers and frazzled staff members.

Had some proper thought gone into this scenario, the situation would have been easily averted. It would also alleviate the same situation when it occurs again.

Testing is key

Another take on disaster recovery, is where companies put in place a comprehensive DR plan, sometimes investing millions, then fail to test it periodically. 

A fine example of this (more aligned to IT than coffee!) is that of our national airline carrier, British Airways. Back in May 2017 they had a failure of their primary data centre located not far from their hub of Heathrow Airport. A single technician managed to spike the power to the facility, which in turn broke hundreds of servers.

The good news for Mr O’Leary, his management friends and more importantly their fare paying customers, is that BA had a secondary data centre located just down the road which was a dedicated DR centre, ready to pick up the baton in such a critical situation. 

In mere minutes all the systems would be back up and running as if nothing had happened. Some fleeting disruption perhaps, but ultimately flights would continue, as well as the websites, baggage lines, along with the thousands of other operations.

BA now has an opportunity to look like champions. The millions of pounds of investment, the time invested in building it…

Apart from. None of it worked.

The secondary data centre basically was a shiny, expensive, box-ticking cabbage, that did not save the day for all involved. In essence BA were not able to switch over their IT services from the failed facility to the secondary one. The cost of which was that the whole airline ground to a miserable halt, whilst BA staff in all quarters went into headless chicken mode.

The point here was that BA were not testing their Disaster Recovery routine, at least to standards emulating a complete failure of their primary data centre.

Business impact of failed IT

Bringing the attention back to you and your business – what would be the business impact if your IT failed, i.e. your Hosted Desktop service?

A good Hosted Desktop supplier should possess DR plans for the very many scenarios that may befall them. From failed servers, to malware to complete failure of a data centre. They need to be ready to jump into action and follow the prepared DR plan. All of which should work providing they’re carrying out frequent drills of these failure scenarios. 

Be sure to strenuously question your prospective (or existing) Hosted Desktop supplier on how they handle DR for their customers.


6. How is customer data being separated?

Economies of scale. We hear that term from time to time and to quote Google it is;

a proportionate saving in costs gained by an increased level of production

We are surrounded by this concept everywhere we go. How is it Ford can produce their midsize family car, the “Focus”, comprised of thousands of components and an annual development cost of hundreds of millions, at such a reasonable cost? Well, it’s because they can mass produce which in turn yields tremendous economies for all parties involved.

How is it that Virgin Holidays can whisk you and your partner away to Dubai for 5* luxury on Jumeirah Beach Residence, for a week, for less than 4 figures? I mean the cost alone of that Airbus A380 charter from Gatwick to Dubai costs £1.5 million one way! Well, it is once again that economy of scale working its magic.

So then, how is it that you can receive a Hosted Desktop service, that runs on £20,000 Dell servers, which are protected by state of the art SonicWALL firewalls, which are all operating in a Tier 3 ISO accredited data centre, for a mere £25 per user per month? You’ve guessed it, it’s those economies of scale yet again.

I’m sure you may have noticed a theme here, but it’s “Bums on seats”… The car, the package holiday, the Hosted Desktop. The higher concentration of customers that you can achieve, the better.

Take the Virgin A380, the cost of that charter is £1.5 million. Would you rather divide that cost by 200 paying passengers or the maximum allowed of 510? Of course you want the plane to be at capacity. But this puts a lot of people in close proximity with complete strangers. Generally this is fine but, for many, this canned sardine concept is what gives them their fear of flying. The alternative is for a nervous flyer to charter their own plane (perhaps not an A380!), but come on, £20,000 one way compared to £400? Exactly.

The same concept rings true with your Hosted Desktop service. You could run on hardware which only you inhabit, but instead of £25 per month per desktop, you’re going to be looking at a price more like £150 per month per desktop instead. Of course this will be way too expensive for the average business owner if you were to have a handful of staff, or more.

The reality therefore is that you will have lots of neighbouring businesses running on the same server hardware at your Hosted Desktop supplier. How your Hosted supplier chooses to separate your business from the others is really important.

For argument sake, let’s say one of the neighbouring businesses received a virus on their Hosted Desktop server. This virus may be of the “worm” variety, and wish to spread its delights to the many other servers that it can detect. This sounds far-fetched, but we’ve seen exactly this happen to one of our competitors last year, which took their Hosted Desktop services offline for ~ 6 days – a nightmare for them and their customers.

In this above example, if all customers were properly ring-fenced with virtual bulkheads, the infection for the neighbouring customers would be contained, ensuring that your business was not breached by another.

Do ensure you quiz your prospective Hosted Desktop supplier on how they’re separating customers within their cloud. 


7. How do they keep your Hosted Desktop service secure?

Whether young or old, who doesn’t love going to a castle!? We have many wonderful examples here in the South of England; Windsor, Dover and Hever – to name but a few. Hulking great figures from the medieval ages, which carry with them intrigue in their overbearing nature. Listen closely at the walls and you may even hear the Game of Thrones theme tune! 

Ok, I’m a bit of a geek with this stuff and perhaps my wife doesn’t share quite the same level of enthusiasm. But for me and many others, it’s the fact that their purpose in life was to guard their occupants with all the attributes at their disposal.  Be it the moat, the battlements, the high elevation, the perimeter walls, the hot tar, the keep. All of these features represented various methods for both intelligence and defence, against the opposition.

So what on earth do 1000-year-old castles have to do with cutting edge cloud services, I hear you cry?

Well, the connection is closer than you might think and the common thread is that they both require intelligence and defence against the opposition. 

Strong Defense

In the case of your Hosted Desktop service, the opposition are the hackers, ransomware and millions of other opportunists trying to do your business harm for their own gain. Our job, as those guarding your data within your Hosted Desktop service, is to treat our cloud environment like a castle. Having the very many layers of protection, so that if one layer gets breached, there are many others that remain intact to keep defences strong. All the while gaining intelligence so as to fend off the attacker or render their efforts useless.

Another simple way to look at this concept is the many layers of an onion. You peel one layer, only to have another layer and then another. In an internet security sense, there ought to be many layers in place before the opposition can reach the core.

A good Hosted Desktop supplier ought to have these many barriers of defence coupled with intelligence. From firewalls, anti denial of service, VLANs, sandboxing, and antivirus to name but a few.

Be sure to get your prospective Hosted Desktop supplier to outline all the methods they are using to keep your prized possessions safe.


8. Is there a financially backed SLA?

hosted desktop service level

Up until this point, you have probably noticed that I rather enjoy drawing comparatives between concepts, completely unrelated to Information Technology. 

I find it super-interesting the parallels that exist in our world. For example how smoke signals used thousands of years ago were a means of communicating with people remotely – the same primary purpose as WhatsApp by today standards.

How the river flows

A more Cloud-specific comparison is how the flow of a river can be similar to the flow of data on an internet connection. There are times when the flow is calm and normal, then during times of a flood, the banks are almost bursting, overwhelming the downstream regions.

A more unusual concept I’d like to draw your attention to however, is one called Mutual Assured Destruction. It is a doctrine of military strategy whereby the use of nuclear weapons by two or more opposing sides, would cause complete annihilation of both the attacker and defender. It is based on the theory of deterrence, that if one side was to commence harm to the other, the side that was then being attacked would have automated measures to ensure the attacking side, too, would be annihilated. 

It’s a miserable sounding concept, however it has been effective over the years. In fact in the present day our British prime minister writes the “Letters of Last Resort” which are handed to the commanding officers of our four ballistic missile submarines. They are effectively orders to be carried out in the event that the prime minister or British government has been destroyed!

You may be wondering what on earth this has to do with your Hosted Desktop service? I’m getting there…

The right supplier

A good Cloud service provider will offer you mutual assurance for the health and availability of your Hosted Desktop service. 

This should come in the form of firstly presenting you with their target SLA (service level agreement), followed by their penalty should they fail to achieve it. The penalty is often in the form of financial remuneration, which is what will hit them hard.

An example of this is a cloud provider which is offering a 99.9% service availability objective. Such an SLA would allow them to go “offline” for up to 44 minutes in a single month. This equates to the .1% which they allow for your service to be unavailable. (99.9% is quite industry standard).

But, if they were to go beyond 44 minutes (the .1%), they start incurring financial penalties. These financial penalties may be all of your money back for the cost of service within that given month; they may even offer you more money than this.

Either way, the service provider that offers a financially backed SLA has an almighty incentive to ensure that your service remains online, healthy, and well within their stipulated SLA.

There can often be caveats to the SLA within cloud provider contracts, such as force majeure events or “planned downtime”. Be sure to read through the small print here, or better still read the small print then have an open discussion with them.

So somehow there, I’ve managed to include nuclear submarines within a post about Hosted Desktop, a bucket list item ticked off!


9. What level of technical support is covered?

hosted desktop technical support

A good while back, perhaps to the tune of 10 years, I decided to purchase a rather spicey hot hatch automobile. The said car was a Ford Focus ST 2.5l Turbo. A beast of a car aptly named “The Asbo” after a fabulous review from a certain Mr Clarkson. The truth be known, it was the second time that I had purchased this car… The first time I owned it I sold it for a more “supreme” BMW which was in honesty, dull as dishwater and far too serious, compared to the lary, grab the bull by the horns, Ford hot hatch. 

Lesson learnt, I was once again behind the wheel of the super fun Focus ST, no less than two years after I had sold my first one. The same theme ran through this car the second time around; the noise, the look, the poise. My automotive posture had been restored.

That was until about 4 months in to owning the said car. It had developed a curious noise and knocking sensation when I lifted from the accelerator. I ignored it over the course of two weeks in the vain hope that the issue would disappear; it did instead only get worse. Oh dear, I thought. 

I needed the car for work and the rest of my day-to-day life, so without undue delay I took it to the local Ford garage for diagnosis not expecting too much in the way of a serious problem, after all it was still relatively new. However, I was quite shocked when I got the verdict.

“Yes Mr Twomey, it’s the differential which happens to be housed within the gearbox. In short it needs an entire new gearbox which with fitting – are you sitting down(?) – will cost £2,700.”

Good lord, I thought. But, ah ha, I purchased the car with a six-month 3rd-party warranty, it will be a pain, but pay the excess then the warranty shall cover the rest. 

Sadly, the warranty did not cover the rest. In fact when I read the small print of the warranty, it’s amazing how few components it actually did cover! I won’t bore you with the rest of the story, however let’s just say I had to pay for the new gearbox myself!

A point here that I’m trying to highlight is that we don’t always acknowledge the after support when we purchase something. Then, depending largely on luck, sooner or later we get to find out the level of support coverage we have for our prized possession or service.

A well oiled engine

A Hosted Desktop service for your business is a living, breathing entity. It has to deal with changing logins, printers, scanners, software, data, anti-virus updates, internet connections, backups – to name but a few. It’s a wonderful service, but one that has to sustain many moving parts.

Much like a vintage steam engine, a Hosted Desktop system needs to be well maintained, ensuring that all of the moving parts are oiled and monitored accordingly. If and when a part needs replacing, it’s picked up on early and the replacement part swapped out, without the passengers/end users even noticing. 

Of course this seamless support & maintenance is what makes the difference to your service. 

Take the example of the steam train that pulls into the station ready to collect 200 paying passengers. All it needs is a top up of coal and water, but if the station master declines the service – the train cannot continue.

Ok, take your Hosted Desktop service. You’ve had some new software installed and it’s utilising more RAM (short term thinking memory) and consequently making your server run slow for all staff. In an ideal world your hosting supplier detects this and automatically adds the RAM – you don’t even know this has happened. Or, you have to inform them of your slow server, then they state there will be a charge to add the RAM.

Another example is that you’ve had a new shiny printer/scanner/copier installed within the office. You’ve unboxed it, powered it on and got it on the Wi-Fi. All you need now is your Hosted Desktop provider to get it working from within your cloud service. But alas they stipulate that they do not cover any items outside of the Hosted Desktop servers that they supply you. Or, they oblige and have it working for you with no fuss and within a half hour of you calling them up. I know which one our customers prefer!

The takeaway here is to ensure that you have a full understanding of what your Hosted Desktop supplier does and does not cover in terms of their support service to you. In particular, be sure to quiz them on such items such as the assistance with setting up new printers, scanners, and internet routers within your office. 

The last thing you need is having to cover the cost of a new gearbox!


10. How does the Hosted Deesktop migration process work?

hosted desktop migration

Moving house. Most of us have been through that process at least once or have helped friends/family move. It’s an odd process when you think about it with various entities tugging at our heart strings:

  1. On the one hand we are excited about the property which we’re set to move in to.
  2. On the other hand we can be full of trepidation for the home we’re leaving behind. It is, even after its faults, home.
  3. We have the enormous logistical challenge of moving all of our belongings. Will it all fit? Could it get damaged in transit? Things might get forgotten?

Lots to consider…

It is therefore no surprise that it’s considered one of the most stressful things you can do in your lifetime.

With regards to points one and two (above), these are largely areas which only you can reconcile with. It’s perhaps that after years in your existing property, you know it’s not working for you any more. Then after finding a prospective new property that ticks all the boxes, only you can trust your gut to take that leap of faith.

However when it comes to point number three, arguably one of the most stress-inducing components, this is where it gets interesting.

From my personal experience, those that have carefully sought 3rd-party professionals to carry out the logistics of “the move” itself, have had a great experience. 

By entrusting and delegating the responsibility of the task, you can sit back in comfort knowing that everything is going to get transferred smoothly, on time and on budget.

Some people are quick to mention that the cost of enlisting such services is expensive, but to do it yourself or rent “a man and a van” is likely to be a false economy. What happens if Dave drops your 50” flat screen TV and he’s not suitably insured? Well, that’s a quick £1000 gone.

The point is that if you can find removal people that are experienced professionals, that can openly explain their process and give you recent references, your transition from old to new will be night and day different. You will be bedded into your property all the quicker, safe in the knowledge that your home has been delicately considered and successfully moved.

Moving to hosted desktop

A move to a new Hosted Desktop environment, shares lots of the logic in the example given above.

Whether you’re moving from running servers in-house, operating on web-based apps or even with an existing Hosted Desktop supplier, lots of elements need to be considered, for example:

  1. Data
  2. Applications
  3. User accounts
  4. Email history
  5. Permissions
  6. VPNs
  7. DNS records
  8. Timings
  9. Access
  10. Printers/scanners

Each one of these bullets then has many more spin off points which, when totalled up, can easily amount to 200+ task considerations.

Put plainly, it’s an extremely complex yet delicate task. Moving your IT systems, with all of the intricacies they contain, from point A to point B, with no impact to the operation of your business, and crucially with nothing left behind. Yikes!

However, like a good removals company, wedding planner or building architect, such skill sets do exist. Your job is to seek them out.

When you’re speaking with a prospective Hosted Desktop provider, be sure to quiz them on this topic hard:

  1. How do you move our data?
  2. How do you set up printers?
  3. Will scanning work the same?
  4. Can you install all of our applications?
  5. How can we test permissions?

Furthermore, ask them for recent references, where you can speak to customers first-hand about their experience. If there were any issues, they’ll likely let you know.

There’s been a lack of humour in this point, due to its immense importance. A well-coordinated move to managed hosting will set you up fantastically well for what is a superb service.

Make sure you push this point hard!


Summary

So there we have it, our collection of key questions to put to your prospective Hosted Desktop provider.

Hopefully I’ve given you some food for thought. These are questions that I’ve written having operated a Hosted Desktop business for the past six years. 

Please don’t underestimate how important it is to put some time into considering who to entrust as your service supplier. Whilst cost is important don’t let this be a driving factor and overrule the points raised within this article.

A good Hosted Desktop service works fabulously well for thousands of businesses within the UK and with good reason. Done right, it has the ability to transform how your business operates, giving you efficiencies and peace of mind.

Now go and find yourself a great supplier! 🙂


If you’re looking to move to a Hosted Desktop service, or move from your existing hosting supplier, please feel free to get in touch. We’d be only too happy to chat through some options with you.

P.S. if you enjoyed reading this article, please share it! Thank you.


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