'Cloud of Clouds' delivers clear control and choice
The idea behind cloud computing is simple -you store your information in a data centre and make use of it with services over the internet. The cloud is now part of our personal lives - we use it through apps or when we're on Facebook - and increasingly it's becoming the focus of business strategy for Northern Ireland's larger enterprises.
Over the past couple of years, the cloud market has matured. On-demand applications and services have been adopted by businesses, and that rate of adoption is set to grow exponentially over the next few years.
Companies in Northern Ireland have developed a new understanding of what the cloud is, in terms of how it can fit with their business and objectives, as well as the benefits it can bring - from cost savings and the ability to scale at speed as required, through to access to the latest applications, without the capital outlay for hardware and software, and ongoing management.
But while the concept of the cloud is simple, experience teaches us that nothing in life - especially in IT - is ever that simple. A tangle of different cloud services can tie up a business's network resources, frustrate employees and pose potential risks.
A better answer is to wrap all your multiple clouds into one single cloud that you can manage and maximise. It's an approach that BT calls the 'Cloud of Clouds'.
The perfect cloud environment is one that allows easy and secure consumption of internal services and external solutions.
Not so easy in practice when you consider that you might have a whole host of cloud services from multiple suppliers, offering varying degrees of support and security.
And, of course, the quality of your experience depends not on your choice of cloud services, but on the quality of your communications network.
That's where the BT Cloud of Clouds comes in. Colin Hamill, Head of Network Enabled Services, said: "It's a powerful combination of our centralised management system for integrated access to multiple cloud services, IT integration skills, global network and professional security expertise that is unique.
"We're already adding to the Cloud of Clouds. For instance, we're offering customers the ability to connect directly to the Microsoft Office 365 productivity suite with Microsoft ExpressRoute, enabling our customers to establish a privacy-enhanced, managed connection to Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365 service, with the highly predictable performance and reliability that comes with dedicated connectivity."
Lookers plc, whose Northern Ireland operations comprise the region's biggest motor group, Charles Hurst, are moving into the cloud. They are using Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute and, says enterprise architect John Law, they have chosen BT to provide the infrastructure.
"Our strategy is to move away from on-premise to cloud-based computing and BT is able to provide the resilient and secure connectivity we need," Mr Law said.
"For us, the cloud gives us a cost-effective ability to scale up at pace, with the assurance of security, so that ultimately we deliver a better customer experience.
"We're delighted with the ease at which we've been able to work with BT to get it up and running."
Making the most of the cloud is becoming essential for growth-oriented enterprises in Northern Ireland. Great preparation starts now, using a Cloud of Clouds strategy that delivers real control and choice, flexibility and security all in one package.
Colin Hamill is Head of Network Enabled Services at BT Business Northern Ireland. For further information and to contact BT Business in Northern Ireland please email firstname.lastname@example.org