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Strong customer interest in cloud hosting

08 April 2020

In the last six months the number of customers wanting information about hosting Accredo in the cloud has grown. This has increased considerably since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hosting Accredo in the cloud is a good option for those who wish to futureproof their flexibility to work from home or from multiple office locations.

While it may be impossible to switch to the cloud during the Level 4 COVID-19 lockdown, the good news is that once the crisis eases there are a number of hosting providers with easy pathways to help move Accredo to the cloud. Any customers who wish to go down this path should contact their QSP in the first instance. They can provide advice and hosting recommendations.

What is cloud hosting?

For those who don’t know, cloud hosting is a computing model that allows access to computer resources – hardware and software – over an internet connection. Rather than having Accredo implemented on a server within the organisation, customers pay a fixed monthly fee to access the Accredo software from a dedicated virtual server at a hosting company.

Cloud computing is sold on demand, allowing each business to have as much or as little of the service as needed. It allows a business to smooth ongoing computing costs by moving IT-related costs from a capital expenditure to an operational, consumption-based model, and it allows access to Accredo wherever there is an internet connection. Read more about cloud hosting and the benefits in our cloud solution brochure.

Move when it makes sense

Spark Solution Specialist – IT and Cloud services, Rick Alexander, says his organisation has set up a number of Accredo customers in the cloud, using remote desktop services, Citrix or via a published application.

“They are all slight variations on a theme, but remote desktop services is probably the most popular and provides the capability to connect securely via a remote, secure gateway providing a fast experience for the end user.”

A component of Microsoft Windows, remote desktop services allow users to take control of a remote computer or virtual machine over a network or internet connection, typically using a virtual private network. Many customers use this method as it also gives them access to the full Windows desktop environment.

Alexander says the decision to move to cloud services usually occurs when a client’s existing infrastructure or datacentre needs renewing, or they have decided to upgrade their operating system and build out scalable solutions. “Sometimes it’s simply because an executive in the organisation is a cloud enthusiast and had seen the benefits in other businesses they have worked in – there are a range of drivers that prompt a move to the cloud.”

Spark has a number of different ways it can cloud provision clients in public and private datacentres and the process is well tested, says Alexander. “In just two or three weeks we can move clients from on-premise to a cloud solution in one of Spark’s datacentres or into the public cloud, like Microsoft Azure.”

A simple pathway

Cloud hosting company, OneNet, has provided access to Accredo for many years and Business Development Manager, Lewis Holden, says recently he has noticed a considerable uptick in customers wanting the accounting solution delivered via the cloud.

“The biggest advantage is the ability work remotely with a secure and simple method of connectivity. It also offers businesses ‘elasticity’ – the ability to increase or decrease their computing power as needed, and they only pay for what they use. The onboarding process is very simple, and we take care of it all.”

Onboarding entails moving a customer’s email to an appropriate platform – such as Microsoft 365 – migrating company data, implementing a new hosted desktop and testing all the applications.

“We then import a live copy of the customer’s Accredo data into a test instance of the hosted desktop and run a test onboarding with users. On ‘go-live’ day we migrate the live data to the hosted desktop environment.”

Lewis says if in any of those steps, issues are encountered, OneNet will fix them before proceeding. “Once live, access to the old system is shutdown. Following this we would go through and decommission their old infrastructure. We ensure that there is no downtime to the business.”

The published app approach

Lucidity Cloud Services is offering access to Accredo using a published app mechanism, which Sales Manager, Zach Dickson, says slots seamlessly into its modern workplace solution, called Lucidity 365.

“Historically with applications such as Accredo we would have hosted them in our data centre and delivered them back to the customer via our Managed Desktop service. However, in recent years we have seen less of a need for customers to run a fully managed desktop as they have migrated more workloads to the cloud.”

As an alternative, Lucidity 365 provides businesses with an integrated, secure workspace that uses single sign-on to give users access to Microsoft Office 365, plus a wide range of other apps, including shared mailboxes, calendars and RSS feeds.

“In our traditional Managed Desktop environment there can be a lot of controls governing what users can do,” says Dickson. “Lucidity 365 is a local solution that runs on the user’s local machine, so it offers more flexibility. It ties together a lot of disparate apps in one place and provides the business with organisational control and a better security posture.”

He says users of Lucidity 365 access Accredo via a published app. “It simply pops up as a tab in the workspace and we deliver the app via our Managed Desktop platform. It means Accredo becomes accessible from anywhere.”

Using Accredo in this way is ideal for those customers who do not have complex integrations. “But we can make Accredo talk to Excel and Outlook using this solution. From the user experience perspective they all look and act as if they are on your local device. We provide all the behind the scenes infrastructure and offer it on a per user basis so as the customer’s business grows the infrastructure required to run the published app grows with them.”

Access is everything

Some Accredo QSPs, such as Online Computer Consultants in Invercargill, host Accredo in the cloud using their own computing infrastructure. Managing Director and Accredo QSP, Dean Kelsall, says he has around 13 Accredo customers, from Auckland to Bluff, running off it.

The key reason his customers choose the cloud is access.

“The ability to get access anywhere the customer happens to be is what drives them to host Accredo in the cloud. Some businesses have got branches across different locations which immediately means they need to run Accredo in a remote desktop environment. Many of them choose to run off our cloud, so they don’t have to build their own on-premise cloud infrastructure - they simply hook into ours.”

Typically a customer will use an IT hosting company for their remote desktop services because creating an in-house cloud environment requires significant investment in a range of hardware – servers, uninterrupted power supplies, back-up software and computing redundancy in case of disaster.

“To build that on your own can be expensive, especially for a small business,” says Kelsall. “When a customer comes to us, they get all that as part of the package. And because we are Accredo QSPs we can provide all the upgrades and maintenance on the software itself.”

Flexibility and peace of mind

Fellow Accredo QSP, Jason Weaver of Zeal Systems, says the Covid-19 crisis has certainly concentrated people’s minds on how they can work more flexibly.

“We have a growing number of clients moving to cloud provisioning for their Accredo system. Some access Accredo via Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services and use an IT company, such as Spark, to oversee the hosting.” By doing this customers can smooth IT costs and can increase or decrease computing power as and when their business demands it, Weaver says.

"One particular provider that we have partnered with delivers a self-service portal that can deploy Windows server infrastructures automatically in 60-90 minutes. The platform provides a ‘Lego-like’ approach to deploying servers, desktops, and applications on the cloud using familiar Microsoft server technologies.” 

Weaver says they even have a customer in the cloud whose users are all located at one site. “They have chosen to go to the cloud, so they don’t have to worry about the infrastructure. They have handed all the management and hardware maintenance tasks to their hosting provider who packages it all up into a monthly fee. For them it is all about peace of mind.”  

If customers would like to find out more about cloud hosting, they should first contact their QSP for advice.

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