Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Is Cloud Computing Environmentally Friendly?

Today we have a guest post from Sally Rogers:

Cloud computing is rapidly changing the face of business IT. Companies both big and small are increasingly making the move towards cloud virtualization. From greatly simplifying the world of IT support to cutting overheads, having the ability to centralise company IT in a virtual cloud format offers many advantages. By using the cloud, companies are also able to reduce their hardware and software requirements, making it a truly cost-effective IT solution.

However, with the current widespread concern over global warming, companies are trying to reduce their carbon footprints. Because of this, many businesses are asking the question; is cloud computing environmentally friendly? Here are some ways in which moving to the cloud can help make companies that much greener.

Reducing Power Consumption
With the IT industry consuming a large chunk of the world's energy, it is vital that companies take a more eco-friendly approach to computing. One of the main ways in which cloud computing allows companies to reduce their power demands is by decreasing their hardware requirements. When IT systems are virtualized in the cloud, companies only need an internet connection in order to access their resources, meaning there is no need for the likes of in-house servers. Being able to get rid of servers and the cooling equipment they require can dramatically reduce company power consumption. This large-scale virtualization enables companies to retain the same IT functionality with less energy needed.

In-house servers can consume a lot of power.

Efficient Data Centres
On paper, being able to get rid of in-house servers is a great step towards more environmentally friendly computing. However, some may ask whether or not the problem is merely being shifted around instead of being solved. After all, cloud service providers still require a lot of raw computing power in order to provide IT virtualization. This is a completely valid and important question to ask, however, the cloud is a lot greener than it may seem.

Cloud data centres usually endeavour to use the most power-efficient hardware possible in order to minimise their environmental impact. Instead of every company housing their own inefficient hardware, cloud servers consolidate computing resources into effective and efficient data centres. Cloud servers may require more energy than a single company, but cumulatively, the energy consumption is significantly reduced. With cloud service providers striving to use the most eco-friendly hardware available, companies can rest assured that they aren't simply masking the issue of going green.

Cloud service providers try to use the most energy-efficient hardware.

Limiting Resource Redundancy
One of the main problems when companies run their own servers for IT services is idle time. Almost no companies are going to be using 100% of their computing power 100% of the time. In reality, only a fraction of the server's capabilities will be harnessed over a given period, meaning most of the time the server is idle and not being used for anything productive. Companies are still drawing on power even when their servers are idling, meaning that extra energy is simply going to waste.

One of the great things about cloud computing is the flexibility of resource allocation it confers. Companies are only given those extra resources when they are actually needed. By using only what is needed, idle time is minimised along with waste power consumption. Being able to scale resources quickly and efficiently is of great benefit to both companies and the environment.

With the impact that the world of IT has on the environment, companies need to do their part to reduce their carbon footprints. With great efficiency and minimal energy waste, cloud computing offers a viable solution to enable companies to become more eco-friendly. From cleaner hardware to proper resource allocation, cloud computing is making the world of IT a greener one.

By Bradley Houston

Image source: skreuzer and clayirving

Author Bio: Sally Rogers is a writer at Cheeky Munkey IT Company, offering posts on many fields of IT including cloud computing, network security and web hosting services.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Frustration with Leopards and Apple

Time for a sound off rant...

I'm a bit of an Apple fan but have never been one of those Fan Boi's... Or I was...

I then updated my iPad and iPhone to iOS 6 via WiFi and all sorts of issues started in ensue.

You see, I bought my Macbook about 4 years ago, just before Snow Leopard came out and never really saw any reason to upgrade to it. I'd seen that Lion and Mountain Lion came along as time went on, but I could still do everything that I needed, and I didn't see the point in paying for an OS upgrade when what I had worked.

But iOS6 was not compatible with Leopard - or rather, Apple chose to stop supplying upgrades to iTunes for Leopard, meaning that the Phone and Tablet could no longer talk to the Macbook.

This was intensely irritating, so I tried to look into upgrading through Apple. But I couldn't - the only OS they offered was Mountain Lion. Fine I grumbled to myself, but thought that I could look at purchasing that and be done with it.

Only, I couldn't do that either. My Macbook was one model to old to handle Mountain Lion without upgrading the technical specifications, which I wasn't too fussed on doing (remember - this laptop still did everything ELSE I wanted it do - just it now wouldn't communicate with the iPhone or iPad).

From the research I did, it became clear to me that I probably needed to get a copy of Snow Leopard to allow me to get the App store added to the OS. So, off I popped to the Apple Store in West Quay, where I spoke to a few of the hip fellows that they had there.

They didn't have a clue... They had to use Google to find the tech specs for the various operating systems, which I already knew and told them.

They also couldn't sell me a copy of Snow Leopard, or offer any "official" path to buy this through them - I was trying to give them money for their product, and they DIDN'T WANT IT...

I left fuming, due to their incompetency, and my continued inability to communicate with my iOS devices. I wanted to change the music, add new video (ok, real "first world problems", but it was frustrating!), but was unable to do so. The last guy I spoke to in the Apple store told me to try eBay or Amazon to get a copy of Snow Leopard, and that it might work with iOS 6, but that they weren't sure.

Seriously, what are these Apple staff paid for? They don't appear to have "expert knowledge" about their product range, from even the near past - only talking about the lifestyle that their new devices can bring.

I sort of gave up after doing some research on prices etc on eBay and Amazon - Snow Leopard looked like it would cost around £70, but it also seemed that these were not described very well, and lots of people on forums were moaning that they'd bought copies that were not compatible with their devices.

Then, I lucked out whilst staying at a friends - when we were looking at a few things on their MBP, I noticed that he had a Snow Leopard disc sat right there!

I wasn't quite sure if this would be a Windows like affair, with 1 disc tied to a single licence, but no, lo and behold it works!

I'm glad to have a working device back, but I'm fearful of this happening all over again in the next few months. You see, Lion is no longer available as an update, only Mountain Lion, which I can't support.

So, when that happens, I will be faced with a choice. Continue Apple, or perhaps see what all the fuss is about with Windows 8!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Frustrations with Digital Copies of Films

I'm a big lover of technology and also am a lover of films.

Despite my love of digital, I've not found moving away from DVDs a particularly easy process - I watch Blu-Ray for some films where High Definition is more of an issue, but don't have Blu-Ray capability in all rooms (yet).

As a result, I've been buying double and triple play packages recently. For watching in the various rooms of my house, this works fine, but I also have mobile devices, which is where complications arise.

All these "legitimate" options use DRM - Digital Rights Management. I hate this - it limits you to using this on persons iTunes account, which doesn't work particularly well when like me you share this media with your partner, but have separate accounts.

So, we bought a few films recently that came with digital copies - these were the A-Team, Crazy Stupid Love, This Means War and Sherlock 2.

2 of these used a system called Ultraviolet and interfaced with Flixster. It wasn't immediately intuitive that you could get these on to the iPad or iPhone. Eventually I worked out that you could use the Flixster Movies app, which you could then download the film to.

This is then locked to those devices, but at least we could get it on there.

Sherlock 2 was fairly simple - iTunes allowed us to enter a code and that downloaded nice and smoothly straight away.

The A-Team experience was a massive fail on Fox Movies part. It came with a digital copy on a disc, but the code that came with it didn't work. It did say that a few issues had been had with some, and that you could request a second code. So I did that, and it said I had no allocations left!

I then had to email Fox, who did a day or two later email a fresh code, which did work.

What frustrates me with all of this the most, is that whilst these are now available on my girlfriends mobile devices, I can't use them myself on my mobile devices (maybe I'm greedy, but we each have our own ones to help us with our digital lives).

Also, for one of the Harry Potter films, I didn't immediately download the copy of the film, which resulted in "losing" the copy, as it expired. This drove me insane - I wanted to get a copy of this digital film, that I'd paid for, and was blocked from doing so!

Whenever we've been given copies of video from more dubious sources, using an App like Buzz Player allows you to use just about any video on all devices. 

I avoid deliberately, illegally downloading. But I can see why people do it. It's easier, it's faster, you jump through far less hoops, you can use it more easily across devices.

I understand that the big film studios want to protect their assets, but they actually make it considerably harder than it needs to be. DRM has been dropped from most music sources, and from the figures I've seen have shown digital revenues increasing. This hasn't been happening that I can see for the film industry - I'm sure there is growth, but most digital video I've been using has been coming along with physical copies.

I think ultimately, the Oatmeal sums it up perfectly, with "I tried to watch Game of Thrones and this is what Happened"! Go read this, it's excellent and funny!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Windows 8 Won't Play DVD Videos - a Backwards Step

I just read this article on Gizmodo, about how Windows 8 isn't going to play DVDs natively.

Whilst I can see the sense in this to a degree in terms of cutting costs in licences for Windows, it seems such a backwards step to remove a feature that so many people will just assume exists within the operating system.

In my day job I'm always helping out folks that are not the most technically savvy - they just want things to "work" straight out of the box.

Whilst many people are now much more used to downloading video files, and need players to support various codecs and the like, there is still a large gap of understanding, particularly with the silver surfer generation.

Removing these things that have always just worked is likely to cause confusion to these people.

There are of course, plenty of ways to get a free bit of software to install that will handle this. I can see that my grandparents are all likely to be on the phone to me to help me to get them install it though, as I've suggested for their security that they don't tackle these items alone!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Options for Personal and Small Business Cloud Hosting Drives

I guess my intro post doesn't really count as a "first" real blog post, so next up, following the launch of the Google Drive project, I've decided to look at the various cloud "drive" hosting options that are available at the moment.


An established player in the market, dropbox is a really simple to use cloud backup system, allowing you access to your files wherever you are.

With desktop, mac, smartphones and tablets all supported with its own software, coupled with browser access to your files, you'll never be unable to reach them wherever you are in the world.

Here is a video introduction to Dropbox:

You can get up to 18GB free based on how many people you invite, or can monthly fees based on the amount you require, with discounts for purchasing annually. You do however, only start with 2GB for free.

One of the most useful aspects of Dropbox is its ease for sharing between individuals and groups. With a large user base installed already and more people signing up via referrals all the time, if you need sharing of these backups amongst many users, Dropbox has historically been the best option.

Dropbox is probably the market leader in this space at the moment, so the reviews of the remaining options will be comparing against this benchmark.


Brought to you by the IT behemoth that is Microsoft, SkyDrive has very similar features to DropBox, with access to files across PC's and Mac's, mobile access and simple sharing options via web browsers without any need for signing in.

There are also really simple options to share with social media websites.

You also get a whopping 7GB on a free account - 5GB more than you start with on Dropbox!

Here is a video introduction to SkyDrive:

Google Drive

Only launched this week, Google Drive has been making waves, not only just in its name.

There has been plenty of chatter of some fairly controversial terms of service, which imply that Google can do anything with anything you upload, in all likelihood, this was just poorly written, and isn't likely to be too great a concern.

Particularly useful for those users who are tied up in the Google ecosystem with Android, GMail and the like, Google Drive starts you off with 5GB of storage and has aims to integrate with all of the mobile devices in the near future (iOS wasn't supported at the time of writing for iPad or iPhone).

It also ties in with the Google Docs system allowing huge amounts of collaboration.

My main fear about using this is the combined level of information Google would have about everything I do... Lord knows they have enough already!

Here is a video introduction to Google Drive:


Another service giving you 5GB for starters, this outsider in the market is full of the features used by the others. Again you have support across multiple devices, mobile and sharing facilities (I guess this is the point of them all though).

Some of the unique features of SugarSync are that you can sync any folders on your machines, it interacts with Outlook, SugarSync is one of the most flexible cloud storage options available.

Here is a video introduction to SugarSync:


I've been using Dropbox for a long time now and have built up a good amount of storage, but in the shorter term many of these allow for much greater volumes of storage initially without going through the referral process. That said, I wouldn't be without the sharing features built in to Dropbox for how I use it.

I'd love to hear any experiences you have with working with any of these, or any other comparable tools? 

Over and out...

Welcome to My Small Business Technology Writings

Hi There! Thanks for stopping by and welcome to My Small Business Technology Writings!

My name is Ben Jones, and I'm going to be writing about my experiences and investigations into the world of technology. I've got lots of friends that I am helping advise on technology for their businesses (which are mostly small), and we'll be looking at various options that they have to be implementing things.

I also play with gadgets a lot, so will likely get writing about those from time to time.

If there are any things that you would particularly like to see me writing about, leave a comment and I'll see what I can do!

Hope to see you here again soon!