Month: February 2014

Claranet takes an application-first approach at Cloud Expo Europe 2014

MSP to present latest cloud adoption findings from the Claranet Research Programme

Claranet, one of Europe’s leading managed service providers, will today detail the latest cloud adoption trends from the Claranet Research Programme at Cloud Expo Europe 2014. The show is the company’s first UK event since it acquired Portuguese MSP Echiron in February 2014, confirming their position as the leading managed services provider in Western Europe.

The acquisition of Echiron, which is the latest in a string of recent acquisitions, cements Claranet’s position in Portugal as the leading provider of managed hosting and applications services in the region. It means that customers will benefit from an expanded services portfolio as well as greater capabilities in Portugal.

Visitors to the Claranet stand will receive an early preview of how Claranet is exploiting new technology to address the demand for increased agility, flexibility, and availability. Show attendees will have the opportunity to see how Claranet can take one version of a client/server application and deploy it to any device, anywhere, anytime.

Michel Robert, Claranet’s UK Managing Director, said:

From our research, it is clear that the majority of UK businesses have their sights firmly set on the appropriate adoption of cloud services. The large-scale IT projects of old are gradually being phased out to a more service-based approach to IT procurement. Rather than charging head-on towards one type of infrastructure, businesses are now able to pick-and-choose the types of IT that are most appropriate for their individual applications.”

“This application-centric approach gives businesses the flexibility to construct an IT estate that will support the needs of the organisation, evolving as-and-when required. It does, however, pose a challenge in terms of maintaining an integrated and functional approach given the likely hybrid mix of infrastructure required – some cloud based, some dedicated and potentially some on-site. With demand on IT set to continue to grow over the next 12-months, IT departments will need to work more closely with their service providers to migrate and integrate their services effectively.” Robert continued.

On the first day of the event (26th February), Mark Wilson, Claranet’s Senior Product Manager for Hosting, and Andrew Audsley, Product Manager for Business Applications, will be presenting on the topic of customer-focused innovation. The presentation will take place in the Cloud Management, Services and Applications theatre at 13:45, and they will be discussing the ways in which cloud is transforming the business IT estate.

Later that afternoon, Michel Robert, Claranet’s UK Managing Director, will present the latest cloud adoption trends from the Claranet Research Programme in the Keynote theatre at 16:15. Robert will discuss the ways in which cloud is facilitating business transformation and innovation, and will be joined by Richard Thomas, founder and CEO of NetEvidence, who will offer a first-hand account of their cloud migration, explaining why thinking application first matters.

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A customer's perspective: Journeying to the cloud – migrating away from a legacy platform

This blog is used with permission from Sift, the digital agency, who are a customer of Claranet’s. The original blog can be found here.

A few years ago a venture capitalist told me the secret of success when growing a technology business was to sell the company within a single technology cycle. His reasoning was that you really didn’t want the hassle and risks of transitioning your platform from one paradigm to the next. This post is for those of us with longer term aspirations.

In our case, the project started in 2007 and culminated six years later with Sift’s CIO Chris Wood switching off our servers at Verizon just before Xmas last year (as evidenced by the empty racks and redundant servers below), consolidating everything with Claranet and Amazon.

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The customer data breach problem

It seems with every week that passes there is another breach of data confidentiality. Recently customer data from 2,000 Barclays’ customers was presented to the Mail on Sunday on a memory stick by an anonymous source. Apparently another 25,000 people’s information was also available to purchase.

Clearly it is worrying when one of the world’s premier banking institutions cannot keep its customers personal data safe. This leaked data includes passport & national insurance numbers, money and health information, which in the wrong hands could have damaging ramifications.

The Information Commisioner’s Office (ICO) will now commence investigations into this data breach, with severe repercussions likely. The ICO have the power to levy fines up to £500,000 for organisations who don’t take appropriate measures to secure and protect data of this nature.

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Claranet acquires Echiron, a high-end managed hosting and applications provider in Portugal

  • Deal confirms Claranet’s position as the largest provider of cloud services to the mid-market in Western Europe
  • Echiron is the latest in a series of acquisitions in the UK and mainland Europe

Claranet, one of Europe’s leading independent managed services providers, acquires Portuguese managed hosting and applications provider Echiron, as part of its continued expansion into Europe, creating the largest cloud services provider to the mid-market in the region.

The acquisition of Echiron, which has annual revenues in the region of €5 million a year, cements Claranet’s position in Portugal as the leading provider of managed hosting and applications services in the region. It means that customers will benefit from the expertise of both companies and from an expanded services portfolio.

Founded in 2000 and based in Lisbon, Echiron is recognised for its expertise in cloud, database and Microsoft & Oracle application management services. With offerings that complement and broaden Claranet’s existing service portfolio, Echiron is a natural partner for Claranet. Echiron has 90 customers across all industry sectors, including BMW Portugal, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (one of the largest private foundations in Europe) and SPMS (Portugal’s centralised health system administration body).

A success story in the European technology market, Claranet has grown steadily since it was founded in 1996. Echiron is the latest in a wave of acquisitions made by the company in the last 18 months across Europe – with Star in the UK (November 2012) and Typhon in France (December 2012) – as the business undergoes a period of rapid growth.

António Miguel Ferreira, MD at Claranet Portugal, says:

The acquisition is part of Claranet’s overall growth strategy and allows us to expand our teams and our service offerings. It confirms our ambition to become the leading independent provider of managed services in Europe, and now positions Claranet as the leading provider for managed hosting and managed applications in Portugal.

“Becoming part of the Claranet Group will create new opportunities for our customers, our partners and our employees” said João Ribeiro da Costa, MD and founder of Echiron. “They will all benefit from Claranet’s pan-European operations, its strong financial footing, and an expanded services portfolio”, he added.

As a result of this acquisition, the Claranet Group will have annual revenues in excess of €155 million (£130m), circa 750 employees, over 4,500 customers and operations in 6 European countries (France, UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain and Portugal.

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Claranet shows strong growth across Europe in 2013

  • Financial results show circa 50% growth for leading MSP
  • Acquisition strategy combined with strong customer wins sets Claranet up for continued growth in 2014

Claranet has released its financial figures and reported a growth of 47 per cent, with turnover across the European Group increasing to £103m (€124m) over the last year (2012/13). The financial results follow the first anniversary of two key acquisitions, Star (in the UK) and Typhon (in France), which the company made at the end of 2012, and reflect a year of strong performance across the business – with key customer wins and the successful integration of the new acquisitions into the Claranet Group.

Commenting on the last year, Charles Nasser, CEO of Claranet says:

Our rapid growth this year has positioned Claranet as one of the largest independent managed services providers to mid-sized companies in Western Europe. Our business approach ensures that we focus on the long-term future of the business, to benefit our customers and our staff over time. This means that we continue to invest in developing our services and processes as the company grows, and as the needs of our customers evolve.”

With the increasing consolidation of providers in the technology space across Europe, the acquisitions of Star (in the UK) and Typhon (in France) have ensured that Claranet is well-placed with a broader market offer, following the addition of communications services to its existing portfolio of network and hosting solutions. The latest financial results top off a year that has seen Claranet positioned as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for European Managed Hosting, and win two industry Awards – for Entrepreneur of the Year for Charles Nasser (Datacentre and Cloud Awards, in June) and for the Best Customer Service Strategy Award (SVC Awards, in November). These highlights are combined with several significant customer wins that include River Island, Veolia, Lyons Davidson, Total, Elior UK Ltd, N24, Action For Children, Warner Brothers, Radley, Airbus and Peugeot/Citroen, to name just a few.

Commenting on the financial results, Nigel Fairhurst, Chief Financial Officer, Claranet Group says:

We have achieved what we set out to in these acquisitions, expanding the portfolio with a wider offering for customers, yet ensuring that we took advantage of synergies when bringing the businesses together. This has led to recurring EBITDA on a like-for-like basis, increasing by 95% year-on-year. In addition, the strength of the wider business is reflected in the contracted future revenue for the Group, which was in excess of £167m (€195m) at the end of the FY13, an increase of almost 100% on the previous year. This reflects both the size of the new contracts and the continued trend towards longer contracts.”

Charles concludes:

We are seeing a rapidly maturing cloud services market that is consolidating towards a smaller number of regional players at the mid-market level. Our strong growth last year was underpinned by the successful integration of our acquisitions into the business. Our plans are ambitious and as we look ahead into 2014, we expect the year to be one of further rapid growth and expansion for us across our Western European market.”

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Consolidating Claranet’s data centre estate

Service providers are continually reviewing their data centre estate so they can offer the best possible service to their customers. This may lead to the expansion, migration or closure of certain data centres.

With the acquisition of Star Technology in late 2012, Claranet more-or-less doubled the number of its data centres. While this certainly enhanced our ability to offer leading edge services the rethink meant it was also right to close down two of our older data centres.

Closing or moving a data centre or IT room is a significant undertaking. Making sure it is carried out effectively is vital as the impact of downtime for many customers can have a massive impact on their business and any of their customers who rely on them.

One of the two data centres we recently closed was a 180 rack suite that Claranet occupied for the last 15 years and which serviced a significant number of customers.

Due to the broad array of services we offered from this facility, relocating represented a significant challenge. Services taken varied from co-location to Ethernet connectivity, from internal cross-connects, to fully outsourced and managed IT solutions so tailored approaches were vital.

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E-commerce, PCI DSS compliancy and the managed services provider

One of the biggest barriers to managed services adoption according to the Claranet Research Programme is data security, with seventy-one per cent of respondents saying it was an important concern to consider before migrating to a cloud provider.

For businesses reliant on e-commerce, the safeguarding of customer financial data is crucial in retaining customer trust. Without it nobody will buy from you, and it doesn’t matter who it is in the e-commerce transactional chain who messes up; if a customer bought from your site, any problems will be blamed on you.

Consequently the thinking amongst many IT managers seems to be that the closer data and process is to their chests, the safer it is, so they try to keep as much in-house as possible.

However, this logic isn’t necessarily sound. While everyone in a the e-commerce transaction chain (below) must be PCI DSS compliant in their own right, the burden of actually making sure all the key tenets of PCI DSS compliancy are enforced all the time, along with the management of internal infrastructure produces more pressure on in-house IT departments, ultimately leading to data security issues.

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Newsflash: cloud computing averts snowmageddon!

With the festive period all but upon us, many people will be putting plans in place between now and the New Year. But the best laid plans can change when our weather and transport infrastructure combine to create: the perfect storm…

The Daily Express and other quality publications have predicted 100 days of snow, which could have a very detrimental effect on the British economy.

However, even if you can’t get into the office this perfect storm shouldn’t affect your IT infrastructure and your ability to work.

Smart businesses will be able to rest easy when blizzards are blowing as they will have deployed VPN connections for remote workers. Put simply, this is an extension of your corporate network allowing users to send and receive data as if they’re locally connected to the private network.

This means that their users don’t necessarily need to be in the office to carry on working as normal, in spite of extreme weather conditions and the associated disruption or indeed, being on the move as part of your Christmas and New Year travels.

Extreme weather can also result in localised flooding. Again some kind of contingency must be put in place for a situation like this. Moving the server environment from a traditional on-premise model to hosting off-site in a secure data centre which is both secure in itself and able to transfer data to other secure sites at a moment’s notice is a vital part of any company’s disaster recovery plan.

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Developer? Is managed application hosting right for you?

Claranet has offered managed application hosting for many years, but when you look out into the hosting market I am constantly surprised by other hosting companies running for the hills at the very thought of taking over the control and ownership of a customer’s live environment, and offering an SLA based on anything above the OS.

Why are most hosting companies scared of taking control above the OS?

It’s clearly no mean feat, you simply can’t take over a customer’s application and not expect issues. You have to learn how the customers application works, the issues it faces, and devise a contingency plan just in case something goes wrong. Organisations need to invest in processes such as ITIL which is a best practice framework for the provision of quality IT services, build the processes and documentation, and ensure they have sufficient qualified engineers to be able to support an application and all the infrastructure around it 24/7/365.

Why should developers care about managed application hosting?

It’s simple, the developer’s core focus is usually based around delivering great code. However, we typically find that they somehow manage to also get burdened with having to run the hosting environment as a side-line. This generally happens because they possess the technical ability and understand their app, but running infrastructure is not what they have studied for years and trained for, and when problems happen this diverts their attention from core business projects.

By letting Claranet manage the application, developers can concentrate on spending more time delivering code, meeting deadlines, and adding more value to the strategic projects their organisation demands.

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Cloud adoption through the prism

Whether you label it cloud, or managed, or hosted, or as-a-service, or something else – its lexicon is growing with its ubiquity – it is clear that more businesses in the mid-market are beginning to take advantage of the many benefits ‘it’ entails.

According to findings from the 2013 Claranet Research Programme 73 per cent of businesses were using some form of cloud service compared with 62 per cent the year before.

The benefits from utilising cloud – scalability, resiliency, efficiency and sustainability – are beginning to outweigh the concerns businesses previously had in terms of adoption.

Particularly for SMBs where the IT function of organisations is often not that developed, the pressure to succeed with less internal resource is more pronounced. Therefore the need to outsource day-to-day responsibility, while retaining executive control, is a particularly attractive option, as it allows stretched IT teams to concentrate on making a noticeable difference on a more strategic level.

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