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A Cloud Atlas

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As featured in the National Business Review, April 17, 2015

Trying to navigate your way around cloud options?  Chris Keall talks to Compass founder and Chief Executive Karim Hussona about outsoucing IT, data sovereignty and moving the phone system to the cloud. 

Chris Keall: Why should an SME keep its IT infrastructure in a separate location?

Karim Hussona: I always ask a business owner: what would you do if you came in on a Monday and your server has blown up due to a flood or overheating, would you still be able to operate on Tuesday?

The more important that data is to you, the more important it is to store it in an offsite location where it is in a highly secure environment with power backup in case of redundancy, suitable air conditioning, flood detection and anti-fire prevention systems. You’ll still have 24/ 7 access and there won’t be any difference to how your system operates, you won’t even notice its not next door.

We can also provide guided access, and offer hands on technical support or remote support if you’re business requires this.

Compass has operated data centres for more than a decade without any service interruption.

Back ups are often hit and miss and usually not considered until something goes wrong, you need to ask yourself, how much is your business data worth? Could you operate without it? The cost of using a data centre is likely to be cheaper than the alternative of disruption to business.

CK: Does Compass have its own data centre(s) or do you subcontract/outsource?

KH: We have our own Data Centres - one in Auckland and a second in Hamilton.

CK: Does Compass see advantages to data being kept within NZ?

KH: Absolutely yes, if the data goes outside of NZ its not subject to NZ law so you’ve got no right to access it if you have any kind of dispute.

If you store your data on a foreign server its gone, you’ve got no control over it as its subject to that country’s laws and not NZ law. At least if you are storing it here you are dealing with a NZ based business and you’ve got NZ law to protect it.

You also need to consider NZ’s geographical location. At the moment we are dependent on only one underwater cable system – the Southern cross network. It is important to keep your data here in case that cable ever failed. Its a low chance that would ever happen but are you willing to take that risk?

CK: When a company approaches you for an on-premise telephony solution, under what circumstances does Compass recommend an on-premise PABX (if at all) and when do you recommend a cloud-based system.

KH: Its much more effective to have a cloud based system these days. There is almost no situation when I would recommend an on-premise PABX as a cloud based system is cost effective, scalable and reliable.

Businesses get access to a full set of features at a much more cost effective level representing excellent value for money.

We’re able to build the system for the size of your business needs, to scale up or scale down as business demands change. So you only pay for what you need. For example, you can start with 5 extensions and grow to 10 or 20 as you need them.

We keep a relationship to ensure the phone system continues to meet your businesses needs as it changes and grows.

A cloud system is also more resilient and far more reliable than a single, on premise system. This is because its housed in an environment thats run on a more reliable power supply with back up measures. Its also monitored 24/ 7 by qualified technicians, who are able to respond in case of any system failure giving you peace of mind.

CK: What do you see as the headline advantages for a cloud-based system in terms of features? 

KH: First and foremost, cost, flexibility and security.

A cloud based system provides access to a wide range of features at a fraction of the cost. These range from call recording, easy transfer and call forwarding. There are also a wide range of remote access features like being able to pick up voicemail or faxes remotely and diverting your phone when you are out and about. Some of these functions can be very expensive with an on-premise PABX.

Business features are available at a price small-to medium-sized businesses can afford.  For example, call centre-style automatic call distribution. 

If you have multiple sites, a particularly advantageous feature is the ability to connect each site together. So its like having one phone system all linked together.

CK: What sort of cost-savings could a business hope to reap?

KH: Cost is always a driver, with a cloud based system, you don’t have to invest in any of the hardware. You are using a system built for and funded across multiple customers.

A cloud based system has a lot of anti-fraud features that can help secure your business so fraudulent activity such as phone hacking which is a very real challenge. If an on-premise PABX has been compromised no one is monitoring it until you get the bill.

CK: Rightly or wrongly, a lot of people think there are security issues with cloud computing. What steps do you take to protect your cloud VoIP service? How would you rate its security vs analog or digital PABX?

KH: We take security very seriously and its paramount to our business so we’ve invested heavily in the infrastructure to support this. We only provide IP telephony over our Compass network where we have control. We always have the latest security patches and anti-virus signatures, plus we have fraud detection and monitoring systems in place, encryption and private IP addresses which are not public so they cannot be accessed from the outside world.

Because we have greater control we can apply and enforce much more rigorous standards on our cloud systems.

An on-premise PABX does has these checks available, however the likelihood of them being enforced is a lot lower which opens businesses up to a very genuine, hacking cost. 


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