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Hosted Desktop

We are considering as a practice moving our existing server applications and data onto a hosted desktop or hosted server provider.

We have our existing server for about 6 years and it is well past it's sell by date for an upgrade but still functions ok although some

of my fellow colleagues regularly complain about the speed of the server.

So we are thinking of either upgrading or replacing our existing server or moving the whole thing onto the cloud.  Personally I think the latter

is going to be much more better in terms of speed and cost as it will cut out our own time in maintaining the server and reduce cost of

bringing in outside IT support, plus as we've recently upgraded to BT Infinity our internet speeds can well cope with an online server.

I just wanted to know has anyone done this recently?  What have your experiences been like?  And can anyone recommend a particular provider of

this type of service?  Has anyone used Hosted desktop uk ltd for example?

Thanks for any help on this.

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11th Apr 2012 17:09

We use Hosted Desktop UK

Not for the whole works, but for hosting MS Exchange only. I did look into transferring the whole works, but chickened out because I like tinkering with software and playing about with it, and thought I may lose some control over what we could have available, or my ability to 'play' and try things out.

I may have still gone ahead if I was using integrated software that was difficult to install or upgrade, but we have none of those problems as we use VT & TaxCalc.

Our experiences with MS Exchange & Hosted Desktop UK have been virtually trouble free.

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11th Apr 2012 20:01

Another vote for Hosted Desktop UK

I have used it for about 8 months. We have all our software and data hosted. I would not go back to a server environments. Any software updates they do very quickly.

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Hate to be boring but......

We've been with HDT for a year and, for all the reasons you quote, I'd never return to a DIY environment.  We run Iris, MS Exchange, Office, Mailsafe, QuickBooks, Adobe Acrobat, Winzip and whatever else takes our fancy. Don't be worried about speed, you are only sending keystrokes, I've worked from the car, trains & our caravan in the middle of nowhere, using an eight year old dongle and still had reasonable results.

I spent months researching and anticipating the result of moving to an hosted environment but there will always be a leap of faith, when you down the server Friday, switch off the backup, UPS, and all the other related boxes and come back in Monday and just switch on your pcs or laptops.  If nothing else the lack of noise and fear of yet another bloody backup tape not working was reason enough to change.

The switch over was pretty much as straight forward as described above, they sent us an external hard drive Thursday, logged in remotely to take everything they needed, collected the drive on Friday and set us up over the weekend. By far though HDT's biggest and best feature is their quality of service, they just do it.

As other users did for me, happy to talk if you have any detailed questions, PM me.

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12th Apr 2012 11:56

Dare I ask

what sort of costs one should expect for this sort of thing?

Not dissimilar to PS above, we would expect to run CCH accounts, tax & PM software, along with MS Outlook, Sage, QB etc etc...

Presumably MS Office remains on each PC, but documents are stored on the hosted server?

 

Edited to add: 10 distinct users....

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Mikey

Good point.

18 months ago I was in a similar situation to the OP, with an ancient server & infrastructure and so it was a toss up between new server/software depreciated over X years or an annual charge for hosting.  By the way Office too is hosted, you really do have a typical Windows screen with everything you'd expect to see on your PCs screen.

In addition, as already mentioned there are other savings, for example we no longer needed a group virus/malware facility, our £1,500 pa IT support company charges have gone and we could drop a spare PC we used for a member of staff to login using remote desktop.  Being funny that way my other prime motive was to reduce my electricity/carbon use (even an average Data Centre is many times more efficiant than our office).

In my case hosting won out hands down but, a year on the cost thing is secondary, I'd even take on hosting if it cost me more.  The conveniance, peace of mind and saved time has been significant and it's allowed me to actually move the business to home a couple of years early (30+ years in this business - I've done my bit) saving hundreds more a month.

With others, say with a larger number of users, fixed long term property leases or with IT that is performing well, the financial benefits may not be there but, as I say, if quality & efficiancy improves, maybe extra cost is still justified.

 

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By Kryton
12th Apr 2012 13:36

Costs

Hi amolonio,

Hosted desktops should not really cost you the Earth and should reflect the amount of software you have to license and therefore be similar for licensing the software for the office. 

There is little difference between managing a local server and a hosted server, as most IT companies provide remote support these days. So if you really like your local IT supplier, they are just as likely to be able to manage a hosted desktop environment as they are an in-office server.

The only extras for the hosted desktop over a local server setup, is the cost of the hosted desktop licences, which, depending on the system (Remote Desktop Services or Citrix for example) can be  bought from a one off fixed fee of £90 (from memory) per user - or for 10 users you could subscribe to spread the costs.

With a bespoke setup - you can often use your existing local licenses. 

The user experience in for Hosted Desktops is almost identical to using a local server - a half hour familiarization is usually all that is needed in the way of training.

If you are really good with IT then you could even build your own hosted desktop solution. As always, the caveat here is that many people think they are good with IT - but in general are often just dangerous!

Kryton

www.selestial.com

 

 

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Horses for courses

Kryton makes a good point, ie that all you are effectively doing is moving your server into another room and linking to it via the internet rather than wires.

I'd be very wary though of using a local high street IT supplier unless you are 100% certain of their security, backup & failover facilities (ie if their servers fail are there others to take over?).

I know another accountant who took this route and after several weeks of calls & emails to try and get everything set up properly, realised that their "hosted" facility was just a side arm of their main business and that they couldn't cope.  As it happenned she moved to HDT UK.

Hosting is all that HDT UK and others like them do and given the importance of security and reliability I'd not be happy with anything less.

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12th Apr 2012 15:19

Funnily enough....

...it's the back-up aspect that's most driving our interest in this.

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By Kryton
13th Apr 2012 15:02

Hosting & Backup

Hi MikeyBaby, PaulScholes,

I agree with most points here, but the infrastructure of virtual desktop hosting is usually done by the likes of Rackspace  / Microsoft / Amazon who provide the infrastructure and have far more resilience than most small private clouds.

We for example have cloud servers hosted by Amazon, the biggest provider of cloud servers. If any of these servers go down, we can use the resilience provided by these companies to start another server - we can start up a new instance within a couple of minutes, re-attach it to the data store and no one would be the wiser. We are not advocating that you set up your server in your local suppliers office.

Backup, Resilience and Performance should be at the top of anyones list, and that should be what you get if you sign up with any supplier. Also never take statements of backup and resilience marketing as fact. Always test you can restore data.

This takes me back to a company who set up a hosted solution when they first became popular, lost a single file and asked the hosting company to restore it - only to find that they hadn't quite finished the backup setup just yet so the file was lost. (I won't mention their name - it was not any mentioned in this thread). Imagine that had been all of your data.

If you use a company down the road to set up your hosted desktop, or the biggest supplier in the world, always make sure they have all your hosting needs addressed. That also applies if you have a local server or just a laptop.

One big advantage of having a local supplier - if something does go wrong - it could be with some aspect of your local machine (you'll still need a PC to access your hosted desktop, not to mention phone, fax service, phone sync etc) - in which case you are not going to be able to get them round in half an hour!

let us know how you get on amalonio.

Kryton

www.selestial.com

 

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Just in case

Hi Kryton - Hadn't realised you were "in the business".

Agreed (think ours in on Rackspace).  With regard to backing up, nothing could have been less reliable then our tapes & naff tape drives so, to be honest, whatever we did was going to be an improvement but one nice feature of HDT UK is the ability to run a script from any pc here and download the majority of our data on an incremental basis.  So "just in case" I run this a couple of times a week.

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13th Apr 2012 15:53

Thanks all, very interesting.

 

I've a meeting set up for next week to go through it (with a client who is a network security provider).   I beleive the servers are at The Bunker which rreads to me as being pretty secure......

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Also mobile 3g/4g and tablets

We use hosted apps all the time and so do most of our clients, using mobile makes it even better, helps you get a better work life balance.

Drew

http://alwaysonbooks.com/

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04th May 2012 15:12

Dont forget Data Protection!

Hi All

I am sorry to turn up late to the party but scanning through on a Friday afternoon and thought I should add something to this post. This is crucial and so even if it is not wholly relevant to the OP, it may be of use to others for research purposes.

If you are holding any data which is deemed to be sensitive or you are registered with the Information Commissioner for Data Protection ACT (DPA) purposes you need to know where your data ultimately resides when using hosted systems.

Kryton rightly points out that Amazon, Microsoft and Google are the biggest players in the world but therein also lies their downfall. Under the DPA your data must reside within the EU AT ALL TIMES. If you happen to host anything with the big boys you must read the small print on the contract as in many cases their hosting service will not offer this gaurantee. When you are Microsoft, Google or Amazon you have to 'load balance' and this means moving data between servers as demand requires. So whilst these big boys do have massive data centres within the EU (mainly all in Dublin in fact), they sometime back up to servers outside of the EU or may temporarily move your data out of the EU for maintenance purposes or load balancing purposes. Therefore they cannot say that 100% of your data is in the EU 100% of the time. By ignoring this, YOU may be in breach of DPA laws in the event something nasty happens. 

There is a useful story here for reference: http://www.stranet.com/cloud-computing/should-we-use-cloud-storage/

You should also look up the major news article of 2011 about the outage of services which affected the MS and Amazon data centres in Dublin. Some services were down for days.

I am a Cloud evangelist so please dont get me wrong, hosting is the way forward, but you must understand how it might affect you before signing up.

 

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EU Data Centres

Very useful link Ben.

All our data stays in the UK at all times. I think most of our competitors do as well but users really should check, especially when it is their clients sensitive data such as tax returns and final accounts.

Dan

www.hostedaccountants.co.uk

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By iandc6
07th Sep 2012 09:44

A description of a hosted desktop

I thought it would be useful for readers to see some additional information on what exactly is a hosted desktop.

http://www.hostedaccountants.co.uk/library/what-is-a-hosted-desktop

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosted_desktop

Other terminology to consider is:

Virtual Server

Desktop as a service

Remote desktop

VD

Hope this helps.

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21st Nov 2013 14:58

who we use

we use http://www.rtwhosting.com and having tried the rest I am so glad I got our MD to buy the best

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