In the week that ClearPeople was announced the first Microsoft UK Partner to be awarded Cloud Platform Gold Competency for Microsoft Azure, we also welcomed a new addition to the team – Luke Smith, as our Cloud Services Manager. He knows his stuff - with over 15 years’ experience in the industry and Microsoft certifications coming out of his ears - I caught up with Luke to get the low-down on all things Cloud. 

Hi Luke, and welcome to the team!

Thanks, it’s great to be here. I'm really excited to get stuck in.

What are your first impressions of ClearPeople?

It’s a modern organisation where everyone is welcoming. It’s clear that the main focus of the company is on its client relationships and creating the right solution, shown by its repeat business. It’s a client-first, people-first business, with a Cloud-first, mobile-first approach.

Talk us through your first day…

Well, the morning didn’t start very well with the trains running late due to a signal failure at Slough! But once I finally arrived at the office and had a meeting with company founders Gabriel and Katya, they introduced me the rest of the team and I got straight down to business. I started working with the Technical Consulting Services Director, Eneko and our Alliance Director Gurmail on our Cloud strategy and I already feel part of the furniture!

So tell me, how long have you been in the industry?

Over 15 years. I’ve been working with Microsoft Technologies since MS-DOS 5.0.

Quite a while then! So you've been at the forefront of the latest Microsoft developments…

I certainly have. And to date, I have been working on Microsoft’s latest cloud technology Windows Azure, Office 365 and SharePoint with their associated technology stacks to it, like System Center, Lync, Windows, Exchange and TMG/UAG.

What were you doing before joining ClearPeople?

Before joining I was working for another Microsoft Partner and for Microsoft UK as an Azure P-TSP evangelising and designing Microsoft Cloud Services. I have worked with many organisations from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, with my main focus being Microsoft Cloud services - Azure and Office 365.

What kind of projects were you working on?

I've worked on all kinds of projects - small to large implementations of Windows Azure, SharePoint, Office 365 and BizTalk, comprising of recommendations, design, implementation and support transition. Additionally, I have worked with technologies including System Center, Windows Server, SQL Clustering, AD, Kerberos authentication, Third-Party solutions, Firewall, Load balancing and Office Infrastructure.

Tell me more about your new role here at ClearPeople, and what are you most looking forward to?

I head up the Cloud Services practice at ClearPeople. I’m really looking forward to working with like-minded people and continuing the success you guys have achieved so far. And I’m also really looking forward to growing the team too, and making sure that the Technical Consulting Services team hits some ambitious targets.

The term ‘Cloud Services’ is a real buzzword at the moment. For those who don’t know, what exactly is it? And what do you think is exciting about the Cloud?

Think of the Cloud as similar to a utility service such as your electricity. When you switch on the lights, you didn't have to generate the power yourself, it's just there - and you pay the utility company based on your consumption. Cloud computing works in the same way. You can access an enterprise level service without having to run the infrastructure yourself. Whether you want the power of a super computer for an hour, want to store data, or share a file, you can from anywhere at any time instantly and only pay for what you use. In some instances the services are provided for free, such as OneDrive or

Great analogy - making the technical simple, I like it! Can you tell me an example of the Cloud Services ClearPeople can provide?

Office 365 and Microsoft Azure are such Cloud services that ClearPeople partner with Microsoft to offer organisations globally, suitable if you’re a small start-up or an enterprise business with hundreds of thousands of users. The services give users access to the same highly available global infrastructure starting from as little as £1.30 per user for a whole month.

Last week we were announced the first Microsoft UK Partner to be awarded Gold Cloud Platform Competency. Can you tell me what this means to our customers?

Meeting such accreditation will give our existing and new customers the confidence that we understand the Cloud and can help their business to move forward to Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. It is obviously awesome that we got there first!

There are a lot of stories in the press at the minute about privacy and security due to certain photos being leaked online. What would your response be to customers who are concerned about the safety of Cloud hosting?

Microsoft Azure and Office 365 are tested to the highest security standards. These are likely to be much higher than those in your server room. The reports you hear in the press are not directly related to Cloud being unsafe, but are fairly classic attacks known as phishing. To help prevent against these types of attacks I would recommend the following action:
  • Be vigilant when responding to emails
  • Change passwords on a frequent basis
  • Have a complex password (containing numbers, characters (mix case and symbols)
  • Run up-to-date Anti-Virus software
  • Limit the number of users with elevated permissions, like administrators, to the absolute minimum

Great advice. What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

I've got quite a few outdoorsy hobbies like cycling, skiing and snowboarding. And I enjoy the odd bit of DIY too and spending time with the family.

Thanks for your time Luke – what’s next on your agenda after this interview?

I am just about to head into a project kick-off meeting – we are implementing a StorSimple solution for a client with lots of data and DR requirements, so it is great timing for me to get stuck in… great speaking to you Ricky.

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