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Can a Cloud Assessment Benefit You?

Posted by Eric Kupfer on Sep 12, 2017 11:06:51 AM

Technology and people on cloudDetermining whether hosted IT infrastructure or services is right for a business can be a daunting and difficult task.

Every business is unique. Two companies in the same industry, using similar software, will have different internal policies, processes, workflows, and user expectations. Due to this, the roadmap for leveraging cloud services will vary from one company to the next.

What makes matters more difficult is the fact that successful execution of a cloud strategy is not as simple as taking the existing environment and recreating it on hosted infrastructure. Often companies that make a successful transition to cloud services are required to change business processes, application delivery methods or entire application suites.

A cloud assessment is designed to assist a company in creating a baseline for the current IT infrastructure. After collecting data on the current environment, analysts would review the data to determine feasibility and create a customized action plan for moving systems and services to hosted platforms.  

Collecting information on the current hardware and gaining an understanding of application requirements is the first step in creating the environment baseline. The assessment also seeks to gain an understanding of a company's security policies, disaster recovery objectives, and how end users expect to interact with systems.

The assessment analyst works closely with both IT departments and key business stakeholders to identify current pain points and areas for potential improvement within the current infrastructure. This information is included in the assessment to determine how a cloud or hosted solution might assist in overcoming identified issues.

After the above data is gathered and documented, applications and services that would benefit from migrating to the cloud, or delivered as a service, are identified. These applications and services are then evaluated and prioritized based on several factors such as: security, end user connectivity, bandwidth constraints, backup, disaster recovery and ongoing maintenance, management requirements, and more.

Based on this information, an ROI will be established that can demonstrate whether hosted solutions are a wise business investment and long-term technology strategy. If feasibility is established, the Network Center Inc. team will work with the identified decision makers and technical staff to create an individualized roadmap to the cloud by mapping services to hosted infrastructure or applications delivered as a service.

Want to learn more or interested in a cloud assessment?

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Topics: Cloud Services, Cloud Solutions, Cloud, Cloud Assessment

The Cloud Effect: How Businesses Consume IT

Posted by Eric Kupfer on Mar 14, 2017 11:45:19 AM

It is no secret that the Cloud is changing how businesses think about and consume IT. If your company has not outsourced applications or systems that once resided in-house to a cloud platform, it is likely that it’s only a matter of time.

dreamstime_xl_41319837.jpgCloud-use business cases are constantly changing. Cloud computing is making products and services that used to be complex, expensive or not possible, a reality. This is particularly true in the small to medium sized businesses. In the Midwest, we tend to view trends of all kinds with a healthy dose of skepticism. So the question becomes, “what is driving cloud adoption in our region”?

Outsourcing e-mail and collaboration with Office 365 and Google apps has quickly replaced traditional, on-premises Exchange servers. For every in-house Exchange migration, Network Center, Inc. (NCI) performs three to four cloud migrations. Because this type of outsourcing has become so ubiquitous, we will focus on other areas that public cloud is making gains.

Consider the line of business applications in your environment. In many cases, this might include e-mail and collaboration, an ERP suite such as Dynamics or GP, and perhaps some SQL backend with reporting or business intelligence. Maintaining LoB applications generally requires an investment in hardware and software, high priced support and maintenance contracts and skilled employees to manage the systems. Outsourcing these applications generally allows for greater application resiliency and removes the hardware overhead burden of support and maintenance from internal IT staff. 

After collaboration and line of business applications, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) is a natural fit for the cloud. Building and maintaining a functional disaster recovery infrastructure has inherent cost and complexity that traditionally required many SMBs to compromise function for economics.

7K0A0603.jpgA surprising number of small businesses struggle with the process of automating and securely transferring backup data offsite without the hassle of removable media or simply maintaining the required amount of backup retention. Other SMBs, particularly financial institutions, are often faced with more robust business continuity requirements.  Building and managing a fully functional DR site may not have been possible. Cloud computing offers solutions that allows companies to leverage a true "pay as you grow" model for both of these scenarios. 

Another traditionally complex issue for IT departments is managing exploding storage growth. A number of things, such as business and application requirements, can cause growth. Consumer cloud storage can also become a growth issue as it gives us the luxury of never having to delete pictures, files, or any other data, making many of us have become “digital pack rats”.

The hardware, applications and expertise needed to manage this growth is complex and expensive. Cloud providers have helped solve this problem with inexpensive storage options and intelligent applications that automatically keep the most accessed data on-premises while archiving less frequently accessed information on progressively cheaper cloud based storage. 

With online e-mail, collaboration, file sharing and hosted line of business applications, some businesses are successfully transitioning to an entirely hosted infrastructure. This is especially appealing in companies with small, distributed or highly collaborative work forces.

While these may be primary drivers to the cloud for companies in our area, it is only a tiny fraction of what is possible. What the cloud computing trends might mean to your company is a highly individualized answer. There is no "correct" path through this IT transition. Finding the path and the pace of adoption of this new technology is the key.

At Network Center Inc., we realize the impact this technology is having on our industry and we are adapting to it. Our methodology for designing solutions is changing. We look forward to a consultative approach with our customers to help them find the correct path and solutions for their company. We position ourselves as the experts on several cloud platforms and are excited about the opportunities that our customers now have available. 

Oftentimes, moving forward requires change. The transition from servers and applications hosted in-house to web based applications may have a steeper learning curve for end users compared to server virtualization or other industry pivots that required companies to reimagine the status quo. However, it can be a rewarding experience for end users and IT admins once the growing pains subside. 

facebookPost_AzureLunchandLearn.jpegPlease join us for lunch on March 21 from 11-1pm at the Fargo Microsoft Campus to learn more about how your business might leverage the cloud to meet your business objectives.

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Topics: Cloud computing, Cloud Services, Cloud Solutions, Cloud

Taking a Step Back...

Posted by Ric Todd on Aug 27, 2015 10:00:00 AM

way_back_imageOdds are, you are reading this in some capacity as a technology decision maker. Assuming this is the case, I have a bone to pick. With all of us. In that little circle of “us”, I include myself and everyone else that thinks of services in the context of solution vendors prescribed via slick marketing, tired ideas, and buzz word campaigns designed to confuse you into submission. 

The truth? Everyone knows technology flies forward at an incomprehensible rate. How often does anyone stop to ask the question, “is it always the right road?” (I’m guilty my hand is in the air, you just can’t see it…technology hasn’t caught up to that piece yet.)

This thought train started a few years ago when my then 2 year old was attempting to change the channel on our television by swiping the screen left and right. It wasn’t working for him. Thankfully we didn’t elect to sit down and train on the remote control. These days we have very little TV interaction. Sorry. I’m already off topic….

<whip crack!>

The point is, as I watched the swiping, I instantly had my IT hat on. I was learning by watching my baby boy learn. The TV should have been that easy. And in fact, on mobile devices it really is. That is of course, where he learned the behavior. The TV just (mostly) hasn’t caught up. Like a lightning bolt it hit me. (First, we may need a new TV...second...

Why am I trying to use the same tired methods of service delivery when my users are already showing me how they want to work? They have tablets, mobile phones, and other technology trinkets they use during their coveted "non-work hours.” They are interacting and producing work and content at rates never before seen. Just not at real work. Why aren’t we listening to them and helping them use the same tools they already want to use? Because it may mean a paradigm shift in thinking? Because we are conditioned to put the same square peg in the round hole? 

Look, I’m not saying it is always feasible to just jettison your traditional methods. That is not the case at all. In fact, many times it’s not even a remote possibility. But I think many of us are guilty of falling in love with the idea of a technology in terms of newness and features. Too often these shiny objects supply very little benefit to the end user but consume a large portion of a budget ultimately only serving to fulfill our inner “tool-time” cravings. 

Is this a manifesto? Kind of. Doesn’t sound very convincing does it? Nope. I am not asking you to dump all that beloved power company friendly infrastructure you have and jump straight off the ledge into the cloud. I am simply asking this….

When you have a major initiative or a decision to make, that’s exactly the right time to discuss swiping the TV. Maybe there’s an opportunity to not only strengthen, but to actually improve the end-user experience. 

(Whoa, careful Ric...starting to sound a bit off the ledge here.) Imagine that, thinking of the user first. Weird, right? 

If you are interested in taking a step back and redefining how you do what you do…give us a buzz. We heart talking about this stuff. 

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Topics: Cloud

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