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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

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 - Your Chance to Leave Hardware Behind!

Posted by Jon Ryan on May 15, 2015 4:00:00 PM

1-1With the impending retirement of Microsoft Windows Server 2003 on July 14th, businesses are quickly approaching their deadline to upgrade their server OS, applications, and most likely their hardware. Some might think just upgrading the OS and the hardware will solve all of their aging OS problems. The variable in that equation is applications. File shares, printer shares, and Active Directory are only a small part of most business' headaches. 

Where the Application World is Headed

If you haven’t been recently looking at application services, you probably aren’t aware of how many are moving to the cloud. Applications like QuickBooks and Dynamics already have cloud options. Most ERP/MRP/HRIS programs offer both an on premise and cloud hosted version. What does that mean for you? Well, traditionally, even when a business only runs one fat client program, they would buy a physical server to house that application/database.

Fat Client programs are usually designed to run a ‘client’ install on each computer, with the database residing on the server. This connection between the database and client program is constantly connected and usually updating in real time. This, in turn, uses a large amount of constant bandwidth and ties up both server and computer resources. Over the past few years, application vendors have transitioned their fat client programs to the cloud. Now, you can simply log into a website and have access to all of the tools and functionality of a locally installed database program.

“OK….where is he going with all of this?”

How this Relates to Windows Server 2003

So we are back to Server 2003 and what the purpose is of this server in your business. If you are only utilizing it to house Active Directory, file shares, and one or two applications, there are online services available for you to not only retire the operating system, but the hardware as well. How do we do that?  Let’s take a look at what the current roles your server is providing and what online services there are to cover those roles.

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Most of the larger software providers have been providing online services for quite some time now. Others are also following suite. As hosting and cloud services become even more inexpensive, we will see smaller application providers offer an online solution.

2Migrating your server roles to online services will lower your dependency to onsite hardware. The most efficient way to approach moving to online services is when a major upgrade is apparent, hence Server 2003. *wink* *wink* 

How the Cloud Plays Into All of This

Migrating away from hardware doesn’t just rely on hosted services. Cloud resources have come down in cost substantially over the last couple of years. With internet speeds increasing and becoming more affordable, businesses are able to budget operating IT costs into their IT plan. If it's time for you to replace your 2003 server and your server roles are not available online, you can spin up your new server in the cloud rather than acquiring hardware. Dependent on internet speeds, you can migrate away from onsite hardware all together.

The Future is Here

Our recommendation is to review all of your server roles and determine what services are available online and whether spending a large capital expense is necessary. We encourage our customers to invest that money in training and to invest in less hardware dependent solutions. It’s the wave of the future, and your chance to leave hardware behind.

Contact Network Center, Inc. today and speak with one of our technology consultants to see what options are available to your business. We can help you save money and turn that capital expense into an investment into the future.

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Topics: technology consulting, Cloud Services, Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Upgrading hardware, IT Plan

Exploring Mobility, the Cloud, and Analytics

Posted by Brett Anderson on Feb 27, 2015 4:21:00 PM

It’s an exciting time to be in technology! With new advancements each year, we are seeing increasing productivity, decreasing costs and many new ways to interact with customers. As these new technologies become more mature, their credibility increases and their usefulness in everyday business grows. Looking out into 2015, Network Center, Inc. is excited about 3 technologies in particular, and we encourage our customers to explore how they can make a difference in their business. Although Mobility, Cloud and Analytics have been around for many years, we believe they have grown in their features and practical uses. These three technologies will play an even larger role in 2015 and beyond. Here are a few of our thoughts in these areas.

mobility-1024x572Mobility

The use of mobile devices (tablets and phones) to drive productivity has gained popularity over the past several years. The reality is mobility is a two-sided coin and both sides of the coin need to be understood before you can embrace all that a mobile strategy can do for your business. The first consideration is related to productivity. How can you maximize your workforce via mobile devices? Allowing employees to access corporate email on their mobile devices is the easiest way to drive productivity, but everyone is doing this. How do you set yourself apart from your competition?  How can you make a difference in your employees’ success? How can you improve on the customer experience? These three questions can help you craft ideas that really make a difference. For instance, do you need an app with sales information? Or maybe a secure, responsive intranet site for inventory or scheduling details? There are many ways to leverage a mobile device to empower your employees and differentiate yourself from your competitors. Network Center, Inc. encourages you to build a strategy that fits your business!

The second consideration is the risk associated with allowing company resources to be accessed via mobile devices. What if the device is lost or stolen? What if there isn’t a passcode on the device? What if there are documents stored locally? What if the applications on the device have loose security? How do you mitigate these risks? The best way to address this is with an ‘insurance policy’ – a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution can help you mitigate these risks. There are many MDM solutions in the market, but we can help you choose one that is a good fit for your needs.

shutterstock_105420140Cloud

If you have heard a few of us at Network Center, Inc. talk about “The Cloud”, you’ve probably heard a little sarcasm in our voice when we use that word – people are using the term “Cloud” to mean everything but nothing in particular. We’ve been fortunate enough to have many great clients who have embraced the cloud at varying levels. And this is really the power of the cloud – being able to choose what makes the most sense for your organization. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution but rather a fully customizable palette you can choose from. A few of these scenarios we have helped our customers with include: 

  1. Moving servers, compute and infrastructure offsite
  2. Leveraging productivity-based software in the cloud
  3. Building a business continuity/disaster recovery (BCDR) solution
  4. Mitigating connectivity or other soft issues
  5. Addressing cyclical and seasonal needs with scalable solutions

There are so many benefits to moving pieces of your business to the cloud. We encourage you to talk with Network Center, Inc. to see how the cloud can save you money, drive productivity and reduce risk. 

analyticsAnalytics

If you attended nVision 2014 you heard me talk about the power of analytics. I call it one of the most impactful yet underused technologies of the past 10 years. The best way to define the concept of analytics is to describe its benefits:

  1. Self-service: Easy to use and does not require a report writing expert.  If you can use Excel you can leverage analytics.
  2. Interactive: You can ask questions of the data, build variations of reports and be more analytical without writing new reports from scratch.
  3. Predictive: Analytics can be used in trending and predicting!
  4. Distributable: Rather than sending out large files, analytic solutions are based on reports that link back to the server data.

Many of our customers define Analytics as a game changer. If you want to learn how analytics can change your business, talk to your Network Center, Inc. representative. We at Network Center, Inc. are excited for what's to come, and we challenge our customers to do great things.

Contact Us Today!

Topics: Mobility, Website Analytics, Mobile Device Management, Interactive Services, Cloud Services, Analytics

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