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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.

blog-table2

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.

Contact Us Today!

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

The Power of the Onsite Visit

Posted by Alex Kingsley on Mar 27, 2015 4:49:55 PM

server-room1A good majority of my first year working at Network Center, Inc. has been spent working onsite at one of our customer’s locations. Some might think that having a technician onsite is unnecessary, or maybe even be an inconvenience, but in my experience it is very much the opposite. There are many benefits that come with being onsite both during the project and for some time after.       

One of the best things we can do for our customers is to build a good, strong relationship with their end users. This creates trust, alleviates any customer anxiety, and creates an overall good feeling for the customer knowing that when they need help, they will be talking to someone who is willing and able to help them. Being onsite allows the customer to see a face behind the phone and helps them to see that we are normal people more than willing to assist in any way we possibly can.

While onsite I was troubleshooting an issue and talking to the end user. Through that conversation we happened to start talking about our families. The head of the department overheard us and came out and said “It is so nice to hear an IT geek talking about something as normal as their family. I thought all you guys talked about were computers.” It’s that personal touch that can go a long way differentiating traditional support with someone who actually cares. It’s not always about the technology. Quite honestly we find it’s as much about the person as an individual and understanding them as it is the technology and potential issues it may be causing. Another benefit is that it’s a great way to allow a customer to ask questions that they might not necessarily feel are important enough to call in about, but is something that still needs to be fixed.

Being onsite is a very powerful way to show the customer that our main objective is to help them in any way that we can, whether it be fixing something that is broken, or improving something that no longer works as well as it should. We strive to support our customers holistically and this is another means to help make that happen.

Please contact Network Center, Inc. with any of your technology questions.

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Topics: technology consulting, Onsite visits

IT Infrastructure: Expense or Business Investment

Posted by Jon Ryan on Aug 25, 2014 2:00:00 PM

1It’ll be here before you know it. You are told by your IT provider that your hardware needs to be replaced. “Again?  Didn’t we just replace that recently?” The mindset of the traditional business is to only purchase infrastructure based on their depreciation schedule. In some cases that schedule can be up to 5 years. Depreciation is often used by businesses for capital purchases to help deduct expensive infrastructure costs. But what is the driving factor to replacing or upgrading your infrastructure?

Days of the Old

Back in the day, businesses relied more on manual processes to operate as a business. File cabinets and paper copies were a large part of business process. People actually used “In-boxes” on their desks to process requests. Most of the company infrastructure was aimed at backbone services only. Businesses would purchase phone systems and financial processing servers for running the core business infrastructure. Network traffic was minimal and desktops were used until they no longer powered on. Businesses would re-use their old hardware until it was completely necessary to replace it. Thus viewing this as a necessary expense that only needs to be replaced once completely unusable.

Today’s IT Landscape

Fast forward quite a few years to today’s IT needs. The technology landscape has changed drastically. In today’s world, server and desktop computer processing is the center of your business. “In-boxes” have been replaced by email and workflow processes and that core server is being used for more than just backbone application processing. Computer technology has become the center of every business. To show how much we rely on technology, just think if your computer crashes or you lose your data. Or your servers are down for several days. What kind of impact does that have on you and your company?  One thing that many businesses don’t realize is that their business drives your technology needs. As businesses grow, more resources are needed to support the growth. Faster and more efficient processing of your day to day operations can lead to very substantial efficiencies. When new systems are put in place, it is not uncommon to adjust internal process to keep up with the faster technology.  That pile of orders sitting on your desk no longer takes a week to get into the system. Resulting in faster order processing and more output.

2IT as a Business Investment

As opposed to traditional views of company technology being an expense, something that is only done out of minimal necessity, businesses need to start realizing and thinking of their technology as a Business Investment. In order to really see your technology as an investment, you have to ask yourself, what does my technology drive? You’ll be surprised to find out that it drives EVERYTHING! From scheduling, to payroll, to orders, to accounting, to communication, to profit, your infrastructure is there processing it all. As you do with hiring and investing in good staff, you also need to invest in your IT Infrastructure. It is not uncommon for us to see servers and infrastructure that is 5 - 7 years old. Many times only replaced because of discontinued OS support. But the more important issue with using antiquated technology is that with all of advances and the fast changing IT world, there are much more efficient technologies to take advantage of. Possibly even propelling your business to an all new level.

At NetWork Center, Inc. we can help review your current technology age and usage and recommend any changes that might be needed. With over 28 years of in the technology industry, we have the engineers and consultants that can help you determine your IT business investment opportunities. 

Contact Us Today!

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., IT Consulting, IT Solutions, technology consulting

One Size Fits All, Sasquatch, and Consulting

Posted by Ric Todd on Jul 23, 2014 5:00:00 PM

Flash Consulting 2 resized 600Like Sasquatch, One Size Fits All (henceforth referred to 1SFA) in IT is a myth. Sure there are people who still cling to the belief despite copious evidence to the contrary. Some will even end up throwing all kinds of well-intentioned money and time to prove otherwise. Often it’s just easier to fill a need with the easiest answer, but in the end, without asking what the underlying problem or question is, it’s really never truly solved. More importantly, was there an opportunity to move the entire effort forward? Was there an opportunity to pivot? 

What am I really talking about? 

I wish I had dollar for every time someone asked me, "What should we do?" Really, what the question being asked when boiled down is..."How do I spend the least amount of money and brain power to get this problem solved so I can move on with what I need to focus on?" These are perfectly legitimate questions. Regardless the problem, it’s pretty safe to say the business wasn't started to solve the problem at hand. To be clear, I couldn't agree more. That's why people pay me to answer the questions. They want to move on and think about what they are supposed to be thinking about….Enter Consulting. 

So what do I mean?

I am often asked to be involved in preliminary conversations with new customers in order to strategize the best course of action for their IT needs. Whether they are a 5 person or 5000 person organization, this conversation is extremely helpful in bringing together the right forces for the effort. If we begin with the goal in mind, we always end up at the right destination. This is the real benefit of consulting, otherwise known as "asking pertinent questions and using experience and critical thinking to give recommendations and guide efforts towards a desired result."  

But holdup, isn't consulting expensive? 

It depends on whether you take the long or short view. Sure, sometimes writing a check for a document that has a bunch of words and some neat looking graphics is hard. But when you take a look at what the impact of those words and graphics can be, it’s a whole different ballgame. Further, I am constantly involved in engagements with differing levels of influence, whether approving budgets and expenditures, or literally turning knobs, it’s not always just words. It's a whole lot more. 

pic technology consulting resized 600Spit it out already...

I have a tough time when people ask me what I do, because the easiest thing to say is...computers. Most people can wrap their heads around that. The fact of the matter is, I work in solutions. Infrastructure and computers cost money and historically have rarely directly contributed to a Profit &Loss report. Solutions on the other hand, can have a profound direct impact. Whether it’s a discussion surrounding mail services or an entire cloud migration, all of these decisions should be synchronized with the organizations overarching strategy, not brought to the table after the fact. 

In other words, I deal in solutions. There is no 1SFA solution. It doesn't exist because there are no two business that are identical and no two problems that are the same. Sure, we use many of the same tools to solve them, but I make sure I understand what we are really after, even if sometimes the asker doesn't necessarily know. 

Here's a 10 cent tip....

Anyone who is proposing a product or item without asking what your business does and how its players operate before proposing isn't really concerned with your success, they are more concerned with selling something. 

So that's what I mean...

sasquatch resized 600Yep, it’s a novel concept in any field, but I want to talk to you about what you do, what your employees do, and how you make your money or perform your services, and what drives you. Not only is it the right thing to do, but I also find your story interesting. There is also a good chance that there is a more impactful way to execute that technology plan you may or may not have. After all, one answer would never work to answer every question asked of me. And sorry folks, Sasquatch doesn't exist. Bummer. I know. 

Give us a buzz if you're ready to have that conversation.

Contact Us Today!

Topics: IT Consulting, IT Solutions, technology consulting

The Importance of a Business Workflow Process

Posted by Jon Ryan on Jun 27, 2014 4:00:00 PM

Business Workflow Process 1 resized 600As a small to medium business it is common that internal process workflow can many times get overlooked. Even though it’s an integral part to all businesses, having business workflows implemented and documented usually takes a back seat to other business operations. In most cases businesses will operate well enough without a defined workflow process. 

For the purposes of this article we define Business Workflow Process as an activity that is created through software or documentation with the intension of directing employee actions/activities into a defined and consistent process. So let’s look at some of the advantages of implementing a defined Business Workflow Process.

1. Defines Process and Drives ERP
If you currently don’t have business workflows setup for your company, there is no better time than now to start developing them. Creating workflows will help define your business processes and subsequently drive your ERP solution. Every business has an ERP solution even if it’s not contained in a single solution. 

Some ERP solutions have workflow processes built in. For those that don’t, companies must create their own through documentation or programs that have some kind of workflow capabilities. Microsoft SharePoint is many times used for creating workflow processes. ERP programs can also assist with workflow process creation by taking advantage of built in workflow features. Process workflow can also help determine what ERP solution would fit your business model.

2. Creates Structure
No two people do their job exactly the same, so to operate a business with a great deal of efficiency, the trick is to get them to work together fluently. Business workflow can be created down to the individual job level. This not only gives you control and insight into your business process, but also gives you security and consistency during employment turnover. Operating a business with a loose process structure can be costly when dealing with correcting errors and managing damage control. Every business should have a repository of process flow charts and workflow definition documents.

3. Enforces Policy
Business workflow processes can help enforce the policies of your business. You can direct users to refer to the workflow documentation for the proper process to follow. Within the workflow documentation be sure to reference specific policies within the process. This simple addition to your business model will help ensure your customers are treated in a consistent manner and increase your level of business process continuity.

Business Workflow Process 2 resized 6004. Is Transparent To Your Customers
Having a defined workflow process will enable you to better serve your customers. Aligning your business processes to the needs of your customers is a win-win solution. One of the business characteristics customers look for is confidence and consistency within a business. Simply put, if you are confident in your processes, your customers will be confident in you.

5. Helps Define Technology Needs
Defining a workflow process will allow you to review and compare it to your technology plan. Creating, or changing your process workflow can have a substantial effect on your IT infrastructure. Knowing ahead of time will help you budget for those changes.

While developing and implementing a process is important, defining your future workflow processes will also help you plan for your future technology needs as well. Try to work on a future process plan. Maybe it’s a wish list of improvements, or a plan to add additional users or steps in the process. Having clear sight of your future process workflows will help predict and plan for those changes.

6. Identifies Gaps in Business Process
Implementing a business workflow process forces each business to review their processes in fine detail. This exercise is a great way to find out what areas of workflow need work or are missing completely. I’ve assisted customers to create a complete workflow system starting with nothing. After discussing general workflow with management I interviewed department managers and created workflow documentation that was later reviewed and approved by management. This allowed the business to see the areas that lacked detail in process. Once we defined those areas, managers were able to “fill the gap” with new process documentation to give employees clear definition on process.

Whether you’re a large enterprise business or a small 20-user company, Business Workflow Process can help you become more efficient, and more profitable. To find out more about our consulting services that include Enterprise Resource Planning, IT Infrastructure Planning, and Process Workflow Management, contact NetWork Center, Inc. for more information.

Contact Us Today! 

 

Topics: technology training, business workflow process, technology consulting

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