Technology Solutions: Cloud Computing
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Posted by: Keith Murley, New York Chapter
By Keith Murley, Manager of Information Systems, Schimenti Construction Company
Economic uncertainty has created the need for swift, responsive and highly secured IT infrastructures that are also environmentally friendly and more business focused. Organizations are struggling to find the competitive edge, turning to the bounty of opportunities technology provides. Cautious to jump at the latest buzz phrases and hyped solutions, many have cautiously investigated recent technology breakthroughs, many of which have one thing in common: redistribution of IT roles. There is no better time than the present to revamp technology strategy focused on hosted solutions. Clouds are gathering...
Cloud computing has emerged as one of the major ways to secure an upper hand in today's highly competitive market. Minutes of downtime means the loss of vital sales as businesses with prolonged data loss find themselves in a real position of collapsing. Cloud computing changes the traditional corporate data center structure that resides on company premises. Instead, systems are moved to secure outsourced data centers, either in a private or public configuration. Private clouds are dedicated servers used exclusively for a single company, whereas public clouds have multiple companies sharing the same resources. Additional research is therefore essential in deciding which cloud configuration best meets your needs, most importantly regarding legal and privacy requirements.
Technology departments across all industries are met with similar issues including budget cuts, personnel downsize and mounting pressure for technology to prove its worth in answering key business issues. A great deal of IT departments run with a vague, or possibly blind, vision into the future, focusing on day-to-day network upkeep and expending great amounts of money keeping core systems operational. This approach leaves no time for innovation, process improvements or meeting business strategic objectives. Competitive advantage can be gained by moving day-to-day operations out, allowing execution of strategic initiatives.
The diverse and seemingly endless potential of cloud computing make it a very attractive solution to some of today's most important business issues. Whether it's upgrading data entry applications, launching new collaboration portals or overhauling demanding e-mail systems, all is possible and occurring today within the cloud. Historically, engineers of all sorts, including database, security, applications and integrations were needed on staff in order to begin new initiatives. Hosted solutions provide all that information without the heavy staffing costs. Building a partnership with a reliable IT solutions provider will deeply impact the success of your initiatives. A good hosting provider will act as a direct extension of your IT department, offering solutions to the business issues you discover in the renewed IT strategic approach. Your success has a direct effect on their success.
E-mail is the number one communication medium used in the 21st century workplace, and it grows more complex on a daily basis. It is an integral workflow component and is an excellent means for automating communication, increasing information flow to customers and employees, without the need to drain employee time sending reports and updates. An increased number of applications have been developed specifically to integrate with the company messaging system, some of which automatically generate bills, and others send out vital project warnings and notifications. Without expertise for each one of its many parts, integration opportunities may be lost, leaving businesses in danger of lost internal and external communication, which translates into poor customer service and decreased profit.
Overwhelmingly, the cloud has been a proven success for replacing traditional business e-mail environments. Software costs, server replacements and constant applications training make it an expensive system to maintain. Again, time spent tending to IT infrastructure takes away from valuable time streamlining old and costly systems. If you don't become more efficient, your competition will.
One mid-sized organization was faced with a difficult situation. Operating on an aging Microsoft Exchange platform, the mailbox database had grown to its maximum size without the possibility of adding additional message stores. Three servers that were the backbone of the Exchange system were approaching 10 years old and experiencing hardware malfunctions. An expensive investment in hardware and software seemed like the only answer. However, IT management realized the benefits of a Microsoft Exchange hosting solution, and therefore sought out a reputable hosting provider to address their growth issues. After careful planning and execution, local servers were migrated to the outsourced data center, and the results were nothing short of impressive.
Within the first month of the transition, help desk calls dropped by more than 10 percent, and e-mail availability became higher than ever, greatly attributed to the team of systems experts at their disposal. Critical systems updates and maintenance were performed regularly by the new Exchange hosting team, and key performance indicators were actively monitored. Discrepancies were resolved immediately. Such dedication and proactive response time would have been impossible to do with the previous e-mail infrastructure and company IT staff.
Transitioning to the Microsoft Exchange hosted service eliminated the need to purchase brand new servers or invest in the latest software upgrades. No longer will the company be faced with huge, unexpected hardware replacement costs. Instead, the fixed monthly hosting costs help keep the IT budget balanced and funds spent more wisely. Packaged with the Microsoft Exchange hosted solution was an e-compliant archiving system and a leading anti-spam solution; one more way the company saved money.
All the technology endeavors translated into better service for the customer. Now, the business stands strong with a robust, adaptive e-mail system and comprehensive electronic audit trail. The tier four data center where the e-mail service resides has been a welcome addition to the company disaster recovery plan. Capping out the many benefits is the approximately $50,000 saved annually along with lower carbon emissions through retirement of old servers.
As technology leaders and innovators, we must avoid the trap of judging success on traditional measurements, such as network uptime and backup reliability. Instead, creating an IT strategic plan with input from company executives opens our eyes to new possibilities. Technology can be a true business enabler, and cloud computing is one way to yield measurable business results, molding information technology into business technology.
About the author
Keith Murley is Manager of Information Systems for Schimenti Construction, a general contractor specializing in retail construction. He can be reached at (914) 244-9100. For more information on Schimenti, please go to http://www.schimenti.com/.