Data Solutions Pro Panel
Even the most educated, seasoned employers can feel overwhelmed and frustrated when it comes to addressing the variety of data issues that business owners face. We compiled a panel of local experts to guide you through some of the most pressing questions facing employers today.
What’s happening in the technology landscape right now?
James Ingle The ongoing theme with technology is that it always gets faster and cheaper. While this is true, the overall cost of the gear tends to remain the same. You may get faster processors and larger hard drives, but the cost per server remains roughly the same.
Luke Simon There is not a single day that goes by that I don’t learn about a new technology I get the opportunity to work with. I think the most fascinating segment of tech today is the buzz around “IoT” or Internet of Things. The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices. Cisco Systems believes that by 2030 that number will be 500 billion—that’s billion. This essentially means that any device with an on/off switch that can be connected will be connected to the internet and/or to each other. This would include everything from cell phones, wearable devices, coffee makers, lighting, and security systems to washing machines. Working in tech for over 10 years now, I couldn’t be more excited considering all these devices need to connect and be supported by the systems we design, sell, integrate and support.
How are businesses taking advantage of the new techNOLOGY that’s available?
James Ingle There’s definitely a “Build or Buy” dichotomy going on. For example, in order to find efficiencies in the data center, customers are looking to consolidated models—technologies that allow you to buy turnkey solutions, instead of trying to build it on your own. Business owners are looking to reduce staff costs and improve competitive differentiation, and leveraging converged or hyperconverged technologies can help with this.
Converged, Hyperconverged… what does that actually mean? Explain it to me like I’m your mom…
Luke Simon Converged infrastructure takes traditional equipment—servers, storage and networking—and bundles it together into a pre-built solution, delivered in a turnkey manner. Think of it as picking out furniture at IKEA that is delivered fully assembled, instead of in three separate boxes of drawers, shelves, a bag of screws and a set of instructions that states, “Will take two moderately skilled individuals X hours to complete this project.” This greatly reduces the workload required for the IT staff to build and maintain the solution.
James Ingle Hyperconverged infrastructure is a new offering that is similar to how Google and Facebook host applications in their respective data centers. This new model takes the key components of a traditional server infrastructure and creates “nodes” that you add to your environment as you grow. These nodes are tied together with high-speed networks. To continue the IKEA metaphor, you’re buying shelves and stacking them together as you need them, instead of buying a fully assembled, predetermined shelving unit. This simplifies the acquisition and budgeting process for business owners by leveraging scale-out technologies.
You mentioned Google and Facebook. What about Amazon and the cloud?
Luke Simon Amazon is an amazing company and everyone knows about the retail supergiant they are. Did you know that Amazon is also a cloud company? Their relevance to the cloud hosted market—or what I like to describe as “somebody else’s servers”—has been nothing short of incredible. For example, the movies you watch on Netflix are being served by “their cloud.” That’s one end of the spectrum, though.
James Ingle The idea of not owning the equipment your applications run on is appealing—depending on the use case. However, security and bandwidth are major roadblocks at times in getting to public cloud entities, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. The idea of hybrid cloud has emerged as the best option for most of our customers. A hybrid cloud simply means customers still have servers and applications local to their users, but leverage cloud services for specific uses— such as email, backup and disaster recovery.
How do I train my staff for current technology trends?
James Ingle When you’re budgeting and preparing for major technology investments, you should absolutely be considering the training that your staff will need to maintain these investments. A common challenge most of our customers have is that training is usually a lower priority when compared to the organizational benefits the solution itself will provide. Our recommendation is to create a budget for your purchases and your training together. Then, utilize a company like AOS for ongoing technical assistance, additional education and to fill in the more specialized technical gaps.
How do I keep my data protected?
James Ingle Ninety percent of breaches impact small businesses and $36k+ is the average cost of a data breach for a small business. Thirty-one percent of customers terminate their relationship with the business after a breach. So, assume that the worst can happen when you least expect it (case in point: Target). Just because your data is safe now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t constantly be checking your vulnerabilities. Cyber-attacks are constantly evolving their methods of gaining access and taking control—your defense strategy should be just as sophisticated.
Luke Simon Much like Shrek described ogres as having “layers,” your security plan should have layers—not simply products. Think of it much like you consider the security of your family, your home and your finances. There is no single product that will protect all three. It really just boils down to how much risk you are willing to expose yourself to, and how much help you need evaluating the risk.
How do I get the value out of my technology partner?
Luke Simon A VAR (Value Added Reseller) should provide two things, at the very least: Expertise and Time. Expertise is critical and the true differentiator between VARs. A good VAR will provide good products at great prices and on time (think online retailer). A great VAR will apply their expertise and add an understanding of your business to draw a clear path from the business objective to the technology solution. This expertise, applied to the front end of any technology decision, will help prevent technology missteps, improve system reliability and enable the existing IT staff to focus more on the business. The second thing a VAR should provide is time in the form of pre-purchase design assistance, post-purchase configuration and training assistance. If you’re unable to budget sufficient training for the newer technologies, front-end design assistance is critical to the education process of your IT team. If your internal team doesn’t have the time, and the business objectives can’t wait, a good VAR will have certified resources available to augment your team to accomplish the project. A great VAR will take that a step further and provide periodic health checks and assessments throughout the life cycle of the technology to validate the value of the decision.
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