Month: December 2012

Outsourcing to the Cloud

Some people have an understandably negative reaction towards the word “outsourcing.” Basically, the phrase means to contract out a business process to a separate company or freelancers. The reaction to “outsourcing” would probably be more neutral if the meanings associated with the word ended there. However, a fair amount of people associate the practice of contracting out business processes with less-than-desirable quality, questionable labor conditions, and domestic unemployment. For this reason, businesses may be concerned about the public relations consequences of outsourcing their IT. In addition, on-staff personnel may be afraid of losing their jobs to an external hosting provider. Outsourcing does not have to involve sacrificing quality, ethics, or valued colleagues when a business signs up with an experienced and top-of-the-line cloud hosting provider, however.

Contracted-out IT shares with other forms of outsourcing its ability to save costs. With outsourced IT, businesses no longer have to deal with the expenses of purchasing and maintaining advanced on-site hardware. Instead of servers, storage devices, and workstations, companies only need thin clients, refurbished PCs, a permissive BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, and basic networking equipment. Businesses save thousands of dollars in physical hardware investments alone as a result. In addition, companies no longer require on-site IT personnel. Of course, in the end they pay less in total to the hosting provider than it would have cost them to build and maintain their own IT infrastructure themselves. For their part, external hosting companies cost more to operate than a single IT department, but their economies of scale and multiple customers let them host at a much lower per-infrastructure cost.

Meanwhile, outsourced cloud IT actually improves the quality of an IT infrastructure, in contrast with other forms of outsourcing that sacrifice quality for lower costs. Hosting providers’ superiority results from their larger amount of personnel and resources. These companies can afford to hire better qualified staff with more varied and valuable skills and equip them with the best monitoring and automation tools. On-site IT personnel aren’t less qualified than off-site engineers and technicians, of course—the former simply have less hardware and software resources and fewer coworkers to assist them.

More importantly perhaps than improvements in cost-efficiency and quality, outsourcing IT infrastructures lets businesses’ managers and employees focus on their own work. Too often in the workplace, an employee with technical knowledge has to do double-duty as an in-house IT specialist, troubleshooting and repairing PCs and managing on-site hardware. Infrastructure management and technical support services come packaged with the cloud-based solutions of many hosting providers, however. Not only does this allow managers and employees to focus on their primary tasks, it also lets on-site IT personnel set their sights on more ambitious or valuable projects instead of merely maintaining and supporting the existing infrastructure.

Businesses looking for the ultimate in IT peace of mind, however, should select IronOrbit. With IronOrbit, they get an all-in-one, fully managed and supported IT infrastructure. The solution comes with all the IT components and services a business needs and none of the usual worries:

-24x7x365 technical support. Whether it’s 3 in the afternoon or 12 in the morning, IronOrbit has dozens of highly-trained technicians ready to assist you at any time.

-Fully-managed. The IronOrbit team will work around-the-clock to maintain the security and performance of your IT infrastructure at its highest level.

-Low, flat fees. No more worrying about unexpected software upgrade and hardware replacement costs—you only have to pay a flat monthly rate for IronOrbit.

-No additional on-site hardware required. With IronOrbit, you get a state-of-the-art, fully-equipped IT infrastructure without having to purchase a single server or storage device.

-100% guaranteed uptime. IronOrbit maximizes the availability and reliability of your files and applications. Sign up for it today with a no-risk, 30-day trial.

The Benefits for Construction Companies of Hosting their IT Infrastructures in the Clouds

Construction companies are particularly well-suited for cloud-based IT infrastructures. For many of its employees, their “office” is a temporary construction site. Some construction companies have workers that travel from location to location, while others assign and oversee groups of workers at multiple sites. Meanwhile, the “brains” of the operation—the architects, engineers, and project managers—may not even be located at a construction site, remaining at headquarters (perhaps hundreds of miles away, in the case of multinational construction companies like Fluor and Bechtel) where they remotely contribute their expertise to several projects at once. Also, the mobile devices that in-the-field contractors carry with them—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—do not have the storage space to handle the electronic blueprints of medium-to-large projects.

Only a cloud-based IT infrastructure can address the challenges of dispersed personnel working with such heavy-duty files and software. With the cloud, employees everywhere can get full and immediate access to the company’s applications—its project management, document management, and cost estimation software. An online infrastructure also ensures that everyone in a company has the most up-to-date version of a file. Without a cloud infrastructure, apps would have to be individually installed on each employee’s device. The company’s infrastructure would become decentralized, leading to less oversight and control, more data loss, and more inconsistencies (resulting in potentially grave and expensive mistakes at the worksite). Web-based infrastructures also make it easy to send and receive bids, RFIs, RFPs, and RFQs.

In addition to helping to increase the accessibility and centralization of a company’s files and applications, cloud computing also assists construction firms in the areas of costs, collaboration, and regulatory compliance. Construction companies can save a lot of money with the cloud. It prevents them from having to purchase servers, storage devices, and other advanced IT hardware. Those with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies don’t have to purchase any workstations or mobile devices for their employees, either. And because clouds can be built, canceled, or scaled up or down at any time, they are a great month-to-month option for temporary construction projects. Meanwhile, cloud computing’s remarkable accessibility not only lets employees but also project partners and stakeholders gain easy access to files and applications. At the same time, properly-equipped clouds can ensure compliance with data security regulations as much as the most well-protected on-site database.

Though a few developers of engineering and construction software provide cloud-based versions of their applications, construction companies would be better off signing up for an IronOrbit Private Cloud Infrastructure. The benefits of IronOrbit include:

Multiple applications. Host your project management, document management, CAD, and cost estimation apps on a single IT infrastructure.

Full-featured desktop environment. With IronOrbit, you can access your email, browse the Internet, and generally do anything that a locally-installed Windows operating system can do—even if you log in from a smartphone or tablet. Conversely, with a SaaS solution, your movements would be restricted to a single program.

Fully managed, supported, and secure infrastructure. The IronOrbit team will monitor
and maintain your infrastructure around-the-clock, while also providing 24x7x365 online and phone-based technical support. Our patented Orbital Security System (including firewalls, antivirus, intrusion detection system, content filter, and data backup) will protect your files and applications and also ensure your compliance with data security regulations.

Scalability. IronOrbit can support your infrastructure whether you’re building a skyscraper or a single-story house.

Reliability. Your IT infrastructure will never be the cause of project delays with our 100% uptime guarantee.

Fixed, low costs. Your IT infrastructure won’t be the cause of your cost overruns, either, with our fixed monthly rates starting at $1 per user per day.

Renovate your IT infrastructure with IronOrbit today!

How the Cloud Can Help Schools

At first glance, K-12 schools and colleges may not seem like the best candidates for a cloud-based infrastructure or solution. For the most part, students can collaborate in-person with their teachers and classmates and don’t need an online workspace. Also, there are still many teachers that prefer an old-fashioned, paper-and-pencil approach to learning. Furthermore, in a time of severe budget cuts to education, any costs not related to raising teacher salaries or averting job cuts will probably face serious challenges. Education IT has its fair share of data security and privacy regulations, too.

Despite these objections, however, schools should still prefer cloud computing over an on-site IT infrastructure. To start, cloud computing does a much better job of addressing costs, the number one concern of most learning institutions. The cloud reverses the trend of cutting-edge technologies being restrictively expensive and available to only the most capital-rich enterprises. For schools, it would lower on-premises hardware requirements (eliminating the need for pricey servers and networking equipment) and extend workstation lifecycles. On-site IT personnel would no longer be required. If every school in the country switched to cloud computing, the education system could likely reduce its $1 trillion in expenditures by upwards of tens of billions of dollars every year.

Secondly, cloud computing can still be helpful even for schools interested in maintaining a low-tech, distraction-free learning environment. Every teacher and administrator inevitably needs certain technologies: the Internet, printers, email, a library system, and word processing, spreadsheet, PowerPoint, and electronic testing, grading, and scheduling software. To deploy these technologies as part of or in conjunction with a cloud-based infrastructure is much easier, quicker, and cost-effective. Cloud-based applications also let teachers access their email and input grades from home.

Thirdly, cloud-based infrastructures and solutions are also preferable for higher-tech classrooms and institutions. Every recent education IT innovation—digital textbooks, school-provided devices, online classes, and Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs)—works better with the cloud. For example, students could access digital textbooks and other online learning materials from their own laptops, netbooks, tablets, or smartphones brought from home, preventing schools from having to purchase hardware for everyone. Students without a mobile device could takes notes or do work in a cloud-based textbook on their home PC and then access it from a campus workstation. In addition, the low-cost netbooks and tablets that some educational institutions pass out to alleviate burdensome workstation maintenance costs rely heavily on cloud-based applications. The cloud also has the flexibility and scalability for schools looking to host their own online classes and MOOCs, which have been growing extremely fast and involve large numbers of simultaneously-connected users. Already, 250,000 students attend online K-12 schools, 12 million are enrolled in an online college course, and students in some of the more popular MOOCs have over 100,000 classmates.

Some educators still express reservations about the cloud because of myths about its insecurity and unreliability. Regulations require them to store sensitive information such as grades, test scores, and financial aid data in highly secure IT infrastructures. With the IronOrbit Dedicated Private Cloud Infrastructure, however, educational institutions can upgrade to the cloud without downgrading their IT security. IronOrbit has a multidimensional data protection system (including firewalls, antivirus, intrusion detection systems, content filters, and data backup) and is HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SSAE 16 compliant. Along with enterprise-level security, users of IronOrbit can expect:

Scalability. Do you have 25 students in your class, or 2,500? With IronOrbit, it doesn’t matter—you can support any amount of users.

Performance. With IronOrbit’s Atomic Speed Technology, your applications always perform at their highest level.

Control. IronOrbit has a centralized architecture that lets you set system-wide security and usage policies quickly and easily.

Fixed, low costs. No more unpredictable IT costs. With IronOrbit, you always know your monthly IT bill in advance.

Reliability. We guarantee 100% uptime.

Graduate to a secure, reliable, and high-performance private cloud with IronOrbit today!

What to Watch for in 2013: Cloud Edition

It is difficult enough for most businesspeople to keep up with the latest technological advancements; predicting future developments can be even harder. Business owners already have a lot to deal with, and many do not have the time or the preexisting knowledge to forecast tomorrow’s IT trends. Rather than investigate or mull over these things themselves, however, they can simply take a  few moments to read one of the many 2013 IT previews put out this time of year by prominent journalists and analysts. The main arguments and predictions of these authors can be summarized as follows:

-Mobile devices and applications will continue to rely on the cloud computing’s cost-efficient and eminently available processing power, according to Forrester Research. The firm also predicts that the cloud’s ever-apparent security and reliability will convince more and more companies to adopt cloud-based disaster recovery systems.

-The research company IDC expects the externally-hosted private cloud to become more popular among businesses. It has the advantage over the public cloud of being more secure, reliable, and compliant. IDC also recommends the externally-hosted private cloud over the internal private cloud, which has been shown to result in “cost and time overruns.” In addition, the firm predicts that cloud computing—along with mobile, social, and big data technologies—will be responsible for 90% of IT growth from 2013-2020.

Ovum, a UK-based research firm, similarly reports that the private cloud “outpaces” public and hybrid clouds and remains “the cloud of choice.”

-Public sector organizations will adopt cloud-based infrastructures at double the rate of 2012, according to IDC Government. The research firm also expects them to implement 35-45% more mobile applications.

-The adoption of virtualization technologies by SMBs will increase, argues TechTarget. Virtualization’s savings in energy and hardware costs and its superior redundancy will entice many SMBs, though vendors will have to do a better job of making it easier to understand and adopt. The article also quotes one industry expert as tweeting, “Clearly the #VDI desktop has replaced conventional PC. Most large deployments going into the new year are VDI cloud desktops #VMware #Citrix.”

Businesses always have to be looking ahead. They cannot allow alterations in the marketplace to catch them flatfooted. By adjusting in advance, they can forgo abrupt changes and outmaneuver the competition. However, businesses still have to be careful not to be drawn in by every trend that comes along. The trick is to strike a balance between stability and innovativeness.

Businesses that select IronOrbit do not have to worry about adjusting their IT infrastructure according to current and future developments, however. That is because IronOrbit is a unique solution that combines both proven and cutting-edge technologies. On one hand, the cloud computing and virtualization technologies at its core have been utilized and trusted for many years. On the other hand, its patented Atomic Speed Technology, Orbital Security System, and innovative private cloud services make IronOrbit more powerful, secure, and reliable than any other cloud-based infrastructure available today. In addition, IronOrbit’s flexible architecture lets it adjust to new IT developments by adding new features. It recently added two-factor authentication and Windows 8 support, for example. IronOrbit is the IT infrastructure of the past, future, and today.

Gametime for the Cloud: Increased Availability and Cost-Efficiency Through Cloud Computing

Cloud-based gaming and digital distribution demonstrate the cost-efficiency, flexibility, and availability benefits of cloud computing. Mobile games have always been the most common and well-known form of cloud-based gaming. Not all mobile games are entirely cloud-based—some need to be downloaded and installed onto the user’s smartphone or tablet to be played. However, there are a number of mobile videogames that don’t require local installation, and many of the installed apps communicate with a cloud to update their advertisements. Zynga, the developer of popular programs such as Mafia Wars and FarmVille, uses a hybrid cloud infrastructure to host 1.4 petabytes of data and support 300 million unique monthly users.

The switch from locally-installed videogames to cloud-based mobile games benefits both users and developers. Users only have to pay $5-10 instead of $50-60 per game. They can play their favorite games anywhere and at any time. The cloud-based distribution model also lowers the costs of the developers: while it costs $50 million to make a big-budget console game, the initial version of Angry Birds had a budget of only $150,000. (In 2011, the Angry Birds franchise made $6 million per month in ad revenue alone.) Developers also no longer have to split their earnings with publishers and retailers, and can reach a worldwide audience without a paying a cent in shipping costs. In addition, the flexibility of the cloud lets the game companies rapidly increase or decrease their storage capacity, processing power, and bandwidth in response to fluctuating demand. Zynga, for example, boasts of its ability to add 1,000 servers to its IT infrastructure within 24 hours.

PC and console gamers and developers have benefited from cloud technologies, too. Users can purchase and download games from the platform’s respective online marketplace. Though downloaded games don’t cost any less than store-bought versions, consumers no longer have to waste time or gas to drive to an electronics store, and the developers don’t have to split the sale with the retailer. These online marketplaces also increase availability by letting users access their profile-associated programs and “saves” on other devices (useful if they have multiple PCs or if their console needs to be replaced). Furthermore, it makes it much easier and cheaper for developers to distribute their products, and there’s never any danger of running out of copies.

In addition, a few companies have taken the cloud gaming idea a step further, attempting to build technologies that would allow users to play current-generation videogames without having to a purchase a console or a “gaming rig” PC. With their technology, analogous to a virtual desktop, their servers store all of a game’s data, perform all of its computations, and conjure all of its visuals. The user only needs a web-enabled device (desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, thin clients, and even some televisions). When the users manipulate their controller, their device sends their actions to the companies’ servers, which in turn send back the visual data of the in-progress game. Even though it’s still in development, this technology demonstrates the potential power of cloud computing, able to handle the extensive processing requirements of the most cutting-edge videogames.

Businesses and consumers searching for a cutting-edge yet viable cloud-based solution should look no further than IronOrbit. With this all-in-one online IT infrastructure, users get server-grade processing and networking; data storage and backup; and 24x7x365 technical support. They can access their files and applications from anywhere with any web-enabled device. IronOrbit’s flat monthly rate amounts to a fraction of what it costs to build and maintain an on-site IT infrastructure, while its wealth of features and superior support put it over similarly-priced cloud solutions in terms of quality and value. Don’t play games with your IT infrastructure—trust your files and applications with a fully-managed, top-of-the-line cloud-based solution.

Paying for Security, One Way or Another: the South Carolina Example

It wouldn’t make sense for a business with a tight budget to splurge on top-of-the-line firewalls, antivirus, or intrusion detection systems. Overlooking the ultimate costs of a poorly protected infrastructure would be just as senseless, however. When selecting security measures, companies have to be careful to give equal weight to both short-term expenses and long-term risks. Unfortunately, organizations, despite their best efforts, continually underestimate the costs of a low-quality data protection system.

Take the example of the South Carolina Department of Revenue. It would have cost them $5 million to encrypt all of their data; about $200,000 to hire a computer security chief and a comprehensive review of the department’s data protection systems would have been worth about the same. A two-factor authentication system would have put them back $25,000. The South Carolina Division of State Information Technology could have provided them with an intrusion detection system for free. With the exception of the free option, most people would find their reluctance to invest in data security during an economic downturn understandable.

In August 2012, however, a hacker stole the username and password of a Department of Revenue’s employee through a malware-containing email. The cybercriminal gained entry to the department’s computing systems, which did not have a two-factor authentication system, which would have prevented the unauthorized access. The hacker used the employee’s account to install additional malware, obtain more usernames and passwords, and peruse the department’s infrastructure. An intrusion detection system would have alerted system administrators to the unauthorized user’s suspicious behavior before anything valuable had been stolen. But the hacker continued to work undetected for about a week before gaining access to the department’s payment processing server. A week later, the cybercriminal transferred 8.2 GB of compressed data (74.7 GB uncompressed) to an external dump site, again without detection. The department’s aversion to a $5 million encryption process meant that most of the data the hacker had stolen was completely unencrypted. The Department of Revenue finally learned about the data breach a month later—and only after being notified by a separate government agency.

With the benefit of hindsight, the costs of data security measures no longer seem unreasonable. A free intrusion detection system may have stopped the hacker before any damage could be done. Furthermore, a $25,000 two-factor authentication system would have prevented this kind of attack, and a $5 million encryption system would have removed the possibility of data loss altogether. Instead, the South Carolina Department of Revenue has been forced to reckon with:

-Loss of 3.8 million tax returns (including Social Security numbers), 699,900 business tax returns, and 3.3 million bank accounts data

-Having to pay taxpayers $12 million for a free year of credit monitoring

-Also having to pay an additional $2 million for the immediate response to the breach (involving IT security experts, lawyers, and public relations firms)

-The resignation of the Department of Revenue Director Jim Etter

-A class-action lawsuit could cost the state government up to $3.7 billion

In addition, to prevent another data breach from occurring the Department of Revenue has also been forced to pay $5,025,000 for the encryption process and a two-factor authentication system that it originally chose not to implement. These costs pale in comparison to what would happen if a private sector organization experienced such a breach, however.

South Carolina’s Department of Revenue has very little in common with the average business: not only does it have no competition, but “customers” that fail to send it their tax returns and bank info get hauled off to jail. With a data breach involving a private sector organization, however, customers could withhold their business or switch to a competitor to punish the company for failing to protect their information, costing businesses hefty chunks of revenue.

The South Carolina incident demonstrates how the long-term benefits of security measures outweigh their immediate costs. IronOrbit, on the other hand, goes to show that businesses can obtain an IT infrastructure with great performance, reliability, and security, without paying anywhere near $5 million. IronOrbit, an all-in-one cloud-based infrastructure, has a patented data defense system called Orbital Security that protects data at all levels: at the data center, in transit, in storage, and in use. Its security measures include firewalls, patch management, antivirus, content filters, data encryption, and intrusion prevention and detection systems. Sign up now for IronOrbit’s high-performing, totally-secure IT infrastructure.