“Even through using a hotspot on my phone, I can access everything I need. I was able to pull up a CAD drawing at a client meeting and we were able to look at it and get an answer right then and there!”
VP of Technology, Dant Clayton
“The customizability & scalability of the platform have made it easy for us to add employees & expand as needed, as well as attract & retain the best engineering talent with a work-from-home option.”
MSA Professional Services
“When COVID-19 started, we were able to provide latency-free workspaces to users with substandard home internet connections using IronOrbit. What started out as a move to optimize our business operations really ended up becoming a lifesaver for our organization."
“The IronOrbit INFINITY Workspaces is ideal for professional graphics workstations used by engineers, architects, and designers across industries, from AEC to M&E to manufacturing. With Quadro performance from the cloud, on any connected device, professionals working from home can stay productive.”
Matt McGrigg, Global Director of Cloud Business Development, NVIDIA.
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What Can Your AEC Firm Control During Times Of Uncertainty?
Author: John McMahon
Read time: 8min
Even as architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) companies anticipate project delays they are bracing for the unexpected. There’s the two trillion dollar infrastructure bill. Is it going to happen? Unless you’ve got a crystal ball, a lucky rabbit’s foot, and a divining rod all calibrated to the right frequency, your guess is as good as mine.
You rely on industry lobbyists to push infrastructure spending, Whether or when it happens, is out of your control. The big government money isn’t coming quickly. Coronavirus continues to cause volatility in every sphere. Nearly half of all AEC firms expect to be significantly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Many anticipate their projects to be postponed. So, all of this begs the question. What can AEC firms control in a time of uncertainty?
1. Today’s Work
I know that it sounds simplistic, but sometimes the simplest truths are the most important. Tomorrow we can’t control, so we have to focus on what we can do (and get done) today.
Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “The future depends on what you do today” — and he’s not wrong.
Likely, your firm has already had to tighten its belt. Projects delayed and on hold are squeezing you. You can’t close the company wallet entirely while you ride out the storm.
Companies that choose their spending carefully will thrive. That’s true in general, but especially true during times like these. When things get back to normal, companies that choose to close their wallets and wait out the storm might find themselves behind. It might even be difficult to compete on a level playing field. Putting some financial resources into departments like marketing, internal sales, and human resources (searching for that perfect addition to the firm) during this time can pay off big.
3. Technology Utilization
In our current work-from-home climate, architectural, engineering, and construction firms across the country – big and small – have had to lean on cloud technologies like VoIP phones and hosted desktops to keep workflow rolling. Cloud computing also helps them stay in touch with employees, vendors, sub-trades, and clients. Right now, technology is something that you can control. If what your firm has got now isn’t working for you, or if you want something better, better is out there! And you’d probably be surprised how quickly and easily it can all be implemented.
Most firms will continue to use the cloud-based technologies they have discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic long after the crisis has ended. So, taking the “technology bull” by the horns now and taking control of your future IT environment, is a good call (understatement).
If you’d like some advice or assistance in how your firm’s technology can be improved upon, the IronOrbit team would be glad to have that conversation with you.
4. Care for Employees, Vendors, and Clients
The AEC firms that are going to come out ahead are the ones that focused on relationships. Relationship building is one of the things you can control. Anyone can pick up the phone or send an email to check in on a colleague or client – and you should. It’s good business. It’s also the kind of cement that can hold relationships together through thick and thin.
Steve Pavlina, author of Personal Development for Smart People, said, “Treat your business relationships like friendships (or potential friendships). Formality puts up walls, and walls don’t foster good business relationships. No one is loyal to a wall… except the one in China.”
By investing care, concern, support, and if needed financial resources into employees, vendors, and clients now, you foster a relationship that will pay dividends in terms of business when things get rolling again.
As hard as it is, compliance with federal and state closures, social distancing, and isolation is something that you have under your control.
As things begin to open again, those restrictions begin to relax. Implementing ongoing safeguards in the workplace is also under your control.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has changed the way the world looks at contagion, and the behavioral effects of the virus upon clients and employees alike will be with us for some time to come. There are sure to be an increased number of new safety measures.
6. Charity and Cheer
Remember the last time all the employees or your firm pitched in to take on a project that benefited someone who needed help. Remember what it felt like? Call it the power of positive intent or just goodwill. It’s amazing what good it does for the morale of a firm.
This week, in our town, a truck will pull into the parking lot of the local Salvation Army Church. Because this is a time when some people have a scarcity of food supply. We will distribute 50,000 pounds of potatoes and French fries to folks who need them.
Because a farmer somewhere knew he could do something.
So, your AEC firm has no potatoes… No surprise there.
But with some thinking and a little imagination, I’m sure you can find some way to band together. Become helpful to someone less fortunate during this time – and there’s always someone less fortunate.
We’re all in this together. And ever-so-slowly, we’re coming out of this crisis together. There’s one thing the leadership of every AEC firm in the nation has under their control. They can choose to be charitable. They can nurture an attitude of cheer and possibility thinking among their employees.
Great Britain may have gotten through WWII with the motto, “Keep Calm and Carry On” but that stoic side of bravery has never been the American way. Instead, every crisis has seen business owners step up to the plate. They do what they can (charity and cheer). A happy warrior to assist in combating the enemy.
Today is no different.
Sure, you may not be able to give to every charity that you would like to support. Your firm may be one of the thousands across the USA that have had to apply for federal loans to keep afloat. It’s a tight spot we’re all in.
But we’re all in it together. It’s an expression you hear a lot nowadays, and it’s true.
These are difficult and uncertain times. You need a solutions provider who can partner with you. IT experts who can pivot and adjust to your needs as they change.
We can help
If you’d like to learn more about how we can transform your AEC firm into a secure virtual computing powerhouse, give us a call
Or click below to learn more about our AEC solutions.
Cloud computing is the future of everything digital. Modern IT environments use it. “Modern IT” is now hosting its infrastructure in some form of the cloud. Moving to the cloud is especially important for architects, engineering, and construction firms (AEC). A 2017 Sage Survey found that most of AEC firms had already moved to the cloud. It was quite a jump from an earlier survey conducted in 2012 when only 16% of construction contractors had migrated to the cloud.
That’s why most of them are on the cloud in one form or another. The AEC industry is highly fragmented, data-intensive, and project-based. Designing, building, and repurposing require all the traditional disciplines you’d expect, but also many ancillary areas such as energy, environment, and waste.
The Journal of Cloud computing: Advances, Systems, and Applications reported that sharing data and supporting coordination between people involved is difficult and reliant on third-party tools to support such capability. “We believe cloud computing provides a more efficient and robust mechanism for individuals within the AEC industry to collaborate and share data. Work is already underway in the AEC sector for developing data and process models to enable greater interoperable working between project participants.”
This research has led to the development of the concept of Building Information Models (BIM) – a design process that looks at a building’s life cycle. The BIM concept helps designers and others see how a building will use resources before it’s built. BIM was an evolution of ideas. Start with a powerful digital drawing tool and then evolve it into a much more sophisticated program. The software works in partnership with the designer or architect. A set of drawings becomes an interactive database. When the designer draws on the screen, the BIM system computes the properties of the building and even suggest improvements for everything from energy efficiencies to people flow while costing out every conceivable option. Every variable is built into the AutoDesk software. Any design changes are immediately reflected in revised cost estimates. It tells how much energy the modified design will save. The architect is working with a set of drawings and a data model that understands the whole building as a three-dimensional living system. Keep in mind that BIM includes all the information about a building. It should be a complete 4D virtual repository of the data associated with the structure from beginning to the end of its life.
THE CLOUD ENABLES REMOTE COLLABORATIVE TEAMS to work seamlessly together on complex projects.
Collaborative working environments have been long-standing key aspects of AEC workflows. Traditionally, those collaborative teams had to commute to one centralized location. Today, offering work environment flexibility (home office or corporate office) has become somewhat of an expected perk. This was a trend long before the coronavirus reared its ugly head. Now, there are government mandates pressing the point even more. We’re all being forced to work from our homes. Coronavirus aside, future AEC firms don’t want to have their collaborative teams tied to one physical location. Not any more.
Jennifer Howe, VP of SMMA (an architectural firm headquartered in Boston) and acting president of the ACEC organization, Massachusetts Chapter says, “As much as I don’t want to be working from home, there are times when I need to be working from home. Our IT staff had us set-up to work remotely, but it wasn’t the same as what we have now with the cloud. I can be on my laptop with IronOrbit and see everything the same way as we see it while we’re in the office.”
She recognizes that it’s more of an employee’s market now. “The ability to offer talented candidates the option to work from home is an added incentive to join your team.” That’s especially true when nothing is lost while moving from the office workstation to your mobile device-of-choice working at home. But there are other reasons to migrate to the cloud.
A much more enhanced remote work experience is not the only reason to move the cloud. The biggest, more critical reason, is security. But it can’t be just any cloud solution. , The cloud environment needs to customized to the unique needs of the firm. Jennifer talks about the biggest threat every firm faces. “Ransomware attacks are a tremendous concern. An ACEC Mass member firm had a recent incident where they were hit with a cyber-security breach. That was very concerning to our entire chapter. ACEC actually hosted an informative event where they shared some of the issues that they had. For SMMA, as government contractors, we need to be very protective and careful with the information that we have.”
Just a few short years ago, Google Drive and DropBox were the popular options between those who wanted to share large files. Those options weren’t great at protecting intellectual property. Concerns over security justifiably kept many AEC firms from utilizing them.
Industry-Wide Concern for Security Is At An All-Time High
Carlos Charry is the Director of Technology for SMMA. He says security has been a top concern for everybody. “One of our competitors got hit with ransomware a few years back. It made me look at our own situation and ask, ‘Are we prepared for this?’ I knew we weren’t ready.”
The level of security provided by IronOrbit – the firm’s cloud solution provider is far beyond anything they could have accomplished on their own. The entire IT infrastructure is protected by state-of-the-art firewalls, antivirus protocols, malware filters, and encryption. The security doesn’t stop there. There is an entire team of engineers, rotating around the clock, monitoring the data centers for any type of potential security threat.
But Carlos adds, “The question of security aside, you still have to keep up with technology. That means having your IT infrastructure on the cloud. The cloud provides faster updates. Just keeping all your applications up to date saves you a lot of trouble. Most of my time before the cloud was spent handling IT issues. Things like the network not being responsive or our server going down. I spent time on things like that and couldn’t devote myself to what I truly love to do which is to improve our business processes. I want to make them better so the company can become ever more efficient.
Carlos continues, “The cloud has enabled us to hire anyone anywhere in the world. The employee just needs a PC and an Internet connection of some kind and they can utilize our tools. We currently have people working for us from Maine and New York. Since we’ve moved to the cloud, my headaches have been reduced. Once an employee is connected to the cloud, I don’t have to worry about it. I know the data is automatically being backed up. My worries are basically gone.”
FINDING THE RIGHT WAY TO COLLABORATE IS CRITICAL TO RUNNING AN EFFECTIVE BUSINESS
Jennifer says, “Working with Carlos, our IT director, we’re always looking for better ways to do our work. SMMA is a full-service design firm. Collaboration is the key to our success. Finding the right way to collaborate internally and collaborate with our clients is a critical part of running an effective business.
MOVING TO THE CLOUD. WHAT IS IT LIKE?
People were hesitant at first. The cloud environment is different from having your server on the premises. It’s different. “As we were going up to the cloud, and trying to figure out how to use it, they weren’t sure at first what to expect. Is it going to make my life better or worse? Finally, through effective collaboration and communication, we found it to be an invaluable tool. I find that I can access whatever I need wherever I am. One of the things that surprised me was being at a client meeting and just being on wi-fi and act as if I were in the office. I’m able to pull up any document I need at any time. For example, I do a lot of government work. When I’m doing a client visit, I often don’t have wi-fi available to me. No worries. I just turn on the hotspot on my phone and still be able to open up a CAD drawing. You’d think that would be impossible to do, right? But it really works quite well.”
Hector Inirio is the Design Technologist. He says, “That the most attractive aspect of moving to the cloud was a blend of things. There are many aspects of advanced IT that are beyond our expertise such as high-end security threats. Ransomware is a good example. I really liked the fact that cloud technology democratized our computer systems. We’re not transferring any data from our local workstations. The workstations themselves, really become more like dumb terminals. So, no matter what kind the computer was at a particular desk, they all now respond like high-end machines. Previously, due to cost, we’d only have some users on higher-end machines. The ones who didn’t need the computing power were working on equipment with less computing power. Now, all of them respond with higher specs.”
The computer terminals become virtual desktops because they are hosted by the external cloud server. Any slowness or frustrations you’ve experienced with your current Internet connection go away. Once users log in to the hosted desktop you’re using bandwidth from the cloud. There are separate gigabyte connections to the Internet. Your bandwidth virtually becomes unlimited.
The technology needed to aid the construction industry’s complex workflows hadn’t become available until the past few years. There are now plenty of SaaS solutions available to make full use of what cloud technology offers. Most contractors are implementing cloud solutions. The few who are not risk losing any competitive edge they had. These firms are also in danger of becoming irrelevant as technology advances at exponential rates. They simply won’t be able to keep up. Remaining current with the speed of technology means being able to focus on human capital. These are qualities like talent, skills, know-how, empathy, and creativity. All of these are undervalued human assets to unlock. You won’t be able to leverage this human capital if you’re stuck in the mud because your technology isn’t current.
MAKE FULL USE OF THE BENEFITS
Construction companies already on the cloud should evaluate if they’re making full use of being on the cloud. There is another benefit of cloud computing. Construction companies should be cashing in on the ability to store tremendous amounts of big data files onto more powerful machines. More can be done with fewer resources. Anywhere there’s an Internet connection you’re good to go. Being on the cloud removes hardware limitations, prevents loss of data, dramatically improves security (if designed correctly), and improves accessibility.
One of the key issues within the industry is the storage of building data throughout the whole life of the building. Data processing is also an important concern for the industry. During construction, a large part of the work takes place on-site where computing resources, up till now, have been non-existent.
The cloud offers data processing power. Drones hover over construction sites and take pictures with detailed GPS coordinates and metadata. Stitching these images into an orthograph requires more processing power than typical computers can muster. Visiting job sites can take hours. Now construction sites can be viewed via a SaaS platform. A design captain or engineer can get a real-time view of the location from anywhere in the world, and on any device. This technology also makes sharing data much easier. There’s a misconception that data becomes less secure on the cloud. It turns out the opposite is true. That is if the new cloud environment has been designed with tight security in mind. If the data is kept at a Level 3 Data Center with round the clock monitoring, cybersecurity is on an entirely different level. It’s in a league of its own. One that isn’t possible for on-prem servers or public clouds.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) enables virtualized desktops hosted on remote servers on the Internet. Reducing the need for hardware while improving flexibility, VDI offers practical benefits as well as a hefty return on investment. There is a strong business case to be made. According to the IDC, “The Business Value of VMware Horizon,” of January 2016, there is a 5-year return-on-investment of 413 percent. On average, the virtualized desktop costs 71 percent less to buy, deploy, support, maintain, and use over a 5-year period. This is on a per-device basis. Users spend 76 percent less time on device application log-ins. VDI enables companies to make full use of human capital while preventing many IT-related issues. We need all the help we can get to unlock the massive human assets such as talent, empathy, and creativity. You know, the things computers aren’t that good at. There are indeed great advantages to moving to a DaaS environment. There are also many opportunities for making mistakes along the way. Let’s take a look at the 4 most common pitfalls associated with VDI migration.
A TechRepublic article cites a lack of planning as a major pitfall of VDI integration. The article went on to report that companies failed to plan for enough resources. Don’t provision for today or tomorrow. Design an infrastructure that will serve your needs next year and for the years ahead. That article was from 2013. It is just as relevant today.
The problem with most VDI implementation is lack of planning. Internal stakeholders should begin with a comprehensive assessment of the IT environment. Also, consider the individual desktop environment. The VDI landscape has changed over the years. Planning and project management are the key to a successful VDI adoption. The initial steps start with an internal dialogue. It’s a good idea to bring in outside expert advice early in the process. Each company is unique. There are different demands and different expectations. The time and effort put into VDI planning will pay incredible dividends for years.
Here are a few of the most common hurdles. They can be overcome when identified early.
Don’t Try to Do Everything at Once
The first common issue in rolling out a VDI initiative is trying to do too much at once. This applies to both large and small environments alike. VDI does not look the same at any two companies.
Don’t try to include every attractive feature in your initial implementation. Be focused on meeting key objectives. And be selective. Understand the major features and benefits of VDI. But don’t try to include everything in the beginning. This will only slow down the process. It will also distract you from your key objectives. A white paper by VMware recommends taking a step back. Consider what you’re trying to do. Do this before you even think about IT requirements. Instead of diving straight into technical requirements, such as numbers of servers and sizing of WAN links, begin by exploring user needs, business drivers, and special requirements. These special requirements might include things like: compliance issues; high availability; disaster recovery plans, or even the need for the business to rapidly onboard large numbers of new users due to mergers or acquisitions.
Don’t get stuck on the age-old VDI question. For example, using non-persistent versus persistent desktops in their initial deployment.
A company may never deliver a useable VDI solution if they allow themselves to get stuck on an idea. Let’s say that you determine 99% of its VDI desktops will be non-persistent. Well, you need to know that you’re going to spend countless OpEx and CapEx funds.
Narrow down what you need in the planning stage to get VDI in a solid usable state. Set-up your VDI on a set of lean criteria. You can make additions as you go.
Do an Effective Initial Assessment
The next hurdle is company-specific. It is also often overlooked due to the upfront cost and time. I am referring to the VDI assessment that should be a part of the planning. The VDI assessment is the discovery phase of the project. It will help you isolate and focus on what is most important for your business.
Identify who will be using the VDI solution. The assessment is two parts: discussion and analysis. Be sure the process includes all the stakeholders including those who will be using the virtual desktops. Getting them involved early in the design process will help manage expectations. It will also go a long way in nurturing the acceptance of the resulting VDI environment.
Let’s use the example of an HR group that will be using VDI during the initial deployment. There is an initial interview. The agenda includes setting expectations of VDI. Begin by looking at how the company currently uses the computer environment.
Discussions along these lines will establish some parameters.
Do they generally only use a combined set of 4 applications? Do they work at varied times throughout the day? Do they only need a web browser and the ability to email clients on the company network?
You also need to do some data gathering of what traditional desktops are doing during the day. What are the applications used? What is needed for the machines to operate?
Most PCs are oversized with wasted resources. VDI is all about compute and storage density. Determining accurate sizing needs equals more cost savings. There are several tools that can do the 2nd part of this equation but don’t overlook the first.
Don’t Overlook Management and Support Responsibilities
This third point is around IT staff.
Who will be managing the new environment once the consultants have departed? Will you share this duty between existing desktop/infrastructure teams? Or will a new team arise to manage the entire solution? Decide this early on.
Manage a VDI environment requires an engineer who understands several key technologies. They sound know how these technologies affect the virtual desktop. These technologies include but are not limited to:
Know how users connect to the virtual desktop. Know where to troubleshoot problems like lost connections or poor performance
Deep understanding of hypervisors and server infrastructure, depending on the vendor of choice
Knowledge of security products will be inside the virtual desktops and in the network path of VD. This is for troubleshooting purposes.
Basic knowledge for customizing Windows installations and troubleshooting.
These skills can come from various class training offerings. Many should come from experience. Knowing how all these different technologies work together in your environment is critical.
Larger companies own many of these technologies.
Separate teams manage them. It is crucial that all the stakeholders be aware of the impact of VDI.
Know who has ownership of the new VDI systems. Make sure there is buy-in from across your IT organization. This is important to establish in the beginning. Everyone needs to be on the same page. This will make training easier. can occur for those needing to ramp up.
This ownership and buy-in include first-line defenders like your typical service desk team. Let them know they’re responsible to field certain common VDI related issues as they come in. Provide education and resources to support them. Service and support is the key benefit of partnering with seasoned VDI consultants.
Don’t Forget the User Experience
As VDI deployment comes together, don’t forget about the user experience.
Consider how things were before VDI. Chances are, your employees have been using similar pieces of hardware. They know how their workstation machines perform every day (good or bad). They’ll compare the new VDI environment to what they had before.
This goes back to the assessment stage. Understanding the proper-sizing and performance of each machine is important. It can mean the difference between successful adoption and one that isn’t. It’s also more than that.
If a user now has to login twice to access their Virtual Desktop they will complain. If the machine hangs when opening a video conference they will complain. If patches cause reboots on different days, they will complain. You want to make the change over to VDI as seamless as possible.
The experience should be better, not equal or worse than on a traditional desktop. Make sure you plan to provide the expected performance of each workstation. Allow for a tailored storage solution that is intelligent and optimized for VDI. Consider network crashes. If for whatever reason, they can’t access their virtual desktops, this can also be a problem. Here’s the point. Outside factors can contribute to the total experience on a Virtual Desktop. Many of these factors will be beyond your control.
The successful adoption of VDI means user acceptance. Deliver a desktop-like experience. It means proving the training and support necessary. Company-wide buy-in is key to the success of the whole program. It all begins with planning and making sure you have every brain at the table when that happens.
The quantity and quality of cloud offerings have grown significantly in the last few years. There are a number of new solutions available to AEC firms that are especially worth taking a look at. We’ll look at a few of the top cloud solutions in this article.
The AEC industry faces incredible growth and changes in urbanization and globalization. As traditional data centers become insufficient to meet these demands, so does the demand for security and efficiency. Trends such as hyper-automation, the distributed cloud, and practical blockchain are just some of the trends that will continue to proliferate into 2020. Each one of them has the ability to transform and optimize initiatives. The AEC sector has done a good job of keeping up to date. More than 2/3 of AEC firms store data in the cloud. The reason: cloud solutions are an important ingredient to maximizing workflow, costs, and sustainability.
Cloud storage, for instance, can be a more cost-effective alternative to spending thousands on upgrading your local IT. Cloud computing has become increasingly popular for a number of reasons: it’s more affordable, able to perform computationally intensive work, workspace flexibility, and more secure.
Also, there is the added advantage that, with cloud-based computing, it’s possible to view and work with complex renderings on an underpowered device.
Scalability is also easier in the cloud. Most providers allow for scalable, on-demand resource usage. This enables your company to have more computing power when it’s needed.
Cloud storage providers enable benefits that are impossible to duplicate. A Cisco report suggested, “By 2021, 94 percent of workloads and compute instances will be processed by cloud data centers.”
Firms that have moved to the cloud have an edge over the competition. With that in mind, let’s take look at what kind of cloud services are available. Let’s also consider how each one benefits an AEC firm.
1 – Cloud Storage
Cloud storage is a great solution because it is simple and offers several important benefits.
First, cloud storage providers backup your data. Cloud storage companies will often have servers in two different parts of the world. One server might be on the West Coast of the United States. The other server might be on the East Coast so that even the largest disaster won’t wipe out your files.
Files stored on the cloud can be accessed from anywhere. Whether your crew is working 10 or 1,000 miles away they’ll have easy access to everything stored online. It’s also simple to set permission levels on various files. For example, an administrator can dictate that renderings can be viewed at the job site but only edited in the office.
2- Cloud Storage Gateways
Cloud storage gateways can help to reduce costs in a number of ways. Data compression reduces bandwidth which enables increased storage. These cloud storage gateways can make smart decisions about where to save files. Files that accessed frequently) are called “hot files.” Hot files can be more expensive to store online. A gateway may keep them in local storage while storing more infrequently used files in the cloud.
Panzura has a cloud-based version designed to create a shared environment for everyone to work in. With Panzura users can store CAD and BIM files online and open them in a matter of seconds, not minutes. All files can be accessed from any location making collaboration easier. Panzura claims to “reduce infrastructure costs up to 70%,” over traditional data centers.
Another of Panzura’s interesting features is the work-sharing monitor. Work-sharing allows for remote viewing of another Panzura user’s workstation. As with other cloud-based solutions, Panzura can scale as your firm grows.
3 – Cloud-Based Accounting and Management Applications
Running your firm’s accounting and management applications in the cloud simplifies workflow. Collaboration is fluid when everyone at the company has access to the files. Accessibility to files while at the office, at home, or at a hotel room on the other side of the country.
The cloud enables collaborators to work in real-time. Different permission models can be set for different users. It is also easier to collaborate with suppliers, distributors, and contractors. Since the files and data are already online it’s simple to give outside parties access. That’s opposed to localized data which is more difficult to share.
Deltek is a cloud-based solution to track projects. Project steps can be broad or detailed. Deltek tracks billable hours, resource usage, and expenses. If your firm uses different programs for different purposes, it may be time to consolidate.
While localized programs have offered project tracking for years. Deltek makes collaboration easier for the whole team. Everyone from accounting to the drafting team has access to the same program. The functionality is the same whether they’re on a $5,000 workstation or a $200 smartphone.
4 – Internet of Things (IoT)
The number of Internet-connected devices is growing at an exponential rate. As microchips and transmitters are becoming more affordable, more applications and innovations are being introduced onto the market. This means more tools for the AEC industry to track and improve efficiency.
Internet-connected GPS devices, for instance, are great at tracking fleet mileage. They can also make recommendations about necessary vehicle maintenance. There is a Bluetooth tag that attaches to a piece of equipment making it easy to locate on a crowded job site. The tag also helps recover lost tools.
5 – Hosted Desktops
Hosted desktops transform computers into more powerful workstations without having to purchase expensive PC hardware.
A hosted desktop is ideal for AEC firms running multiple AutoCAD workstations. Scaling is also a breeze as hosted desktops can increase their resources to handle any task.
A hosted desktop transforms cheap laptop or tablet devices into a powerful workstation. The kind of devices that can launch power-hungry programs and model complex drawings. That makes it great for the crew out in the field who don’t normally have access to powerful computers.
IronOrbit INFINITY: The All-in-One Solution
In a 2017 article entitled 7 Reasons Why AEC Firms Need Cloud Software, Eliza Fisher points out “cloud-based platforms are more appealing than hosting project management software because they do not require users to rely on their own computing power. There are quite a few other benefits to consider if you’re thinking of adopting a cloud solution for your AEC firm.” The article goes on to list the following benefits:
Safety & Data Loss Prevention
Easy Installation & Maintenance
Insights, Audits, & Compliance
While it’s true that moving to the cloud will have positive impact on the way you do business, it’s important to shop around for the service provider that best fits your company’s future strategy. Keep in mind, not all clouds are created equal. Cloud-based products like our INFINITY Workspaces offer tremendous functionality and flexibility.
Our GPU-Accelerated INFINITY Workspaces combine the best features of cloud-based solutions into one place, including:
Cloud storage (including Panzura integration)
Application hosting (any application, including accounting and ERP software)
Unlimited computing, upgrades, and bandwidth
Managed backups and disaster recovery
Managed security and compliance
24/7 US-based IT support
The GPU-Accelerated INFINITY Workspaces allow access to CPU and graphics-intensive applications from anywhere and on any device. End-users will enjoy the fast uptimes, zero latency, and incredibly fast performance..
With unlimited CPU and RAM upgrades you never have to be concerned that you’ll run out of processing power and collaboration is easy when your whole team is working in a centralized environment.
Centralization allows the team to work with the same version software. The whole team uses the same application and work from the same set of files. There’s no longer the concern that employees are accessing different versions.
Inconsistent files can cause delays, accidents, compliance violations and more. Having the team working from the same set of files is a considerable benefit.
Then there’s the convenience of dealing with one vendor. Forget about tracking costs from multiple service providers. There’s no dealing with half a dozen account managers and support teams. IronOrbit gives you everything in one package so that you’ll only ever need to work with a single company.
An Easy-To-Manage and Future-Proof Solution, Too
Speaking of the all-in-one package, IronOrbit wants to make cloud management as simple as possible. They take care of setup, backups, application security as well as user support.
Other cloud solutions require the client to do a number of things. They have to set up the service. Integrate the service with existing infrastructure, and manage it on an ongoing basis. With IronOrbit these time-consuming processes are gone.
When considering a cloud service provider, it’s important to think about the future. IronOrbit is backed by today’s cutting-edge technology. It’s flexible enough to support any future technology growth.
IronOrbit is constantly upgrading its infrastructure. Their clients can take advantage of unlimited GPU and RAM; unlimited bandwidth, and unlimited upgrades to the latest versions of Windows and Microsoft Office.
Whatever devices and operating systems the future holds, IronOrbit’s GPU-Accelerated INFINITY Workspaces will be ready to support them and deliver the same level of service that you’d expect from a professional cloud-solution package. With INFINITY’s centralized, all-inclusive and convenient software you’re always in good hands.
In this age of acceleration, companies have 3 major objectives. They want to do more. They want to move faster. They want to do it at less cost.
To achieve all 3 objectives, a company has to ensure one thing. That there is alignment between their business objectives and their IT capabilities. Harmonizing clear objectives with IT capabilities, companies will realize their full potential. Not all companies are able to follow that path on their own. They may know they need to change, but don’t know how to get there.
If they do know how to get there, they don’t know who will manage the new environments. It’s more common now that company leadership won’t have a clue of what their future state should look like. Our primary job is to listen to the customer. We need to understand our client’s objectives and future-state desires. Then we analyze the requirements against IT capabilities. It has to be a solid yet flexible enough infrastructure that will support the future business goals. To the degree this harmony between goals and technology is in place, the intended transformations will happen.
It’s Time for an Upgrade
In the last couple of years, there have been a lot of exciting developments in the AEC-cloud-industry. From time and maintenance tracking to hosted desktops allowing users to render complex projects on their iPhones, the cloud has much to offer.
Not to mention savings, when you factor in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars you can save by not having to continuously upgrade your workstations.
If you haven’t looked into moving to the cloud yet there has never been a better time. The AEC industry is heading toward cloud computing faster than ever. No firm wants to play catch up to its competitors.
Headquartered in Louisville, KY, Dant Clayton is a leading designer and manufacturer of aluminum bleachers, grandstands, stadium structures, and accessory products. The company has provided aluminum bleachers for the stadiums of leading sports programs like the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, the University of Oklahoma, and Ohio State.
High cost of CAD workstations, decentralized IT, reliability, and security
Dant Clayton felt it was spending too much on purchasing and maintaining expensive local hardware. Its high-powered CAD workstations cost an average of $3,000+/unit, for example, and needed to be replaced every 3-5 years.
The firm also wanted to improve its disaster recovery setup. They wanted to be able to quickly and fully recover their systems and data in the event of a disaster. Their need to store a lot of CAD data locally, as well as workers only being able to access their CAD applications from workstations at the office, made this difficult.
“With IronOrbit’s GPU Cloud desktops, every user now has the power and functionality of a high end CAD station while taking advantage of the latest in Cloud security, accessibility and cost-efficiency. The customizability & scalability of the platform have made it easy for us to add employees & expand as needed, as well as attract & retain the best engineering talent with a work-from-home option.” – Matthew Harper, VP of Technology
The company also desired anywhere, any device CAD access, which would allow it to attract and retain engineering talent with a work-from-home option, and to maintain a consolidated IT between its two locations. This capability would also make it easier for them to share their CAD assets with remote contractors and project stakeholders.
In addition, Dant Clayton needed the solution to be reliable and secure enough for their needs as a manufacturer, since any downtime could severely impact their operations, and they had to worry about intellectual property (IP) theft and sabotage. They also had to maintain consistent records for legal and compliance reasons.
INFINITY cloud-based CAD workstations
A cloud-based CAD infrastructure would reduce Dant Clayton’s local hardware costs and provide it with a robust, multi-site disaster recovery setup.
Setting up a cloud-based CAD infrastructure can be extremely difficult, however, due to the power and complexity of the applications and the sizes of the files involved (often 100 MB+). Only a small number of cloud providers offered the service at the time, including IronOrbit.
Reliability, security, and compliant data storage would not be such a challenge, since these features come standard with all IronOrbit solutions.
In the end, IronOrbit provided Dant Clayton with a 114-user cloud-based CAD infrastructure that supported all its applications, including AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and Bluebeam.
IronOrbit’s cloud CAD solution helped Dant Clayton helped Dant Clayton lower its costs, enhance its disaster recovery setup with multi-site replication, consolidate its IT across multiple locations, and maintain its records.
It helped them avoid spending tens of thousands on new onsite hardware, reducing their future hardware costs as well.
It also provided them with protection from disasters by:
Hosting their business-critical IT assets at a secure, highly-resilient data center in Virginia
Replicating their data locally at this facility to enable quick restores (minimum RTO & RPO of 4 hours)
Backing up their systems and data to another facility in Dallas, TX, to guarantee against data loss and ensure full restoration
Our cloud CAD solution helped Dant Clayton enhance IT reliability and security by:
Providing a highly-resilient infrastructure backed by a 99.999% uptime guarantee
Including 24/7/365 monitoring and maintenance by a 22-person Network Operations Center (NOC)
Including security measures such as antivirus, firewall, IDS/IPS, anti-DDoS, content filter, DNS filter, and data-at-rest encryption
Said Mathew Harper, Dant Clayton’s VP of Technology: “With IronOrbit’s GPU Cloud desktops, every user now has the power and functionality of a high end CAD station while taking advantage of the latest in Cloud security, accessibility and cost-efficiency. The customizability & scalability of the platform have made it easy for us to add employees & expand as needed, as well as attract & retain the best engineering talent with a work-from-home option.”
We are all familiar with desktop PCs. But what does it mean when we say desktop virtualization, and why is there so much interest in this technology?
Virtualizing desktop computers is useful for many reasons.
The advent of technology has made it possible to create a virtualized desktop environment powered by Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), the software that enables users to access virtual desktops remotely on a central server.
This means that if youÛªre a business with more than a hundred computers, you can easily access each of these desktops in one single cluster of servers.
The Virtual Machines (VMs) serve as the host of these virtual desktops and controlled by the management software. VDI makes it possible for you to gain access to your desktop from anywhere at any time with the use of VDI client software. There is no need to install or configure each desktop PC with VDI.
This means that VDI allows enterprises and SMEs to cut their administrative overhead, increase their productivity, diminish IT support costs, gain better security, and experience peace of mind.
The Basic Components of VDI
VDI has three parts – the Connection Broker, the Hypervisor, and the Desktop Pools.
1) Connection Broker: This is a software program that enables users to access desktop instances. It also authenticates users’ information and sends it to the instances. The connection broker also has the ability to monitor active and inactive desktops.
When you attempt to send the connection request to the desktop, you will be provided with an idle desktop instance. The status will show inactive when you disconnect from the server.
2) Hypervisor: The hypervisor is the component that creates a virtualized environment by separating your operating system from the hardware.
After the separation, the hardware is broken down into multiple VMs, which are individually configured as well. These VMs have unique OS, applications, and configuration. Hypervisor lets you experience the advantage of using a separate desktop everytime you access the desktop instance.
3) Desktop Pools: Desktops pools let you configure a group of similar desktops based on a specific function you want to install or enable.
For instance, there are two departments in an office with different needs. Two desktops do not have to copy all applications and configuration. When you create a desktop pool, you can configure the desktop settings according to the department’s specific function.
How does VDI work?
For you to activate VDI, you need to log in to your desktop via the client software.
You will need to wait for the connection broker to accept your request after they authenticate your information. The hypervisor takes over, creating multiple VMs where your virtual desktop will be hosted.
The HA in hypervisors has the option to combine the resources of multiple servers. The process enables the migration of virtual desktops to another server if required.
If you are not using the virtual desktop, the admin has the option to turn it off. This practice lets you accommodate more users.
In full cloning, desktops function independently as they are not linked to the master desktop. Each clone has its own separate disk space.
In linked cloning, all other desktops depend on the virtual disk of the master desktop. It does not use separate disk space, making this type of cloning a space saver. However, for cloned desktops to work, they should be linked to master desktops.
The admin user controls and manages the virtualized desktop environment. They are responsible for setting up policies, creating new pools, provisioning new desktops and managing the desktop pools.
The Benefits of VDI
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure provides businesses with an innovative solution in simplifying management, minimizing the risks involved in managing sensitive data, and optimizing user experiences.
Increased Productivity – There is no need to be chained to your desk to access your data because VDI provides you with data access from anywhere. You do not have to sit for hours to configure your PCs.
Cost Efficient – Another benefit you reap from VDI is the reduced IT support costs, especially on licensing. When you replicate virtual desktop instances, you can also consolidate server storage.
Reduced Administrative Overhead – Managing your multiple desktops in a virtualized environment means you can make updates without being physically present in an office.
Improved Security – VDI only controls the central server, and this capability gives you the option to set data policies for each user.
Just the other day I happened to wake up early. That is unusual for an engineering student. After a long time, I could witness the sunrise. I could feel the sun rays falling on my body. The usual morning is followed by a hustle to make it to college on time. This morning was just another morning yet seemed different.
Witnessing a calm and quiet atmosphere, clear and fresh air seemed like a miracle to me. I wanted this time to last longer since I was not sure if I would be able to witness it again, knowing my habit of succumbing to schedule. There was this unusual serenity that comforted my mind. It dawned on me, how distant I had been from nature. Standing near the compound’s gate, feeling the moistness that the air carried, I thought about my life so far.
I was good at academics, so the decisions of my life had been pretty simple and straight. Being pretty confident I would make it to the best junior college of my town in the first round itself, never made me consider any other option. I loved psychology since childhood, but engineering was the safest option. Being born in a middle-class family, thinking of risking your career to make it to the medical field was not sane. I grew up hearing ‘Only doctor’s children can afford that field’ and finally ended up believing it. No one around me believed in taking risks. Everyone worshiped security. I grew up doing the same.
This is what has happened to us. We want the things we have been doing forcefully to fail. And then maybe people around us would let us try something else or our dreams. We are accustomed to live by everyone else’s definition of success. We punish people for the things they are passionate about, just because we were unable to do the same at some point in our life.
I feel like these concrete buildings have sucked our desires and our dreams. We are so used to comfort that compromise seems like a taboo. We have lost faith in ourselves. If we can make through it right now, we can do the same in the days to come. You only need a desire to survive and nothing more- not money or cars or designer clothes.
Staying locked up in four walls have restricted our thinking. I feel like our limited thinking echoes through this wall. We are so used to schedules and predictable life that we have successfully suppressed our creative side.
When you step out of these four walls on a peaceful morning, you realize how much nature has to offer to you. It’s boundless. Your thoughts, worries, deadlines won’t resonate here. Everything will flow away along with the wind. And you will realize every answer you had been looking for, was always known to you.
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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!