“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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Fully customized, dynamic, modular, scalable, and secure Turn-Key solutions with GPU performance rivaling a physical workstation.
Digital Transformation → Workspace Virtualization
Business Optimization → Industry Optimized Solutions
Data Integration → Centralization and Management of Data
Hyperautomation → Adoption of AI and ML Technologies
Multiexperience → Implementation of AR and VR
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Spending an average of $3,000+ on workstations, only having to replace them every 3-5 years just doesn't work anymore. The cloud offers unlimited upgrading and no more hardware refreshes.
“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."
MSA Professional Services
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Hidden Cloud Benefits - What the Marketing Departments of Cloud Technology Companies Forget to Tell You.
Author: John McMahon
Read time: 10min
Business leaders are often drawn into a whirlwind of advertisements claiming the technical capability and benefits that new cloud-based technologies offer. While claims about the revolutionary capacity of the cloud are true, sometimes the real-world business advantages get lost in the advertiser’s messaging. Cloud hosting companies get so excited about what their technology can do, they forget the positive impact that it can have at the user level.
Let’s face it – Technology doesn’t benefit you unless the cost/benefit analysis shows you that it’s worth the investment. The true ROI of IronOrbit’s cloud solutions has to do with information technology that advances key priorities such as the following:
Here’s the question that you should be asking: “If we move our IT processes into the cloud, will it help our employees work more effectively and more efficiently?” Hosted desktop solutions, like IronOrbit’s INFINITY Workspaces, come into vivid focus when it comes to productivity.
The internal processes of many companies are hampered by outdated computers and servers that are too slow or underpowered for the workflow required by their organizational objectives. Moving employees onto GPU-accelerated, cloud-based desktops provides superior computing power and speed. In addition, users have the ability to securely access their work from anywhere on any internet-connected device.
Wakefield Research shows that 69% of the employees regularly work remotely and 21% of them combine home and office environments. Reducing Complexity
One of the strange laws of technology is: the more complex a system is to implement, the more it lowers the complexity of a company’s work processes. This is often due to the fact that systems that are tailored to specific workflows are more challenging to implement, and therefore more efficient.
A company with an on-premise IT infrastructure must contend with the cost factors below that add up to the total cost of ownership (and associated IT management complexity) of their system.
Datacenter White Space
Operation & Management
Software Licenses & Support
Moving everything into the cloud eliminates the complexity of both the expenditures (moving to a flat-rate monthly payment) and IT management (85% of IT management is now done by the cloud provider in the data center environment). The final word on reducing complexity moves towards automation and integration. With IT assets in the cloud, integrations and process automation eliminate all the tedious manual processes.
Strengthening Security and Meeting Compliance Mandates
As you look across your industry, how many of your competitors can afford to hire a full team of cybersecurity professionals? Not many. The truth is that most companies are relying on their IT management team (either in-house or outsourced) to deal with IT security and compliance issues, such as SOC 2, HIPAA, PCI, FINRA, etc.
What’s wrong with that? Well, nothing – and everything.
While this was a good approach to securing IT assets ten years ago, the threats (and the stakes) to today’s IT environment are far too high for cybersecurity to be left to anyone but IT professionals that live in the cybersecurity space. This is where private cloud providers like IronOrbit shine. The primary mission of a data center is to protect your data in a way that is compliant with industry standards and legislative mandates; consequently, your cybersecurity is given the 24/7/365 attention that is required.
Keeping Your Options Open
If recent events have taught business leaders anything, it’s that having choices available to us is a good thing. Unfortunately, investing in on-premise servers, networks, computers, etc. locks you into the life cycle and limited capabilities of those assets. In contrast, cloud assets have innate flexibility that allows you to adjust to market fluctuations, and act quickly when you see a time-sensitive business opportunity.
In our last article, "Benefits of the IronOrbit Cloud", we talked about Moore’s Law. In a nutshell, Gordon Moore, CEO of Intel in 1965, said that technology was expanding its capability every two years, resulting in exponential technological growth. However, in 2010 we experienced a slowdown in technology, and business owners had an easier time keeping up for a few years. But Moore’s Law is about to kick back into action again in an unprecedented way with the introduction of 5G networks. 5G is going to be able to handle 20 times what your current 4G connection can carry. For the businesses that are in the cloud and are ready to take advantage of this enormous power boost, it means open doors for opportunity. But for companies still tied to on-site infrastructures, it means watching their competitors advance, while they desperately try to play catch up. Although many business leaders are not talking about it yet, 5G fueled by the lessons of COVID-19 is going to be the gamechanger that sets the course for this decade and beyond.
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This crossroads we find ourselves at is inspiring, scary, and uncertain all at the same time. As University leaders struggle to find ways to recover, they must also find ways to teach that are more aligned with what we know about human cognitive architecture and less about tradition. Holding onto tradition stifles many students, but It also holds educators back from seeing possibilities that can arise from bringing methodologies together with technological advancements.
In a May 5, 2020 HBR article – Higher Ed Needs a Long-Term Plan for Virtual Learning, James DeVaney, Gideon Shimshon, Matthew Rascoff, and Jeff Maggioncalda acknowledge the staggering impact that Covid-19 has had on the global education system and the skyrocketing demand for online learning programs. To be sure, these emergency remote teaching applications are stop-gap measures only. “As the emergency subsides but normal fails to return, higher ed institutions need to do more. There’s a good likelihood that virtual learning, in some capacity, will need to be a part of education for the foreseeable future.
Higher education institutions need a response framework that looks beyond the immediate actions. They have to prepare for an intermediate period of transition and begin future-proofing their institutions. Universities need to provide their own online content from their own faculty. Many professors have never designed nor delivered a course online, and that’s the challenge – rethinking the whole approach to teaching. We will come back to this point later.
First, we will look at another challenge that universities face.
The HBR article points out that if the coronavirus pandemic occurred a decade earlier, universities would have been devastated. Today we have cloud computing, broadband access, and widespread smartphone adoption to help organizations adapt quickly to almost any situation as long as the Internet is stable. But not all educational institutions are equipped with state-of-the-art technology.
Advanced institutions like the University of Michigan, Imperial College London, and Duke University have already invested time and money in pioneering digital education strategies. Their faculties have been accustomed to online teaching for years. For example, in September 2002, the MIT Open Course Ware proof-of-concept pilot site opened to the public, offering 32 courses. In September 2003, MIT Open Course Ware published its 500th course, including some courses with complete streaming video lectures. By September 2004, 900 MIT courses were available online.
“Institutions that lack the necessary prerequisites of online learning and remote teaching face a daunting challenge.”
Many education leaders believe that IT infrastructure issues must be addressed before any real progress can be made towards virtual learning.
1. Do students need a four-year residential experience?
2. What improvements are required in IT infrastructure to make it more suitable for online education?
3. What training efforts are required for faculty and students to facilitate changes in mindsets and behaviors?
Regarding the second question – What improvements are required in IT infrastructure – Govindarjan and Sirvastava point out that online settings amplify the digital divide. Some students have access to the latest model laptops, better bandwidths and more powerful Wi-Fi connections, while others don’t. “Digital divide also exists among universities, which will become apparent in the current experiment. Top private universities have better IT infrastructure and higher IT support staff ratio for each faculty compared to budget-starved public universities.”
And the question of IT infrastructure doesn’t stop at digital equality. “Software for conference calls may be a good start, but it can’t handle some key functionalities such as accommodating large class sizes while also providing a personalized experience. Even in a 1,000-plus-student classroom, an instructor can sense if students are absorbing concepts, and will change the pace of the teaching accordingly. Instructors and students must note and should discuss their pain points and facilitate and demand technological development in those areas.”
Now that we have explored the IT infrastructure for online education, let’s return to our original challenge – the traditional old school (pun intended) approach to teaching.
There has to be whole new structure to how material is presented. Learning methodologies have to be reconsidered. In the original Star Trek series, Captain Kirk is often seen playing 3-Dimensional Chess with his second-command Mr. Spock. Invariably, Captain Kirk loses and the series is filled with Spock commenting about people’s actions, indicating 2-dimensional thinking. They’re not considering the X,Y and Z axes of outer space. It seems an apt metaphor for the way educators are trying to solve the puzzle. They know they have to transform, but how? How does a traditional university mindset transition from an in-person classroom environment to an online or hybrid model?
Educators will have to expand their views and ideas of how to present information. They must walk into another environment where there are more options and several possible integrations. Not just adding multiple activities, re-imagining seminars, and fine tuning how they teach courses online, but also dramatically rethinking the whole approach. Take a look at the technological mix of simulators and the emerging science of augmented and virtual reality.
Imagining Three-Dimensional Education in the New Normal
Curtis Bonk, Indiana University’s Professor of Education and author of The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education, tells us that, “This is a revolution. Education doesn’t have to take place with the teacher front and center and students sitting in rows. It can take place outside, under a tree branch, on a boat or plane, in a grocery store or while hiking, if you have an Internet connection.”
Imperial College London is one of the institutions that was set up with cloud-based, distance education systems before the pandemic started. They are certainly in a better position now because of it. They’re using the phrase “multi-mode teaching” to describe how they are approaching this coming fall semester. Others are using the term “blended learning” to describe the same hybrid approach to the online/on-premise teaching environment.
“Our multi-mode learning in the Autumn term will be a change from the traditional university experience, but we are confident it will be an exciting, innovative and most importantly safe approach for our students and staff in these uncertain times. It will also enable students to graduate from the College as highly skilled individuals, sought out by employers.”
Imperial College London has been at the forefront of utilizing the cloud for GPU-heavy, cloud-based applications such as augmented and virtual reality, interventional radiology simulation, and virtual 3D modeling for their Department of Earth Science and Engineering. Even using cloud resources to bring in guest lecturers via hologram teaching has been explored and used by Imperial College London.
The Challenge of Specialized Schools in Today’s Environment
The example of Imperial College of London’s innovative thinking puts a spotlight on the issues that specialized schools are facing right now in relation to the discussion of on-site and learn-from-home teaching scenarios. While other schools may be able to limp along with off-the-shelf video conferencing tools for a while, schools involved in architecture, engineering, design, animation, and video production are struggling.
Because the GPU-heavy applications (like AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS) utilized by these schools and their students have significant hardware requirements not found in your average laptop – a solution has to be sourced. To solve their dilemma, these specialized schools are moving to solutions like IronOrbit’s INFINITY Workspaces that allow users to use NVIDIA GPU technology in a cloud environment. With this configuration, teachers and students can use average computers to access cloud-based GPU-heavy programs with zero latency. This use of the cloud’s computing power and ability to help schools save money on in-house IT hardware demonstrates one of the reasons that schools with science, engineering, and art departments are considering the cloud as well.
A Priority Higher Than Education
Francis Jim Tuscano, founder of empowerED, brings an important truth to light in this new era of education.
“In the new normal, as students get exposed more often to the Internet, teachers should always consider student’s privacy, safety, security, and digital well-being as top priorities for a successful remote or online learning.”
With increased screen time comes more opportunities to endanger students with online threats such as Zoom-bombing, cyberbullying, and predatory behavior. Part of imagining a “new normal” in education includes a heavy dose of technology focusing on the online safety of students. Safety has to take center stage.
Bringing all of an institution’s students into a controlled, protected, cloud-based learning environment is one of the ways schools, community colleges, trade schools, and universities are handling the security issue.
Helping Post-Secondary Teachers Utilize the Full Range of Their Skillset
Today, like no other time in history, information is available to anyone for free. The Internet is full of books, articles, videos, courses, etc. We no longer live in a world where teachers are the sole source for obtaining knowledge on a topic.
But, teachers were never just the person who reads a book and then presents the material to the class. They’ve always taken on the role of facilitating the educational journey of the students and coaching them on their individual paths. The abundance of information and the proliferation of the technology used to access this information has had an impact on the evolving role of the educator in our society.
Educators are now leveraging IT solutions to replace or supplement traditional learning norms with self-directed learning experiences that are personalized to the student’s education and life or career trajectory. The classroom – whether virtual or on-site – is facilitated by the faculty to become a zone of guidance, collaboration, and communication, as well as instruction.
Where Did Education Technology Begin? — A Nod, and a Connection, to the Past
Education technology has always been with us. It’s just improved over time. There was a time when education was learned by word of mouth, then Gutenburg invented the printing press. It wasn’t so long ago that grade-school students used tablets and chalk in one-room schoolhouses. Today, paper and pen have been replaced with an iPad or Android tablet and stylus. Cloud-based administration and teaching environments are the next steps in this ever-evolving process.
To answer the question more directly, the use of hardware and software for school administration and teaching has its origin in universities across the world and in the military. Each of these institutions had the impetus and the resources in the early days to imagine what technology could do for education.
Education writer and speaker, Audrey Watters, gave a speech at the CENTRO symposium in Mexico City in which she said, “When we talk about “the future of education” as an explicitly technological future, I want us to remember that “the history of education” has long been technological – thousands of years of writing, hundreds of years of print, a century of “teaching machines,” 75 years of computing, almost 60 years of computer-assisted instruction, at least 40 years of the learning management system, more than 25 years of one-to-one laptop programs, a decade (give or take a year) of mobile learning.”
In that same speech, Audrey Watters gave the following insight, “Technologies are as likely to re-inscribe traditional practices as to alter them.”
Is the Advancement of Education Technology Inevitable?
The short answer is, YES. However, the subject is more nuanced than a simple YES/NO answer. Over the years, education technology has followed the advancement and acceptance of technologies in business. As the competition in the business world winnowed the best from the field of available technologies, educators then felt comfortable adopting and adapting those systems for educational purposes.
The cloud is no different. It’s really only been over the past ten years that businesses have discovered and embraced cloud technologies for the business realm. Education has now followed suit, being pushed in this instance dramatically by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Education technology will continue to expand and evolve, partially because education is a large market. For example, as of today, more than 20,000 education applications have been developed for the iPad alone. As remote learning and hybrid models become a mainstay, the practical applications of technology become more apparent.
Universities have even used the cloud to facilitate Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to help people gain an interest in the sciences and give people an opportunity to further their education during the pandemic. These same technologies will continue to be utilized as everyone from trade schools to Ivy League institutions, like MIT, engage the public and influence the next generation of students to come to their school.
Is Education Technology Really a Disruptor?
While it’s easy to talk about disruption and use words like “transform” or “revolutionize,” the truth is that technology should be viewed as an enabler.
Here’s an example, for hundreds of years, voting for our political leaders was done by paper ballot. Those paper ballots were then counted by hand.
Now, we have ballot-counting machines, and some municipalities allow electronic voting.
Has that changed politics? Not really.
But these advancements have made it easier for precincts to tally and submit their constituents’ votes.
Educational technology is the same.
Yes, some things will change, but most things will stay the same. The difference is, cloud-based technology will make it easier for teachers and administrators to accomplish what they are already working hard to do each day.
One of the challenges colleges and universities are currently facing is the public opinion of higher education without the trappings of the facilities, classroom environment, and college social life experience. By going further than simply moving existing educational techniques into the cloud, colleges and universities can provide educational value that wasn’t available within the limitations of a physical classroom. There are new opportunities to learn in ways that more closely resemble real-world experiences.
Researchers in the Learning Sciences are “dedicated to the interdisciplinary empirical investigation of learning as it exists in real-world settings and to how learning may be facilitated both with and without technology.” (isls.org). An important point to keep in mind as we explore this question of virtual classrooms is that “not all learning is the same.”The best way to learn probably is through Authentic Learning where students learn by performing the actual task itself. The second-best way is Situated Learning which is the closet to the real thing as possible. Students learn through simulation and solving problems in context.
There are four categories of learning technology: Simulation, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, and Virtual Reality. A Simulation experience happens on a flat screen, while Virtual Reality is immersive. Kolodziej shares a fascinating video recording of him in full VR regalia, exploring the International Space Station. Not only does he get to explore the space station, but he also gets to exit the station, travel outside and make a repair using hand controls. “It’s an incredible immersive experience allowing you to imagine the context, to be in the context of a situation without having to actually be there.”
Dr. Kolodziej goes on to share another example of Virtual Reality learning by exploring – this YouTube video shows an immersive VR of the Sistine Chapel. Of course, on YouTube it sits on your flat screen, but plug your Smartphone into a Virtual Reality headset and you’re suddenly there. “You are immediately immersed and transformed into a new space and time. You can think about, experience, and see things in ways that weren’t previously possible. You can travel the world in Virtual Reality.
Similarly, another virtual reality model can be found online at A Walk Through Dementia. The experience is designed to give visitors a better understanding of how someone with dementia experiences everyday life.
Prior to this VR experience being added to a college curriculum, students were tasked with reading a textbook and answering some questions. That’s the traditional model. Using VR for immersive learning enables a paradigm shift by standing in the shoes of someone having trouble finding their way home. You can truly understand what it’s like to have Dementia. It’s a much more impactful way to learn.
Comprehensive Approach – Not Just Plug and Play Software Solutions
Ursula Franklin (1921-2016), during her forty-year tenure at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, described technology as a much larger picture than software or hardware. She saw technology as a holistic system comprised of organization, methods, procedures, and mindset. For her, the hardware and software only played a supporting role in what she saw as the larger nature of technology.
Let’s face it.
There are hundreds of companies out there promoting technology solutions for educators. Some of those technologies are fantastic and will help your school immensely. Others fall short of fail miserably and should be pulled from the shelves.
What most aren’t discussing is the need for an over-arching approach to a systemic adoption of technology that will have a positive impact throughout your school, community college, or university.
Well, most of the technologies currently offered to educational institutions are built to address one issue. For example, the online conference tool Zoom, which was adopted by millions of teachers and students worldwide despite the fact that Zoom has a history of security problems.
Moving into a cloud environment allows you to leverage the cloud to comprehensively and systematically overhaul how your school is using technology at all levels including security and compliance. Other standard cloud benefits include cost savings, ease of use, increased storage capacity and automation, and freeing up IT staff.
The Democratization of Education
Beyond our borders, countries are looking at cloud technology to bring equality and democratization to their educational systems. Anita Lie, Professor of Education at Widya Mandala Catholic University Surabaya, in a Jakarta Post article titled, “The New Normal in Education” stated, “Re-imagining anew forms of education may open doors for more equitable quality education for all young Indonesians. Despite all the COVID-19 maladies, the pandemic disruption has brought awareness to new possibilities in reviving our education system and in ushering young Indonesians into the future on a more level playing field.”
One of the concerns surrounding online educational opportunities here in the USA is the cost of devices and Internet for the student learning from home. Fortunately, the cloud gives greater opportunity to marginalized and under-served populations that may not have the resources for a fancy computer with all the bells and whistles. Instead, cloud portals can be used to allow any student with any device that has the bare minimum power to surf the Internet (which nearly all do) to be able to learn in the same online environment as a student with financial advantages.
How Can Technology Help Educators Imagine the Next Evolution of Education?
Cloud-Based Learning Management Systems (LMS) – Learning Management Systems have their origins in the late 1990s. Since that time, they have become a critical tool in education delivery. In more recent years, Learning Management Systems have found their way into the cloud to enable easier and secure data storage and workflow mobility for school administration departments. The flexibility of the cloud allows administrative teams to discover new and more efficient ways of operating.
Modular Learning vs. Linear Learning – Cloud-based learning platforms allow for some flexibility in adapting education to the individual. Sure, everyone has to learn certain things in order, but niche electives can be offered, and students can enjoy a far more tailored educational experience. Delivering niche electives in a modular learning format helps students get used to learning in the ways that they will later in life.
Online Education for the Ways People Learn – Visual learners, academic learners, auditory learners, and tactile learners have different preferences. The use of cloud infrastructure and lessons pushed out in print, audio, and video allows an educational institution to deliver the same material in a way that each student will best understand the material. Thought will have to be given to determine how to best facilitate the ease of learning for hands-on, tactile learners. However, this is a challenge even in a traditional classroom setting.
Avatars – Some of the hesitation of students regarding live online classroom interaction is the video component. Thankfully, online gaming granted us the concept of the Avatar. When schools give their students the option between creating an Avatar version of themselves or a live video feed, it helps deal with concerns students may have with their appearance or hesitation with showing their living conditions on camera. Although these issues must be lovingly addressed in the proper setting, Avatars help bridge the gap and allow for more comfort in an online classroom for those who are uncomfortable with the camera. Avatars help level the playing field for some students in a way that cannot be leveled within a classroom environment.
Although educators responded swiftly and effectively to the pandemic, there’s still more to be done for long-term recovery and paving the way for future sustainability. It’s critical that universities take action now to develop their own long-term strategy, allocate resources, or perhaps devise new ones. For example, streamlining operations and offering more options customized to the individual needs of the student. Virtual learning is sure to play a key role, but developing the strategy will have to embrace the kinds of instructional connection points present in a traditional classroom environment. Interactivity is important. As Johns Hopkins University’s professor William G. Durden points out in his insightful article Turning the Tide on Online Learning, people need to be seen, heard, and exchange ideas. This is the kind of impact that helps affirm identity of the student by the instructor and the other students. As long as people are able to engage that way, and the content they’re learning is substantial, they will stay motivated over a sustained period of time.
Closing with the visionary words of Dr. Michael Kolodziej talking about Artificial Intelligence and Adaptive Learning, “Learning is more than information transfer. The idea that we can program a machine and the machine can program the person is seductive from a process and scaling perspective. The reality is that these things are not that simple. When we think about how to get educators into the meaningful stuff like good learning, authentic and situated learning, we know that Artificial Intelligence platforms can helps us, but they will never replace us.”
How can educators convert this crisis into an opportunity? That’s the big question.
To learn more about how we’re helping to answer that question, please call 888-753-5060 or visit our Education Solutions below
How are upstart businesses taking market share away from well-established companies that have ruled your sector for decades? There are many contributing factors, but the most significant in today’s business environment is technology. Venture-backed start-ups across all industries are building their companies by relying on technology as a central pillar and driving force within their business model. Established businesses tend to see technology as an add-on that helps them get their work done – or even a necessary evil.
For established businesses to maintain their position within the marketplace, they must begin with a revamped mindset that views technology decisions as business decisions, not just technical decisions.
This is most evident in the decision to move IT operations into the cloud. The complex technical reasons that a company should invest in cloud-based infrastructure are vastly outweighed by the business reasons.
What are the Most Common Benefits that Forward-Leaning Businesses are Trying to Achieve in a Cloud Environment?
It’s important for your company to have predictable expenditures when operating within finite budgetary constraints. The cloud allows your CIO to precisely forecast IT expenditures as your business grows and makes forward progress. Alternatively, organizations that have busy or slower seasons are able to scale up or down according to fluctuations in the demand and marketplace for their products and services.
When looking at the ROI for implementing a cloud-based IT environment, you need to consider the lifecycle of your IT assets. For example, in-house IT assets require purchase, maintenance, management, and replacement. Cloud assets have no upfront purchase cost and are continuously managed, maintained, and updated. The other factor that comes into play is the expected increase in efficiency and productivity from cloud assets. When one compares apples to apples, cloud infrastructure comes out the winner in terms of cost-effectiveness.
· Unified IT Environment
Right now, most organizations considering the move to the cloud are using cloud-based applications and in-house infrastructure. This can lead to speedbumps in internal processes that slow down the workflow to full-on roadblocks that keep you from pursuing your next pro-growth action plan. By moving everything into a cloud environment, the integration of applications, and the automation of manual processes are simplified.
· Digital Transformation
As mentioned earlier, mature companies that are trying to match wits with their younger, venture-backed competition are realizing they must view technology as a business enabler too. Digital transformation is not something that can be tacked onto a business, but rather, it is how a business views its processes today, and potential tomorrow, based on what current and emerging technologies can do. Because of the unlimited power and capacity of the cloud, it is the perfect place to explore and implement digital transformation strategies.
In 1965, Gordon Moore – former CEO and Co-founder of Intel – made the observation that because the number of transistors in microprocessors seems to double each year, the available computing power doubles each year as well. Moore’s Law (as his observation has been dubbed) has proven true in the rapid pace of technology growth since that day. The cloud allows you the flexibility needed to take advantage of rapid technology changes and expansion almost in real-time. (More on Moore’s Law in our next article, “Hidden Cloud Benefits - What the Marketing Departments of Cloud Technology Companies Forget to Tell You.” What is the Cloud?
· Speed of Deployment for New Products and Services
Beating your competitor to market may mean the difference between gaining the majority of market share or eating the crumbs left by the guy who got there first. In 1802, Humphrey Davy came up with the first electric light, the Electric Arc Lamp. This was almost 77 years before Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb in 1879. Between Davy and Edison, there were at least four other recorded inventors that had their version of an electric light source. So why did we all use Edison’s lightbulbs until the recent adoption of halogen and LED bulbs? Because Edison was the first to bring a commercially viable bulb to market. That’s what the cloud does for you. Need a satellite office set up in Seattle tomorrow? – It can be done. Need the infrastructure to support a product rollout by next Thursday? – Not a problem.
· Business Continuity
It’s not a stretch to say that if you don’t have geo-redundant cloud backups and cloud-based workflow assets, you don’t really have business continuity. Unfortunately, many companies are reliant upon an in-house server to save the day when things go bad. But storms like Katrina, pandemics like COVID-19, and ransomware attacks like WannaCry demonstrate that an in-house server isn’t up to the task of protecting confidential client information, proprietary data, and critical workflows.
· Backup and Disaster Recovery
Closely related to and a key component of a robust business continuity strategy is Backup and Disaster Recovery. Protecting your data from theft, fire, flood, storms, power outages, and human error is essential; and the cloud is the secure, efficient way to meet that goal. Automatic, verifiable, monitored backups of data into a cloud environment help you meet industry standards and compliance requirements.
Don't get left behind
If you’ve been considering the cloud for a while now and reading blogs or marketing materials from cloud hosting companies, you’ve likely seen these cloud advantages repeatedly. What you need is a team of cloud specialists to help you put all the pieces together, so your company can benefit from working in a cloud environment. IronOrbit is here to help.
Companies all over the world have moved to Microsoft 365 for an endless array of benefits that include workflow mobility; however, the assumption of many companies concerning Microsoft’s responsibility to back up and store their historical data may be faulty. For the most part, Microsoft is concerned with maintaining its infrastructure to provide a seamless productivity experience for you and your employees. It is the individual company’s responsibility to ensure that backups are set up and protected in line with retention regulations, policies, and compliance requirements.
Understanding the Difference Between Backup and Geo Redundancy
One of the things that companies love about Microsoft 365 is the ability it gives them to work from anywhere. If there is a second favorite aspect of Microsoft 365, it would likely be the peace of mind that Microsoft gives them, knowing that if their computer crashes, all their work is still there in the cloud, waiting for them to access it and get back to work.
Where much confusion lies is in the difference between backups and geo-redundancy.
Microsoft 365 gives you geo-redundancy. If a storm, flood, fire, criminal activity, or a hardware breakdown prevents access to your office computer, You can still access your data remotely using any internet-connected device .
Geo redundancy has changed the way we work and do business for the better.
Backups are a different animal altogether.
A backup is when an original historical file is preserved and secured in a secondary location according to retention regulations/policies and compliance mandates.
What many companies think of as “backup” is not backup at all, but instead is geo-redundancy.
What’s So Important About Using Backup as a Service?
Backing up your company’s Microsoft 365 data is critical on both the legal and cybersecurity fronts. This is accomplished by hosting that data in a secured, compliant private data center. Backing up your data regularly and automatically protects you from:
· Accidental Data Deletion
· Retention Policy Non-compliance
· Internal Security Threats
· External Cybersecurity Dangers
· Legal and Compliance Violations
How Does Backup as a Service Work?
In a backup as a service agreement, an IT services firm works closely with a cloud hosting provider (sometimes they are the same entity) to provide you with regular, automated, secure, and compliant backups. The backed up data is stored offsite, and you are billed each month for the data storage and backup service. This agreement works well for most companies because you only end up paying for the service and storage that you use, and the service/storage can easily scale with your growth. Pricing is stable and predictable.
What Gets Backed Up?
There are two primary means of backing up data. There are file-based backup systems and image-based backup systems. In a file-based backup system, just your files – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, etc. – get backed up. This is now an outdated backup system for two main reasons:
· Retention policies and compliance mandates require more information than can be provided by a file-based backup.
· File-based backups aren’t as easy to re-implement as an image backup if a company has to fall back on its historic data copies.
Image-based backups take an image of your entire computing environment, files, applications, operating system, user settings – everything, and back that up. Image-based backups allow an IT specialist to bring a workflow back online on different hardware very quickly.
Image-based backups of your Microsoft 365 environment ensure that your employees can be provisioned with the same online working environment after a hardware crash, fire, flood, or criminal breach as they had before the incident.
BaaS and Ransomware
One of the biggest arguments for the setup of a robust Backup as a Service strategy is the threat of ransomware. Many people have the misguided idea that ransomware is something that you discover the impact of right away. Unfortunately, ransomware can sit on a computer or server for months, quietly encrypting files in the background and only presenting the ransom demand at the criminal’s convenience.
The best defense against ransomware is BaaS. The BaaS regular, automated backup strategy ensures that you have clean files to fall back to if ransomware corrupts your on-site Microsoft 365 files.
Want to find out more about BaaS and how it can protect the integrity of your business? We’d be happy to answer all of your questions. For more information give us a call at 888-753-5060.
Because the world is more fluid, unpredictable, and less stable than ever, the cloud represents a resilient business strategy that is sustainable.
Business optimization is the process of making your operations more efficient and cost-effective. Moving to the cloud enables these improvements to happen easily and with great flexibility.
For enterprise organizations, being in the cloud provides them with the ability to scale up their infrastructure quickly, without setting up an additional in-house hardware. It’s not only fast, but it reduces the cost associated with development.
Employees can access files using Smartphones, laptops, and tablets while you reduce operational costs, boost speed, and improve accuracy.
That’s just the beginning. But still, we’re just scratching the surface of what the transformational “supernova” known as the cloud can do for your business.
Moving to the cloud is not a cure-all solution that is going to solve all your optimization and business continuity challenges. Sure, there will be great benefit in simply migrating your IT infrastructure to the cloud, but to fully benefit from this game-changing technology, leaders have to seek out the cloud solution that is optimized for their unique needs. Not all companies are created equal, and neither are clouds.
Cloud Optimization is about delivering business efficiency to your organization. Leaders need to target objectives, look towards future trends, and make predictions as best they can. These insights help IT operations make better cloud decisions and accelerate business innovations that will impact the future of your company. Remember, it’s not just a matter of surviving the years ahead. The goal is to thrive and, ideally, have the ability and wherewithal to shape your own future.
DID SOMEONE SAY, “BUSINESS CONTINUITY?”
It just so happens that being in the right cloud environment also ensures business continuity!
Let’s face it. There are many ways organizations can be disrupted.
There are natural disasters, service outages, security breaches, industry innovations/competition, and now, add lockdowns caused by pandemics to the list.
Without implementing a business continuity strategy as a part of an overall cybersecurity roadmap, any process optimization changes you make can be taken away from you in a second. By being in the cloud (instead of utilizing on-site servers to back up your data and host your applications), the cybersecurity and business continuity elements are already baked into your solution. This assurance of security and reliability gives you the freedom to customize and tweak your internal, IT-supported processes and innovate more effective ways to develop and deliver your products and services.
The decisions you make about your cloud infrastructure can determine the future of your company.
Imagine for a moment that you’re the CEO of one of the top three travel management companies in the USA. You’ve got more than 1,000 employees and twenty-plus locations scattered across the country.
But you’ve got a BIG problem.
The in-house infrastructure you implemented ten years ago is now out of date, operationally overloaded, and in urgent need of hardware, software, and security upgrades.
What to do?
Well, you could invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in new in-house hardware, software, and security solutions, or, you could start looking at the cloud as a potential game-changer for your growing enterprise.
He chose to use IronOrbit’s cloud infrastructure to help his organization take the next step in business optimization.
Darryl says, “Our success in the travel industry comes down to our ability to leverage technology and put it to work for our customers. IronOrbit helps us keep that competitive edge.”
Harnessing the Cloud for Business Optimization
5 Things You Need to Know
1. Know the Competition
It’s not a surprise that many companies are already using the cloud to house their data and infrastructure. Gartner, one of the industry’s leading think tanks, shows the numbers behind the massive move to a cloud-first infrastructure across all industries.
In an article titled Cloud Shift Impacts All IT Markets Christy Pettey of Gartner notes that “Gartner’s latest IT spending forecast shows that spending on data center systems is forecast to be $195 billion in 2019, but down to $190 billion through 2022. In contrast, spending on cloud system infrastructure services (IaaS) will grow from $39.5 billion in 2019 to $63 billion through 2021.”
What do all these big-dollar forecasts mean for you?
Your competition is either considering a move to the cloud, or they’re already there.
2. Know the Costs
Cost is always a factor. Doing the math and understanding what cloud infrastructure will mean for your business optimization goals, in conjunction with your budgeting, is critical. Here are some factors related to cloud infrastructure costs.
OPEX vs. CAPEX – Cloud-first business optimization strategies allow you to get away from the life cycle (and break/fix cycle) of in-house IT infrastructure and move the IT budgeting from the CAPEX side of the ledger to the OPEX side.
Scaling Cost with Requirements – Although a company with infinite resources can afford to build IT capacity that they won’t use for 3 to 5 years, your company isn’t likely in that position. Cloud infrastructure allows you to utilize economies of scale and level-up your expenses only when your business process growth requires.
Budgeted Expenditures – Predictability is valuable. The cloud simplifies IT budgeting because all maintenance, updates, security, and upgrades are done by the cloud provider within a stable, monthly fee.
Improved Performance Raises Productivity and Lowers Costs – Improved efficiency and increased productivity have to be considered when it comes to the cost/benefit analysis of cloud infrastructure for business optimization. Profitability arises when employees can easily access their work without spending time on keeping their computers functioning and secure.
3. Know the Process
The unknown is everyone’s primary source of worry. When the IronOrbit team explains the cloud migration process to a business leader, he/she then has the clarity and information needed to make a decision about utilizing a cloud environment to improve business optimization.
This is how an enterprise cloud migration/implementation process works.
Consultation – Getting together with the key stakeholders in the client company to explore their goals for the cloud migration or implementation
Exploration – Digging in and getting a firm grasp on the current IT assets of the client company and the processes that those IT assets support
Collaboration – Working with the in-house IT organization of the client company to determine a roadmap for moving data and IT-supported processes into the cloud
Presentation – Submitting completed migration roadmap to client company leadership for review and approval
Implementation – Moving data and workflow in stages into the cloud in accordance with the roadmap that has been established and working in coordination with the client organization’s IT team
Testing and Quality Assurance – Ensuring that each stage of the migration process has been completed successfully and is achieving the desired/expected results, i.e., optimization of business processes
4. Know the Hurdles
Some companies try to tell you that moving enterprise systems from in-house IT assets to cloud infrastructure is a breeze, but they just aren’t telling you the truth. The fact is that enterprise IT assets are complicated. Moving them into the cloud is a complex procedure. That’s why it’s critical to choose the right team to handle the tough stuff and to help you get over the operational hurdles you must face before a cloud-first strategy results in business optimization.
Hurdle #1 – Buy In
Getting key stakeholders to get on board with a cloud implementation to achieve better business optimization is one of the first hurdles you will face. People like infrastructure that they can see and touch. As a result, there is an innate bias against cloud infrastructure – even if it is better on many levels than buying and maintaining in-house IT assets.
Hurdle #2 – Bandwidth
When your entire data and workflow are securely accessed through an internet connection, it’s critical that your business has reliable bandwidth to handle the traffic and a backup IP.
Hurdle #3 – Training
Optimizing business processes through the utilization of cloud assets is a game-changer. It’s important not to leave your staff in the dark. Each step of the process needs to be communicated from the top down. Talk to the employees that are most impacted by the change. Cloud implementation needs to be framed as a positive for the employees. They need to be trained on new aspects of the process that have been impacted by the cloud implementation.
5. Know the Benefits
Using cloud-based data sets, servers, and desktops, your organization can work to drive real-world business advantages. Here are just a few examples of them.
We’ve saved the best for last!
As mentioned in an earlier IronOrbit blog, the cloud has tremendous energy. The information travels up and down. Large amounts of digital information move in every direction. You need to learn to go with the knowledge flow if you’re going to thrive. The flow of knowledge stocks on the cloud will better equip you to look ahead, predict trends, and respond in a timely manner to the ever-changing market. Being in the cloud ensures that you are interconnected globally, where ideas and knowledge are exchanged freely.
It’s not just about knowledge flows, though that’s compelling enough. It’s also about being able to take advantage of leading-edge technology as it becomes available.
Consider the March 1, 2019, Deloitte article, CLOUD-BASED SERVICES ARE MAKING IT EASIER FOR COMPANIES TO USE AI. “These streamlined ways of using AI are coming at the right time as organizations recognize the value of investing in AI to improve their competitiveness. Companies without a great deal of AI expertise can still benefit, as user-friendly cloud services continue to improve and proliferate. The message for companies that want to remain competitive is that they need to jump in – and it’s never been easier or more essential to tap into the power of AI.
Business Optimization is achieved when gaps in process and technology challenges are addressed in relation to the resources available. Today’s business optimization isn’t about a one-time restructuring, but rather an ongoing, dynamic alignment of people, processes, and technology. This kind of strategic agility can only be supported adequately in a cloud infrastructure. The Harvard Business Review article by Nicholas Bloom and Nicola Pierri, from August, 31, 2018, makes the point clear. “Flexible access to computing resources allows firms to scale-up (or down) rapidly and to experiment with new products and features. The operational agility can be particularly valuable when facing uncertain demand or a fast-evolving competitive environment.”
Another strong case for using cloud technology to optimize business is made earlier in the same article. It reports that cloud computing is an unusual technology that “provides high-powered computing without the overhead costs associated with in-house software and hardware provisions.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Here’s the most important question.
If you’re not going to utilize the cloud for continuous collaboration of processes to meet market demand and stay ahead of the competition, what are you going to do – and how much money are you going to have to spend to make it happen?
The first part of this blog set the stage for what follows.The coronavirus pandemic slowed us down. At that same it has pushed us into our homes to work. The pandemic has, and continues, to accelerate technological advancements. The novel virus has physically slowed each and everyone of us. And it has slowed the economy. The Brookings Institute reported that our economy has entered a contraction.
There is much we still don’t know about the coronavirus, We also don’t know how the lock downs across the country will affect our business and our economy long term. This is all uncharted territory. While all of this true, technology has been a life-saver for many businesses.
So, how is technology going to keep the USA in business and help the economy to recover?
The supply chain for US companies is long and complex.
Goods manufactured here in the USA have multiple supply vendors. The supply chain cycles in weeks – not days or hours.
We pick up an item at a big-box store or the local hardware store. We don’t consider all the suppliers and technology it takes to get that product on the shelf.
The supply chain has slowed for some industries. Our supply chain technology is still in place and working. It’s ready to fire on all cylinders again when called upon to do so. We must monitor our supply chain.
In a Forbes article, Jaume Ribera of the IESE Business School contributor, warns of the “bullwhip effect.” This is when fluctuating consumer behavior impacts the supply chain at all levels.
2. Technology Enables Employees to Collaborate & Communicate with Clients.
Most businesses have been hard hit by COVID-19. There are others that have been flooded with new clients. They are struggling to keep up with demand.
The VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) video/audio communications companies are perfect examples of business sectors that have seen a spike in demand. Companies use applications like Microsoft Teams, to give telecommuters the same experience they had at the office.
Because of video and voice conferencing technology employees of companies across the USA are able to work from home, keep their jobs, and contribute to the ongoing health of their business.
3. Technology Supports Geo-Diverse Workflow.
Before the USA was impacted by the pandemic, many companies were already heavily investing in industry-optimized cloud workspaces, Microsoft 365, hosted servers, and cloud-based data backup/disaster recovery platforms.
Those who invested early in these technologies are now able to see their investment pay off exponentially. Competitors slow to adopt cloud-based technologies are having to scramble to retool their IT environment. Some have had to shut their doors. Companies already in the cloud are in a good position to push through this crisis. They can maintain workflow and business continuity.
When the post-mortem is done on the business impact of the COVID-19 crisis, cloud-based technology may very well be the hero of the day. It may be the driver that kept our economy from slipping into complete disarray.
4. Technology Undergirds the Public Health Message.
There has never been a time in history like this. Government and health officials can disseminate information. Our national telecommunications, internet, and wireless infrastructure may be at capacity. Our backbone of critical technologies is holding. It is playing a key role in the health of the workforce.
Technology giants like Amazon, FaceBook, and Google have stepped up to the plate to squelch the spread of misinformation. They’re replacing it with up-to date factual information.
Blair Levin of the Brookings Institute writes, “all of this internet use is putting more pressure on our broadband infrastructure. Just in the past few weeks, data demands have risen in nearly all categories. The previous peak has become the new average, and the surge is starting to threaten the quality and speed of content downloads. As shelter-in-place directives spread and demand increases, the question lingers of whether our broadband infrastructure can support the new normal.”
Well, the Internet system is working and handling the load. This crisis has reminded the nation it needs to keep up to ever increasing demands.
We need to continue upgrading our broadband infrastructure.
Health authorities are able to deliver critical information. This information is accurate. Distribution is by way of their websites and other trusted sources.
Employees are able to stay safe from the virus. They’re able to continue working remotely. One day this will be over. The returning workforce will be healthier than they would be without access to the disseminated health guidance.
5. Technology Enables Testing and Contact Tracing.
MIT has developed technology that enables your Smartphone to track where you’ve been. At the same time it preserves your privacy. You want to know that everyone around you is safe. At the same time, you don’t want the government tracking where everybody is going. MIT already has an AI-powered device that lets doctors monitor coronavirus patients remotely. The system is called Emerald. It is being used in some assisted living facilities. TheNextWeb reports that, Emerald aims to reduce the risks faced by healthcare professionals treating COVID-19, who are often exposed to the highly infectious disease without adequate protective gear.
Emerald could play a particularly important role in assisted living centers and retirement homes. The residents of these facilities are particularly vulnerable to the disease.
Experts are in agreement that major part of getting everyone back to work, and helping companies get back on their feet, is a healthy workforce. Providing healthcare professionals with the necessary technology to test, report, and contact trace are crucial to this effort.
On April 10th, The Economist reported that Apple and Google announced plans to work together to develop a way to track the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The unification of these two tech giants will make it easier for others to build contact-tracing apps that work without modifying either platform. Of course it raises a question. “If tracing apps are widely adopted, they must make people want to use them,” says Ciro Cattuto, an epidemiologist at the University of Turin, in Italy. “People need to feel like they’re contributing to a common good.”
6. Our New Appreciation for the Use of Digital Transformation Technologies.
Marketers for innovative technologies have traditionally had a challenging time convincing some leaders to invest in the future.convincing some business leaders that now was the time to make investments in newer, more efficient, cloud-based technologies.
Investing in technology that drove digital workflow transformation was seen as “nice to have” if “we can afford it.”
But when COVID-19 shifted the ground under the feet of U.S. business, those who had put money into cutting-edge business process technology were better positioned to ride out the storm. Some leaders, like the COO of the Clipper Corporation, Nancy Hejran, know that, one day, a disaster is going to happen. When that day comes, they want their data to be safe and secure.
These technologies will help the USA maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace when COVID-19 has become a memory.
7. Technology Supports the Retooling of Companies for the Post-COVID-19 Economy.
There are yet many uncertainties, there is one thing with which everyone seems to be in agreement. Things aren’t going to snap back to “business as usual” once this wave of Coronavirus has passed.
Company leaders are looking at what their business will be post-COVID-19. For some, the course alteration will be minimal – hardly noticed. For other businesses, the idea of “business as usual” will need a new definition. It is sure to be shaped by the demands of our ramshackle economy and available technologies.
How will the coronavirus change the way we do business? How will it change the global business climate? After all, we are in this together.
We will explore the answers to this question in next week’s blog,
Companies, individuals, and politicians are asking the same question. What is the nexus between health and economic prosperity? We need the breathing room to heal from the crippling effects of the COVID-19 crisis. Can technology provide that? Can it also keep the U.S. in business at the same time?
Before the USA fell victim to the coronavirus, our economy was booming. Every business sector was feeling the positive impact of high consumer confidence. We enjoyed record-low unemployment, and a strong stock market.
But then, the bottom fell out of the tub.
Because of COVID-19 many things happened quickly. The stock market took a dip. Millions became unemployed overnight. And the average consumer became too afraid to spend any reserve cash they may have stored up. According to the Brookings Institute, the economy has “almost certainly entered a contraction.”
The coronavirus changed life in the U.S., in the whole world, in a few dizzying weeks. California governor Gavin Newsom put the whole state of California on lockdown. He wasn’t the first to make such a decisive and bold move. About a week earlier, CNN reported Adam Silver, the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, announced the league would suspend the NBA season. Silver made this decision immediately after two of his players tested positive for the coronavirus.
He not only led the sports world shut down but he foreshadowed things to come. Organization
leadership has to acknowledge what is happening and respond. It may not be the perfect response, but they have to do something.
There is an old principle: divergent groups of people, even former enemies, will come together to fight a common threat. You could make the argument that nature was reminding us why we’re all here on one planet….to survive together as a species.
Telecommuting was already a trend gaining popularity and acceptance. Working from home would become the norm over the next 5 to 10 years. The coronavirus shortened that time frame. It pushed us further in a direction most businesses were already going.
COVID-19 has shaken us to our core.
The aftershocks will tremble beneath our feet for quite some time. Just in the last 2 weeks the Small Business Administration has issued more than $305 Billion in loans to more than 1.4 million small businesses nationwide.
The pandemic has provoked all companies large and small to launch their own grass-roots efforts. Okay, this is what we do as a company. How can we take what we do and help others during this crisis? In this divisive world we live in, we’ve seen companies from all over the world pitch in and help.
On March 25, 2020, Bloomberg Technology spoke with Cisco CEOChuck Robbins. Robbins said within the first 24 hours of CISCO announcing free cloud security and Webex offers, they had 240,000 new subscribers. “Before this crisis we were running 300 million users per month. We are now doing 4 and a half million meetings per day. We’re at 12 billion meeting minutes through March. I want to put this into perspective. In the United States, for any one-hour period, we will do 100 million meeting minutes. This is a platform that is now trying to support 3 to 4 to 5 times the volume it was ever built for just a few weeks ago. I’m so proud of what our team has accomplished. They’re working 7 x 24.”
When asked about his own experience working from home, Robbins said, “We all like working from home. At least periodically. I think we all miss the office tremendously.
We’ve looked at this across three vectors. What are we doing for our employees? What are doing for our customers? And what are we doing for our community?
Even from home, we’re able to execute on all of that. All our 75,900 employees are working from home.
We’ve stated we’re going to continue paying our contract and hourly workers. We’re doing a video meeting with our employees every week right now. We have medical experts on. We want to keep everyone up-to-date on what’s happening in the world. Everybody’s anxious to get back, but for now, it’s working great.
The big thing we’re worried about is our communities. We’ve been working very hard in Silicon Valley with our public counterparts to make sure we’re taking care of them as well.”
The best way to help society, business, and culture navigate a crisis is to just doing the right thing. Do what is fair for our country and for each other.
Most American companies went into the crisis in good shape. Businesses have found themselves peering over a steep ledge at a moribund economy. Like a wild animal on its last leg. Business owners scrambled to move entire work forces from the corporate office to home offices. Fast food restaurants closed their dining rooms. Kept their drive-thrus. Fine dining restaurants closed their doors. Most of them shifted their focus to call-in orders and online take-out orders. Brands that never ventured into having a digital business, now jockeyed for functioning apps. Some of kept a scaled down version of their workforce to keep the storefronts open. They offer curbside pick-up service.
Even though I am involved with the technology industry, I prefer to interact with a human while checking out at the grocery store. I’m the same way when it comes to ordering a smoothie from Nékter or a cup of coffee from Starbucks. I’d rather walk into the shop and ask an employee for my order than use an app on my Smartphone. Due to the pandemic, my local Starbucks recently re-opened, but open only for app order pick-ups. I had to finally download their app. It took a few minutes. I placed my order. paid for it via my account. A couple of minutes later, a lady wearing mask and gloves, placed it on the table blocking the front door.
In an April 11th article, The Economist told a story of an online grocer who saw its servers so overloaded that it suspected hackers. “We thought we were under a denial-of-service attack,’ says Tim Stiener, the company’s boss.” As it turned out, customers were desperately trying to get food and drink deliveries for the weeks ahead.
Later, the same article reported, “Around the world, small and medium-sized firms are particularly exposed. The US Chamber of Commerce found that 54% of non-sole-proprietor firms with fewer than 500 employees were either closed or expected to close in coming weeks.
Rich Lesser, the CEO of Boston Consulting Group, which advises big global firms, says that robotics and other new technology approaches to manufacturing make the case of moving factories closer to home more compelling. This is because they reduce the cost difference. Just as previous information technology was put to work underpinning the spread of supply chains, so today’s can be used to shorten them — potentially making companies more responsive to local tastes.”
Alphabet, Amazon, and Apple are contributing to the country’s economic resilience. For most other companies, the pandemic and lockdowns are huge disruptors.
The way companies use technology will make a difference. They will either close their doors or survive this difficult time. Few, very few, might even grow. The role of technology has changed over the past few weeks. Drones have delivered medical supplies. Artificial intelligence is at work to identify COVID-19 infections. There are plans to use AI technology to predict future hot spots.
The technical aspects of having employees work from home is easy to support. It becomes more complicated when you’re dealing with sensitive data. Remote workers may have access to corporate virtual private networks (VPNs). VPNs enable access to office networks,
More network bandwidth and expanded hardware is needed to encrypt the connections. Gartner analyst Rob Smith says that one-third of all companies are ill-equipped to send all their employees home. Another third have no remote work plan. Corporate VPN is an aging technology. It almost became obsolete as companies migrated to cloud-based services. As a result, companies were not interested in investing in VPNs simply to allow more employees to work from home. Of course, all of that has changed now.
More and more companies see employee productivity actually increase. Telecommuting is likely to remain as an option. At least part-time.
But using VPN is not optimal. What is optimal? Optimal is moving to the cloud.
More and more business leaders understand that the future of IT is based on cloud technology. Many of them will make the move once society comes up for air between the first and second waves of this pandemic. They don’t want to be stuck in this position again.
This concludes part one of HOW TECHNOLOGY WILL KEEP U.S. IN BUSINESS.
Be on the look out for part two. The concluding section will feature 7 key areas where technology works to help the USA in business.
Until then, keep learning, stay informed, and be safe.
Technology is transforming the way healthcare operates. The impact is not on one level but on many. It is certainly a game-changer for the way communication happens and the way data is stored. Most importantly, it is truly enhancing the patient experience. Technology transforms the way patients are diagnosed and treated. It’s also transforming the way the business side is handled.
The true dynamo behind the great healthcare overhaul is mobile technology. These are the smartphones and tablets carried by doctors and nurses as they move between one location an another. Cloud technology provides on-demand access to any IT resource you can imagine. It also delivers resources previously unavailable. This blog will introduce some of these new resources. Because these resources make use of cloud computing, they can be accessed from any device anywhere on the planet where there’s an Internet connection. The added benefit; again, because it is on the cloud, is the flexibility and versatility of being able to scale up or scale back capacity as needed. Bandwidth is unlimited. Store as much as you want. Gone are the days of being frustrated with your workstation because it is slow.
There are 2 drivers behind this technology. One is to reduce costs. The second is to improve the quality of patient care.
There are more mobile devices than there are people on Earth. Clinicians are connected as never before. This means that medical professionals can immediately tap into, contribute to, and benefit from, a growing pool of global medical knowledge. At the swipe of a finger, a doctor can access the latest research on a given disease, learn about the latest drug, or clinical trial outcomes. They can benefit from the collective experience of colleagues worldwide.
Things are changing from the patient side as well. Patients are becoming increasingly accountable for their own health and well-being. They’re doing their homework on diseases and illnesses. They want access to their own data. In the June 13, 2017, Forbes magazine article How The Cloud is Transforming Healthcare, Khalid Raza writes, “providers must satisfy the demand for instant, top-quality access to healthcare services. Patients – who are accustomed to the 24/7 availability and service from online retailers and financial institutions – expect and even demand such access and services from their healthcare providers. People have become more involved in managing their own healthcare needs, which only complicates matters, and gravitate to the web for diagnosis, information, and treatments.”
Software companies have had the pulse on these industry-wide healthcare trends. These companies have responded with new technologies designed to significantly contribute to the flow of knowledge and the efficiency of future healthcare. There are now multiple secure messaging technologies available to doctors who want to have a quick informal consultation with a colleague. These tools have many of the same features. For example, all communication is tracked and logged automatically.
Here are a few of the new technologies that are changing the face of medicine. And they’re all being facilitated by cloud computing in one way or another.
DIAGNOSIS, PROGNOSIS & TREATMENTS
There are still thick heavy reference books collected throughout doctor’s offices and nursing stations. These mammoth books are collecting a lot of dust now. The reference books have probably been forgotten or left where they were simply for reasons of interior design. Now if a nurse or doctor needs a quick reference, they pull out their smartphone. Mobile apps enable clinicians to quickly dial into any information needed about drug interactions or complications associated with a particular condition.
Med360 is a program that automatically collects every new publication matching your interests. It collects data from thousands of traditional open access journals and funnels it into your personal stream. A doctor has only to call up the app on his or her smartphone, do a quick scan of the screen, and know exactly what’s going on with the patient’s medication history-taking and reconciliation. Pharmacy pickups, dosage changes, and re-fills are presented in a clear interface on the clinician’s mobile device.
VAST AMOUNTS OF DATA
The February 2019 article in Nature Medicine reported on a program that used patient information such as symptoms, history, and lab results to diagnose common childhood diseases. According to the article, the system was given data on nearly 600,000 patients at a pediatric hospital in China. The results produced by the system were highly accurate.
In another February 2019 article, Cade Metz reported that Google is developing and testing systems that analyze electronic health records in an effort to flag medical conditions such as osteoporosis or diabetes. Similar technologies are being developed to detect signs of illness and disease just based on X-rays, M.R.I.s and retina scans. The main thing these innovations have in common is their reliance on neural networks. This is a breed of artificial intelligence that learns tasks largely on its own by analyzing vast amounts of data.
Computers can be programmed to recognize patterns amongst vast amounts of data. These patterns can be linked to specific conditions. These are patterns that would be difficult, if not impossible, for a person to notice. Huge amounts of data from medical imaging are fed into artificial neural networks. The program follows an algorithm. The computer then proceeds to learn on the job so to speak. The more data it receives, the better it becomes at interpreting the data.
This learning process is already being used in many applications. Computers learn to understand speech and identify objects this way. Self-driving cars can recognize stop signs. It can tell the difference between a pedestrian and a telephone pole. Google has created a program to help pathologists read microscope slides to diagnose things like cancer.
ANY DEVICE ANYWHERE
The fact that everything is accessible on any device anywhere means patients can get medical help at the hospital, at the ambulatory center, and in the comfort of their own home. In the past, if you wanted to see the doctor, you’d physically have to travel to where the doctor practiced medicine and visit the doctor’s office or go to the emergency room.
Now, much of that care can appropriately be pushed into the patient’s home.
Hospital at Home, a program at Mount Sinai, enables video visits. You can check-in, access monitoring tools, and input your vital statistics. Patients can do things like check their pulse, blood pressure, or weight. The information can then be sent to the patient’s care team for review and response.
In a May 10, 2019, Harvard Business Review article, Albert Siu and Linda V. DeCherrie report that “research has shown varying but clearly positive impacts on mortality, clinical outcomes, readmission rates, and cost. A 2012 meta-analysis of 61 randomized, controlled trials, for instance, found that the hospital-at-home patients had a 19% lower six-month mortality rate compared to hospitalized patients. Our research finds that patients who receive hospital-at-home care have fewer complications and readmissions; they also rate their health care experience more highly.”
Bruce Darrow, M.D., Ph.D., cardiologist and Chief Medical Information Officer for Mount Sinai Health Systems says, “It’s empowering for the patient and it’s good for the clinicians too. The technology allows doctors to let the patients do the jobs they would want to do themselves. Artificial Intelligence is going to be essential to healthcare. When we think about doing the work with patients at growing population levels effectively, A.I. technology is going to play an important role. If I’m a primary care doctor who is taking care of 2,500 patients, only 20 or 30 of those patients will come into my office on any given day. At the same time, there may be several at home who are at risk. Rather than combing through the entire list of 2,500 patients, if I have tools to look at the prior history of the patient along with their current vital signs, I can determine who I need to see first.”
Medical record systems are notorious for not communicating with one another.
Darrow goes on to say, “Electronic medical records have been challenging to connect to one another because of the way they were born. The original idea was not to generate a national patient identity that would allow the same patient to be identified as such from one system to another. There was no original standard for what the medical records would do and how they would interoperate with each other.
The government and the healthcare industry have recognized the problem. That’s where the work of the next few years will be. We’re making progress. At this point, I have patients who come to see me in the office. I can pull their information from a number of systems throughout the New York area as well as nationwide.”
Telemedicine is the practice of caring for patients remotely when the provider and patient are not physically present with each other. This HIPPA compliant video technology enables clinicians to consult with their patients effectively. Patients can follow-up with their doctor through a video visit instead of making the trip to the hospital or clinician’s office. Patients can get an on-demand video visit with emergency trained doctors. A doctor can have virtual communication with a specialist. Or a stroke specialist can be transported in to participate in the care of an emergency room patient. All of these things are possible today.
How many of us really know what the cloud is? Oh sure, we know that the cloud involves storing and accessing stuff via the Internet, but do we understand the powerful transformational nature of cloud computing technology. Do we appreciate how it has changed and continues to change, the way we live and work?
Not that long ago if you mentioned the cloud, most people thought you were talking about the weather. As recently as 2012, Wakefield Research discovered that 51% of the people surveyed, most of whom were Millennials, thought that storm conditions could interfere with cloud computing. Later that same year, Business Insider reported only 16% understood the cloud to be a network of Internet-connected devices to store, access, and share data. So if you don’t know that much about the cloud, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone.
Most people, if they think of the cloud at all, know it simply as a place to keep iTunes, archive our favorite movies, or family pictures and videos. Consumers know the cloud as a storage service offered by Apple. Our knowledge of iCloud is usually associated with the company’s invitation to add more space. Then there’s Netflix. Millions of people access feature-length movie titles stored and delivered on-demand via cloud technology. Do you store and share large files via DropBox? Does your office use Microsoft Office 365?
This article won’t be describing the cloud per se. Nor will it attempt to explain the various types and configurations of clouds. But rather a high overview of how cloud technology transforms companies and whole industries. It will explore the way cloud technology changes the way we work with each other all over the world. Technology growth is accelerating at multiplying rates. This acceleration is due to all the technologies blending together into the cloud.
We use a soft fluffy metaphor like the cloud, but “the cloud” paints a misleading picture in our minds. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Thomas L. Friedman, in his book, THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE, prefers to call the cloud “the supernova.” A term originated by Mircosoft computer designer Craig Mundie. Why refer to it as “the supernova” and not “the cloud.” In the world of astronomy, a supernova is the explosion of a star. It’s a huge astrological event; in fact, the largest explosion that takes place in space.
So too, the cloud is an incredible release of energy. The energy reshapes every man-made system that our society has built. And now, every single person on the planet who can access the Internet can tap into its power. The only difference, Mundie points out, is that a star’s supernova only happens once. The computer supernova keeps releasing energy at an accelerating rate. It’s interesting to note that the components that make up the cloud continue to drive down in cost. The cost goes down while performance keeps going up.
Just as the discovery of fire was a game-changer back in the Stone Age, and Electricity lit the way from one century to the next in the late 19th Century, the cloud has fundamentally changed the modern world. There are more mobile devices on the planet than there are people. Soon everyone on the planet will be connected.
Go with the Flow
The cloud has large amounts of digital information moving in every direction. The information travels up and down. The white-water rapid current moves fast and with equal energy. You have to learn to go with the flow if you’re going to thrive. Like maintaining constant homeostasis, you have to go with the flow to keep your balance. You’ll be better equipped to look ahead, predict trends, and respond to the ever-changing market.
In the past, the traditional idea was to go to college. Get an education. Find a job where you can apply that education. Show up. Do the work and you’d be fine. You’d be set for life. The focus was on one person having a stock of knowledge. Today, the focus has shifted to the flow of knowledge. As pointed out in the 2009 Harvard Business Review article “Abandon Stocks, Embrace Flows,” it’s no longer about having knowledge.
As the world accelerates knowledge tends to become outdated at a faster rate. The premium shifts to a focus on updating knowledge. Choice marketable characteristics will be a high level of curiosity, and staying in touch and maintaining the pulse on the latest advancements. As the world accelerates, stocks of knowledge depreciate at a faster rate. This is true for items you buy as well. Notice how quickly product life cycles have compressed. Even the most successful products fall by the wayside quicker than before. We have to continually learn by participating in relevant flows of new knowledge. And it’s not just a matter of diving into the flow when we feel like it. Participation and benefiting from this flow of knowledge requires that we must also contribute to it on an on-going basis.
This is the world of the cloud. This is where workspaces connect globally. Ideas and knowledge are exchanged freely. The so-called little guy can compete with the big guy. In the March 2016 study “Digital Globalization: The New Era of Global Flows” by the McKinsey Global Institute, we see in great detail how the world is more interconnected than ever.
Many enterprise companies are taking advantage of this interconnectivity. They’re leveraging the technology in order to take advantage of the knowledge flows moving around the planet. For example, Friedman describes in his book THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE, how General Electric supplements its internal resources of engineers to run global contests to see who can come up with the best design solutions. One such contest received 697 entries from companies and individuals all over the world.
It’s All About Interconnectivity
This interconnectivity is expanding “instantaneous exchanges of virtual goods.” The cloud enables digitized financial flows to happen at unfathomable rates. The science journal Nature published “Physics in Finance: Trading at the Speed of Light.” It presents an industry driven by ever-increasing speed and complexity. The article reports that more than 100,000 trades occur in less than a second. That’s for a single customer.
High-frequency trading relies on several things. It needs fast computer algorithms for deciding what and when to buy and sel. Live feeds of financial data are needed. And high-frequency trading also requires about $15,000 a month to rent fast links.
Moving faster also increases the likelihood of mistakes. In 2012, a flaw in the algorithms of KNIGHT CAPITAL – one of the largest U.S. high-frequency firms, caused a loss of $440 million in 45 minutes. The algorithm accidentally bought at a higher price than it sold.
Some trading firms established a way to keep the traffic from moving too fast. They introduced a kind of digital speed bump. Slowing down the flows of digital traffic by 350 microseconds. Apparently this was all time traders needed to benefit from faster feeds. The inclusion of a speed bump, all 350 microseconds worth, meant we’ve already surpassed the optimal speed for trading.
Speed & Complexity Are Free
Because information moves much faster now, global markets become more interdependent on each other. Remember when China made some financial missteps in 2015. It caused a ripple effect that stretched across the planet. Americans felt it immediately. On August 26, 2015, CNN.com reported:
“The American stock market has surrendered a stunning $2.1 trillion of value in just the last 6 days of market chaos. The enormous losses reflect deep fears gripping markets about how the world economy will fare amid a deepening economic downturn in China. The Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq have all tumbled into correction territory. It is their first 10% decline from a recent high since 2011. The dramatic retreat on Wall Street has been fueled by serious concerns about the fallout of China’s economic slowdown.”
PayPal has become one of the most important drivers of digital finance. The company set out to democratize financial services by enabling every citizen to move and manage money. The explosion of smartphones gave users all the power of a bank branch at their fingertips. The incremental cost of adding a customer is nearly zero. What is common-place for Americans to do, send money to someone, pay a bill, or get a loan, was now simple, easy, and nearly free for 3 billion people around the world. These were the people who would have to stand in hours to change their currency and stand in another line for hours to pay a bill. PayPal doesn’t rely on FICO scores the way a traditional bank or credit card company does. Instead, they use their own big data analytics based on your actual transaction activity on their site. This gives them a more accurate picture of your creditworthiness. The result: instant loans to more people around the world with a higher rate of payback. PayPal is one of the companies eliminating the need for cash. PayPal is also experimenting with “blockchain” for validating and relaying global transactions through multiple computers.
Cloud technology has brought with it a period of adjustment. We need time to absorb, learn, and get used to the idea of working differently. The cloud will make economies measurably more productive. Because of it Individuals, groups, and organizations are now on a level playing field. These individuals, groups, and organizations can shape the world around them in unprecedented ways. And they can do it with less effort.
Leverage & Synergy
There has never been a better time to become a maker, an inventor, a start-upper or an innovator. It’s leverage and synergy in action as never before.
Consider some of these examples:
The world’s largest taxi company owns no taxis
The most popular media owner creates no media
The world’s most valuable retailer has no inventory
The largest accommodation provider owns no real estate
THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
Technology has always been an amplifier of the best and worst of humanity. It tends to magnify our psychological and spiritual condition both good and bad. Cloud technology is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it empowers the individual, groups, and organizations as never before. Companies communicate faster and more fluidly. Small boutique shops can become multi-national enterprises in a short amount of time. More brains are connected globally. The smallest voices can be heard everywhere for the first time.
Alternately, technology can be used to belittle and disempower. Just as the cloud enables builders and makers, it also gives power to breakers. One person can do more damage more cheaply and more easily. Take Navinder Singh Sarao for example. Sarao, operating from one computer on a network connection out of his parent’s house in West London, single-handedly manipulated the U.S. Stock Market into losing a trillion dollars in less than a half-hour. He “spoofed” the Chicago Mercantile Exchange into setting off a terrible chain reaction. Spoofing is an illegal technique of flooding the market with bogus buy and sell orders so that other traders, both human and machine, are fooled into helping the perpetrator buy low or sell high. He had developed his algorithms to alter how his orders would be perceived by other computers.
Big forces can come out of nowhere and crush your business. You’ll never see them coming. The mobile broadband-supernova is a double-edged sword. How it’s used depends on the values and tools we want to put into place.
WE BECOME WHAT WE BEHOLD
In summation, the cloud, our technological broadband-supernova, is here to stay. It won’t be the same cloud a few months from now, but it’s here to stay. And things will continue to accelerate. It’s going to be difficult for many to keep up. Keeping up may be one of the great challenges facing society in the decades to come.
In answering the question, “Why is the world changing so fast?” Dr. Eric C. Leuthardt states in his “Brains and Machines” blog:
The reason for accelerating change is similar to why networked computers are so powerful. The more processing cores you add, the faster any given function occurs. Similarly, the more integrated that humans are able to exchange ideas the more rapidly they’ll be able to accomplish novel insights.
Different from Moore’s Law, which involves the compiling of logic units to perform more rapid analytic functions, increased communication is the compiling of creative units (i.e. humans) to perform every more creative task.
A great primer for anyone interested in understanding the transformational power of cloud technology is Thomas L. Freidman’s 2016 book THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE: AN OPTIMIST’S GUIDE TO THRIVING IN THE AGE OF ACCELERATIONS.