If there was a silver lining to the COVID pandemic, it exposed vulnerabilities in the way companies operate their business. As lockdowns and work-from-home orders spread across the country, companies scrambled for their employees to effectively work remotely.
MSA Professional Services, a 350-employee-owned civil engineering and environmental firm located across four states, was one such company. You might see their work as you drive past a park, a reservoir, or a public activity center. Satellites orbiting Earth record the environmental and community impact of their thoughtfully designed works from outer space.
MSA’s work requires real-time collaboration with project managers or contractors in the field. Management has known that conventional application delivery and desktop management technologies wouldn’t keep up with growing demands.
Months before anyone had even heard of COVID-19, the MSA leadership was looking at the best way for them to migrate their IT environment to the cloud. Like sculptors chiseling away at a block of marble, the process began to reveal what the right cloud design should look like. Leadership knew they needed control of their information. They needed their data to be secure, and, perhaps most importantly, their engineers needed to work on heavy-duty 2D and 3D files on resource-hungry applications from home.
IronOrbit solved the problems of end-user performance with GPU-Accelerated INFINITY Workspaces. Whether it’s fifty users or a thousand, engineers enjoy an even better and more highly responsive experience than they’d get from a high-end physical workstation. Since scalability is built into the design, MSA found that adding or subtracting users was not an issue.
SUPERIOR TECHNOLOGY RESULTS IN A SUPERIOR SERVICE
An essential aspect of IronOrbit’s delivery of high performance at scale is the use of NVIDIA RTX™ Technology, powering the most demanding design, rendering, and engineering workloads from the cloud . This technology delivers rapid deployments of virtual applications and workspaces. MSA engineers can view and work with large 2D and 3D models with efficiency and increased productivity.
“WE NEED MORE CONTROL & SECURITY” – MSA Leadership
As these specific requirements came into focus, it narrowed their field of view as they considered different cloud service providers. Because of the level of control they wanted, together with the necessity for tight security, they knew they were looking for a private cloud approach.
But not just any private cloud.
The delivery of services from the end user’s perspective had to be fast and seamless with no latency or drag of any kind. There’s nothing worse for a designer or engineer than working on a modern app like AutoCAD or Revit, being in the home stretch of finalizing a project, and having to deal with jumpy, erratic responses from a mouse or a stylus pen.
…AND ONE MORE THING
To make the challenge even more interesting, many engineers live in rural areas with sub-standard internet connections.
Senior Systems Engineer Mike Albitz led a series of proof-of-concept drills with IronOrbit’s INFINITY Workspaces when the pandemic erupted. “When the pandemic broke out, it escalated the whole process,” said Albitz. “When COVID-19 started, we were able to provide latency-free desktops to our engineers with slow home Internet connections using IronOrbit. This was an invaluable option to keep our teams productive.”
CLOSE COLLABORATION WITH CLIENTS MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
During the process of moving to the cloud, there will be technical challenges that pop up from time to time. The key is to address them as quickly as possible. This requires close communication and transparency. Built on a genuine commitment to customer service, IronOrbit onboarding teams maintain a high-touch with clients throughout the process and beyond.
Good luck getting an actual person to answer a question if you’re using a public cloud. Close client support isn’t part of their “do-it-yourself on our platform” business model.
This may be true of other private cloud companies as well, but not with IronOrbit.
For us, the standard is one-on-one human contact availability 24/7.
WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG?
It’s important to know that public cloud providers do not come standard with recovery time objectives (RTO) or recovery point objectives (RPO). It’s an add-on cost. With public cloud services, many features will fall under the category of an add-on cost.
IronOrbit offers comprehensive packages for predictable monthly fees, including standard 48-hour RTO and 24-hour RPO.
STRATEGY LEADS TECHNOLOGY (CONCLUSION)
MSA leadership was ahead of the pack going into 2020, and they’re still leading the way in the industry. They knew that they wanted to move into the cloud, and they realized that it had to be a high-impact, custom cloud and hosted desktop solution designed with AEC processes in mind.
The IronOrbit team applauds the long-term vision of the MSA leadership. They anticipated their need for better application hosting solutions and embraced the future of AEC cloud computing – INFINITY Workspaces. MSA put the focus in the right place. They explored technology based on their business operations and growth objectives.
What about you?
How well are your designers and engineers doing with off-the-shelf work-from-home solutions?
Have you gotten into a cloud environment that hasn’t been architected specifically for GPU-heavy workloads?
Let us give you a virtual tour of the INFINITY Workstation and discover what go-anywhere design efficiency combined with granular control and security can do for your business.
Call us at 1-888-753-5060 for your free consultation today.
There has never been a time in business computing history when companies like yours have been more dependent upon the cloud. But what cloud? What kind of cloud?
Those questions matter.
Gartner’s October 28, 2020 report entitled, “Choose the Best Cloud Operations Delivery Model for Your Organization’s Needs,” highlighted an existing problem among cloud-dependent companies.
“Through 2023, 80% of large enterprise organizations that attempt to scale up cloud operations using traditional I&O (Infrastructure & Operations) silos will fail to meet customer expectations of cloud agility.”
What is at Stake for AEC Organizations?
Gartner points to four “negative impacts” that can result from cloud operations using traditional I&O.
· Slow addition of capabilities
· Challenge of managing costs
· Lower reliability
· Lesser stability
What Course Does the Gartner Report in Addressing This Potential Business Growth Harm?
As you dig into Gartner’s report, two main concepts become clear for the business owner.
1. Cloud operations must evolve on-pace with your organization
2. Speedy cloud implementation must be balanced with its ability to scale with your company.
Let’s take each of these concepts and break them down.
Your Cloud Operations Must Evolve On-pace With Your Organization
One of the irreversible changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the business world is a new enthusiasm for cloud-based workflow. Although MSPs and Cloud providers had been proclaiming the cloud’s business continuity benefits for years, many had not seen it in action until they had to send their workforce to work from home.
Some had to scramble and make use of less-than-ideal cloud solutions – just to survive the past year.
Others had invested in private cloud infrastructure to handle GPU-heavy workloads and facilitate remote work situations with ease.
Although details of our data centers and cloud designs are beyond the scope of this post, it’s important to know that not all “clouds” are created equal. The IronOrbit private cloud has been built with security baked into the process, using cutting-edge models that provide optimal performance for the heaviest of AEC workloads.
You Must Balance Speedy Cloud Implementation with the Cloud’s Ability to Scale with Your Company
Lightning-fast cloud adoption was one of the business technology decisions that had to be made by many companies under duress of the pandemic.
While not all businesses wanted to – or were able to – move all their processes to a cloud environment during the first COVID wave, the forced cloud adoption required on-the-spot cloud choices that may not have been the best fit for the company’s long-term strategy.
But it’s still happening.
Businesses without high-level IT guidance or a well-defined IT roadmap are jumping into cloud-hosted applications and public cloud solutions before realizing it’s not going to work with a long- term strategy. Use a cloud design not for where your company is at today, but for where your company wants to be tomorrow.
Unfortunately, many AEC companies have made a “giant leap” into cloud environments that were not designed to support the GPU work their firms do every day. Or it’s a cloud solution that doesn’t align with the long-term strategy. As a result, those companies experience frustrations. They don’t have the control they expected, or their remote work is hobbled because their applications are too slow.
The good news is that this leap into the wrong cloud is not irreversible. AEC firms can shift gears and partner with IronOrbit. Our GPU-Accelerated INFINITY Workspaces are purpose-built for the kind of data-heavy resource-hungry apps AEC firms work with daily.
The Cloud is Here to Stay
Gartner predicts that “by 2025, 80 percent of enterprises will migrate entirely away from on-premises data centers with the current trend of moving workloads to colocation, hosting and the cloud leading them to shut down their traditional data center.”
The pandemic put their prediction on fast-forward.
Experts assert that in many areas of society the pandemic has forced us to embrace 10 years of progress (for good or bad) in just one year. The “giant leap” into the cloud by many businesses that were not considering it in January 2020, is not going to be reversed. Nobody’s going back to on-premise servers.
Now that the end of COVID is in sight, your AEC firm can turn its attention to moving to the cloud infrastructure that best supports your work-from-anywhere, graphics-heavy workflow.
Want to know more about IronOrbit’s GPU-Accelerated INFINITY Workspaces? We’d welcome the opportunity to demonstrate its tremendous capabilities.
Discover for yourself why more and more AEC firms are choosing IronOrbit.
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The process begins with a comprehensive risk analysis that aims to identify all potential continuity risk factors. The analysis takes into account the organizational, managerial and technical environments in which the continuity plan will be implemented.
Next, we identify the types of disasters most likely to occur and their potential impacts on your company’s ability to perform critical business processes.
Strategy & Implementation
Finally, we compile a list of protective measures to implement in anticipation of possible business interruptions.
Disaster Recovery Services
For when any amount of data loss is unacceptable
File-level, physical server/bare metal, VM.
As with a PoS or e-commerce system or ERP. VM DR Replication, SAN to SAN Replication, and SQL Replication.
Data is copied to an offsite location as soon as it's created
File-level, physical server/bare metal, VM.
Letting you restore your systems to the way they were the exact moment/second they went down.
Our data centers are protected with environmental, logical and operational security measures, including physical access controls, biometric scanning and around-the-clock surveillance. We comply with national, international and industry security standards, and leverage the latest security technologies to keep you safe.
Wonder What It’s Like to Work With IronOrbit? (Our Process)
We listen to what our clients want to do with their IT systems, taking their organizational objectives and timetables into account.
We formulate a solution that addresses our client’s concerns with their current IT environment but that also enables them to pursue their next-stage goals.
We bring the required IT solutions online while being careful not to interrupt the client’s daily workflow.
Continuous, Caring Support
We pride ourselves on speedy response times and maintaining a high touch with our customers (24/7 US-based support).
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For a Fixed-Monthly fee, IronOrbit provides a turnkey solution that leverages the power of the cloud for the assets that matter most.
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“A lot of times I’ll be at home and think, ‘Man, I forgot to take care of this’. With IronOrbit I can walk into any room at home, open my laptop, and I’m suddenly at work. I can take care of whatever it is and not have to worry about it anymore. I can be anywhere in the world and be at my desk. I don’t have to back-up anything because it’s already backed up.”
When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, thousands of businesses across the country were affected. Businesses up and down the Eastern seaboard with onsite infrastructures lost valuable data, files, and applications when floods destroyed not only their office, but all of the equipment within them.
It’s hard to imagine how things will be a year from now. What will consumer behavior be like? Will the stay-at-home economy change once social distancing eases? If so, how much? Imagine what it was like for all those companies, once the pandemic struck and the lockdowns began, that had to quickly rely more heavily on whatever technology they had or had access to.
MSA Professional Services, an environmental architecture firm comprised of over 300 engineers, architects, and environmental specialists, had been on the cloud for years, but their engineers and architects lived in rural areas and couldn’t use their GPU apps remotely. There would be so much lag time and mouse jitter that the whole process just became frustrating.
According to the FCC, 39% of Rural Populations Lack Access to High-Speed Broadband
Once they moved to IronOrbit’s GPU-Accelerated INFINITY Workspaces, they discovered there was nothing they couldn’t do with their modern apps like Revit, Civil 3D, and Autocad. The performance was actually better than what they had experienced in the office on their high-end machines.
MSA Senior Systems Engineer Mike Albitz says, “We were close to signing a deal with another company when we discovered IronOrbit during the 2019 ACEC Conference. We preferred IronOrbit’s private cloud option because it gave us much more control.” Mike Albitz and his team had planned on migrating to IronOrbit’s INFINITY Workspaces in stages, but then the threat of the COVID-19 virus erupted. Just as the pandemic has accelerated history and caused business leaders to rethink the way they will continue to do business; it escalated the whole process of MSA Professional Services moving to the cloud. Mike adds, “when COVID-19 started, we were able to provide latency-free desktops to users with substandard home internet connections using IronOrbit. It’s been great!”
Ultimately, the plan is to move MSA employees from the 17 offices to a virtual environment. For the engineers and designers, they will have the ability to work on 3D models, render them, collaborate without suffering through lag times, and they’ll be able to do it from anywhere. Even at home with a substandard internet connection.
Fortunately for MSA, the timing couldn’t have been better. Providing GPU-Accelerated INFINITY Workspaces made their design team prepared to continue working through the pandemic. No matter how 2021 plays out, they’ll be ready.
Discover for yourself how IronOrbit can enable your entire team, no matter where they live, to harness the power of the cloud.
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.
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?
Telecommute, remote work, work from home, flexible location. These are all common terms, depicting the ability to do your job from a location other than the work office. These terms have been on everyone’s mind lately. They’ve joined the lexicon along with words like coronavirus, pandemic, and physical distancing.
The government is closing down operations deemed non-critical. More and more state officials are urging people to stay at home. Companies across the globe have to increase their remote workforce or shut-down altogether. Modern-day technology enables employees to work from home and keep operations afloat. Many positions can make the transition to remote work. These include virtual assistants, customer service, sales, IT professionals, writers, designers, and more.
Many Positions Can Transition to Remote Work. For those that can’t, cross-train your staff and shuffle talent in order to leverage their experience with the company.
A recent article by the New York Times reported that over 158 million Americans have been ordered to stay home due to the Coronavirus. Britain has an even more stringent lockdown policy. They have a country-wide ban on meetings of 2 or more people. It’s not known what the numbers of people working from home are. At least not at the moment. The popular web conferencing SaaS company Zoom noted that it had more active users in the past couple of months than it had all last year.
In a May 5, 2020 article in Forbes magazine, Wayne Rush warns that “telling companies to simply have their employees work from home is easier said than done. Not every company has the resources, the training or even the bandwidth to support an en masse move to remote work. In addition, for many companies, a move to working at home requires a significant shift in their corporate culture, something that may be even harder to accomplish than any physical requirements.” The article goes on to suggest doing some incident management exercises. Well, the time for practicing these disaster responses has ended. The window of opportunity has closed. It is true that, as Jack Gold states in the Forbes article, “companies are really going to struggle.” But overcoming these struggles, whether they’re technical or not, is going to make our companies stronger and better prepared for the future.
PERKS WORKING FROM HOME
There are obvious perks to be working from home. For example, there’s no commute, you can be comfortable, and your pets get spoiled having you home all the time. There are also advantages, which may not be so obvious, for the companies. In this Owl Labs report, we see that in the US alone, 48% of workers were allowed to work at least once a week from home. A whopping 30% could work from home full-time. We see some interesting stats on job satisfaction and pay as well. We’ll get into employee availability, cost-savings, and the technology behind it all a bit later. For now, let’s do a deep dive into the question. Why is a work from home option so beneficial to employees? How does it present such an advantage to the health and prosperity of the company?
A remote work environment liberates the totality of the company. No longer are the HR options confined to hiring candidates in one geographic region. You are able to pull job applicants from around the globe. This gives a major advantage in the size of the talent available. Not only the size but the quality of the applicants will go up. So there’s an increased talent pool. You can find the best talent available. You will also tap into a diverse workforce. There’s also an ancillary but real boost to the company’s image.
THE BENEFITS GO BEYOND AN ENHANCED SOPHISTICATED CORPORATE IMAGE
When a company advertises a work from home option, it demonstrates a couple of things. Both come across as sophisticated and attractive. It demonstrates flexibility and agility. It also bespeaks a culture that pushes the edge.
A Fast Company article reports that hiring workers from all over creates more diversity and other possibilities. More expansive regions mean less racial, age, and gender biases. For example, mothers will have an easier time re-joining the workforce after long stretches of staying home. Another major advantage to employers for hiring remote workers is salary. Remote workers don’t get paid less. Cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, D.C. are expensive areas to live in. Companies can hire talent away from their headquarters. Comparable employees can found in locations where the cost of living is much lower. This allows the employee more flexibility when it comes to salary. Companies have more leverage to negotiate.
Being able to offer telecommuting options to an employee is an actual company benefit. Telecommuting, when it is available, is listed as a benefit on a company’s website. It’s a perk added to a career opportunity ad. You can often find it alongside retirement options and vacation policies. It is also usually touted throughout the hiring process. There’s a reason for it. Telecommuting is a way to lure those that are familiar with working from home. Some professionals have always wanted to work from home but have never had the option. Those who have worked from home, either partially or full-time, often seek out similar jobs. and companies that embrace this type of culture in their next role. Job satisfaction can come from having a strong remote workforce. This satisfaction yields productivity.
Remote workers tend to be more satisfied because of the autonomy it brings. At home, there are fewer distractions (well, in most cases). They have more flexibility in their schedule. Allow employees to be autonomous. They’ll have an increased sense of ownership and freedom. In an office setting, there’s a need to conform to certain things like office attire, hours and a cubicle or desk. The Owl report shows that 71% of remote workers are happy in their current role. Only 55% of non-remote workers are satisfied. Job satisfaction yields productivity. In turn, job fulfillment results in less turnover in the workplace.
Having remote employees means much less overhead. You don’t need the office space. The cost-savings alone are reasons to get behind this movement. The cost of space in San Francisco can be around $80/sf. New York City hovers around $90/sf. The cost incurred for remote working space is of course non-existent. The cost of office furniture is another major factor. A high-end office chair can cost a company between $800 to $1,000. Companies have not provided stipends for home office use and expenses. As the current situation continues, that may change. A good case can be made for on-going telecommuting even after the coronavirus crisis comes to an end. In such a situation, some companies will offer reimbursement programs for home offices.
Some employees have high-speed internet connections at home. Some do not. Some are faster and more reliable than the office network. Embracing work from home, employees tend to use BYOD.
If an employee is operating in their own home, and on their own time, why not let them use their own equipment. BYOD adds more flexibility. Most people make use of their personal devices and computer set up in as much as possible. This is especially true if they have a more powerful laptop than the one issued by the company. Think of a company’s infrastructure. The telephones. The Network. The HAV. These become cost savings when large portions of the workforce do their job from home.
Old technology prohibited the work-from-home option for many businesses. Today, that’s no longer true. Companies can remove any obstacles allowing employees to work from home.
THERE ARE MANY TOOLS TO HELP WITH THE TRANSITION
Look at the hardware available today. The quality of wireless headsets (Plantronics and Jabra) have eliminated background noise. Having a Conference call at home is part of regular business life. There are desks that you can raise or lower as needed. These types of workstations provide better energy levels for those who sit many hours in a chair. Other items include multiple monitors for extended viewing. These are particularly useful for doing design work. There are laptops that fit any task requirements.
Web conferencing software (Zoom, Web-Ex or Skype)s for Business can work anywhere. Attendees have the option to use video or have audio-only meetings. Collaboration is key. Keep employees productive within groups. Keep them communicating. The use of tools such as Slack can keep information flowing.
Slack, a simple SaaS solution incorporates single chat or group-chats. It features system notifications and simple file sharing for your entire organization. The pricing is straight-forward. Telecommuters needing technical help can make use of TeamViewer or RemotePC.
Having your data backed up to the cloud is also important. Your computer is not on the company network. Syncing your work to the cloud is as simple as using Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive. Time tracking tools can report on how long it takes to work on various tasks. They can tell how long you spend on different web pages.
The coronavirus has provoked an exodus from the corporate office to the home. The coronavirus physical distancing might be short-lived or longer-term. How business leaders manage their remote workers will determine the level of productivity. Communication from managers will have much to do with job satisfaction.
There are many SaaS-based apps available. These applications keep employees engaged and available. They also have the flexibility fo step away for a break. It’s a win-win for employees and their employers.
Job satisfaction and productivity are up because of remote work. The question is how will you institute a proper policy? The details will be different for each business. A recent article in Glassdoor proposes a basic approach. It advocates “adequate technology, disciplinary excellence, and clear communicative instructions.”
Employers now have more options to hire cream-of-the-crop talent. They can focus on skillset over the location of a candidate. Working-from-home gives business leaders more time to focus on productivity and bolstering revenue.
The coronavirus threat pushes the question, “Are we ready to have our employees work from home?” Organizations want to do whatever they can to help contain the spread of the virus.
One of the top healthcare conferences of the year HIMSS canceled at the last minute. Everyone knows why. The canceled HIMSS conference was only the first of a series of conference cancellations this month. How many more conferences are going to be canceled. Only time will tell. A click survey online shows that Google, Intel, FaceBook and Twitter have canceled many of their conference plans. The South by Southwest, or SXSW Conference, has not yet buckled under pressure to cancel.
Andrew Keshner reports in a MarketWatch article that, “As the Coronavirus spreads, companies are increasingly weighing if they should, or even can, have workers do their jobs from home.” The article goes on to announce that Twitter told its 5,000 employees around the world to work from home. The BBC News reports Twitter’s head of human resources Jennifer Christie said, “Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus for us – and the world around us.” Twitter has been developing ways for employees to work from home. Their mandate moving forward is to enable anyone, anywhere to work at Twitter. Twitter’s began moving to a more mobile workforce before the coronavirus. Now, many companies are taking steps to enable employees to work from home. Asian-based organizations, the ones that could, have already implemented work-from-home options. Several giant multi-national companies such as Citigroup have restricted travel to Asia.
The Best Advice: Plan and Prepare
The media seems to report on the idea that there are only 2 states you can exist in. One is ignorant bliss. The second is a state of panic. There’s a wide territory between those two extremes. People should not panic. They should be aware of what’s going on, have an appropriate level of concern, and respond. People need to consider what’s going on so that they can take action. Managing risk is an important part of life. It’s also an important part of leading a business. Understand the risk. Understand what might happen, and make decisions to keep business moving.
Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, has announced they can’t contain the coronavirus. So that means we’re down to implementing mitigation strategies. This means the CDC is going for non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). This translates to things like closing schools. Mitigating strategies also include preventing people from attending large gatherings. If necessary, issue self-imposed quarantine orders. If self-imposed quarantines don’t work, CDC will issue a contained quarantine order. This means there’s no choice in the matter.
The CDC recommends that companies encourage telework. “For employees who are able to telework, the supervisor should encourage employees to telework instead of coming into the workplace until symptoms are completely resolved. Ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees who may be able to work from home.” There have been technologies enabling employees to work remotely for some time now. And the interest has grown over the years. It has been a matter of just deciding to offer that flexibility to your employees. Managers have to determine the ratio of working in the office with working at home. It’s more of a leadership decision rather than any limitation of the technology. But the coronavirus threat will certainly act as a catalyst accelerating the adoption of remote collaboration tools. Most companies will be forced to have their employees stay home. Microsoft has announced free upgrades. Office 365 users can now make full use of the video conferencing and recording features of Microsoft Teams.
Businesses can replace in-person meetings with video and increase networking options. Now is a good time for businesses of all kinds to start preparing. If you don’t have the infrastructure already in place, start planning it. Most organizations are not prepared for wide-spread enablement of remote departments. Many are still evaluating requirements and solutions. Workers can work as effectively at home than in the office. Research indicates employees are even more productive working from their home offices.
Moving to The Cloud Has never Made More Sense Than Now
Cloud technology and remote workspaces enable organizations to be flexible with their staff. It’s also an attractive incentive while recruiting talented employees. Astute business leaders want to be in a better position to offer remote collaboration tools to their employees. They want to establish parameters in which work-from-home culture thrives. Jennifer Howe, VP of SMMA an architectural firm in Boston, and acting president of the ACEC Massachusetts said,” Remote workspaces are invaluable these days. You can’t recruit and retain talent without that kind of flexibility.”
A recent article on the Fortune website calls it the “world’s largest work-from-home experiment.” There are millions of businesses all over the world trying to stay productive amidst this growing crisis. The article goes into detail on the level of upheaval for companies. This is particularly true in Southeast Asian countries. “One of the most unsettling factors for employees is the rapidly-changing impact of the virus. It is prompting daily changes in corporate directives. We’re seeing that kind of impact in the states as more and more cities declare a state of emergency.
Managers worry the exodus from the office will lower productivity. There have been many studies done to support that the exact opposite is true. Productivity doesn’t go down. It goes up. The 2017 Stanford University Research is often quoted. That study found a 13% increase in productivity. A study conducted at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office showed remote workers had a 4.4% increase in output. The consulting firm Deloitte did a recent survey that found 82% of white-collar workers using flexible work options.
What Does Remote Work Look Like?
Unlike companies that are designed from the start to hire work-from-anywhere employees, traditional in-office companies have to decide how this will work. Management has to set parameters on how remote-work happens. They have to communicate to their employees what the expectations are. How will the team stay in contact with each other throughout the day? What is the level of responsiveness needed? Does your staff need to access robust programs like Autocad, Maya 3D, or Adobe After Effects? If so, then how, on a technical level, is that going to happen? For example, GPU hungry programs will need to be hosted on a virtual server. The work-in-progress files will have to be stored in some central location. This is also something that isn’t accomplished overnight. Now is a good time to start having those discussions.
The worst thing you could do is not do anything. Business leaders shouldn’t ignore the situation as it continues to escalate. Ask yourself, if this continues, would your company be able to operate productively. To what extent will your company be forced to stop its activity altogether?
At some point, we are all going to enter the coronavirus tunnel and make it through to the other side. The collective experience will force us to redefine the way we work. We will consider how we interact with each other. Who operates as a self-starter? Who needs closer supervision?
The idea of remote work is not a new one. It goes back 50 years. Futurist writer Alvin Toffler wrote about remote work in his 1980 book THE THIRD WAVE. “When we suddenly make available technologies that can place a low-cost “work station” in any home, providing it with a “smart” typewriter, perhaps, along with a facsimile machine or computer console and teleconferencing equipment, the possibilities for home work are radically extended.”
Cloud technology enables a home computer…a “low-cost workstation” as Toffler calls it, or any mobile device for that matter. The home computer, smartphone, or tablet essentially serves as a dumb terminal. The processing power actually comes from a virtual desktop. For all practical purposes, it’s just like working from your office. You have access to the same emails, the same software applications, and the exact same files.
Right now, the coronavirus is forcing us to reconsider work-from-home scenarios. Moving personnel to a more comfortable and safer work-from-home environment has its benefits. For some businesses, this means building some kind of infrastructure.
I’d like to close with a question posed near the end of the Forbes article. “If you are an employer and you have the power to offer greater freedom to your workers, should you not being thinking about how to do so?”