Category: Cloud Migration

2022 Tech Trends to Increase Business Growth & Resilience

 

2022 will continue to see the digitization and virtualization of society and business. The need for sustainability, increasing data volumes, and computer network speeds will drive digital transformation as companies move from a survival strategy to one of thriving.

As promised by Moore’s Law several decades ago, technology advancements continue to accelerate, but the speed at which these accelerations are occurring far outpaced earlier projections. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report says, “Developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and genetics and biotechnology are all building on and amplifying one another. More than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that at not yet considered crucial to the job today.”

When you think about what technologies might be game-changing for your company in 2022, you aren’t thinking about nanotechnology, quantum computing, or neural interfaces. As much as the tech giants may want to forecast a utopian future based on these technologies, what your company needs right now is technologies that will help you get more done with less, work from anywhere, and support your organizational objectives.

Let’s dive into some “right now” technologies that can be disruptive in a good way to your workflow and organization as a whole in 2022.

 

Digitization and Virtual Environments

The trend toward leveraging big data and the digitization of workflow within organizations makes virtual work environments possible. During the pandemic, everybody scrambled to set up home offices. The organizations that already had a virtual IT infrastructure had a much smoother transition. Employees just had to grab their computers from the office and take them home. Others had to work through it and make adjustments along the way. Most of those that didn’t transition went out of business.

It’s interesting to note that many business leaders are still grappling with the employee question of when (or if) they’ll be returning to an office environment. Sharyn Leaver writing for Forrester, predicts only 10% of companies will remain fully remote. Of the 60% planning to shift to some sort of hybrid model, one-third of those firms will fail in their first attempt at anywhere work.

New technologies are emerging in every area. Cloud computing continues to be at the forefront of every discussion because it is foundational to everything else. All IT services, applications, and cybersecurity protocols are delivered through the cloud.

Last October, at Gartner’s IT Symposium in Stamford, Connecticut, analysts reported that enterprises must move away from “lift and shift” migration and toward Cloud-Native Platforms (CNPs). The power of cloud computing provides scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities “as a service” to technology creators using internet technologies, delivering fast time to value and reduced costs.  For this reason, Gartner predicts CNPs will serve as the foundation for more than 85% of new digital initiatives by 2025, up from less than 40% in 2021.

 

Aamer Baig writes in an article for McKinsey, “Most companies we know are well into their cloud journeys and understand notionally that the cloud offers a big opportunity. But many are struggling to capture the full value cloud offers. As in the adoption of any new technology, of course, hiccups are inevitable. But the fundamental issue is that companies are looking at the cloud as a source of IT productivity improvements rather than as a source of transformative value—which is more than $1 trillion, by our calculations.

Improvements in productivity and efficiency gains through cloud-migration programs can generate significant cost savings, but they essentially represent better ways of doing what IT already does. CIOs have a crucial role in getting the business to focus on the far bigger prize: the new businesses, innovative practices, and new sources of revenue that cloud either enables or accelerates.

One pharma company built its GxP-compliant IT environment on the cloud and uses an ecosystem of cloud services that connect with manufacturing instruments, robotics, and other systems. It has been using a combination of scaling, instance management, storage, workload processing, and data-warehousing services to accelerate vaccine development.

A large agriculture company put into the cloud the vast amounts of data it had accumulated on improving equipment maintenance and used advanced analytics to generate insights that became the basis for a new business offering to growers.

CIOs need to master cloud economics and target business areas that can benefit from the cloud’s advantages of speed, flexibility, and scale. As importantly, they need to consider how to make the large-scale changes to IT’s operating model that are needed to build the capabilities to generate new value. Fewer than 10 percent of technology leaders, however, say they are most focused on hiring cloud talent, placing it at the bottom of hiring priorities. That’s a red flag, especially considering that almost 50 percent of CIOs plan to migrate more than three-quarters of all workloads to the cloud in the next two years.”

 

The term artificial intelligence was coined by Dartmouth math professor John McCarthy in 1955.

 

AI will continue to improve and become ubiquitous in the year 2022. Even the most rudimentary of businesses are utilizing AI devices connected to nearly everything and using AI in:

  • Voice Assistants
  • Smart TVs
  • Smart Whiteboards
  • Language Translation
  • Mobile Devices
  • Robotic Process Automation

Companies using AI devices accumulate tremendous amounts of customer data. This well of information just then needs to be categorized and analyzed for pro-growth decisions based on real-time data. 2022 will see a dramatic jump in the utilization of AI due to the higher speeds available through the widespread adoption of the 5G network.

Before rushing out to buy the latest and greatest in AI technology, it’s a good idea to do some research or delegate an IT innovation team to do some preliminary homework. Become familiar with the capabilities of the technology and ensure it aligns with the mid-range and long-term strategy of your organization.

In a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article first published in 2018, Thomas Davenport and Rajeev Ronanki wrote about the importance of understanding which technologies perform what types of tasks, and the strengths and limitations of each. They write, “we encountered several organizations that wasted time and money pursuing the wrong technology for the job at hand.”

Since many organizations, even large enterprise companies, can lack the necessary in-house expertise to evaluate new and emerging technologies, it’s necessary for business leaders to work closely with IT to identify the right consultants to advise on high-priority projects.

Davenpot and Ronanki found that nearly a majority of cognitive technology projects had to do with robotics and automation. Business leaders have two schools of thought when it comes to automation. Some see automation as a way to eliminate full-time employees while others see it as a way to automate menial tasks in order to make better use of its people.  Amazon for instance has been looking at ways for its people to devote more time to building new products. The Hands Off the Wheel program began in the retail management division to develop ways for machine learning to handle repetitive mundane work such as keeping its gigantic warehouses stocked with products to sell.

When companies make it clear that they are using AI to help people rather than replace them, they significantly outperform companies that don’t set that objective (HBR).

Alex Kantrowitz, author of ALWAYS DAY ONE: HOW THE TECH TITANS PLAN TO STAY ON TOP FOREVER (Portfolio, 2020), writes in an article for Harvard Business Review, that Amazon’s transition to Hands Off the Wheel took years to roll out and a great deal of training. “The retail-division employees were despondent at first, recognizing that their jobs were transforming. Yet in time, many saw the logic. ‘When we heard that ordering was going to be automated by algorithms, its like, ‘OK, what’s happening to my job?’”

According to Kantrowitz, Amazon didn’t implement this program to reduce headcount but rather free up personnel to invent and oversee new product development.  Kantrowitz makes an essential point: “Had Amazon eliminated those jobs, it would have made its flagship business more profitable but would have missed the next new business opportunity.

Amazon has about 350,000 mobile drive unit robots working alongside hundreds of thousands of humans employed at fulfillment centers.

 

Entrepreneurship and seizing opportunities through leverage are at the heart of Amazon’s raison d’être. At no other time in history has it been as easy, fast, and inexpensive to start a new business. Amazon’s view is that it is a facilitator of entrepreneurship, providing the investment, platform, and resources to help build new businesses.

Amazon first opened its online shelves to small businesses in 2000. In 2018, the company created an internal Small Business Empowerment team. In a press announcement, CEO Dave Clark said, “We made the decision to open our store’s virtual shelves to third-party sellers. At the time, big-box retailers had been pushing small businesses out of the retail market. We bet that bringing selling partners into our store would not only be a win for customers who want vast product selection, low prices, and fast delivery, but it would also be a win for small businesses wanting to reach more customers, increase revenue and profits, and create good jobs.”

The number of US sellers who surpassed $1 million in sales grew another 15%. Kantrowitz concludes, “If Amazon is any indication, businesses that reassign employees after automating their work will thrive.”

A recent Forrester study shows that technology leaders will focus on human-centered technology transformations. Indicating that less than 15% of firms nominated digital transformation as a priority in 2022, the report suggests leading firms will use emerging technology to unlock the creativity of their employees and drive innovation that focuses on outcomes, not just financial results.

Subscription-Based Technologies

The trend of “______ as a Service” technologies has exploded in the past few years. 2022 will see more of this trend – for several good reasons.

Subscription-based business technologies:

  • don’t force you to buy more than you are using
  • are cost-effective
  • are easily scalable up or down
  • are flexible to match market fluctuations
  • can be deployed easily and quickly

Maybe the best part about subscription-based technologies is the zero-coding needed to utilize them. You don’t have to have an in-house IT team. These technologies come pre-built and can integrate easily with other technologies in use within your business. In addition, because the technologies are virtual (in a cloud environment), your business has less exposure to cyber risk and a higher level of business continuity readiness.

Compliance Technologies

The more data that a company creates and gathers from the public, the greater their social responsibility becomes for the protection and use of that data. Whether your company needs to have transparency, governance, and accountability regarding data to protect your brand or you have legislative and industry-standard compliance mandates to adhere to, the technologies revolving around compliance are here to stay and will be growing throughout 2022. These new compliance technologies will help streamline your compliance efforts, minimizing the effort and money expended on compliance concerns.

 

Employee Wellness and Retention Technologies

The pandemic has brought a wave of resignations and shuffling of employees from one company to another. Business leaders are looking to technology to make employment at their organization more attractive to prospective – and current – employees. This desire to improve working conditions for employee retention has resulted in the utilization of many technologies. These advancements range from wearables that help employees monitor wellness for a work/life balance to new features built into ergonomic forms that reduce stress and improve employees’ workday in repetitive motion tasks.

Other considerations regarding employee wellness and retention technologies are tech that improves communication and collaboration on tasks and incorporates that “water cooler” chat function lost in the social distancing and work-from-home exodus of 2020.

By using tech to reincorporate that human connection into the virtual workplace, companies are helping to give their employees more of a sense of camaraderie and belonging – rather than isolation.

 

In Conclusion:

Your business, like many others, is reliant upon technology to maintain your competitive edge. It’s important to know what technologies other companies are leveraging – both within your industry and the broader marketplace. But knowing that other companies are having success with or planning on implementing game-changing tech within their organizations isn’t enough. Companies that take decisive action will face the fast-paced challenges of the next few years much better than those that are more cautious. Combine strategic planning with bold decision-making as you prioritize your technology objectives for the next 12 months. You must have a trusted IT partner to vet those technologies and advise you about their potential ROI within your particular business.

2022 is shaping up to be a year of both promise and uncertainty, but one thing is sure: companies that build a platform to embrace new tech within their workflow will have an advantage out of the starting gate.

 

Moving to the Cloud is an Essential Strategy for 2022

While not the magic bullet that solves all your operational problems, moving to the cloud forms the foundation of building a solid technology platform.

Businesses that took the opportunity to remake and future-proof their infrastructure and workforce during the pandemic will continue to pull ahead of the competition. As we move into 2022, it becomes imperative for companies to move to the cloud to accomplish two strategies:

  • Be agile and flexibly prepared for the unexpected
  • To Take advantage of emerging AI-enabled digital technologies

These two objectives mean large-scale changes to IT’s operating model. The more technology-savvy people in the company should take the lead in understanding what moving to the cloud would mean for the company. Target specific business areas and look at how having workflows on the cloud benefits operations through increased speed, flexibility, and scale, which are the standard hallmarks of having operations in a cloud environment.

Speed, Flexibility, & Scalability

If you want to deliver digital capabilities anywhere and everywhere, consider how the IronOrbit ecosystem uses the core capabilities of cloud computing to provide scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities. Our teams of engineers and business visionaries have taken the complexity out of migrating your environment to the cloud, so you benefit from faster time to value and reduced costs.

The improvements in productivity and efficiency can generate significant cost savings over time; however, the actual benefit delivery is optimizing IT functions. You’ll be doing things you’ve always done, but you’ll be doing them better, and your operations will be much more resistant to disruptions.

Introducing IOCentral

Our new automated self-service portal, IOCentral, delivers a fast and easy way to scale storage, networks, databases, and computer functionality. An intuitive interface allows you to scale business functions more quickly by connecting essential software and microservices. Using AI-enabled technology, IOCentral enables flexibility and comprehensive ecosystem management from one pane of glass.

Speed, flexibility, scalability, and reduced costs indeed represent long-term value, but those in and of themselves do not convey the urgency for moving to the cloud. For that, we need to look further ahead.

The Bigger Business Benefit of Moving to the Cloud

Taking full advantage of your move to the cloud means looking at the new possibilities available to your business because now your business is part of the global cloud ecosystem. The cloud now becomes a catalyst to build new capabilities and value propositions for your customers.

This larger prize focuses on building innovative practices, new sources of revenue, and learning from the unique knowledge flows that will inspire leadership, not IT, to create new digital value propositions for your customers.

Without the cloud, leadership will never be able to enter the competitive arena of 2022 and beyond, let alone have the possibility to innovate new products and services.

The Cloud Delivers All IT Services, Apps, and More.

 

Be ready to use new digital technologies and stay ahead of change. Call now for a proof-of-concept of how IronOrbit can prepare your business for sustained success.

Call us today at 888-753-5060

 

Roadblocks to Scaling Up
Scaling Up: 13 Roadblocks to Success
Scaling up is the ability to take on increased workloads in a cost-effective manner and meet the demands of your business without suffering the negative consequences of overreaching.

Scaling up sounds like a fantastic idea. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to handle more work, delivering more goods and services while leveraging economies of scale for greater profitability?

But the promise of scaling is often like an iceberg. What you see above the water (the work to be done) is nothing compared to the work lurking under the water. These are the challenges faced in scaling a business. Some companies get to a point where it is painful to add another client or bring on more talent. Scaling up seems like piling on more overhead for less reward. Revenue never has a chance to turn into profits.

Here are some barriers many companies may face as they ramp up their operations.

Scaling Up Too Soon

A good question to ask a good business consultant is, Is it too soon to grow the business? Any time before you have all the pieces in place and a strategy to scale is too soon. Is the market is ready to embrace and demand your products or services? Timing is everything. First, to go big into the market is sometimes a good idea, but sometimes not. Companies get eaten alive and never recover.

No Plan to Scale Up

Often the small to mid-size business fails in the efforts to scale for lack of planning. They have an objective and a vague notion of how to get there. Growth-minded companies might partner with that vendor or hire new employees.  But all too often, a structured plan is missing. Having a strategy that guides the requirements, stages, and timeline for scaling is foundational for success. As a result, the timing is off, and the company is missing pieces of the puzzle. Frustration and failure soon follow.

No Understanding of the Difference Between Growth and Scaling

For most successful companies, growth came before scaling up. Taking time to grow allows SOPs to be established and perfected. Taking the time to grow enables hiring key people and building a solid reputation. These things are critical for financial backing to scale. Growth is a time to experiment and approve or discard strategic partners and vendors. Growth helps them understand the management and IT resources required for successful scaling. Multiplying processes and output without a substantial increase in resources is the foundation of scalability. Business leaders need to know if the company is prepared to scale up.

Unnecessary or Untimely Product/Service Additions

As soon as a company begins to have a little bit of success in their efforts to scale, they often become overzealous with their efforts to take over the marketplace.

They may move away from their core business too quickly and begin advertising products and services they are not prepared to deliver. Even if they can make a dollar on those tangential goods and services, they are taking resources away from what is central to their current revenue stream and their ability to scale.

Selecting the Wrong Partners & Vendors

Companies across the planet have learned the wrong partners or vendors can put companies at risk. Long supply chains and unproven vendors can have detrimental consequences on the delivery of goods and services to your customers, as well as injure brand reputations.

Avoid vendors and strategic partners who over promise and under deliver. There is no room for freeloading. Everyone has to do their part.

 

Lack of Internal Communication

Employees need to know the company culture and what is expected. Companies need complete buy-in from their workforce to scale up successfully. There also must be a strategy communicated internally. Along with the nuts and bolts of your well-laid strategy is a minefield of employee concerns, expectations, and emotions that you must address. If employees feel left out of the loop – or worse, insecure in their jobs – they will not be best positioned to support scaling efforts. Internal communication requires more than just a company-wide meeting or a series of internal memos sent out to senior staff. Instead, the business leaders must keep their finger on the pulse of how the staff is acclimating to the proposed and in-progress changes.

 

Internal Communication and Planning
Verne Harnish’s book Scaling Up shows how to improve scalability. Scalability requires putting the right team together and then educating them on the growth strategies of the company. Articulate a clear vision for meeting future goals regularly.

Apple's founder Steve Jobs showcases Apple's latest laptop.

 

The last decision Steve Jobs made was to build Apple University.

He knew that it would be the one legacy he’d leave behind so that his organization would thrive long after he was gone.

Cutting Prices

Once you’ve been able to leverage some economies of scale, there is often a temptation to cut prices to undercut the competition and gain more market share. “After all,” you think, “We’re still making the same amount on our goods/services.” While it’s tempting to cut your prices and try to push the competition out of business, the money you will lose is better saved and utilized within your scaling efforts.

Technology That Can’t (or Can’t Easily) Scale-Up

Whether you’re working with legacy systems that keep your productivity limited, or you’re working with on-site workstations and servers that are expensive and cumbersome to scale, your technology is limiting your potential. This roadblock used to be a nearly insurmountable one for businesses trying to scale on a budget. However, with advances in cloud-based IT infrastructure and Desktop as a Service, the financial hurdle considerations are lowered due to the cloud’s ability to scale with your business expansion. Companies across the planet have factored cloud computing ability into their scaling strategy and are successfully leveraging the flexibility, mobility, and cost-effective nature of cloud workflow assets.

As an IBM fellow, Jason McGee puts it, migrating applications to the cloud can deliver significant business benefits for companies of all sizes.

Failing to Create Long-Term Demand

Business leaders that fundamentally misunderstand the role of advertising and marketing often pin their hopes of scaling on the stop-and-go stutter-step of marketing efforts. While marketing strategy should always be a part of your scaling endeavor, it is not sufficient on its own to supply continuous, qualified customers. Instead, part of any scaling strategy should be a plan to grow market demand for your products/services. After all, you want them knocking on your door for what you provide; you don’t want to be chasing work constantly with ad campaigns.

Cash Flow and Credit

There is no way around it, scaling requires sufficient cash flow. Many organizations with a fantastic plan to scale launch that endeavor, only to find that their efforts are stymied by lack of on-hand cash or credit. In a recent episode of “What’s Up AEC?!” the Immediate Past Board Chair of ACEC National, Charles Gozdziewski warns about the cash flow aspect of scaling up too quickly. “I’ve seen small firms suddenly become part of a big project. They go from 10 people to 25 people and then they go bankrupt. They just don’t have the financing or financial knowledge to handle it.”

Each stage of your scaling strategy will require more financial backing, and that backing must be available at that stage or things begin to unravel. Setting yourself up for success requires ensuring that you will have the backing you need well in advance of your step to the next level of operational expansion.

Yellow Chair amongst rows of blue chairs.
Scaling up starts and ends with individuals. Make sure you have the right people in the right seats.
Quality Employees Instead of Quantity

Scaling starts and ends with individuals. Whether you are in a service industry or manufacture goods, your employees can make or break your scaling prospects. As much as anything else, scaling requires the right beliefs and behavior. Growth-oriented companies need people who are comfortable with change, who can move fast, and take ownership of tasks. In the rush to scale, companies often hire too quickly and find that they experience internal roadblocks to productivity because of the unqualified staff they’ve hired. Unfortunately, companies that are quickly ramping up delivery of goods and services often don’t have time for extensive employee training or the flexibility for employees to learn “on the job.” A resourceful HR team should be among your first hires to help ensure that your business sources and hires employees that can step in and do the work without handholding.

Ignoring Growth Pains and Fixating on Growth Pains

Whether leadership is determined not to let that “one issue” hold things back or fixate on that “one issue” to the detriment of other things that require attention, it still lands the administration in a difficult spot. On the one hand, small issues at one stage of scaling can become mountains of pain in the next stage of expansion. On the other, a fixation with a specific issue can lead to an unhealthy overemphasis on one aspect of the business, throwing everything out of kilter.

To scale, you must be aware of growing pains and be able to handle them appropriately without devoting all your attention and resources to those problems.

Micromanagement

Organizations with micromanagers at the top very often do not do well when it comes to scaling up operations. Delegating responsibility is an essential component of scaling an enterprise. A business leader must know their self well enough to see this tendency in themselves before it becomes an issue that derails the scaling process. Sometimes, it’s necessary to step into a different leadership role and allow someone that has delegation skills to fill that administrative slot. As you scale, so should your management structure. Finding the right role for you to play and bringing in the people you need to bolster your weaknesses is a sign of a good leader.

 

In Conclusion

 

Despite significant roadblocks to developing capacities to scale up quickly, there are multiple benefits for an organization to prepare itself for the likelihood of scaling up.

The challenges of scaling up are complex because scalability isn’t just about growth. It also has to do with its ability to be flexible, agile, and versatile. The same things that position the business for expansion are the same things that prepare them for unknown shifts in the market and unforeseen events like a worldwide pandemic. Preparedness is all about becoming proactive and being strategic with digital technology.

In a Forbes article from March 1, 2021, Paolo Gallo and Giuseppe Stigliano write, “Because of the dizzying speed of change today, fueled by this umpteenth acceleration, companies can’t count on their strengths alone to innovate. The CEO of a mobility services company reminded us how crucial it is at this stage to build eco-systems, resisting the temptation to reduce them to ego-systems. We have to collaborate with third parties to build systems in which the individual parts function as a single entity, in a more or less continual way to provide high-value-added services to final customers. Companies have to see themselves as fluid platforms, capable together of providing a value proposition that is exponentially bigger than what they could offer alone.”

In one of our previous blogs, we stressed the importance of componentization as a key ingredient to offering new digital value propositions. Taking the time to componentize offerings and build a solid digital foundation for your company will also position it for agility, flexibility, and growth.

The in-depth Deloitte Insights article, Putting Digital at the Heart of Strategy, goes beyond pointing out that digital transformation enables new growth opportunities. It indicates that those companies that don’t digitize in the next five years will be doomed.

Digitizing operations, a key benefit of cloud computing, improves an organization’s ability to meet sudden increases (or decreases) in demand.

The Cloud Ecosystem Economy
Today’s Cloud Ecosystem Economy and Why it is Important to Understand

 

Like it or not, we are living, no….thriving, in a cloud ecosystem economy and there is no turning back.

What is a Cloud Ecosystem Economy?

Just as a biological ecosystem consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact, the cloud ecosystem is a complex system of increasingly interdependent components all working together. The cloud ecosystem economy is the great catalyst that levels the playing field for all businesses. This is an explosive ecosystem that expands the reach and scope of every business that taps into it. It has also increased the power of the individual and made available vast amounts of knowledge flows. That’s one of the reasons why Rene Buest’s, article How Tech CEOs Participate in Ecosystems, describes this phenomenon as a continually evolving ecosystem that forms the basis of innovative digital solutions and products. It’s why Jeanne Ross prescribes cloud services as the foundation for all digital offerings; thereby become the bedrock for digital transformation.

It is true to say that the Cloud is just someone else’s computer. That is one way to think about it, but it’s far from presenting the whole story. What cloud technology makes possible goes considerably beyond computing capabilities. We’re talking about many kinds of immense databases and knowledge flows the cloud taps into. We’re talking about synergy and exponential growth (see Moore’s Law).

Imagine if you owned a business at the beginning of the 20th Century and hadn’t yet adopted telephone technology. How long could you have remained competitive in such an environment? While business leaders don’t need to understand the ins and outs of the technology, they must understand how the technology impacts the future of their business.

In a recent report, the data analysis company Ecosystem cites three reasons CEOs need to get involved in and have visibility into an organization’s cloud investment.

 

Chart showing the top reasons business leaders are moving their IT environment to the cloud.
A study from Ecosystem, a technology data, and analysis company, showed the main cloud benefits sought by companies considering cloud migration.
Cloud Enables Transformation

Enterprise companies have matured in their Cloud adoption. Decisions are no longer driven by the benefits of shifting Cloud from CapEx to OpEx. The top 3 Cloud benefits sought by companies are

1. Improved Service Levels & Agility 
2. Increased Work Process Efficiency
3. Flexibility & Scalability 

The idea is that the Cloud Ecosystem is a group of technologies and resources that empower infrastructure and open the doors to a world of digital value propositions not yet imagined. The Cloud Ecosystem is an enabler of doing business, real-time data access for productivity increase, and process automation. This impacts the entire organization and involves prioritizing the needs of certain functions over others. These are not decisions the CIO should make alone.

The Cloud is Not Cheap

Cloud adoption may not reduce costs. Ecosystem360 found that over a third of the organizations surveyed find the Cloud more expensive than traditional licensing or owning the hardware. As businesses use the Cloud to scale, several aspects are dynamic and require constant reassessment. In many cases, companies have found themselves having to find and recruit new teams to manage and maintain the Cloud environment. This is not an issue with IronOrbit. Because IronOrbit offers an all-inclusive solution, you don’t have the high, unexpected, added cost of third-party IT resources. Instead, you get a predictable monthly fee.

Joining the Cloud Ecosystem Gives You Access to Emerging Technologies

Tom Wujec is a fellow at AutoDesk and a global leader in 3-D design, engineering, and entertainment software. He said, “When any industry becomes computable, it goes through a series of predictable changes: It moves from being digitalized to being disrupted to being democratized.”

The Democratization of Disruptive Technologies

While it is true the technology and business world is disruptive; it is also becoming increasingly democratized. The Cloud Ecosystem is a principle conveyor of new technology adoptions. Companies have to be a part of the Cloud Ecosystem to leverage emerging technologies (democratization) or face disruptions from competitors who beat them to the Cloud. Returning to the Ecosystem article, “Cloud is no longer only required for infrastructure and back-up, but improving business processes, by enabling real-time data and systems access. Similarly, IoT devices will grow exponentially.

The Cloud Ecosystem Economy was well on its way before the recent pandemic, which only further accelerated the use of cloud-based solutions. The Ecosystem findings suggest Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) will remain the key area of focus, especially Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS).

“The gap between science-fiction and science is getting narrow now,” said Andrew Hessel, a former research scientist at AutoDesk and now co-chair of Bioinformatics and Biotechnology at Singularity University. “As soon as soon as someone has an idea and articulates it, it can be manifested in a very short period.”

The Cloud Ecosystem has left the purview of the IT department and is now part of the board room discussions. Technology is no longer just a point solution. It is a collaboration between humans and machines because, with the help of the Cloud Ecosystem, business leaders can understand the whole range of viable possibilities beyond what any human mind can comprehend on its own. It is time to take advantage of what’s possible. Be inspired by technology and what it can do to increase value to your customers.

Business leaders recognize that taking advantage of the Cloud Ecosystem Economy is about creating a platform for efficiency, innovation, and growth. In a 2021 Harvard Business Review Survey amongst CEOs, 87% said that Cloud would be a critical component to achieving sustainability goals to a moderate or significant degree. The article also reported that only 37% of C-level executives had fully achieved the outcomes they expected from their cloud initiatives. Rene Buest reports, “Only about 3 in 10 CEOs reported complete confidence in their organization’s cloud migration initiatives to deliver expected value at the expected time.

Many variables come into moving legacy systems into the Cloud. There are many pitfalls on the way to cloud migration. Certainly, a big part of the challenge is having the skills on hand to take advantage of the Cloud. More often than not, companies can be so eager to take advantage of what cloud technology offers that leadership makes their choice on price and expediency alone. It looks like a good deal at the moment and they go for it without regard to how it will fit with their company.

Don’t make the same mistake. IronOrbit offers comprehensive, professionally managed services for a predictable monthly fee. We build it for you so that it works. You don’t need to wonder if you have the right skills in-house to make full use of it. At the same time, you’ll have all the flexibility and control that you want.

We invite you to check out our INFINITY Workspaces demo and then do your own proof-on-concept.

Call Today 1-888- 753-5060

Increased Productivity and Collaboration is the real reason why AEC firms work with IronOrbit
The Reason Why AEC Firm MSA Partnered with IronOrbit

 

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.
Migrating to the cloud, moving to the right cloud, Choose the right cloud service provider
AEC Firms Should Choose the Cloud That’s Right for Them

 

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.  

Call 1-888-753-5060 now.

 

Careers

CAREERS

Join the Cloud Company With the Human Touch

IronOrbit Voted One of Orange County’s Top Work Places 2020!

A Few Reasons to Join the Team

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The Benefits of Being Part of the Team

IronOrbit Team Members are highly motivated, highly intelligent individuals who are passionate about what they do. It’s only logical to provide the same in benefits.

Remote Work Positions

401(k)

Health & Dental Benefits

Paid Training & Education

Paid Time Off

Take Their Word for IT

We’ll let the team members speak for themselves.

Joining the IronOrbit Team is a great move both personally & professionally.

Tiffany Lockwood

Project Manager

“IronOrbit has empowered me to learn and grow in my career. IronOrbit has a collective innovative mentality to constantly improve not only technology, but our daily work life. I look forward to working with the IronOrbit team for many years to come.”

jonathan cruz ironorbit

Jonathan Cruz

IT Support Specialist

“I enjoy the opportunity to help our customers have a pleasant experience with technology and ease their frustration when needed.”

Bobby Apodaca

Business Analysis & Planning

“I love working at IronOrbit because each day is unique & challenging. The technology’s fascinating and our team’s fantastic. It’s refreshing to be part of an evolving organization that enables and invests in its clients, employees, products, and services.”

The Values We Live By… We ASPIRE!

Accountable We Deliver, or We Adapt

We deliver on our promises – and in the occasional times that we fall short, we admit it, take responsibility, make it right, and take all the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again.

Synergetic Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts

Our differences, rather than hold us back, make us stronger and more versatile as a whole. We collaborate effectively across groups and departments, working as one to demolish our goals and deliver consistent and ever-improving value to our clients.

Proactive Seek-And-Act, Not Wait-And-See

We always try to anticipate and resolve potential problems before they can affect our clients. We practice this in every area of our business – from development and operations to support and billing.

Innovative Always Improving & Evolving

We’re always looking for ways to serve our clients better, whether it’s becoming more efficient or developing new products or features altogether.

Reliable Results You Can Depend On

If you’re in need of service, we are never more than a phone call or email away. We’re here to help 24/7/365.

Empowering Helping Others Reach Their Full Potential

We believe in helping others to reach their full potential, whether they’re colleagues or clients. We do this through advice, training, technologies, services, or through delegation of authority – no cookie-cutter solutions here.

Become a Part of the IronOrbit Team

Apply Now!

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Backups & DR Update

CLOUD SERVICES

Backups & Disaster Recovery

Your Business Runs Without Interruption

Why Take Your Business to the Cloud?

How about accessibility from anywhere, on any device, with 100% guaranteed uptime?

Data Backup Services

Fully-customizable

File-level, physical server/bare metal, VM,

Choose your backup type (differential/full), # of offsite backups, # of file versions, and minimum data retention period.

All the backups your business needs

File-level, physical server/bare metal, VM, & SQL database backups.



3 Step Process for Unbeatable Continuity

Risk Analysis

& Review

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.

Business Impact

Analysis

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.

Robust Security

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)

Consulting

We listen to what our clients want to do with their IT systems, taking their organizational objectives and timetables into account.

Design

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.

Implementation

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).





Everything You Need With Predictable Pricing

& the All-in-One ICT Solution

For a Fixed-Monthly fee, IronOrbit provides a turnkey solution that leverages the power of the cloud for the assets that matter most.

Microsoft 365 support, 24/7 IT support, Cloud Workspaces for ALL of your users. Fast, secure, backed up and future-proof.

Your digital transformation.

  • Blazing-Fast, All-Flash/SSD Hosting; Launch In 1 Second
  • Email Encryption, 2FA & MDM Add-Ons Available
  • UNLIMITED CPU, RAM & Microsoft Software Upgrades
  • Avoid Data Loss And Downtime
  • 24/7/365 All-Inclusive Support (W/ Engineering)
  • Highly-Secure, HIPAA, PCI DSS, & SOC 2 Compliant
  • 99.999% Uptime Guarantee
  • Maintain Control & Visibility Over Your Backups & DR


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We Assist Your Business

CLIENT STORY

Cal Fasteners

“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.”

Joe Truckey – Owner – Cal Fasteners

joe truckey ironorbit testimonial with play button

CASE STUDY

Fratello Construction

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.

Technology &

Cloud Innovations

Check out our blog for the latest in the cloud and

bleeding-edge technology and innovations.

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Data Centers in 20+

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Where Will Your Company Be in a Year From Now

 

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.

Call us at (888) 753-5060.

Virtual Learning and Distance Education
What’s Going to Save Higher Education?

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.

 

Remote learner using multiple cloud-based education apps.

 “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.

In the March 31, 2020 HBR article What the Shift to Virtual Learning Could Mean for the Future of Higher Ed, Vijay Govindarjan and Anup Srivastava urge educators to collect data and pay attention to three questions:

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.

Black and White portrait of John Dewey

 

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.

Why?

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.”

Collaboration teams working remotely.

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.

Dr. Michael Kolodziej, in his online video presentation to National University on The Future of Virtual Education,  points out, “Along with new opportunities come new realities and new possibilities.”

New Realities. New Possibilities.

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.”

Sustine Chapel
On YouTube you can plug ito a 360 Virtual Reality tour of the Sistine Chapel.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The splash page of "A Walk Through Dementia" website.
Developed by the Alzheimer’s Research Center UK, this app presents a virtual reality experience. Visitors are able to look at everyday life through a new lens.

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.

Why?

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.

3 female students and one dark skinned male student at school tables wearing mask.

 

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.

IN CONCLUSION

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