Mastering emerging technologies has always made the difference between companies remaining competitive or falling behind. Digital transformation applies IT and technologies to improve business outcomes. Becoming digital is the main ingredient for sustained success.
Every enterprise, including yours, faces a choice between innovation or extinction. Your customers, your channels, and probably most, if not all, of your competitors have all gone digital.
As technology continues to evolve at exponential rates, digital transformations will accelerate. Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, and the Internet of Things (SMACIT) all contribute to the accumulation of data. Consumer data has become more available and more useable than ever before.
Becoming a truly digital company is a process of redefining your business strategy and even your organization’s culture. The digital strategy leverages an engaged intuitive work culture to create, experiment, and respond to data with increased agility and speed.
Digital transformation is a great democratizer of business: it levels the playing field. It provides low-cost tools and enables strategies that give small and mid-sized businesses a fighting chance to compete at the same levels as enterprise companies.
The most successful digital transformed companies have used real-time data as a roadmap to change their business processes and have developed models for improved customer experiences. Using ubiquitous data, unlimited connectivity, and massive processing power, companies no longer have to guess what their customers want. They only have to collect the data and learn the answer. Unlimited connectivity means responding immediately, even proactively to customer needs.
Data is an essential ingredient for making all of this work.
Designing for digital means collecting the data, having it protected, analyzing it properly, and applying the findings.
Businesses can no longer rely solely on offering a portfolio of products or services. They have to solve customer problems and be anticipatory.
Digital technologies can enhance the customer experience, and even provide new digital value propositions. Digital companies build, buy, configure business, data, and technology components. Working with these components, people can quickly assemble solutions from parts that already exist. A digital platform keeps track of all the components, so you have the one you need when you need it. The foundation for building such a digital platform is cloud technology.
Since not all clouds are the same, you’ll want to shop for the cloud service provider that will fit your business strategy for the long term.
IronOrbit specializes in customizing comprehensive cloud services that fit and support long term strategy. We’re here to help you begin the journey of digital transformation on the right foot.
IronOrbit’s INFINITY Workspaces offer Infinite Upgrades, Infinite Computing, Unmetered Bandwidth, Cybersecurity, Backup & Disaster Recovery, and 24/7 US-based Support, all for one predictable monthly fee.
Please contact one of our consultants at 1-800–753- 5060
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.
While digital technologies and services proved to be a lifesaver carrying us through the disruption caused by Covid-19, it did little to help the healthcare industry. Against this backdrop, healthcare leaders are under on-going pressure to improve patient outcomes and reduce operational costs. The translation? Do more with less resources. Increasingly, healthcare has to support large numbers of caregivers, support staff, and wrangle huge amounts of data.
Advances in digital healthcare technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), virtual reality, genomes, and nanotechnology, hold the promise of answering the question of balancing patient care and operational expense.
AI is often thought of as automation and anything involving robotics; however, through the use of AI algorithms, AI technology can design treatment plans or even create new drugs. Google’s Deep Mind created an AI that can identify breast cancer more accurately and faster than human radiologists. Paige. AI – a member of the NVIDIA Inception program – was granted “Breakthrough Designation” by the US Food & Drug Administration, the first such designation for AI in cancer diagnosis.
Digital technology offers three types of visual experiences which can be used to better prepare for surgery and as an educational tool. Virtual Reality is being used by future surgeons to practice operations. A recent Harvard Business Review Study showed how practicing VR procedures boosted success by 230% over traditionally trained surgeons. Augmented Reality creates a multi-sensory world where digital images and data are rendered onto real-world objects. Mixed Reality combines the digital world with the real-world environment so that users can interact with both. Imagine a surgeon preparing for a complicated brain surgery. The hospital receives all the MRE images. The Mixed Reality device renders them into a 3-Dimensional holographic image. A doctor can look at the problematic area and analyze it layer by layer. Zooming in and out of the patient, the doctor can plan their entire intervention before actually making an incision.
Genome Sequencing determines a person’s complete DNA sequence and could provide the key for understanding the blueprint for building a person and for a person-specific form of healthcare. Illumina, a DNA sequencing company based in San Diego, unveiled NovaSeq, a machine that will one day order-up your whole genome for less than the cost of a blood test.
Nanotechnology is the science of the extremely small and it holds enormous potential for healthcare. MIT created an electronic wireless controlled pill that could perform basic diagnostic information or release drugs in response to Smartphone commands. Small, smart pills like the PillCam are already in use to perform noninvasive colon exams.
Many of these new medical technologies, and more, are sure to have an impact on improving life for both patients and their providers. Like the future of many other industries, healthcare’s destiny is directly tied to how well healthcare professionals embrace technologies as they become available.
In a Harvard Business Review article from April 28, 2020, Hemant Taneja stressed the critical importance of rebuilding our healthcare system in real partnership with technology innovators. Some technology companies like NVIDIA already have new sophisticated technologies that help tackle interoperable data, use AI to augment radiology workflows, and help identify pathologies (such as cancers) incredibly fast by analyzing images, providing insights based on previous cases, and diagnose faster and more accurately by pinpointing anomalies. For every new technology available on the market there are another dozen waiting in the wings.
These are exciting times. They are full of uncertainties, crisis, opportunities, and digital technological advancements unlike anything we’ve seen before. The arrival of these new innovations is not as far off as you might think.
Already there are technologies providing healthcare workers with a steady stream of their patient’s health data. This is converging to a point in the not too distant future where medical history data, real-time health, insurance coverage details, and other financial information combine seamlessly to support better patient care and reduced operational expenses.
Flows of knowledge and technology
can provide access to what Taneja refers to in. his article as, “practical solutions that will push us closer to a pandemic resilient health system.”
Digital transformation of information and electronic communication tools
represent the basic foundation for organizations to remain relevant as we move deeper into this decade.
Because the world is more connected than ever, these digital flows have become richer and more powerful than ever. They are to us now what rivers were to ancient cities and civilizations. Back then you wanted to build your town or factory near a rushing river and let it flow through you. That river would give you power, mobility, nourishment, and access to distant neighbors and their ideas. So, it is now, with these digital flows into and out of the cloud. The river you want to build on now is IronOrbit – the connector will enable you and your organization to gain access to all the computing power you will need now, and in the years ahead. It is where you can tie into every flow in the world in which you would want to participate.
All of these digital technologies and more will be made available and accessed through some form of cloud-based environment.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can ensure a future-proof pandemic resilient healthcare system for your organization,
please contact us for a no obligation conversation at (888) 603-9050.
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
Because the world is more fluid, unpredictable, and less stable than ever, the cloud represents a resilient business strategy that is sustainable.
Business optimization is the process of making your operations more efficient and cost-effective. Moving to the cloud enables these improvements to happen easily and with great flexibility.
For enterprise organizations, being in the cloud provides them with the ability to scale up their infrastructure quickly, without setting up an additional in-house hardware. It’s not only fast, but it reduces the cost associated with development.
Employees can access files using Smartphones, laptops, and tablets while you reduce operational costs, boost speed, and improve accuracy.
That’s just the beginning. But still, we’re just scratching the surface of what the transformational “supernova” known as the cloud can do for your business.
Moving to the cloud is not a cure-all solution that is going to solve all your optimization and business continuity challenges. Sure, there will be great benefit in simply migrating your IT infrastructure to the cloud, but to fully benefit from this game-changing technology, leaders have to seek out the cloud solution that is optimized for their unique needs. Not all companies are created equal, and neither are clouds.
Cloud Optimization is about delivering business efficiency to your organization. Leaders need to target objectives, look towards future trends, and make predictions as best they can. These insights help IT operations make better cloud decisions and accelerate business innovations that will impact the future of your company. Remember, it’s not just a matter of surviving the years ahead. The goal is to thrive and, ideally, have the ability and wherewithal to shape your own future.
DID SOMEONE SAY, “BUSINESS CONTINUITY?”
It just so happens that being in the right cloud environment also ensures business continuity!
Let’s face it. There are many ways organizations can be disrupted.
There are natural disasters, service outages, security breaches, industry innovations/competition, and now, add lockdowns caused by pandemics to the list.
Without implementing a business continuity strategy as a part of an overall cybersecurity roadmap, any process optimization changes you make can be taken away from you in a second. By being in the cloud (instead of utilizing on-site servers to back up your data and host your applications), the cybersecurity and business continuity elements are already baked into your solution. This assurance of security and reliability gives you the freedom to customize and tweak your internal, IT-supported processes and innovate more effective ways to develop and deliver your products and services.
The decisions you make about your cloud infrastructure can determine the future of your company.
Imagine for a moment that you’re the CEO of one of the top three travel management companies in the USA. You’ve got more than 1,000 employees and twenty-plus locations scattered across the country.
But you’ve got a BIG problem.
The in-house infrastructure you implemented ten years ago is now out of date, operationally overloaded, and in urgent need of hardware, software, and security upgrades.
What to do?
Well, you could invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in new in-house hardware, software, and security solutions, or, you could start looking at the cloud as a potential game-changer for your growing enterprise.
He chose to use IronOrbit’s cloud infrastructure to help his organization take the next step in business optimization.
Darryl says, “Our success in the travel industry comes down to our ability to leverage technology and put it to work for our customers. IronOrbit helps us keep that competitive edge.”
Harnessing the Cloud for Business Optimization
5 Things You Need to Know
1. Know the Competition
It’s not a surprise that many companies are already using the cloud to house their data and infrastructure. Gartner, one of the industry’s leading think tanks, shows the numbers behind the massive move to a cloud-first infrastructure across all industries.
In an article titled Cloud Shift Impacts All IT Markets Christy Pettey of Gartner notes that “Gartner’s latest IT spending forecast shows that spending on data center systems is forecast to be $195 billion in 2019, but down to $190 billion through 2022. In contrast, spending on cloud system infrastructure services (IaaS) will grow from $39.5 billion in 2019 to $63 billion through 2021.”
What do all these big-dollar forecasts mean for you?
Your competition is either considering a move to the cloud, or they’re already there.
2. Know the Costs
Cost is always a factor. Doing the math and understanding what cloud infrastructure will mean for your business optimization goals, in conjunction with your budgeting, is critical. Here are some factors related to cloud infrastructure costs.
OPEX vs. CAPEX – Cloud-first business optimization strategies allow you to get away from the life cycle (and break/fix cycle) of in-house IT infrastructure and move the IT budgeting from the CAPEX side of the ledger to the OPEX side.
Scaling Cost with Requirements – Although a company with infinite resources can afford to build IT capacity that they won’t use for 3 to 5 years, your company isn’t likely in that position. Cloud infrastructure allows you to utilize economies of scale and level-up your expenses only when your business process growth requires.
Budgeted Expenditures – Predictability is valuable. The cloud simplifies IT budgeting because all maintenance, updates, security, and upgrades are done by the cloud provider within a stable, monthly fee.
Improved Performance Raises Productivity and Lowers Costs – Improved efficiency and increased productivity have to be considered when it comes to the cost/benefit analysis of cloud infrastructure for business optimization. Profitability arises when employees can easily access their work without spending time on keeping their computers functioning and secure.
3. Know the Process
The unknown is everyone’s primary source of worry. When the IronOrbit team explains the cloud migration process to a business leader, he/she then has the clarity and information needed to make a decision about utilizing a cloud environment to improve business optimization.
This is how an enterprise cloud migration/implementation process works.
Consultation – Getting together with the key stakeholders in the client company to explore their goals for the cloud migration or implementation
Exploration – Digging in and getting a firm grasp on the current IT assets of the client company and the processes that those IT assets support
Collaboration – Working with the in-house IT organization of the client company to determine a roadmap for moving data and IT-supported processes into the cloud
Presentation – Submitting completed migration roadmap to client company leadership for review and approval
Implementation – Moving data and workflow in stages into the cloud in accordance with the roadmap that has been established and working in coordination with the client organization’s IT team
Testing and Quality Assurance – Ensuring that each stage of the migration process has been completed successfully and is achieving the desired/expected results, i.e., optimization of business processes
4. Know the Hurdles
Some companies try to tell you that moving enterprise systems from in-house IT assets to cloud infrastructure is a breeze, but they just aren’t telling you the truth. The fact is that enterprise IT assets are complicated. Moving them into the cloud is a complex procedure. That’s why it’s critical to choose the right team to handle the tough stuff and to help you get over the operational hurdles you must face before a cloud-first strategy results in business optimization.
Hurdle #1 – Buy In
Getting key stakeholders to get on board with a cloud implementation to achieve better business optimization is one of the first hurdles you will face. People like infrastructure that they can see and touch. As a result, there is an innate bias against cloud infrastructure – even if it is better on many levels than buying and maintaining in-house IT assets.
Hurdle #2 – Bandwidth
When your entire data and workflow are securely accessed through an internet connection, it’s critical that your business has reliable bandwidth to handle the traffic and a backup IP.
Hurdle #3 – Training
Optimizing business processes through the utilization of cloud assets is a game-changer. It’s important not to leave your staff in the dark. Each step of the process needs to be communicated from the top down. Talk to the employees that are most impacted by the change. Cloud implementation needs to be framed as a positive for the employees. They need to be trained on new aspects of the process that have been impacted by the cloud implementation.
5. Know the Benefits
Using cloud-based data sets, servers, and desktops, your organization can work to drive real-world business advantages. Here are just a few examples of them.
We’ve saved the best for last!
As mentioned in an earlier IronOrbit blog, the cloud has tremendous energy. The information travels up and down. Large amounts of digital information move in every direction. You need to learn to go with the knowledge flow if you’re going to thrive. The flow of knowledge stocks on the cloud will better equip you to look ahead, predict trends, and respond in a timely manner to the ever-changing market. Being in the cloud ensures that you are interconnected globally, where ideas and knowledge are exchanged freely.
It’s not just about knowledge flows, though that’s compelling enough. It’s also about being able to take advantage of leading-edge technology as it becomes available.
Consider the March 1, 2019, Deloitte article, CLOUD-BASED SERVICES ARE MAKING IT EASIER FOR COMPANIES TO USE AI. “These streamlined ways of using AI are coming at the right time as organizations recognize the value of investing in AI to improve their competitiveness. Companies without a great deal of AI expertise can still benefit, as user-friendly cloud services continue to improve and proliferate. The message for companies that want to remain competitive is that they need to jump in – and it’s never been easier or more essential to tap into the power of AI.
Business Optimization is achieved when gaps in process and technology challenges are addressed in relation to the resources available. Today’s business optimization isn’t about a one-time restructuring, but rather an ongoing, dynamic alignment of people, processes, and technology. This kind of strategic agility can only be supported adequately in a cloud infrastructure. The Harvard Business Review article by Nicholas Bloom and Nicola Pierri, from August, 31, 2018, makes the point clear. “Flexible access to computing resources allows firms to scale-up (or down) rapidly and to experiment with new products and features. The operational agility can be particularly valuable when facing uncertain demand or a fast-evolving competitive environment.”
Another strong case for using cloud technology to optimize business is made earlier in the same article. It reports that cloud computing is an unusual technology that “provides high-powered computing without the overhead costs associated with in-house software and hardware provisions.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Here’s the most important question.
If you’re not going to utilize the cloud for continuous collaboration of processes to meet market demand and stay ahead of the competition, what are you going to do – and how much money are you going to have to spend to make it happen?
The first part of this blog set the stage for what follows.The coronavirus pandemic slowed us down. At that same it has pushed us into our homes to work. The pandemic has, and continues, to accelerate technological advancements. The novel virus has physically slowed each and everyone of us. And it has slowed the economy. The Brookings Institute reported that our economy has entered a contraction.
There is much we still don’t know about the coronavirus, We also don’t know how the lock downs across the country will affect our business and our economy long term. This is all uncharted territory. While all of this true, technology has been a life-saver for many businesses.
So, how is technology going to keep the USA in business and help the economy to recover?
The supply chain for US companies is long and complex.
Goods manufactured here in the USA have multiple supply vendors. The supply chain cycles in weeks – not days or hours.
We pick up an item at a big-box store or the local hardware store. We don’t consider all the suppliers and technology it takes to get that product on the shelf.
The supply chain has slowed for some industries. Our supply chain technology is still in place and working. It’s ready to fire on all cylinders again when called upon to do so. We must monitor our supply chain.
In a Forbes article, Jaume Ribera of the IESE Business School contributor, warns of the “bullwhip effect.” This is when fluctuating consumer behavior impacts the supply chain at all levels.
2. Technology Enables Employees to Collaborate & Communicate with Clients.
Most businesses have been hard hit by COVID-19. There are others that have been flooded with new clients. They are struggling to keep up with demand.
The VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) video/audio communications companies are perfect examples of business sectors that have seen a spike in demand. Companies use applications like Microsoft Teams, to give telecommuters the same experience they had at the office.
Because of video and voice conferencing technology employees of companies across the USA are able to work from home, keep their jobs, and contribute to the ongoing health of their business.
3. Technology Supports Geo-Diverse Workflow.
Before the USA was impacted by the pandemic, many companies were already heavily investing in industry-optimized cloud workspaces, Microsoft 365, hosted servers, and cloud-based data backup/disaster recovery platforms.
Those who invested early in these technologies are now able to see their investment pay off exponentially. Competitors slow to adopt cloud-based technologies are having to scramble to retool their IT environment. Some have had to shut their doors. Companies already in the cloud are in a good position to push through this crisis. They can maintain workflow and business continuity.
When the post-mortem is done on the business impact of the COVID-19 crisis, cloud-based technology may very well be the hero of the day. It may be the driver that kept our economy from slipping into complete disarray.
4. Technology Undergirds the Public Health Message.
There has never been a time in history like this. Government and health officials can disseminate information. Our national telecommunications, internet, and wireless infrastructure may be at capacity. Our backbone of critical technologies is holding. It is playing a key role in the health of the workforce.
Technology giants like Amazon, FaceBook, and Google have stepped up to the plate to squelch the spread of misinformation. They’re replacing it with up-to date factual information.
Blair Levin of the Brookings Institute writes, “all of this internet use is putting more pressure on our broadband infrastructure. Just in the past few weeks, data demands have risen in nearly all categories. The previous peak has become the new average, and the surge is starting to threaten the quality and speed of content downloads. As shelter-in-place directives spread and demand increases, the question lingers of whether our broadband infrastructure can support the new normal.”
Well, the Internet system is working and handling the load. This crisis has reminded the nation it needs to keep up to ever increasing demands.
We need to continue upgrading our broadband infrastructure.
Health authorities are able to deliver critical information. This information is accurate. Distribution is by way of their websites and other trusted sources.
Employees are able to stay safe from the virus. They’re able to continue working remotely. One day this will be over. The returning workforce will be healthier than they would be without access to the disseminated health guidance.
5. Technology Enables Testing and Contact Tracing.
MIT has developed technology that enables your Smartphone to track where you’ve been. At the same time it preserves your privacy. You want to know that everyone around you is safe. At the same time, you don’t want the government tracking where everybody is going. MIT already has an AI-powered device that lets doctors monitor coronavirus patients remotely. The system is called Emerald. It is being used in some assisted living facilities. TheNextWeb reports that, Emerald aims to reduce the risks faced by healthcare professionals treating COVID-19, who are often exposed to the highly infectious disease without adequate protective gear.
Emerald could play a particularly important role in assisted living centers and retirement homes. The residents of these facilities are particularly vulnerable to the disease.
Experts are in agreement that major part of getting everyone back to work, and helping companies get back on their feet, is a healthy workforce. Providing healthcare professionals with the necessary technology to test, report, and contact trace are crucial to this effort.
On April 10th, The Economist reported that Apple and Google announced plans to work together to develop a way to track the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The unification of these two tech giants will make it easier for others to build contact-tracing apps that work without modifying either platform. Of course it raises a question. “If tracing apps are widely adopted, they must make people want to use them,” says Ciro Cattuto, an epidemiologist at the University of Turin, in Italy. “People need to feel like they’re contributing to a common good.”
6. Our New Appreciation for the Use of Digital Transformation Technologies.
Marketers for innovative technologies have traditionally had a challenging time convincing some leaders to invest in the future.convincing some business leaders that now was the time to make investments in newer, more efficient, cloud-based technologies.
Investing in technology that drove digital workflow transformation was seen as “nice to have” if “we can afford it.”
But when COVID-19 shifted the ground under the feet of U.S. business, those who had put money into cutting-edge business process technology were better positioned to ride out the storm. Some leaders, like the COO of the Clipper Corporation, Nancy Hejran, know that, one day, a disaster is going to happen. When that day comes, they want their data to be safe and secure.
These technologies will help the USA maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace when COVID-19 has become a memory.
7. Technology Supports the Retooling of Companies for the Post-COVID-19 Economy.
There are yet many uncertainties, there is one thing with which everyone seems to be in agreement. Things aren’t going to snap back to “business as usual” once this wave of Coronavirus has passed.
Company leaders are looking at what their business will be post-COVID-19. For some, the course alteration will be minimal – hardly noticed. For other businesses, the idea of “business as usual” will need a new definition. It is sure to be shaped by the demands of our ramshackle economy and available technologies.
How will the coronavirus change the way we do business? How will it change the global business climate? After all, we are in this together.
We will explore the answers to this question in next week’s blog,
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.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) enables virtualized desktops hosted on remote servers on the Internet. Reducing the need for hardware while improving flexibility, VDI offers practical benefits as well as a hefty return on investment. There is a strong business case to be made. According to the IDC, “The Business Value of VMware Horizon,” of January 2016, there is a 5-year return-on-investment of 413 percent. On average, the virtualized desktop costs 71 percent less to buy, deploy, support, maintain, and use over a 5-year period. This is on a per-device basis. Users spend 76 percent less time on device application log-ins. VDI enables companies to make full use of human capital while preventing many IT-related issues. We need all the help we can get to unlock the massive human assets such as talent, empathy, and creativity. You know, the things computers aren’t that good at. There are indeed great advantages to moving to a DaaS environment. There are also many opportunities for making mistakes along the way. Let’s take a look at the 4 most common pitfalls associated with VDI migration.
A TechRepublic article cites a lack of planning as a major pitfall of VDI integration. The article went on to report that companies failed to plan for enough resources. Don’t provision for today or tomorrow. Design an infrastructure that will serve your needs next year and for the years ahead. That article was from 2013. It is just as relevant today.
The problem with most VDI implementation is lack of planning. Internal stakeholders should begin with a comprehensive assessment of the IT environment. Also, consider the individual desktop environment. The VDI landscape has changed over the years. Planning and project management are the key to a successful VDI adoption. The initial steps start with an internal dialogue. It’s a good idea to bring in outside expert advice early in the process. Each company is unique. There are different demands and different expectations. The time and effort put into VDI planning will pay incredible dividends for years.
Here are a few of the most common hurdles. They can be overcome when identified early.
Don’t Try to Do Everything at Once
The first common issue in rolling out a VDI initiative is trying to do too much at once. This applies to both large and small environments alike. VDI does not look the same at any two companies.
Don’t try to include every attractive feature in your initial implementation. Be focused on meeting key objectives. And be selective. Understand the major features and benefits of VDI. But don’t try to include everything in the beginning. This will only slow down the process. It will also distract you from your key objectives. A white paper by VMware recommends taking a step back. Consider what you’re trying to do. Do this before you even think about IT requirements. Instead of diving straight into technical requirements, such as numbers of servers and sizing of WAN links, begin by exploring user needs, business drivers, and special requirements. These special requirements might include things like: compliance issues; high availability; disaster recovery plans, or even the need for the business to rapidly onboard large numbers of new users due to mergers or acquisitions.
Don’t get stuck on the age-old VDI question. For example, using non-persistent versus persistent desktops in their initial deployment.
A company may never deliver a useable VDI solution if they allow themselves to get stuck on an idea. Let’s say that you determine 99% of its VDI desktops will be non-persistent. Well, you need to know that you’re going to spend countless OpEx and CapEx funds.
Narrow down what you need in the planning stage to get VDI in a solid usable state. Set-up your VDI on a set of lean criteria. You can make additions as you go.
Do an Effective Initial Assessment
The next hurdle is company-specific. It is also often overlooked due to the upfront cost and time. I am referring to the VDI assessment that should be a part of the planning. The VDI assessment is the discovery phase of the project. It will help you isolate and focus on what is most important for your business.
Identify who will be using the VDI solution. The assessment is two parts: discussion and analysis. Be sure the process includes all the stakeholders including those who will be using the virtual desktops. Getting them involved early in the design process will help manage expectations. It will also go a long way in nurturing the acceptance of the resulting VDI environment.
Let’s use the example of an HR group that will be using VDI during the initial deployment. There is an initial interview. The agenda includes setting expectations of VDI. Begin by looking at how the company currently uses the computer environment.
Discussions along these lines will establish some parameters.
Do they generally only use a combined set of 4 applications? Do they work at varied times throughout the day? Do they only need a web browser and the ability to email clients on the company network?
You also need to do some data gathering of what traditional desktops are doing during the day. What are the applications used? What is needed for the machines to operate?
Most PCs are oversized with wasted resources. VDI is all about compute and storage density. Determining accurate sizing needs equals more cost savings. There are several tools that can do the 2nd part of this equation but don’t overlook the first.
Don’t Overlook Management and Support Responsibilities
This third point is around IT staff.
Who will be managing the new environment once the consultants have departed? Will you share this duty between existing desktop/infrastructure teams? Or will a new team arise to manage the entire solution? Decide this early on.
Manage a VDI environment requires an engineer who understands several key technologies. They sound know how these technologies affect the virtual desktop. These technologies include but are not limited to:
Know how users connect to the virtual desktop. Know where to troubleshoot problems like lost connections or poor performance
Deep understanding of hypervisors and server infrastructure, depending on the vendor of choice
Knowledge of security products will be inside the virtual desktops and in the network path of VD. This is for troubleshooting purposes.
Basic knowledge for customizing Windows installations and troubleshooting.
These skills can come from various class training offerings. Many should come from experience. Knowing how all these different technologies work together in your environment is critical.
Larger companies own many of these technologies.
Separate teams manage them. It is crucial that all the stakeholders be aware of the impact of VDI.
Know who has ownership of the new VDI systems. Make sure there is buy-in from across your IT organization. This is important to establish in the beginning. Everyone needs to be on the same page. This will make training easier. can occur for those needing to ramp up.
This ownership and buy-in include first-line defenders like your typical service desk team. Let them know they’re responsible to field certain common VDI related issues as they come in. Provide education and resources to support them. Service and support is the key benefit of partnering with seasoned VDI consultants.
Don’t Forget the User Experience
As VDI deployment comes together, don’t forget about the user experience.
Consider how things were before VDI. Chances are, your employees have been using similar pieces of hardware. They know how their workstation machines perform every day (good or bad). They’ll compare the new VDI environment to what they had before.
This goes back to the assessment stage. Understanding the proper-sizing and performance of each machine is important. It can mean the difference between successful adoption and one that isn’t. It’s also more than that.
If a user now has to login twice to access their Virtual Desktop they will complain. If the machine hangs when opening a video conference they will complain. If patches cause reboots on different days, they will complain. You want to make the change over to VDI as seamless as possible.
The experience should be better, not equal or worse than on a traditional desktop. Make sure you plan to provide the expected performance of each workstation. Allow for a tailored storage solution that is intelligent and optimized for VDI. Consider network crashes. If for whatever reason, they can’t access their virtual desktops, this can also be a problem. Here’s the point. Outside factors can contribute to the total experience on a Virtual Desktop. Many of these factors will be beyond your control.
The successful adoption of VDI means user acceptance. Deliver a desktop-like experience. It means proving the training and support necessary. Company-wide buy-in is key to the success of the whole program. It all begins with planning and making sure you have every brain at the table when that happens.
Businesses shouldn’t gamble by settling with less-than-adequate disaster recovery. Their IT infrastructure absolutely needs to be able to withstand the most sophisticated cyber-attack or the most destructive natural disaster. Budgets are too tight and the competition is too high in this economy for any kind of setback. Fortunately, businesses with on-site infrastructures have an alternative to expensive, self-run, off-site backup facilities: fully-managed private cloud solutions from IronOrbit.
Many businesses in the northeastern United States with on-site IT infrastructures recently found themselves under-protected with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. These companies lost all their files and applications as floods destroyed their computing equipment—part of the toll of $50 billion in total economic losses related to the storm. On the other hand, some businesses may have been able to protect their IT hardware from water damage but were one of 8.5 million customers without power. Many companies lost productivity, sales, and customers as a result. The Manhattan-based websites Gawker, Buzzfeed, and the Huffington Post all went down after power outages at their self-hosted data centers, for example. They each lost about $100,000-$150,000 in ad revenues per day during the downtime (based on their yearly revenues of around $60 million).
Businesses caught off-guard by Hurricane Sandy shouldn’t dismiss the disaster as a “once-in-a-lifetime-storm” that will never be repeated and thus does not justify future preventative adjustments to their IT infrastructure. Firstly, “once-in-a-lifetime” natural disasters, in spite of their name, seem to be occurring every six-to-twelve months. Consider that the Japanese tsunami ($300 billion in total economic losses), the Thailand floods ($45 billion, while also causing a 28% increase in the price of hard drives), and the 2011 U.S. tornado outbreak ($20+ billion) have all happened within the last two years. Secondly, businesses with on-site IT infrastructures can attain better protection from data loss and downtime without having to pay for expensive off-site backup facilities and hardware by switching to the cloud. With the cloud, companies get a more reliable, mobile, and secure infrastructure for a lower cost and with superior disaster recovery.
Cloud computing can be trusted to prevent data loss and downtime better than on-premise IT infrastructures for several reasons. First, the cloud’s off-site servers will usually not be affected by the same localized storms that its users deal with. Second, even if a cloud data center were damaged by a hurricane, clouds have data backup sites and ready-to-go infrastructures or “hot sites” throughout the country. Finally, the cloud does not require any on-site hardware and can be accessed from anywhere. If the main office of a business has been destroyed, employees can access their files and applications from a cloud-based infrastructure while reconvening at a temporary location or working from home.
IronOrbit users in the Northeast experienced first-hand the ability of the cloud to prevent data loss and downtime. During Sandy, it was business as usual for all the IronOrbit users with Internet access (including via mobile data networks). Guillo Cianci of the Long Island-based Fratello Construction Inc. remarked, “Hurricane Sandy could have been a catastrophic data disaster for our company but our business didn’t skip a beat. Some of our neighbors were not so lucky. Hosting our IT with IronOrbit has been one of the best business decisions we have made; knowing that my business will always be up and running pays off every day.”
On top of the inherent disaster recovery capabilities of the cloud, IronOrbit takes additional measures to prevent even the possibility of data loss and downtime. With 24x7x365 technical support, we can help you with any issue at any time—even in the midst a power outage or destructive storm during the middle of the night. We’ve set industry-low Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) of 4 hours and 12 hours respectively. At the moment, we’re also offering to rebuild the IT infrastructure of any company that has been affected by Hurricane Sandy for free. Signing up with IronOrbit means no more worrying about disasters, downtime, or data loss—with us, you’ll be protected from all three.