Cloud Computing 101

As you prepare for 2019 and beyond, Cloud Computing should be part of every technology discussion for your business.  Today the “Cloud” means everything and anything.  So, what is Cloud Computing and what does it really mean for you and your business?

What is Cloud Computing?

Let’s define Cloud Computing.

Cloud computing is the Delivery, using the Internet or a Direct data connection, of Network-Based Services hosted in a Multi-Tenant Environment.

What does this mean?

Network-Based Services – this is a service running on a network.  Usually networked in a datacenter, not your own.

Using the Internet or another Direct data connection – You are accessing this service from a remote location from the source.  You are using it over the Internet or another data link.

Hosted in a Multi-Tenant Environment – Hosted means it is running on someone else’s hardware and they are just making a service available to you.  Multi-tenant means the provider is ‘hosting” many users at the same time. They serve multiple tenants.

For example, look at Gmail.  The provider (Google) manages the software and the hardware running Gmail.  You just use the service from a distance over the Internet.  Cloud computing is just a form of outsourcing when you use Gmail, you outsource your email application to Google.

There are three major kinds of Cloud Computing Services

  • SaaS – Software as a Service
  • IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service
  • PaaS – Platform as a Service

Software as a Service is probably the most common use for Cloud Computing.  A company will run Cloud-based software similar (or identical) to a premise-based, boxed software solution. Some advantages of SaaS are

  • No expensive hardware (server) needed to run the program
  • No updates or patches to maintain
  • Easier support
  • Equal fixed monthly costs

SaaS works well for software applications you use all the time.  You pay monthly (or annually) whether you use the product or not.  On the downside, there are applications I use only a couple of times a year.  It is tough to justify paying for them each month over and over.  For these types of applications, I found the alternative open source or “buy once” substitutes.

Infrastructure as a Service – IaaS is using hosted hardware, usually virtualized, running in a datacenter to conduct business.  If physical (not virtualized) hardware is used or needed, it is usually purchased and co-located in a datacenter to be used like IaaS.  IaaS is a suitable alternative for most on-premise computing functions that can be virtualized.

Closely related to IaaS is Desktops as a Service (DaaS).  With DaaS, a host vendor provides access to virtual desktops (VDI) from a Public or Private Cloud.  DaaS can take the place of your local PC or workstation or supplement them.  Instead of buying a computer for each employee, you can buy a cheap connection device (thin client) and provide access to a virtual desktop running in a datacenter to handle all your Desktop computing needs.

Platform as a Service is the least used of these three types of Cloud Computing.  Businesses will deploy applications using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools managed and maintained by a hosting provider. The end user does not manage or control the underlying Cloud infrastructure but controls the deployed applications running on the Cloud Platform.

What is Private Cloud Computing and how is it different from the Public Cloud Computing?

There are many companies offering services over the public Internet; these are public Cloud providers. I am sure you are familiar with many of them, from social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to strictly business applications like Office 365 and Salesforce CRM.

A Private Cloud solution is also accessed over the Internet or a dedicated private circuit. In contrast, a private Cloud usually connects two locations, the customer and the provider, and is housed in a private datacenter.  A Private Cloud is generally dedicated to a single company.  A Private Cloud can take the place of premised based servers and desktops.  You can run just about any hardware or software in a Private Cloud.  A Private Cloud is generally more flexible and customizable than a Public Cloud.  You can run your entire business from a Private Cloud environment, not just a single application.

Most companies use a mix of traditional, Public, and Private Cloud services, a Hybrid Cloud. Keep in mind, with a Hybrid Cloud you must manage multiple Cloud vendors.  There is no one best solution, do what makes the most sense for your business.  Use the Cloud Services you need to support your business objectives and implement them as needed.

Why should I use Cloud Computing?

Cycle of Technology

All technology follows an adoption path according to the cycle of technology. With new technology adoption, there is a continuous cycle of value.  New Technology provides a competitive advantage. As a technology grows older, the competitive advantage eventually diminishes to a point it becomes a competitive necessity, everyone has it and needs it and uses it.  Finally, for those that continue to use older technology well past its useful life, technology becomes a competitive disadvantage.  You are losing productivity by using outdated obsolete technology.

Don’t spend time, money and effort on technology that doesn’t give you a competitive advantage.

“Technology has reshaped Industry. Briefly, these technologies provided real advantages. But as their availability increased and their cost decreased, they all became ubiquitous commodities. From a strategic standpoint, they no longer mattered.” – Nicholas Carr

Conventional Technology has become a commodity and no longer provides a competitive advantage.

Technology is analogous to the electric grid.  Companies used to own and maintain their own power generation facilities until they realized it was faster, cheaper and easier to simply buy their power from a utility company.  They outsourced power generation.  That is exactly what is happening to conventional technology today, it is being outsourced to the Cloud.  We outsource many things, you drive a car, you don’t build one, some of us don’t even make coffee anymore, we outsource it to Starbucks.

There are advantages to outsourcing your technology needs to a Private Cloud Computing Provider.

  • There are great “economies of scale”, especially in a multi-tenant environment. This can lead to lower costs.
  • Business Critical Applications are being ‘Cloud Enabled’ at a rapid pace. You can run your entire business from the Cloud.
  • Well managed datacenters offer greater flexibility to expand and contract quickly and offer services that are less expensive to rent rather than to own.
  • You can focus on Business, not IT. Cloud Computing provides stable IT spending.
  • You pay for ONLY what you use. You plan for today’s needs and scale up later as your needs grow. You don’t pay for extra capacity you don’t need today or may never need.
  • Cloud Computing is infinitely scalable – not only can you easily scale up, but you can scale down as well. This is one of the most powerful advantages of Cloud computing. The ability to shrink as well as grow.  You cannot do this with physical hardware. You buy it, you own it.
  • Because it is multi-tenant, you can use Enterprise class hardware at a Small Business price.

 Why Cloud Computing now?

Source: Gartner 2014

This chart is the 2014 Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging technologies.  We have been talking about the Cloud for several years. Why Cloud Computing now, what has changed?

  • Bandwidth costs are still falling.
  • Most major business functions have moved to the Cloud.
  • You can run your entire business from the Cloud.

The hype is over, and Cloud Computing is ready for prime time.

According to the Gartner 2014 Hype Cycle, Cloud Computing will reach the Plateau of Productivity (mainstream adoption) by 2016-2019.  Cloud Computing is poised to be the driving force for business productivity. It is here now and ready to use.

Is my Data Safe in the Cloud?

Is your data safe in your office?  What happens if your data is in your physical office and there is a fire/flood/hurricane (Sandy)?  If you’re worried about risk, buy insurance to protect against risk.  Cloud computing has a lot of insurance built in.

  • Your data is housed using redundant hardware. The hardware is designed to be risk tolerant.  In most cases, you would not even notice a datacenter hardware failure.
  • Your data is backed up at least daily, probably more often, and you can go back and retrieve any deleted files and projects.
  • Your data is replicated to multiple datacenters (geo-redundant).
  • Cloud computing providers are in the business of keeping their client’s data protected. Their systems and practices are more redundant and more secure than 99% of businesses doing it themselves.

How do I use the Cloud to Gain a Competitive Advantage?

Using the Cloud – Infrastructure as a Service / Desktops as a Service

Running your entire IT infrastructure including your desktops in the Cloud is a new way to think about technology.  The future is using connected devices.  You can run almost any application, perform almost any task in the Cloud. Software and hardware as we think of it today is going away. The Cloud is the future in desktop computing, delivered as a service.

 Using the Cloud – Infrastructure as a Service / Servers and Networks

You can run your entire IT Infrastructure in the Cloud. You can run servers in the Cloud, switches, your entire network. Using Cloud Computing you don’t need premise-based servers or PCs any longer, you can connect to the Cloud Infrastructure using thin clients.  Thin clients are small cheap connection devices that don’t break or wear out. You can eliminate nearly all your on-premise IT equipment.

 Using the Cloud – Online Backup

You back up your files, right? Backup is a critical IT function.  Unfortunately, everyone has a backup horror story.  The best practice for backup is to copy your backup offsite.  You should always have three copies of your data, the original, a local on-premise copy, and a copy offsite.

Whether you use tape, CD, or disk backup you need to get those backups OFFSITE.  Backups are useless if they are destroyed along with the rest of your office.  Cloud backup is a perfect way to easily get backups offsite.  Obviously, if your whole IT infrastructure is already in Cloud then you don’t have any local data to back up.

To back up to the Cloud is easy, you install backup software onto the local hardware and it periodically and automatically copies your data to the Cloud.

Using the Cloud – Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

 The Ultimate Disaster Recovery (DR) solution is a Hot Site hosted in the Cloud.  A Hot Site completely replicates all your on-premise hardware and data in the Cloud.  It is ready to use and updated continuously. It is also less expensive than a premise-based DR solution.

We had clients in New York who lost everything when Hurricane Sandy hit. Their office buildings were closed, the power was out, but their technology was working and safe in the Cloud datacenter.  They just worked from home until their office was usable again.  They did not experience any downtime or a single problem.  When things returned to normal, they moved back to their office and resumed work without missing a beat.

Using the Cloud – Consolidation / Centralization

For a company with multiple locations, it is easy to see how the Cloud changes the game. If you have three locations, chances are, you have 3 times the hardware and probably a lot of duplicate data.  Scale this up, 5 locations, 10 locations, 100 locations. The numbers get big very quickly.  A business can consolidate and greatly reduce the amount of hardware used to support their business.

Not only can a business reduce costs, but also complexity.  By moving from distributed IT to centralized IT in the Cloud, a business reduces the amount of hardware needed while increasing hardware utilization.  The savings are evident, by reducing the amount of hardware and maintenance, you reduce costs.

Using the Cloud – Cloud Collaboration Hub

Working on a big project with other firms?  You can store all your project data in the Cloud and make it available to each firm.   A Cloud Collaboration Hub allows multiple firms to work in real time on shared projects.  This is accomplished using secure private connections to a Cloud Workspace hosted in a datacenter. This type of collaboration creates a robust and secure environment and allows firms to work together while keeping their intellectual property safe and secured.

Benefits of the Cloud Collaboration Hub:

  • Privacy and security of Intellectual Property.
  • Real-Time Collaboration and file sharing
  • Reduced project “latency”, improved project productivity.
  • Accelerated project information visibility
  • Mobility, accessible from anywhere

 Using the Cloud – Hosted Phones

Fire the phone company. You can have your phone system in the Cloud. You can save real money by moving your phone system to Cloud.  In addition to saving money, you reduce maintenance costs.  Your phone system works over your data connection.  Office moves are a breeze, just unplug your phone, take it with you and plug it in at your new office and you are ready to go.  You are completely location independent.  A hosted phone system has all the typical phone options found in a premise PBX, call forwarding, find me follow me, voicemail, all features of a PBX without a PBX.  The sound is HD quality. Your voicemail and faxes can be sent directly to email.

With hosted phones you have Built-in Business Continuity – if your Office is closed for a week, you can work from anywhere, take your phone with you or use a full-featured mobile phone app.  Are you on the phone all day?  You can use a softphone running on a PC and a headset to manage all your calls, you don’t need to buy phone handsets or wireless headsets.

Communication as a Service – You have free 4-digit dialing between all your offices, there are no charges between locations on the same system.  Incoming calls are free as well.  You only pay for outgoing and long distance but the price per minute is very competitive and you can buy prepaid minutes to save even more.

Using the Cloud – Hosted email / Office

Is there anyone who does not use Cloud-based email for your personal email? When it comes to email, individuals are ahead of business.  Today, there is little reason why any business should be running their own email servers and managing their own email.  Using Office 365 or G Suite, you have business productivity applications bundled with business email at a very competitive price.  These are very compelling reasons to move your business applications and email to the Cloud without any downside.  In most cases, you can reduce costs as well.

Using the Cloud – Helpdesk

Remote assistance technologies and the ability to time shift make Helpdesk an easy fit for the Cloud. You can get Helpdesk support from a Cloud-Based Provider 24/7/365.  Outsourcing your helpdesk is an easy and low-risk way to move to the Cloud.

 Using the Cloud – Mobility

Using the Cloud, you have complete mobility, connect from any device, from anywhere you have a data connection. (which is almost everywhere these days) Work sharing, hoteling and job sharing are all enabled by increased mobility.

But my boss says, “No way I am going to let my employees work from home!”

There have been numerous studies about telecommuting that show productivity increases the more mobile the workforce.  Increased Mobility and Cloud Computing also support Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) further reducing IT expenses.

 Using the Cloud – Software as a Service – SaaS

Run your software from the Cloud. Virtually any software that runs on a desktop will run on a Virtualized Cloud Desktop.  Many major business applications now offer Cloud options.  SaaS allows you to stabilize your software cost. You can increase and decrease the number of seats of each application.  You reduce maintenance costs and are always running the latest version.  You run your application from anywhere you have data connectivity.  SaaS makes you more mobile and flexible.

 Using the Cloud – Video Conferencing / Web Conferencing

Video conferencing works great for small meetings, up to 25 participants.  There are several Cloud-based Video / Web Conferencing applications available.  They offer many options for video, they interface with phone systems for participants that don’t have access to a web camera.  Video conferencing works very well for smaller meetings up to about 25 participants.  If you have more than 25 users, the advantage of seeing the participants gets lost in the quantity/quality of the interaction.  But for small team meetings, it is ideal.  You get more face time with your clients.

Using the Cloud – Hosted wireless

The Cloud is great for hosting wireless, centralized management of wireless resources. With the Cloud, you have one place to control and manage content, security, and access.

How is the Cloud Transforming Work?

Sustainability

The Cloud reduces the need for non-renewable energy.  When businesses move IT from on-site facilities to consolidated Cloud datacenters, it saves energy and cuts pollution — just as relying on power companies is better for the environment than if everyone ran their own power plant.

As a vendor, we also make sure our datacenters are running as green as possible.  We use renewable green energy sources – hydroelectric power and passive cooling whenever possible.

Innovation

Cloud-based collaboration drives Innovation.   Innovation creates a competitive advantage.  The Cloud supports and promotes collaboration.

Data Storage needs are growing exponentially

As bandwidth improves more centralization is possible.  Data Centralization reduces the need to duplicate data in multiple locations.  It also allows you to deduplicate and reduce the total amount of storage needed.  And storage in the cloud is infinitely scalable. (practically speaking)

Mobility – Remote access

Work from anywhere –home, hotel, airplane, client office, anywhere you have an Internet connection which is almost everywhere. Connect using any device, Smartphones, Android, IOS, Macs, PCs.  You are device independent.

Security

With security, the key is to assess risk.  Are premise-based computers, networks and servers better protected than Cloud-based assets? In most cases, the answer is no.  Cloud Providers invest far more on security than the average business can, it is their business. But what about Government / Cloud Provider snooping?  Make sure you read and understand Privacy Policies and insist on absolute privacy for your business data.  You will have more flexibility and more privacy using a Private Cloud rather than a Public Cloud.  For example, as a Private Cloud Provider, we will not allow government access to your data without informing you first and not without proper legal authority.  Your data belongs to you. Period.

Budget

Using the Cloud must make sense from a financial point of view.  What is the return on your investment?  Many factors affect your ROI, download our free white paper to determine your Cloud ROI.  We’d love to have an opportunity to help you save money.

How do I Choose a Cloud Provider?

Ask a potential Cloud Provider these questions:

  • Mature Services Offering – Are they “Full Service” or do you need to do most of the work?
  • Data Center Operations Excellence – Do they own/operate their own Data Center?
  • Committed Ownership – will they be around in years to come?
  • Geographical reach – Can they service all my locations?
  • Internal Engineering Expertise – Do they have the right people with the right knowledge?
  • Established Client Base – Are they a healthy organization? Financially stable?

Assess

What is the next step after you have chosen a provider? This first step is assessing your needs. What are your needs? Where are you today? Where do you want to be?  A good Cloud Provider can help you develop an assessment.

An Assessment is a deep dive into the current state of your technology with specific recommendations on improving your IT Infrastructure and Operations.  Remember your Technology Initiatives must align and support your Business Goals.

Identify Gaps

During this assessment, look at all aspects of your technology and your business and identify ways to improve productivity, save money and protect your business.

Recommendations

Next, identify specific recommendations to improve your technology.  Create a plan for improving PCs, your network, network servers, security, backups, email, wireless, printing, all things technology related.

Also, consider how you can use technology to build your business.

Implementation

Once you have identified your initiatives, meet with your Cloud Provider and develop a plan for implementation.  The plan takes into consideration your priorities, your time and your budget.  Prioritize and budget and then develop a schedule to get it done.  The faster you can implement, the faster you can realize the benefits and savings afforded by moving to the Cloud.

Service and Support

Finally, make sure you have on-going support.  No technology is 100% foolproof, you will need help at some point.

Advance2000 provides a 24 / 7 /365 Help Desk and can provide your staff with any type of IT Support.  We offer 4 different levels of support from Basic Support all the way up to full Managed IT services.  You determine how much support you need and then buy what you need.  We also provide Full Turnkey Support whether you are hosted in Cloud or still using equipment in your office.

Sounds Great, how do I get started in the Cloud?

We’ll leave you with ONE BIG IDEA. Centralizing and Outsourcing your Technology is called the “Cloud”.

Cloud = Scalability, Mobility, Agility and Speed

Is there anything you could do better in the Cloud?

  • Identify your Business Objectives; is your technology supporting those objectives?
  • Are you using old outdated technology?
  • Is your technology putting your company at a Competitive Disadvantage?

Cloud Computing can help.

What’s next?  Do you have questions?  Contact us today.

 

 

 

Strategic IT Assessment

9 Digital Transformation Statistics That Every Business Should Know

We’re living in the digital era. From smartphones to smartwatches, we are constantly glued to our devices. Today, there are an estimated 8.4 million “things” on the internet, with the IoT growing every year.

With that said, it’s no surprise that businesses are realizing the tremendous impact digital transformation can have on their success.

What do we mean by digital transformation?

IScoop defines the term as “the profound and accelerating transformation of business activities, processes, competencies, and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way.” In other words, digital transformation is a journey that aims to constantly improve and innovate with the ever-evolving technologies.

Now it’s more important than ever that businesses have quality professionals (whether it’s in-house or outsourced) to help them understand what technologies are available and required to effectively run their business and provide the best possible customer experiences.

If you’re still not sure how crucial digital transformation is to long-term business success, here are 9 statistics that might persuade you. With technology continuing to evolve at a rapid pace, we can only expect these numbers to grow in the years to come.

digital-transformation-infographic

 

Strategic IT Assessment

Back to Basics: How to Write a Company Email Policy

Introduction

Every company needs an email policy.  This is to protect employees as well as the firm.

The purpose of an email policy is to set proper expectations with your employees.  What are the rules and guidelines regarding email and what happens if you ignore the rules?

The email policy should be written and reviewed with the employee at the time of employment.  A signature block is optional.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, any legal policy you implement at your company should be reviewed and signed off by your legal team.  The following are merely guidelines and sample text to help you create your own email policy.

Typical Sections included in an Email Policy

  • Introduction
  • Email Ownership and Privacy
  • Email Usage Guidelines
  • Email Misuse and Abuse
  • Email Retention and Backup
  • Personal Use of email / Opinions / Personal Views
  • Security / Trade Secrets / Personal Information
  • Questions / Who to ask
  • Signature line and Date

Introduction

The introduction should state the purpose and reason for having and enforcing an email policy.  It should state the business purpose of email and explain the need for an email policy.

SAMPLE TEXT

[COMPANY] Email Policy [version or date]

Date

[COMPANY] provides email to all authorized employees. email is a business tool to help [COMPANY] employees serve our customers, communicate with vendors, streamline internal communications and reduce unnecessary paperwork. The email system is intended primarily for business purposes. This email policy outlines the acceptable use of business email for {COMPANY].

Email Ownership and Privacy

This section explains the Company owns the email and email systems.  The company can access email for ANY reason and the employee has NO expectation of privacy.  Email is a company owned tool (like your desk and PC) and the employer can access any email at any time for any reason.

Employees must realize email is not private.  If required, email access can be cut off and all email sent and received may be restricted for any reason.  This is very important in the case of harassment accusations.

SAMPLE TEXT

All communications and information transmitted, received, or archived in [COMPANY]’s computer system belong to the company. Management has the right to access and disclose all employee email messages transmitted or received via the organization’s computer system. [COMPANY] may exercise its legal right to monitor employees’ email activity. Regarding email, employees should have no expectation of privacy. Be aware management may access and monitor email at any time, for any reason, with or without prior notice.

Email Usage Guidelines

This section outlines the basic use and guidelines for company email.  It discusses email etiquette and stresses the business use of email.  It should remind employees to abide by all corporate standards including logos, signatures, and copyrights. You should warn about the use of CC and BCC and inadvertently sharing email addresses in a group email.  You should caution against using inappropriate language and tone and what to do if you receive an email that does not conform to these guidelines.  Employees should be told sending confidential or sensitive information over email is not secure.  They should never include user names, passwords or other client or personal information in an email.

SAMPLE TEXT

Exercise sound judgment and common sense when sending email messages. Client-related messages should be carefully guarded and protected, like any other written materials. You must also abide by copyright laws, ethics rules and other applicable laws. Exercise caution when sending blind carbon copies (BCC) and carbon copies (CC) to ensure you don’t violate addressees’ privacy by inadvertently sharing email address information.

Email usage must conform to [COMPANY]’s harassment and discrimination policies. Messages containing defamatory, obscene, menacing, threatening, offensive, harassing, or otherwise objectionable and/or inappropriate statements and/or messages that disclose personal information without authorization will not be tolerated. If you receive this type of prohibited, unsolicited message, do not forward it. Notify your supervisor, the HR department, and the Director of Information Technology about the message. Handle the message as instructed by management.

Email Misuse and Abuse

Email should not be used for frivolous purposes.  Company email should not be used to share jokes or other inappropriate or suggestive content (pornography).  Also, include a warning about sending firm-wide (ALL STAFF) email.  I have seen firm-wide email regarding after-hour parties/outings and lost and found items sent using ALL STAFF distribution lists.  This is not a good use of the company’s resources and should be avoided.

SAMPLE TEXT

E-mail messages should be treated as formal business documents, written in accordance with [COMPANY]’s correspondence guidelines. E-mail creates a permanent and documented communication and must not be treated casually.

Employees are prohibited from sending jokes, rumors, gossip, or unsubstantiated opinions via email. These communications, which often contain objectionable material, are easily misconstrued when communicated electronically. Employees should not waste [COMPANY]’s computer resources or colleagues’ time.

Send email messages and copies only to those with a legitimate need to read your message. Chain messages, jokes and large graphics should be deleted, not forwarded, as they can overload the system.

Employees are prohibited from sending firm-wide email messages to All Staff without prior authorization and this practice is limited to only necessary correspondence. In addition, employees are prohibited from requesting replies to firm-wide email without prior authorization. Sending firm-wide email is generally discouraged.

Misuse and/or abuse of [COMPANY]’s electronic assets (wasting productive time online, copying or downloading copyrighted materials, visiting inappropriate sites, sending inappropriate/abusive email messages, etc.) will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Please address any questions or concerns regarding firm-wide email to the Director of IT or the Director of HR.

Email retention and backup

Email should be retained according to the company’s Document Management guidelines and legal requirements.  Your policy should explain the difference between “record” email and “non-record” email, email that should be saved versus email that can be discarded. In this section, you can also explain the means and limits of email backup.  Depending on your legal requirements and the type of email, you need clear standards outlined for saving and deleting email.

Many companies deliberately delete non-record email.  When email is backed up, depending on your backup system, you may not have the ability to retrieve individual emails for each account.  Employees need to understand the limits of the email backup and retrieval and plan accordingly.

SAMPLE TEXT

All email messages (whether in electronic form or printed) with an ongoing legal, compliance, business, or project value (considered a “business record”) must be retained in accordance with the company’s records management policies and applicable retention schedules. Project related email, particularly critical project email, such as milestone progress reviews and approvals and scope changes must be filed using the [name of email archiving or filing software’s] filing system.

 (See the most recent Records Documentation Policy for further information)

 It is the responsibility of every email user to maintain email records. It is the responsibility of each user to retain email records (defined as any email having an ongoing legal, compliance, business, operational, project or historical value) like all other records in accordance with the company’s retention policies.

 Project electronic files are regularly backed up and retrievable. Email accounts are not typically permanently backed up or retrievable except in the case of disaster recovery. For this reason, it is essential all important project-related email is transferred to the network project folders on a regular basis using the [name of email filing software] program.

 To maximize the operating efficiency of the company’s email system and to minimize the storage costs associated with retaining large volumes of unnecessary email, every employee has a limited amount of email storage in their email account. Requests for additional space will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Keep your email storage cleaned out and up to date. [describe the email storage limits if any]

 Email will be backed up daily for disaster recovery purposes only and will thereafter be retained for [X] months. The company is not able to restore individual email messages. If you are unable to access your email account for more than 14 days, please contact IT or HR to make arrangements for your email account during your absence.

 All copies of non-record email (those with no ongoing legal, compliance, business, operational, project or historical value) can be deleted and paper printouts of such messages disposed of when no longer needed.

 Non-record email messages include, but are not limited to, administrative email (such as an invitation to the company holiday party or a meeting notice); they do not need to be retained as a company record, according to the records retention schedule. Such messages only need to be kept if they are needed to conduct business. Failure to dispose of such messages wastes valuable company computer resources and employee time. However, if you would retain the message if it had been sent in paper form, then you should retain record copies of the email transmission. Email can be archived electronically using [email archive software]. Please see IT for instructions on archiving email.

 You should, unless otherwise directed:

  1. Purge drafts and non-record email messages immediately when no longer needed.
  2. Purge convenience or reference email copies immediately when no longer needed.
  3. Purge duplicate email immediately when no longer needed.

Personal use of email / Opinions / Personal Views / Solicitation

Employees will unavoidably use their company email for personal reasons.  While almost everyone has a personal email account, inevitably there will be an intermingling of personal email and work email.  Employees corresponding to each other may by default use the company email rather than a personal email.  They may not even know each other’s personal email address.

Recognizing this will happen, you should include language in your email policy to describe the acceptable personal use of company email.  If it is 100% prohibited, you should say that.

SAMPLE TEXT

[COMPANY]’s electronic mail service is reserved primarily for business use. All users should consider this in their decision to use the firm’s email services for personal purposes.

Employees may use [COMPANY]’s email service for incidental personal reasons with the following guidelines:

  1. Communication with non-business contacts is permitted but should be minimized during business hours.

Employees also are free to correspond during the lunch hour and other break times. Personal email should not interfere with the email user’s employment or other obligations and responsibilities to the firm.

  1. Personal email communication that exceeds the limits outlined above is prohibited unless justified by family emergency or otherwise specifically authorized by [COMPANY]’s Human Resources Director. Personal email should not directly or indirectly interfere with the firm’s operation of computing facilities or electronic mail services or burden the firm with noticeable additional cost.
  2. The use of [COMPANY]’s email system to solicit for any purpose, campaign for a political candidate, espouse political views, promote a religious cause, and/or advertise the sale of merchandise is strictly prohibited.
  3. Personal Email usage must also conform to [COMPANY]’s harassment and discrimination policies.

Security / Trade Secrets / Personal information / Viruses

This section discusses email security.  Users are required to use secure passwords and change their password often.  Include a warning about sending personal information or trade secrets via email.  Email (unless encrypted) is not secure. Employees should know any sent email can be intercepted or read.  Phone and snail mail are both more secure than email.  Finally, warn employees about opening email they do not recognize or are not expecting.  Most email systems have SPAM and virus protection but occasionally something will slip through security.  Employees need to think before opening email and if they suspect an email, they need to know what to do with it and who to notify.

SAMPLE TEXT

Email passwords are the property of [COMPANY]. Employees are required to provide the Director of Information Technology with current passwords upon request. Only authorized personnel are permitted to access another employee’s email without consent. Misuse of passwords, the sharing of passwords with non-employees, and/or the unauthorized access of another employee’s password or mailbox for any reason will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Security is difficult if not impossible to achieve in the electronic age. Confidential or personal information should never be sent via email understanding it can be intercepted. This includes the transmission of client information, Social Security numbers, employee health records, proprietary data and trade secrets, or other confidential material. When sending sensitive material (or any message, for that matter), employees should use extreme caution to ensure the intended recipient’s email address is correct.

Be careful when opening email with attachments.  While [Company] has email SPAM and virus filtering, there is a possibility a malicious link or new exploit can bypass our system.  If you receive strange messages or unexpected email from someone, use caution and common sense before opening.  When in doubt, contact the sender to verify the email is legitimate and safe.  If you accidentally open an unknown file or click on an unsafe link, notify IT as soon as possible and they can determine if it was safe.

Questions / Who to ask / Signature line and date

Finally, let staff know who to contact if they have questions or concerns.  When reviewing this policy with a new employee or introducing an email policy for the first time, you can include a signature line to state the employee has received and read the email policy.

SAMPLE TEXT

If you have any questions about the above policies, please address them to the Director of Information Technology or Human Resources Director.

I [Employee Name] have received and read [Company]’ Email Policy [version or dated]

_________________________ Signature

_____________ Date

 

I hope this article has convinced you every company needs an email policy.  If you need help writing your company’s email policy, click here and we can get you started.

 

The Truth About Remote Working

Remote Working Success Factors:

According to a 2016 survey of American remote workers, about 91 percent of people who work from home feel they’re more productive than when they’re in an office.  Forbes Magazine and Harvard Business Review have both written extensively about the productivity gains from remote working.

I have worked remote for the past 6 years.  I think working remotely is great for productivity and work-life balance but it might not be for everyone.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of remote working.

Remote work can be good or bad, it depends on you, your job and employer

What kind of a job do you have? Studies show Knowledge and Creative workers will benefit most from remote working.  Obviously, if you have a job that requires face to face meetings or special equipment then working remotely is not going to work for you.  There is no way a Starbucks Barista is going to work remotely. The exceptions might be phone or chat-based customer service jobs, they are tailor-made for remote workers.

Remote working flexibility is great.  It allows you to schedule life around work.  You can take a 15-minute break to pick up the kids from school or meet the plumber.  These little conveniences improve work/life balance.

Commute time is eliminated.  People don’t realize how much time (and money) is spent commuting.  I live in a large urban city and my wife spends 3 hours and $15 a day using public transportation.  That is a big expense and time commitment.  My commute is one minute to my home office.

If you spend a lot of time working in teams, remote working can still be very productive.  There are many factors that determine if remote work works for you. Let’s look at those that can make you a successful remote worker.

To work remotely, you need appropriate technology

Remote working requires the ability to work from anywhere, ideally, you need complete mobility.

Depending on your exact situation, you need a laptop (or desktop PC), mobile phone and some kind of screen sharing or online meeting tool.  You might also use a chat client or an online project management tool.  There are many solutions out there, you need to investigate which tools work best in your situation and with your employer.

I use Google Voice.  Google Voice allows one number to ring in many places at the same time,  my desk phone, my mobile phone and my Skype number all ring together. I can be anywhere and you can reach me by phone.  Many telephony systems allow you to forward your calls to another number or to your mobile phone.  There are phone features like Find me / Follow me that ring at multiple locations, one after another until you pick up or it goes to voicemail.

If you work in teams, you need technology to support teamwork.  Technologies like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or VDIs (Virtual Desktop Interface) give you complete access to your work computer and all your office files and programs from anywhere you have Internet connectivity.

If your company does not use VDI or allow remote access, then you are going to have a harder time collaborating with colleagues and access the programs and data you need.  Most companies, even if they do not use VDI, have some way to securely access company infrastructure.  This is typically done using Virtual Private Network (VPN) and some kind of secure authentication.

I am fortunate my company, Advance2000, provides technologies to enable our entire staff to be 100% mobile.  We also help other companies become 100% mobile and work remotely.  We can provide an “office in the cloud” and supply servers, desktops and phones all completely hosted in our private cloud and accessible from anywhere you have an Internet connection.  Some of our clients don’t even have physical offices any longer.

Dedicated Workspace

You need a comfortable place to work.  Companies provide a comfortable productive place for their employees to work.  Working remote, you need that too.

When setting up a home office, keep these things in mind.

  • Door – I find having a door on my office, especially when my kids were younger, was a necessity. If the door is closed, no kids or cats are allowed in.
  • Full-size desk – Get a full-size desk for your computer and two monitors. Dual monitors have been shown to boost productivity.  Spend some money on quality monitors, keyboards and mice.  You spend 8 hours a day on these tools, make sure they are high quality. You want to minimize the chance of eye strain and RSI and you need reliable technology that will last.
  • Network/Internet – a wired Internet connection is faster and more reliable than using WiFi.  If needed, have an electrician run wiring from your Internet Router to your home office.  If you have multiple devices using the Internet, you can invest in a small switch to share your Internet connection.
  • Hotspot/phone fallback – I recommend you have a cellular backup in case your home Internet service goes down. You can use a mobile phone or tablet with cellular data to create a mobile hotspot to use in case your primary Internet goes out.  Or you can just pack up and head to the nearest coffee shop to work.
  • Good desk chair – Get a good office chair.  Do not buy a cheap box store chair.  You are going to spend 8-10 hours a day in your chair.  There is a reason office chairs are so expensive, they are designed for all-day comfort.  Don’t scrimp here, if you can’t afford to spend a lot, check out office equipment resellers.  They have lightly used office chairs by all the major office furniture providers.  Go and sit in the chair, make sure it is right before you spend hundreds of dollars.
  • Private space – I recommend a private office space not shared with the rest of the family.  You need to separate from the family distractions.
  • Windows / fresh air – it is a bonus if you have natural light and operating windows in your office.
  • Monitor/keyboard/headset – These are the tools you use all day. Along with a good chair, get a good keyboard and mouse and monitors.  Ergonomic tools are a plus.  If you spend a lot of time on the phone, consider using a lightweight high-quality headset.
  • Office in a wardrobe – Tight on space? You can house an entire office in a piece of furniture.  There are also desks that hide the office equipment from sight.

Photo: Bowery Hill Computer Armoire

  • Build an office? – Depending on your local building codes, you might be able to build an office in your backyard. This gives you the mental and physical separation from the home.  You leave your house but still have all the amenities of home just a few steps away.

Photo courtesy Will Leger

Office parks/coworking spaces – Finally, if you can’t stand working alone, there are many coworking spaces available everywhere.  For a very small monthly investment, you have access to a shared desk and workspace.  Coworking spaces offer Wifi, refreshments, shared desks and team/conference rooms.  You just bring your laptop and work.  Some people find the social activity stimulating to work.

Photo: WeWork – Chicago

Staying Focused

Successful remote working ultimately depends on you.  It requires discipline and organization.  If you are the type of person whose attention wanders you might not be a good candidate.  Here are some things you can do to improve concentration and reduce distractions.

  • Music – some people use music to provide “white noise” to help them focus on tasks at hand.
  • Minimize interruptions – Be careful of distractions / Internet / social media. Stay away from distractions online.  Consider using browser extensions to block all websites for a period of time.  (RescueTime)
  • Pomodoro technique – Work 25 minutes without stopping and then take a 5-minute break. Specialized Pomodoro apps and websites can help you use this technique to stay focused.
  • Set time for lunch and breaks – every 20 minutes look away from the computer screen for 20 seconds. Plan a regular time for lunch and get away from the computer.
  • Face time – Plan regular trips to the company’s office. You need face time occasionally.  This makes working remote more successful.  Once you meet someone in person, it is much easier to work with them remotely.
  • Demographics – Surprisingly, younger people prefer working in an office for the “social” aspects.

Tips for remote workers

  • Keep a professional attitude – When remote working, it is tempting to not get dressed or shave or get out of your pajamas. Resist these behaviors, they affect your thinking.  Maintaining professional behaviors will help you be more productive.  Don’t take conference calls in bed.
  • Turn off social media – Use organizational technology to keep on track, create lists. If you know what to do next, it will help you resist the temptation to waste time.
  • Schedule all your time – Schedule your todo tasks as well as your meetings and appointments. When you have free time, refer to your to-do list and move to the next item on your list. Stay busy and your mind will not wander.
  • Use fill-in tasks – I have a list of projects to do right now, to do in the future and to do someday. Having those lists prepared keeps you from wasting time by not knowing what to do.
  • Establish regular hours – Keep regular hours. I start work at 8 AM and take lunch 11-11:30 and end my day at 5.  Beware of the trap of working all the time.  It is tempting to answer email and phone calls 24/7/365.  Unless you are required to do this, working remotely is not an excuse to work 12 hour days.  Working remote can improve work/life balance.  Working all the time increases stress and is unproductive.
  • Take regular breaks – Take time away from the computer screen, rest your eyes every hour. Take lunch every day, I take a shorter lunch (30 minutes) since I don’t have to get food or go anywhere to eat.

Pulling it all together

Positives

  • No commute
  • Flexibility
  • Fewer distractions / interruptions
  • Lower employee attrition (higher retention)
  • Better home/work balance
  • Self Management (responsibility)
  • Save money – no commuting costs = instant raise, eat at home
  • No office space required/create a virtual company for startups

Negatives

  • No face time / alone / isolation
  • Lose “social” aspect of the office
  • Time management harder / requires more discipline
  • No physical presence in the office – out of sight …
  • Need to over communicate to be heard – you are not seen
  • Must be a good time manager

Convincing the Boss

So how do you convince your company to allow you to work remote?  In the studies on remote work, middle management seems to be the most resistant to allowing staff to work remote.  This might be because they can no longer see their staff working in front of them.  There is a certain amount of trust required on the part of managers to let go.

One suggestion might be to rotate the days you work remote.  Maybe you go to the office on Monday and Friday and work remote Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday?  Or maybe part of your department works remotely while the rest are in the office and then you switch.  Companies using remote workers need less office space.  Fewer offices/cubicles and less office furniture reduce costs for a company.  It is a win-win for employees and their companies.

Try It

Remote working is not for everyone or for every company.  Set up a remote working trial and see how it goes.  I think you will be surprised how it can improve productivity, create happier employees and save money.

For more information on setting up a virtual office and working remote, contact us today.  Click here and we can get you started.

Understanding The Technology Structure and Needs for AEC Firms

The needs of the modern AEC firm are ever-evolving. As technology continues to become more sophisticated, it increasingly lends itself well to the collaborative and often geographically dispersed teams of the AEC industry.

I have the unique opportunity to work for a company that has over 75 clients ranging from just two employees to 1,000 solely within this unique industry. Because of this, I have had the privilege to assist in solving the technology challenges that firms face on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s DR and backup, data archiving, collaboration or BIM — my team and I have helped our valued AEC firms come up with the best IT solutions possible.

With that said, I have a unique perspective on technology as it relates to the AEC firm. From experience, I categorize technology for AEC into three main categories: Infrastructure, Design, and Knowledge Management.

Let’s take a look at what each category entails:

Infrastructure Technology

Infrastructure technology keeps you running day-to-day.  This is the behind-the-scenes technology, the “plumbing” that supports daily operations.  You never notice it (until it fails), but it is very important to the stability of your operations.  Infrastructure technology supports system stability, remote access, mobility, collaboration, facility support, and sustainability. Infrastructure technologies RUN the business.

Examples of Infrastructure Technology:

  • Servers
  • Desktops / Workstations
  • Internet
  • Virtualization
  • Networking (Local Area and Wide Area)
  • Telecommunications
  • Remote access
  • Video conferencing
  • Wireless
  • Mobile Devices

Design Technology

Design technologies are the tools used to manage and administer projects. BIM is the essential design technology.

Design technologies support mobility and collaboration. This includes the ability to work outside the office, the ability to connect to the network from anywhere, and the ability to collaborate and work with both internal and external project teams.

Design technologies author and document your projects. These tools also communicate design solutions to your clients. Design technologies GROW the business.

Examples of Design Technology:

  • Authoring (Revit / AutoCAD)
  • Project Information Management (PIM)
  • Collaboration tools
  • Email
  • Analysis tools
  • Visualization software
  • QA / QC / risk management
  • Quantity take-offs / estimating / commissioning
  • Scheduling
  • Construction administration

Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management (KM) is a key business support technology for AEC. It defines what you do, how you work, how you stay productive, and how you promote innovation and creativity at your firm.  Knowledge Management is recording, storing, and retrieving knowledge and information, and documenting and sharing best practices.  

Knowledge Management technologies provide access to information. Web technologies such as blogs, intranets, wikis, and social media help build and market the collective knowledge of your firm. In addition, training is a key part of Knowledge Management. Your staff needs adequate training and more importantly the ability to save, seek, and find information.

Examples of Knowledge Management:

  • Training
  • Network folder organization
  • Project information access
  • Design and technical libraries
  • Best practices and procedures
  • Historical project data
  • Business intelligence
  • Collaboration and communication software
  • Intranet
  • Internet
  • Digital asset management
  • Project process documentation

All of these KM technologies contribute to team and organizational knowledge flow, which is essentially the transition of the managed knowledge from where it’s stored, to where it needs to be applied. Naturally, knowledge must and does flow through the design process.

Here’s a look at the basic knowledge flow for collaborative AEC teams:

AEC Knowledge Flow

Knowledge Management technology can make your firm more competitive in the marketplace by increasing your expertise and providing better service to your clients. It’s safe to say that KM Technologies TRANSFORM the business and ensure every team member has the information, education, and overall knowledge to perform optimally.

The Technology Life-Cycle

Any of these technologies can provide a competitive advantage for your firm, but you must weigh each against the technology life-cycle (TLC).

Within each of these categories of technology there are new solutions and products that initially provide a competitive advantage. Early adopters and more tech-savvy firms take advantage of new technologies to gain a competitive edge over their peers. But they also accept the learning curve and higher costs associated with new technology adoption. Right now, AR and VR technologies are examples of competitive advantage technologies.

As technologies become generally accepted and widespread, their use instead becomes a competitive necessity. By this time, most firms have heard of or are already using these technologies and they are required if you intend to keep up with the competition. These technologies don’t provide a competitive advantage, but if you don’t use them you run the risk of falling behind the competition. CAD and BIM authoring tools are good examples of competitive necessity technology.

Finally, as technology ages and is replaced, it becomes a competitive disadvantage. If you continue to use older, outdated technologies, your company falls behind the mainstream, and you actually lose productivity by not replacing old technology. Are you still using AutoCAD 2004 on 10-year-old workstations and CRT monitors? Sure, you can, but you are paying a steep price in productivity and are at a competitive disadvantage to your peers.

Quick Recap:

In today’s technologically-driven world, it’s no secret that technology adds value to your products, provides additional marketable services, supports decision making, increases productivity, and provides timely financial data. This demonstrates to your clients a leadership role in the use of technology applied in the design profession.

The three categories of technologies featured in this article — infrastructure, design, and knowledge management — form the basis for understanding the IT needs of an AEC firm. Any experienced IT firm, like Advance2000, will work with you within this framework to build a comprehensive IT strategy to run your IT operations, and, in turn, keep your entire business operating efficiently.

 


With over 75 AEC clients ranging in size from 2 to 1,200, Advance2000 understands the unique technology needs of AEC.  Whether it’s backup, DR, data archiving, collaboration, or BIM, we have experience solving the technology challenges facing your firm.  We work with Autodesk, Bentley, Dassault, Deltek, Newforma, Primavera and many other AEC-specific vendors.  

Ready to explore how we can help you strategically run, grow, and transform your practice? 

Strategic IT Assessment from Advance2000

How to Protect your Company from Cyberattacks

Let me begin with a hard truth: Your company is at risk from cyberattack.

It’s true; every firm is at risk, and most will be attacked in some form, at some point in time. It’s nearly inevitable.  However, there are things you can do to protect your firm from a cyberattack, and ways you can mitigate the damage if you are attacked.

What kind of company data needs to be protected from a cyberattack?

There are three categories of company data you need to protect. They are the company’s intellectual property, employee information, and client data.

Company Intellectual Property

The company’s intellectual property includes processes and procedures, firm standards, templates, and forms.  It also includes firm documentation and how-to information, like patents, formulas, recipes or other proprietary information.  It includes marketing information, client names and client information, the types of projects you are pursuing, and other competitive information.

Client Data and Information

The next thing that must be protected is client data.  Client data includes work product – such as project drawings, designs, and schedules.  It also includes information about move dates and expansion plans.  In addition to protecting client project information, you need to protect client intellectual property.  This includes clients’ employee names, information about projects you’re working on for them, client growth patterns, and departmental or organizational structures.

Employee Information

Finally, you need to protect your employees’ personal information.  Personal information like the names of employees, their addresses, social security numbers, and other personal information like spouse and children’s names.  You also need to guard employees’ financial information, information about direct deposit and bank information, as well as payroll and salary information.  Finally, you must safeguard employee personal health information like doctor’s names, health claims, coverage amounts, and other confidential information.

What do you need to be protected against?

 

File Corruption / Loss of Data

You need to maintain data integrity.  You could be attacked by malware, ransomware, or viruses. Your data integrity can be compromised by file corruption, backups that fail, or files that cannot be restored.

There might also be data errors caused by a translation.  For example, if you send files to others as part of your work process and you translate those files from one program format to another, there might be errors or changes caused by the translation programs.

Access to your Data

In addition to the integrity of the data, you need to protect data access (who can get into and access your information).  You must guard against a compromised network or security access problems.  Penetration testing can check your vulnerability against an outside attack.  There’s also a type of attack called “denial of service” that can prevent you from accessing your data.

A malicious or disgruntled employee might change passwords or erase or steal files.  A technology disaster can cut off access to your data.  A server or disk drive can fail, or your internet connection can fail or be disrupted.  A building or office disaster can keep you from accessing your data.  If your office is compromised by fire or another building problem, you might not be able to physically reach your office.  If there is a fire or problem in another part of the building, you might be forced to leave and lose access to your data.  Then there are plain-old hackers, people who try to break into your network to either cause damage or steal information.

Hackers often use social engineering to get to your data.  Social engineering takes advantage of peoples’ good nature; they use peoples’ willingness to help to break in.  For example, a hacker might play on someone’s fears by telling them they have a computer virus infection and trick them into loading software, or giving away passwords or user account names.  Unfortunately, people are generally trusting and sometimes naive – we don’t want to believe others are malicious. For this reason it’s important to understand that employees can be tricked very easily into sharing or giving access to confidential information.

Reputation

The last and most important thing is to protect your company’s reputation and your client’s confidence.  Your clients count on you to keep their data safe.  If there is a security breach or a problem with client data it is very difficult to regain their trust.  You can’t unring the bell.  It is easy to restore a client’s files but it may be very difficult to regain a client’s trust.

How can you protect your firm from a cyberattack?

To protect your firm, it’s important to always be prepared; expect that you will be attacked at some point.  Every firm should prepare for and expect some type of cyberattack.  Firms that work more collaboratively – especially when using BIM – are at higher risk.  Being more collaborative means being more open, which, in turn, increases your risk.

Planning

Expect the unexpected by developing a plan to deal with cyberattacks.  You will never eliminate all risk, but you can mitigate most of the risk with a good plan.  Your plan should explain step-by-step what to do in the in the event of a cyberattack and explain to employees how to get help. Your plan should not be overly burdensome or people will find ways to work around your security.  You can spend a lot of time and money on a security plan, so it’s important to decide how much to spend to get the greatest benefit.

Training

Take the time to train your staff.  Your staff needs to understand the risks and know what to do in case of a cyberattack, as well as how they can protect themselves from a cyberattack.  There must be policies and penalties for violating the rules.  Encourage your company to take security seriously.

Backup / Disaster Recovery (DR) Plan

You must have good backups and a disaster recovery plan.  You should have three copies of your data, the original copy, a local onsite backup of the data and an offsite copy of your data.

[Check out our blog post on how to write a disaster recovery plan for your business]

Check your backups and archived files. Having multiple copies of your data is useless if it’s all corrupted. For archived data, keep in mind that certain file types might be discontinued or no longer usable with current software.  For example, does anyone still have old Lotus spreadsheet files? .WKS or .WK1 files?  You can’t open them using current spreadsheet software. You might need to archive a copy of the original software and operating systems used to read and access old files or develop a plan to update old archived data. Test restore your backed-up files and don’t assume everything will just work.

Passwords / Encryption

Consider encryption – at least for laptops and mobile devices.  Laptops are often lost or stolen, or might be left in a hotel, airport, or cab.  If the mobile devices are encrypted, you’ve lost a piece of hardware, but your data is safe.

People must use secure passwords.  I know, I know: employees hate using secure passwords that are hard to remember, but requiring a new password every 90 days is not asking much.  That’s only four times a year! Consider using multi-factor authentication wherever possible.  Multi-factor authentication uses a third party to authenticate access to an account.  Any account that needs to be very secure – whether it’s a bank or legal account, or just a secure website – should be using multi-factor authentication to be safe.  VPN connections to your office network should also use multi-factor authentication.

Monitoring

Monitor your network access.  You need to know who has been on your network and when.  If you see anything strange, question it.  Do employees really need to be on the network at 3 AM?  It might be legitimate, but you should know what they’re doing and why.

Good Policies (with teeth)

Implement written policies that describe and outline what you expect from your employees.  You should have a policy for email usage, a general IT policy, an equipment policy, and an internet usage policy.  You should outline how to protect the firm’s intellectual property and what you expect employees to do to keep it safe.  Your policy should also describe what happens when the rules are not followed and there’s a problem.  As I mentioned before – there should be penalties.  Policies need to have teeth to be effective.  Employees should know that they must follow the rules or bear the consequences.

Anti-virus / Anti-malware / System Patches / Updates

Finally, make sure that your systems are up to date with the latest security.  Check your anti-virus and anti-malware software to make sure it is up to date and scanning properly.  Change the default passwords on all hardware.  Download and install all operating system security patches.  If you are still using old software that is no longer supported or updated, you are at risk. Work with your vendor to get your software up to date.

Get Help

If you don’t have a disaster recovery plan or IT security strategy, now’s the time to make it happen. If you need help protecting your firm from cyberattacks, Advance2000 can help.

 

IT Security Consultation

Back to Basics: Creating Effective PowerPoint Presentations

Death by PowerPoint! 

It doesn’t have to be.  PowerPoint, like a lot of tools, is as good or bad as the user.  Read the following tips in this article and you will be giving more effective PowerPoint presentations in no time.  Even if you’re already a PowerPoint Zen Master, you still might pick up an idea or two.  Let’s make PowerPoint a more effective tool.

Develop a 4 Step Presentation

  1. Grab your audience’s attention. Use an interesting quote, anecdote or an outrageous statement.  You can use humor but beware….not everyone can be funny, humor requires timing and relevance so be warned.
  2. State your purpose. Why are you up there talking?  What problem are you trying to solve?  What is the solution?  Is the presentation explaining how you go from problem to solution?  Make sure you don’t say one thing and present another.
  3. Use examples and stories. A lot has been written about storytelling.  Stories generate interest and illustrate a point much better than slides of numbers and bullets.
  4. Wrap it up. Go back to your purpose and explain how your presentation supported your purpose.  Sum up the key takeaways and remember to leave time for questions if appropriate.

Presentation Content

  •  Get to the point. Make sure each slide contains relevant information.  Condense your information and make it sharp and concise.  Make your point and then support it with description, examples, and anecdotes.
  • Use short clear descriptive bullet points. Don’t make lists, make points.  Avoid writing sentences in your slide bullets, write short reminders and then fill in the detail with your spoken words.
  • How about no text at all? Simply use a title and an image/graphic for each slide.  This forces your audience to listen to what you say, there is nothing for them to read.
  • The title of each slide should be descriptive. It is the largest item on the page, make good use of it.
  • Consider the use of blank (black) slides to re-focus the attention on you, the presenter, instead of the slides. Put up a black slide and all eyes turn to you to LISTEN.
  • Rule of 6 – Never put more than 6 bullets on a page. If you have 20 points to make, condense the information or spread it over 5 slides.  Remember the audience can read faster than you can talk.  They have already read the whole slide before you open your mouth.  Don’t ever read the bullets, fill in the blanks, add color and detail, don’t repeat what is already there.

Develop an Agenda

  •  Use an Agenda slide. During the presentation, refer back to the Agenda slide so your audience can follow where you are in the presentation.  The agenda slide is very important in long presentations.  It keeps the audience from getting lost and it can be used to track progress and anchor your presentation.
  • In his excellent book on presentation, Beyond Bullet Points, author Cliff Atkinson stresses the concept of breaking down the presentation into smaller more digestible parts and using anchor slides to guide the audience through the presentation and through your slides. He makes a convincing argument you should create signposts throughout your presentation to keep the audience from being lost or confused.

Using Visuals

  • Using visuals in your presentation can help the audience AND the speaker. As I said earlier, using a picture or graphic can shift the focus from the PowerPoint to you, the speaker.  If you ONLY use graphics on your slide, the audience is forced to listen to what you say.  They will not just read your slide and go back to their phone and email.
  • Visuals can add useful information. Especially when you are trying to explain numbers, a graph is much more helpful than a table of numbers.
  • Visuals take the focus OFF a nervous speaker. If you walk through a slide using one or multiple visual images, the attention will be on the slides and not on the fidgeting speaker.
  • Visuals remind the speaker of points to cover.
  • When using visuals make sure you have the rights or permission to use the images and graphics. Stick with Creative Commons or Public Domain images in your presentation or create your own.  Make sure you give proper credit or attribution when using visuals.

Watch Out For

  • Wordiness – Don’t write entire sentences in your presentation. Unless it is a quote, your bullet points should be short concise reminders of what you are going to talk about.
  • Face the audience. Don’t turn around and look at your screen when presenting.  If you have to see the screen, then use a pointer and shift focus to the screen or use Presenter View in PowerPoint to see the presentation while you talk.
  • Avoid Jargon – unless you are presenting to a room of experts on the subject, avoid using industry jargon or acronyms.
  • Time – Don’t try to cram 75 slides into 30 minutes. Estimate the time needed for the number of slides and remember to leave time for questions.
  • Brain Freeze – I write out my entire spoken presentation in the Notes section of the presentation. This also makes a good handout AFTER the presentation.  Never give your handout before the presentation, make them listen and pay attention to you.

PowerPoint Pointers

  • PowerPoint Designer – PowerPoint has a feature called PowerPoint Designer. There is also Design Ideas in Powerpoint on the Design Menu.  These tools might improve slides by automatically recommending design ideas for your PowerPoint slides.
  • Outlines in PowerPoint – You can open Word Outlines inside PowerPoint. If it is easier for you to compose in Word or if you want to create a presentation for a paper you have written in Word, you can open a Word Doc directly in PowerPoint.  Try it.
  • You may also find it easier to edit a presentation in PowerPoint Outline View. See View, Outline View from the PowerPoint Menus.
  • I always write out my entire spoken presentation and put it in the Note View of each slide. This makes it easy to create a presentation handout. Simply print out a Notes Pages and use as a presentation handout.
  • Keep in mind you can save a PowerPoint presentation (PPTX) as a PowerPoint Show (PPSX) or a video for alternate ways to view and share the presentation.

Using Color

  • Text color – If you projecting the presentation use light text on a dark background. For printed presentations use dark text on a light background.
  • Color for emphasis – Use color to PUNCH out and make a point.
  • Less is more – Remember to limit the number of colors and fonts in a presentation. Use a sans serif font and use no more than two or three different fonts.  Use color to set a mood, highlight or add emphasis or contrast.
  • Be careful when using background colors or patterns. They can be very distracting and make your presentation illegible.
  • Red and green are bad colors for colorblind people. Especially if using different colors for different data sets in a graph, use higher contrast colors so us colorblind folks can tell the difference.

 

Photos / Images

  • Be careful using photos in presentations. Unless the photo is directly related to your topic, the relationship can be lost.
  • When using photos, make sure you have permission to use the image. If you purchased the photo, read the restrictions on its use.  If you use Creative Commons images, make sure you provide proper attribution and/or copyright information.
  • Graphs always work better than tables of numbers. If you have a lot of numbers to explain, try to find a way to use a graph or graphic to explain your story.
  • Use lower resolution images in your presentation. If you use high-resolution images you will bog down your presentation.  Using a lot of images can bloat your file size and slow the performance of the program as it struggles to load and display huge files.  If you need high-resolution photos to print your presentation, create two versions of your presentation, one to display and one to print.  More is not better when it comes to image and photo sizes and resolutions.

Multimedia / Animation

  • Using sound – sound needs to be heard to be effective. Tiny laptop speakers are not going to work in a large auditorium.  If you use sound, make sure the audience can hear you.
  • The same rules apply to animations and video. They need to be large and loud so they can be effective.  Video also makes your presentation files big and slow.  A low powered laptop will have a hard time displaying a presentation and a video at the same time.  A low powered laptop or tablet might drop frames or stutter.  This makes your presentation look unprofessional.
  • Animating text and other elements is ok if it adds to the understanding of the slide. Don’t animate text for the sake of animation.  It is annoying.

 Slide Transitions

  • Keep slide transitions simple. Avoid using weird transitions like window panes or rotating screens.  They are unprofessional.
  • Avoid using sound transitions. A ding or beep with every new slide is ok for a single slide but will drive your audience crazy if it is used for every slide.
  • A good way to animate words on slides without actually animating is to use identical slides with one word or words changed. As you transition from slide to slide it will appear the changes are magically happening when really you are just advancing slides.  Be careful to make the slides identical or it will appear as the whole slide is sliding or shifting around.  That is disconcerting to watch.
  • I recommend using a simple “wipe up” transition. This sets your audience’s eyes for the next slide and it is simple and fast.  You might also consider using “wipe left “ or “wipe right” for topic transitions and “wipe up” for slide transitions.  I have used this successfully for many presentations.

 Font Sizes

  • Fonts need to be visible from the back of the room. A good rule of thumb is never to use any font smaller than 18 pt.  Depending on the size of the screen, 18 pt is generally legible from almost 20 feet away.  Make sure your fonts are at least 1 inch (projected)  tall for every 10 feet viewing distance.
  • If you need to fit more information on a slide, don’t make the font smaller, make the font NARROWER.
  • Sans Serif fonts are best for titles, Serif fonts are better for body text. That said, most presentations are almost entirely titles and should not have any body text.  But if you create handouts, you might use Serif fonts for better readability.
  • In general, title fonts should be 45-55 pt.
  • Remember, stick to one or two fonts for the entire presentation. Black on yellow is the highest contrast most readable color combination.  But, black and yellow is a “bumblebee” color scheme, so be careful.

 Presentation Do’s and Don’ts

  • Practice your presentation. Speak it out loud to yourself, don’t just play it through your head.  Talking is different than thinking.  You need to practice how you will phrase your words and the only way to do that is to say it out loud.
  • Don’t read off the slide. Your audience has already read the slide faster than you can say it and if you read the slide you will turn your back to the audience, big no-no.  Always face the audience, not the screen.
  • Use short bullet points and fill in detail with your words. Don’t write whole paragraphs in your bullets.
  • Always test your technology BEFORE the presentation. You don’t want any issues when it is time to present.

Wrap It Up

  • Before you present, check ALL your spelling and grammar. Make sure the client’s name and logo are correct if you are presenting to a prospect or client.
  • Is your presentation clear, consistent and logical? Do you say one thing on one slide and something contradictory on another?
  • Keep it simple. Did you meet your goals for the presentation?  Did you successfully communicate your ideas and did the audience understand?  If they did, congratulations you gave a good presentation.
  • Leave time for questions at the end in case someone didn’t understand a part of your presentation.
  • Don’t forget copyright issues, respect other’s work and give credit where it is due and attribution if required.

 Take the PowerPoint Quiz – Learn PowerPoint

Take some time to learn how to use the PowerPoint program. Sharpen your application knowledge, it will help you in the long run. Do you know these PowerPoint features?

  • Master slides
  • Slide and element animation
  • Slide Sorter
  • Outline View
  • Grouping
  • Notes page / Handouts
  • Nudge and guides
  • Inserting pictures and graphs
  • Design Ideas
  • Timing and transitions
  • PPS files
  • Presenter View

PowerPoint can be a great tool if you use it right.  If you have any other PowerPoint tips, please share them in the comments.  Happy Presenting!

Advance2000 IT Strategy Assessment

Virtual Desktops (VDI) FAQs

If you’re seeking to solve a business problem and think that VDI may be the answer (but aren’t sure), you’ve come to the right place. You’re not alone on your quest to enhance your business’ IT strategy; but – as you know – there is certainly no shortage of questions that arise along the way. To help simplify a sometimes complex technology such as VDI, I’ve developed a comprehensive guide to the most frequently asked questions I’ve come across in my years as an IT professional.

What is a VDI?

A VDI is a virtual desktop computer. A VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) runs a desktop operating system, like Windows, on a virtual machine sitting in a datacenter. A VDI is created by taking a single server-class computer and slicing it into virtual standalone independent desktop computers. The software, or hypervisor (also known as a virtual machine monitor or VMM), shares the physical resources, the memory, drive space and processors of a single large server and allocates them to multiple virtual desktops or VDIs. The hypervisor balances the demand for resources on that single shared server and ensures that each VDI has adequate resources and performance. A VDI is accessed using client software or an appliance.

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Why should I use virtual desktops?

VDI or virtual desktops should be part of an overall IT strategy. As an IT leader for your company, you must identify the business problem you’re trying to solve with VDIs.

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Advance2000 IT Strategy Assessment

 

Common business needs satisfied with VDIs:

  • Collaboration
    • You have a large project and need several firms to work together in real time on a single network.
      • Solution: Project Cloud
  • Infrastructure Virtualization
    • You want to eliminate or reduce the physical hardware you use to run your business.
      • Solution: All-In Virtualization
  • Disaster Recovery
    • You need disaster recovery on demand at a failover site.
      • Solution: DR in the Cloud
  • Security
    • You want increased security. Increased mobility has led to increased vulnerability. Sensitive company data is stored on laptops and tablets and can be lost or stolen very easily. With VDIs, the data is stored in a secure environment: the datacenter. Antivirus and Malware software updates are easier to do and easier to track with VDIs. Endpoint and firewall protection is easier to implement. And finally, backups are centralized, georedundant, and easier to manage.
      • VDI Benefit: Improved Security
  • BYOD
    • You want to implement Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). With BYOD, staff supplies their own computers or other device used to access a VDI. BYOD and desktop virtualization allows desktop access and relieves the IT staff from having to support the endpoint devices themselves. Some firms will even subsidize the costs for users who choose to bring their own devices. This can reduce the expense of buying user laptops and desktops.
      • VDI Benefit: Reduce Hardware Cost
  • Reduce IT Management and Maintenance Costs
    • Reducing IT cost is a goal for most companies. Supporting users using VDI and reducing or eliminating desktop and laptop management costs can save significant money. Many tools and applications are used to manage desktops and laptops, like those for software deployment, inventory, OS patch management and antivirus protection. Virtualization consolidates your IT infrastructure and makes it easier to centrally manage and support users’ desktops.
      • VDI Benefit: Reduce IT costs
  • Mobility
    • Many firms need anytime, anywhere access to business computers and data. VDI provides complete mobility; the only thing needed is a data connection.
      • VDI Benefit: Work From Anywhere
  • Software Portability
    • Using VDI, you can make special software used to run your business available anywhere you have an internet connection. You can run compute intensive applications from low-powered laptops or even a tablet since all the “heavy lifting” is done on the VDI in the datacenter. The only things that travels across the data connection are screen updates, mouse clicks, and keystrokes.
      • VDI Benefit: Application Mobility
  • Finally, Lower Costs
    • Running five offices of IT equipment is more expensive than operating a single office of IT. By consolidating your IT infrastructure into a single datacenter location, you reduce your capital expenses (buy less) or convert them into operating expenses (DaaS) which creates a more favorable tax situation.
      • VDI Benefit: Reduce IT Costs

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How do I connect to a VDI? Aren’t the graphics on a VDI poor?

You connect to a VDI using a remote display protocol. Current display protocols have eliminated poor VDI graphics performance. There are many different protocols available to use. Some of the most common remote display protocols are:

  • PC Over IP (Teradici)
  • RemoteFX (Microsoft)
  • Blast Extreme (VMware)
  • High Definition Experience (Citrix HDX)
  • Remote Graphics Software (HP – RGS)

These protocols have special graphics capabilities to optimize your remote desktop experience. With sufficient bandwidth, the screen painting and mouse lag that once plagued VDIs has been eliminated.

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If I personalize the VDI, will my changes be saved?

All VDI users can connect to their own desktops and applications, like they would sitting at a local workstation. There are two types of VDIs.

  • Persistent VDIs: Users can personalize their desktops and the changes are saved and stored with the VDI. All personalization is saved.
  • Non-Persistent VDIs: The user is accessing a random virtual desktop from a pool of shared resources. All personalization is lost.

For certain uses – training rooms for example – you might want a clean, fresh desktop each time the user connects. For that, a non-persistent VDI makes sense since it is wiped clean each time the user connects.

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What do I use to connect to a VDI?

You can connect to a VDI in a variety of ways.

Thin Client: A thin client is a hardware device running a lightweight operating system. Thin clients are popular because they need less maintenance, are easier to manage, are less prone to virus and malware attacks, and have a longer life. Thin clients use less power and are less expensive than a traditional PC.

Zero Client: The zero client is basically a smaller, cheaper thin client. It needs very little configuration, uses less power and has no operating system.

Thick clients or old PCs: Old PCs can be repurposed to connect to VDIs. Using your old PCs to connect to VDI does not reduce the premise based hardware you need to maintain and troubleshoot. Old PCs also still need a local operating system and anti-virus and other local software, with on-going associated costs. Using traditional PCs to connect to virtual desktops, you lose some of the benefits of VDI, such as reduced power consumption, central management, and increased security. Reusing old PCs is a green choice, but be careful; you may end up using more power and spending more time maintaining them as they age. There are special operating systems you can load on an old PC that will effectively convert it into a thin client. This might be a good compromise.

Laptops and docking stations: Chromebooks or other laptops with docking stations can be used to connect to your VDIs. The same arguments apply to these devices as to thick clients above. Be careful of additional power usage and maintenance. Also support for multi-monitors may be limited.

Tablets and Phones: Tablets and phones can be used to access your VDI. Some tablets are equivalent to full-blown desktop PCs, but others may have limited output capability and may even lack simple mouse support, so beware. You can work from a phone, but this is a last resort; you would not want to work on it for an extended period of time.

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Why would I do this now?

  1. VDIs are easier to manage and maintain than full desktop and laptop PCs.
  2. The current generation of VDIs have better graphics and equal performance to a desktop PC.
  3. Bandwidth, required to connect to a VDI, has dropped in price. Buying a lot of bandwidth is not going to bankrupt any company. Even very small firms can afford the bandwidth needed to successfully deploy VDIs.
  4. VDI is a mature technology. In the past, using VDIs meant giving up performance and graphics capabilities. Those issues have been largely eliminated. A well-designed VDI can perform (or outperform) as well as a similarly specified physical desktop PC.

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Who are the leading VDI vendors?

Hyper-V is Microsoft’s virtualization platform running on a Windows Server. Multiple virtual desktop sessions can be created using Hyper-V. It supports the Windows OS as well as Linux and Windows Server OS.

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) is part of Microsoft Windows Server and allow users to remotely access graphical desktops and Windows applications.

Citrix XenDesktop (XenApp) is an enterprise-class VDI platform that delivers virtual desktops and virtualized applications. It uses the Citrix HDX protocol or NVIDIA GRID vGPU technologies to support virtualized graphics.

VMware Horizon offers virtual desktops, apps and other online services. The platform supports virtual machines running Windows, and connects with devices running Windows, Mac OS or Linux. It supports a number of different graphics protocols such as PCOIP, Blast, and RDS.

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How do I choose a VDI Vendor?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a VDI product. You take into account features, setup and maintenance, as well as licensing and ongoing support. You also determine which technologies your organization needs.

Consider the following questions when choosing a VDI vendor:

  • Which operating system do you need? E.g., MacOS is not available as a VDI.
  • Do you plan to provide persistent or non-persistent desktops?
  • Are you going to deliver entire desktops with applications or just deliver applications using a virtualization tool?
  • Do your users have high-performance graphics needs?
  • If a data circuit goes down, how will downtime or slow performance impact your company?
  • What types of users do you have? What kinds of VDIs do they need? Do they have special computing or graphics needs?
  • Do you have an implementation plan?
  • Will your staff need special training to use VDIs?
  • Who will support and maintain your VDIs – in-house staff or will you outsource?
  • Will specialized training or certifications be needed for your IT staff to support this environment?

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Should I outsource VDI (Desktops as a Service) or do it myself?

You can outsource the entire VDI experience to a company like Advance2000. Advance2000 provides Desktops as a Service (DaaS).  We host and maintain the back-end infrastructure to provide VDIs. Some DaaS providers, like Advance2000, can provide an entire virtual hosted IT infrastructure in addition to virtual desktops (VDI). Your servers as well as your desktops can be hosted and provided as a monthly service.

Pros: Users can access hosted desktops from any device, location, or network. Provider manages all the infrastructure. DaaS lowers the upfront and on-going costs.

Cons: Licensing can be complicated. Some software will not run on a VDI. In addition to software compatibility, you need to choose a stable, experienced desktop provider. You are relying on another company to keep your business running. Using DaaS requires higher external bandwidth requirements than an on-premise deployment since you are accessing your VDI over the internet or a dedicated data circuit.

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How do I deploy VDI?

Once you’ve assessed your organization’s needs, planned a strategy to meet your requirements, and you are ready to deploy VDI, how do you start?

At Advance2000, we recommend a Crawl, Walk, Run approach. Implementation begins with a demo. A demo allows you to try the solution for yourself and make sure that it really works as promised. The next step would be to do a single project on a small number of VDIs, a project cloud. This is the true test to measure and experience the real cost and productivity savings. Once you are satisfied that this works, you can create additional project clouds or proceed to an ALL-IN solution to replace all your onsite infrastructure with the Advance2000 cloud (ALL-IN).

When considering an ALL-IN approach, there are many ways to move your whole company to the cloud. You can do it by department, by project or by office. Depending on your needs, each approach can be easily work to get your business 100% in the cloud. Advance2000 can work with you to determine the best way to handle the migration to the cloud.

Any software that runs on a standard Windows OS will run on a VDI. There is no learning curve or training needed and the performance is equal to or better than a physical desktop PC. Some software may have licensing restrictions about running on a VDI; check your EULA to make sure you are in compliance.

When moving your IT infrastructure to the cloud, you will need more bandwidth than you typically need for internet-only access. Our VDIs require 1.5 MBPS for each cloud desktop running. For example, a 50-person office would need 75 MBPS of bandwidth.

Finally, you need to plan how you will migrate your data to the cloud. For smaller data requirements, less than 1 TB, we can upload your data over your internet connection after regular work hours. For large amounts of data, or to migrate faster, we can send you a storage appliance to copy your data and then ship it to us to load. Once we have your data and have built your servers and virtual desktops, you are ready to go live. We usually plan the final migration cutover on a weekend. On Monday morning your staff logs into their new desktops in the cloud and continues to work as usual.

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How do I calculate my VDI ROI? Is it worth doing?

Virtual desktop infrastructure can reduce costs, increase productivity, support mobility, and provide more flexibility for applications. But is it worth the investment? How can you determine the potential return on investment (ROI)? Many factors go into calculating VDI ROI: there are hard costs, like hardware, and soft costs, like training and increased productivity. You need to identify and quantify the costs and then compare that to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.

Implementing virtual desktops won’t necessarily save you a lot of money, but if the implementation of virtual desktops is the same or similar to the cost of physical hardware, and you get all the benefits of VDI, this will help you identify your VDI ROI. There are many factors to consider before moving to VDI. You need to identify the types of users and VDIs you will need. You need to pick a vendor and platform and then start to define your costs. These are some of the typical areas of costs and savings when using VDI.

  • CAPEX – Capital purchases
  • OPEX – Operational expenses
  • Lower maintenance cost
  • Increased productivity
  • Lower power usage
  • Improved mobility
  • Better security
  • Built in DR
  • Built in backup
  • Improved collaboration
  • Support costs

For a more in depth look at Cloud ROI.

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What is the business problem you are trying to solve by moving to VDI?

There are many benefits to deploying virtual desktops, but it always returns to the question, “What business problem are you trying to solve with VDI?” Whether that is improved staff mobility, lowering IT expenses, or reducing your hardware maintenance, determine if VDI aligns with your corporate goals and meets your needs.

  1. Are you supporting remote users?
  2. Do you want to reduce hardware maintenance costs?
  3. Will you replace your current hardware with thin or zero clients as it goes end-of-life?
  4. Are you trying to virtualize an application and make it available to your staff?
  5. Are you consolidating and reducing the quantity of hardware?
  6. Do you need to collaborate better?
  7. Are you trying to allow your IT staff the time to be more strategic?
  8. Do you need your staff to be more mobile or are you looking to hire remote staff?

Identify your business challenge to see if VDI is the solution. If moving to a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure makes sense for your company, contact us and we can get you in the cloud.

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Advance2000 IT Strategy Assessment

Virtual Designer Demo in a Virtual Desktop Environment

Hello everyone, this is Chris France with Advance2000.  I wanted to share this short video with you today so that you can see what you would experience should you request your own Virtual Desktop to test your design applications.

  1. First look at local laptop and see how you will connect into your Design Workstation
  2. In this Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), we have our “middle of the road” system with 32gb of RAM, 2gb graphics, and 4 CPU’s. We can add computing resources depending on your application needs.
  3. In my local home office, I have broadband from Time Warner Cable, 50×5 mbps service.  This is plenty of bandwidth to run a VDI from our datacenter.   In the datacenter, the VDI is also connected to the internet.  You’ll see my speedtest in the video that shows I have 200mb down and approx. 320mb upload from my VDI.  Your mileage will vary depending on the bandwidth your business has deployed.
  4. Catia – I have an x-wing fighter sample file that I pan/zoom/orbit in real time.
  5. Navisworks – sample file where I pan/zoom/orbit
  6. Revit – You can imagine how a team of Revit designers, each with their own VDI, can work on a project like they are all sitting in the same room. And they can physically be located anywhere in North America and some International locations.  Some of our current clients used the free demo we provide to test this collaboration themselves.  We supplied two demo workstations so they could test collaboration on a single model from two separate locations.If you’d like to try this out yourself, reach out to us and we’ll get you set up with a FREE DEMO.

 

Thanks,

Chris France

Regional President

cfrance@advance2000.com

607.821.7418

Free Virtual Desktop Demo (blog post CTA)

Cloud In-Touch: Cloud Based Hosted Telephony Demo

In this short video, I will demo our Cloud In-Touch Hosted Telephony System.  After the demo, if you are interested in learning more about Cloud In-Touch, I have prepared a few slides that provide more detail.

Topics I will cover:

  1. Cloud In-Touch Demo Video
  2. Cloud In-Touch Intro
  3. Standard Features for Users
  4. Standard Features for Companies
  5. Premiere Features
  6. Communicator (Softphone)
  7. Direct Inward Dialing (DID)
  8. Connectivity

 

Let us know if you have any questions or would like to test it yourself.

Chris France

cfrance@advance2000.com

607.821.7418