How and Why Is Cloud Computing Beneficial for Small and Medium Organizations?

Cloud computing is not just for large organizations. That’s a fact.

Many small businesses are migrating to the cloud and experiencing benefits that were never possible before.  Cloud computing allows people access to a wide range of applications via the Internet.  Prior to the advent of cloud computing, software had to be downloaded and installed on physical computers or servers in brick and mortar offices. Those days are gone.

The cloud is becoming more popular because:

  • Cloud-based applications and services can be accessed anytime from anywhere. All you need is a device with an Internet connection.
  • The time, effort and cost of managing your systems goes away
  • The cloud is effectively infinite in size; you need not worry about running out of capacity

Here are some top reasons why organizations are choosing the cloud…

Work from Anywhere. If you have an Internet connection, you can work. Most cloud services are accessible from any device. Organizations can now offer more flexible work schedules to their employees, thereby increasing productivity.

Disaster Recovery. Organizations of all sizes should be investing in robust disaster recovery. For smaller, budget-conscious organizations, cloud-based disaster recovery is ideal. It saves time and money by eliminating high, up-front costs, and internal IT teams are no longer tasked with the complexity of maintaining a best-in-class disaster recovery system.

No Hardware Costs. Cloud computing eliminates the high cost of hardware. You “pay as you go” using a subscription-based model that’s easier to budget.

Security. When your data is stored in the cloud, you can access it anytime from anywhere. You can even remotely wipe data from lost or stolen laptops so it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

Automatic Software Updates. Servers are off-premise so you don’t have to worry about maintaining them. Software updates are performed as they’re released.

Flexibility. Cloud-based services are ideal for organizations with growing or fluctuating bandwidth demands. If your needs increase, it’s easy to scale up your cloud capacity. If you need to scale down, you can easily do that, too.

Collaboration. Employees can access, edit and share documents anytime from anywhere. Cloud-based file sharing apps are updated in real-time, giving everyone full visibility into current content. Prior to the cloud, workers had to send files back and forth as email attachments to be worked on by one user at a time. That method often led to conflicting document versions.

Greater visibility means improved collaboration, which ultimately translates into a better practices and a healthier bottom line. If you’re still relying on old methodologies, it’s time to move into the 21st century and explore new, reliable cloud-based options that will streamline the way you conduct your business.

For more information about cloud computing, or to inquire about Bryley’s full array of Managed IT Servicesand Managed Cloud Services, please contact us at 978.562.6077 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com. We’re here for you.

Brief Review of Cloud Trends in 2016 and Beyond

Cloud trends include1:

  • Options – Switching Public Cloud platforms and Private Cloud compliance
  • Familiarity – Greater understanding leads to refinement in selections
  • Growth – Cloud tends to be the primary engine for IT growth
  • Benefits – Reduction in costs leads all other benefits

Options

Approximately 43% of companies using Public Cloud services that were surveyed in CompTIA’s Trends in Cloud Computing2 switched to a different Public Cloud platform (i.e.: from Google G Suite to Microsoft Office 365). Of these, 46% noted that this secondary migration was more difficult than the initial migration to the Cloud.

The top Public Cloud implementations – email, web presence, and business productivity suites – were used by 51%, 46%, and 45% of the survey respondents, respectively.

Familiarity

Most Cloud-using organizations have a one-to-five year history with Cloud services; they have been through the process before, which simplifies the selection and procurement of new options.

Cloud options, Public, Private, and Hybrid, also are better understood, leading to greater refinement in the cloud-selection process. However, Private Cloud is likely the least-understood option, often being used to refer to a hosted datacenter solution, which is becoming the norm.

Growth

The Gartner Group forecast Cloud revenues of $204B in 2016, a 16.5% growth over 2015.3 Gartner’s 2017 forecast is continued, double-digit growth of 17.3%.

Benefits

Of the CompTIA respondents, over 40% of all organization types – large, medium, and small – cite “Ability to cut costs” as the primary motivation in Cloud computing. Small and medium organizations were also likely to emphasize “Reduce capital expenditures” as a primary motivator.

1Please see ClikCloud Technology Trends for 2017.

2See CompTIA Trends in Cloud Computing from September 2016.

3Visit Gartner Group Gartner says Worldwide Public Cloud Services Market Forecast to reach $204B in 2016 from January 25, 2016.

Disruptive Tech Trends for 2017

So, another year departs, obsoleting old technology while ushering in new gadgets and trends. Even though gadgets get the attention; trends set the direction.

A survey of 196 IT professionals1 revealed these disruptive trends in technology2:

  • Predictive IT and Self-service IT
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Mobile payments
  • Next-gen WiFi

Predictive IT and Self-service IT

In the IT-support world, things have been transitioning from:

  • Reactive – Your PC’s drive is broken; we are going to fix it now, to
  • Proactive – Based on our remote tooling, it looks like the drive in your PC is starting to fail, which we can replace now before serious damage occurs, to
  • Predictive – Based on historic data of similar drives and on our ongoing analysis of the specific drive in your PC and its expected, long-term behavior, we are going to replace the drive now before it exhibits failing tendencies.

Predictive IT reduces the effort and improves the response of an IT-support team; it allows the team to focus on critical issues, while optimizing the time spent on predictive issues.

The ease of deploying consumer-grade technologies and lower-level Cloud services, combined with service-management platforms with knowledge-based response capabilities (like ConnectWise, a leading Professional Service Administration tool used by Bryley Systems), is leading end-users toward self-service IT.

Self-service IT enables both IT-support teams (by redirecting their time spent on end-user issues toward higher-level IT concerns, like security) and end-users, providing a world where the end-user can support themselves (to some extent).

Internet of Things

IoT is here, and it can be hacked: One of the most-hacked, in-home appliances are Samsung TVs, but a recent, Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack on DNS providers3 was perpetrated primarily through unsecured, IoT-based surveillance cameras.

IoT refers to all of the IT-enabled items, both home-based and commercial, that communicate through the Internet, primarily providing end-user access and/or sending data back to a collection point for analysis.

IoT traffic and security are significant concerns: All of those not-so-smart devices (projected at 20B by 2020) constantly sending data can consume bandwidth, while presenting themselves as easy targets to hackers and crackers.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Remember HAL? (No, I’m not referring to Bryan Cranston of Malcolm in the Middle.) Back in 1968, 2001: A Space Odyssey was a fairly accurate portrayal of space travel; the HAL 9000’s cognitive ability and self-preservation-at-all-costs behavior seemed extreme, but may become necessary since AI has been bent to the will of hackers, teaming repetitive acts with mindful observation to attack secure sites.

AI forms the basis of Big Data, IoT, and Predictive IT; although disruptive, it will likely remain safe for human beings, with the ability to secure itself (somewhat).

Mobile Payments

Being a cash-carrying/credit-card-wielding, baby-boomer payer; I am not sure I agree with this one, but I do know millennials who always upload gift cards onto their smartphones, using them to expunge their purchasing debts.

Statistics support the supposition that Mobile Payments will endure and prosper:

  • Over 70% of US citizens own a smartphone, and
  • Over 70% of those using a mobile-payment tool are millennials or Gen Xers.

Retailers and urban-area merchants best get ready; if they wish to accept payment from their young clients, they will need to deploy the technology to enable mobile payments, or risk losing them to the competition down the street.

Next-Gen WiFi

Tomorrow’s WiFi ain’t what grandpa uses today; it will be faster, but will also work over greater distances with lower-powered, IoT devices.

The emerging standard is known as WiFi HaLow, based on IEEE 802.11ah. It will double the range, provide greater penetration through obstacles (walls, doors, etc.), and enable power-efficient use.

IEEE 802.11ah also supports machine-to-machine (M2M) markets, permitting direct communication from sensing devices to the applications they serve.

REFERENCES

1Please see ComputerWorld Tech Forecast 2017: Complete survey results.

2See the ComputerWorld article 5 Disruptive Technologies to track in 2017 by Beth Stackpole on December 5th, 2016.

3See Jon Gold’s article DNS provider Dyn hit by DDoS attacks that takes out major sites in the October 21, 2016 edition of ComputerWorld.

Bryley Basics: Working with Webroot

Greg Livingstone (Engineer) and Gavin Livingstone (President), Bryley Systems Inc.

Webroot1 is a cybersecurity firm with “…leadership in developing next-generation approaches to prevent attacks, and a proven technology base that spans millions.”2

Webroot’s SecureAnywhere® Nex-Gen Endpoint Security (NGES) is a small-footprint (<1Mb) agent with Cloud-based threat intelligence designed to deliver advanced, next-generation, endpoint security. Webroot NGES offers these advantages:

  • Detection – Behavior-based, predictive/proactive detection
  • Management – Minimal impact with no signature updates
  • Protection – Collective protection among Secured EndPoints
  • Remediation – New threats are journaled to facilitate rollback
  • Threat Intelligence – Machine learning

With its innovative, predictive capabilities, it is becoming the standard end-point protection application of many IT-service providers, including Bryley Systems.

Webroot basics

When Webroot is deployed, this Webroot icon webroot-logo displays on the bottom-right taskbar. Right-clicking on the Webroot icon exposes these options:

  • Scan now – Perform a malware scan
  • Open – Open the SecureAnywhere console
  • Help and support – Show the online help site
  • About – Display the current Webroot version
  • Refresh configuration – Refresh Webroot version*
  • Save a Scan Log – Save scan results to a log file
  • Shutdown Protection – Disable Webroot

scan-now

 

*Refreshing the configuration uploads the current profile, resulting in this message:

secure-anywhere-prompt

Webroot SecureAnywhere console

Selecting Open displays the Webroot SecureAnywhere console, which may also appear in the bottom, right-hand corner during scans. The SecureAnywhere console displays current protection information.

secure-anywhere-icon

Webroot Browsing Security

Webroot SecureAnywhere includes BrightCloud® Threat Intelligence, an add-in for Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer to warn against unsafe browsing.

When enabled, BrightCloud shows the following Reputation icons prefixed to web sites. Hovering over the icon will display a risk statement:

trustworthy Reputation: TRUSTWORTHY – When visiting this website there is a very low probability that you will be exposed to malicious links or payloads.

low-risk Reputation: LOW RISK – When visiting this website there is a low probability that you will be exposed to malicious links or payloads.

moderate Reputation: MODERATE RISK – When visiting this website there is some probability that you will be exposed to malicious links or payloads.

suspicious Reputation: SUSPICIOUS – When visiting this website there is higher than average probability that you will be exposed to malicious links/payloads.

high-risk Reputation: HIGH RISK – This website is a “Malware Site”; there is a high probability that you will be exposed to malicious links or payloads.

These icons are displayed on your Internet browser pages and define the risk associated with clicking on a particular site.

webpage-image

By default, HIGH RISK sites are blocked with the following pop-up.

high-risk-icon

REFERENCES

1Wikipedia history of Webroot.

2Please see the 2015 Frost and Sullivan review WebRoot Smarter CyberSecurity.

Case Study – Transportation Company Relies on Bryley Systems to Stabilize Technology

The Company: RTA Transit Services, Inc., a private company operating on behalf of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) service area includes over half a million in population and is the second-largest regional transit authority in Massachusetts, serving 35 communities. WRTA maintains a fleet of 47 buses including four clean diesel-electric hybrid buses for 23 fixed routes in Worcester and 10 surrounding communities. WRTA also provides para-transit and special services for elderly and disabled passengers. The organization is a state-run agency, and as mandated by federal law, is operated by a private company—RTA Transit Services, Inc.

The Challenge: Build a Stable, Redundant and Scalable IT Infrastructure

To help manage WRTA daily operations, RTA Transit Services previously relied on a variety of software solutions that each functioned on separate hardware system in the data center—with each software vendor specifying its own needs. To address the issue, RTA and its previous IT solution provider deployed virtual machines to handle the application load. But the architecture did not account for future growth, and the two host virtual servers operated independently. A hardware failure on either one would have taken down half the operation.

“We wanted to transform our data center into a more robust platform that could scale easily and adapt to new technologies as our needs change over time,” said John Carney, RTA Transit Systems General Manager. “We also wanted to add a high level of redundancy since it’s critical that we maintain service to our customers in the event of a system failure or a power problem at one of our operation centers.”

At the time that RTA Transit Services considered these changes, the IT team also planned to deploy a new intelligent transit system from Clever Devices that helps manage bus maintenance and provides bus-schedule updates to customers via the Internet and digital signs at stations. In addition to ensuring Clever Devices would run properly, RTA also needed to migrate all of its operational software systems to the new platform.

This included CyberAudit by Videx for security; a PTM Brokerage Services system that interfaces with an SCM Elderbus system for handling transportation services for handicap passengers and requires virtual-private-network connections; and a HASTUS group-scheduling and planning solution from GIRO that helps with bus scheduling and operations.

“Finding a new technology partner with the expertise to help us build a platform that could handle all of these systems was critical since the level of service we received from our previous IT support vendor had reached its limit,” Carney said. “We also wanted to partner with a solutions provider that could work within our budget but still design and deploy an effective solution.”

The Solution: A Virtual Server Data Center Designed by Bryley Systems

RTA Transit Services appointed a committee to search for an IT solutions provider and considered multiple firms. Bryley Systems won the project based on its ability to offer a team with a wide breadth of experience across all the different technologies involved in the project. “Bryley also has the ability to provide remote support and fix problems behind the scenes, which is important for us going forward,” Carney said. “When we submit a request, Bryley assigns an appropriate-level resource with the right expertise to address the issue.”

Bryley first assessed the overall server infrastructure at WRTA and designed a new platform that could run all of the various software applications effectively and scale as needs emerge. Bryley also documented the components that required upgrades and provided a blueprint for how to add computing resources in the future.

“Bryley developed a comprehensive plan and recommended clear steps to advance to where we wanted to be,” Carney said. “They then broke it down for us into components to help us determine what we could reasonably do so within our budget.”

Because of the complexity, the WRTA hired a consultant to assist its internal resources with the project. The consultant’s recommendations confirmed the need to deploy the infrastructure that Bryley recommended. “The consultant’s viewpoint confirmed that Bryley had the expertise we would require over the long term and gave us confidence that the project would be handled effectively,” Carney said.

The Deployment: Project Moves Forward Even When Unplanned Roadblocks Occur

Based on the value of the Bryley assessment and design as well as the consultant’s recommendation, RTA then asked Bryley to deploy the new data center infrastructure. Bryley deployed a VMware-based virtual server environment with a P4500 series storage area network from HP. The design also included five HP DL360 servers running Microsoft Windows Server operating systems, and high-end Cisco firewall equipment. In addition, Bryley created a dual-location disaster recovery solution with completely-redundant systems and full failover capabilities between the WRTA operations and call-center locations.

As part of the project plan, Bryley assembled the virtual server rack and shipped it to Clever Devices in New York where Bryley experts worked side-by-side with the Clever Devices team to configure the servers. Clever Devices then installed their solution on the servers, which were then shipped back to WRTA.

When the rack arrived back at WRTA, it had sustained minor damage during the shipping process, and the ramps that allow the racks to be rolled into place were missing. But Bryley adjusted quickly and was able to move the rack into place without the ramps. Bryley also assessed the damage to help WRTA with the insurance claim.

“Bryley reacts to changes like this very well and can address project-schedule adjustments caused by circumstances outside of their control,” Carney said. “They helped keep the project moving forward and demonstrated solid project management skills in addition to their technical capabilities.”

Bryley also evaluated the connectivity circuits between the operations and call-center sites and established a virtual-private-network connection between the two buildings that can be accessed by key vendors such as Clever Devices and Elderbus. Bryley then updated the system security with a Cisco ASA appliance and set up 10 desktops from which RTA personnel manage the Clever Devices software.

The Benefits: New Infrastructure Platform Enables Improved Customer Service

WRTA now has 21 virtual Windows servers running on five physical servers at its Grove Street location and three physical servers at the Main Street location. The agency also now has a stable platform on which RTA can run the business as well as add on to in order to meet future needs. RTA will also continue to consult with Bryley when working with software vendors to ensure any new solutions are deployed correctly within the new infrastructure

“Bryley helped us greatly in organizing and stabilizing the environment,” Carney said. “They know how to utilize hardware effectively and prepare for the future by designing scalable systems. In addition to adding high-level redundancy, we also eliminated unnecessary hardware so that we have a data center that’s much easier to manage.”

The Clever Devices application, powered by the platform designed by Bryley, allows bus passengers to use smartphones to check on bus schedules. The software also processes next-stop announcements on buses and next-arrival announcements at stops. In addition, the application also counts passengers.

“With the new technology platform empowering Clever Devices, we are greatly enhancing the level of service we offer to our customers,” Carney said. “By using smartphones, the Web or viewing digital signs, passengers can now see the status of any bus at any moment. This not only helps customers avoid missing buses that are ahead of schedule but also eliminates the frustration of arriving too early for a bus that is running late.”

RTA also plans to rely on the Clever Devices solution to replace its radio system with a VoIP solution. The complexity of this project generated a lot of logistical challenges for which Bryley provided its expertise. “We were not sure if we should replace our radio system with a Verizon VoIP system,” Carney said. “But Bryley met with us and Verizon to help us understand how the solution works and confirm VoIP was the way to go.”

The server infrastructure that Bryley designed and deployed is now the backbone that keeps all IT systems running at WRTA. The overall system also helps improve services to disabled people since RTA has backup systems for monitoring customers that might need rides to medical care appointments. RTA can also move the phone system to a new location if it there’s a problem at the main phone center.

“Bryley has turned out to be the perfect IT partner for us,” Carney added. “They first helped us develop a plan for future technology investments that we can consider as our budget allows. They then built an IT infrastructure platform that supports technologies that allow us to improve the services we offer to customers and ensures we have sufficient redundancy in place should any of our systems experience a failure.”

Major Benefits—WRTA Technology Platform Designed and Deployed by Bryley: 

  • Stability: Enables applications that run the business to perform consistently
  • Sustainability: Supports future enhancements as business requirements change
  • Redundancy: If main location goes down, system automatically fails over to backup site
  • Improved Customer Service: Supports applications that enable efficient phone, texting and Web services to provide passengers with immediate access to bus information

 

For more information on how Bryley can assist your organization with IT goals, please contact us at 978.562.6077, or email us at ITExperts@Bryley.com.

Announcements, news, events, and promotions

Bryley Holiday party

It was a fun-filled early afternoon as many Bryley employees sat down to a luncheon feast followed by an old-fashioned Yankee swap!

holiday-party-2016

 

Nicole Sawitz Accomplishes her HP Sales – Personal Systems Services Certification!

In this day and age, it’s imperative for sales professionals to be able to bridge the technology gap and gain insight into how to best serve their clients.  That is precisely what Nicole Sawitz, Sales Support within Bryley’s Sales team, accomplished when she earned her HP Sales – Personal Systems Services certification.  She underwent highly relevant, practical training to demonstrate her ability to effectively anticipate clients’ business needs and provide the optimal HP solution.  we look forward to seeing Nicole put this certification to work for our clients!

Introducing Engineer John DeCola

John DeCola recently joined Bryley Systems.

John has over 20 years of computer-support experience, working with clients throughout the Northeast. He is well-versed in Microsoft Server products, firewalls, and network-support tools and holds a degree in IT Technology.

john-decola

 

Introducing Jessica Giunta

Jessica, a Marketing Specialist, joined Bryley Systems late November.

Jessica has worked as a marketing/project manager and as a Marketing Associate where she maintained the ConnectWise database, managed social-media accounts, assisted in presentations and events, and fielded calls from clients.

Jessica is a graduate of Bentley University and a Girl Scout Gold Award Recipient.

jessica-giunta

 

STEMPower – A manufacturer’s resource

STEMPower is the Massachusetts Hub for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Manufacturing (STEM); it can be used to review resumes of recent trainees and to network with other STEMPower members.

You can join STEMPower as a member simply by setting up a user account. STEM employers can sign-up by emailing Lisa Oden, STEMPower Project Director.

We’re looking for field-service and business-development employees

Bryley Systems is growing. We have an immediate need for field-service personnel with IT experience and plan to add a person to our business-development team.

Interested applicants may email HR@Bryley.com or call 978.562.6077.