Continental Properties office manager, Barbara Dauber, recently participated in an interview about their transition to the Cloud. She has been with the forty- year- old company for twelve years and oversaw the project. In her opening remarks she described the company as follows: “Our company is about ten people in size. We acquire and develop commercial properties in several states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia… The company had a traditional network, server and desktops using Microsoft Office, with backup tapes and no full time IT person on staff.”
When asked about any preconceived notions she had about the Cloud before the change, she remarked, “I had heard about the Cloud and did not fully understand it. It was broken down for us into usable information we could easily comprehend. When we realized we would get the latest Microsoft Exchange and Office products, with all our support calls for no additional charges, other than our regular monthly payment, that is exactly what sold me… Going in, we were concerned about making it work right and comprehending exactly what was going on. Once we got the hang of it, we were good, along with some occasional tweaking. Going from the old to the new system was done over a weekend, then dealing with user errors was a few more weeks. In fact, we still suffer from user error. The hiccups we encountered were in the beginning and had to do with the new configuration and had everything to do with our learning the new process.”
Barbara continued, “The main thing we now can do is work from home, as needed. Before, we had limited access to our data. Now I can get to everything on my desktop and on the server from where I want, when I want. When our owner was in Palm Beach, we were able to conduct business and collaborate as if he were here, which was not possible before. Most of our employees now work from home; in the past, they didn’t. In fact, during a pregnancy leave, one employee was able to not miss a beat. Now they don’t have to rush back to the office. It has given us a real sense of freedom.”
When asked if she would do anything differently, Barbara responded, “Go to school and learn more. Now that we have gone through the process, we really like it.”
“NetTek was so easy to work with. The staff was understanding and patient in explaining any issues we have had to work through. We love them because of that,” she added.
“The whole work-from- home capability has changed our lives. In the past, the outside world used to have conflicts with software versions when we interacted, now those conflicts inside and out are gone. We are finally all on the same page.”
“The best feature for us has been the speed, especially on Outlook. We get an immense amount of e-mails and I used to go brew a pot of coffee while it loaded, but not anymore.” she said, smiling.
When asked about recommending the Cloud, Barbara responded, “ I would recommend it to companies large or small. If they do their homework, they’ll find the right partner to implement it smoothly just as we did.”
Don Perry, the company’s owner, came into the conference room and added, “I’m just glad I don’t have a computer,” which, even in this technological day and age, is not completely surprising for an owner.
In closing, Barbara stated, “My lessons learned were with previous IT companies. So when it was my decision to make, I wanted to go with someone who would take the time and have the patience to help me understand everything. That is why we have Desktops2Go® and NetTek here today. We honestly enjoy dealing with them.”
Anatomy of a Conversion to the Cloud
Barry Bartee, President of B & Z Services, Inc., of the HVAC industry, discussed his recent move into Cloud computing.
Bartee said, ”My biggest preconceived notions were that the Cloud was out there, more imaginary. I didn’t know it was just right up there on Almeda Avenue right here in Norfolk and that I could touch it there. B & Z was in founded 1948 and has been around for 63 years, with 24 employees. We were at a technology crossroads. Our company’s existing systems were slow, tired and basically on their last leg. We had to do something. We could fix things using the traditional route with servers, desktops and so forth, or look at something new- the Cloud. My four specific concerns with the Cloud were about: loss of control, someone else taking our data, the security issues of credit cards and possibly being hacked.”
He said that the conversion process to the Cloud was two weeks from the first visit to completion, with no downtime. “It went real smooth and was much better than I anticipated,” According to Bartee, “there were a couple of hiccups along the way, but most of it was internal. One of the things he had to get used to was the loss of thumb drives and adding things straight to the network. Now he just e-mails the outside materials to himself.” I didn’t know how detailed the printer configurations really are,” said Bartee, “they have now all been logically laid out for us.”
Mr. Bartee said, “Now that his company is in the Cloud, is it definitely affecting his business for the good. Right out of the gate, it freed up 2-3 hours a week I had been spending on IT issues.” “I had to get everyone used to calling the Help Desk without talking to me first. I also had a morning appointment at the house and I just logged on from there, without having to come into the office. I feel like I always know what’s going on now, even if I may not be physically be in the office,” Bartee commented.
Would he do anything differently? “No, not really, other than doing it sooner. We were really struggling for over a year with viruses, crashes, software updates and spam. Collectively, the whole system was on the brink of having a major meltdown. I would definitely have made the move to the Cloud sooner.”
“As a whole, our IT partner company made it very easy to work with them. We looked at two and they had the best answers, outside the envelope, not trying to stay with more expensive hardware. They did everything they said they’d do.” said Bartee.” I love working with them because they love their technology, from the owner to the install technicians. I like surrounding myself with people and companies who want to do more and be more.”
B & Z Services experienced some unexpected benefits through the process. “The biggest, without a doubt, has been the hosted e-mail exchange with the calendars. I had e-mail on an I-phone, a tablet, a laptop and a desktop, all without exchange, said Bartee. “I had 167 e-mails all over the place with multiple copies. Exchange solved all that so it’s made things simple now. The overall speed has also been impressive: where a Peachtree accounting report used to take over a half an hour to print, now it rocks in a couple of minutes.”
“The best feature of the Cloud has to be compatibility. We had milked our IT so long we were using Excel 2001. We just wanted performance; we weren’t expecting all the up-to-date Microsoft software to resolve our version conflict issues internally and with the outside world. Those problems going away was very cool and an unexpected bonus.”
“I would recommend the transition to the Desktops2Go Cloud to others. It’s time the small companies who do daily data processing also get the toys of the big boys. The lesson we learned from the whole process was more about gaining a better understanding of how the Cloud works. We have learned the competitive edge the Cloud gives us, and we understand how to apply it to our business. It was an easier process than I thought it would be overall, and I feel we are now prepared for the long haul,” Bartee closed.
Lynn Bunn, President, and Elizabeth Haynes, Payroll Manager of Arvon Staffing recently convened to talk about their conversion to the Cloud.
Bunn began, “I was dragged, kicking and screaming into the Cloud, by Liz. I was most concerned about cost, the newness, the unknown. I didn’t want to make the move, but, it has been one of the best decisions we have ever made. It made our lives here a lot easier.”
“Our biggest surprise has been the speed of the Newport News office being way faster than it’s ever been. Any problems we’ve had have been solved quickly through the support. It’s been easier for the staff. We I had multiple machines, offices, home PC and a laptop. The staff is now working from home which they never did before. In emergency situations it is very nice to have the “work from home” option.
“In hindsight, Liz brought it to my attention and I’m very glad she did. I was caught up in Pennsylvania and I was able to log in from there, which in the past was impossible with our old system. That was my big “ah-ha” moment. In that case, it was a life saver. The process for me was longer with the multiple machines, but I would recommend it to any other companies who need access to their data or who have a sales force,” Bunn commented.
Haynes began: ”I didn’t know anything about the Cloud until I came to the presentation you gave at WHRO. From that day on, I was dreaming of the day we could convert to it after hearing about the Cloud in detail. The presentation Citrix did was amazing. I knew it would make Lynn’s life much simpler, by not having to upgrade equipment anymore or buy all the Microsoft software ever again. I knew bringing all our software to the same version was such a big advantage.”
“My concerns were with our Metro software which is working, but may be discontinued. It only took three days to convert our whole operation and it was much better than I expected. I was so excited when I logged on from home with my new I Pad for the first time. I had my fingers crossed and everything. It worked and now I do not have to spend those long nights at the office battling the IT demons, which was a regular in the past.”
Haynes continued, “The minor hiccups were taken care of quickly. Reconnecting our network printer and our health care insurance programs was handled promptly. Setting up Citrix for our staff’s home machines was a challenge for our technophobic staff, but your support walked them through that, as well. Looking back, I would like to have done this much sooner. Going forward, I would definitely promote Desktops2Go®. I love it – it’s wonderful! Dealing with service is a pleasure as the technicians are so patient with us and they communicate so well with each other. It is the coolest thing out there right now.”
Builders today are ideally positioned to reap the benefits of Cloud technology. Live coordination and tracking of labor, materials and vendors are now a reality. The Cloud can also provide rapid deployment of IT infrastructure and remote monitoring of on-site surveillance systems. Because your data always resides in the Cloud, laptops and field devices that are damaged or stolen will no longer present security risks.
What is the Cloud? If you use the internet, have e-mail. Perform web searches or use online forums, you have taken advantage of Cloud technology. Cloud computing is a delivery mechanism for providing virtual services that can be accessed from almost anywhere. It enables your business to achieve objectives that in the past were limited by technology.
Financial benefits of Cloud. Historically, builders have had to buy and own costly hardware to handle their computing needs per site office. Adding more resources and capabilities required additional purchases. However, this is no longer necessary. The Cloud enables deployment of computing resources without incurring major capital expenditures. Leasing of IT resources makes financial sense and ease the monetary burden, The Cloud changes construction IT into an affordable pay-as-you-go solution.
Predicting and budgeting the costs of IT has always been hard. How can the Cloud help construction company owners gain control? Everything you need from equipment, software, connectivity, maintenance and data protection can be combined into a single monthly payment. Budgeting IT costs suddenly becomes realistic and easy to manage.
Field benefits of the Cloud. Imagine if field employees could access company data while away from the office? With Cloud, it’s possible. And with the additional flexibility comes the following benefits:
** Flexibility to utilize core business services on a laptop, smartphone, or tablet.
** Verify in video form a project’s completion
** Live monitoring of Punch Lists
** Ease of access through different devices makes Cloud computing uniquely flexible
** No longer are we confined to the office. The Cloud now allows you the freedom to choose how you work.
The technology landscape is rapidly evolving. Major vendors such as Cisco, HP, Microsoft, IBM, and Intel see the marketplace already implementing Cloud solutions. Even Wall Street is making the transition to the cloud.
The industry is forecasting a 75 percent market penetration by Cloud solutions in the next three years. Cloud computing will be as influential as E-business and “has the potential to change the status quo in the IT market,” according to industry analyst Gartner.
To help you understand Cloud computing, NetTek, a local solutions provider with 20 years’ experience, is offering Tidewater Builders Association members a free educational presentation in the first quarter of 2012 at TBA. To find out more about the Cloud and this upcoming event, please visit www.nettek.com