Lost in the Fog

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Lost in the Fog

80% of Customers report Cloud repatriation activities.”

- IDC 2019

He knew better.

Even while the presenter promised the world, he knew.  Cameron inwardly groaned as the relentless waves of cloud guarantees washed over him. He suffered through the keynote, hoping that no one at the conference could guess how much he regretted his choice to move his organization’s applications into the cloud.  He felt great guilt over the decision that seemed to be a constant source of conflict between himself, his leadership, his co-workers, and most importantly, his customers.  He’d be horrified if people knew how much he felt like a failure.

“Cloud computing is the future!  You can finally break out of the frustratingly repetitive three-year replacement cycles of investing in hardware, facilities, and utilities. Think of the savings!”

Cameron suppressed the urge to roll his eyes as the speaker, like an impassioned preacher in the pulpit, continued his spirited monologue.  As he glanced around the dimly lit audience and recognized a few familiar faces, an eerie sense of déjà vu settled over him.   Just a few years ago, he sat in a room almost exactly like this one, right down to the swirling pattern on the carpet and a chair that tipped a little when shifted in his seat.  He had listened to a sales pitch just like this one, complete with the same assurances of a cloud “easy button.”  He wished he could go back to that day, before he had been sold on the flimsy promise of on-demand, easily-provisioned, always-updated, highly-automated, tightly-orchestrated, universally-accessible cloud.

Cameron’s experience transitioning from on-premise infrastructure to a cloud platform certainly hadn’t created the magical feedback loop that was being evangelized today.  Cameron shook his head slightly and grimaced, unable to ignore the obvious.  He could see now that the intent of these sessions wasn’t to offer real client success stories, but rather to get IT leaders to open their wallets.

Every face around him bore the incandescent light of delighted anticipation. They all wanted into the cloud. He had been one of them, once.  No longer.  He desperately wished he could leap out of his seat, grab the microphone, and warn them all.  He was sure most of them didn’t truly understand what a move to the cloud would really mean.

But he wouldn’t stand up.  He wouldn’t shout his warnings.  He’d sit quietly in his seat, ashamed.  His company had struggled with their conversion to cloud and Cameron imagined many in the eager crowd would struggle as well.  But the crushing guilt and nagging doubt he wrestled with due to his lack of research and planning before committing to the cloud bound him to silence. He didn’t want to admit his digital transformation failure to this room full of professionals.

He had trusted in the hazy promise of “infinite scale” at the push of a button.  They had cooed assurances to him, reaching for a piece of his organizational budget with their honeyed words, “This is the solution to solve it all.” With neither a plan nor a guide, he felt helpless finding his way out of the mess he created – there were no presentations for that.  Cameron was lost in the fog of the cloud.

Is Cameron right to despair? Could there be a way back?

SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS: Acronyms of the Cloud

In order to really understand Cameron’s predicament, let’s talk about the different types of services the cloud can offer. There are three models of cloud services for you to understand and compare. Some types may fit perfectly into your organization, while the others may not. The model most everyone thinks of when they think of the cloud is Software as a Service (SaaS).  SaaS applications, like Dropbox or SalesForce, are applications familiar to most businesses and can often be great additions to a traditional workflow. Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a little less familiar and typically offers a set of tools businesses can use to develop, test, and deploy software. PaaS is often used by businesses to design applications and by developers to collaborate on projects. Finally, there’s Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), which Cameron discovered is more complicated than he originally was led to believe. IaaS hosts and manages your businesses servers, storage, and networking; things that otherwise would be handled in a traditional data center. 

Can the Cloud Deliver on its Promises?

I bet you’ve heard promises that the cloud will provide an effortless solution to many of your business challenges. Cloud vendor marketing will often guarantee a significant reduction in the cost of managing and maintaining IT systems and applications. Sellers often frame their cost-saving arguments around the belief that one can reduce operating spend through the removal of hardware and software system upgrades, break/fix challenges, planned and unplanned downtime, energy consumption, and wages. But does that really translate into lower bills? In particular use cases, maybe. But most will find that peak-performance demand and the need for additional layers of security add up swiftly, typically offsetting any proposed savings and resource reductions.  

In addition to operational cost reduction, seamless scalability on-demand is also touted as a major perk of moving your infrastructure to the cloud. The temptation of simple scaling up or down of computing power or storage as requirements arise is hard to resist. This opportunistic flexibility can be intoxicating to envision, but unfortunately, it’s never quite that simple and the devil is always in the details. Whether it’s increased storage, improved bandwidth, or redundant locations for failover, unanticipated costs can go through the roof early and often after a commitment signature is handed over. It’s easy to take for granted the cost of services that have previously been handled through hardware and local operational costs. There are hidden costs that many leaders fail to consider when they are swept up in the marketing fog. Nothing is free, especially in the cloud. 

Nothing is free,

especially in the cloud.

What might a failure in cloud-based infrastructure look like?

Consider the following experience of a business that we helped in the past. This business measured their key customer engagement process by the amount of customer queries they could accomplish in a set amount of time. This measurement indicator translated into a need for ultra-low latency and high-transactional performance. The leaders of the organization, taking stock of their aging, but still well-performing infrastructure, knew that it would soon require what they considered to be costly, continuous, on-premise upgrades. In response, the leaders decided it was time to hybridize their environment into a partial-cloud presence to avoid the inevitable upgrade mire as well as the associated human and infrastructure investments. 

But the moment they relocated their data, they introduced crippling latency into the process. Query rates plummeted.  Lookups timed out and updates failed as in-flight transactions timed out and/or abnormally ended.  They were only able to accomplish half of their previous customer query rate. As a response, they increased their subscription base with their cloud provider to a higher and even more expensive tier. But this added expensive performance was still not enough. There was just too much latency added into the process due to the remote system. Their customers quickly noticed the high wait times and became frustrated. For a company that measured its success on their ability to conduct more customer queries in less time, this disturbance to their process had a devastating effect to their reputation and their bottom line. Even more disastrously, they had promised to their business that the journey to the cloud would be more cost effective. These expensive mistakes were doubly offensive to all involved.

When approaching the cloud, do so with a sense of caution.

Still want in to the cloud? A successful journey to the cloud demands a cautionary approach. Not every cloud solution is created equal. Hybrid cloud consulting options are available to help you discern what works best for you, taking into account the nuances specific to your environment. The cloud doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. 

Before any cloud-based decision, it’s important to exercise wisdom and consider these major factors: performance, availability, growth, cost, and security. 

Cloud Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • What do I expect from the cloud, specifically, and how does the vendor help me attain this?

  • What strategies are in place to ensure those outcomes are achieved and continuously improved upon?

  • How consistent would this cloud solution be? What effect would any potential latency have on all business transactions? Can I live with those potential latencies? 

  • If my cloud solution fails for five minutes, what impact will that have on my business? What about five hours? 

  • How flexible is this solution? Can it accommodate my business growth over the next year? What about the next three?

  • Is the information that will be handled by the cloud subject to legal regulations? What risk am I introducing to our data?

With some workloads, cloud technology is a great solution, but as with any new technology, education, analysis, planning, piloting, and continuous improvement are imperative to mitigating risks and attaining the desired benefits specific to your business goals. Remember to plan for the future of your cloud, both from a perspective of financial needs as well as technological. Approach with caution and seek out expert help in creating an individualized path to digital transformation success, before investing. Don’t be tempted to jump in without guidance, charmed by slick marketing. Find the balance between innovation and prudence. 

Need an Innovative, Prudent Partner?

ROVE is a proven guide, an experienced pathfinder for your digital journey, who deeply understands the challenges you face on a daily basis. ROVE offers customized solutions and systems to both enterprise and commercial clients. As a Veteran-owned business, we believe in guiding by understanding and truly grasping the needs of our clients which continuously strengthens our relationships through delivering delightful results. Diverse talent defines our organization and purpose drives our innovative solutions to solve your business challenges. 

Lost in the Fog - Do You Have to Suffer in Silence?

We left Cameron defeated, burdened with guilt, crumpling under the weight of disappointment and frustration with his cloud experience. But Cameron doesn’t HAVE to suffer in silence. While there aren’t many opportunities to hear about how to safely walk back from the cloud, there are solutions which exist today that you can explore.

If, like Cameron, you also find yourself struggling with the cloud or realizing the easy button you were promised just isn’t that easy, ROVE is available as a true consulting partner to assist in the discovery of the right technology beneath the hype, with the right tools and services to help you accomplish your goals. ROVE can be the guiding hand to help you to continue your successful journey forward, even if you’re currently lost in the fog.

Written by:

Mike Casavant, System Engineer Manager, Dell EMC

Derek Bell, Senior Solutions Architect, ROVE

with Pat Bodin, Chief Technical Officer, ROVE

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When “Good Enough” Isn’t Good Enough

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When “Good Enough” Isn’t Good Enough

Charlotte snapped the lid of her laptop shut with an annoyed huff. She snatched up her cell phone and shot off a quick text to her assistant, “Thank you, next. Cross them off the list. Find me some more names.” She was frustrated with how that had gone, from start to finish. Thirty minutes prior, her phone sent her an alert that it was time to have that conference call with the prospective partner she had been considering working with to help solve some payroll issues she’d been having in her small business. Her schedule had been jam-packed today and she said a little thank you into the ether to her calendar for the reminder. Opening up the event though, she realized the video conference call was with a software she wasn’t familiar with.

Dropping her bag on the floor of the hotel room she had just checked into, she tapped on the provided link with her thumb. Quickly, the phone alerted her that she couldn’t join the meeting without downloading the application, and of course, it wasn’t available for her phone. Now glancing at the clock and bending down to dig through her bag for her laptop, she realized she might end up being late to this conference. After hurriedly signing in and starting the process of the application downloading to her computer, her irritation began to rise. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t simply use the conferencing tools that worked just fine on her mobile. She finally was able to join the video conference, but it didn’t get better from there. The sound was intermittent, and the video kept freezing. She was thankful when the pitch was finally done. Truthfully, she thought to herself, it was over before it started. She didn’t want to partner with them with such a bad taste in her mouth right from the get-go. Maybe it was unfair of her to judge them so harshly this early, but her gut told her there had to be someone else out there that could offer what she was looking for without making it difficult.

Charlotte’s story isn’t unique. Have you considered the effects of the collaboration tools used in your organization?

Maybe you’ve had potential customers just like Charlotte and didn’t quite know why you couldn’t seal the deal. Perhaps you are aware of the idiosyncrasies of the tools you use but figure, “Oh well, good enough is good enough,” and just ignore it, trying to work around the issues as best you can. Collaboration tools, like the video conferencing in Charlotte’s story, can have an important place in the organizations of today. Used effectively, they can harness the ability to reach across state lines, time zones, and country borders significantly quicker and cheaper than any other method of connecting people face-to-face. But, as we saw above, breakdowns in these tools can be costly in more ways than one.

Collaboration tools are meant to foster teamwork, enhance productivity and drive user engagement, while keeping pace with today’s lightning-fast speed of business. They cover several types of software with the promise of saving time and money. They often tempt leadership with dreams of simplifying tasks, encouraging problem solving and managing teams and projects. They can even offer the tantalizing option of high-performance work achieved through remote work, which is increasingly demanded by employees.

Collaboration software is the umbrella term chosen for a wide variety of software product types that can be independent of one another, such as communications, conferencing, and coordination. Communication software includes email, instant messaging, or chat-style programs. Conferencing software focuses on real-time collaboration, generally with video or the ability for members to share screens and comment on content as it’s being created. Coordination software is the most recent type of collaborative software to join the party. This tool was created to help manage complex tasks that require many different hands to complete and is helpful for understanding the timing and place in the process of a particular project. Consumer-directed tools like Facebook Messaging or Facetime offer simplicity and an intuitive user experience but aren’t up to the capabilities and security that business collaboration tools can offer.

the effects of the collaboration tools used in your organization.jpg

70 percent of workers waste

near 60 minutes per day between applications.

Breakdowns of collaboration tools happen all the time. These interruptions can affect internal as well as external processes. Internally, studies show that almost 70 percent of workers waste near 60 minutes per day between applications. These statistic implicate tools that were created to save, not waste time. External collaboration breakdowns damage brand impressions, perceptions, and value. The pain you experience from breakdowns in internal collaboration tools comes from hits to lost time and reduced productivity. But the pain you feel from external collaboration failures can be measured in dollars and cents.

As in Charlotte’s experience, the collaboration tool your organization selects can directly affect your customer’s overall perception of you. When you communicate with a prospect with software that just doesn’t work, that poor performance is unfortunately transferred to you. In your customer’s eyes, that poorly-functioning tool IS YOU.

“The pain you experience from breakdowns in internal collaboration tools comes from hits to lost time and reduced productivity. But the pain you feel from external collaboration failures can be measured in dollars and cents.”

The tools that you use to communicate are a portrait of your abilities. What sort of portrait are you painting? Every impression — especially a disappointing one — is a foreshadowing of the type of performance clients can expect from you and is brushed onto the canvas. Don’t make it an ugly portrait. Create a masterpiece. Don’t let a tool knock you out of the running because you made the mistake of thinking your current solution was “good enough.”

In our current landscape, one might suggest there are now too MANY options for collaboration, frustrating the organizational selection process. A quick Internet search delivers millions of results, including both free and paid options. You can find collaboration tools packaged as software-as-a-service or part of a platform that promises to deliver everything you need to be successful in your digital transformation. When individual tools are chosen over integrated platforms, organizations often find that different departments adopt disparate feature sets for their own purposes that often don’t work together across the organization. Additionally, without oversight, these disparate tools could potentially bring security risks to the organization and its valuable data.The harsh reality is people just want the solution to work for their needs. Anything less is a poor investment and will result in teams finding a different, possibly riskier option.

Before diving into whatever software is at the top of the results list, keep in mind a couple of potential pitfalls. Many people may be tempted by the allure of a free product. But unfortunately, in our world, free typically comes with an unseen price tag. When the bill comes due, can you afford it? You may be better off with a paid choice, especially one with true price transparency. This is an important investment, so choose wisely.

You’ll need to have a vision and a strategy for how these tools fit into your situation and how they can add value. The whole point of these programs is successful collaboration. But if they are applied haphazardly or without measurable goals, your employees may abandon the tools altogether. This leaves you with not only a wasted investment, but also the opportunity cost of not choosing the right solution.

If you find yourself selecting these tools without expert guidance, here are a few tips for you to keep in mind.

  • Immediately reject any product that can’t guarantee your data’s security. The trust that is implicit when you are responsible for sheltering the sanctity of confidential data is too precious to not prioritize above all else.

  • You should expect a platform with features and functionality that overlap your needs so you can focus on the business of getting things done instead of getting stuck in the technical weeds of which individual tool works for each department’s needs.

  • Remember to account for the necessity of functionality outside of the office. It’s a mobile-world and these tools being able to work on the go isn’t a bonus, it’s imperative for today’s business environment.

  • It’s important to find tools that will consolidate and simplify your collaboration environment.

  • Don’t forget to consider interoperability. Especially in the B2B space, having tools that work seamlessly with your current or potential customers’ platforms is a major positive that’s too important to overlook.

Are you allowing your reputation to be diluted by poor collaboration tools, like Charlotte’s rejected vendor?

At ROVE, we pride ourselves in taking the time to analyze the needs of your business, employees and customers when determining the right solution to fit your needs. Like many solutions in technology, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. We want to partner with you in understanding your organizational requirements and find solutions that deliver value and better user engagement. We want to extend the ease of use and intuitive experience offered by consumer-directed tools into your complex business landscape. Let us help you rise above “good enough” to an experience that delights not only your team but also your customers.

Written by:

Rob Hawley, Practice Lead, Enterprise Collaboration, ROVE

Jon Snipes, Senior Technical Consultant, ROVE

with Pat Bodin, Chief Technical Officer, ROVE

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How Secure are You?

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How Secure are You?

Daniel awoke with a start to the harsh tones of his morning alarm. He mashed the snooze button on his phone that he kept next to him on his bedside table. Rubbing the sleep from his bleary eyes, he opened his email to get a jump on his day. While lying there, with his bed still beckoning him back to sleep, he considered how little sleep he was running on. There had been a lot of changes at work lately, and as the Director of IT he had been overseeing and controlling the chaos as best he knew how. “Junk, delete. Junk, delete,” he whispered to himself as he virtually crumpled and tossed emails into his digital trash bin. But this next email, it wasn’t junk.

Daniel tapped the email to open up his daily news alert.

Scanning the headlines, a competitor’s name popped out…

Daniel tapped the email to open up his daily news alert. Scanning the headlines, a competitor’s name popped out. They had suffered a massive security breach, which would likely earn them HIPAA violations and the resulting fines and settlements. Daniel pondered the damage to their brand and reputation and couldn’t help but wonder what would happen should he find himself and his organization in a similar situation. Before he had much time to think about it, his cell phone alarm blasted him out of his fog and urged him up out of bed.

While driving to work, Daniel revisited his early morning concerns and wondered what sort of security weaknesses his own organization could be having. With the swath of new employees that had just begun working, the possibility of password sharing was strong, with new employees perhaps not yet having access to the things they need to do their jobs correctly. The complex password standards could potentially be ignored by more seasoned employees that were becoming complacent in their positions and that was just in the hospital. What about the private practices that were connected to the healthcare organization? Daniel didn’t have many eyes and ears in those offices and he fretted about the ramifications of poor execution of his carefully selected safeguards of the protected health information entrusted to them to keep private and confidential.

At work, it was clear the leadership was having similar worries. Emails were coming in all morning from the CEO, members of the board, and even the Chief Medical Officer shot one over. Daniel was hopeful that the budget funds he had invested in IT infrastructure and security were well spent and that the organization’s policies and procedures had enough precautions built in to protect the data they had been entrusted with, which was so desirable to hackers and those with duplicitous intent. Even though it seemed like all his bases had been covered, he felt a crack in the foundation of his certainty. As Daniel walked around the office, he noticed a few passwords written on sticky notes clinging to user monitors and started to wonder if they were really secure.

Doubt blew bitterly around him, eroding the confidence he once felt. But even with this realization, he had to accept that he didn’t know where to turn.

Daniel’s situation is not unique. You might even be Daniel. As a consultant with ROVE, specializing in modern security and digital transformation, I’ve had my fair share of clients who are looking for products and solutions that can give them peace of mind and confidence about the strength of their infrastructure and data protection. I’ve counseled and created solutions for people in Daniel’s position for many years. If you haven’t taken inventory of the security policies at your organization lately, you may very well be behind the times and leaving your precious data open for damage and destruction.

Modern application architectures and hybrid IT are pushing security boundaries off the premise and into the cloud, far and beyond the traditional workplace. As a result, defining and enforcing security policies is both more complex and more necessary than ever. In the wake of several high-profile security breaches, more and more organizations are realizing they cannot trust the security of their sensitive data to just a person’s username and password. The average HIPAA violation fine due to password theft or security protocols resulting from insufficient authentication of a user’s identity can be a budget buster. But even outside the medical industry, loss of protected client data is a huge blow to the trust an organization has built.

Trust is earned, and trust is everything. A breach of trust can take years and countless dollars of investment to begin to rebuild.

There are many problems with attempting to protect your valuable data using only passwords. First of all, it puts the security burden on your users. In the healthcare industry, your users have lives to save and password creation isn’t even close to their highest priority. Further, it expects them to not only create unique passwords using the most current best practices, but it expects them to remember them, as well. Since most computer-operating humans have several of these types of passwords to remember, this leads to the next security problem. All these lengthy, complex passwords are hard for users to keep up with. This issue usually results in two major problems: account lockouts and password re-use. Account lockouts create downtime, and thanks to Murphy’s Law, usually at the worst possible times. Account lockouts cause loss of productivity, loss of revenue, loss of trust, and potentially, in the healthcare industry, catastrophic medical outcomes. Alternatively, some users may attempt to avoid lockouts by reusing passwords, which brings its own issues. A sobering report from Verizon showed the nature of relying on highly-exploitable passwords, with a stunning 81% of hacking incidents resulting from exploiting stolen or weak passwords.

Yet another potential risky outcome of your current security protocols is account sharing. Users may find the complex, multi-step password setup you currently have as laborious and instead may opt to share accounts. While this might seem like a harmless shortcut to them, it erases any accountability or ability to identify who made changes. Additionally, this practice eliminates any security through the process of authorization. This process ensures whether an individual should have access to certain programs and data, which is subverted through the practice of password or account sharing.

Clearly, in today’s environment, passwords alone are no longer an effective way of protecting your critical apps and data. With a growing mobile workforce, applications in multiple clouds, and tons of devices outside of IT control, many organizations are investing instead in multi-factor authentication. This advanced method of authentication requires information from at least two independent categories working together to allow access to protected data. Multi-factor authentication is the gold standard, commonly used in financial and law enforcement environments. The future may even be password free.

The future may even be password free.

It’s possible to have data protection that goes beyond passwords by combining something your end users know, their password, with something they have, like their mobile device, to provide secure access to all your apps and data. Any comprehensive security strategy should reduce the risk of security and data breaches. Your strategy should reduce compliance risk, simplify security operations, and be up to the challenge of protecting apps and data outside the network perimeter. Is your security strategy strong enough to deliver? If you find yourself in Daniel’s position, with doubt corroding your confidence and competence, it’s time to seek help to restore a level of measured assurance.

Written by:

Reece Johnson, Senior Technical Architect, ROVE

with Pat Bodin, Chief Technical Officer, ROVE

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