“Capabilities that would have cost tens of thousands of dollars 15 years ago, requiring in-house IT departments and massive investments in infrastructure, are now available on a per user/per month basis for a fraction of that cost.”
Dan Tully is the executive vice president of Conduit Systems, an IT management services firm headquartered in Lincoln.
For more than 20 years, Conduit has delivered information technology support and services to small and mid-sized companies.
Tully talked to Providence Business News about the evolution of the technology industry and where he sees the industry heading in the next future.
PBN: You’ve been in the tech business a long time, how have you seen the industry evolve?
TULLY: David Cameron and I have been in this business a long time. I recall compiling Fortran code on punch cards with an old IBM mainframe for my computer science class at the University of Rochester in the early 1980s. I also remember sitting in the old John Hancock tower in Boston listening to a presenter claim his latest “personal” computer would someday be as commonplace as the telephone on an office desk. I often wonder if Steve Jobs truly knew the implications of that claim. His excitement and wonder as he presented the first Macintosh cemented my direction in IT.
Fast forward to today when the devices in our pockets not only act as phones, but as our personal computers. And they possess the computation power of that IBM mainframe times a factor of … who knows?! Today’s challenges center on that power in the pocket of every employee and the need to control the flow of data from a security standpoint, but also from a privacy and ownership perspective. All this needs to happen without restricting the culture of productivity and creativity they offer.
PBN: What are the biggest changes to office IT now versus 15 years ago?
TULLY: Without question, the biggest change is the availability of enterprise-class products to small office environments via outsourced data centers (i.e., the cloud).
Capabilities that would have cost tens of thousands of dollars 15 years ago, requiring in-house IT departments and massive investments in infrastructure, are now available on a per user/per month basis for a fraction of that cost. Capabilities include online backup, CRM, remote access, virtual environments, and countless others.
Another change is the sheer volume of data that must be stored and protected. The data and information that businesses collect and retain is their most precious commodity, and protecting it is essential. Disaster recovery as a service has grown more popular, offering the potential for greater flexibility, reduced costs, and simpler, more frequent and less expensive testing. When disaster strikes, the cloud offers a recovery speed second-to-none.
PBN: How do you see the IT industry evolving in the future?
TULLY: Bandwidth, bandwidth and more bandwidth. Conduit Systems envisions continued migration to the cloud with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) as the major catalysts for the change, along with the economic and cultural demands of the next generation of users.
PBN: How do you see things like cloud backup and Bring-Your-Own-Device affect your clients?
TULLY: By nature, IT executives demand control and standardization in order to effectively and reliably deliver the services that our users require. Increased regulatory issues have only magnified that need. BYOD in particular has brought a bit of the “Wild West” to IT in that it has the potential to circumvent those standards.
Cloud backup, however, has actually improved the lives of those of us who broke a sweat every time a file needed to be restored from a three-year old tape. Traditional backup via tape is a decades-old industry standard, and for good reason. The method is efficient, reliable and cost-effective; however, with reliability comes latency. Data placed on tapes is slower to retrieve compared to more modern, digital solutions and the solution has a high impact on network bandwidth.
Cloud as a backup solution is often best utilized for businesses with a sizeable mobile work force. In this type of situation, clients’ employees do not have to log in and connect to a central location. Each time they connect to the Internet data is pushed to cloud-based servers where it can be easily retrieved. Furthermore, the cloud does not require transportation costs and offers minimal risk of data loss due to theft.
We’ve noticed that some clients are not as comfortable placing all of their data in the cloud, and there is nothing wrong with that. In such cases, we developed a hybrid, cloud-integrated backup approach that simplifies backup and provides seamless access to data. With the installation of an on-premise appliance (physical or virtual), a cache of information is collected, duplicated and pushed to the cloud in real-time for storage.
PBN: What advice do you have for a small-business owner who isn’t necessarily the most tech-savvy?
TULLY: I would recommend seeking out the advice of an outside expert who can slowly fold cloud-based capabilities into your existing infrastructure. The cloud has brought reliability, business continuity, and true disaster recovery to an area where, far too often, it was assumed that data was safe. As your comfort level grows, continue to add more capabilities that enable your business to grow as well. Price is no longer a barrier for entry, but selecting the right services for your business’ needs can be a daunting task. Working with a trusted IT partner that has the knowledge and experiences to help guide these decisions will allow you to focus on what you do best: grow and manage your business.