it-help-atlanta-podcast-episode-5cloud-computing

Episode #5:
What is Cloud Computing?

IT Help Atlanta Podcast Presented by TeamLogic

The following is a transcript of Episode 5 of the IT Help Atlanta presented by TeamLogic IT podcast. All episodes of the podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Announcer: Broadcasting from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, it’s time for ”IT Help Atlanta” brought to you by TeamLogic IT, your technology advisor. Now, here’s your host, Rick Higgins.

John: Hello, everyone. I am not Rick Higgins. I’m John Ray sitting in for Rick today and I’m sitting in for Rick so we can actually talk to Rick and we’re gonna put him on the other side of the table today. Rick Higgins.

Rick: Hey, John.

John: Rick, yeah. Hey, welcome to your own show, pal.

Rick: Oh yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you so much for doing this. This is a really interesting thing we’re trying to do today, where we’re gonna talk specifically about cloud computing and the trends in the industry and why the technology is progressing in that fashion and in that manner.

John: Absolutely, I’ve been looking forward to us doing this so I can learn a few things. But folks, before we get into discussing cloud computing, I just wanna remind you that ”IT Help Atlanta” is brought to you by TeamLogic IT, your managed services technology advisor, specializing in cyber security cloud and business continuity solutions. Team IT leverages cutting edge technology to solve all types of business problems. And go to ithelpatlanta.com for audio archives of both this show and all the rest of the shows in the series and to learn more about TeamLogic IT.

So Rick, thanks again, and thanks for joining us with your expertise on this. So let’s talk about the growing cloud computing trends. We hear the word cloud a lot and why is technology progressing in this direction?

Rick: I think that there’s a few things that are the main driving forces behind the trend. And this is not in order of priority, but all of it’s coming together at this time and place that we are right now here in the year 2020. And one thing is that mobile computing is becoming a real important to people to be untethered from their wired network within their office to whether they wanna work from home or on Wi-Fi in a hotel room or a coffee shop or whatever. That combined with the rapid expansion in internet connection speeds on both hardwired connectivity and Wi-Fi has really made the demand…has really increased the demand for this type of computing.

And so when you have a mobile device, even though they’re extremely powerful, they don’t really need to be as powerful with the tool and the power of cloud computing, because most of the computation, most of the heavy lifting associated with the work is happening on a server in a data center somewhere. And that’s what the cloud is. So people ask me all the time, what is the cloud? And the simple answer is it’s a server and a data center and that’s all it is.

John: Yeah. And that’s really important because you hear this word cloud and you really don’t know. Sometimes, I mean, I don’t know what that means, and it sounds pretty ethereal, but it’s pretty hardwired in a sense, I mean, not hardwired, but it’s real technology sitting out there somewhere to be able to access. Correct?

Rick: You know, back in the day, it used to be the computers were all these big giant mainframes, and the way we accessed the computers was through what we called at the time dumb terminals or dummy terminals that didn’t really have any memory in the local function. Everything was just to access through hardwired connectivity, access to the mainframe. Well, that model is really what we’re reverting back to with the cloud. We’re in the heavy lifting associated with the servers, which are, you know, the diesel engines of our computing environment. All that computation and the heavy work is happening at the server level, almost all of it.

John: So Rick, let’s talk about security because that’s really at the top of everyone’s mind or should be with all the issues that are going on out there. I mean, is the cloud actually more secure than having an on-premise system?

Rick: There’s no more secure way to compute on this planet than in the cloud. It’s absolutely the safest way to compute when someone who’s concerned about their data, someone who’s concerned about access to their application or to their internal network. So here’s why. So consider a few things, consider the physical security aspect of a data center itself and compare that to the physical security of your office, where you may have an on-premise server. It would be very, very difficult for any CPA firm or engineering firm or any business, quite frankly, services firm or otherwise, to replicate the physical security aspect that is inherent in all data centers right now.

I think the last time I was in a data center, I had to have my eyeball scanned, my hand printed on a screen. And this is after I’d already gone through some fingerprinting the previous time that I was there. They also weigh me in an airlock system.

John: Really?

Rick: Yeah. I’m in an interim airlock system and they’re weighing me. So I had to tell them that I was, I had to put my briefcase on a special table, so that didn’t get included in my way. And so they were making sure I wasn’t coming in with some kind of a hidden device or something like that. So I had to go through all that before I could physically get into the data center.

Then once I got in, I was, you know, reminded of all the multiple levels of redundant power, the electricity that’s available, just to backup power, but the redundant feeds that are in there, redundant internet backbone access into that center so that should there be a major power interruption or for any reason, let’s say a tornado, you know, worst-case scenario, flood, tornado-type of thing, or earthquake that the system, in particular the stuff that I was working with was replicated in another data center in another city.

So trying to think about that in terms of security, and to try to replicate that in an on-premise server in an office somewhere would be very, very expensive. So cloud computing is expensive, but you know, if your system has to be up and it has to be secure, there’s no better way to do it.

And the other thing is it’s a different way to pay for it too, right? So it’s kind of, you pay by the drink or you pay on a monthly basis. So it’s part of your P&L as opposed to being something that you’re carrying on your balance sheet as an asset that you’re depreciating. You’re not really buying hardware so much as you’re leasing it. So that’s true whether you’re subscribing to an application or whether you’re doing a Desktop as a Service, which is something that we do at TeamLogic IT.

John: So since you’re subscribing, you’re always up-to-date because that’s what you’re subscribing to, right? Is the latest and the greatest, as opposed to you buy a piece of hardware software and it continually, I guess, depreciates in its quality over time, right? I mean, did I get that right?

Rick: Let’s just say you’re subscribing to an application that’s sitting on a server. Well, that server is a physical server in that data center. But the data center engineers are watching that hardware and making sure that they’re keeping the memory current, that they’re keeping the operating system current and all the security aspects associated with the operating system are current and up-to-date. And so they’re watching that.

And as that hardware ages, they’ll replace that, and that replacement will be invisible to you. You’ll never have to have somebody coming into your office to say, “Hey, it’s now time to…this server’s three or four years old. It needs to be changed out.” Well, that’s happening real time and/ or in the middle of the night. You’ll just never see it. You’ll never know, and it’ll be invisible to you. And you’ll basically just enjoy the continued and increased actual security and the continued and increase capability and performance of the application that you’re working with.

John: Folks, we’re chatting with Rick Higgins. He’s normally the host of ”IT Help Atlanta.” And I’m John Ray, I’m sitting in for him and getting the chance to talk to Rick about cloud computing. Rick, you work with small to medium-sized businesses mostly, why is cloud computing so important to small and medium-sized businesses particularly?

Rick: Well, we’ve talked about the security aspect. But I think the other thing that’s become very relevant in today’s time because here we are it’s July of 2020, we’re in the middle of, well, hopefully at the end, but I’ll just say we’re in the middle of the pandemic, the COVID situation, and the ability to have a remote working capability has never become more important. With folks not being allowed to come back to the office, kind of, depending on where they live in the country, I think California’s, has started another shutdown now.

Here in Georgia, we are allowed to go back to work, but some companies are still deciding to not let their people come back, or if they do, they can only come back every other day or in phases and stages. I know my wife’s company is doing that. So you still wanna get productivity out of your staff. You don’t wanna have to lay people off and if you can help it and you want them to be able to work. Well, that means remote working. So there’s no better way to do it than cloud computing and providing those capabilities and the security that’s inherent with that.

John: I think you’ve addressed some of this, but I’m just curious about what other drivers that you see in this trend toward cloud computing?

Rick: Well, the thing that I would revisit and that I talked about up front was the internet connectivity speeds. Right now, there are just tons and tons… And I’m talking specifically about Metro Atlanta. And my assumption is that it’s similar in every major city in the country, if not the whole world. But there’s tons and tons of telecom companies that are just digging up the roads and running fiber everywhere. And they’re starting to run it into residential neighborhoods as well. So it’s not just in areas that are commercial-centric.

But I don’t know really of too many commercial areas where office space is available or even industrial space is available where there’s not more than one fiber option for connectivity. And because of that rapid expansion of the connections and the cables and the fibers that are running everywhere, the pricing has come down.

So the speed is going up at the same time that the pricing is coming down. What that does for the application developers out there is it allows them to make their software more and more complex because heavier duty, higher iterations and heavy computation requirements are still able to run across that increased bandwidth. And then the end-user company can afford it because the prices are coming down because of competition. That’s what we’re seeing in Atlanta.

I’ve had clients request pricing on fiber, which is something that we do at TeamLogic IT. And then they, for whatever reason, they put that decision on hold, come back to me four to six months later and ask for an updated pricing. And we’re seeing as much as 25% reductions over that six months. Yeah. So and I tell people, I say, ”Look, you know, you need this and go ahead and do this deal, but let’s just do a 12-month deal because chances are this pricing is gonna be better in 12 months.” And that’s been the trend for the last five years.

John: So let’s get specific about how TeamLogic IT helps. So, you know, what kind of cloud solutions do you offer and do you work with your clients on?

Rick: So almost all of our clients are in at least some kind of hybrid cloud environment. But for fully cloud, for full-cloud capabilities, we have two different options. And the first one is we just call it a full application server with a Desktop as a Service. And what that means is that that client requires some kind of line of business application, whether it’s QuickBooks or their customer resource management tool, their CRM is required to be on a server of some kind or it could be an ERP solution, if it’s a manufacturing site, and it’s required to be on a server and because the software that they’re working with is not natively available on cloud yet as a subscription.

So we’ll put them on our cloud server and then we’ll create what is in effect, dumb terminals for their laptops and desktops to access that and we call that Desktop as a Service. All of the computation is occurring at the data center, on the server at the data center, very, very little local computation occurring on the local machines.

The neat thing about that as they can access that from a device as simple and benign as their cell phone or a tablet. They can be anywhere in the world. They need to be somewhere in the world. They can’t be off planet, right? It’s anywhere in the world. And if they have a web browser with connectivity on even just a low bandwidth, a really slow speed, they can get access to their desktop through any browser. And it’s very secure. As long as they have their login name, username, and password, they can get in. So it’s an extremely powerful tool. And we have, I would say, three quarters of my cloud clients use this particular tool and it’s full application server with Desktop as a service.

Our second option, which is not quite as expensive and obviously not as powerful is what we call the TeamLogic IT Cloud Drive. And that is basically for clients that don’t have any kind of application, line of business application, that’s required to be on a server. So everything they do, they’re already subscribing to cloud solutions for their line of business software. They’re using QuickBooks online for instance, or something along those lines. And if they don’t have the need to have their line of business Software on a Server that is already, you know, in the cloud, then the cloud drive is a really good option. And this is the neat thing about it.

And now, you can harken back to your days when the old file servers that everybody had in their office. So that’s effectively what our cloud drive is. It’s a file server in the cloud. And you can set up the governance for that particular set of data so that people can have access to drives and sub-drives in such a way that…or if they’re in like a collaboration sub-directory and they’re working on a specific file, if they’re using it, it locks out all the other users similar to the way that you old file servers used to do. You just can’t get that same kind of functionality with say a OneDrive or Dropbox or Box or anything like that, or even a Google Drive.

So it’s a really neat system. I think the last, let’s see five out of the last seven cloud deals that I’ve done have just been specific for the TeamLogic IT Cloud Drive. I see that actually as a trend in what we’re doing. And it’s been a lot of fun because we’re giving people some…at a really important time, we’re giving people remote work capabilities, and we’ve had clients that are telling us that we’re saving their company by what we’re doing.

John: Really?

Rick: Yep.

John: Wow.

Rick: And I do have an interesting success story that that would be fun to talk about.

John: Yeah, please share.

Rick: So for whatever reason, about 25% of our client base is CPA firms. I don’t know why that is. Anecdotally, I just attribute it to the fact that CPA’s are numbers people. They really understand the value proposition of what we were doing. And I had a client telling me last month that, you know, he’s just so grateful for what we were doing for him with cloud. And he saw his…when he got his bill and he approved it each month from us, which is, you know, always a level set bill, he saw that as an investment that’s directly attributing to his profit. So he didn’t really see that as a cost center so much as an investment that he was making in his company.

He’s able to quantify that, you know. Again, being the CPA, he’s able to do stuff like that with the numbers. But he looked at that and he was able to quantify the time saving, the savings that we’re providing him, the ability for him to work remotely, not just in his several offices of which he has more than one, but also to work onsite at his client.

So he’s the type of CPA that likes to go to his clients with his computer and work in their office with them. And the ability for him, as long as they give him Wi-Fi access or even hardwired access, it doesn’t matter. But the ability for him to do that without having to walk in with 100 pounds worth of paper files under his arm has been… And I think that was the actual example that he used. He goes, you know, I used to have to try to take my entire office with me, but I don’t have to do that anymore. I can take everything with me with just my laptop that weighs less than three pounds.

John: Well, and the pandemic hit in mid-March, which was right in the middle of tax season. So this was, for a CPA firm, boy, what a time to realize the value of cloud computing, right? I mean, because all of a sudden, all these firms are at home and all these people are separated from each other and from clients. And to have that access secured is awesome, right?

Rick: He knew it and he knew it going in. And we knew it going in. You know, when we realized that we were gonna have the shelter-in-place rules come down the line from the governor in Georgia, we were expecting, and we were right. We got an onslaught of help desk tickets and we just went into triage mode to get to everybody, to set up the remote working capabilities.

But John, this is the interesting thing that happened. And our client base is about half and half cloud services and otherwise. And we did not get one single help desk ticket from the half of our client base that has cloud service solutions. Nobody because they were already prepared. They already had made the investment. They were already all set up.

Now, we did convert some of our non-cloud clients to cloud. In the last few months, we’ve done some of that. And that’s been a big help to them because they’re…you know, it’s the unknown, right? Because here we are in Q3 of the dumpster fire of 2020. And it looks like it’s possible that we may have another shelter in place or shutdown scenario. I know that, like I mentioned, I mentioned California, you know, tried to go back and then now they’re back into their shelter-in-place rules or and who knows if we get to that in Georgia. So people are seeing that it’s a wise investment to get that put in place.

John: Sure.

Rick: So I, you know, and it’s an unfortunate thing, but who could have predicted this COVID situation, right? We were already in the trend and we were already seeing that more and more of our opportunities we’re cloud-centric, but this has really hammered at home.

John: Sure. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s an important point that you just made. It’s not that the pandemic has brought this on, it’s just, it’s accelerated it and made it clear that this is a trend worth taking advantage of for those small medium-sized businesses that have not.

Rick: That’s right.

John: Yeah. So this has been great, Rick. I’ve learned a lot and I think, just wrapping up here, I think it’d be great if you could give everyone that’s listening if they wanna be in touch, contact information. How do they get in touch with you and learn more, right?

Rick: So TeamLogic IT, the best way to get in touch with me is my phone number (770) 847-9611. And I’m extension 1 at that number. There’s an auto attendant that answers and tells you if you wanna talk to Rick Higgins, hit extension 1, and I want to talk to everybody who’s listening to this show. Email is rhiggins, that’s rhiggins@teamlogicit.com.

John: Rick Higgins has been our guest today and next time he’ll be back in the host chair here on ”IT Help Atlanta.” But just a reminder that this show’s brought to you by TeamLogic IT who is your managed services technology advisor. And they specialize in cybersecurity cloud and business continuity solutions. And TeamLogic IT leverages cutting edge technology to solve all types of business problems.

So once again, I’m John Ray, thanks again to Rick Higgins, our guest on this edition of IT Help Atlanta. Join us next time.