To IaaS or Not to IaaS…That’s the Question for Today’s Organizations

The advantages of moving to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions are well documented, spurring continued growth in this area of cloud technology. For 2017, Gartner research predicts that IaaS spending will grow by 36.8% to $34.6 billion.

Any technology solution has benefits and potential drawbacks, of course. With IaaS solutions, organizations can enjoy flexibility, lower costs, faster service and better business agility. Balanced against these advantages are potential data security and privacy concerns, business disruption and changes in architecture and processes.

Organizations considering a move to IaaS solutions need long-term thinking. What criteria should a company use to determine if an IaaS solution is the right decision for its current and future business needs?

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Joint input from both IT and the business decision makers

As with most technology buying decisions, astute enterprises solicit input from both the IT and business points of view. When deciding to move to IaaS, examine an organization’s overall big picture goals and make sure the ultimate decision lines up with both IT and business strategies. From the IT side, the decision-making process takes into account not only costs, but should also include enterprise-wide considerations, such as the value of business agility and rapid go-to-market capabilities. On the other side, business units should look at whether a solution fits into the existing IT infrastructure, thus minimizing implementation costs and overall disruption, as well as thinking about new capabilities or competitive advantages.

Spiceworks research shows that IT and business owners often work in sync “to create a tech-decision duo.” Each side brings its unique perspective to the decision-making process. For example, IT researches compatibility with existing technology, implementation considerations and recommends optional solutions. The business side, which usually holds the purse strings, takes into account practical solutions, but also seeks innovation and technology advantages that will push the business forward.

Bottom line: IT brings deep insight to the buying decision and provides valuable input throughout the purchasing process. Meanwhile, the business unit looks at overall company strategy and adding a distinct point of differentiation, as well as improving customer service.

To learn how IaaS impacts areas throughout the enterprise, check out this post.

Build a trust with your IaaS Provider

An important part of any IaaS adoption is to have confidence in the chosen IaaS solution provider. Implementing an IaaS solution is not as simple as procuring additional processing or storage capability. Smart organizations also want a reputable IaaS partner that maintains the same levels of compliance, privacy and security when handling and storing customer data. Any agreements for IaaS solutions should include provisions for data privacy, security and governance that line up with the purchaser’s requirements.

Vendor lock-in is always a concern, too. Before signing the dotted line, determine how easy (or how difficult) it would be to migrate data and applications back to on premise or to another provider if the service level agreements are not maintained or costs no longer make sense. Take care to engage with an experienced IaaS provider who will work with you in the long term, particularly as business needs change.

Impact on in-house IT staff and resources

Saving on IT costs is one of the biggest advantages of an IaaS solution. However, most organizations will still maintain an IT staff that is responsible for managing the apps and determining how data are handled—either in-house or through the IaaS vendor or a combination of the two.

Organizations should consider which apps will move to the cloud, how application development and testing may have to be modified, and how new disaster recovery processes may affect liability and compliance. Keeping only core functions on premise enables the purchaser to focus on what’s most important to the business, while allowing the IaaS provider to manage capacity and handle more routine applications.

Cloud services must enable an organization to consume the right amount of the right IT services, on demand and at the right time. The ability to scale up or scale down is extremely important. An advantage of IaaS solutions is not having to worry about having too much or too little hardware on site as the business needs fluctuate seasonally, or even day-to-day.

Another important check point is to make sure the organization’s internal data communications resources allow adequate access to data and apps to and from the vendor site. It’s a real problem if internal and external clients can’t access IaaS because of internal internet service outages or clogged data pipelines.

Still on the fence? Check out Data Center Basics, Comparing Costs and Security.

Pricing

Two questions to consider are “how much is it going to cost” and “what’s the pricing structure?” When purchasing IaaS solutions, determine if pricing will be pay-by-use or on a monthly subscription. Think about surcharges that occur during peak times, which can be costly depending on the type and timing of business transactions. A “try before you buy” pilot program is a good option to help a purchaser determine what it’s like to work with an IaaS solutions provider.

Have budget constraints? See how NEC Financial Services can fund your IT needs.

IaaS is not just outsourcing

Making the move to an IaaS solution involves more than a simple shifting of IT assets. The process affects an organization’s data and applications architecture, and will change the way IT work across all business and support functions. IaaS solutions impact security, compliance, customer service and even insurance policies, so these business components must be taken into account when making the move to IaaS.

Developing a strong relationship between the solutions partner and the purchasing organization can help ensure success of an IaaS implementation. Consider which applications to outsource and which to maintain in house. Take into account the organization’s big picture business strategy. Finally, to secure the best solution and provider for their organizations, wise IT and business decision makers need to work together to balance the benefits with any potential challenges.

Want to learn more about IaaS and high security data solutions? Check out this recent post.

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Retailers Need to Focus on Point-of-Service over Point-of-Sale for More Personalized Shopping Experiences

Online retailers are offering consumers a personalized shopping experience. As Americans desire fast turnaround and convenience, traditional retailers have an opportunity to beat out digital retail stores that require a day or two for delivery. If the in-person experience can fulfill the same needs, and the physical reward is instant, will a reinvention of the in-store concept lead to less empty stores?

Find out about how we see The New Era of Customer Service and Convenience.

Is it possible to offer a personalized shopping experience with point-of-service over point-of-sale?

75% of consumers prefer shopping in person. #cx Click To Tweet

Traditional Retailers Are Feeling the Pain

Daily news mentions of brick and mortar retailer layoffs or store closings are not uncommon these days. Bloomberg estimates that traditional retailers are on a record pace for closings or bankruptcy in 2017. Shopping malls across the nation are left with empty storefronts and soon-to-be-empty halls if they are unable to convert the space to other uses.

Meanwhile, U.S. retail sales continue to rise and consumer spending is expected to grow, as gas prices remain relatively low. Cowen and Company retail research shows that high-end malls are still faring well and 75% of consumers prefer shopping in person. The key is to create an experience that is much like online retailers: personal and customer-focused.

Learn more about Retail Solutions from NEC.

Explore NEC Smart Retail Solutions.

Clicks and Bricks

Online and omnichannel innovator, Amazon, ensures a hyper-personalized shopping experience and customer journey. For each loyal customer, Amazon knows what kind of computer the shopper owns, which hobbies, music, and books have been enjoyed on past visits.

NEC empowers retailers to “Know Your Customer” similar to Amazon. At NRF this year, we debuted our facial payment solution, which allows registered shoppers to pay for their products with their face. No cash, checks or cards are necessary!

Reinventing the In-Store Experience

Brick and mortar retailers have another opportunity to attract consumers with the same personalized shopping experience offered by online retailers, including instant gratification rather than the delay that comes with shipping.

POS systems, once the only interaction when making a purchase, must now be modernized to enhance in-store customer encounters with the business. Inventory must be instantly tracked and replenished and the supply chain must be efficient to keep up. Infrastructure and applications need to be agile enough to withstand changes, updates all while the company stays up, and running 24 hours a day.

Learn about NEC’s POS Hardware and POS Software solutions to boost productivity and enhance customer service.

Point-of-Service in Action

By analyzing shopper preferences, a store suggesting complementary items through digital signage could increase sales during the customer visit. NEC has collaborated with Brierley+Partners to provide seamless loyalty and CRM capabilities using NEC’s facial recognition technology and Brierley’s robust CRM platform hosted Microsoft Azure Cloud.

Before arriving in the store, it’s likely that the customer may have already shopped for an item online. If the retailer has this information, the store can offer loyalty points, highlight coupons, offer education or entertainment around the item or similar items so the customer is drawn back and stays longer. Staying “in store” is just as important as staying “on page” on a website.

In-Store Shopping Isn’t Dead

While online shopping is increasing, a majority of shoppers are still walking into brick and mortar retailers. The challenge facing retailers is that shoppers are expecting a different experience. If retailers already have the data and the POS hardware, the next step is reinvention. Analyze the data. Make the information usable to create customized, personal, and creative experiences for the customer. Customers want to be loyal. Shouldn’t retailers make it easier for them?

To stay in the know about the latest advancements for retailers, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and check out Keeping Pace with the Retail Revolution Using Integrated Solutions.

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Diving Deep: How Advantages of Infrastructure as a Service Solutions Spread through the Enterprise

As cloud computing has rapidly become mainstream, more and more companies understand the value that it brings to their organizations overall. Even the most cautious and conservative of companies are turning toward cloud computing, particularly private clouds, which address potential security risks, lack of control issues, and offer an alternative to the public cloud.

Private cloud solutions such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provide the elasticity, flexibility and scalability of a public cloud, but can be dedicated to one account, thus providing greater peace of mind. IaaS solutions offer the enterprise advantages such as cost savings, compliance, seamless technology upgrades and more control. So, can these benefits trickle down to the individual job level? Can IaaS solutions make life easier for the various departments throughout your organization?

Check out Data Center Basics, Comparing Costs and Security.

A Trusted Resource for Your IT Department

The office of the CIO and the IT department are probably the most visible areas of the company to be impacted immediately with an IaaS solution. No longer will the IT staff handle repairs, upgrades and replacements of hardware devices. These functions are now delivered by the cloud provider, freeing time from routine IT activities so company engineers can focus instead on more value-added efforts, such as creating new applications for greater mobility or developing data analytics for better insight into business operations. As a bonus, the IT department immediately sees the benefits of the latest and greatest hardware and software through regular technology refresh, rather than waiting for budget that may not come until “next year” or even later.

Check out this free resource guide to Private Cloud.

For the CFO, it’s all about the bottom line

Maintaining your own data center comes with a hefty price tag. Ongoing costs include staffing, real estate and facilities, utilities, hardware and networking equipment, and software. Additional costs include providing for redundancy and business continuity. If there is a need to expand due to new business, continue adding a few more zeros to the costs.

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With an IaaS solution, these ongoing functions are handled by the cloud provider. The flexibility of IaaS lets your company scale up or scale down immediately as business conditions change. In addition, financing options can help the CFO support an organization’s important investment in IaaS solutions to enable business continuity and growth.

Put compliance concerns to rest

Compliance and regulatory requirements keep legal and risk teams up at night. Managing and securing data requires meeting regulations such as PCI and HIPAA. A public cloud requires sharing servers, storage and network access, making compliance nearly impossible. On the other hand, a private cloud IaaS solution means dedicated hardware for your company, making compliance much easier and less expensive to manage.

Make doing business with you easier for customers and employees

Instead of your IT staff configuring and managing servers, team members could be building mobile apps or other options for customers to easily engage with your company. Self-service options in turn reduce the workload of your customer service reps, decreasing staffing costs. Cloud-enabled mobility allows your service teams to be on the ground to help customers in person, improving customer service as well.

Creating sales Super Stars

IaaS also puts customer data immediately into the hands of your sales teams. A salesperson will have simplified access to the data he or she requires to tailor conversations with customers, enabling a more effective sales process.

Turning over the administrative tasks and staffing needed in maintaining a data center to a cloud provider can produce a positive effect throughout an organization. Your best IT engineers are free to focus on the unique aspects of your business. Fewer capital expenditures and a more predictable monthly operating cost helps the CFO manage the bottom line. Private cloud services give the enterprise better security and control and instant access to the latest technology. IT staff is free to focus on value-added services—such as greater mobility and improved business insights through data analytics—which benefit departments throughout the organization.

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Data Centers or Infrastructure as a Service: Comparing Cost and Security

Deciding between building and maintaining your own data center or moving to the cloud or IaaS can be quite the head scratcher for an IT executive. In some cases, the terms “data center” and “cloud” might be interchangeable. The first step in decision-making is clarification of terms and a clearer understanding of your options.

Why move to the cloud? Can Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) be used for a data center? Which option is better for the future needs of the organization?

Data Centers

“Data center” is a general term used to define an organized area of servers and storage, either onsite or offsite, that is managed by trained data center and IT specialists. The data center equipment is used to store user and organizational data and make it accessible when needed. With many data centers kept onsite, network users do not rely on an Internet connection to access the local data. As long as the local network connection is available, the data is accessible.

Cost

Building and maintaining your own data center include the following cost factors:

  1. Staffing and training – hiring IT expertise and paying for training to maintain, backup, restore and upgrade data center equipment, as needed.
  2. Architecting – forecasting for current and future data storage requirements, workload and scalability
  3. Facilities – finding an expandable location for the equipment that is secure, safe and with a low risk of break-ins and natural disasters
  4. Utilities – covering the cost of electricity, wiring, air conditioning and other utilities required to keep the servers running 24/7/365
  5. Equipment – purchasing and evaluating ever-changing equipment and storage needs, year over year
  6. Redundancy – ensuring the data is backed up or available immediately should the storage equipment or servers encounter a failure
  7. Software – purchasing the software required to keep the servers running efficiently and the data storage secure
  8. Expansion – planning for expansion of the data center as the data storage requirements increase

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Security

If there is an emergency situation at the data center location, such as fire, flood or other physical damage, or an attempted data breach, the actual servers and storage are at risk of being harmed and unavailable. Backing up the data or maintaining a data center elsewhere may help mitigate the risk of failure or loss of data.

Cloud Computing

In plain terms, cloud computing is defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a set of shared resources and services available to end users (cloud clients), quickly and with little management, via an Internet connection. Cloud computing provides these services via three general models: software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS). An example of SaaS would be an email application accessed through a web browser. Platform as a service is typically used in the web or software development world. When developers need to collaborate on a project such as an application or software creation, PaaS offers a good option for a tool or platform to be used in this way. In the case of data centers, IT executives considering the “cloud” would be interested in using Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). IaaS provides servers, storage, virtual machines and more for the use of running software and other necessary components needed in the IT environment.

Check out this eBook for ways to ease an SAP Implementation or Upgrade

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

An IaaS environment is also considered a data center that is accessible via the cloud or Internet-based services, hence the reason the terms can cause some confusion. The difference is that the data center equipment is not purchased or maintained by the organization but rather purchased as an on-demand service from an IaaS provider. IaaS can be available via the “public cloud,” where the shared infrastructure services are open for public use. “Private cloud” is also an option, where the services are available, but only for the single organization and via a private network. Some providers are also offering a combination of these options, referred to as “Hybrid Cloud.”

Cost

The cost of building and maintaining IaaS is different from an organizationally-owned data center and can significantly assist in controlling budgets. As part of the service, the IaaS provider does the staffing and training of storage experts, provides the facilities and utilities, furnishes the equipment, backs up and builds redundancy of the data and offers security – all for a single price. With an in-house data center, the organization is paying for these requirements all the time. With “pay only for what you use,” IaaS provides customization, agility, control, dynamic scaling, optimization, security and efficiency for a lower total cost of ownership. And with an IaaS provider, there is also the ability to have the “latest and greatest” in technology, making it easier to stay up to date.

Security

When using a private cloud, IaaS offers dedicated servers for the organization’s mission critical data. The IaaS provider is offsite and builds redundancy and backups into the service so the organization’s sensitive data is always secure and available.

See also: What is a High Security Data Solution for IaaS?

Why NEC for Private Cloud IaaS?

As an original equipment manufacturer of servers and storage, NEC is uniquely positioned to offer IaaS to clients without the use of third-party sourcing. IaaS is not a “one size fits all” solution and NEC can tailor customizable configurations based on your organizational needs.

Cost

Because of the lower total cost of ownership, NEC’s IaaS solutions offer long-term scalable and quantifiable benefits to organizations at a predictable and financially manageable expense.

Security

NEC’s hosts its private IaaS infrastructure 200 feet underground at Iron Mountain’s Western Pennsylvania Data Center. Iron Mountain provides FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) compliance to ensure Department of Justice Level 4 security. This security level is the highest federal regulatory standard.

When considering cost and security, IT executives are weighing options for highly sensitive and mission-critical operational environments. As the organization’s needs expand, so will the cost of maintaining an onsite data center, equipment, real estate, utilities and more. Moving to IaaS, as part of a cloud computing solution, is an opportunity for enterprise environments to manage expanding requirements for security, regulatory compliance and business continuity at a lower total cost of ownership. NEC’s managed IaaS solution, as well as “best in breed” server and storage options, offers organizations dedicated servers, stored and physically secured deep in Iron Mountain’s underground data center.

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No Budget to Replace or Upgrade Your IT Technology… No Worries!

In today’s environment of constant change, you may find yourself needing to replace or upgrade your IT/communications technology due to circumstances out of your control. For instance:

  • Vendor may have announced end-of-life for the system you currently have
  • An unexpected event has occurred that has compromised your system
  • Vendor has filed bankruptcy  and you don’t know what the future holds
  • New functionalities are being requested by end users that your system is not capable of
  • IT cannot expand and support the growth of your company’s communications requirements

When these situations arise, more often than not, it is not in the budget. And, as long as there is dial tone, it’s hard to convince the powers that be of the necessity of spending dollars on replacing their communications system. So, what are your options?

  • Do nothing and run the risk of your system going down or not being able to support your end users with the services they require
  • Look to see where you can find dollars in the existing budget and where you can make cuts on other projects

Or…

  • Consider financing or leasing options for your technology acquisitions

Financing is a great alternative to traditional funding sources. It lets you act quickly and does not negatively impact your budget. When choosing this path, you need to consider carefully the funding source. You need a source that is responsive and understands the nuances of acquiring new technology and has the expertise to meet your exact needs. One such company is NEC Financial Services.

NEC Financial Services has provided IT/communications finance solutions for more than 30 years and during that time has supported many companies in getting all their technology needs through flexible financing options. They start with a transaction team and use underwriting and financing contracts that are customizable to their clients’ needs. Their unique system enables them to create a better solution that ensures their clients have what they require to grow their business.

NEC Financial Services team offers several options for the financing and leasing of technology acquisitions. And, the best part? You can purchase various IT hardware, software and associated items from multiple vendors and have NEC create a financing package customized to your specific needs.

Some examples of the different financing and leasing approaches they offer that you will find are very different from a more traditional lender or bank:

  • Programs based on customer requirements – most organizations face the same business challenges that are not easily resolved with standard finance transactions. NEC Financial Services provides different types of programs based on customer requirements. From a purchase to own arrangement to an OPEX finance option, the program is designed to fit the business need. Including:
  • Terms to Protect Against Technology Obsolescence – for clients where obsolescence is a real issue, they can structure shorter terms so they can keep up with important technology updates to grow their business.  
  •  Maintenance Financing – option to finance one of the more expensive, yet critical components of a new technology purchase – maintenance.
  • Tech Refresh Lease – clients can get technology updated with a simple schedule as an addendum to the master lease or finance agreement. It’s easy and gives a customer an opportunity to keep on top of technology changes.
  • Software Financing an option for leveling out investment costs versus having the initial capital investment cash flow impact the budgeting cycle.
  • Off Balance Sheet – many organizations find it more attractive to acquire technology as an operational expense, giving them additional financial benefits.
  • Driven by cash flow – if an organization has a specific budget amount they need to meet, NEC Financial Services will work to structure financing to accommodate that number.
  • Our job would be to align the budget expense to the cost of that technology over time. For example, with a $10K budget a month – the goal would be to get that number to $10K or less.
  • Beyond the traditional – NEC Financial Services designs financing options to ensure that clients can receive funding for their technology upgrades and investments, even during the installation or implementation phases. Many times this can be accomplished through various offerings that include direct and working capital loans or structured financing.

In addition to the financing options, NEC Financial Services also provides asset tracking. They find that many of their clients require a more robust asset tracking system than they have in-house. They can track assets by jurisdiction, county, state, and zip code, taking the burden from their clients while providing added value.

NEC Financial Services goal is to support their clients’ ongoing business growth through long-term relationships. They make great efforts to understand client’s business requirements and growth strategies so that they can structure finance options to meet their needs and successfully implement their plans.

Technology is in NEC Financial Services DNA – especially since they are a division of NEC which was named as one of the 50 most innovative companies in 2016. They are truly committed to providing excellent service to their clients to ensure they are able to get the technology they need to remain competitive.

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