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Tom Papahronis /

Why I joined Enabling Technologies

Intro 

To start, a little about me. I have been a corporate VP of Technology, building and managing technology teams, infrastructure, enterprise applications, security, and strategies for over 20 years. During that journey, I have worked in several different industries and have been using Microsoft technologies for most of that time (and before that some Novell, just in case anyone has lingering NetWare questions…..).  I have been fortunate to lead companies on a few journeys to the cloud and have reached the light at the end of that tunnel. 

I recently joined Enabling Technologies as a Strategic Advisory Consultant because I really want to share my experience and help organizations either move to the cloud or improve their use of cloud technologies. I can easily say that it really is transformative, and it really does provide value to companies and their employees. I will even go as far as saying that it is life changing as well, especially for the folks in the IT group. 

Before… 

I have joined companies or otherwise “inherited” poorly designed or even failing on-premises systems that were held together by heroic efforts, zip ties, and once a backup application that included an iPod as a storage medium.  Needless to say, I had to lead several efforts to rebuild these systems and get them onto reliable, resilient platforms. Before the cloud, that meant on-premises.  Every time it included the following and more: 

  • Leasing data center space with long contracts (or worse, outfitting a closet in an office building). 
  • Leasing data circuits with long contracts. 
  • Purchasing expensive one-time licensing and software maintenance plans. 
  • Purchasing expensive servers, storage, switches, routers, and firewalls. 
  • Developing a security strategy and purchase, purchase, purchase. 
  • Developing a redundancy plan to ensure uptime. 
  • Upskilling or building a team to run these new platforms….and ask them to get up at 3:00 AM once a month to patch all this stuff. 
  • And on and on….. 

This process takes at least months and sometimes years!  By the time all of it was in place, the business had grown and changed enough that the great solution we had designed now needed some significant changes. The process was never-ending, inefficient, and the company was always somewhat unhappy with the cost, time, and disruption. 

Enter the cloud…. 

More recently, I had Microsoft 365 and Azure as new tools in the toolbox. The amount of effort and risk to move to the cloud was minimal in comparison to on-premises, and we could piggyback on a world-leading infrastructure.  As a bonus, the up-front cost was lower, and we would be able to scale up or down as needed.  The game has changed. 

  • Overextended file servers with questionable backups could be migrated to SharePoint and OneDrive. 
  • Exchange just worked and accommodated huge mailboxes. Maintenance, upgrades, and other tasks were no longer needed. Even archiving was easy with a simple policy change. 
  • Databases that once used every resource on a server could now be resized on the fly along with the workload. 
  • Line of business applications could be moved to robust and reliable Azure VMs and services that could failover, start, stop, back up, restore, and geo-replicate (if needed) quickly and reliably. 
  • Computer and mobile device management via Intune was easy and actually worked reliably across all our platforms. 
  • Security – Oh my goodness. So much better, easier, and comprehensive. We had device protection integrated with the OS and our identities that gave us visibility into what each device and account was doing and when. Defender for Cloud Apps provided an enormous amount of operational visibility.  We could even see who was using web services and shadow IT applications to prevent unauthorized application use and license compliance issues. 
  • Applications – Microsoft Teams provided unified communication and functioned as a one stop shop for many other applications and collaboration. 

Any of these capabilities would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and require an order of magnitude more staff time than any mid-sized company would pay for. And now, almost all of it was included in our subscriptions. And no more 3:00 AM patching parties…. 

 

Reality checks… 

There were certainly some lessons learned during this process and new realities we had to get used to: 

  • Redeveloping some skills and product knowledge takes time. System administration, service desk, business continuity, and application management tasks had to evolve significantly. Most of those activities did become much more efficient, but not overnight. 
  • Simply keeping up with new features and functions while constantly adapting to them does take more time than when systems are on-premises. However, the changes do continually improve the systems and make them progressively more valuable.  
  • You need to be a little creative when it comes to running legacy line-of-business applications in the cloud. Many of them can present challenges in overcoming LAN speed dependencies, SMB file shares, Excel linking, and database access. These limitations are solvable but do take some extra time and planning. 
  • User training and communication are needed more frequently.  Cloud-based applications do change often, and it is necessary to provide guidance and support as this happens. As with any system change, everyone needs to be brought along thoughtfully. 

Back to my story… 

Having now seen the other side, I want to help people on their journey so they can also take advantage of new platforms and functionality that is now available that will improve their systems, their value to the business, their use of time, and their quality of life. No joke. It really is that impactful. 

In the coming weeks I will be sharing more detail on specific benefits and challenges related to elements of transformation, on-premises requirements, risk mitigation, foundation-building, overhead savings, scalability, employee retention, and more. Stay tuned! 

 

Work with our team of Cloud Computing Consultants who have done this so many times they know all of the “minefields” to prevent missteps.

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