When choosing a cloud provider, it pays to think small!

When you buy wine, do you go to the big discount store or the local specialty retailer? Chances are you do both, depending on the situation. The big-box store has selection and low prices, but the people who run wine store on the corner can delight you with recommendations you couldn’t find anywhere else.

The same dynamics apply to choosing a cloud service provider. When you think of cloud vendors, there are probably four or five company names that immediately come to mind. But if you Google rankings of cloud vendors according to customer satisfaction or relevance to small businesses, you’ll find quite a different list. There are hundreds of small, regional and specialty infrastructure-as-a-service providers out there. In many cases, they offer value that the giants can’t match. Here are five reasons to consider them.

Customer service – this is probably the number one reason to go with a smaller hosting provider. If you have a problem, you can usually get a person on the phone. Over time, the service provider gets to know you and can offer advice or exclusive discounts. The company just can’t match this personalized service.

Specialty knowledge – You can find apps for just about anything in the marketplace sections of the big cloud companies, but after that you’re pretty much on your own. If struggling with configuration files and troubleshooting Apache error messages isn’t your cup of tea, then look for a service provider that specializes in the task you’re trying to accomplish. Not only do you usually get personal service, but the people are experts in the solutions they support. They’ll get answers fast.

A smile and a handshake – There are several good reasons to choose a vendor in your geographic area. For one thing, government-mandated data protection laws may require it. Local providers also offer a personal touch that call centers can’t match. You can visit their facilities, meet with them to plan for your service needs and get recommendations for local developers or contractors you might need. Many small vendors also offer colocation options and on-site backup and disaster recovery. The technology world where sometimes everything seems to have gone virtual, it’s nice to put a name with a face.

Low cost – This sounds counterintuitive, but the reality is that many specialty providers are cheaper than the cloud giants. That’s particularly true if they specialize in an application like WordPress or Drupal, or in a service like backup. These companies can leverage economies of scale to offer competitive prices, then you get all the other benefits of their specialized knowledge. Shop around; you might be surprised.

Performance – If the primary users of the cloud service are people in your company and/or in your geographic region, you will probably realize better performance with a local vendor. That’s simply the law of physics. The farther electrons have to travel, the longer it takes them to reach their destination. This is particularly important if you plan to use services like cloud storage or if you need to transfer large files, an error-prone process that only gets worse with distance.

Network challenges? Optimize your environment!

Business networks are often like children: they grow unnoticed, sometimes in a disorganized and often unexpected way. The company can quickly end up with a lot of unoptimized equipment to manage, which may look like this…

But it keeps on growing: management wants to install a videoconferencing system, make backup copies of a subsidiary and keep them at the head office…

Can your network support these new features? The answer is probably not.

From there, problems multiply. Over time, users experience slowdowns, phone calls are sometimes jerky, intermittent breakdowns may even occur. How to solve these problems? Where to look?

With a multitude of disparate equipment, and often without a centralized logging system, it is difficult to investigate and find a problem.

Network analysis: why and how

For ESI, each client is different. The most important part of our work is, first of all, to determine our client’s situation, and what led him to need a network analysis. An added feature? Intermittent breakdowns? A willingness to plan future investments to be made in the network?

Once this objective is established, we analyze the most recent network diagrams, if any. We examine the equipment, the configurations, the redundancy, the segmentation… We evaluate all this in order to assess the global health of the equipment.

We can thus identify:

  • End-of-life equipment
  • Equipment close to failure
  • Configuration problems / optimizations
  • Limiting network points

But most importantly, depending on your needs, we help you identify priorities for investment in the network in the short, medium and long term. At the end of the analysis, our clients obtain :

  • An accurate view of their network
  • An action plan on existing equipment
  • An investment plan.

Why ESI?

ESI Technologies has been assisting companies to plan and modify their infrastructure for more than 22 years now!
Contact us now to find out more about what ESI can do for you!

Cloud Strategy: technological impacts

Here is part four of our series covering the key issues to consider before adopting cloud technologies. This article focuses specifically on technological impacts to consider.

Not all software technology is created equal. Indeed, not every application will migrate gracefully to the cloud, some will never tolerate the latency, while others were never designed to have multiple smaller elements working together, rather than a few big servers. This means your business applications will need to be evaluated for cloud readiness. Indeed, this is possibly the largest technological hurdle, but, as with all technology, this may prove to be easier to solve that some of the other organisational issues.

One should look at the application’s architecture (n-tiered or monolithic), tolerance to faults/issues (e.g. latency, network errors, services down, servers down) and how the users consume the application (always from a PC, from the office, or fully decentralized, with offline and mobile access), to evaluate options for migrating an application to the cloud. Current growth rate and state of the organisation are often times mirrored in its IT consumption rate and requirements. Certainly, an organisation that’s under high growth rates or launching a project where growth is not easily identifiable can possibly benefit significantly from a scalable, elastic cloud model, whereas an organisation with slower growth, familiar / standard projects and predictable IT requirements will not likely assess the value of cloud computing the same way. Accountability of resources and traceability of all assets in use may be of bigger concern.

Architecture, applications and legacy environments are all technological considerations that should be factored in any cloud computing viability & readiness assessment, but that should probably not be the main driver for your cloud strategy.

Benoit Quintin, Director Cloud Services – ESI Technologies

Cloud computing: strategy and IT readiness – Transformation in IT

Here is the first of a series of articles that provide both business and IT executives insights into the key issues that they should consider when evaluating cloud services, paying particular attention to business and legal ramifications of moving to the cloud environment, whether it is private, hybrid or public.

cloud-question-mark-710x345For the last few decades, IT organisations have been the only option for provisioning IT resources for projects. Indeed, all new projects would involve IT, and the IT team was responsible for acquiring, architecting and delivering the solution that would sustain the application/project during its lifecycle, planning for upgrades along the way.
This led to silo-based infrastructures – and teams -, often designed for peak demand, without possibilities of efficiency gains between projects. The introduction of compute virtualization, first for test/dev and then for production, showed other options were possible and available and that by aggregating requirements across projects, IT could get significant efficiencies of scale and costs while getting more flexibility and speed to market, as provisioning a virtual server suddenly became a matter of days, rather than weeks or months.
Over time, IT started applying these same methods to storage and network and these showed similar flexibility, scalability and efficiency improvements. These gains, together with automation capabilities and self-service portals, were combined over time to become what we know as ‘cloud offerings’.
In parallel to this, IT, in some organisations, has become structured, organized, usually silo’d, and, unfortunately, somewhat slow to respond to business needs. This has led to a slow erosion of IT’s power and influence over IT resources acquisition, delivery and management. Coupled with the existing commercial/public cloud options these days, capital is rapidly leaving the organisation for 3rd party public cloud vendors, also known as shadow IT. This raises concerns, not the least of which being that funds are sent outside the organisation to address tactical issues, typically without regard to legal implications, data security or cost efficiency. These issues highlight IT’s necessity to react faster, become more customer driven, deliver more value and provide its stakeholders with flexibility matching that of public cloud. Essentially, IT needs to evolve to become a business partner; cloud computing providing the tools by which IT offers flexibility, scalability and speed to market that the business units are looking for in today’s market.

Benoit Quintin, Director Cloud Services, ESI Technologies

Cloud adoption: getting through the maze

Companies can no longer ignore the increasing importance of cloud computing when planning their technological investments and that they must choose from the options available on the market. Evaluating products and services based on the needs of the organization, not only for today, but above all for the future, is quite a challenge!CLOUD_READINESSBeyond the technological considerations (product compatibility, required investment, scalability of existing systems, etc.) there are the evaluation of the different providers and the services they offer, as well as the costs associated to their use. The best known cloud solutions on the market may seem attractive because they have a high visibility, often with a recognized brand, which is perceived as a guarantee of reliability. The savings announced by these solutions and their accessibility are often decisive criteria when the time comes to make a choice. It is however almost impossible to assess the real costs of these solutions, because several important variables remain unknown: the price of retained data, the cost of download per Gb, pricing for transactions, etc.
Cloud offerings are diverse and are not equally suitable for all businesses. Some heterogenous environments are not easily transferable and it can be risky, if not impossible, to migrate to the cloud without a fundamental transformation of the architecture and the ways of making within the organization. Caution is therefore required when undertaking such an important turn. Do not see cloud computing as a simple upgrade to a more powerful technology, but as a business strategy. This demands a thorough evaluation of existing processes and of the legal and technological framework of the company, coupled with an action plan with clear goals to achieve.
Few companies have an IT team able to perform the necessary analysis of current processes in the organization and of the technological and governance challenges related to them.
It is in this context that specialized integrators provide a valuable contribution to the company’s thinking. A trusted partner will help you assess your needs and your cloud adoption process to optimize your investments while reaching your business goals.
Benoit Quintin – ESI Cloud Services Director

A new day is dawning for the Montreal Children’s Hospital

MCH logoI am a strong supporter of children’s health. I believe we have a duty to protect our children because they are the foundation of the future of our society. This is why I have been an active member of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation Board for the last 8 years, and the Board’s Chair for the last 4 years. One of our biggest achievements is without a doubt, to have contributed to the fundraising efforts to build a new world class hospital bringing closer together care, research and teaching. This dream has finally become a reality on May 24th, 2015 when the staff, professionals and patients of the Montreal Children’s Hospital moved to their new address on the Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre.
Among the benefits of the new hospital we find:

  • World-class pediatric care installations
  • 154 individual rooms to prevent the spread of infections and provide care at the patient’s bedside
  • The latest equipment and technologies to diagnose quickly and treat less invasively
  • Holistic approach focused on healing and playing to ensure children’s development and reduce the stress of the hospital stay
  • Intensive care tailored for the specific needs of young patients

I believe that supporting philanthropic initiatives anchors a company and its employees in their community, which is why, as a long-time member of the Children’s Foundation, I am particularly proud of ESI’s contribution and our truly positive impact in our community. As an entrepreneur, I believe that creating a culture of giving is about making a positive impact through our actions, and the new Montreal Children’s Hospital is just a perfect example of this.

Greg Rokos, President of ESI
Chairman of the Board, Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation

IT or business needs?

I found myself recently in conversation with the General Manager of a small size but rapidly growing business. He mentioned three key objectives. First, growth in revenue. Second, being a consulting services-based business, key information being scattered on employee laptops – the company wants to make sure it “owns” the information and third, they have plans of bringing to market a new web-based software application for their clients.

Business needsWho is responsible for the revenue growth? Are they pursuing new business growth or growth in their current client base? How can, or does the company track the efforts and the steps taken by their team to make sure everyone’s pulling in the right direction to reach their growth target? The conversation then directed itself to sales processes and CRMs. What key information was held by their consultants, should be archived, if so, for how long and where? We proceeded onto data storage, archiving, secure access to the network for their consultants, data loss protection, electronic document management solutions etc. Finally, we asked ourselves where should their new web application reside? Cloud or not? Private, public or hybrid? On-premise or off-site? In the case where they should consider a cloud service provider, what should their SLAs be and if not satisfied, what should be their exit strategy?
IT solutions are not to be confused with business needs and corporate objectives! We left off with me having a better understanding of their corporate objectives and what I could do to help them attain them. On their side, they walked away with a much better understanding of which IT solutions were the most susceptible the help them reach their goals.

Charles Tremblay, ESI Account Manager

VMware VForum: beyond the virtual

It took an event sponsored by the leaders and forerunners of virtualization to get the chance to have a human, warm and real contact. It is with a renewed pleasure that I participated in the VForum Event in Montreal on May 20, mingling with the crowd at our ESI Technologies booth to finally meet in person and not through text messages, tweets, blog posts or emails, peers of the industry, colleagues, manufacturers and clients.

VForum - ESI presentationAs we all know, clients are extremely sollicited in this everchanging IT context with the advent of cloud computing made possible by virtualization. So I got the privilege of shaking hands with many of you, to talk, listen, understand and establish a real contact instead of a virtual one! We hope to have the pleasure to guide, help and advise you in this IT fast pace era where you are being courted from all sides to adopt the newest and latest technologies. For over 20 years, ESI is and remains a trusted partner to help you align technological choices with your real business needs and leverage them for your benefit! A team of people that put their efforts in the success of the most important people to them: you, our clients! Thank you for stopping by in such high number to meet with ESI’s team.

Charles Tremblay, ESI Account Manager