Posts tagged cloud computing
The Cloud Is Not the Cloud

which-cloudChances are you’ve been hearing a lot about “the cloud” and the different ways your construction company can benefit by moving to the cloud. But did you know the cloud is not the cloud? Or, to state that more clearly, there is not just one generic cloud. Cloud computing comes in different flavors and it’s important to know the difference between them in order to select a solution that will help you meet your goals. I’ll outline some of the major differences below, but feel free to contact me if you have questions specific to your business..

Public clouds what most people think of when they hear about “the cloud”. Construction firms benefit from the cloud because the cost of infrastructure is spread out among all of the companies using that cloud. Public clouds typically are usually built on a larger scale than an in-house cloud solution, which makes it easier for companies easily scale their systems as their needs grow.

On the downside, because public clouds are supporting a large number of businesses who are sharing the same resources, they often have to put limits on configurations, security protections and availability variances.

Private clouds, on the other hand, are built exclusively for one business, thus removing the limitations of public clouds mentioned above.

Your private cloud can  be an “internal cloud”, meaning you host it in your own datacenter. This option is usually only feasible for larger companies with an extensive IT infrastructure and staff.

An externally-hosted private cloud will probably be a better fit for most builders and construction company owners reading this blog, In this configuration, the hosting provider builds a virtual environment specifically for your companies needs.

This short (~2min) video from our friends at Trapp Online, does a nice job of explaining the different types of clouds.

Cloud Computing Terms and Definitions

cloudsIf you are researching or shopping for a cloud based construction management solution, you are going to come across several industry buzzwords and terms. Below you will find some of the more common cloud  computing related terms along with their definitions.

Cloud Computing

Accessing computing resources (data, software and computation) over the Internet. For example, email. The name comes from a cloud-shaped symbol used to represent complex server, network and Internet infrastructure in system diagrams.

Hosting

In a cloud computing model, your business software and data are physically located in an off-premise data center. Hardware and infrastructure are typically (but not always) owned by a third party hosting provider.

Cloud Hosting and Application Hosting

Refers to the software and data you use to manage your business (i.e. Sage 100, Sage 300, etc.), which is accessed over the Internet and resides in a third-party data center.

Shared Hosting

When multiple customers’ data and software are installed on a single physical or virtual server. Shared hosting may negatively impacts data security and flexibility.

Dedicated Hosting

With Dedicated Hosting, each customer’s software and data is installed on a dedicated physical or virtual server. Dedicated hosting provides increased performance, reliability, security as well as data isolation. Dedicated hosting typically costs more than shared hosting, but is more desirable for business applications for the reasons mentioned above.

Custom Hosting

When the hosting data center provides additional services to further meet a customer’s specific needs, for example, providing integrations between two or more applications.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

Access to software, computation and data storage are provided for a recurring fee with no capital investment. Also referred to as a subscription or subscription based service.

Application Service Provider (ASP)

A software application company that provides a cloud or hosted version of their software for a recurring fee (see SaaS). A vertical market ASP delivers a solution package for a specific customer type, such as a construction management software.

Data Center

The building where the computer hardware and IT infrastructure are physically located. One data center house the equipment for several application service providers and their many customers.

Virtual or Virtualization

The practice of sharing computer resources, including operating system, software and data, while maintaining separate and distinct operating environments.

Got questions about cloud computing? Contact us for a free, no-pressure consultation.

Host Sage 100 and Sage 300 in the cloud

CBSNW recently partnered with Trapp Online to help construction businesses host their Sage 100 and Sage 300 applications in the cloud. More information can be found in the press release below.  

Contractore Business Solutions NW Signs Trapp Online as Preferred Hosting Provider

Custom Sage 100 and Sage 300 hosting now available to Northwest contractors

Scottsdale, AZ. – April 7, 2013 – Scottsdale based Trapp Online, www.trapponline.com, a provider of industry-specific cloud hosting solutions, is proud to announce that Contractor Business Solutions NW (CBSNW) www.cbsnw.com, a Sage North America business partner, has signed Trapp Online as their Preferred Provider for Application Hosting Services.

The agreement brings together CBSNW’s construction and real estate software solutions and Trapp Online’s custom application hosting platform for Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate, Sage 100 Contractor and related applications. CBSNW’s customers in the Northwestern United States can now more readily enjoy the benefits of application hosting, through Trapp Online.

“Contractor Business Solutions NW is a Sage Business Partner recognized for their success in the construction industry,” said Reed Clarke, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Trapp Online. ”We are proud to partner with them to bring hosting to their customers in the Northwest.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Trapp Online will provide hosting services at discounted rates and CBSNW will jointly market Trapp Online’s hosting services to prospects and existing customers.

“Hosting is a great way for construction companies to take advantage of the cloud,” stated Jon Newsom, Partner, CBSNW. “Trapp Online's long track record with Sage construction software makes their Sage-friendly hosting platform a solid cloud solution for our clients.”

By partnering with Trapp Online, CBSNW gains a cloud solution optimized for Sage application integration, generating new sales opportunities. Companies hosted by Trapp Online enjoy less IT maintenance, enhanced data security and secure remote access anywhere they have an internet connection—at the job site, at home, or the office. Reduced capital expense, budget predictability and improved productivity make hosting an attractive option for CBSNW’s clients.

 

About Contractor Business Solutions NW, LLC

Over the last two decades, Contractor Business Solutions Northwest (CBSNW) has helped contractors become more efficient and successful by providing complete solutions for their business needs. Headquartered in Seattle, CBSNW serves contractors in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada. Visit www.cbsnw.com or call 800-209-6927.

About Trapp Online

Trapp Online, a division of TrappCorp, provides online hosting solutions for application service providers and small to medium-sized (SMB) companies around the world. The company’s custom, dedicated IT and application hosting solutions give industry-specific software companies and software integrators an easy-to-implement, secure cloud solution for their customers and create a better overall cloud experience for business. Trapp Online’s US-based, support team is available 24/7 via live chat, e-mail, or phone. Visit community.trapponline.com for Trapp Online Updates or call 877-942-2568.

About TrappCorp The TrappCorp companies, Trapp Online, Trapp Connect, and Trapp Tech combine the very best cloud, Internet, IT managed services, and IT consulting to provide a true all-in-one IT solution for businesses who seek to cut IT costs and leverage technology to grow revenues. TrappCorp services are designed to appeal to the growing number of medium-sized businesses looking to outsource more IT infrastructure and application management services to help reduce total cost of ownership and free up internal resources, as well as those companies seeking the skills and support to quickly complete complex IT projects.

MEDIA CONTACT:

DJ Jones Vice President of Marketing TrappCorp 443-9145 ext. 2007 djones@trapponline.com

Creating a Strategic Technology Plan for your Construction Company

In our last post we discussed creating a mobile security plan for your construction business. Security is only one of the topics, albeit an important one, that you need to consider when creating a strategic plan for implementing mobile technology.  In this post we’ll outline the main areas to consider when creating a strategic technology plan. You can use this outline for all of your technology initiatives, not just mobile. To help you get started, consider using the bold headlines below as a starting outline or template for your plan.

Business Goals

Start by stating your business goals and objectives. These goals are the “why” behind why you are taking a course of action. You goal shouldn’t be “install mobile technology”; it should be something more like  “Improve profits by raising productivity on the job site”. Installing technology is the means to help you accomplish the “why”.

Describe Where You Are Now

What are the problems you want to fix or the conditions you want to improve? Again, describe how they are affecting you in business terms – try to put a dollar amount on them. For example, rather than just stating  “we spend too much time correcting time sheets”, dig deeper and state the number of hours (and associated cost) that are spent correcting these records. Does this extra time cause delays in getting paid? Is the extra administrative work keeping field employees from performing billable work? How do the delays impact the production of job costs reports that owners and supervisors need to make timely decisions?

Outline Your Action Plans

List the strategies and initiatives to be taken to address the items you listed above. These may include hardware purchases (tablets or smartphones), establishment of policies (i.e. a mobile security policy), training (for both the field and the back office), and integration with various back office systems.

Include a roadmap of high level milestones for your strategic plan. For example:

  • Q1 – Draft mobile policy and identify key applications
  • Q2 – Train supervisors on device use and policies
  • Q3 – Begin mobile field reporting, etc.

Breaking your action plans down to manageable increments this way will help make sure that the project does not become overwhelming (and abandoned).

List the Benefits

Explain the positive impact these changes and investments will have on your business. How will life at your company be better once your strategies are implemented and your goals are achieved. Will you be more profitable? Will you be able to bid on more jobs, more quickly? Can you take on bigger projects without having to significantly increase your workforce?

Challenges

Every project and initiative has it’s challenges. Take some time to outline the challenges your company may face that would impede achieving your goals. Include possible solutions and contingency plans for addressing those challenges should they arise.

For example, a common challenge when implementing mobile solutions is data security. By planning for these types of risks or challenges, you can review your plan to make sure they are being addressed – i.e., do you have policies and procedures in place that address what to do when an employee loses their mobile device?

Cloud Computing for Construction Companies

cloudsAs an owner or manager of a construction company, you have undoubtedly heard about cloud computing. Cloud computing gets some much attention that you may have trouble separating the facts from the hype. In this post we’ll cover some of the basics of cloud computing right and some things to consider when deciding if a cloud based solution is right for you.

What is Cloud Computing?

“Cloud”, “the Cloud”, and “Cloud Computing” are a set of technology buzzwords that get thrown about quite a bit these days and have varying definitions depending upon who you talk to. Here is a fairly simple definition that we like to use:

“Cloud computing is the use of a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet (rather than a local server or a personal computer) to store, manage, and process data.”

What this means for you as a construction business owner is that rather than having to maintain your own computer server and the costs associated with maintaining that server like you did in the past, you now have the option to pay a monthly or yearly fee to use someone else’s computer infrastructure. In other words, the cloud should free you from the time and expense of managing computer systems so you can focus your time on what you do best – selling and completing construction projects.

What are the Advantages of Cloud Computing?

The main advantages of cloud computing are related to the fact that you are turning over the maintenance of your program and/or infrastructure to a company that specializes in doing just that. Because these companies specialize in providing these types of solutions:

  • They can afford better hardware and redundant systems, helping to minimize downtime
  • They employ experts to maintain and monitor the system
  • They handle the monotonous chores like applying upgrades and patches
  • They monitor the latest data security threats and protect your data from them.

These are all things that, even if you can do them, you probably shouldn’t as they are taking you away from your area of expertise – running a construction business.

Cloud computing also lays the groundwork for remote access and mobile computing (see below) which can provide multiple advantages to your business.

What are the Drawbacks of Cloud Computing?

Of course, one of the main drawbacks of cloud based solutions is that you have to be connected to the internet in order to use them. So if your internet service goes down or you travel to a location with poor or no internet access, you can’t use those systems.

However, many cloud solutions offer a way to work while “disconnected”, allowing you to synch your data the next time you do connect to the internet.

The other main concern business owners have about moving to the cloud is the security of their information. While top tier solutions include bank level security, it is still important to do your due diligence when evaluating cloud based solution providers.

Where Should a Construction Company Start?

Just about any computer and/or software system you use in your construction business can be replaced with a cloud based solution, so where should you start?

Data Backup Solutions – many construction companies dip their toes into cloud computing by selecting a cloud based data backup solution. In addition to saving money on extra disk drives or tape backup systems, and added benefit of cloud based backup systems is that the backups are stored offsite by default.

Basic Office Software – like word processing, spreadsheets, email, and calendaring software are available in cloud based solutions. Some solutions are purely online (meaning you need an internet connection to use them). Some, like Google Docs are designed to be used primarily online, but do allow you to do some work offline and allowing you to synch your changes when you reconnect to the internet. Solutions like Microsoft’s Office365 allow you to work with your desktop software (i.e. Word) when it is available, and via a web browser when you are away from your desk.

Time Collection – One challenge many construction companies face is collecting time card and payroll information from job sites. By utilizing a cloud based time entry system, workers and foreman can enter their information remotely from the job site, saving time and giving you more up to date information about the status of your projects.

Construction Management Solutions - While you may not want to change your accounting and construction management solution just to be “cloud based”, if you are beginning to outgrow your current solution or due for a major upgrade, you should definitely evaluate your cloud based options as you may be able to save some money while expanding your capabilities at the same time.