Press Releases

Sinu Blog: Playing with Sand

  • Wednesday

    The Cloud as Small Business Equalizer & Growth Acceleration Engine

    According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses provide more than 50 percent of jobs across the country, making them truly the engine of our economy. Competing against large companies better able to capitalize on efficiencies of scale, has been difficult for many of these smaller enterprises.

    However, the cloud is quickly becoming an equalizer, putting many of those economies of scale in the hands of more and more small business. The trend is growing… a recent study by Emergent predicts the current 37% usage rate will be close to 80% by 2020.

    It’s not just for new economy businesses, either. A recent Forbes article outlines a case study of a St. Louis manufacturer of synthetic motor oils. In this case, the cloud wasn’t just creating efficiencies of scale, or easier access, it was also accelerating the company’s growth. According to the article, “Overall, in recent years, thanks in large part to its use of cloud-based services, the company grew from $85 to $130 million in sales (a 53% increase) with no additional staffing needs in customer service, order entry or accounting.”

    Inc. Magazine concurs, noting, “While use of the cloud today is generally associated with the ability to reduce costs and improve efficiency, widespread adoption of this technology is projected to have a transformative effect on small businesses, but also on large companies and government organizations.”

    Sinu has worked with small businesses for over 10 years to provide reliable, cost effective IT services to small business. Over the years, we have leveraged economies of scale through our technology partners – using cloud technologies even before anyone knew what the cloud was – to provide proven, enterprise-grade technologies and best practices usually only accessible to companies with large IT budgets. What we have seen is that by outsourcing their IT, our customers operate more efficiently because they can focus on their core business. However, while the cloud offers opportunities for cost savings and efficiencies today that may have not been available just a few years ago, it is important to assess your business’s IT needs as they relate to your organizational goals to help inform exactly what you should migrate and when. 


    What businesses can learn from Cornell Tech

    Cornell Tech, a closely watched collaboration in New York City between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, finalized the construction design for its first academic building on Manhattan’s Roosevelt Island. Cornell and Technion joined forces in December 2011 when New York City officials, under then-mayor Michael Bloomberg, selected them to build an applied-science graduate school.

    According to a recent New York Times report, Cornell Tech expects to open its first buildings in 2017, with construction continuing for two decades. The campus is currently being planned by people who understand they cannot really anticipate how we will interact with the future digital world. The NYT describes the challenge as an attempt at “building in nimbleness” to hedge against the “hissing pace of technological change.”

    According to the report, Dan Huttenlocher, Dean of Cornell Tech, hopes to answer what he calls the central question of this daring and expensive endeavor: “How do you do something that’s technologically advanced that isn’t immediately technologically dated?”

    Cornell Tech’s answer: No data center.

    The idea of building a campus without a data center was Mr. Huttenlocher’s. Data centers have been a staple of college campuses for decades, providing the computing power and local storage necessary to accommodate research and daily use. The decision not to build one on the Cornell Tech campus raised some eyebrows. The report explains: “Data centers, which house large numbers of servers, cost money. They are bulky and suck down energy… The decision has obvious appeal given the quantum leaps in cloud computing, much of it driven by commercial vendors. Why build your own data storage when industry leaders can do the heavy lifting for you?”

    Sharif Nijim, enterprise application architect at the University of Notre Dame, agrees with the move and says that if he were building a campus today he would forgo the data center. “You’re not saddled with all the detritus that’s built up over time,” he said. “That’s your biggest advantage.”

    It is exciting to image the digital world in 2017, when the first building opens at Cornell Tech here in Manhattan. While we wait, there are several messages we can take away from Huttenlocher’s approach to this new campus, and here are a few examples that align most directly with the Sinu philosophy and how we deliver IT to our customers: 

    ·      Avoid investing too much in the kind of “proprietary technology that risks becoming quickly outdated.”

    ·      “Embracing technology means not buying too much.”

    ·       “Why build your own data storage when industry leaders can do the heavy lifting for you?”

    ·      “Use as many open standards and protocols as possible. If you’re using open protocols and open languages, devices then become interchangeable.”

    Migrating away from expensive data centers is not new to Sinu. For over 10 years, we have offered a platform that minimizes technology infrastructure, while maximizing productivity. We believe that this approach not only keeps your data more secure, it is more cost-effective and offers more flexibility than traditional in-house IT services.



    Nonprofits & the Cloud: Is it time to rethink your IT

    Today, the benefits promised by cloud computing—including agility, process optimization, speed to market, remote access, and cost reduction— have inspired most nonprofits to rethink their IT infrastructure and software.

    Traditionally, organizations needed to invest in hardware and software in-house and had tried to leverage internal economies of scale; the more people using the system, the more cost effective the technology investment. However, housing technology infrastructure and critical applications in-house was not always cost effective for smaller organizations and came with inherent risk. What if your email server was down? How regularly is data backed up? Who was performing the software patches and handling security updates? And how does an organization continue to operate during a natural disaster?

    For over 10 years, Sinu has worked with small businesses and nonprofits to provide technical solutions on a per person subscription basis. We have found this to be advantageous for nonprofits that typically divide their budget by programming and operations. With a per person fee for technology (whether it is with the Sinu service or a cloud service), nonprofits can show the cost of IT associated with each person in programming rather than having all the costs of technology allocated to operations. This allows benefactors who fund programs to help support the technology for those programs, as well.

    Today, we encourage our nonprofit customers to rethink their IT infrastructure and software because most critical applications, including donor management programs, have a cloud strategy that was not available just a few years ago. Furthermore, there are immediate benefits that most organizations can experience when adopting some of these hosted solutions.

    Based on our experience, we suggest a number of different strategies for nonprofits seeking to migrate more services to the cloud. 

    1.     For nonprofits with less than 1,000 employees, we suggest moving at least 80 percent of basic infrastructure into the cloud over the next three years. Email and backup are critical and should be migrated immediately. Payroll is another critical application that can be moved to the cloud to help avoid disruption of compensation for employees.

    2.     If an organization uses a traditional constituent relationship management (CRM) system, such as Salesforce or Razor’s Edge, you will sleep better at night knowing that your mission critical data about donors, volunteers, and constituents is housed off-site. Cloud-based CRM systems can also reduce infrastructure and support costs. Unlike traditional CRMs that typically charge both a site license and individual user licenses (not to mention the hardware costs), most cloud CRM systems offer a per-user pricing model. This makes budgeting easier with no surprise investments in new hardware and the number of users who can access the database can change as organizational needs change. Several nonprofits we work with find keeping their CRM in the cloud also increases productivity because it allows for easy remote access and collaboration.

    3.     Enlist the help of a technology services firm to help migrate data to the cloud in order to save time and ensure it is set up correctly.

    4.     Have both a remote archive and a local copy of your data – depending on your organization’s collaboration needs and the size of its files, there may be local versions that will not slow down the network.

    5.     Make backups automatic and consider performing them several times a day, depending on your organization’s activity. Also, be sure to verify the reliability of the backup files on an ongoing basis.

    6.     More cloud tools are being developed all the time, so we recommend you have a plan to regularly reevaluate cloud solutions. This will also give you the chance to rethink the data and tasks that your organization's IT infrastructure should be supporting and where it may fall short.

    As your organization assesses its IT investments, consider whether there is a smooth way for you to capitalize on these opportunities to reduce the risk of data loss and possible disruption. Remember, the cloud isn't really about technology, it's about managing and maximizing your organizational capacity by ensuring productive employees who have access to data and applications how and when they need it. When you and your employees can spend less time managing IT and data, more time is devoted to fulfilling your mission.