Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Trouble With IBM

Interesting article by +Nick Summers of +Bloomberg Businessweek

IBM lost a $600M contract for the U.S. Government (CIA) to Amazon although IBM was 33% LESS than Amazon. 

This article states that the agency had "grave" concerns about IBM and their ability to scale up and down in response to usage spikes and rated IBM's demo as "marginal". Conclusion: IBM was high risk. Amazon said IBM was "late" to the cloud market and was uncompetitive. 

In summary, per IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, "cloud sales are on pace for $2.3B in 2014. IBM revenue is $100B. Look, this is not the first time we've transformed and it will not be the last." 

Do not rule out IBM. They just have to focus, streamline and deliver. Nothing new.

 - Jim Kandrac

"In the summer of 2012, five American technology companies bid on a project for a demanding new client: the CIA. The spy agency was collecting so much information, its computers couldn't keep up. To deal with the onslaught of data, the CIA wanted to build its own private cloud computing system—an internal version of the vast fleets of efficient, adaptable servers that run technically complex commercial services such as Netflix (NFLX). For the agency, the power of the cloud was tantalizing. “It is nearly within our grasp to compute on all human-generated information,” the CIA’s chief technology officer, Ira “Gus” Hunt, told a gathering of industry leaders earlier that year, calling it “high noon in the Information Age.” For the bidders, more was at stake than a piece of the lucrative federal IT market. Whoever won the 10-year, $600 million contract could boast that its technology met the highest standards, with the tightest security, at the most competitive prices, at a time when customers of all kinds were beginning to spend more on data and analytics."  Read article.

Friday, May 23, 2014

UCG Spring Fever 2014 Highlights

On Friday May 16, 2014 UCG hosted clients and business partners for "Spring Fever 2014" at Acacia Reservation in Lyndhurst, Ohio. By all accounts, the event was a success!

  • Virtual tour and capabilities of UCG Data Center Partner BlueBridge Networks LLC by Petar Bojovic of BBN
  • Data Backup and Disaster Recovery for iSeries and Intel (vSphere and Hyper-v) 10GB to > 100TB by Jim Kandrac and Tim Prostor of UCG
  • Data Intelligence and Warehouse Management by Gina Parry of VAI
  • What is Flash?  When and why might it be considered?  by Tracey Halama of IBM Chicago
  • IBM Power 8 update by Jim Kandrac  
  • A/P Workflow and Document Management by Bill Wilson of Vanguard Systems
In addition, guests socialized over a hot buffet breakfast and lunch followed by an afternoon of golf at Hawthorne Valley Country Club.

A big thank you to everyone in attendance and to our excellent presenters!  We hope to see you all again soon.

I would like to say how glad I was that I attended the seminar last Friday. I got answers to some major questions we had begun to ask.”  - Rae L Borders, IT/IS Supervisor, Ohio AFSCME Care Plan

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Carswell Protects 150 Year-Old Business with VAULT400 BaaS

Carswell, a Thomson Reuters business founded in 1864, is Canada’s leading source of intelligent information solutions for legal, tax, finance and human resource professionals. Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Carswell provides integrated information in a range of formats, including books, loose-leaf services, journals, newsletters, CD-ROMs and online.

Due to the nature of their business, Fred Neeser, Technical Lead, and Margaret Banks, Manager Business Information Systems, thoroughly investigated their options when choosing an online data backup provider for their IBM i system. They needed to ensure their data was safely backed up in the cloud with the BaaS package they selected; and that the provider’s data centers were secure. Other key requirements include a yearly Auditors Letter for SSAE 16 SOC II Type II and full compliance with HIPAA/ HITECH regulations.

UCG met or exceeded all of Carswell’s key requirements to protect their IBM i 9406-810 system with their VAULT400 BaaS solution. VAULT400 provides daily automated backups to the cloud, provides secure transmissions and an easy-to-use interface to retrieve files, folders, or libraries for quick restores.  

L-R: Margaret Banks, Manager Business Information Systems, Carswell;
 +Michael Seday, UCG; and Fred Neeser, Technical Lead, Carswell
Carswell is a division of Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. In business for 150 years, they actually pre-date Canada as a country by a few years! We are pleased to welcome Carswell as our newest Canadian VAULT400 client and wish them continued success. 

UCG and Business Integrators Services, LLC Welcome New VAULT400 Clients

Business Integrators Services, LLC of Houston, Texas has been an active business partner for four years as part of United Computer Group’s Independent Vendor Referral (IVR) Partner Program 

As a result of our partnership with BIS, we recently welcomed two new VAULT400 BaaS clients: YMCA of Houston and Max Access Inc. Both organizations are now protecting the business-critical data on their IBM i systems with UCG's VAULT400 cloud backup solution. 

VAULT400 backs up the clients' servers on a nightly basis.The data is encrypted from the moment it is collected through transport to a UCG SSAE 16 SOC II data center. Data is located in two distinct FEMA locations to ensure up-time and data readiness in the event of a disaster or the simple restore of a file, folder, or library. 

Migrating from tape backup to BaaS delivers peace of mind to organizations. In addition, YMCA of Houston and Max Access enjoy the highest level of customer support excellence from BIS, a core value we hold in high esteem at United Computer Group.  

Become a UCG Partner

United Computer Group partners enjoy collaborative, rewarding, and mutually beneficial arrangements to bring industry-leading technology solutions to the mid-market. Our core business philosophies ensure that our clients have an excellent experience. We are focused on delivering solutions to help them solve their most complex technology challenges.

As an IBM Advanced Business Partner, UCG has been actively marketing Power Systems-based enterprise solutions since 1987. We place great value in finding the right partner to provide a high level of sales, marketing, and technological support to our clients.

Interested in learning more? Fill out this brief form and we will contact you within 24 hours. We look forward to working with you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What happens when your cloud provider goes out of business?

In this article, Thoran Rodrigues succinctly captures the importance of conducting due diligence on prospective cloud vendors. We encourage you to consider each carefully thought-out point. Then, when your organization is ready to make this business-critical decision, United Computer Group, Inc. should be at the top of your evaluation process. Founded in 1987 by James A. Kandrac, UCG has been an IBM Business Partner since 1989 and an IBM Advanced Business Partner since 1991. Customers have rated UCG in the top 1% of IBM Business Partners nationwide.

UCG’s VAULT400 BaaS is the premier managed risk mitigation and business continuity planning service. VAULT400 backs up an entire organization's business-critical data to their secure data centers, ensuring financial, HIPAA, and legal compliance for their clients. Safe and off-site, the encrypted data is available online at all times for immediate, user-initiated recovery. 

Going with cloud providers doesn't mean you can forget about disaster planning. What if they go out of business, taking your server capacity and data with them?

"The real solution is due diligence and risk management."
-  Thoran Rodrigues
There is no doubt that cloud computing is one of the greatest advances in IT in recent years. Regardless of the fears and uncertainty that many companies experience before moving to the cloud, the benefits that are realized once the move is made are simply too large to ignore. Cloud computing has enabled companies of all sizes and in all markets to speed up implementation times, to become more agile, and to optimize their infrastructure costs.

While many cloud proponents (myself included) will often argue that a lot of the concerns that surround the cloud stem from nothing more than lack of knowledge and an improper understanding of the underlying technological issues, some concerns are not only valid, but should actually be taken into careful consideration when contemplating a move to the cloud. I’ve recently come across one such concern that I feel merits being explored in more detail: what do I do if my cloud provider goes out of business?

Disappearing resources

On the cloud, you don’t actually own anything; you are “renting” the resources you are using, for however long you want to use them. It doesn't matter if these resources are virtual machines, storage space, databases or even software, they are only available to you for as long as you are paying for them, or for as long as your provider stays in business.

What happens, then, if your cloud provider goes out of business? If we actually think about it, this is not a strange question to ask. The cloud is still a growing and new market, with plenty of new entrants and small players offering their services. As the market matures, it’s only natural that some of these companies disappear either by being purchased by others, or simply by going out of business.

Interestingly enough, this problem doesn't really exist on the conventional IT market. In the case of conventional hardware, you actually own whatever hardware you purchase, so even if the manufacturer goes out of business, you still have the equipment, and can keep using it. In the case of software, or higher level services, contracts will usually specify that license holders receive a copy of the source code in such an event.

On the cloud, such assurances don’t exist, and probably don’t even make sense in the first place. If the company that provides you with cloud servers goes out of business, your servers are gone; if your cloud storage provider goes under, your data will probably be going along with them. Let’s take the example of a cloud data storage service further: if your systems are deeply integrated with your storage provider
very likely, in this age of rich APIs and automationand that provider shuts down, it may be close to impossible to migrate your data, even if you have a grace period.

Avoiding disaster

Is the solution then to simply stay away from the cloud? Or should I only hire the most well-known brands on the cloud space? Neither, actually. In spite of all these risks, moving to the cloud is still fundamental for companies of all sizes, simply due to the potential advantages such a move may bring. And restricting yourself to only the top tier providers may well result in you missing out on some very interesting products and services.

The real solution is due diligence and risk management. Performing due diligence on prospective vendors has always been an important role of the IT department. The cloud makes this an even more important role. IT departments need to establish a good relationship with business users so that they are involved in the decision-making process, and can properly vet providers. At the same time, IT needs to develop contingency plans to handle possible disaster situations: what is the plan if the cloud provider goes offline (for whatever reason)? Using a cloud provider does not mean you can forget about disaster recovery planning. The more these scenarios are thought about and planned for, the smaller the impact of a given provider going out of business.

One fundamental point to remember is to keep an open mind. Too often IT is seen by business users as the naysayers, the guys who reject any company who isn’t <insert large enterprise name here>. While smaller service providers may be much harder to vet, their services can have a huge impact on business results, so not discarding them out of hand simply due to their size can not only keep IT on the good side of business users, but also bring positive results for the company as a whole.

A final tip for evaluating the risk of cloud companies: understand their business model. Is it sustainable? Are they actually making money, or simply burning through it? Is their long-term plan compatible with your companies’ needs? Answering these questions goes a long way towards ensuring that you don’t partner with the wrong provider down the road. In a future post, I'll provide some more detail about how working with a cloud provider affects your disaster recovery planning.

Thoran Rodrigues of Rio de Janeiro Area, Brazil, is a Cloud and Big Data enthusiast and Regular Contributor to The Enterprise Cloud.

Thank you for this excellent article, Thoran. We couldn't have said it better ourselves! 

Jim Kandrac, Founder and President
Mike Powall, Vice President
United Computer Group, Inc. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

UCG Partner BlueBridge Networks Once Again Honored as COSE NEOSA Best IT Services Company

UCG is pleased to announce that our ​Cleveland, Ohio data center​ partner​​, BlueBridge Networks​,​ was once again named a COSE NEOSA Best IT Services Company.

As a VAULT400 subscriber, your data is of utmost importance to us and is secured at our data centers in Cleveland and Atlanta. Operational ​excellence and our commitment to High Availability, ​reliability and ​security is paramount and recognized by our peers. 

Click here to download the​ Auditors Letter for our SSAE 16 SOC II Type II for the period ending 12-31-2013 which has once again been completed without exception.

Please let us know what questions around safe harbor, compliance or audits you may have and how else we may assist. Visit our website for additional information on UCG's data centers.

Thank you for your continued confidence and business.

Jim Kandrac, Founder & President
Mike Powall, Vice President
United Computer Group, Inc. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

UCG's VAULT400 BaaS Chosen by EMI Corp.

EMI Corp., located in Jackson Center, OH with a second location in Wickliffe, OH, recently subscribed to UCG's VAULT400 BaaS to protect business-critical data on their IBM Midrange system. 

EMI Corp., Jackson Center, OH
Prior to VAULT400, EMI backed up their system with multiple, expensive tapes.This meant EMI's IT team had to perform manual backups every night. With VAULT400, they now set and forget their backups.Their data is compressed, encrypted and sent to UCG's secure, off-site, HIPAA compliant data center in Cleveland, Ohio as well as their data center in Atlanta, Georgia for a second replication. 

EMI Corp. Wickliffe, OH
With VAULT400, data is available for immediate, user-initiated restore 365x24x7. In the event of disaster, EMI will receive Hardware Disaster Recovery Quick Ship free of charge from United Computer Group, Inc.

EMI uses IBM-powered S2K Enterprise Management Software as their ERP solution. United Computer Group is an authorized distributor for this award-winning Manufacturing and Distribution software. 

Kay Frieders of +EMI Corp. wears many hats including Controller, IT Manager, and General Manager. Kay was extremely pleased with the outstanding customer service received from UCG, underscoring our dedication to an excellent client experience each and every time.  

For more than 40 years, EMI has been one of the most experienced and reliable manufacturers and suppliers of automation equipment and maintenance products for the plastics industry. EMI supplies thousands of products and their automation systems are found in many plastic processing facilities of all sizes.