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Why Schools Turn to American Digital for their Expertise in Higher-Ed IT

Posted on: March 23rd, 2018 by Daniella Lundsberg

Many higher-education institutions, such as Purdue University, are challenged by slow backup and recovery times, overextended data center costs, and aging equipment as they cope with serving their faculty and students in the digital economy. Older equipment takes up more space, uses more electricity, costs more to keep cool, and doesn’t run at the peak performance required for today’s 24/7 world. In terms of backup and recovery, schools such as Purdue University are faced with data stores that have outgrown their ability to back up within normal windows. It’s not uncommon for core business applications to be taken offline for several hours to perform backups. Additionally, legacy hardware often doesn’t provide the flexibility for high-availability options. By today’s standards, this is high-risk and unacceptable in terms of servicing users (students and faculty).

There is good news in this story. If your school is due for a technology refresh, you may find that it makes financial sense to transform your data center through virtualization and cloud computing. Today’s core educational applications, such as learning management and student information systems, can run very efficiently in the private cloud. Deploying an on-premises private cloud solution offers a more cost-effective solution on high-density platforms that take up less footprint, cost less to operate, and are simpler to manage. The key benefits are 24/7 access, simplified operations, cloud-like performance, and strong security.

As you consider updating your data center, you want a partner who knows how educational data centers work. American Digital understands the world of higher education. We know the struggles colleges are experiencing as they strive to move their mission forward, attract quality students, and maintain predictable cash flows. We know large projects have many stakeholders, so we can help navigate these challenges to help achieve benefits faster. We also understand the cyclical demands on resources, such as during student registration, so our solutions provide the resource capacity and flexibility to handle peak periods of activity.

Purdue University turned to American Digital as a partner to help them transform their data center infrastructure with a converged computing solution that enabled them to more efficiently run their SAP operations on a standardized platform. They significantly lowered power and cooling costs by reducing their data center footprint as well as decreasing their backup and recovery times by 50 percent. By deploying a virtualized platform, Purdue University also benefitted from simpler IT operations — such that they could quickly provision new resources as needed. One key aspect to the project was the infrastructure solution was from a single vendor, including the servers, storage, and networking equipment. One point of accountability was key to the client. American Digital was able to provide that so there was no finger-pointing from a support perspective.

At American Digital, we are aware of ongoing technology trends and the desire to deliver services quickly in a 24/7 world. We understand the value of agility from an IT perspective and work with our clients to understand their business and technical objectives while providing high-touch service through the entire process. In today’s digital service world, it’s important for educational institutions to not only be agile, but also maintain cost-effectiveness, achieve operational simplicity, as well as feel confident that sensitive data is protected. In American Digital, you have a partner that has the environmental and technical expertise to help you modernize your IT infrastructure so you can focus on your school’s mission and service your students and faculty better.

Interested in learning more? Give us a call: 847-637-4300

Align Your Internal Resources To Administrative, Faculty & Student Applications

Posted on: March 21st, 2018 by Daniella Lundsberg

Higher education is facing a conundrum. Institutions are under constant pressure to manage their cash flow based on enrollment. Compounding this problem is the fact that many colleges and universities are running on older, outdated IT infrastructure, which limits them in many ways.

Legacy technology is expensive to maintain, which puts schools in a financial corner in terms of IT budget. Older technology can be complex as operational requirements are often manual and cumbersome when performing updates to hardware firmware, drivers, etc. This type of work is often mundane and tedious — taking up time that could be better spent focusing on more strategic projects.

In addition, just like in business, higher education institutions have SLAs (service level agreements) that dictate application availability for critical applications, such as student services information systems and learning management systems. Students and faculty demand 24/7 availability. How does one manage this “continuity” requirement? High availability and resiliency fall under the category of infrastructure management as well. If you want some form of continuity, you need a proper data protection plan in place, as well as a means to continue operations in the event of a disaster that renders the production systems unavailable. This takes time, knowledge, and planning, not to mention a financial investment, if redundant infrastructure is required.

What if IT could focus on delivering new applications to administrative faculty and students, rather than focusing their time, energy, and budget on maintaining the existing infrastructure? Today’s critical educational applications offer more flexibility and productivity for students and faculty. Students demand their application experiences be available on mobile platforms. They want to consume IT as they would anything else. If the university wants to attract and retain the best students possible, they must be at the forefront of technology. That means delivering modern applications that are both cloud-based and mobile-enabled. The same goes for faculty. If they can easily use their learning management systems, they will, in turn, be more productive and focus more time and energy on teaching and research.

So how do you solve the puzzle of helping collegiate IT organizations to become more agile and focus their time and energy on delivering new applications that further the mission of the college? The answer is simple. Find a way to offload the day-to-day management of existing infrastructure to a managed services partner who has the operational expertise in critical student and administrative applications as well as the means to deliver current applications 24/7 through a cloud-based data protection approach. You may find that outsourcing these critical, but mundane tasks will be financially feasible while enabling the in-house IT staff to focus on what’s most important.

American Digital has the expertise of working with educational infrastructure as well as knowledge of core applications used by higher education. As a managed service provider, we can help you move your mission forward in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Interested in learning more? Give us a call: 847-637-4300

Case for Higher-Ed to Outsource Infrastructure Management

Posted on: March 19th, 2018 by Daniella Lundsberg

Colleges and universities have it tough these days, especially the smaller ones. Lower enrollments mean smaller endowments, and weaker revenue streams. Every dollar must be spent wisely. The current generation of incoming students were born digital and are tech savvy. Not only do students select their higher education options based on culture and fit, but available technology is important to them. They expect to use collaborative messaging and mobile applications as part of their college experience.

Many smaller schools are relying on older technology to run their student information and administrative systems. The legacy technology is expensive to maintain and complex to manage. IT operations spends lots of time and money just keeping up with the existing infrastructure. At a time where higher education institutions are struggling for funding, this puts enormous pressure on IT organizations to keep up with rolling out modern applications, such as mobile-enabled apps and location-based services.

In addition to the pressure to deliver next-generation applications and keeping the campus network robust enough to handle the extra capacity required by the students’, faculty’s, and staff members’ ubiquitous phone usage, IT organizations also have to deal with high availability and resilience compliance. Having a proper continuity plan can be expensive and challenging to support.

All these pressures and challenges may seem daunting, but there is a way to move your school forward both from an IT perspective as well as focusing on the mission of the school. The answer is managed services. Financially, managed services make sense, as you can change your IT consumption model from CapEx to OpEx. Budgeting can be predictable and less expensive than capital outlays. Managed services offer many compelling benefits for smaller colleges and universities.

First of all, enlisting the help of a managed services partner who is well versed in how educational data centers are run can be helpful. For instance, the partner can help augment staff. Trusting someone who is familiar with the critical applications and operational aspects enables your staff to focus on more strategic projects — such as delivering mobile platforms, or cloud applications. Alternatively, outsourcing the IT services as a whole — including the infrastructure can be a compelling financial argument. Leveraging cloud-based applications through a consumption-based cost model while reducing on-site data center server and storage requirements can save colleges money in the long run. Not to mention, you can achieve your high-availability/resiliency SLAs without the cost of redundant hardware and software on-site. The cost savings can be used to focus on furthering the college’s mission and enable leadership to focus on what’s important.

American Digital has deep expertise with student information and learning management systems used by higher education institutions. Our managed services team also understands the challenges smaller schools wrestle with daily as they try to attract and retain the students they want, while working with outdated technology. Outsourcing your day-to-day IT operations just might be what you need to jump start your institution’s technology evolution.

Interested in learning more? Give us a call: 847-637-4300

Things to Look for When Selecting an MSP for Your Data Center Needs

Posted on: February 27th, 2018 by Daniella Lundsberg

In our last blog, we discussed what are the main attractions for organizations to consider outsourcing some or all of their IT to an outside service provider. In this article, we will share our thoughts on things to look at when evaluating your options. Organizations have many choices when it comes to managed service providers. Choosing the right one can mean the difference between having a business partner who adds value to your organization and helps you move your business forward and a provider who is more interested in your money than making your IT systems run smoother.

Here are some things to think about:

High touch/high value: Does the service provider emphasize customer service and personal attention? Do they sit down with you to fully understand your business goals and how you see IT supporting or driving those objectives? Are they both proactive and responsive? It’s important to work with a managed service provider who values working hand in hand with you every step of the way.

Data center focused: Choose a service provider who has demonstrated expertise in the data center as their core business. Sometimes managed service providers have their roots in PCs and help desks, and are trying to expand their services inward. Providers who understand the nuances of designing, deploying, and managing sizable data centers and demonstrable investment in bullet-proof data centers and architectures will give you the highest level of success.

Flexible: Working with a managed service provider that offers a variety of options will be in your best interest. Organizations all have unique requirements. Sometimes all that is required is extra staffing and monitoring of existing on-site equipment, other times a full hosting of infrastructure and applications is required. The ability to mix and match services based on needs can make the experience much easier. Additionally, businesses are dynamic, so as your business changes, your IT needs will too. Look for a provider who can make that transition along with you.

Expertise: If your organization is fairly large and your data center is complex, you should be seeking a managed service provider who has the expertise, not only with enterprise level infrastructure, but has the certifications and credentials to really understand the nuances of how all the pieces work together for optimal performance and availability. Data center management is not only about the operational aspects of all the piece parts, but from a business perspective – knowing how to keep the business applications up and running 24/7.

Committed to Strong Vendor Partnerships:  Whether you own your own infrastructure and have a service provider manage it, or utilize an MSP’s hosted data center, it’s important for the MSP to have deep, strong relationships with their vendors. Data centers consist of a variety of components: compute, storage, networking, and application, and data protection. Understanding how all those components work together to achieve the SLA goals is key to your success. For example, if you are running SAP as your ERP application, on top of Hewlett Packard servers and storage, with Cisco networking infrastructure, you need a service provider who has deep technical relationships with all of these technology providers.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it will give you a head start in selecting a strong managed services provider who can meet your needs and help you grow your business. Next time, we will discuss the value of a solid data protection plan when considering if managed services can help you.

Interested in learning more? Give us a call: 847-637-4300

Whats Driving Organizations to Turn to Managed Services?

Posted on: February 9th, 2018 by Daniella Lundsberg

The digital economy has businesses and organizations struggling to find ways to become more agile. More often than not, they are spending most of their time and energy maintaining their infrastructure instead of trying to find ways to work with the business to get ahead of the competition and use IT to their advantage. The mantra has been “do more with less” for a long time. This means less staff and less money to invest in new technologies, resulting in a less than optimal IT environment given the pace at which business flows today. The challenges to keep applications available as well as users and customers happy are daunting.

IT can be a complex thing, and it’s not getting any easier. Skill sets required to manage today’s business applications have become very specialized and expensive.  Its no wonder many organizations have sought out alternatives to managing and investing in their own data center. As competition increases and companies are under more pressure to become more agile, IT has become an target for outsourcing, with the goal of increasing corporate efficiency and finding a partner who can help increase revenues from IT investments.

Let’s look at the major reasons organizations are turning to managed service providers to assist them with their IT requirements:

  1. Reducing and controlling operating costs: The demonstrated cost savings of outsourcing are widely accepted as one of the reasons to consider managed services. The reduction of CapEx and OpEx is also key, as outsourcing removes the need to purchase physical hardware as well as the maintenance costs.
  2. Gaining access to world-class capabilities around the clock: Outsourced IT specializes in managing and maintaining your IT needs and can service those needs 24/7 while going beyond what an internal team can do.
  3. Freeing internal resources: Your business probably isn’t IT, so maintenance tasks get in the way of more strategic projects. Managed services can help alleviate this burden and help maximize your IT team’s time.
  4. Latest technology: With all the different technologies like cloud, security, and networking, you have access to the best in the field, along with the latest and greatest technology to give your company the edge it needs to compete in a crowded marketplace.
  5. Streamlining or increasing efficiency: Using an MSP partner to augment your in-house IT staff can be a great way to increase efficiency of your business operations. No matter what arises, an MSP is there to pick up the slack when needed, allowing your business to run smoothly and your employees to focus on core business needs.
  6. Shared risk: MSPs heavily invest in the most resilient systems that handle disruption better than less powerful systems can. Backed by robust SLAs, MSP partners guarantee the safety of your data in ways an on-premises solution cannot.

Managed Services Can Help You Grow

It’s not too far of a reach to assume that most IT organizations are overwhelmed with trying to keep up with new business initiatives while keeping the existing infrastructure and applications up and running. The other dynamic is that as technology has changed – cloud computing, mobility, and big data analytics – just to name a few, there are fewer IT members on staff who are skilled in these areas. It only makes sense to think about outsourcing the management and deployment of these new technologies to achieve faster time to value. Managed services can provide the bridge between existing infrastructure and newer technology that enables organizations to achieve maximum business value and focus on core competencies.

Next time we will look at things to consider when selecting a managed service provider.

Interested in learning more? Give us a call: 847-637-4300

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