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Cloud DRaaS solution mitigates hurricane impact

Hurricanes impact everyone from Houston to Miami to Manhattan—especially people running IT operations often times without a disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) solution.

The push for digital transformation presses this point home during hurricane season which starts in June and runs through November. Organizations depend on constant access to data, networks, sensors, and servers like never before.

There’s plenty to worry about in Hurricane Alley and population-dense areas of the Eastern Seaboard. High winds knock out power lines in the storm’s path. Heavy rains flood cities and towns hundreds of miles inland for days after a hurricane makes landfall. Evacuations clog highways and separate people from their homes, offices, and workplaces.

The hazards became all too evident in 2017. Hurricane Harvey hovered off the coast of Houston in late August, delivering pounding rains that swamped vast swaths of the city and inflicted $125 billion in damages, the worst since Hurricane Katrina. In the days and weeks to come, Hurricane Irma menaced South Florida and Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

Moreover, few IT professionals can forget the impact of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when high winds and flooding punished organizations that lost their data centers and their backups. If your organization requires always-on IT access, you can’t afford to ignore even remote risks of hurricane-related outages.

How DRaaS reduces hurricane risk

One way to mitigate hurricane hazards is to partner with experts in DRaaS, which has four core advantages:

  • Distance: IT operations can be hosted in data centers beyond the reach of powerful storms.
  • Real-time failover: Replication and virtualization technologies allow your DRaaS provider to create a redundant version of your critical systems, holding downtime to a minimum and protecting your business reputation.
  • Cost: You don’t have to invest millions designing, configuring, and managing a redundant data center that goes unused for months or years at a time. Your DRaaS provider takes care of everything. You pay a predictable monthly fee based on usage.
  • Expertise: Replicating all your IT services is an incredibly complex prospect, requiring deft design, careful implementation, precise documentation, and thorough testing. Typically, it’s more efficient to hire experts than it is to spend months learning all the facets of disaster recovery yourself.

At CBTS, we have extensive experience with data centers, replication technologies, and system design. Our DRaaS experts have set up these kinds of systems for a broad range of industries and marketplace requirements. Our expertise arrived just in time for a South Florida company in 2017.

Case study: Wittock CPA

CBTS helped an accounting firm keep its operations online during Hurricane Irma in 2017. Wittock CPA was working with a large volume of data related damage claims from the 2010 Blackwater Horizon oil spill. The company required a 15-fold jump in staff to handle the claims and could not afford the prospect of days or weeks of downtime from a hurricane.

CBTS implemented a cloud-hosted environment with high-availability data centers hosted in the Midwest, far from the hazards of storm-related downtime. When Hurricane Irma made landfall, employees had access to their data, and all critical systems remained online. CBTS support staff helped resolve employees’ questions as they came up.

“I’ve had a long career in the IT industry and know what it takes to protect a rapidly growing firm like Wittock CPA from simple incidents to much larger threats like a hurricane. Irma would put any organization to the test, but because we took the preemptive steps to implement business continuity and cloud hosting with CBTS, it was business as usual from an IT perspective.”

– Craig Turner, Director of IT and Continuity, Wittock CPA

To find out more about how CBTS helped this company dodge a disaster, download our free case study.


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Managed cloud solutions solve legacy challenges

It seems like everyone is talking about cloud these days. Research from Cisco Systems, for instance, predicts that more than nine out of 10 IT workloads and compute instances will happen in the cloud by 2021. By contrast, a mere 6 percent  of IT will be in traditional data centers three years from now, Cisco predicts.

Meanwhile, many organizations keep chugging along with three-decade-old legacy technologies like rock-solid IBM’s iSeries. Stable companies whose IT demands stay within predictable boundaries can argue with conviction that there’s no need to fix technologies that aren’t broken. Large, complex enterprises with heavy computing demands like ERP systems also may be hesitant to explore uncharted opportunities in the cloud.

The challenge is that legacy technologies are not like fine wine—they don’t necessarily improve with age. Eventually, legacy systems cross a cost threshold where the price of maintenance exceeds the expense of replacement.

As your organization weighs its options on legacy IT systems, keep a few central points in mind:

Replacing your hardware will cost you

The bigger your organization is, the more it’ll cost to replace your data center infrastructure. A capital expenditure in the neighborhood of $10-$20 million can be difficult to justify when those funds could be put to use in driving additional sales or improved customer service.

You also have to pay to configure, install, and support the hardware and network. Electricity remains a major cost for data centers. Moreover, your equipment is well on its way to obsolescence on the day you install it. You also could have a difficult time recruiting professionals to staff your data center.

This challenge underscores why the cloud is so popular: Somebody else has to be the data center expert and on top of the latest technologies. You avoid the 7- or 8-figure CapEx hit and switch to an OpEx model that’s billed on a pay-as-you-go model. Your cloud vendor keeps the equipment up-to-date, pays all the cooling costs, and goes the extra mile to maintain security.

You’ll probably buy more compute capacity than you need

The price of computing power declines over time. This usually means that when companies replace racks of servers, the new equipment can have four or five times more computing capacity than the old equipment, if not more.

This often means you pay for a wealth of computing resources you won’t be using. That’s not the most efficient use of your IT budget.

A cloud provider, by contrast, bills only for the resources you use. You don’t pay for capacity you don’t need. And the agility of the cloud ensures you can easily scale up during your busy season and add more capacity if your business grows suddenly.

You could have trouble recovering your systems in a disaster 

Legacy systems tend to have legacy backup technologies to match like tape and optical drives. These devices can take days or weeks to provide a full backup. And these backups can fail, leaving organizations in a serious bind.

The cloud represents essentially infinite storage capacity, which makes it an ideal disaster-recovery environment. Servers many miles from your home location provide a measure of distance between you and a flood, earthquake, or hurricane. Furthermore, technologies like virtualization and containerization join forces with advanced replication software to ensure near real-time disaster recovery.

Global corporate titans aren’t the only ones who can afford fully redundant backups. These days, companies of any size can establish robust disaster recovery programs that hold downtime to a minimum.

 IT experts supporting legacy technologies are retiring

This challenge is happening throughout the industrialized world, but it’s especially acute in niches like the IBM Power iSeries.

Lots of organizations are one or two retirements away from losing the experts who know their systems inside and out. Unfortunately, technical schools, colleges, and universities are not always training the IT professionals of tomorrow on these legacy systems.

That’s not to say there are no experts on legacy systems anywhere. They’re just hard to find.

A managed cloud solution might be your best choice

Cloud providers succeed because their technologies have distinct advantages in cost, capacity, availability and computing power. But you should not underestimate the complexity of embracing cloud solutions and how varying workloads will perform. They must be carefully designed, implemented, and managed in alignment with your distinct business needs and existing IT capacities.

That’s why many organizations are partnering with managed cloud providers like CBTS. We help companies get out of the data center business and focus their IT energies on core business objectives. Our Disaster Recovery as a Service and Unified Communication as a Service businesses help companies deploy powerful, sophisticated technologies that put them on an even footing with their larger competitors.

Our cloud services ensure you have around-the-clock access to IT experts with advanced training and certifications you might not be able to find on your own.

Are you still using IBM’s Power iSeries?

The iSeries product line, now called IBM Power Systems, dates to the 1980s. Many organizations rely on these systems because they perform as expected and deliver rock-solid security.

For all their strengths, these systems are running out of time in on-premises data centers. Our latest eBook explores five signs that it’s probably time to migrate your iSeries environment to the cloud.

Download our free guide to find out more.


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Five Rs to successful DR program

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Five ‘Rs’ to successful DR program

A well-engineered and high-performance disaster recovery (DR) program can save your company in the event of a major incident that takes your critical IT systems offline. Not only will a DR program protect your private and sensitive data and keep your organization up and running when it counts, it can save your reputation with your customers, partners, and vendors.

The tricky part is ensuring your DR program comes through when a major incident happens. Replicating files, applications, and databases, and restoring them at a secondary location, seems like a straightforward process at first glance, but nothing is simple when a crisis strikes.

Success with your DR cannot be a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Your DR program has to be a living program that adapts to your ever-changing business requirements and IT environment. Ensuring that your DR program performs as expected in a crisis requires careful design, documentation, and comprehensive testing.

The process of planning, designing, documenting, and testing your program must include the five R’s of DR:

  • Restoring systems
  • Resuming business functions
  • Remediating data losses
  • Recovering primary sources
  • Returning home

Let’s walk through the role of these pillars of DR programs.

1. Restoring critical IT systems

Your DR program design must include your top tier or most important IT applications and infrastructure, and establish recovery priorities for which environment to restore first in a crisis demanding the optimal RTO and RPO.

All critical infrastructure and applications have a place in your DR program: physical servers, virtual machines, containers, applications, system software, databases, user profiles, security appliances, and so on. Your DR program must determine the order these systems come back up so no dependencies get neglected.

You have to accurately document and then test these systems thoroughly to ensure they will restore as expected in an emergency. Testing should be carefully documented and conducted at least twice a year. Robust testing requires bringing up the secondary environment in a controlled manner, and also ensuring your end users can access the information in the same manner as they would otherwise. This process requires thoughtful planning and execution to avoid disrupting active IT operations.

2. Resuming essential business functions

Limiting downtime is a core goal of successful DR preparedness. The longer your systems remain offline, the greater the cost to your business and your brand’s reputation. The strongest DR programs provide near real-time failover that can prevent the most damaging downtime.

As you design and test your DR program, make sure you’re accounting for business-critical platforms: eCommerce, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, and others that are essential to your bottom line.

And don’t forget about your vendors and partners. If you coordinate with third parties when using systems like billing, accounts receivable, and logistics, make sure you collaborate with them when developing your DR program. And don’t forget to include them in your documentation and testing.

3. Remediating data loss

You have to accept that some data might get lost in the event of a major incident such as malicious activity. The key here is reducing the potential damage.

You start by developing recovery time objectives (how fast you want to restore systems) and recovery point objectives (how far in time you want to go back). Then you rank the data in order of importance and design your recovery system to ensure the crown jewels of your data survive regardless of the root cause.

After that, you want to limit potential damage. Extra testing and redundancy combined with data-integrity testing can reduce the risk of data loss. Finally, you need to repair databases and IT systems that suffered damage or corruption during the crisis.

4. Recovering your primary IT resources

Establishing your recovery priorities help ensure that primary IT resources like databases, networks, file systems, and security protocols come back quickly and efficiently.

DR testing proves its worth when you’re recovering primary IT resources. New software versions and firmware upgrades can introduce unexpected problems during the recovery process.

Identifying your most mission-critical IT resources also helps identify non-critical resources. That helps you avoid the temptation to restore everything simultaneously. When time is short during a crisis, you don’t want to waste time restoring resources that aren’t mission-critical.

5. Returning systems to their home state

You cannot afford to neglect this final step. Eventually, you must move out of DR mode and find your “new normal.” Many DR solutions on the market do not provide for this in the short term.  It is critical to get back up to full operational capacity quickly to avoid unhappy customers.

Again, your DR documentation and planning plays a critical role. Your program should identify what success looks like based on your business objectives and provide a timeline for returning your IT operations to their home state.

Pulling it all together

Innovations in cloud technologies enable small to midsize companies to deploy DR programs that would satisfy the most demanding enterprise user.

Though the potential of advanced DR is obvious, making it work can be challenging when your IT team is already strapped for time and resources. These systems need a robust architecture, proper testing, and real-time staffing to put DR plans into action quickly and efficiently.

At CBTS, our Managed Data Protection and Disaster Recovery services can address these challenges and allow your IT team to focus on the strategic initiatives that drive your business forward.

Now that you know the five R’s of disaster recovery, find out more in our eBook: “10 pitfalls to avoid when re-inventing your disaster recovery program.”

Also read this case study: Global aerospace supplier taps CBTS to launch a robust disaster recovery plan while diagnosing issues and upgrading core infrastructure.

Higher education CIOs embrace Mobile Computing

Ownership has its privileges … but the new normal of Mobile Computing in higher education is challenging this long-held assumption for IT leaders. Rapidly changing technologies and the “Bring Your Own Device” era puts considerable pressure on these IT leaders, who are primarily focused on digital solutions that improve educational outcomes.

Consequently, CIOs in higher education are increasingly transitioning their network operations to the cloud and working with IT partners like CBTS for monitoring and management. This allows CIOs to leverage an OpEx model that delivers predictable monthly costs, and the peace of mind that comes with putting their operations in the hands of experts at IT partners like CBTS.

Brent Flaugher, account manager with CBTS, recently shared insights from his conversations with CIOs in higher education who are embracing this move toward the cloud.

How do you recommend CIOs in this space think about ROI as they analyze cloud-based solutions?

They can start by considering economies of scale. Picture a school system with satellite campuses. With the traditional ownership model, each campus’ IT department maintains servers and storage to service its campus, along with IT staffers to support its operations.

Multiply that configuration by any number of campus locations, and you are looking at rapidly increasing costs brought on by the escalating need for more storage space to satisfy data-hungry initiatives. That’s just one example.

Migrating all of their IT operations to the cloud means, among other considerations, that CIOs no longer have to plan for obsolescence. They don’t have to think about the continual training of their IT staffs, and the expensive equipment upgrades that are part and parcel of the ever-changing technology landscape.

How do the challenges of BYOD Mobile Computing factor into calculating ROI for transitioning to cloud-based services?

Mobile Computing offers the promise of compelling multimedia-based educational content that enriches the educational experience. But it also represents a monumental challenge to existing IT departments because of the increasing bandwidth demands that require better network optimization. As the number of these devices expands, so does the pressure on the capacity of existing networks. This often means IT leaders must invest in upgraded equipment and ongoing training for their IT staff.

BYOD also introduces another level of security challenges that increasingly require highly specialized IT staffers who can keep pace with security threats and all the other considerations that come with keeping track of a myriad of mobile devices.

Migrating to cloud services that offer 24x7x365 maintenance delivered by experts, and optimized networks, will help schools grow at the pace needed to stay relevant in the highly competitive education sector.

What is a simple way to picture the cloud service-pricing model?

A good, relatable example is thinking about how you pay for utilities like gas and electricity. You pay a monthly charge that is based on the amount of gas or electricity that you use. CBTS offers a number of cloud-based solutions that offer the same model. For example, consider the cost of storing data in the cloud. Our clients pay a fee based on the amount of space they are using in the cloud to store data.

How do CBTS products and solutions meet Mobile Computing demands for CIOs in higher education?

Voice, storage, and security are the cornerstones of their demands. Education CIOs need products and services that can boost their bandwidth and offer them a more robust and dependable wireless technology. Additionally, CIOs are faced with the prospect of providing vast amounts of storage to handle their data needs, and they need IT experts who can keep their operations secure.

CBTS offers shared cloud-based offerings that optimize storage, backup, voice, and security requirements. Our services support the CIO’s bottom line by eliminating the need for large capital expenditures, and the need to recruit, retain, and continually retrain large IT staffs that can handle the critical demands of their connected educational organization.

For more information on how CBTS is helping higher education clients, read this Q&A with Paul Czarapata, VP and CIO of the multi-campus Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS).

How education CIOs manage BYOD demand

It wasn’t long ago that your C-suite of higher education CIOs didn’t have to worry about trends like Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD). But the advent of BYOD is one of the many challenges education IT leaders face as the mounting demands of mobile computing make transitioning to new IT operating models critical.

We recently asked Brent Flaugher, Senior Account Manager with CBTS, to describe these challenges and how CBTS products and services are helping make that transition easier.

Higher education CIOs are increasingly focused on delivering value-added initiatives and strategies.  What is driving this transition?

The constant 24/7 need for connectivity is a critical underlying factor driving this transition. This need increasingly makes the legacy methods of information delivery – platforms, network structure, and means of content delivery – unable to provide the quality that users expect and demand for a first-class 21st century education.

Using Technology Collaboratively with BYOD

What are the main challenges that higher education CIOs face as they transition from their legacy role of “keeping the lights on?”

Higher education CIOs are expected to do more with less. This can represent a monumental challenge as they contend with the increasing bandwidth demands of ever-more sophisticated multimedia-based educational content, which in turn requires better network optimization.  Coupled with these demands is the proliferation of mobile student-owned BYOD that replace the past model of school-provided devices.

BYOD introduces another level of security challenges. And as the number of these devices expands, so do bandwidth requirements – adding more pressure to the capacity of their existing networks.

The traditional model of educational IT ownership is changing. Tell us how forward-thinking CIOs are leading this change?

These CIOs are opting to transition to cloud-based services where they can rely on the deep expertise of IT professionals who can manage and grow their networks to support agile mobile offerings that are in such demand in the educational sector.

How do CBTS products and solutions meet the BYOD demand?

We constantly hear from our clients in the education sector that they are hungry for products that can increase their bandwidth and offer them a more robust and dependable wireless technology. But it is an inconvenient truth that implementing their value-added and data-loaded initiatives comes with a hefty trade-off.  With more data access comes more data center requirements. Additionally, CIOs are faced with the prospect of providing vast amounts of storage to accommodate all of this access and hiring expert staff to support these initiatives.

The CBTS focus is to meet these wishes by offering shared cloud-based offerings that can make wish-lists a reality. We do this by optimizing their storage, backup, voice, and security requirements. It’s not just a smart strategy for delivering a top-of-the-line education to their students. Our services also help the bottom line by avoiding large capital expenditures and the need to recruit, retain, and continually retrain a large IT staff that can handle the critical demands of their connected educational organization.

For more information on how CBTS is helping higher education IT leaders read this case study and this interview with Paul Czarapata, VP and CIO of the multi-campus Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS).

Explore how the Communications solutions at CBTS can help support your BYOD demand here. 

Wearable tech helps golfers master game

A golfer takes his shot into the late afternoon sun at Euphoria Golf course in Limpopo South Africa. Regardless of who else is on the green, golfers are always competing with one player in particular: Themselves. And in recent years, wearable technology and devices have helped golfers improve on their last best game.

Devices for golfers interested in “the quantifiable self” have come a long way since they first debuted more than five years ago. Zepp Golf, for example, is a pioneer in helping golfers analyze their swings. Its products have evolved to include on-course performance and provide resources for coaches.

Golden State Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala has been using wearables including Zepp Golf to improve his swing, but as he told SportsTechie last summer, we’re merely scratching the surface of what’s to come in terms of devices that track athlete performance. The 2015 NBA Finals MVP is also a tech investor and avidly watching the wearables market. He sees a lot of opportunity for devices geared toward amateurs.

Several companies offer wearable technology

Companies including Samsung and Garmin are putting their own golf tees in the ground. Garmin, which is known for its GPS devices and fitness trackers, recently unveiled its Approach X10, a wearable for rookie golfers. The company’s new golfing buddy is compatible with its existing golf app, and tells golfers how far they are from the pin on more than 41,000 pre-loaded courses worldwide. Its built-in GPS knows when a golfer has moved to the next hole, and it provides distances to the front, back, and middle of the green, as well as any hazards.

Samsung’s most recent foray into golf metrics is via a partnership with myRoundPro, which tracks performance through the strokes-gained statistical analysis metric that the PGA Tour made popular. The collaboration includes an exclusive myRoundPro app developed with Samsung that provides front, middle, and back yardages to each green. The app records scores and provides a statistical breakdown after each round. Golfers can also assign a club to each shot for more detailed analysis.

Wearables and apps are the primary ways golfers – amateur or professional – currently better understand and improve performance either at the range or over 18 holes, but competition is coming in the form of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). This future may include a wearable that covers your whole body.

Is the wearable full-body suit the future of golf?

An India-based startup is developing what is categorized as a mixed-reality wearable. Kaaya Tech’s full-body HoloSuit tracks the body as it goes through a variety of motions using pants, a jacket, and gloves. The product can create meaningful and accurate simulations by collecting data about how people move.

The HoloSuit tracks and visualizes the movements of the golfer’s swing, and then provides insights into how the golfer can correct inconsistencies and swing problems developed over the years with automated suggestions that are stored in the cloud.

The HoloSuit computer currently learns what to look for and encourages the golfer to meet certain standards. Future simulations will tap the knowledge of a specific trainer that provides more personalized feedback.

Kaaya Tech’s HoloSuit is a sign of what’s to come for sports trackers in general, golf swing analysis in particular, and future PGA competitors.

CBTS: We have you cloud covered

The cloud is the most transformative – and disruptive – technology innovation influencing the 21st Century business world … which is why CBTS has our clients cloud covered. Cloud-based technology is delivering multiple benefits to enterprise companies – from cost savings to increased productivity. 

Cloud technology also allows IT organizations within these enterprises to focus on strategic initiatives that create positive business outcomes, and leverage the expertise of partners like CBTS to help manage other parts of their IT infrastructure. 

CBTS is working with organizations of all sizes to leverage cloud technology and improve their operations. One prominent example is our work with a Fortune 20 corporation to implement a virtual data center and a cloud-based unified communications solution that is driving increased collaboration, and decreased operational costs. 

The Problem 

This client operates in several diverse sectors across the world, including Oil and Gas, Healthcare, Transportation, Pharmaceutical, and Aviation. The client had several challenges with its previous infrastructure: 

  • Antiquated, disparate phone systems across divisions that were costly to maintain. 
  • Multiple cloud and compute environments. 
  • Ongoing need to update and maintain hardware infrastructure – an activity that is not central to its core business. 

The client required a flexible solution that would reduce costs, increase productivity, and generate additional bandwidth for its internal IT organization to focus on mission-critical applications. Cityscape with clouds

The Cloud-based Solution 

CBTS has been an IT partner to this client for nearly 20 years. We provided a two-part solution leveraging cloud technology. 

  • CBTS built a Virtual Data Center (VDC) as an internal private cloud for the client. The VDC has grown to five production instances in five cities worldwide, with over 4,500 virtual machines in use. CBTS owns all of the hardware with this solution and provides infrastructure support 24x7x365. In addition, CBTS implemented a dedicated hybrid cloud environment for AWS, Azure, Office 365, and other public clouds. Finally, CBTS built a private environment consisting of 140 virtual environments and over 1,000 virtual machines across two data centers as part of this hybrid solution.  
  • CBTS also built a fully managed, centrally hosted IP telephony platform. The CBTS Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solution has been implemented in all of the client’s divisions in the United States and Canada. CBTS currently manages and supports approximately 47,000 profiles. CBTS owns the UCaaS platform, which is based on the Cisco HCS platform, and provides 24x7x365 support. The client pays a predictable monthly fee that includes all equipment and maintenance. 

The Benefits 

These cloud-based solutions support multiple business outcomes for the client, including the elimination of large capital expenditures on computing equipment and software, enhanced collaboration, and reduced training costs. Additionally, the client’s IT organization now enjoys additional bandwidth to focus its efforts on strategic initiatives, knowing that CBTS is handling core infrastructure applications. 

The benefits of being cloud covered aren’t limited to Fortune 20 organizations. We invite you to learn more about how cloud solutions from CBTS can help you realize your business objectives. 

To find out more about the CBTS work with this client, read this case study. 

CIO Review names CBTS to Top 20 UC List

CIO Review has named CBTS to its list of the 20 Most Promising Unified Communications Solution Providers for 2017, and is featuring an interview with Chief Technology Officer Tom Simpson in its March edition.

In an interview with CIO Review, Simpson discussed three key CBTS services:

  • Enterprise Hosted Communications Solution: EHCS is built on Cisco’s HCS product and is a fully hosted and managed solution that provided enterprise-grade voice, video and business communications services.
  • Network as a Service: A fully managed solution that provides customers with a simple, scalable method to offload the complex task of maintaining and securing a commercial network.
  • SD-WAN: A solution that allows businesses with multi-site locations to support mobile workforces while reducing the need for expensive MPLS connections.

The story also highlights CBTS’ work with the State of Ohio, where our Next-Generation Telephony Service (NGTS) solution has saved the State $5.3 million in the first 18 months of use while providing a suite of collaboration tools that mark a significant upgrade from the State’s previous system.


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