Executive Information Technology Consulting & Development Services offered by Steve Diamond

What You Need to Know about Cloud Computing

22 January 2014

Cloud Computing

Photo credits: Rafael Hernandez

If you’ve not heard about cloud computing yet, you need to come out from the cave you’ve been in and join the modern world! In all seriousness, cloud servers are really changing the way business is done – for the better. We’re going to go over some of the biggest benefits of cloud computing so that you understand the basics of the technology and why so many people are so excited about its possibilities.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

Here’s a look at several specific ways that cloud computers can help your business. It’s important to make sure you’re using any technology that can help your bottom line.

  • Flexibility – One of the biggest benefits of cloud server technology is that its very flexible. You can change it around until it fits the needs of your company specifically. And usually for a much lower price than a traditional server setup.

  • Duplication – Why rebuild the wheel if someone else has figured out how to use the cloud network to do something better or at a lower cost? The right cloud computing service can help your company’s profit margin.

  • Marketing – While this benefit may be small, the ability to say that your company is utilizing the latest cloud computing technology can help you pick up new customers or make sure your current ones continue to give you business.

  • Economy of Scale – Cloud computing takes the idea of the economy of scale to the next level. By tapping into the cloud, you can usually cut your company’s costs by quite a bit over the short term and the long run.

  • Streamline Processes – Another way that cloud computing can help is by streamlining processes within your organization. This takes time to set up, but once it’s in place you’re going to benefit for months and years to come.

The main thing you really need to know about cloud computing is that it can help your business in many different ways. From cutting costs to making repetitive and mundane tasks a little easier, running your own cloud server or benefiting from a cloud computing service can really benefit your company. The technology is changing quickly, but it’s actually really easy to get started. Even if you have a legacy computer system that doesn’t play nice with other networks, you’re going to be able to most likely migrate the data to the cloud and save time and money in the process.

As you can see, there are many benefits to convenient cloud storage that can help your business. No matter what industry you’re in, there’s a very good chance that cloud computing is going to change the way you get things done. The basics are actually really easy to understand. The biggest challenge comes in finding the service provider that is a good fit for your company. If you have any tips for choosing a cloud server, let us know by leaving a comment below.

New Facebook Connectivity

20 January 2011

I’m trying out some new ways of integrating this blog into Facebook, and particularly to my Facebook page, to which you’ll also find a link in the sidebar. Once this is working smoothly, it will be a value-added service I can offer my website clients. One kind of integration available is that you can use your Facebook identity to log in here on this site, and you can optionally post your comments both here and on Facebook simultaneously. I’ll describe more details as they become available.

Currently I’m using the Facebook Opengraph plugin from Javier Reyes, which provides several useful widgets plus a Like button for each post. If anyone has suggestions for another easy way to integrate a WordPress blog with a Facebook page, please let me know.

I Am Not Your Company’s Computer Guy

06 March 2010

If you were watching Saturday Night Live during the 1990s, you remember Jimmy Fallon’s hilarious sketches as “Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy.” If you weren’t watching or if you’d like a refresher, scroll down to where I’ve embedded some examples, also featuring guest hosts Jennifer Aniston, Jackie Chan, and Calista Flockhart. (Darn it, those videos keep getting taken down! If anyone knows where they’re being shared at the moment, please say so in the comments. Thanks!)

Nick Burns was the help desk guy from hell. He could help with your computer problems, but you had to pay the price of being insulted and made to feel stupid. After taking care of your difficulty, Nick would always finish by asking “Was that so hard?”

So why am I writing about Nick Burns today? Here’s why. I’m trying to differentiate what I do for my clients from what Nick does. Most people see the phrase “computer consultant” or “technology consultant” and they think of Nick, the guy from the help desk, the only one who knows how to keep the computers and the networks running smoothly. Maybe they think of someone with a kinder, gentler attitude than Nick’s, but they do think of someone who performs Nick’s role.

Well, that’s not me. Not only do I have a better attitude than Nick’s, I actually do something entirely different. I don’t man the help desk. I don’t configure the servers or run network cable. I don’t install Outlook and connect it to your email account. No, that’s not me.

What I do is to supply a role that’s missing in many small and medium businesses – informed executive oversight for the use and management of information technology. This is the CIO (Chief Information Officer) role or the I.T. Director role, and many smaller companies don’t have such a person in their executive line-up.

In fact, most smaller businesses have little in-house expertise in I.T. There’s no expert oversight, no viable process for defining requirements, and in the end no way for the company to know whether or not a software or hardware vendor has really delivered the best solution for the business.

Yet they’re probably right not to have that expertise in house. They don’t have enough need for a full-time executive devoted that. But that doesn’t mean that they have no need for the role to be performed occasionally. They do. So what usually happens is that it gets shunted off in a direction that’s not optimal for the company.

Here’s how it often unfolds. The company’s executives realize that they have a need. They think it’s for some software and/or hardware to help automate their business processes. They decide to find a vendor or vendors to fill the need.

To make the decision, the company turns to someone they trust but who isn’t really qualified. This is often their accountant (how do you think the original Big 8 accounting firms managed to grow and spin off consulting divisions?) or their computer guy. The accountant typically knows little about the field, and the computer guy, paradoxically, may know even less. Adept at the nuts and bolts operations, the computer guy usually has no experience in optimizing business processes and their automation or in managing relationships with large vendors. Or the company may appoint an executive or committee to choose a vendor to meet a particular technology need. In any case the choice is made somehow, and then they turn the entire project over to the vendor.

This approach is gambling pure and simple. Sometimes the vendor will be willing and able to devote enough resources to find out exactly what the company really needs and to provide it. In other cases (and I’ve seen them, believe me) the vendor just puts in their standard product, assumes it’s going to do the right job, provides a little training, and walks out the door.

What’s missing is informed executive oversight, oversight of the requirements definition process, oversight of the vendor selection process, oversight of the project itself to make sure that the vendor delivers. This is the CIO role, and it can only be provided by someone who understands both the business and the technology. You can’t have one and not the other.

I supply that missing link. As a part-time, consulting CIO, I manage the requirements gathering, vendor selection, and vendor relationship processes. I also give advice on effective use of technology like accounting systems, marketing systems, online marketing campaigns, online customer relationship management, website utilization, and related fields.

And that’s why I am not your company’s computer guy. But I may be its part-time CIO.

Sorry, no SNL videos available at the moment! If you know where there are some (YouTube and Vimeo is where I’ve seen them before) let me know in the comments.)

Free online consultations!

25 February 2010

For a limited time, to help launch my new interactive company page on Facebook, I’m offering free online consultations to anyone who joins my page as a fan.

Just click the Become a Fan button in the Facebook box in the right-hand margin of this page. (Or you can just click here.) Then post your technology-related question as a new thread on the Discussion tab.

All questions should be related to the use of information technology in small and medium businesses. I’ll do my best to answer what I can, and I’ll at least steer you in the right direction for further research if I don’t know the answer.

Some suggested topics for questions:

  • Software choices for particular type of business
  • How to manage online customer relationships
  • Online marketing best practices
  • How to prepare a good requirements document for a software project
  • …and many more

The most useful questions will be ones that help you solve real problems facing your business. Be as specific as possible.

This is a limited time offer, which I may withdraw at any time. Get your questions in now!

How Business Automation Projects Fail, Part 2

22 August 2009

In part 1 of this series I wrote about a simple case where failure to define requirements for a software purchase ended up costing the business several thousands of dollars worth of wasted effort that had to be re-done. The software purchase price was just a few hundred dollars, so it seemed okay to take shortcuts in the selection process. The resulting loss was more than anyone bargained for.

In part 2, this post, I’m writing about a much larger purchase of custom-developed software. This is a true story of a project that could have turned into a disaster. It could have sunk a new startup company before it ever got off the ground. It could have failed badly. But this one actually has a happy ending. Disaster was averted because the business owner stopped in the middle of the process to ask some key questions, and he acted on the answers.

[more…]

Steve Speaks on How To Avoid Technology Traps

03 July 2009

I recently appeared on Nancy Brown’s Business Guru Show on Blog Talk Radio to speak about “How To Avoid Technology Traps.” You can hear the show (30 minutes) by following the link or you can play it right here:

How Business Automation Projects Fail, Part 1

12 March 2009

I’m starting a short series in How Business Automation Projects Fail. This is part 1, where I’ll cover the case of an apparently simple project to install a common software package. In part 2 I write about a much more complex and expensive project.

Business Processes

Businesses run by following well defined processes. Let’s look at a wholesale distribution business as an example. Here’s a grossly simplified version of the core processes at the heart of the business:

[more…]

Stop Hiding From Your Customers

09 March 2009

I find that many small-to-medium local businesses are hiding from their customers and don’t realize it. They still market to new customers in newspapers and the Yellow Pages, and they still stay in touch with existing customers (if they do) by direct mail.

But those traditional marketing channels are increasingly empty. That’s not where you find customers in the 21st century. No, they’re online. They’re on Google, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon. They’re blogging and commenting on blogs. They’re forming communities of interest on Digg and social|median.

If businesses aren’t familiar with these venues and aren’t meeting their customers where they hang out and interact, then they’re missing an enormous opportunity to keep building even during these recessionary times.

So stop hiding from your customersSM. I can help. Contact me today.