Cloud

Separate the Cloud from the fog

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You’ve surely heard about the much-hyped idea of cloud computing—and whether you know it or not, you’re probably already using it. Web mail, Facebook, and Instagram are all popular examples of cloud computing, as are more business-focused services like Salesforce.com and Microsoft Office 365.

The basic idea behind cloud computing is that your data is stored on a computer that you do not own, manage, or maintain. This lets you and your employees focus on doing your job instead of worrying about keeping your systems running smoothly. It’s also cheaper—since you typically rent access to the systems for a monthly or annual fee that’s often quite competitive—and more flexible. Cloud services can be accessed via any Web browser, and most also offer mobile apps.

Public: putting it all out there

Your employees are almost certainly already running "public cloud" services on their phones and computers, whether they be cloud storage services like Dropbox or photo-sharing services like Flickr. These types of services are either called Software as a Service (SaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings, from the likes of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, and offer higher-end environments that run your company servers on their systems.

The flexibility of cloud services have changed the computing world quickly. Yet cloud’s ubiquity and ease of use have created problems, as the lines between personal and business are blurred and "shadow IT"—unsanctioned and unmonitored business use of public cloud services by employees—becomes common.

Without oversight, companies have no way of stopping or even knowing if sensitive corporate data gets out of their control. Employees are just trying to do their job better, but that will be little consolation if next year’s budget spreadsheets end up on the Web for competitors to see.

Hybrid: the in-between approach

In spite of the benefits of cloud computing, there are some circumstances in which companies may still want to keep data in-house—for example, to comply with industry regulations around the handling of sensitive data, concerns about cloud security, or because of regulatory restrictions that prohibit storing a companies data in overseas cloud systems.

As a result, few organizations have committed to the cloud 100 percent. Instead, most are pursuing so-called "hybrid" strategies that combine specific cloud services—often business systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) or human resources (HR)—with conventional on-premises systems that are owned and run by in-house technical staff.

This approach complicates things somewhat, because it means that businesses must keep track of two different types of computing environments. Yet new tools are bridging on-premises and off-premises cloud services, making it easy to track and secure data as it moves around the new computing environment. Most companies will use the hybrid cloud model for some time to come.

Private cloud: reinventing the business

While many companies are searching for the best approach to upgrading their applications to take advantage of the cloud, others are using cloud computing's ascension as an opportunity to rework the way they deliver applications to their own employees.

In the "private cloud" model, businesses effectively set up their own cloud-computing providers, running cloud services inside their network. These providers run applications on behalf of various business units, with the idea being that it’s cheaper and easier to centralize computing than it is to have each department run its own IT as in the past.

Building private cloud services requires a massive amount of effort, since it often involves upgrading old applications and moving large quantities of data into the new environment. Yet many businesses are also using the private cloud to offer entirely new services to business partners and customers. For example, a bank might run an application for finance brokers on its private cloud, giving them direct access to relevant banking systems.

Private cloud services also let banks connect their applications with those of other software providers using application programming interfaces (APIs) that let third parties easily access cloud services offering specific functions. A simple example might be an API that lets a third party retrieve current currency exchange information for use on their own website.

Less nebulous every day

There’s no doubt about it: cloud computing is here to stay. And while it’s still not perfect—issues such as telecommunications outages, security, and data ownership are still worrying many would-be adopters—its many benefits have made it essential for every business.

Current Technologies can help your business establish a clear cloud strategy now that will help you modernize your systems in order to take on nimbler competitors today and stay relevant for even more cloud-savvy customers in the future.

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How the Cloud is Transforming Education

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School IT departments have generally been on the forefront when it comes to embracing new technologies, and teachers who also embrace the latest technologies can reap the benefits faster. The cloud has opened up their world, and technology is poised to finally deliver on its promise to transform education.

Assisting teachers

The cloud has reversed a disappointing trend for teachers. Previously, clunky hardware and failing technology meant wasted time and frustration – hindering rather than assisting them.

All that is changing as the cloud delivers a more flexible, responsive and less device-specific form of technology into the classroom, and the way information is stored, accessed, presented and managed is transformed. Coursework can be retrieved anytime, anywhere. But it’s more than just storage.

Education apps are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the tracking of individual student performance. In a context where there is a five or six-year difference between the most advanced and least-capable student in a classroom, distinguishing instruction is not only a worthy goal, but a practical necessity. And that's where cloud-based technology can help. Connected apps and services such as Mathletics and Duolingo allow students to work at their own pace and adjust the order and difficulty of tasks in line with their progress.

With such innovative data on students, teachers can make better informed decisions about the next steps in learning.

Improving student outcomes

Exercise books and textbooks are increasingly becoming relics. Cloud-based student learning management systems such as EdumateMoodleEdmodo and Blackboard are now staples in most schools across The United States and other countries. Their connectivity means students have access to the most up to date case studies instead of relying on textbooks, which quickly date and become unusable.

Cloud based applications like Microsoft Outlook and Google Docs allows students greater opportunities for collaboration, as documents can be edited simultaneously by multiple authors – including the teacher. This allows for more instant, targeted feedback.

Saving money

And perhaps the biggest impact the cloud can have on academics is the resolution of overstretched budgets. The security and maintenance of expensive infrastructure and internal servers are becoming redundant. Cloud-based storage services such as Amazon, Google and Office 365 provide huge amounts of space with the added benefit of the collective skill of world-class engineers to protect information.

Large upfront costs for software are also giving way to modest subscription fees for services that are continually improved and updated. And even better, many are free! The flexibility of these apps also means students no longer have to shell out big bucks for a laptop, with the ability to access many of the applications on their smartphones or tablets.

For initiative-fatigued teachers who are after a more convenient and efficient way to improve the teaching and learning cycle, a cloud solution from Current Technologies might just be the technological breakthrough they need to re-engage with technology.

We can make the Cloud work for you

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The Right Data Storage For Your School

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A Datacenter Filled With Small Servers


As the economics of cloud computing continues to evolve, many school districts are asking whether moving their entire datacenters to the cloud is the best way to improve IT response and keep IT on budget. There are certainly advantages to some cloud services, and any modern educational IT infrastructure should contain some elements that are cloud-based. But there are also reasons to keep some IT functions local. For those, a datacenter furnished with multiple small servers can be the perfect answer.

Converged, Not Hyper-Converged

The arrival of converged systems means that educational IT professionals have an ideal answer for many applications. Notice that it's converged systems we're talking about and not hyper-converged systems.

The highly virtualized and automated operation of a hyper-converged system is perfect for organizations with rapidly changing load levels and requirements, but most educational IT systems value stability and regularity. For those characteristics, the overhead of the hyper-converged system is difficult to justify.

Converged systems have little additional overhead compared with separate components deployed around a datacenter and a host of benefits. Converged systems tend to reduce, rather than increase, the management load of an IT staff.

  • There are physical savings that come from putting as much as possible into a single rack enclosure

  • There is the assurance that all of the components are certified by the vendor to work together

Ultimately, the key to justifying and successfully deploying small servers in a district datacenter boils down to understanding the applications that prefer the local hosting treatment.

Examples of data that might benefit from staying on local servers rather than being transported to cloud servers include:

  • Sensitive personnel records

  • Student records with personal identification information left intact

  • Financial information

Where The Cloud Comes In

That is not to say there's no role for cloud services in the modern IT infrastructure. The secret is understanding which data can best be stored in the cloud and which needs to remain in the local datacenter.

The decision should be somewhat easier with a converged datacenter because an integrated hardware stack can be configured to more easily be deployed as part of a hybrid system with cloud services.

The networking piece of the converged stack is especially important to ensure that data is shared as part of a seamless process, rather than simply being passed off from one type of computing equipment to another.

From an economic standpoint, the self-hosted pieces of the infrastructure have an advantage in that the ongoing cost will be fixed over the life of the converged stack. That cost can be lower than many professionals anticipate because, for most districts, small servers will be sufficiently powerful to handle the applications and data sets required. Current Techhologies has found that when multiple small, on-site servers combined with the right cloud services, the result will be a secure, economical IT infrastructure that will handle school needs for years into the future.

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Stop Entry Level Shaming

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There’s something about that label. “Entry level” systems are seen as insufficiently powerful, marginally useful, and utterly degrading when placed on a professional’s office desktop.

This characterization might have been accurate years ago. But today, even entry-level systems can be capable, powerful computing devices that, under the right circumstances, can be “cool” for users to work with.

Moving entry-level systems from stigma-inducing to cool requires properly making a handful of critical decisions. Get them right, and your organization could save significant money while boosting user satisfaction with new systems.

What is Entry Level?

It usually starts with a modestly powered CPU (often one generation behind the current market leader) and continues to have the following:

  • Minimal RAM (generally 4 GB at this point)

  • Basic graphics capabilities (sometimes, those on the motherboard; other times, those available from an inexpensive graphics board)

  • Gigabit Ethernet

Wrap it all in a basic box with a standard keyboard, mouse, and video monitor, and you have your entry-level system, which in many cases, is exactly what most of your employees need.

It Might be the Perfect System

As companies race to embrace cloud services, it can be argued that the entry system is the perfect system for most employees to use.

It might be that what you need is an internal marketing campaign, not a larger budget for desktop workstations. It all depends on the job you’re asking systems to do and the way you present the systems doing the job.

Chromebooks are the very definition of minimalistic workstations. The barest entry-level workstation will be more powerful than the most powerful Chromebook, so comparisons should be frequently made when talking with employees.

Spend Where it will be Noticed

Spend a few dollars on the components that have the biggest impact on user satisfaction.

1. Keyboard

There is now a dizzying array of keyboards available for purchase. Most of the keyboards that make the “enterprise-class” grade are within a few dollars of one another, so employees can be allowed to “customize” their system with little difference in purchase price and no difference in support costs.

2. Mouse

The IT department could offer employees their choice from a selection of mice or other pointing devices to be used at the desktop.

For minimal difference in price, the employee has a maximum feeling of personalization.

3. Monitor Size

The enterprise standard has been twenty-one-inch or twenty-four-inch monitors for nearly a decade. But today, it’s possible to purchase twenty-seven-inch monitors for little to no more money.

The entry-level system doesn’t need to be a symbol of shame, for it can gain access to cloud-based services and information as equally well as more expensive systems. And if the IT department will allow for some choice in input devices and monitor, the users will come away feeling more digitally empowered than ever before.

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Connecting Branch Offices Made Easier

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Branch Offices Shouldn't Be Separate Worlds


Running a business across multiple locations has always had its share of IT challenges. Past approaches consisted of duplicating data between sites or relied on an often-unreliable wide-area network (WAN) links to make remote branches seem like part of the office network. With fast Internet connectivity now widespread, there are more ways than ever to securely connect staff at multiple offices

Extending corporate networks to remote sites has become far easier now that inter-office traffic can be routed across the internet without the need for expensive telecommunications links. With providers across the country improving their broadband services, it’s becoming easier than ever to link branch offices with rapid, secure, and reliable connectivity.

Keeping Your Data Safe

Data security, of course, is paramount when linking offices over the Internet. For this reason, you’ll need to encrypt your inter-office data by setting up a virtual private network (VPN) that creates a "tunnel" through the Internet between your work sites. Such tunnels have been widely and successfully used for years to link sites and to allow mobile users to log into corporate networks while they travel.

However, encrypting data is only one part of the challenge. With large numbers of branch offices in operation, you’ll need to develop and manage a coherent data architecture that controls where data goes, where it is stored, and how it is safely stored.

Previous store-and-forward models would see branch offices—particularly in time-sensitive retail operations—caching data at the remote site and periodically synchronizing it with central databases. Now that businesses are online and always available, data is more effectively transmitted in real time for storage in central transactional databases, which are often duplicated in a second, remote data center for redundancy and disaster recovery.

Cloud Solutions

Increasingly, smaller businesses are turning to cloud services to link up their branch offices in a different way. In this model, data is stored centrally in a cloud service and each branch office uses the same techniques to access it.

This approach lets businesses locate the data in whatever mission-critical data center is appropriate for the task while providing each branch office with the ability to access and collaborate on documents equally. This architecture also allows businesses to provide more consistent access to supporting services like unified communications, video delivery, identity management, security, and more, which are available to all employees at all branches.

With a cloud storage solution set up by Current Technologies, branch offices no longer need to be treated like remote outposts. By tapping into the flexibility and configuration of Internet-based services, it’s now possible to link even remote branch offices more seamlessly than ever before.

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IT Standardization Is Key For Any BYOD Policy

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It may have been inconceivable ten years ago, but it didn't take long for today’s workers to get used to bringing their own technology to work. Driven by claims that they can work more productively on their own devices, workers now take bring your own device (BYOD) policies for granted, even though they have created management and security headaches for IT administrators.

Businesses have long standardized their equipment to make it easier to swap in new PCs when old ones break or need to be upgraded. Yet the lack of control over laptops and other BYOD devices is challenging this practice, presenting issues for IT administrators and the integrity of business data.

Administrators often have no way of finding out, or improving, a device’s security profile. This leaves businesses exposed when a new software vulnerability is discovered since administrators have no way to patch or upgrade the software on users’ personal devices; studies regularly attribute most security breaches to unpatched vulnerabilities that had been fixed years ago but were never applied to users’ devices.

Standardize Your Apps

These problems create a compelling case for standardization—if not of the devices themselves, then of the applications that they are running. It’s not just about making system administrators’ lives easier, but by mandating a consistent set of applications, for example, it’s easier to help employees communicate smoothly and effectively regardless of where they go or what device they’re using.

Standardizing productivity applications ensures that documents can be easily shared and used, minimizing the need for costly and time-consuming manual entry of information. It also reduces the need for staff training and making it easier to move employees between locations. It also reduces the number of applications needing support. With the average business already running well over 100 different applications, any reduction in complexity can only be a good thing.

Consolidating your applications also offers considerable cost benefits: you’re likely to be able to spend less on licensing costs than you would when buying multiple applications, and because you’re buying an application for a large number of users you will have better bargaining power with your suppliers.

Consider Cloud Solutions

It’s worth noting the value of cloud-based productivity tools in meeting these goals. Although some users require sophisticated productivity tools for certain jobs, in most environments users could make do just as well with a cloud-based tool such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps. These store data in a central place where all users can easily access, view, and change information from any device, at any time.

The BYOD cat may already be out of the bag, but by standardizing your IT applications and infrastructure, you can reduce costs while remaining competitive, and improve flexibility. By identifying the best opportunities for standardization, you’ll be able to reduce technology-management overheads and ensure that your users are more productive, more often.

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With The Cloud, Power Failure Isn't The End

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What Happens When the Lights Go Out?

As if building up the IT systems that support your business wasn’t hard enough, you also need to have a clear plan for restoring your services if you lose power or if a natural disaster strikes. Downtime can be measured in thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per hour, so any sort of outage can quickly become a major problem that you need to remedy as quickly as possible.

But how do you get your business back up and running if your data isn’t available?
In the past, doing this meant maintaining a "hot" backup data center, typically located many miles away or even in another state. That site would be set up exactly the same as your primary site, with identical configurations of expensive servers and storage systems to keep copies of all your data. In the event of a failure, the business would switch over to the backup site until normal services resumed.

This approach was so expensive and complex that many businesses simply couldn’t afford it. Thankfully, recent advances in cloud storage make it easy to continuously protect your servers without having to maintain your own secondary data center.

Drop It Into The Cloud

The trick is to use cloud-storage services, which you may already be familiar with thanks to services like Dropbox and Mimecast. These services automatically synchronize your local data in a secure part of a cloud provider’s systems. These systems are housed in a robust data center that is usually far away from your own business. Server protection tools like Lenovo’s Online Data Backup for ThinkServers do the same thing for a whole server worth of data—or more.

Once key corporate data and applications are set to automatically back up to the cloud, a power outage is no longer a problem, because you can access your data from anywhere you can get online. This means you can still access your core systems and data even if your office is flooded, has suffered fire damage, or has otherwise been compromised. Just set up your employees on laptops in a safe temporary site, and your business will be up and running in no time.

Power Without Interruption

Although cloud storage services will protect your data from outages, they’re not the only thing to consider when dealing with power outages. If you’re not already using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for key servers, it’s well worth acquiring one so that your systems can ride out short power outages and you can gracefully transfer data to cloud-hosted applications in the event of a longer interruption. Just be sure you get a UPS with enough battery capacity to keep your servers running for a while. That way you can also plug your broadband modem into the UPS and stay online even when the lights go off.

Protecting Your Data From The Unpredictable

New technologies can help you to build a coherent business continuity strategy that will keep your servers online—or at least keep your data accessible—even when nature strikes. Current Technologies has been keeping businesses afloat through power outages and natural disasters for 20+ years. Our team has the experience and knowledge to design a plan that will work for you, no matter what the future brings.

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Which Data Backup Type Do You Need?

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Every Businesses Storage Needs Are Different


Data is vital to your business. It likely plays a huge roll in determining every decision you make. An array of technologies exist for protecting and backing up your data, and it is important to find the best solution for your needs. Here are the most popular options:

USB Drives

USB-connected drives are not ideal for business, because they rely on human intervention, and the software is usually not very sophisticated. Thumb drives are also easily misplaced. On the plus side, retention periods are reasonably good and quality of restored data tends to be high. The larger external USB hard drives can be unreliable due to moving parts. USB drives are fine for home use but they are not ideal as a business-grade backup option.

Magnetic Tape  

Tape is one of the cheaper ways to store large amounts of data and is still a popular backup medium. However it is largely outdated and it can be complex to manage multiple tapes. Lastly it is slow for restoring small amounts of data. Often tape is used in conjunction with other backup solutions as a long term repository for data.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

A Network Attached Storage (NAS) device can provide large amounts of data storage on the local network at a reasonable price. It has staging options for spooling off to other locations as well as a facility for storing and compiling snapshots of multiple servers. NAS devices can be a great source for rapid restoration of missing files or folders, but they are not the right long-term data storage solution.

Cloud Backup

Cloud is the new frontier for backup. There are many cloud backup solutions, and the quality of the service varies by provider. VMWare is one of the most popular cloud computing platforms for small to medium businesses, however Google, Amazon, and Microsoft also offer effective cloud platforms.

 Offshore data storage can be much cheaper than local storage but may cause issues with speed, security, privacy, and sovereignty. When cloud backup solutions are built right, they can be robust and hassle-free, as the scheduled backup is totally automated with no disks or tapes requiring manual intervention.

Keep in mind the cost involved in sending data over the Internet and the time it might take to restore data over a low-speed connection.

Hybrid Solutions

Like peanut butter and jelly, often times, multiple technologies combine to make the best backup solutions.

Taking regular snapshots of system files and data files throughout the day can create a point-in-time, rapid recovery option for individual files or groups of files. These snapshots are best stored on your networked server or on a NAS.

At least once a day, a data differential of the changes made during the last period should be stored on a second, external storage system. This is where a second, off-site device, tape, or cloud backup are useful. The usual approach is to backup from disk to disk, then disk to offsite.

A Final Thought

If you have personal or business data that is worth protecting, it is well worth getting professional advice on what systems will optimize your chances of recovery. Backup is a simple concept but implementing the best solution is not straight-forward, so getting good advice from the experienced team at Current Technologies is a good first step. For over 20 years, we have been helping businesses just like yours find the best way to backup their data. Every business has different storage needs, so why would you buy a generic, one size fits all storage system.  Current Technologies will customize a system for you to last long into the future.

Start Properly Storing Your Data Before It's Too Late

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Cloud Computing is the Solution you need

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How to make the most of the Cloud


You only need look at the explosive growth of services like Microsoft Office 365 and VMware for evidence of the business trend towards cloud computing. You can also check out our article on where businesses are spending their IT budget. This raises an important question: how can a business maximize the cloud’s benefits?

Happier, More Productive Employees

Perhaps the biggest advantage the cloud gives an organization is tied directly to its most important asset: employees. By leveraging the possibilities for remote work and more flexible hours inherent in cloud-based computing, it’s possible to keep staff both happier and more productive – all at little to no cost.

A study in the Harvard Business Review found that call center workers who switched to a work-from-home model experienced a 13.5 percent increase in productivity compared to their in-office peers. They also reported much higher job satisfaction and quit at half the rate of employees working in the office. Nicholas Bloom, one of the authors of the study, argues that remote work and flexible hours can give an organization an edge by allowing them to attract better talent from a wider pool by removing geographic and other barriers.

Bloom gives the example of a low-cost airline: “JetBlue allows folks to work as far as three hours from headquarters – close enough to come in now and again but a much bigger radius from which it can draw applicants. When I asked the people at JetBlue about this policy, they said it helped them gain access to educated, high-ability mothers who wanted flexibility in their jobs. The airline believes this policy has improved the quality of its workforce.”

To win the marketplace you must first win the workplace
— Doug Conant, Former President - Campbell Soup Company

Connected like Never Before

The cloud-based services also allow for easier and more fluid coordination and communication among staff, contractors and clients. Rather than working on multiple versions of the same document, team members in different locations can now work simultaneously on one version, cutting confusion and ensuring better document control.

The lesson here is that an organization transitioning to the cloud should carefully consider the increase of productivity. Current Technologies is closely partnered with Microsoft Outlook 365 for cloud email and collaboration. Outlook 365 is the industry leader allowing for your employees to check emails and tie in with peers on presentations and documents.

The shift to the cloud offers another huge plus: operational agility and capacity. Need more or less server or storage space? What about employee access to an application? Scaling capacity up or down is simply a matter of coordinating with your vendor rather than purchasing, installing and implementing expensive IT hardware and software on-site. Current Technologies offers top of the line VMware cloud storage options for businesses that are highly customized to client needs. Backup and recovery is also simplified in the event that your data is compromised. Finally, the infrastructure, platform and service options that cloud computing offers make things like implementation incredibly easy.

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Allocating Your SMB's IT Budget in Today's Environment

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Where Small- Medium Businesses are Currently Spending their IT Budgets

Businesses are in a tricky spot in 2018.  Global political uncertainty and flat company revenues mean IT budgets most likely won't be increasing. The good news is technological advances are allowing businesses to get more for less, and with a properly allocated budget your business can do the same.

Hardware and software

Research from Spiceworks, a network of IT professionals, suggests the bulk of financial allotment for the year ahead should remain with hardware (37% of overall budget) and software (31%). A combined 68% from these hand-in-hand tools is no surprise since these are the essential building blocks of any business. In order to skyrocket your business, you need a solid foundation. 

What will force IT departments to spend money on software this year is less likely to be new features than simple end-of-life replacements. According to Spiceworks, 46% of companies still use Microsoft Office 2003 on at least one computer. Even more startling is the ghost of Office 97 is still haunting 3% of companies. Software that is old enough to have a beer needs to be dropped in order to get the most out of your employees and their time.

Virtualization and productivity are at the top of the tree when it comes to priority updates.

Cloud and Hosted Services

This coming year there will be more spending than ever on cloud-based services – 38% of respondents consider the cloud very or extremely important to their current business practices (compared to 29% last year). This is due to the cloud's increased safety and ease of use in recent years. Email hosting is predicted to take up much of the 14% overall budget allocation in the cloud sector with online backup and recovery a close second.

Managed Service Projects

Remote Management and outsourcing of company IT infrastructure will take up 13% of the budget total. As headcounts shrink, IT departments are going to have to be more strategic in how they use people and outsourcing to managed service providers will become a necessity.

AI, VR and 3D

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality and 3D printing are out of the lab and into real world applications. The remaining 5% of budget spend is predicted to be invested in making these systems a part of everyday use.

For the Visuals out There

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What do I do with this Information?

As you know by now every business is vastly different in their needs and budgets. This is a snapshot of where businesses like yours are currently allocating their IT budget. Also take into account that as technology advances and becomes more practical, you can expect to see the percentages allotted to the cloud and AI increase. Being on top of new technology in your industry can really set your business apart from competition and make your employees much more efficent.

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