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Productivity Suite Assessment Helps Small Businesses Choose or Improve their Cloud

May 25, 2021 – Westborough, MA – Cumulus Global is pleased to announce the launch of its new Productivity Suite Assessment, a consulting service that helps small and midsize businesses (SMBs) determine which productivity suite best meets their needs and how to fully utilize the suite to improve productivity and support business goals. Whether considering, or currently using Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace, the productivity suite is the foundation for IT services. The right match is about more than the marketing hype and basic features. The right match integrates with how you work and other systems to support business goals, needs, priorities, and budget.

“For businesses not yet in the cloud, we guide them to the best fit and solution,” stated Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global. “For those only using some of the Microsoft and Google suite services, we help them fully adopt, utilize, and leverage capabilities.”

The Productivity Suite Assessment gives businesses:

  • A comprehensive review of current technology platforms and how well they are serving the business
  • Expert analysis of challenges, gaps, and opportunities to improve productivity and efficiencies
  • Recommendations: “what” technologies are a best fit and “how” to leverage them for greatest impact and value
  • Savings on implementation of recommendations.

“We help businesses decide if Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace best aligns with their operations and technologies. More impactfully, we identify under-utilized capabilities and guide adoption,” noted Falcon. “Using these recommendations, businesses improve processes, empower employees and teams, reduce costs, and enable growth.”

The Productivity Suite Assessment follows Cumulus Global’s best-practice methods.  The three phase project includes: detailed discovery, thorough analysis; and recommendations with guidance on implementation and adoption.  Cumulus Global partners with both Microsoft and Google, providing objective analysis and recommendations. Founded in 2006, Cumulus Global has 15 years experience delivery cloud solutions to small and midsize businesses.

Cumulus Global takes AIM with Manufacturers

www.aimnet.orgApril 27 2021 – Westborough, MA – Cumulus Global is pleased to announce its Corporate Membership in the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM). Through its membership, Cumulus Global will better understand the issues and challenges facing manufacturers. As a member, Cumulus Global will help support manufacturing as a key component of a diverse, healthy economy.

“By joining AIM, we gain access to information and ideas,” stated Allen Falcon, CEO. “A better understanding of the business issues — challenges and opportunities — facing manufactures is key. This knowledge improves our ability to design, deploy, and manage technology solutions that deliver tangible business results.”

Manufacturers, like most businesses, are adopting cloud computing as a mainstream component of their technology infrastructure.  CIO magazine reports that over 90% of all businesses use some form of cloud computing.  According to IDG’s 2020 Cloud Computing Survey, investment in cloud computing jumped 59% from 2018 to 2020.

Smart strategies, investments, and management are critical.  Cumulus Global helps small and mid-size manufacturers leverage secure, public cloud services to maximize results and value. Done properly, cloud solutions help manufactures adapt and compete in our rapidly changing economy.

“A diversified, healthy economy depends on a healthy, diverse manufacturing sector,” noted Falcon. “Our AIM membership supports advocacy for public policies that enable manufacturers to adapt and thrive. This as essential for our community and our nation.”

Cumulus Global believes that manufacturing will continue to play a critical role in our local, regional, and national economies. The company shares AIM’s commitment to innovation and sound economic policy.

About Associated Industries of Massachusetts

AIM (www.aimnet.org) is a forward-looking organization of dedicated, focused, and experienced business leaders. The association works to support public policy and provide services that enable jobs creation and economic opportunity. AIM focuses on public policy advocacy, employer services delivery, business community development, and best practice guidance for, and on behalf, of its members.

Modern Workplace: Benefits and Challenges

The modern workplace brings together teams, information, and processes to empower our teams and enable our businesses. Powered by cloud, getting the most out of our systems requires more than simply moving from one system to another. Managing adoption, ensuring users understand how to use tools effectively, increases individual and team productivity and efficiency.

5 Benefits

Most of our businesses realize benefits when we create our modern workplace.

1 Faster and more reliable communication
The modern workplace improves our ability to communicate. Beyond fast Internet connections, the integration of voice, messaging, audio/video conferencing, file sharing, real-time collaboration, and other tools lets us work together and share information in the ways that work best for us. Secure access from virtually anywhere enables us to work where we are most productive.

2 Enhanced efficiency and productivity
The modern workplace ushers in efficiency and productivity in many ways. Automating tasks and workflows, improved access to files and information, and embedded AI help users complete work more effectively.

3 Lower costs; Higher profits
Technology-driven increases in efficiency and productivity decrease operating costs. Reduced travel, faster time to market, quicker customer response times, and faster and more effective decision-making all result from the reliability, mobility, and productivity of a modern workplace.  These benefits save time and money, and drive revenue and profits.

4 Greater transparency and interconnected operations
You can replace complex, bureaucratic processes when you match access to data and information with updated processes that take advantage of integrated, secure applications, tools, and services. Whether simple file sharing or ensuring you have one record of customer information across your systems, the modern workplace helps connect, streamline, and simplify.

5 Improved security
Modern workplaces are more secure. Integrated, layered security is embedded into the architecture of cloud services, designed and built to meet your security and data privacy needs. Beyond the traditional focus of protecting physical computers in specific locations, security for the modern workplace protects the systems, networks, applications, data, and processes. You also protect your people with identity and access management that removes the physical boundaries of security.

3 Challenges

Moving to a modern workplace, like any, change comes with challenges.

Resistance to Change
Even when they understand the objectives and benefits, some members of your team will hesitate to embrace change. Helping team members understand how the changes will benefit them individually —  how it will enable them succeed — improves buy-in and acceptance. Offering tools to help them learn and apply new features and capabilities supports their personal growth and overall adoption of new apps, tools, and processes.

Inadequate Training
Turning on a new app, tool, or process is not enough. “One and Done” sessions are not effective.  To fully benefit from your modern workplace investments, your team needs to understand your apps and tools as they use them. Individuals retain and apply learning best when they have time to use what they have learned. Adoption plans that provide training and support relevant to a person’s role and responsibility in small, manageable doses, over time are most effective.

Mismatched Technology
Technology for the sake of technology leads to disaster. Picking the best technology that is not the best fit creates problems. Start your selection process by defining your business goals and objectives. Identify the types of technologies you need and want to support your objectives. Then select the specific technologies that match your prioritized needs and wants.

Your Next Steps

Email us or complete our contact form to discuss how your modern workplace can help your business thrive and grow.

Resilience Trumps Continuity

business resilience
The unexpected will happen. It is inevitable. Sometimes the unexpected is a good thing. In technology, the unexpected is usually bad.  It may be small … or big … or catastrophic.

Part of our role as IT professionals is to expect and prepare for the unexpected. We backup data so that we can restore files that are accidentally deleted, overwritten, or damaged.  We backup systems so that we can recover them in case of hardware or software failures. Many business design and implement disaster recovery plans. These plans provide the means for companies to recovery from larger incidents, ranging from burst pipes and building fires to blizzards and hurricanes.

In recent years, the focus has been on “Business Continuity” planning. Business continuity intends to prevent disruption to operations, even in the face of larger incidents or disasters. While great in concept, most small and mid-size enterprises cannot afford to fully duplicate systems in redundant data centers and provide alternate work sites for employees.

Enter Business Resiliency!

Business Resiliency is based on the objective of enabling a business to continue (or rapidly resume) operations with some accommodations.  In other words, you may not be running 100%, but you will be running soon enough and well enough given the situation. Resiliency is about bending without breaking.

Consider Hurricane Sandy that devastated parts of the US Eastern Seaboard.  Many businesses were physically destroyed by the flooding. Many others were shut down by the indirect effects of the flooding as some areas along the coast lost critical infrastructure — including water and sewer. Businesses left physically intact but without power for days considered themselves lucky as some areas waited months for reconstruction.

Consider the ice storms and blizzards throughout the Northeast US in recent years.  For many businesses, the only disruption was loss of power.  And while in many of the storms outages where generally localized, some businesses went without power for as long as three weeks.

The same holds true for businesses in “tornado alley” in the midwest. A tornado may leave your business unscathed, but it may take days or weeks for power and water to be restored.

In each of these scenarios, backup/restore/recovery is not enough to get the business back up and running. And, again, most small and mid-size businesses cannot afford to maintain disaster recovery systems and sites.

Cloud Fosters Resiliency!

Most businesses can afford to move IT systems into cloud computing and hosted solutions.  And in doing so, businesses can affordably build resiliency.

With all of these disasters, you did not have to travel too far inland to be out of the damage zone.  Businesses with on-premise equipment had to purchase and wait for delivery of replacements, rebuild their systems, and (hopefully) recover their data from their off-site backups. Certainly doable, but costly and time consuming.  It can take 2 to 4 days just to get the equipment in place and ready to restore.

Businesses in the cloud faced a different scenario and outcome. Moving to an area with power and Internet, businesses running in the cloud were up and running in hours (some in minutes) and some were never “down” at all.


To discuss how cloud computing can improve the resiliency of your business, contact us for a no-obligation conversation or click here to learn about our RestartIT solutions.


 

 

 

Introducing Coffee and Clouds

Clouds in Coffee
One of the challenges we see with cloud computing is the growing complexity of options and solutions, particularly for small and mid-size enterprises.  It’s not as easy as going IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS and deciding on public, private, or hybrid anymore.  Most businesses are finding their path to the cloud is a mix of solutions.

Relax, grab a cup, and join us for some clarity.

We are launching a new series of live and web events, Coffee and Clouds, where we aim to help clear out the clutter. We will help you keep abreast of the market, technologies, and best-practices, and give you an opportunity to network with your peers.  Forget about hype, we will focus on actionable ideas and tangible results. And, we will plan content in response to your feedback.

Our first set of live events are already on our events calendar.  Learn more about the series and register today.

Still on Windows Server 2003? Don’t Migrate, Modernize!

Sunset
If something works, why fix it?

We understand why you may still be running Windows Server 2003. For businesses with relatively simple IT needs, the benefits of moving off Windows Server 2003 has never quite justified the cost. After all, migrating means more than new hardware and a new version of Windows Server. Migrating triggers a major round of updates to other systems, such as backups, virus protection, databases, and business software.

Let’s face reality: Migrating is expensive and probably adds little or no value to your business.

Modernization Adds Value

When people remodel kitchens and baths, they do more than replacing aging appliances and cabinets with new versions of the same old stuff. People improve their space utilization, make traffic flows more efficient, add features that make life easier and more convenient, and improve aesthetics.

The same is true for IT. When you modernize your infrastructure, you have the opportunity to update how your IT supports the way you and your team work on a day to day basis.

Companies that modernize their IT, they …

  • Improve the ways in which employees communicate with each other and with customers
  • Enhance and enable collaboration and the sharing if information
  • Make work more efficient with better access to information and applications
  • Empower people to work remotely and from mobile devices
  • Reinforce efficient and improved processes

Modernization 101: Server to Service

One of the most effective ways to modernize is to replace aging servers with cloud-based services.

Replacing Exchange servers with Google Apps or other cloud email services is a long-proven to reduce costs, outages, and frustration. This modernization can enhance data privacy while enabling new communication capabilities, ranging from secure instant messaging and voice calling to video conferencing and integrated mobile services.

When you move from a physical file server to a managed cloud file service, your modernization still leaves you with shared file space, control over access and permissions, data backup and recovery, and malware protection. More than lowering the cost of file storage, file service modernization  ….

  • Enables more efficient and effective sharing of files and information
  • Improves version control for files and documents
  • Delivers easy and secure access from mobile devices and remote users (without the cost and headaches of VPNs)
  • Lets users work together, in real time or not, as part of a team
  • Provides a slew of additional capabilities proven to enhance productivity

Getting Started

Just like your kitchen, your first steps in your IT Modernization are to think about what …

  • currently works,
  • could work better, and
  • new features and ideas you need or want to incorporate.

For your IT modernization, you need to look around and window-shop … get ideas and a sense of the market. As you learn about your options, think in terms of services, not things, and how you want your employees to work with one another, with your customers, and with others. From there, you can start thinking about features, design, and how you can best use new, cloud-based solutions.


 

If you are worried about the end of Windows Server 2003 in July, or if you are dreading a migration from aging systems to new versions of the same old solution, contact us to discuss your needs and priorities. Give us a chance to design a solution to modernize your technology, and your business.


 

 

Cloud Guru Joins Cumulus Global in New York Expansion

profilepicNew York, NY, July 11, 2013 – Cumulus Global today announced that David Watts is joining Cumulus Global as a Senior Cloud Consultant, leading Cumulus Global’s expansion into the Metro New York area. Watts brings a consultative approach to matching businesses, non-profits, local governments, and schools with the right cloud solutions. The addition of Watts to the Cumulus Global team coincides with the opening of a new office in Manhattan.

“As one of the largest Google Apps partners in New England, expansion into the New York area is a logical step for us,” stated Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global. “David’s expertise and our local office in New York helps us meet the cloud solution needs of small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) in the New York City area.”

Watts comes to Cumulus Global from White Stratus, a Google Enterprise Partner, and Cloud Guru, a Google Apps SMB partner Watts co-founded. Watts is a Google Apps Certified Sales Professional, a member of Agile Equity’s Cloud Computing Advisory Board, and has led many Google Apps for Business deployments. His experience helps companies better understand the process and results as he consults with clients to create comprehensive cloud solutions.

“Cloud for cloud’s sake is not the answer”, noted Falcon. “David expands our ability to leverage Google Apps and Drive as core components of broader solutions designed to meet business goals and priorities.”

Watts has experience looking beyond Google Apps as an email and calendar service. Google Apps is a platform for collaboration and managed file services. By integrating Google Apps for Business with legacy applications, integrating line of business applications, and providing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) services, Watts and the team at Cumulus Global deliver solutions that organizations need to compete in today’s business climate.

 

Moving to the Cloud: Too Many Choices?

 

Green_GaugeThis post is the ninth, and final, post in a series addressing concerns organizations may have that prevent them from moving the cloud-based solutions.

Good News; Bad News.

The Good News:  Organizations can choose from a rapidly growing myriad of cloud computing services and solutions.

The Bad News:  Organizations can choose from a rapidly growing myriad of cloud computing services and solutions.

When looking to move into the cloud, organizations have an abundant set of choices and options that offer similar functions and services.  Even more challenging, many cloud solutions offer features that overlap, creating redundancy at the intersection (i.e., the Google Drive component of Google Apps versus Dropbox).

For many organizations, the marketplace is confusing and full of claims that may be hard to verify.  Too often, the decision falls to price, not business value, and organizations end up getting what they pay for.

Start at the Beginning

Organizations looking to move into the cloud should start at the beginning step of any successful IT project — business requirements.  What are the business reasons for moving into the cloud?  These could be a simple as “keep the same functionality as in-house systems, but at a lower cost” or as sophisticated as “expand into international markets”.

The business requirements drive the technical requirements.  The technical requirements guide the selection of the solution.  Evaluate how well the solution meets your technical requirements and how well it supports your business requirements first.  Include relevant issues of customization, management, and support.   Then, look at the cost.

Vet the Vendor

While the concept of cloud computing dates back to mainframe time-sharing services in the 1970s and 1980s, today’s marketplace is new.  Every cloud vendor is new to the market as their services are relatively (no more than 5 years old) new.   Do not assume “name brand” companies are best.  Microsoft, for example, is a well-established mature business.  And yet, they have proven they are very capable of failing when it comes to providing a reliable cloud computing service.

Look at prospective vendors for their track record (as limited as it may be) with respect to performance, availability, reliability, support, innovation, and customer service.  Talk with customers and see out organizations that have dropped the service.

Understand where the vendor is financially.  Are they profitable?  Are they running on venture funds, and will they be sustainable before the funds run out?  Is the vendor’s financial position improving as their sales grow?

Use a Trusted Partner

Find a partner that knows cloud computing and can help you find your way through the myriad of options.  Work with cloud solution providers that do not push you only to what they currently sell.  Better CSPs will direct you to other resources and will either contract with them on your behalf or hand off the relationship.

If your current IT firm or your internal IT team cannot navigate the cloud computing territory, look for a partner that will work with, and will help educate, your current IT staff and/or team.  As with your cloud solutions selection, choosing a cloud solutions provider is about business value.

A good CSP can help you find, vet, select, and implement the right solution.

 

Moving to the Cloud: Internationalization

 

Green_GaugeThis post is the eighth in a series addressing concerns organizations may have that prevent them from moving the cloud-based solutions.

Cloud computing is global and a growing number of cloud solution providers are global as well.  Data stored in the cloud can end up in data centers in other countries and jurisdictions with differing laws and level of privacy protection.   In addition, organizations may be subject to laws or regulations that restrict data from being stored across national boundaries or in other jurisdictions.

Some risk exists in national or local laws related to data privacy and ownership.

Learn Before You Leap

Before signing on with a cloud provider, ask the questions about where data is stored and how the provider is protecting your data from foreign governments and other interests.  Review all contracts, agreements, and vendor policy statements to ensure they are consistent with the message you hear from the sales team.

Look for adherence to privacy standards based on international treaties, such as Safe Harbor and EU Safe Harbor. While these programs cannot eliminate all risk, they do set reliable standards and ensure the vendor has a process for managing any issues that arise.

Explore options with your vendor.  Many cloud vendors allow customers to select specific data centers in which their systems will run and/or data resides.

Seek out some knowledge about the privacy laws and regulations in the countries in which your data may reside (many Canadian firms, for example, see the US Patriot Act as a risk when data resides in the US).

With a small amount of due diligence, organizations can judge the vendor’s competency in managing data privacy and ownership across boundaries, and can ensure the cloud solution meets the organization’s needs above all.

Next Post in the Series:  Coming Monday June 10th

Previous Post in the Series:  Regulatory Compliance

Moving to the Cloud: Regulatory Compliance

 

Green_GaugeThis post is the seventh in a series addressing concerns organizations may have that prevent them from moving the cloud-based solutions.

Moving to the cloud often entails more than switching to an email service or spinning up a some cloud-based storage and servers.  For many businesses — including Small and Mid-Size Businesses (SMBs) — regulatory requirements place demands on IT systems and security.  And, while these requirements impact in-house and cloud solutions, moving to the cloud requires planning.

The most common regulations for SMBs relate to consumer (customer) privacy:  HIPAA, which protects personal health information, and PCI, which protects personal and credit related information.  Many SMBs, however, must also meet the requirements of Sarbanes/Oxley, FINRA, SEC, and various state regulations.

The solution:  Integrating Solutions.

Fortunately, the tools and systems exist to provide compliance with data security and privacy regulations.  Cloud vendors are creating environments and the management controls necessary for customer regulatory compliance and certification.

The challenge is to make sure that all of the pieces work together.

  • Message Archive/eDisovery:  Manages retention of email as official business records and provides the eDiscovery and audit tools necessary to meet federal subpoena requirements.
  • Message Encryption: Encrypts email at the individual message level based on content and rule sets, requires users to authenticate before accessing the message, and prevents forwarding.
  • Two Factor Authorization / Single Sign-On: Provides identity management services and audit trails beyond core products in order to meet regulatory or policy requirements 
  • Third Party Encryption:  Encrypts data in the browser or client before transmission to the cloud, providing a second level of encryption prior to the encryption provided by the cloud vendor.  In the event of a vendor data breach, the exposed data would be encrypted.

These types of solutions, and others, provide cloud environments with the capabilities to meet regulatory requirements.  Vendor contracts and policies should still be carefully reviewed for any terms and conditions that threaten compliance.

And remember, no vendor can ensure compliance.  Compliance exists when the technology meets the technical standards and is used in accordance with policies and procedures that meet the regulatory intent.

Next Post in the Series:  Internationalization

Previous Post in the Series:  Integration with Legacy Systems