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Cloud Computing Is Key To Recession Proofing Your Business

Cloud Computing Is Key To Recession Proofing Your Business

Recession-Proof Investments: Cloud Computing and the Refrigerator of the Future

We’ve long been told that necessity is the mother of invention, but when necessity is out of a sense of privation, reactions vary. Born and raised into the world of residential and commercial construction, I’ve felt the motion sickness that results from the ups and downs of the building cycle well into my earliest memories. And I‘ve been in business long enough to have stomached enough down-cycles to observe how different companies react to these changing economic climates.

 

As the current bull market gets slowly walked to the slaughterhouse, managers at all levels begin to wonder what it will mean for their own place within America’s larger business landscape. There is always the search for the investments that could be considered “recession-proof”—investments that will yield value during the current crisis, but would also serve as a foundation for future success. Simple cost-cutting is rarely such an investment—it yields short-term savings, but often at the expense of long-term objectives: I’ve never seen a hiker make it to the top of a peak faster by trimming down the soles of his boots.

 

That is, the most reactionary of companies looks to simple knee-jerk reactions to trim costs in order to get in line with shrinking revenues: eliminating optional programs or reducing essential services to their bare minimum. More innovative companies utilize this newfound necessity as a means of transforming their current state by getting ahead of the competition.

 

At the consumer level, the most well-known example of this phenomenon was the advent of the refrigerator. It was the Great Depression, of all things, that led to the broad use of the refrigerator by America’s large middle class. While it was, at the time, a significant capital expenditure for any given household, the refrigerator allowed families to save time and money: the ability to extend the life of the day’s victuals allows families to reduce waste, and thus cut costs, while also allowing them to expend the physical labor that would have been spent on the next meal on other activities. This rendered the old-fashioned ice box obsolete. In this way, times of downturn often have a way of surfacing new innovations—products that outpace their competitors suddenly emerge because the competitive landscape has reduced the viability of their less-innovative competitors.

 

Similarly, as America hit rock bottom in the late 2000s and early 2010s, cloud computing grew rapidly at the same time, as companies looked for ways to reduce cost and risk, while scaling up for the future. In this way, cloud computing may very well serve to become the coming recession’s refrigerator—the tool that will allow individuals and companies to strategically equip themselves not only for the hard times ahead, but also for the good times thereafter.

 

For Epicor customers, cloud computing surfaces as an opportunity to avoid the costs of replacing outdated hardware. Also, by moving installations into hosted environments, customers are able to eliminate the cooling costs required to keep their stacks on ice. Estes Group’s Epicor Cloud Managed Hosting offering (ECHO) is ready-by-design to protect and carry your company through the down-cycles and get you back into the saddle and riding the next bull market to better times. Looking to recession-proof your business? Please reach out to our team, and we’ll help you innovate a cloud computing strategy that will keep you ahead of the storm.

 

Are you looking for cloud computing options, or have questions on how we can help make your systems more flexible? Contact Us today or let us know below.

Data Center Location is Critical to Your Company’s Success and Survival

Data Center Location is Critical to Your Company’s Success and Survival

Looking California When You’re Feeling Minnesota: Where is the Best Data Center Location?

 

For manufacturing companies, the advent of “cloud computing” has raised a lot of questions.  Luckily, you don’t have to wander lonely as a cloud to find answers to your questions surrounding cloud solutions for your business.  Not as complicated as a cumulonimbus or as feathery as a cirrus, a cloud in the field of technology is as simple, or as complicated, as someone else’s computer.  But of the many questions a manufacturer may have, one frequently surfaces in relation to the location of the data: “So where is my data located, anyway?”

 

This isn’t a small squall of a question: if you are looking for an on-premise installation or a server stack in the cloud, your primary and secondary data centers’ location is a decision of atmospheric proportions—one with direct business impact.  

 

Whether choosing hosted or cloud solutions, your data center location is critical.  You must be wary of where exactly your data center servers are located, for all clouds are not created equal.  Downtime is the great fear when it comes to all things computing, and is often the result of natural disasters—and do you remember how long it took to get the power grid functioning in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria?  Clearly, minimizing the risks of mother nature is a central concern.  Let’s take a down-to-earth look at some of the natural dangers facing your company’s data.

 

Earthquakes

 

When I worked in Arkansas a number of years ago, in an area that was on the edge of the New Madrid seismic zone, I noticed the strange cross-bracing in one of the factories, and I asked a local about it.  He explained the seismic risks in the area, and recounted the family lore about the quake of 1812.  Then he looked me square in the eye and said, “Whatever you do, don’t blame Arkansas—it wasn’t our fault.” 

 

It can be a surprise to discover that one the largest earthquakes in North America’s recorded history was not along the California coast but was actually along the New Madrid seismic zone in Missouri—of all places!  This was the quake that briefly caused the Mississippi River to run upstream back in 1812, the year almost exclusively famous for the conflict between America and England.  But while the Americans were locked in battle with the British on the East Coast, they were unwittingly losing the war with nature in the Midwest.   

 

This might serve as a warning if you locate your data center in a seismic zone—if your server gets death-rattled into oblivion, it’ll be your own fault.

 

 

Tornadoes

 

Nothing can lay your blades out like a deck of 52 quite like a tornado.  Tornadoes pry open buildings like nature’s proverbial can opener, allowing copious rain and debris to decorate your server room like a third grade art project, and you don’t want to see your data garnished with nature’s glitter.  Tornadoes pose a risk not only to your data center itself, but they also tend to knock out your primary—and even your secondary power supplies.  Backup generators are often located adjacent to a building, making them a potential target for mother nature’s twisted wrath.  So while a twister might leave a building unscathed, it might take out your external generator, rendering backup power systems useless.  Of course, that’s a moot point if the contents of your data center are laid out across the lawn like your laundry, for all to see.  Luckily, a proper data center location can help you avoid an unfortunate game of 52-pickup.

 

 

Floods

 

I reached out to one of my customers after a series of tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma, and he gave the all-clear: “The twisters missed us, but the water levels are so high, some folks can’t get into work.”  That is to say, a natural disaster can be more sneaky than a weather channel headline.  While things like tornadoes get a lot of attention, water levels can do a lot more damage over time.  As such, one might think twice about locating a data center on a floodplain.  While all my gamer buddies are hyped over water-cooled CPUs, I don’t quite think this is what they’re referring to. 

 

 

Hurricanes

 

Hurricanes amount to the worst of wind and water, with the ability to pummel your data center into paste from above, or dissolve it into a silicon solution from below.  And while the zone immediately affected by hurricanes is rather small, the extended zone where hurricane-related storms transform into inland berserkers is much larger.  Locating your stacks in a place that is far-removed from the hurricane fallout zone will serve you well in reducing wind and water risks. 

 

 

Heat

 

Another sneaky disaster when it comes to all things electronic is heat.  Not too long ago, I was in Charlotte, NC with a coworker.  One morning after breakfast, we were about to head to the customer site when my coworker ran back into the hotel to retrieve his coffee mug, leaving me in the parking lot.  I stood out in the morning heat for maybe a minute or two.  Now, being a Canadian, I generally overheat reading the newspaper, and the morning temp in Charlotte was obliterating.  By the time we got to carpooling, I was already a puddle.  And this was still in the early morning!  Servers are like Canadian consultants—they work better in temperate climates.  When choosing a shack to hang your racks, look to locate it in a place where your cooling systems won’t be fighting a losing battle with the heat index.  Servers generate enough heat on their own—they don’t need any help! 

 

The Cloud

 

While the notion of “The Cloud” brings with it visions of the ethereal, it is in reality quite terrestrial in nature.  Hosting a customer’s ERP system is a huge responsibility, and not one to be taken lightly.  The cloud itself can be just as risky as a hurricane.  As such, the EstesGroup is all about maximizing service while minimizing risk.  In support of our Epicor Hosting initiative, we keep our data center located in Michigan, which has a favorable climate for keeping servers cool as a cucumber, while avoiding the many environmental pitfalls noted above.  Moreover, by having our data center location in the Midwest, we provide centrality that allows us to rapidly service a broad region.  With optimal location and cloud infrastructure, the team at EstesGroup can serve your business needs by providing ideal solutions for your data, regardless of the weather. 

 

If you find yourself looking to the sky for answers to your worldly business questions, please give our team a call.

Epicor ERP and Your Anti-Virus: A Love-Hate Relationship

Epicor ERP and Your Anti-Virus: A Love-Hate Relationship

I’ve seen enough of Epicor ERP installations to know that a finely tuned system needs… fine-tuning. Perhaps that’s obvious, but nonetheless, I’ve seen many deployments where Epicor ERP is installed, but not set up optimally. One area that has my bits all scrunched up is anti-virus, sometime called anti-malware, or malware protection. I’ll just call it anti-virus for purposes of this discussion.

Each vendor does it a little differently, but there are three primary aspects to worry about.

  1. Real-time scanning
  2. Scheduled scans
  3. Injection into an application

 

Depending on the tool and the configuration, you might have one or all three at play, on both your SQL and Epicor ERP servers. Done right, they’ll do their job, keep you protected, and stay out of your way. Done wrong, and your performance, reliability, and up-time will suffer.

Now, in my humble opinion, a dedicated, patched, protected, and behind the firewall SQL server needs no anti-virus – it’s not a file server, nor a SharePoint server, nor do any end-users directly interact with it. Your installation might be different, check your exposure! Anti-Viruson a SQL server, improperly configured, will just slow it down and give you headaches. If you can avoid it, do so. Of course, your company policy might require AV installations on ALL servers. Please follow Microsoft’s guidance for choosing anti-virus software to run on SQL Servers, including their exclusions. Some AV software will recognize SQL and exclude automatically, but don’t assume that to be the case.

Epicor ERP is another animal. By definition, an Epicor ERP application server is also a file server and is often exposed to the internet in some capacity. Therefore, in addition to your firewalling, patching and backups, make sure to protect your Epicor ERP Application servers with anti-virus – with the proper exclusions.

Some anti-virus platforms let you do the exclusions on the end-point, others require a central management console. Many enterprises have a team to handle it. Either way, set up the exclusions and then test them by dropping a copy of the test malware Eicar (from eicar.org) into one of the folders. The file won’t execute (since it’s an OLD win16 file), but if AV is scanning that folder, it’ll pluck it out and you’ll know AV is active in that folder.

Replace the X: with the volumes you’ve deployed Epicor ERP on. Not all installations will have all these folders, depending on the extensions and add-ons deployed.

X:\Epicor* X:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Epicor Software Corporation* X:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Epicor Software* X:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Epicor* X:\Program Files (x86)\Epicor Software* X:\Program Files (x86)\Insite Software* X:\Program Files (x86)\Seagull* X:\ProgramData\Epicor Software Corporation*

X:\ProgramData\Epicor* X:\ProgramData\EpicorSearch* X:\InsiteShip* X:\APM* X:\Applications\EKM* X:\BarTender Formats* X:\BarTenderData* X:\BarTenderTaskList* X:\Program Files (x86)\Insite Software* X:\inetpub\wwwroot\(Servers) – replace with appropriate folders X:\inetpub\wwwroot\(Servers)-(extensions) – replace with appropriate folders

Don’t forget the Epicor clients – whether they be full Windows clients or Terminal Servers:

C:\ProgramData\Epicor* C:\Program Files\Epicor Software* C:\Program Files(x86)\Epicor Software*

 

Looking for assistance with your Servers? Contact Us and don’t worry, we’ve got IT covered.