The Cloud-y World of Big Data

shutterstock_116697148Two very popular topics of conversation in today’s IT world are the use of cloud computing and the increasing value of Big Data. In the old days, data management meant huge rooms of hardware storing bits and bytes for eventual transmission to an analyst. Those days are far behind as data storage merges with the cloud’s free-form architecture. Using the cloud to process big data in a meaningful way makes sense due to the cloud’s growing list of advantages.

Cloud Perks
Big Data has a natural home in the cloud. Most data traffic in 2015 travels through the cloud already; keeping it there allows more efficient handling of the data. The cloud is quite flexible and accommodating to new requirements, can be expanded or pulled back on the fly, accessed from nearly anywhere and is highly secure if configured properly. In fact, the cloud is often more secure than traditional hardware-based storage since patches and updates are done automatically and in bulk.

A company converting to cloud storage and app management typically enjoys a major reduction in IT costs as well as rarely having to worry about outdated technology. Risks related to data integrity and security are minimized while improving the level of processing and analysis that can be done on the data through the newest data management offerings.

Analytics
Using cloud computing to handle big data is a no-brainer. Traditional analytics processing requires a lot of overhead whether it be human resource, storage space or bandwidth. Analytics on massive data sets are far more powerful when performed in the cloud because the cloud can be fed from multiple sources and is able to work with data that is completely raw or totally structured. Data results can be ranked in multiple ways depending upon the importance of each data point or data set.

For optimized recordkeeping, separate retention requirements may be assigned to the various pieces of data to simplify regulatory and company records retention policies. This factor lessens the load on the system that could result from storing unnecessary information.

Using a hybrid cloud arrangement in which sensitive data is kept securely in a private cloud while other data can be fed through the public cloud will further lower costs while minimizing the need for hardware resources. Analytics applications can reside in any part or arrangement of the cloud through use of an as-a-service model. AaaS is rising in popularity and has contributed great value to organizations adopting the concept.

Cloud analytics deliver a wealth of real-time information to the stakeholders who need it most, often before they know they need it. Whether the organization is local or global, using Cloud to process and store Big Data lends to an easily governed and controlled data management strategy.

Unified Communications and PBX: A Prosperous Coexistence

shutterstock_121223365Unified Communications (UC) solutions are transforming the way companies communicate both internally and externally, creating efficiencies and simplifying business processes. Integrating UC services such as instant messaging, mobility, voice, presence, video and data, opens up new ways of communicating within enterprises, and has the potential to transform the way companies conduct business.

But upgrading to UC solutions, or doing a wholesale replacement of an existing private branch exchange (PBX) system is a decision many companies will have to carefully consider. Abandoning existing equipment that employees are accustomed to as well as the investment that went into the equipment can be undesirable to some companies.

For companies that are not prepared to give up their legacy private branch exchange (PBX) systems but that want to take advantage of the benefits of UC technology, a new option exists. Hybrid UC solutions take traditional telecommunications systems to the next level, combining existing PBX equipment with advanced voice services to create a powerful offering that combines the benefits of both.

Hybrid Unified Communications solutions offer a variety of benefits, including:

Harnessing the power of Session Initiation Protocol
(SIP) trunking. SIP trunking, a VoIP-based technology, forms the basis by which UC services can be delivered to legacy PBX equipment. SIP delivers UC and traditional telephony services to PBX equipment capable of receiving it.

Maintaining current investments. By making use of the cloud, Unified Communications as a Services (UCaaS) are available as a hosted solution, allowing companies to access the benefits of advanced telephone technologies without having to abandon their PBX investment.

Tapping into collaboration. At the heart of UC solutions is the ability to communicate and collaborate in ways not previously possible. Employee conference calls can seamlessly incorporate video or data to all participants, or an employee working on a deal with a client can incorporate product literature or a detailed quote within a single communications session.

Protecting the bottom line. SIP offers an increased level of flexibility combined with cost savings that will appeal to many companies. In addition, cloud-based UC services allow for scalability to fit companies of all sizes and at all stages, allowing companies to buy in at a price that makes sense to their budget.

Moving beyond send and end. Unified Communications solutions can give PBX users similar mobility features enjoyed by UCaaS users, such as remote office, follow and find me services and simultaneous ringing.

Mitigating risks. Completely tearing out an existing communications system is a risky endeavor. A hybrid approach provides a method for a gradual transition that allows the company to move at its own pace.

Adoption of hybrid solutions is on the rise and is expected to surpass legacy digital telephone deployments within five years. Companies looking to capitalize on the benefits of UC but that aren’t prepared to rip out their current system and completely replace it with a UC offering might find the hybrid approach a profitable compromise.

Improve VoIP Performance with WAN Orchestration

shutterstock_195920690As more businesses adopt VoIP technologies on an enterprise level, IT departments are realizing that some of the traditional infrastructure and service management technologies aren’t able to provide the service levels needed by the modern user. In order to keep up with the additional amount and complexity of traffic, IT administrators are turning to advanced technologies such as WAN orchestration to improve performance.

Problems with the Existing Model
While there are some options in the market for managing VoIP traffic, such as optimization, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), and load balancing, the truth is that these solutions aren’t practical for VoIP support from either a cost or functionality perspective. Even with these solutions in place, enterprises still face the following concerns:

  • Latency – Delays in connections among network points
  • Dropped connections – Sometimes, a severed IP link can cause a connection to completely drop
  • Skyrocketing costs – The cost of avoiding the above issues sometimes results in deploying a solution such as MPLS which is more appropriate for internet performance management and not just voice communications.

The amount of traffic within VoIP calls for a solution that does not just redirect or optimize traffic, but that does both in an intelligent manner. WAN Orchestration is one such solution.

WAN Orchestration: A Solution
WAN orchestration solves the problems with latency and heavy traffic flow by sitting on top of the existing WAN links and directing traffic in the right direction – in an intelligent manner. Here are some of the ways that WAN orchestration improves performance:

  • WAN orchestration technologies make real-time, context-sensitive decision about where to direct connections.
  • WAN orchestration dynamically performs sophisticated functions such as flow mapping, advanced Quality of Service techniques, and traffic grooming.
  • With WAN orchestration, latency is less of a concern as the orchestration solution can divert a packet to a different network path – even at the last minute.
  • When paired with a technology such as Broadband Bonding, WAN orchestration becomes even more powerful. Broadway Bonding boosts connectivity speeds by joining multiple Internet lines into a single connection.

Users want to take full advantage of everything new VoIP technologies have to offer. Existing infrastructure solutions aren’t feasible for the enterprise due to functional limitations or budget constraints. By directing traffic in real-time and making smart decisions about traffic flow, WAN orchestration provides an affordable solution to the dilemma of dropped calls and latency, enabling users to fully reap the benefits of VoIP innovation.

Cloud Storage Comes to Healthcare

shutterstock_120227836Over the last several years, the need for data storage has increased exponentially, and it’s not likely to slow down any time soon. Whether due to requirements generated by regulations like HIPAA, or to any of a whole host of new healthcare technologies, healthcare IT is being required to keep up with an ever-increasing requirement for data.

 

Fortunately for those healthcare IT organizations, cloud storage systems have evolved to the point where they can provide enterprise-level capacity, redundancy, and availability, giving IT groups the ability to rapidly scale to meet the pace of expansion required by modern healthcare enterprises.

Healthcare organizations have begun to realize this as well, and cloud technologies continue to increase within the healthcare field. In fact, according to an HIMSS Analytics’ recent survey, SAAS adoption within the healthcare industry have topped 83%, with over 60% allocated to SAAS applications. And, as adoption rates increase, enterprise-level cloud platforms, such as cloud storage, are increasingly being adopted as well.

And for those organizations that make the move to cloud-based storage systems, there are a number of benefits, such as:

Mobility – Unlike traditional storage systems that are tied to a single geographic location, cloud storage systems are more accessible from different locations, so that users and application in diverse locations can all access the same data.

Easier Replication – Traditional storage requires two sets of more or less identical hardware, located close together, and the replication process was fairly complex. With cloud storage systems, data replication is made much easier, with much of the heavy lifting performed by the provider.

Big Data Analytics – Healthcare IT is moving into the field of big data and bioinformatics in a big way, all of which generates the need for storage platforms that are highly scalable and flexible. Cloud-based storage systems fit the bill on both counts.

Security – Cloud storage removes much of the security requirements from your team, and moves that requirement to the cloud provider. And most provider of cloud-based storage have excellent security measures in place, well in advance of most providers.

Health Information Exchange (HIE) Data Support – As more healthcare systems create and participate in health information exchanges, a common cloud-based storage platform can for a critical component to the support of those systems.

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Storage Support – Perhaps the most fundamental benefit of cloud-based storage systems is the ability to store electronic medical records, and make those records available to different clinics and application in different geographical areas. And while HIPAA is a concern here, the reality is that many cloud-based storage providers understand HIPAA now, and have HIPAA-compliant solutions to meet this set of requirements.

Physician Collaboration Solutions (PCS) Support – Physician collaboration solutions often require access to a common data repository. Cloud-based storage provides a perfect platform for those repositories.

Cloud-based storage technologies continue to evolve and expand in their capabilities – which is a good thing, because the needs of healthcare IT continue to expand as well. But the benefit of this is that, as both continue to become more powerful, it can only result in newer applications in the field of healthcare, which in turns means better healthcare for everyone.