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SMB gains competitive edge with private cloud

DevLinks Ltd., a Chicago-based automation manufacturer with a range of automation products, had a completely localized data center with no cloud computing presence. As a growing organization with 15 employees and numerous contracted salespeople, the company

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was trying to stay competitive in the robotics market by expanding its IT infrastructure without adding too much new overhead.

As an organization with no cloud presence at the time, Robert Devlin, the company’s CEO and founder, needed a way for engineering and sales staff to log into the centralized server environment and access files, applications and shared data. With no cloud-ready infrastructure in place, Devlin’s engineering team had to decide whether to place this data into the public cloud or build a private cloud.

The decision on which cloud model was best came down to three factors: infrastructure control, agility and the cost of implementation. Even though the company is expanding, its speed of growth didn’t warrant purchasing cloud-based servers and moving toward a monthly fee.

“People who are working out of different states need access to the sales process as well as the engineering process,” said Devlin. “I'm able to limit access and set permissions for file access and allow users to get into the environment as needed.”

For smaller organizations, there may be a good business case for moving to a public cloud model; however, companies that are aware of growth potential should examine private cloud.

By moving to a private cloud, DevLinks is able to have granular control over their environment because of a cloud presence at the local data center level. After a few firewall changes, new group policy objects (GPOs) and some routing configurations, DevLinks had a fully functioning private cloud environment. It also has the capability to expand as needed.

According to Devlin, simply adding this additional data center component has revolutionized the way DevLinks does business. “We're able to access our environment and it's really going to save time with email and engineers in the field.”

A large part of the success of using a new environment is end-user acceptance. DevLinks never had a cloud presence, so end users required additional training and a new understanding of procedures. However, all engineers who have been given access to the environment have seen an immediate benefit.

“We collaborate with a lot of people all over the country,” adds Scott Jackson, robotics integrator at the company. “We might have up to three or more people working on the same file. There had to be a way to log into an environment so that we could work on the same file and be productive.”

Engineers and sales staff no longer have to email or wait for a phone response when they need file access. Instead, they can log into one centralized portal, access a desktop and view their files. For smaller organizations, there may be a good business case for moving to a public cloud model; however, companies that are aware of growth potential should examine private cloud.

For smaller companies, server hardware and networking investments are minimal, but the benefits can be huge. DevLinks has plans to expand its private cloud in the near future by adding additional servers and potentially moving toward a hosted application infrastructure.

 

Bill Kleyman, MBA, MISM, is an avid technologist with experience in network infrastructure management. His engineering work includes large virtualization deployments as well as business network design and implementation. Currently, he is a virtualization solutions architect at MTM Technologies, a national IT consulting firm.

This was first published in March 2012

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