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Air Date: 11/19/2019

Using the Cloud in Your Business: Safety, Cost, and How to Get Started.


Is the Cloud Safe and Where Do You Begin?


Dan: Good morning. We are here on... Let's call it the Vince and Louis.

Vince: The Vince and Louis Show.

Dan: Yeah, that's what I thought. Okay. Bit-Wizards here for Tip of the Wand Show this morning, and we have these guys in who happen to know so much more about technology than the rest of us. So, we're glad you're here. Louis, welcome. You are the chief of what?

Louis: Thanks. Yes, I'm chief operations officer at Bit-Wizards.

Dan: That's what it was.

Louis: Yeah.

Dan: Yeah, yeah. I have very short-term memory loss here.

Louis: Oh, no problem.

Dan: Of course, Vince is in here. He's been here for a couple of times, and we got some great information out of both you and Sam when Sam was here as well, and lots of things that you guys talk about, we have no idea that we can get into this to help ourselves.

Vince: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Dan: That's a lot of it, because you don't know what you don't know, and thankfully, you guys tell us what we don't know so that we can keep out of trouble, especially business owners. I have a small business myself, and so when you guys are talking about you won't lose your information, and you'll be able to back up this and that and take care of things, that's good to know. That's like insurance policy for our information, so we just don't die on the vine. We like that.

Vince: Absolutely. By the way, Sam asked me to send his regrets, and he's going to miss us, and we've got him out in Lodi, California onboarding Heartland Steels, so one of our managed IT services customers.

Dan: Oh, so he's out there working.

Vince: He is actually working today, yes.

Dan: You guys get to come in here and play a little bit.

Vince: Absolutely.

Louis: Take a little break, yeah.

Dan: All right. Let's get right to it.

Announcer: Bit-Wizards Bits & Bytes.

Dan: What's going on this morning with that?

Vince: Yeah. Well, getting my news like good old Rush.

Dan: Yeah. He always has the paperwork.

Vince: Yeah.

Dan: I don't know what he does with it, but he's fumbling around with it somewhere.

Vince: Anyways, what we thought we'd tell you about today on Bits & Bytes is that Google's planning to give slow websites a new badge of shame in Chrome. So, if your website operates too slowly, they're going to monitor that, and then when people browse to your website, it's going to come up with a badge of shame of some kind that annotates your website as running slowly, hopefully getting you to spend some time and effort on your website and getting it loading faster and updating your content so that users have a great experience.

Dan: So, they think that reflects upon Google, if your website goes slow there.

Vince: Well, a lot of small business owners think that a website is just a... You put it out there, and it's very static, and you forget it, and so a lot of people don't update, and they don't keep it up to standards that are going on because the web is constantly changing in how we serve things up. They don't keep it fast, which means that it's harder for Google to crawl it and index it, which allows you to be found on the web. So, they're trying to incentivize business owners to make that investment and get these things done so they don't end up on the wall of shame, per se, and it has-

Dan: I get you.

Louis: It has some ROI for the business owners as well. I mean, they've done studies that show that if the user experience is poor, if it leads to frustrations or delay in this limited-attention economy, you're actually losing sales.

Dan: That makes sense.

Louis: I mean, I've done it myself. If it takes too many steps, I wanted something, I'm doing it, and I just abandon it because I have other things to do.

Dan: I've done that myself. You go to their website, it's like, I take forever to try and find something, and it doesn't find it. I mean, you have to manually search through the website to try and find something, and still, it's so hard to go from page to page. I understand perfectly. We've talked about this before, that people need to kind of keep up with the times, not only just your PCs and your computers, but websites as well.

Vince: Absolutely, and that's why at Bit-Wizards we pride ourself... We're multi-disciplined, so we have four divisions. We have application development, digital marketing, which is partly user experience, and then infrastructure, and then our managed IT services, which is focused on our small and medium business. So, since we're sort of cross-disciplined there, we're able to provide that business owner that well-rounded set of experience to help them not only manage their servers, their desktops and their Macs, but also to keep abreast of technology and what's going on.

Dan: Well, that makes a lot of sense because that's how people get their business anyway, and like you were talking about, if they're going to bypass your website, well, you just lost a whole bunch of business, because most likely it's not just me and you that are like that. There's a lot of people like that, so if they can keep that up-to-date, and that's what you do, you help them keep their websites up-to-date.

Vince: It is one of the things that we do.

Louis: But specifically, it's management. I know in the previous show they said that technology is just table stakes. It's not a differentiator, but having a slow website's like having a broken window in your business, and as a business owner, when you walk up, that's easy. You can see that broken window and fix it, but perhaps some of that deeper knowledge about the user experience, what your customers are experiencing isn't as obvious to the business owner if they're not technology-savvy. So, we try to help with that, tell them about the trends, do a little checking and give them suggestions.

Dan: How often do they make sure they get their websites checked and make sure that things are running properly? Is that something that's a periodic thing, or is there a stage they do that in, like staging with the aircraft? Is it so many months between, or what would you suggest?

Vince: Not at all. I mean, it's really an ongoing daily experience. If you think about it in today's market, people, the way that they access everything is their smartphone. Right?

Dan: Right.

Vince: They want instant access. So, typically, their first experience with you and your company is going to be your website. If it looks old and dilapidated and doesn't look like you've updated it in 10 years, that's problematic, and even worse, the search engines and the ways that people find you are actually... You're penalized for not keeping up-to-date. So, really, it's an ongoing daily activity. It's not a just build it like a brochure, and if you build it, they will come. The way that the web is powered is by content. So, how often do you update it? Do you put things out there that are relevant to your customers to get them to pay attention to you? It's not just about you. It's about them. What kind of questions do they have about your business or about your service, or how can you help them? As Louis talked about in the attention economy, you've got fleeting seconds to get people's attention, so you want to be remarkable. You want to provide information that's relevant to them, and you want to provide things that answer their questions.

Dan: That makes a lot of sense. They're going to stay with your website if that's the case.

Louis: The stats also go along with the algorithms for the search engine results, which is very important to people. Google is on experience, and so one of the key factors in the past couple of years has been fresh content. Are you updating it? It's noticing that **inaudible** Now it's going to be speed. This is going to be part of it, and they may find other creative ways in the future to gauge other bits of user experience and put that into their equation.

Dan: Now, some of the websites, do you think some websites are a little bit too big and too convoluted? Because you've got to keep your computers up-to-date just to be able to load those websites to make them run, so the average PC or the average computer out there, are you trying to kind of conform the website so that it'll be faster, even if the computers aren't that powerful?

Vince: Well, yeah, absolutely. So, when we talk about building a website for a business, the first thing is what we call the information architecture. When you think about the information architecture, it's really like a table of contents to a site map that tells the users where they can find information. I always laugh because there's two types of companies out there. Some of them think it's all about the pretty picture, right? But if I can't find the information, it's useless to me. The website becomes a boat anchor. So, what we really need to do is we need to organize that information in a way that your customer, who wants to come and find out information about you or information that's relevant to them, you want to make it so that it's easy for them to find the information. So, by doing that it makes it easier for them to find that information, and then you keep that content relevant and updated, and you cull out content that maybe is no longer relevant, and it's not really the size. It's about how the information is organized.

Dan: Gosh, I'll tell you, I work on a rock station as well, and sometimes when I go to a rock website or a rock band, and you look in there, how in the world do you find anything on some of those websites? It is absolutely... They're horrible. They are absolutely horrible. When you're just trying to find out some information, they... When I look at those, I wonder, who in the world built this? I mean, really and truly, who built this? Because it isn't for your average user. It just isn't.

Vince: You're right, and that's because they get focused on the pretty picture, and the pretty picture's important, but what's really important is the data and the information that's in there that is relevant to people.

Dan: Gotcha.

Louis: There's a science to the art of it, I guess, to break down what is the call to action and really do that, because like I said, if the pretty picture is, oh, that looks really nice, but did you ask, okay, what user's coming to my site, and what are they trying to do?

Dan: Exactly.

Louis: There's often multiple types of users coming to your site for different reasons. How do you cater to them? How do you get them to where they need to go quickly?

Dan: I fully agree with that. Let's change gears for just a minute, guys.

Announcer: Bit-Wizards. What's up our sleeve?

Vince: Well, what's up our sleeve? This is our primary topic for today, and I'm going to fill out a little factoid, that 86% of small businesses say keeping up with technology is important to them, but 60% of those surveyed do not use cloud technologies, that evil cloud. Everybody's worried about it. They think they're going to get hacked. But a survey commissioned by Microsoft says that of these smaller businesses, increase in revenue for them is about 30% when they are familiar with the cloud. So, what we wanted to talk about today is kind of explain what is the cloud and how it works, and let's sort of demystify it so small business owners can understand it and not be afraid of it.

Dan: You know something, Vince? You bring up a very good point because personally, I think of the cloud as something that could be hacked. So, if I store all my information on there, or if I back up my computer to a cloud, if you will, so all my information off of there, off of my computer, just in case I get hacked, so I'll always have that information available to reload into that computer or another computer, just the idea, the scare tactic is if that cloud gets hacked, what happens to my information?

Vince: Well, yeah. So, it goes back down to people want to own stuff, and they want to hold on to whatever it is that they buy, and they think if they can hold on to it, they can control it. If you think about it, there are three major cloud providers out there. You've got Microsoft Azure, you've got Google, and you've got Amazon Web Services. So, those are the two major clouds, and I've been to one of the Azure data centers, and I will have to tell you that the security there rivals Cheyenne Mountain. It's biometric access. Only people that are in the know that need to be in certain areas are allowed to be there. You have to get a background check before you're allowed to go in there. It's serious business. The cloud is sort of an amorphous term, but in terms of Microsoft's cloud, it is a global infrastructure. There are data centers all over the world that are interconnecting. In fact, a lot of people don't know this. Microsoft actually runs fiber underneath the ocean to connect between the United States and Asia and in Europe, and then also right now, they're in a consortium with several other, Google and Oracle, to run fiber down the West Coast of the United States down to service South America. So, it is pretty phenomenal.

Dan: Wow.

Vince: If you think your server in your closet at your business or where you've got the password stuck on a sticky note out there is more secure than this infrastructure that is kept up-to-date and monitored in realtime for threats, you're sadly mistaken. But what's important is that you implement the cloud or utilize the cloud properly, and it is the cornerstone of our business that we do at Bit-Wizards because we utilize it for your server infrastructure, and that may be in what we call hybrid configuration where we have some stuff that's local and then some stuff that's in the cloud, and so we want to make sure those connections are secure. Then we use what are called cloud-managed routers and firewalls so that we can manage them from the cloud and monitor them in realtime and connect them into that bigger infrastructure-

Dan: Wow.

Louis: Which allows us to scale, and that's how we could bring enterprise-class tools to the small business, is through using these cloud-based tools, because they provide efficiencies. A good analogy I've used to help make visual for people is to compare driving your car to flying. We all know statistically it is much safer to fly. You're much more likely to be hurt in your car than in an aircraft, but every time an aircraft goes down, it's big news, and that's what happens. When we hear about Target getting hit or we hear about somebody in the cloud getting hit, it's big news. When you hear about the individual business, which happens here locally much more often than I think people realize, it doesn't make big news. So, they hear about the big news, and they worry about it, but the maintenance on an aircraft is better. The professionals who fly and the entire operation of an aircraft is better than jumping in your car and heading down the road, and that's just a good analogy, that the on-prem services is the car. The cloud is really the aircraft.

Dan: I gotcha. So, some things are better left locally, and some things are better left to the cloud. That's what I'm taking away from this.

Vince: Absolutely.

Louis: That is true, yes.

Vince: One of the things that business owners need to understand about the cloud is it's operated a little bit differently. It's much like a utility, like the electric company. So, it's on a metered service where you pay for what you use, which is why it's really critical in terms of how you set it up. So, if I turn the server on, and I keep the server on for eight hours a day, well, I can turn it off for the other 16 hours when maybe you're not using it, and then the next morning when business starts up, you can have it back on. If you need it always on, then you pay for it always on. But that's what they call the difference between what we call capital expenditure, where you buy a server and then you put it in your office, you depreciate over five years, versus an operational expense for the cloud where it's much like your water or your electricity, and it's metered, and then you pay it monthly, and that bill will vary from month to month depending upon what you use.

Dan: No kidding. I assumed it was one price, and you buy so many gigabytes, or whatever it could be, and that is yours, and that's what you pay every month to use, but that's not the case.

Vince: Not the case, because think about... Let's start with CPU, which is one of the things that's metered on the cloud. How much CPU you use varies from minute to minute, and so they charge you based upon that usage, how much bandwidth you use in terms of the data that goes back and forth when people hit your website or maybe your internal folks hit one of your servers to get data and bring it down. Well, then that's bandwidth that's utilized. The storage is another thing. How much storage are you going to use? We all know, if you think about your phone, you buy the biggest phone that you can possibly buy to store pictures on, but what the cloud does, it says I can start and only pay for a little bit, and then as my data needs grow, then I can pay for it as I grow and as I get more, as opposed to on-premise or at home or in your office, where I buy the biggest hard drive I can possibly buy, I plug it in there, I don't use it all, and then I've got to worry about plugging in additional drives as I go along. The cloud takes all that complexity away, and you don't have to worry about it.

Dan: Oh, that's interesting. So, when you grow, it grows.

Vince: Yes.

Dan: I mean, you go down, it goes down. You only pay for what you use.

Louis: Exactly, and that makes scaling much nicer. I mean, for anybody who remembers Friendster, the free Facebook, basically got crushed because they couldn't scale fast enough, creating the machines it went on, and with the cloud you're able to then scale up easily without having to go out and buy the capital equipment, find a facility to put it in. What if your data center's too small because your business is growing Gang Busters kind of thing, or if you're having a downturn, and you have this commitment now to maintain, and this expense when maybe you're having a downturn. So, it's really nice because it scales up and down as needed.

Dan: That makes sense, because like you're talking about, you buy a big terabyte or whatever it is for a hard drive, but you only use this much of it, so you're paying for this, but you're only using a little bit of it, and that makes more sense. You pay for what you use.

Vince: Absolutely, and that ties back into two of the other areas that we work in the cloud, and one of them is backups, which again, that's paying for what you use, but the other one is licensing, which we use Office 365 E3, with the advanced threat protection, and the advertising there is let's say that the company is growing very quickly. Well, you can simply pay... That stuff is paid for by subscription, and so as I add more employees, I add my new employee on, and then I pay for that as I go, and let's just say that, God forbid, you have a downturn or a downturn in the economy and you need to downsize. You had 20 licenses. You can stop that month and drop down to 10 licenses or five licenses, whatever it is you need to do. So, that elasticity is what's important, and that's what the brings to the cloud, and the agility, and a lot of people don't understand that elasticity and that agility. That's why a partner like Bid-Wizards will come in, and we make that an integral part of our service. We use Microsoft's cloud, and as I mentioned before, it is a global network, and there are... It's for testing, and it's for managing production servers and applications, and it's done at Microsoft data centers, and you could choose where that data resides. So, if you have a business that has compliance issues, you don't want your data outside the United States, well, we can configure it so your data only stays inside the United States, and we can also balance it and say, " Well, you need to be able to operate in different time zones." Maybe you need Heartland Steels, who's one of our new customers, needs to operate in Lodi, California, but they also need to operate over here on the East Coast and in Michigan. Well, what we can do is we can put some of your stuff in data centers over in Lodi where it's closer to the folks there, and then we can put you also over on the East Coast side in one of the East Coast data centers, where you're closer. So, it's fewer hops across the internet to get to where you need to go.

Dan: Well, that makes sense.

Louis: If business owners are comparing, I would urge them to make sure you're comparing apples to apples. Often they see the per moment cost, or what does it cost per month versus what it's costing them. They need to calculate all of those costs, including their capital cost for the machine, maintaining those items, the electricity, the space, all that's involved in that, because that becomes no longer the problem. Like I said, Microsoft is handling it with this high-grade enterprise equipment. You're just paying for what you use. They've got the people to maintain the equipment. They're taking up their space.

Dan: Everybody has their part.

Louis: Yeah.

Dan: Right. That makes good sense.

Louis: Often they take the math of buying a server and dividing it, and that's just not the actual cost.

Dan: I gotcha. It makes more sense that you can actually kind of rent, if you will, and kind of go along with that rather than have to purchase, like you were talking about before. Hey, why not use the cloud, it sounds to me like.

Vince: Absolutely.

Dan: We got one more to take care of.

Announcer: Bit-Wizards, from the spell book.

Dan: Oh, that sounded scary to me.

Vince: All right. Today's term, we've actually already heard it. We had a little discussion, and it's Office 365. It's a subscription-based service that you always have the most up-to-date modern productivity tools from Microsoft. Office 2019 is sold as a one-time purchase, which means you pay a single upfront cost where the Office 365 is again that rental model we were just talking about.

Dan: Yeah. I was going to ask you about that earlier. What exactly is Office 365?

Vince: So, Office 365 is twofold. So, it's your productivity suite, like you traditionally have with Office, like you would buy in a box solution. Right? But instead of providing it in a box solution, you have a couple of different ways to use it. You basically lease it and use it, so you're constantly up-to-date, and it constantly syncs back with core Microsoft servers to keep you up-to-date with the latest stuff, so you don't have to uninstall Office and then put the new version on. You don't have to go from 2010 to 2012. It's constantly up-to-date. Then Microsoft has also built that same productivity suite through web browsers, so you can now use them from anywhere, and then you can link your data that you may have on-premise with data as it may reside in the cloud, and have access to your information and that productivity suite from anywhere. So, it includes the full desktop version of Office, and then each user gets the opportunity to install that on up to five devices, because as you know, we have our desktop, but everybody's got a smartphone, and then somebody may have their home computer, or like in the case of Louis and I, we have multiple computers at the office.

Dan: I'll bet.

Vince: But the advantage is that you pay for one license, but you can utilize them in those different places. Now, you can't use it to say, " Hey, I'm going to get a license for Vince, but then I'm going to let it use it for Dan." Everybody has to have their own subscription license, but the advantage to the business owner is you get the on-prem, and you get the cloud versions, and you get the ability to interconnect the data using things like OneDrive and SharePoint so that you can share data back and forth instead of using file shares locally.

Dan: Oh, nice. Nice.

Louis: It's one of the big projects we usually have, is to help people move from file shares to using SharePoint, where they have better control and better access to their data.

Dan: What is SharePoint exactly? What does that mean?

Louis: So, SharePoint is a collaboration tool, and it has a lot of extended functionality. We basically use it as a file share, but you can do workflows in it, and processes have kind of an intranet for your company with different information.

Dan: Okay. So, it's like your own little cloud, sort of?

Vince: Yeah. Well, think of it like a portal. Think of it like a website that you use inside your business that may or may not be externally exposed to threats.

Dan: Okay.

Vince: So, for example, instead of how you have a file share where you have a hard drive and everybody points to that hard drive and they go out and they put the data on it, well, SharePoint has basically a portal where you put all that information, all those files in the portal, and you can organize that information in silos, like we talked about, that information architecture and the way that you want it done, and then it's fully indexable, fully searchable. It does check-in and check-out if you would like it to. It keeps versioning, so if I work on the document and I make changes and then Dan makes changes to the document, we can go back and compare. We can collaborate in realtime with that document.

Dan: Okay.

Vince: So, there are a lot of things that SharePoint provides by providing that portal. There's also security there, and I can actually create basically sites within the portal that I might share with my vendors, or maybe some of my customers. That's not meant to be your website. It's meant to share files and information and data so that you can collaborate on them.

Dan: That makes sense. I mean, when you've got a job that you're doing, let's say you're working on a project or something, then you can all have input to the same file.

Vince: Absolutely, instead of emailing it back and forth, which-

Dan: Yeah, which takes forever.

Vince: ... which takes forever.

Louis: You could take it up. There's beyond files. There's other things. Even at Bit-Wizards, we have an unlimited leave policy. We don't track leave. We track work. So, we have just a BI, business intelligence chart there that shows where everybody is on their amount of work for the year, and if you're slipping behind or something like that. So, information and KPIs like that can also be displayed to the entire company. Of course, you have access anywhere you can have access to the web.

Dan: That's fascinating. I like that because having that access, like we're talking about, for everybody to have access to one file, especially, like I was talking about, on a project, because we've worked on several projects... When I was in the military, we worked on a lot of different projects, and that would've been very helpful to do rather than communicate through email or voice or whatever. You can update the project as you get the information that everybody's probably got a part on, and you can update that, and you can watch it grow, I'm sure, to get to fruition.

Vince: Absolutely, and I can access it from anywhere, so I can use my smartphone. I can actually access our SharePoint, pull up a file that Louis wants me to review. It opens up in the online version of Word through Office 365. I edit that document, update it, it places it back into SharePoint, and then everybody gets notified of my changes, and now they can go in and continue the workflow and go forward. So, I could be on the beach, chilling out, having a Corona, and then I can turn around, and I can edit a file real quickly and get it back so that the workflow continues.

Dan: I like that idea, and who doesn't, really? That sounds pretty cool. That's technology at its best, honestly, because like you said, maybe I did my part, and I'm waiting for his part to come in. So, I can be doing something else, and then when I see this part's come in, then I can take my part and go on again. So, you're not waiting around, wasting time. Right?

Vince: Absolutely, and that's the key point to our service at Bit-Wizards around our managed IT, is that we only use commercial-grade, industrial products in our toolkit, so that's Windows Azure or Microsoft Azure, and then Microsoft Office 365 with the advanced threat protection.

Dan: That sounds really good. Well, guys, we only have a couple minutes left. Let's do a couple plugs for Bit-Wizards, for goodness ' sakes.

Louis: Well, wanted to send a big thank you and shout out to one of our newest clients, Saint George Medical Center. Dr. Erica Saintilus and her team over at 1118 Hospital Drive, Walton Beach, Florida, actually, she's my doctor and my mom's doctor.

Dan: Oh. Well, there you go.

Louis: I've been seeing her for quite some time. I'm a huge fan. In fact, I had promoted her in the office because of her use of technology, and I really appreciate it, the job that they do, because they remember. After all the patients they see, they have my information at their fingertips. I come in for whatever problem, but they can discuss where my medications are and what's going on with previous. I understand the doctor can't remember everybody all the time, but she uses the technology to put that information at her fingertips, and I really feel like I get great care for myself and my mom, and we're very honored to have them as a client. We just onboarded them last month.

Dan: Oh, perfect. Yeah. So, any business. We're talking business, any business would be able to benefit from your services.

Vince: Absolutely, and I think that's the key point here, is that businesses that adopt and utilize technology are streamlined. They're better. They're more profitable. They get more customers, and this is what we love about Dr. Saintilus, is that she utilizes technology the right way, everything from scheduling an appointment to shooting reminders to making changes to appointments to our medical records, including the process when you show up there and-

Louis: The check-in process.

Vince: ... you check in or fill out your medical history and those types of things. It's done on iPads, and it's all connected in the cloud, and it's secure, and they do a really fantastic job.

Louis: Prescriptions sent out. You don't have to handle all the paper.

Dan: That must be nice.

Louis: Yeah.

Dan: It's great that you guys can break this down and simplify this for everybody that might be listening right now. I'm sure we have some business owners that are listening, and if you are and you want something good, I would recommend Bit-Wizards