Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Embrace the Digital Age With a New Generation of Technology

By Joe McKendrick, contributor, Forbes Insights
For small- to midsize-business executives, the digital revolution offers opportunities not imaginable just a few years ago. Markets across the globe can now be reached with a few clicks of a mouse. The latest and greatest applications are available for immediate use, with no need for installation or setup. Detailed answers to any and all market questions are just a split second away. Customers are ready and eager to help spread the word about a company if they are happy with their experience.
Welcome to the digital age, where everything is connected. Thanks to significant advances in information technology, small to midsize businesses now have access to the same powerful, secure and networked technology resources that large corporations enjoy. These resources – which can be drawn from onsite data centers, from the cloud or from a combination of both – help deliver insights from data analytics, faster time to market, and highly customized products and services to customers, as they need them.
These digital technology advances are part of an ongoing evolution that began with the computerization of rote functions across small to midsize enterprises – such as maintaining customer records, or automating general ledgers and accounting sheets. This accelerated over the past decade, as businesses learned to automate their order-to-cash processes, capture essential customer information and store it securely in powerful databases, while providing employees the tools to quickly access important information and make decisions. Infrastructure solutions, built on Microsoft Windows Server 2003, paved the way for small to midsize businesses to enter the information age and to make computing power ubiquitous across their enterprises.
However, while these solutions have served many small to midsize businesses well over the past decade, it’s time to adopt the next generation of computing to move to the next level. While Windows Server 2003-based applications have been very effective at computerizing core business operations, this older technology has reached its limits. (Microsoft has announced it will be ending support for Windows Server 2003 in July 2015.) The software and underlying hardware in Windows Server 2003 was not designed to run or effectively integrate with today’s generation of applications, or to support greater mobility and cloud access. If a company wants to run components in the cloud or enhance connectivity with suppliers and customers, additional workarounds are required.
Small and midsize businesses now have compelling choices for advancing into the digital era. They can continue to build, deploy and maintain applications and data in-house, through a powerful new generation of resident servers; go to the cloud for the same resources; or employ a combination of both in-house and cloud technologies for their needs. The latest infrastructure solutions on the market, both on-premises-server and cloud based, provide development, deployment and infrastructure services, and support many different programming languages, tools and frameworks, including both Microsoft-specific and third-party software and systems.
A new generation of on-premises servers blends high levels of processing power with access to networked or cloud resources, enabling small and midsize business to have access to the same technological capabilities as their larger counterparts, without the overhead costs of maintaining an IT infrastructure.
Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, based on Windows Server 2012 R2, enables businesses to take advantage of a wide range of IT resources, including on-premises applications, as well as cloud-based applications and services such as Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft Azure. Windows Server 2012 Essentials provides automatic backup and quick-connect VPN, data security, virtual operation, cloud service integration, remote access, file and print sharing, data backup and restoration, and other core server capabilities in one integrated package. Small and midsize businesses can choose which applications and services run on-premises and which run in the cloud. For example, they can run an on-premises copy of Exchange Server, subscribe to a hosted Exchange service or subscribe to Office 365.
With a cloud-centric option, businesses can access and run the latest business applications – as well as existing applications—and connect those applications, data and services to any end-user client or device. Workloads can be moved between on-premises and cloud environments with the click of a mouse. With unlimited scalability instantly available, small and midsize businesses can launch promotions or new market initiatives without worrying about overwhelming their infrastructure with more transactions or data than it can handle.
Microsoft Azure, available with Windows Server 2012 or as a standalone service, enables businesses to quickly scale up or down to match demand, and small and midsize businesses pay only for what they use. Small and midsize businesses can see substantial savings in on-premises data center costs, because they will not be required to pay for and maintain extra, unused server capacity. Companies can use hundreds of terabytes, and even petabytes, of Azure-based storage – a key benefit as big data grows, along with various unstructured file types, such as video files and sensor data.
Cloud-based solutions such as Azure are always highly available. It offers automatic data storage, backup and recovery. In addition, security is assured, through identity and access management technologies, as well as Active Directory, which provides an identity and access management cloud solution to help control access to thousands of Microsoft and non-Microsoft applications in the public cloud.
The stakes in moving to a more digital-capable platform are high for small to midsize businesses. Businesses cannot afford the risk of relying on old technology that serves to just help them “get by.” That’s because it’s a different world than it was five to 10 years ago. Not only are small to midsize businesses competing against their counterparts across town, but they are also competing against startups from around the globe. Business managers need to be able to reach out and actively engage with customers, suppliers and employees. They need to have data available that provides the intelligence to understand the forces shaping their markets, as well as the preferences of customers. They need the flexibility of accessing applications from both their PCs and mobile devices. Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials and Microsoft Azure make it easy for businesses to transition to this digital reality. In the process, they will be able to fully participate in today’s digital marketplace.
The digital age is here, and now is the time for small and midsize companies to begin building for the future.
If your company is ready to embrace new technology, there are a variety of resources available through both Microsoft and our partners to help guide the journey. For example, resources on the SMB Business Hub are a great place to start your Windows Server 2003 migration plans. It features on-demand webinar content, a migration planning assistant and other valuable information that will help small businesses discover, assess, target and migrate to modern technology. Be sure to discuss details with your technology partner, or Microsoft can help you find one through Pinpoint.

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