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Why the move to an OPEX budget model in education might be driving your business manager up the wall

Education OPEX Budget

For the longest time IT in education has been on a hamster wheel of improvements tied to the yearly capital bids cycle. IT managers rush to get improvement plans and strategy budgets in for their cut off, knowing all too well that 50%+ will be dropped before they even make it to governors. The other 50% won’t make it through the process.

This capital expense programme is built from the necessities of the past. IT infrastructure had typically been the second most expensive item on a schools books after the building itself. No school, college or academy in the past could afford to stretch it’s upgrades over the operational spend of the business unless they committed to long terms lease agreements or payment plans. While good intentioned, these plans often leave the organisation dragging upgrade cycles to 5 years plus rather than their natural 3 years.

With all the changes that 2020 and 2021 have brought, this model has to change, and the main reason for that is the cloud.

The Time For The Cloud Is Now

Now this is not some fantasy of a cloud lead future. This is the reality of a world leaving behind the need for a private datacentre or server room and pushing for the convenience, security and integrity of managed public cloud.

This however leaves a challenge for all of those who are in financial roles in educational establishments. The model of spend once, wait 5 years before investing again, will not and cannot continue to work. Modern IT is mostly based around the per month or per usage model. Think Microsoft 365 and Azure, one is based on your user count or usage count per month and the other is based on the real-world usage of the last 30 days.

 

education servers

But we used to spread the cost..?

Now on legacy, I will grant that you could have purchased Microsoft services on a campus agreement. However, that is asking you to look into your magic 8 ball and hope you guess the right amount of usage for the next 12 months and then pre purchase Azure credits to cover that. This is a massively inefficient approach and misses the key benefit of cloud services – flexibility.

In a real world example you would expect an educational providers usage on a cloud based IaaS (Infrastructure as a service) to look something like:
• September – December (Mild Usage)
• Jan – Mar (High Usage)
• April – July (Diminishing usage as students slowly drop off timetable)
• then late July – Aug (Very low usage)
Now if you are paying for this upfront you need to work out what your average monthly spend should be and then try and guess how much you need to cover this.

This just won’t work, you will either hit your campus agreement renewal needing to pay overages or hit the renewal with hundreds if not thousands of wasted pounds. With Monthly flexible billing you don’t have this issue, you get a bill for what you actually use, now if it’s a critical system you can reserve the instance and gain some savings, but you have the flexibility.

 

This is a new approach for us. How best to do it?

Back to the question in hand and how does your organisation cover these costs?
Well to start with, your business manager needs to change how IT is funded in the budget. Moving the value that would have been placed on an infrastructure refresh into operational spend. They then need to find a way to increase this pot by 5-15% a year to cover cost increases. Now there is still a need for the capital bid, but these should be used for laptops, switches and firewalls and not servers and server licensing. With this shift IT becomes less of a burden as the spend is predictable and you are not looking at £500k investments every 5 years, but instead £80k a year spend on cloud services.

education budget
I often get asked how we work with our education customers to move to the cloud and for me the approach is simple; it’s about understanding. So many business managers have endured years of the CAPEX process and are used to the funding model. What our job is as technical professionals is to illustrate the savings in cooling, powers, facilitates and security that a move to the operational model brings and then work from there to deliver the best experience for the organisation.

If you are an IT manager today about to enter capital bids season, then think like this; bid for the money for your big server replacement but don’t propose legacy equipment and designs. Engage with Planet IT and we can support you in submitting a CAPEX to OPEX bid a support your move to the cloud.

 

Need more help to get it right?

2022 will be the year that most businesses make a major jump to the cloud. Don’t allow your educational establishment to be left behind and looking for answers, we have successfully worked with a large number of educational providers over the last 18 years to modernise and improve their IT for the better, we can do that for you too.

If you want to talk to one of our educational team about how we can help you with your capital bids or moving to the cloud, then please call 01235 433900 or you can email [email protected] or if you would like to speak to me directly you can reach out to me via DM or at [email protected]

The tech that should shape your business in 2022

technology trends

All the way back in January 2021, I wrote an article about what technology trends would shape your business in 2021. Looking back on those predictions, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that for many of our customers these technologies certainly did just that. If the pandemic continues to rear its ugly head some of what I said last year will still echo very true this year. You can read that article HERE.

However, the show must go on. For 2022 I am looking forward to what the new normal has become and how the technology we leverage every day can and must adapt to fit this need. Alongside this, I am exploring the tools, advancements and innovations that will change the way your business operates.

I always want to take these opportunities at the start of the year, to introduce or to develop your understanding of the technology trends we as a leading IT provider are seeing coming over the horizon. Ultimately these are what your business should and will be looking into and adopting to keep your business is safe, secure and able to compete in today’s busy market.

 

Cloud Services

Here we go again… Another year, another year of the cloud. I may have said this last year, and for that matter the last 2 years before that. Cloud Services, be that in the form of IaaS (Infrastructure as a service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) or SaaS (Software as a service), will change your business in 2022 regardless of if you want to let it.

The reason I say this is because we are no longer in an IT landscape where as a consumer you can choose how to run many of the platforms or software your business uses. Your ERP or MIS, most of these platforms are or have completely moved to SaaS or PaaS offering in 2022.

Take Sage for example, the development of this product as nearly completely killed-off on premise or as a standalone. The focus is on the delivery of the cloud hosted version. That may be with Sage directly or one of their key partners.

cloud technology trends

The bad news for IT managers who are cloud adverse or cloud sceptical?

Now is time to change your mind and move with the industry or risk getting left behind with systems and solutions that will only age and cause you greater issues down the road.

Continuing on the vain on SaaS, Microsoft continue to also drive services across to Microsoft 365 in favour of the cloud hosted, forever updated version of their tools vs the previous on premise products, I’m looking at your Endpoint Manager (Intune). This product is going from strength to strength. However it is doing so off the back of SCCM and ultimately galvanising the features from this well-established platform but developing them on Microsoft’s Cloud service. This leaves the on premise version to simply hook into the cloud and co-exist rather than get any substantial upgrades itself.

With businesses that implemented cloud services in 2020 and 2021, they saw an decrease in running costs of up to 50% and an increase in uptime and productivity up to 99.99%. This makes the cloud space one that from a CFO point of view cannot be ignored and from the position of the wider business can only make day to day IT services better.

If you take anything from this about Cloud service, let it be this; They are here to stay. They are the key focus for all software vendors and it’s a case of be onboard or be left behind.

 

A New World for Back-Up and DR

Building off of what I have said above about Cloud Services, the world of back-up and Disaster Recovery is also dramatically changing. This is twofold; you no longer have all your data sat locally on servers, storage and systems, which a local back up can collect and protect. Also, the fact that now, if your data is in a public cloud provider with a 99.99999% uptime guarantee, are you really going to move this data from them to a private datacentre or back to on-premise?

This change is making many businesses have to rip up their back up and DR strategies. For many IT Managers, Business Owners and Businesses, this is causing some hard conversations.

My take on the situation is simple.. Look at what you have now and where your business will be at the end of 2022. If your data is mostly moving to PaaS and SaaS solutions then you need to ensure that as data is moved that each of these providers or systems has a solid separate back up in place. Now for a platform like Microsoft Azure this does not need to be off platform but it needs to be in a different location. So with Azure we would look at Geo Redundancy or even multi-Geo Redundancy leveraging the technologies and services of Microsoft to back up your data to their other datacentres across the globe. If the system is 3rd party hosted like Sage, which I mentioned above, then you need a tool and a location which is away from this provider to store your data. For this I would always recommend looking at AWS, GCP or Microsoft Azure as the level of protection and guarantees you get from these providers is 10 fold that of a private or local storage solution.

If we look at wider IaaS and Infrastructure backup solutions and DR these also need to change. The first thing I will say on this is that tape back up’s are going the way of the dinosaur. (To be honest they should have gone a few years ago). While the logic of having a removable magnetic tape sounds like the right decision for all businesses. In the past few years we have seen that these devices don’t hold up in a DR situation and if they do, they are often too slow to react.

The best solution a business in 2022 can implement is to have an immutable back up in place. This is based on technology and tools that allow for near instant recovery. As we have seen time and time again businesses cannot support multi-hour or day outages in a disaster. Traditional back up technologies and techniques are beginning to leave business’s vulnerable to large periods of downtime in a true disaster situation.

If you are thinking about how your business should be protected in 2022, why not reach out to the team and we can talk you through in detail the cloud era back up approach to support your business.

human firewall

The Human Firewall

I said it last year and I will say it every year until I go blue in the face! We need to invest as much time into training our staff to ensure they can be safe and secure when using the systems and solutions that as a business we expect them to use. That is why in 2022 The Human Firewall continues to be one of the key areas of development we believe all business should be investing heavily into.

By this we mean training your staff to know what is safe and is not safe in the digital world and how to prevent risks to the business.

Now with this there has never been a one size fits all approach. There is however a logical approach which will prevent your business being open to risks that exist on your doorstep. We can teach our staff in 2022 to stop, deal with and report these problems. By doing this, then we increase the ability of a business to be robust and secure and remove the guesswork from the technology we need to ensure a business is safe. This coupled with MFA massively reduces the risk of account credentials being compromised.

For me as we enter 2022, the Year of the Human Firewall (2021) continues and I am now campaigning for the decade of the Human Firewall! So please go and train your staff and protect your business!

 

Silicone…. Oh Silicone

For some reason I have left the doom and gloom to last, but it has to be said that what ultimately will shape many businesses in 2022 is the continuing silicone and chip shortages. We are now 2 years into this problem and it is not getting better. We have all felt it. Consumer devices like the PS5 and Xbox Series X which where like gold dust for another Christmas. Servers and Laptops which are still being delayed by months at a time. We will all continue to feel the pain while the chip making industry rushes to fix the supply and demand issue.

As a cautionary tale for 2022, if your organisation is looking at a large refresh or even a big project this year which is time critical, think and act early when it comes to device purchasing.

We have seen wireless access points being delayed by 365 days from certain vendors in 2021. If your new office space or move is critical then this could cause you serious issues. Alongside this you have to think that every business will be in the same boat in 2022 so don’t be the one who gets caught out by lead times. I would also say don’t hold your breath for a new car any time soon as it seems the motor industry, with its love hate relationship with technology providers, has finally realised it’s not good to be at the bottom of the queue!

 

To stay ahead of the trend…

In conclusion 2022, like 2021 and 2020 before it is going to be a very different year to the 10’s that proceeded it. Cyber criminals and the threat landscape changing everyday, new vulnerabilities and risks appearing on a daily basis, for systems which are integrated in all of our lives and with potentially dramatic effect. However as business owners, technical professionals or employees we need to switch our approach and ensure we are using these changes to make our business ready for this continually changing landscape as we move forward. Think forward, think ahead and don’t get caught out by 2022 as I believe it will be a huge year for IT change.

 

If you want to talk to one of our experts about how we can help you in 2022 then please call 01235 433900 or you can email [email protected] or if you would like to speak to me directly you can reach out to me via LinkedIn or at [email protected].

2021 – The Big Technology Winners & Losers

2021 Best and Worst Technology

Just over a year ago, I sat down to write a technology review of 2020. We had just seen the single biggest transformation that had happened to global businesses in the last 20 years!

The digital acceleration forced upon businesses as COVID-19 hit and government lockdowns continued changed the way that businesses needed to operate. Those who had failed to invest in their IT systems very quickly came unstuck. Businesses looked at their IT teams and demanded their systems be brought up to date.

(If you missed it, you can still read last year’s article HERE)

Entering 2021, I knew it was going to be the year of the cloud, and it very much has proven to be. The global silicone shortages impacting chip production alone assured this. For many business the only choice has to been to go to public cloud and leave the traditional on-premise infrastructure behind. Because of this, and what has turned into a challenging year for different, but somewhat the same reasons as 2020, here is my list of the 2021 winners and losers…

Winners

 

Public Cloud

Both Microsoft and Amazon have this year continued to gather businesses in their ever growing datacenters. This proves that business are finally coming around to the fact that some things can be done better if you let the industry giants do it. I have long believed the future was public cloud. 2020 proved this point with 2021 then accelerating this at a rate that was far beyond anything we thought possible. Business who were steadfast against the cloud removed barriers to get into Microsoft, Amazons and Google’s systems.

Public cloud will in my option continue to be one of the biggest drivers in 2022, with many businesses having an approach of either on-premise with hybrid cloud or full public cloud in 2022. The focus on compliance and data security by the big three continues to make private cloud a challenge to uptake for many businesses as they struggle to complete with the tools and level of protection that Amazon, Microsoft and Google can invest in. Just remember, when moving to Public Cloud that it is a shared responsibility model!!!

Public Cloud

 

Intel

What a difference a year can make! 12 months ago Intel was a shell of its former glory and was looking like a Marvel hero at the end of Infinity War (*Spoolers the hero’s don’t do well in that movie).

With the desktop processor being stuck on an architecture which AMD and Apple had long since surpassed limited to core counts and feeling like it could be a tough 2021 for big blue. Well this all changed with the return of a titan in Pat Gelsinger, after his stint with VMware. Pat returned to put Intel back on the path that he had started them on some 8 years before and successfully accelerated the new chip design out the door.

Dubbed “Alder Lake” the new Intel desktop processor line-up moves away from the traditional design to mirror that of Apple with E and P Cores (Efficiency and Performance). The focus being that E cores can use less power and thus make your laptop battery run for longer. The P cores can be activated to drive the system forward when it needs to complete some heavy compute tasks. These processors were released under the 12-Generation banner and have received praise from across the technology landscape. Windows 11 has specifically taking advantage of the core design and then have shown an experience well above that of the AMD processor with their all power core design.

This has been a good year for Intel and with Pat back in charge, I think we are likely to see them continue to battle Team Red for years to come.

 

Microsoft Windows 11

Windows 10 will be the last operating system you ever need, said Microsoft in 2015.

Well, 6 years later we are all upgrading to Windows 11, a very well thought-out and great overhaul of the Windows operating system. We now have some of the best features of MacOS and Linux with the trusted platform of Windows 10 providing its core.

I am a massive advocate of Windows 11, even if the naming convention is getting a little stupid (but then they could have called it Windows 21 then we all would have been in a much worse place).

In my review of Windows 11 I warned that early upgrades for business can be risky and that Windows 11 offers some challenges. Well I am glad to say, 3 months on my daily driver still remains on Windows 11 and my home device has even been given the upgrade with no real issues to speak off.

I think Microsoft have placed Windows 11 in a great position to be the operating system for businesses and home users in 2022. Hopefully by the later part of 2022 most devices will have moved from Windows 10 and we will finally see the death of Windows 7 (well, a man can dream right?)

windows 11 launch

Losers

 

Private Datacenters

On the exact reverse of the rise of public cloud we continue to see the need for private data center hosting reduce.

Many businesses are asking the question; “what can you do better that AWS, GCP or Azure?”. In the past, this difference was a clear winning feature for private cloud, however as time moves on the realisation that what are ultimately smaller players in the hosting market aren’t able to compete with the uptime, security, financial protection and costs that public cloud offers.

While I still strongly believe there are use cases for private cloud, I think the salesman’s arguments of it being “safer” than the public cloud have all been proven to be subjective and businesses should ultimately choose the best solution for them.

Apple

Second year in a row for Apple in this category, and no it’s not Apple Hate!

Apple have been hit pretty hard this year by two factors: the chip shortages and then a lack of interest in the products in a year where many people upgraded midterm.

2020 has seen Apple’s shares drop quite heavily against the backdrop of a lack of device production and thus device sales. Hopefully for Apple this gives them a kick to invent something new or dramatically different in 2022. As the company that coined the phrase “Think Different” it’s about time they did exactly that.

Apple macbook

Onsite Infrastructure

The downturn of on premise infrastructure continued in 2021 with devices being hard to source due to the chip shortage. Add this to the move to the cloud and we can easily see the onsite infrastructure requirement drop down to a new low. However, we expect this to come back with a vengeance in 2022 as kit becomes available and business adjust to a hybrid approach.

Unfortunately for on premise infrastructure this is being held back considerably by the global supply issues and less so by peoples want for the technology.

 

There has been many more winners this year, with business firing on all cylinders in 2021. However, we have also seen that this year some of the losers have taken a much bigger hit than expected.

I think the major take away for 2022 is that the IT landscape was changed by 2020 in a major way. The needs and wants of business have adjusted and now, as IT professionals, we need to fit around the needs of 2022 and onwards and stop looking to legacy for the solutions.

Whatever 2022 brings I am excited to be at the forefront of matching our customers to the latest and greatest technical solutions.

2020 – The Technology Winners & Losers

Technology Winners

We all know that 2020 has been a challenging year for businesses and it is no surprise to anyone at this point late in the year that the digital landscape is very different to what it was 12 months ago.

So today, rather than a simple review of the year, I am going to look at some of the technology winners and losers of 2020.

Winners

 

Microsoft Teams and Zoom

Well obviously, right?

These two companies have enjoyed a dramatic rise to relevance as businesses moved (were forced) to an all-digital approach this year.

The reason these two thrived where others struggled is what makes them winners: both platforms offered the services for free for most of this year as part of their COVID support packages. Because of this they now have thousands, or even millions of new customers who won’t leave them in 2021. Teams and Zoom are now critical to many organisations and are part of their business models moving forward.

Not only was this smart marketing by the companies it has allowed both parties to learn at speed about what features we all want from these tools, I think this is clear when you see the number of changes that Microsoft have made to Teams this year, it’s certainly not the clunky product we were trying in 2017 anymore!

Microsoft Teams

AMD

AMD came out the gates swinging this year and they certainly had no intention of holding back. With the Ryzen 3000 series they have cemented their return to relevance making their CPU’s affordable and, in nearly all cases, faster than those coming from Team Blue (Intel).

However, this year they would go on to show why the 7nM process is so important and why Intel still pushing an 10nM process was going to cause them issues, this came in the form of Ryzen 5000 series, which wiped Intel off the top spot in nearly every scenario, and it did so a month after Intel announced their “best processor yet”.

This position was made even stronger when AMD managed to get both Dell and HPE to add their AMD EYPC processor to their server ranges giving customers the choice when looking to buy new servers. This is not only a win for AMD but also for consumers and businesses. We now have a better variety to choose from and can finally start to move away from Intel’s dominance, where the price point or performance does not make sense.

 

Apple Silicon

Continuing on the theme of CPU’s, Apple closed the year off by showing us all what can happen when you own an end-to-end process with the release of the M1 processor and the new range or M1 Apple devices.

This product, born from the legacy of the A Series mobile chip found in iPhone and iPad, is Apple’s first desktop processor since the days of PowerPC (Let’s not talk about it!). The important thing about M1 is not only is it built on the 5nM process but is also mind-blowingly powerful for a CPU which seems to simply sip on power rather than drain your battery in minutes. This, of course, is in part due to the fact that Apple own the eco system and can simply optimise every single instruction set to be smarter by working the CPU with the OS in the exact way they want, but they still have to be considered winners for this…

Also, who doesn’t want to run iPad apps on their Mac?

Apple Silicone

Public Cloud

Another rise to relevancy this year came in the public cloud drive, as customers seeking a solution to closing their offices and working across the country and the globe looked to the once distrusted Public Cloud as a saviour.

I have long believed the future was public cloud and 2020 was maybe the wrong way to prove a point, but we have seen a dramatic uptake in public cloud services. A huge number of large business are moving across and an even larger number of companies are planning through 2021 to close their datacenters and server rooms and put their workloads with Microsoft, Amazon or Google instead.

This move has co-existed with the drive by the big three to make the platforms more affordable and reduce the work to onboard to the platforms. This is only going to continue now as we slowly move away from onsite systems.

 

Losers

 

Intel

Now I already mentioned the bad year Intel is having in passing when coming up against AMD, but this year has been an all-round kicking for team blue.

This year also marks the beginning of the end of the Intel based Mac, which while only a small part of their revenue is sure to shake the foundations of what they are doing with other system integrators and device creators – not least Microsoft, who this year pushed AMD surface devices ard ARM based Surface Pro X devices.

Intel is not having a good year, but they need to learn from that their dominance in the CPU sector was on legacy born from innovation. Since the launch of the Broadwell generation of the i3-7 line up they have slowed down sticking until this year with 14nM for nearly all of its processors and simply looking for ways to push the clock speed on the devices. Now this year we reach the point where pushing clock speed is of less and less benefit and in 2021 we know Intel are going back to the drawing board to try and refine the 10nM and move to a smaller die process.

Good luck in 2021 Intel, otherwise it’s going to be another Team Red year!

Intel

Apple iPhone

Now the iPhone isn’t a looser in 2020 just because I left and moved over to the Android side!

This device is a looser because it lost to a phone half its price in a photo shoot-out between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the OnePlus 8T in a blind test run by MKBHD . Now, the importance of this test is massive as it shows that you don’t get perceivably better images by using an iPhone as Apple would have you believe,. It also shows consumers in a very tight financial year that you can get a great camera for less than half the price.

Will this change people’s minds about buying a new iPhone? Maybe not. But it hopefully will make Apple sit up and think as both the iPhone SE and 12 didn’t make it through the first stage of the process, showing that the issue may be with the way Apple handles the images and less about the quality of the camera. Either way the iPhone (13) or whatever it’s called needs to make improvements on this and be a big step forward for Apple in 2021 as their dominance is slipping and the Android market is out for their crown.

 

Onsite Infrastructure

The office has taken a bit of a beating in 2020. It’s becoming, for many businesses, a way to spend money for space you are not using,. This has caused a number of businesses to decide now is the time to change the way they interact with office space we have seen a massive increase in businesses looking to either move to co-location or into public cloud.

This has meant that the days of the larger projects for onsite deployments have slowed, so I think it’s fair to say 2020 has been a bad year for on-premises solutions but a great year for anything cloud!

 

There have been many more winners and a lot more losers than I could cover in this article, however I think the major take away for 2021 is that the IT landscape has changed far more in 2020 than in any year prior to it, as an IT professional I don’t expect business to slide back into old habits and things to switch back as we slowly return to more normal times.

Whatever 2021 brings I am excited to be at the forefront of matching our customers to the latest and greatest technical solutions.

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