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AEC Cloud Expertise Applied to Microsoft OBA Experience

“Does Excel count?”

I couldn’t help but chuckle at this statement from respondent in a recent construction technology survey. This obvious tongue-in-cheek response to a question about integration sheds light on the fact that while as an industry, construction has indeed come very far with regards to adopting advanced IT applications, in many ways it still relies on some of the tried-and-true tools with which the industry originated.

What’s more; nearly two in every 10 respondents to that same survey name Microsoft Excel as their primary tool during the estimating process. Think about that for a moment: A rather substantial number of construction firms are relying on Microsoft Excel at perhaps the most critical stage of their projects.

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With all of this in mind, to that respondent’s statement I reply, “Yes! Excel absolutely counts.”

And perhaps much of that has to do with the fact that Excel really isn’t what it used to be—it’s much better than ever. This is thanks in large part to fact that Microsoft has made some rather substantial investments behind the scenes to ensure its suite of Office applications can integrate better with the broader range of applications in use across business today.

obasCentral to that strategy are Microsoft Office Business Applications (OBAs). As applications written for Microsoft Office and based on .NET technology, OBAs uses Web services to connect to a standard Line of Business (LOB) or other application.

For instance, a Microsoft Excel-based OBA, allows for a pre-mapped, secure, two-way connection over the Internet between Excel and the LOB. This has proven to be a somewhat cumbersome process using traditional import/export methods. OBAs work by using Microsoft Office as the interface to capture information that is sent via Web services in XML format.

What this means is that you can perform work outside what some perceive to be as the constraints of a LOB—collaborating with extended team members, for example—yet still remain connected to the Microsoft Office system.

This presents the ease of using familiar Office-based applications while still being able to connect to other enterprise applications. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the most commonly used OBAs in construction are based on Microsoft Excel.

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Beyond Excel
The value of OBAs goes beyond Microsoft Excel. In fact, OBAs can be developed to extend LOB applications to more and more products. For instance, the ability to build a workflow application for managing documents. Or implementing an application that consolidates multiple user interfaces into a single Office system document or SharePoint Server Web page.

Important to note on that last point is the fact that while OBAs and SharePoint have a common technology foundation, OBAs do not require SharePoint to run. However, as SharePoint and Microsoft Office evolve, the lines between SharePoint and OBAs continue to blur, to which another class of applications called Office Web Applications (OWAs) have emerged.

A Smooth and Specific OBA Experience
Some companies choose to buy OBAs from their application vendors, or go the route of building their own. Of course, there are challenges associated with both routes; the former working with a vendor that does not have the expertise, and the latter requiring in-depth programming knowledge and resources.

When it comes to the use of OBAs that are specifically designed for the AEC industry, AEC Cloud is the pioneer.

We have been building OBAs as products for this industry since 2009. We offer an online source called the OBA Store, which contains both pre-build content, along with the ability to help your custom build OBAs. We manage the OBA content that we build, along with the related licensing.

The OBAs we provide are designed, written, packaged, licensed and managed by AEC Cloud. This means that the OBA Store—along with the OBA Cloud, which is used for OBA hosting—is designed and managed by us, allowing us to have full control over the OBAs.

Trimble Buildings/Meridian Systems were the first AEC software provider to openly provide web services that could be used with Microsoft’s OBA technology—and we were early adopters. But that doesn’t mean our OBA options are strictly limited to Trimble Buildings/Meridian Systems. In fact, we work to help customize OBAs specific to your environment.

Our OBAs are commercial applications, and that is the way in which we manage them. We help you understand which ones are most popular, can help provide you with better assistance with regards to support agreements, version control, and more.

obasWorking with OBAs specific to the AEC industry shouldn’t be taken lightly. As you look to extend the capabilities of your LOB applications to ensure that you can effectively work offline and capture critical information that lives in spreadsheets, work with a partner that has deep expertise and knowledge of the industry, along with a track record of success. It will help ensure you experience is one that is both seamless and specific.

This sounds great. Where do I get OBAs?

At the OBA Store!

Start browsing the largest collection of AEC related OBAs now!

Sign Up Here or Login if you already have an account.

 

 

Proven Reliability and Leadership For Over 16 Years

Logo_AECCloud_Option2_300AEC Cloud has been on the scene working with the largest AEC companies in the field for over 16 years. Leaders in the industry rely on our expertise and proven track record to help their companies stay ahead with their Enterprise Application Hosting needs. Just ask Hensel Phelps or Turner Construction.

Finding an experienced and reliable hosting partner is critical in seeing a successful outcome.

Here at AEC Cloud, we know what you need before you do. We have been hosting applications and data for some of the largest companies in the AEC space for over 16 years. We can help guide you through the maze of cloud hosting and determine exactly what your company needs today, and what it will need tomorrow.

  • Find out what AEC Cloud can do for your business migration to the cloud.
  • Schedule a live demo today and see for yourself the possibilities we can offer.

Call us today to get started: 866 417-7230

Email us now with your questions: sales@aeccloud.com

Two Workforce Trends to Impact Your Data Integration Strategy

Those looking for trends that will shape data-integration strategies going forward should look no further than the changing nature of the workforce. Trends point towards more mobile, analytical minds entering the workforce, and it has me thinking about how this could ultimately impact things like IT strategies.

It is no stretch to say that employees have a profound impact on the business of construction. In this highly data-driven industry, it is the people who are shaping the ways in which data is being generated and shared. So suffice it say, as the nature of the workforce shifts so too will the way in which data impacts the business.

In particular, I see two workforce trends that will have an impact. One on the way in which data is generated, and the other on what we ultimately do with that data. And in both instances, there is a direct impact on the enterprise integration strategy.

The Connected Worker

AdobeStock_88855189It may seem like the cliché place to start, but the fact of the matter is that the world is growing increasingly connected. And much of this is being driven by millennials, which should account for roughly 75% of the global workforce by 2025.

And that workforce is one that is coming fully equipped with their own devices—complete with their own desires of generating a whole lot of data from those devices. And given the proliferation of mobile apps targeted at construction, it’s safe to say that more and more data will—if not already—be generated through the use of mobile devices.

And with this, it is important to think about how this data will integrate into your enterprise. Today, that level of integration is happening in siloed efforts—if at all—but in time you will need to consider a clear path to linking mobile and enterprise data. And soon enough, that discussion will extend beyond the connected worker and into the connected “things” on a jobsite. But perhaps that’s a topic best left for another time.

The Analytical Worker

With all of that great data entering the business, you now must find a way to use it in the most effective manner.

Earlier this year, InformationWeek published a list of the 10 top tech jobs for 2016. Coming in at #6 was a title referred to Analytics Manager. According to the report, Analytics Mangers are crucial to companies that require someone to analyze and make conclusions about data.

It makes me think about the rapid rate at which data is being recorded within construction and the growing need for companies to make sense of it all. We’ve been talking quite a bit lately about the value of integration and the impact it will continue to have on your organization. A crucial strategy for AEC firms going forward is the ability to integrate key project and client data with the enterprise.

I refer to another article, from CIO, that cites deeper integration of ERP (enterprise resource planning) as a key trend to watch. In the article it states that ERP is becoming more versatile, providing deeper integration with a wide range of different systems. I agree that this is an important trend, and for construction that deeper level of integration includes systems like time tracking, mobile, and even customer-relationship management systems. More and more, data from these systems will need to become more tightly integrated with the enterprise.

For AEC firms, the need to have all of this information aggregated and interpreted will be key to success. While the role of Analytics Manager might not be one that you hire, per se, I would bet that there will be some person on your staff tasked with the role of analyzing and interpreting the data. Therefore, the need to have a strategic integration strategy for your enterprise systems will be a must going forward.

With all of this being said, it is important that your systems can handle anything that comes your way. At AECCloud, we like to say that the most successful integration strategies are those that are built on technology that is open, flexible and (construction) specific. Check out our integration page to help find the right applications to build your integration strategy.

Proven Reliability and Leadership For Over 15 Years

Logo_AECCloud_Option2_300AEC Cloud has been on the scene working with the largest AEC companies in the field for over 15 years. Leaders in the industry rely on our expertise and proven track record to help their companies stay ahead with their Enterprise Application Hosting needs. Just ask Hensel Phelps or Turner Construction.

Finding an experienced and reliable hosting partner is critical in seeing a successful outcome.

Here at AEC Cloud, we know what you need before you do. We have been hosting applications and data for some of the largest companies in the AEC space for over 15 years. We can help guide you through the maze of cloud hosting and determine exactly what your company needs today, and what it will need tomorrow.

  • Find out what AEC Cloud can do for your business migration to the cloud.
  • Schedule a live demo today and see for yourself the possibilities we can offer.

Call us today to get started: 866 417-7230

Deep Expertise Matters: AEC Cloud to Resell Viewpoint Construction Software

viewpoint-logoToday I am happy to announce that AEC Cloud has entered into a technology reseller agreement with Viewpoint Construction Software.

The Portland, Ore.-based provider of construction management software should be no stranger to those in the AEC industry.

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In fact, Viewpoint’s fully integrated software is used today by thousands of GCs, specialty contractors, heavy/civil contractors and owner organizations all around the globe. It is a company that has built a strong foundation in this market by developing an integrated set of solutions that fit every need of construction. It’s the type of full-service mentality that comes only by listening closely to the needs of customers.

Logo_AECCloud_Option2_167In all, Viewpoint has embraced an agile mindset when it comes to meeting customer demands. In fact, if there is need that must be fulfilled and Viewpoint cannot fulfill it organically, the company will align with the best partners in the market to deliver for customers.

With that in mind, it makes me very proud to say that we are one such company with which Viewpoint has chosen to align. Part of that comes through our rich history serving the construction space. We like to say that we are “construction first” here at AEC Cloud. In other words, we consider technology to be a critical tool that must be used effectively by construction companies.

For those who might not be aware, our staff has deep expertise in Project Controls, Critical Path Methodology (CPM) and Field Management. And our hosted services originated as a means to help solve the fundamental issue of the distributed, collaborative, migratory workforce that is familiar in construction.

It became pretty evident to us early on (circa the 1990s) that the evolution of HTML would be a game changer for everything—including construction. And so began our long and storied history into hosted services for this space. In fact, our first project was named after a box of cereal—Honeycomb—that sat in the room as we brainstormed the ways in which we could help apply hosted services to solving critical business challenges. From there, it was on to hosting Prolog Manager—at the time a Meridian product (now owned by Trimble). Today, of course, that now includes products hosted by major players across the market.

Now, as a reseller of Viewpoint Construction Software, we are providing access to the broad set of solutions.

  • Vista by Viewpoint— A fully integrated, comprehensive suite of software solutions that helps contractors manage all areas of operations
  • ProContractor by Viewpoint— The industry’s only all-in-one cloud software solution for estimating, project management, and accounting
  • Viewpoint For Projects— A collaborative project management solution for achieving streamlined processes and clear communication
  • Viewpoint For Field View— Improve project controls and information capture for better safety, quality, and defect management
  • Viewpoint For Estimating— Easy to use software to quickly and accurately takeoff, estimate, and bid projects for best profit
  • Viewpoint For Content Management— Drive down costs with efficient workflow, document management, recognition technologies, and storage and archiving
  • Viewpoint For Cloud— Solutions to ensure all your Viewpoint tools are optimized, secure and available

Match that with the broad set of capabilities offered by AEC Cloud, and what you get is a strong product offering anytime, anyplace.

To find out more about Viewpoint Construction Software, start with their whitepaper “Six Reasons To Use Construction Accounting Software.”

 

Proven Reliability and Leadership
For Over 15 Years

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AEC Cloud has been on the scene working with the largest AEC companies in the field for over 15 years. Leaders in the industry rely on our expertise and proven track record to help their companies stay ahead with their Enterprise Application Hosting needs. Just ask Hensel Phelps or Turner Construction.

Finding an experienced and reliable hosting partner is critical in seeing a successful outcome.

Here at AEC Cloud, we know what you need before you do. We have been hosting applications and data for some of the largest companies in the AEC space for over 15 years. We can help guide you through the maze of cloud hosting and determine exactly what your company needs today, and what it will need tomorrow.

  • Find out what AEC Cloud can do for your business migration to the cloud.
  • Schedule a live demo today and see for yourself the possibilities we can offer.

 

Call us today to get started: 212-505-0381

Email us now with your questions: sales@aeccloud.com

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Integration at the Next Level in AEC

Integration. In a word, it’s the promise of a more complete and clear picture of success across the AEC landscape. But as this industry grows increasingly complex, with data coming in from more sources than ever, we must be looking beyond what we typically know about integrated solutions in order to hit the next level of success.

Of course, integration is nothing new. It’s part of that age-old dilemma of trying to merge business data together across multiple systems into one easily manageable and universally understandable platform. For AEC, integration is rooted in the idea that if we can, for example, get our project management database to easily translate to our accounting database then we reduce errors and complexity across the business. And that leads to better projects, higher profit margins and repeat business.

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Attempts at integration over the years have come in the form of middleware, code schema, adapters, and industry-wide standards.

But this is a complicated industry. Simply merging data from two or three disparate systems is no longer enough. Just look at the proliferation of new data flowing in from things like building information modeling, mobile apps, cloud-based programs and more.

Integration means new things in the AEC space. And that means looking beyond the AEC space in order to view a model of success.

Lessons from Healthcare
I look to a case study from Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH,) a two-site community hospital with leading diagnostic services and clinical programs. The need for integration at MSH looked a bit complicated at the outset:

  • The need to support the healthcare data standard HL7, along with other industry requirements
  • The ability to process hundreds of thousands of messages daily
  • Maintaining near-perfect uptime

Sound familiar? Like a business in AEC, MSH needed to meet a high level of industry requirements for data, while also being able to ensure uptime was never compromised. For a solution, MSH turned to Microsoft BizTalk. BizTalk provides out-of-the box, cloud to on-premises and line-of-business application integration. It allows user to connect with any HTTP, FTP, SFTP, or REST data source

In the case of MSH, BizTalk Server was able to provide a platform that made it easy to modify and create interfaces to support the complex enterprise integration requirements for applications both within the hospital and for external partners. Complicated healthcare-related components had an integration path. And industry-specific components tailored how messages were processed for various healthcare applications. In all, BizTalk Server provided tools to help integrate a complex world like healthcare.

(Biz)Talk of Integration in AEC
Microsoft-BizTalk-ServerThe Microsoft BizTalk integration platform is available in a PaaS or Stand Alone deployment model, which means that right off the bat the product is already speaking the language of AEC Cloud.

For AEC Cloud, our solutions help companies that need simplified, secure access to many applications from multiple vendors via one secure, server based solution. This is why our systems are based on a multi-tier configuration that include a dedicated enterprise storage layer, database layer, web services layer, client-server application layer, and collaborative web application layer—all integrated under a Unified Application Management Portal.

So when you look at Microsoft BizTalk, much of the same structure to integration applies. BizTalk will use Extensible Markup Language (XML) as the common data exchange language application integration on the Internet. And the true power, in my opinion, exists within the adapters.

According Microsoft, it will be providing a set of Adapters that connect BizTalk Orchestrations with such applications as Google Apps, QuickBooks, Salesforce.com, SharePoint, and others in a very simple manner. What that ultimately means is the ability to integrate BizTalk Server with all the emerging applications, databases and services that are rapidly becoming a part of the AEC world.

But perhaps more important is the fact that this it will also integrate with all those tried-and-true applications that run your AEC business, like Prolog, Sage, Primavera, Viewpoint, CMiC and others.

In the coming months, I will be taking a deeper look at the topic of integration, and of the Microsoft BizTalk tool in general in the context of the AEC space to see if it truly the tool that can take integration to the next level.

 

Logo_AECCloud_Option2_300Proven Reliability and Leadership For Over 15 Years

AEC Cloud has been on the scene working with the largest AEC companies in the field for over 15 years. Leaders in the industry rely on our expertise and proven track record to help their companies stay ahead with their Enterprise Application Hosting needs. Just ask Hensel Phelps or Turner Construction.

Finding an experienced and reliable hosting partner is critical in seeing a successful outcome.

Here at AEC Cloud, we know what you need before you do. We have been hosting applications and data for some of the largest companies in the AEC space for over 15 years. We can help guide you through the maze of cloud hosting and determine exactly what your company needs today, and what it will need tomorrow.

  • Find out what AEC Cloud can do for your business migration to the cloud.
  • Schedule a live demo today and see for yourself the possibilities we can offer.

Call us today to get started: 212-505-0381

Email us now with your questions: sales@aeccloud.com

Logo_AECCloud_Option2_167

How Enterprise Mobility Will Further Penetrate AEC

Construction team working on project with tablet

Construction team working on project with tablet

The AEC industry is mobile by nature—always has been. So topics like ‘enterprise mobility’ aren’t so much a discussion about what is new—but rather, what is next.

The landscape in construction today looks like this: Workers equipped with smartphones, tablets and other connected devices interacting with countless apps of all types, everyday in order to improve productivity and streamline workflow.

So at a broad level it’s safe to say that mobile has indeed permeated the AEC industry. What comes next, however, requires a bit deeper of a dig in order to uncover just how deep it will penetrate into the enterprise. Not only that, but it becomes a situation in which builders and contractors are looking to best prepare for what’s next.

When looking ahead for the AEC space, I believe it is important to evaluate the broader landscape of technology. Going forward, I see four broader trends associated with enterprise mobility with the potential of having wide-sweeping impact on how the AEC industry gets things done.

  1. Mobility Integration. Enterprise mobility is no longer operating in isolation from the rest of the enterprise. Integration with other key technologies will continue to progress, as data from these applications must be linked to back office functions and even play a greater role in processes like BIM (building information modeling).
  2. The AEC App Store. Could we soon be nearing a time when larger AEC companies are managing corporate-sanctioned apps on PCs and mobile devices? Enterprise app stores are indeed a real thing and promise greater control over the apps used by employees. Not only that, but they hold the potential for greater control over software expenditures. It’s not too far fetched to believe that as more and more large AEC firms embrace the idea of enterprise mobility that they will want to have greater control over the apps that their employees are accessing.
  3. Prime Time Cloud for Construction: Today you have major cloud vendors like Amazon AW, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure Cloud all making a play to extend their offerings to include mobile cloud solutions and services. The AEC space is ripe for these cloud giants to extend their mobile offerings.
  4. Cloud Content is King. All those great cloud-enabled storage apps like Box and Dropbox or productivity apps like Evernote suddenly become a gateway to putting your corporate data on the public cloud. More and more, these applications are being embraced for collaboration on all levels. We are already seeing the trend where major software applications are integrating with applications like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and One Drive, among others.
construction worker using digital tablet with crane on the background

Construction worker using digital tablet

The days of early adoption with regards to enterprise mobility are well past us. In fact, being mobile is simply a prerequisite these days for getting things done effectively. Our clients have been adopting cloud-based desktops, apps and file storage.

Take as an example, Torcon, Inc. This privately-held construction management and general contracting firm is a long-time AEC Cloud client, running our hosting services for its deployment of Prolog from Meridian Systems.

The contractor is taking this system to a new level through the addition of a tablet PC-based field technology solution called Converge, which integrates with Prolog. With this mobile solution, such tasks as punch list updates, safety notices and daily field reports are available from the field. And the value does not stop there as Torcon anticipates using the mobile application for a range of additional functions like punch list management and the initiation of RFIs (requests for information).

Logo_AECCloud_Option2_167Torcon’s use of enterprise mobility is highly indicative of the current AEC landscape. And that begs the question: What is next for enterprise mobility in the AEC space, and how will you best prepare your firm going forward?

Proven Reliability and Leadership For Over 15 Years

LeadershipWidget_270_blueAEC Cloud has been on the scene working with the largest AEC companies in the field for over 15 years. Leaders in the industry rely on our expertise and proven track record to help their companies stay ahead with their Enterprise Application Hosting needs. Just ask Hensel Phelps or Turner Construction.

Finding an experienced and reliable hosting partner is critical in seeing a successful outcome.

Here at AEC Cloud, we know what you need before you do. We have been hosting applications and data for some of the largest companies in the AEC space for over 15 years. We can help guide you through the maze of cloud hosting and determine exactly what your company needs today, and what it will need tomorrow.

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  • Find out what AEC Cloud can do for your business migration to the cloud.
  • Schedule a live demo today and see for yourself the possibilities we can offer.

Call us today to get started: 212-505-0381

Email us now with your questions: sales@aeccloud.com

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When Paperless Leads to Even Greater Efficiency

AdobeStock_34165921Could it be possible that less than 5% of businesses today are “paperless”? According to one business survey, this may be the case.

What gets lost these days amid major tech trends like mobility, Internet of Things and virtualization grabbing headlines is the fact that some companies are still in the process of taking primary steps in their process of innovation.

I recently came across an article that cited a survey from German-based print management services provider ThinPrint that revealed only 4.5% of business users surveyed have gone paperless. While the survey was focused more on the idea of printing practices, it got me thinking about AEC firms and their own struggles with going paperless amid the seemingly endless paper trail that can make up a construction project these days.

In fact, many of our customers here at The Cram Group initially came to us with help reducing the amount of paper that would circulate on a typical job. Take DECCO Ltd., for example. This contractor, based in the Cayman Islands, was looking for a way to streamline its file management system by moving from paper to electronic files.

Logo_AECCloud_Option2_300With roughly 30 employees working in the office and in the field, the need was for an easier way to communicate and share information electronically. In 2010, AEC Cloud began hosting Meridian Systems’ Prolog Manager and Prolog Converge for DECCO, helping the company streamline its file management and archiving system.

Fast forward to 2015 and the company is much less dependent on paper files than ever. According to Harlan Dews, Senior Planner and Scheduler with DECCO, what was thousands of paper files used on projects has turned into a cloud-based one-stop shop for all project-related information, with the ability for files to be accessed any time from any location.

For a company like DECCO, the demand to go “paperless” was a steppingstone of sorts to unlocking even greater potential of a cloud-based service.

feature02Since deploying AEC Cloud’s Portal Cloud Hosting Services in 2010, DECCO has also evolved its use of the technology. Today it plays a role increasing efficiency in other aspects of its construction projects. This includes the ability to provide a higher level of accountability and reporting capabilities, controlling project costs, tracking employees’ time spent on projects, and increasing employee productivity.

“We’re making better decisions earlier in the construction process, which translates into cost savings as projects progress,” says Dews. “We’re also more organized and efficient because we’re notified electronically as projects move forward. This helps prevent projects from becoming backlogged.”

It’s a true testament to the role that a good technology solution can play within a company today. Technology designed to solve one challenge that can evolve to play additional roles within an organization can prove to be a valuable investment. Today’s AEC firms that are simply making a push to go “paperless” are making a step towards improving efficiencies across the board.

With a solution like AEC Cloud, these benefits include:

  • Cost efficiency
  • Reduction of maintenance requirements
  • Flexibility and scalability of resources
  • On demand user administration
  • 24/7 user support
  • Off-site backup of critical data
  • Regular maintenance and software upgrades
  • Employee mobility anywhere, anytime
  • Freedom to focus on core business

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  • Find out what AEC Cloud can do for your business migration to the cloud.
  • Schedule a live demo today and see for yourself the possibilities we can offer.

Feel free to call us if you have any questions: 212-505-0381

Email us here: sales@aeccloud.com

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Enterprise App Hosting: A Predictable Future for Your AEC Firm

AdobeStock_79638758Consider this trend: Worldwide spending on enterprise application software will grow 7.5% this year, reaching nearly $150 billion, and eclipse $210 billion by 2019. In fact, the most interesting point about these stats, as projected by Gartner, is that the majority of this spending will be on “modernization” efforts. That sure sounds like a case of the cloud to me.

A closer look at the numbers reveals this is indeed the case. In a recent survey conducted by Gartner, 45% of organizations say that modernizing on-premise applications is in their top-five IT priorities right now. Furthermore, more than 40% say that this involves extending the capabilities of core enterprise applications.

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As we examined in a previous post, the process of moving business applications out of an on-premises situation can be cost efficient, help reduce maintenance requirements, add flexibility and scalability to resources, on demand user administration, and off site user support.

Those, of course, are the immediate benefits. When you start to look out longer term, the value of hosting your enterprise applications in the cloud one clear advantage begins to emerge: predictability. That statement might fly in the face of your perceptions about the cloud (i.e., you don’t know what to expect), but in fact predictability is indeed what the cloud is all about.

Predictability in cost: Controlling your IT budget comes down to managing expenses. Without the cost of managing the IT infrastructure and the ability to quickly scale up or down as needed, the cloud presents a more predictable cost model. This creates more freedom for you to pursue new business opportunities or market expansion with greater aggression.

Predictability in performance: This is where our expertise at AEC Cloud truly begins to emerge. We have more than 15 years of experience hosting applications and data for some of the largest construction companies in the world. With this experience, we know cloud hosting and help apply that knowledge to help you navigate the options and make the right choices for the future. Our performance makes finding an experienced and reliable hosting partner easier.

Predictability in partnership: As an AEC firm, you need to ensure that you are working with applications that have just as much “equity” in construction that you have put in. In other words, moving to the cloud might seem to have its uncertainties—one of which shouldn’t be the partners you are working with.

AdobeStock_44575060The list of software products that we host is long and deep. The top names in the AEC space, ranging from Oracle to Microsoft to Sage to Viewpoint and more are all part of the AEC Cloud offering. The full list can be accessed here.

With that predictability in the partners you work with, you can ensure they have your best interests in mind. Take a product like Primavera P6 EPPM, for example. This product allows you and your project teams to efficiently collaborate while providing flexible choices in how users access critical project data through a Web-based user interface.

When things become more predictable, your business is able to move forward with greater confidence. Just ask Jois Construction Management System. The project and construction management services company is one of the latest to partner with AEC Cloud to host its business applications. The company works on major infrastructure projects around the globe for highly demanding owners. Predictability in cost and schedule are a must for running its business—something that hosting its business applications in the cloud can provide.

In this market, that can be an invaluable asset—and a competitive advantage that you cannot afford to ignore.

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Proven Reliability and Leadership For Over 15 Years

Logo_AECCloud_Option2_300AEC Cloud has been on the scene working with the largest AEC companies in the field for over 15 years. Leaders in the industry rely on our expertise and proven track record to help their companies stay ahead with their Enterprise Application Hosting needs. Hensel Phelps, Turner Construction are a couple names that come to mind.

LeadershipWidget_270_blueFinding an experienced and reliable hosting partner is critical in seeing a successful outcome.

Here at AEC Cloud, we know what you need before you do. We have been hosting applications and data for some of the largest companies in the AEC space for over 15 years. We can help guide you through the maze of cloud hosting and determine exactly what your company needs today, and what it will need tomorrow.

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  • Find out what AEC Cloud can do for your business migration to the cloud.
  • Schedule a live demo today and see for yourself the possibilities we can offer.

Feel free to call us if you have any questions: 212-505-0381

Email us here: sales@aeccloud.com

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Business Continuity and the Cloud: How Prepared Are You?

How long can your business sustain being offline? A month? A few days?

Ideally this is a question that you never want to face—nor do many expect that they will need to face in this day-and-age of always-on, ever-connected technologies. But the truth of the matter is that business continuity must remain omnipresent in your thinking as an IT professional.

Business continuity can be defined as such: A loosely-defined set of planning, preparatory and related activities which are intended to ensure that an organization’s critical business functions will either continue to operate despite serious incidents or disasters that might otherwise have interrupted them, or will be recovered to an operational state within a reasonably short period.

Yes, even the cloud can be vulnerable.

Look no further than last year when an expired SSL certificate was linked to taking the Windows Azure storage cloud offline for more than a day. It happens. But the thing to keep in mind is this: Having updated disaster recovery procedures and policies that take into account using the cloud are essential.

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Planning for Disaster

Here’s an interesting fact: Up to seven days is the timeframe that the majority of businesses are preparing to be offline. A recent study on Business Continuity from Gartner showed that 75% of respondents were planning for such a timeframe—and only 3% planned for an outage that might last a month or longer.

The idea of your business systems going down for longer than a month should make you feel sick to your stomach. In fact, being down a month is something most businesses wouldn’t be able to stomach, period. But I’ll go out on a limb and say that the chances of that occurring are trending towards ‘slim-to-none’.

For me, the more revealing statistic is the 86% of organizations that say they found themselves needing to enact a recovery plan in the past 24 months. Actually, no—this is the more revealing stat: The majority of organizations have little ability to determine if their business continuity program is effective. Here’s a closer look:

  • 35% use exercise results
  • 30% use status metrics
  • 27% use scorecards
  • Nearly half rely on audit reports

Take-Action Techniques

Recommendations from Gartner include the idea of build a three-year business continuity management program improvement road map based on annual maturity assessments; assessing that program to get a clear sense as to the longest stretch of time you could sustain under disaster conditions; and of course take the appropriate actions with your technology vendors.

Logo_AECCloud_Option2_300Let’s hone in on that third recommendation. This is where those partners associated with cloud-based products and services must really step up to the table. You see, for me I do believe in the promise of always on, ever-connected technologies. And with it, I feel that much of the onus is on the technology community to guarantee that your business never faces the heartache of having data go offline.

For AEC Cloud, we maintain a business continuity plan that encompasses several levels and definitions of disaster recovery. Our standard solutions all include backup and recovery services running periodically throughout the day. These services are also archived offsite.

Then there are custom solutions. These may include a range of options from automated extraction and transfer of databases and files to a customer FTP site to high availability secondary sites. Making the choice on custom solutions typically will come down to considerations related to cost and level of risk related to recovery point and recovery time objectives.

LeadershipWidget_270x215And our commitment to your business continuity doesn’t end there:

  • Uptime: 100% uptime for the hosted software, platform, and infrastructure layers over the last five years.
  • Power and Connectivity: A team of experienced engineers working diligently to minimize any outages during your working hours and rectify any issues that may occur during routine maintenance and proactive monitoring of systems health.
  • Backup: All servers are backed up on tape using. Our backup and restore systems operate on dedicated and isolated network switches, cabling and NICs, which allows for backups and restorations without consuming valuable bandwidth. Using a multi-tier architecture with inherent redundancy, our Engineering team is always keeping close watch on each element of the environment.
  • Tested, Proven: Our systems have endured numerous natural disasters with zero downtime. In fact, during the North American blackout in August 2003, our systems experienced zero power or Internet connectivity downtime.
  • The Extra Step
    There are those companies, however, that are in need of just a bit more. We get it. That’s why we work with you to tailor Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery and Backup plans that meet your specific objectives for recovery. We do this across the entire software, platform and infrastructure stack.

After all, it’s a matter of assuring that you never need to face downtime.

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Find out what AEC Cloud can do for your business migration to the cloud. Schedule a live demo today and see for yourself the possibilities we can offer.

Feel free to call us if you have any questions: 212-505-0381

Email us here: sales@aeccloud.com

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Can Cyber Threats Poison Your Construction Data?

cloud-securityIn the world of digital business, cyber threats are evergreen. No matter what measures are put into place to protect our electronic data “hackers” will always be out there trying to expose it.

Venom. It’s the latest cyber threat that had everyone on high alert these past weeks. What makes Venom particularly noteworthy is the fact that a hacker can gain access to one virtual machine and begin to manipulate adjacent machines (i.e., other data on the system’s network).

While it certainly sounds more intimidating by name than previous bugs like ‘Heartbleed’ and ‘Shellshock’, when you break it down, Venom—short for Virtualized Environment Neglected Operations Manipulation—shouldn’t poison your thoughts on the cloud.

An Executive Order
A recent global survey from Price Waterhouse Coopers revealed that executives today consider cyber security technology among the top-three most strategically important types of digital technology for their business.

The fact that cyber security is becoming an executive order should come as no surprise. Given the rise of mobile devices, interconnected business systems and even the Internet of Things that looks to give everything from our vehicles to our vacuums an IP address, it’s a wonder why this is even noteworthy (read: executive should be putting cyber security at the top of their agenda)

I think the real news here is that the topic of cyber security is officially coming out of the IT department and into the boardroom.

Cyber Threats Threaten Construction
Logo_AECCloud_Option2_167According to the 2015 Data Breach Investigation Report from Verizon, there were 2,122 confirmed data breaches in 2014. This is up from 1,367 confirmed breaches worldwide in 2013. These data breaches resulted in 700 million records being compromised, equivalent to the loss of $400 million.

Of those 2,122 data breaches, the number that occurred within construction? Three—one of which didn’t result in any confirmed data loss. To be fair, the Verizon study polled only 70 organizations worldwide. Still, when you compare our industry against others like manufacturing (525) and retail (523), we are looking pretty secure.

Of course part of the reason for such a low number of breaches could do with the fact that RFIs and change orders aren’t exactly glorious data grabs for cyber criminals. But all kidding aside, there are project teams around the globe sharing some pretty hefty sets of data on the construction and operation of major facilities. Data that could be pretty dangerous if fallen into the wrong hands.

Can we credit the secure nature of data exchange within construction to the fact that more and more construction data is being stored in the cloud these days? Could data actually be safer in the cloud than on physical on-premise servers?

testimonial02I say yes. And it’s due to the commitment that cloud service providers are making at protecting your data. At The Cram Group we partner with Equinix as the Data Center provider, leveraging the company’s Tier-1 global network. This provides many physical advantages that ensure the best results for customers in direct benefit to clients, such as:

  • Security 24/7 security and video surveillance.
  • Trained security guards on-site at all times.
  • Servers located in locked cage.
  • Hand-scan required to enter controlled areas.
  • 24/7 time-in & time-out visitor logs maintained by security staff

 

AEC Cloud Hosting and The Cram Group have over 15 years of hands on real world experience in protecting data for the largest construction firms in the industry. We have the know how and expertise so you can rest at night knowing your data is secure.

Find out what AEC Cloud can do for your business migration to the cloud. Schedule a live demo today and see for yourself the possibilities we can offer.

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OBA: Mixing a Little Excel with Your Cloud Strategy

cloud-app-access-via-multi-devicesMore than 30% of construction companies rely on spreadsheets as part of their process for carrying out day-to-day construction tasks. For anyone familiar with this industry, that number shouldn’t come as a shock. But what might come as a surprise to some is the fact that such a stat could have cloud implications.

This figure comes from the recently published report Construction Software BuyerView by Software Advice. I agree with their assessment that most construction firms find it difficult (i.e., cost prohibitive) to relinquish their traditional methods and adapt their processes. But this is where construction companies must embrace a strategy of adopting new technologies while still leveraging current investments.

This is where I believe Microsoft Office Business Applications (OBAs) play a valuable role for the construction industry. For those not familiar with OBA, here’s a quick run down:

  • An OBA is an application written for Microsoft Office and is based on .NET technology that uses Web services to connect to a standard Line of Business (LOB) or other application. This certainly makes OBAs very NIST-friendly based on its Five Cloud Characteristics.
  • OBAs work by using Microsoft Office as the interface to capture information that is sent via Web services in XML format.
  • The most commonly used OBAs in the AEC industry are based on Microsoft Excel.
  • OBAs are different than the use of Microsoft Office in combination with import/export methods—don’t let some vendors fool you! Here’s the difference: OBAs connect to the LOB application via Web Services. A Microsoft Excel-based OBA, for example, allows for a pre-mapped, secure, two-way connection over the Internet between Excel and the LOB—something that simply cannot be done using traditional import/export.

Here is where the cost value truly comes into play. For many construction companies, achieving such level of integration involves developing a custom solution. And that’s where Software Advice’s statement about the industry’s reluctance to relinquish traditional methods holds true. But that doesn’t need to be the case, thanks to OBAs.

Take the AECCloud customer Morley Builders, for example. It was looking for a way to eliminate the need for employees to manually input large data sets of drawing and specification information. The company is using AEC Cloud’s Drawings & Specification OBA, which interfaces with Microsoft Excel and other spreadsheets.

With this, Morley’s employees are able to quickly input a large amount of data all at once, which saves time. Perhaps the greatest time-saving activity comes during the start of a project, when it is not uncommon for certain information to be repetitive.

And this is one of many success stories. For AEC Cloud, we take a very targeted approach to delivering OBAs to the construction industry:

One Source: The OBA Store is our online source for Microsoft OBAs where we have standard OBAs for most features supported by Trimble Meridian Prolog. We have standard OBAs for most features supported by Prolog and are always looking to build them for other Line of Business applications based on client demand and Vendors opening up their web service technologies.  Get a free account to access and browse to the largest catalog of OBAs for the AEC Industry! Sign Up Here or Login Here if you already have an account.

One Host: We offer the ability host them, or allow users to host them if that is preferred.

Centralized Management: OBA Online is the source for hosting OBAs, and when combined with the OBA Store allows users to buy, manage, and deploy OBAs in a very efficient manner.

An Eye Ahead: We are always looking to build OBAs for other LOB applications based on client demand. But this necessitates other software vendors opening up their Web service technologies.

So for anyone who tells you that the use of Microsoft Excel and the cloud simply don’t mix—think again. OBAs can make that use of Excel very innovative for years to come.

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About The Cram Group & AEC Cloud
Since 2001, The Cram Group is a leading Consulting, Hosting, and Development services provider focused on the AEC Industry. Core offerings include education about Cloud Computing and Solutions based on the NIST Cloud Definition; Software for Unified Application Management and Role Specific Applications; and Services from Advisory to Maintenance which are available direct and through a nationwide Certified Partner Network.
For more information, call 212-505-0381, or email us sales@aeccloud.com