Sierra Group Builds on Success in the Cloud

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2015-06-16 Email Print this article Print
Cloud-based Infrastructure

The construction firm's cloud-based infrastructure provides cost savings, better security, quicker provisioning, easier configuration and improved performance.

Managing IT infrastructure is a challenging proposition for any company in any industry. However, for smaller firms with limited technology skills, budgets and resources, it can prove overwhelming.

One company that has confronted this challenge is Sierra Group, a construction, facilities services and electronic security systems company headquartered in Glendale, Calif., with offices in Northern and Southern California, as well as Texas. It has transitioned from an internal IT infrastructure and data environment to a cloud-based virtual framework.

The initiative was born out of necessity. "In the past, we had to deal with in-house servers and systems that were not all that reliable," points out Monica Valenzuela, director of operations for Sierra Group. "We were operating Windows Server 2003 in-house, and, too often, components failed and the network went down.

"In some cases, it would take two hours or longer to reboot a server, so we either would have to wait to get work done or send people home. The situation was frustrating and expensive, and it affected our ability to complete tasks and projects in a timely manner."

At first, the company explored the idea of purchasing new servers and replacing the older and soon-expiring operating system. But after examining the situation and analyzing performance and cost issues, Sierra Group opted to take a different tact. The firm turned to solutions provider En Pointe Technologies, which proposed a cloud-based IT solution from dinCloud, an infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider.

The result was a virtual private data center, which promised cost savings, heightened security, simpler and quicker provisioning, easier configurations and significantly improved performance over the previous on-premises infrastructure. The environment also introduced new features, such as network and remote printing.

Transforming the IT Environment

Sierra Group went live with the new environment in April 2014, and Valenzuela says that it has transformed the IT environment. System crashes and downtime are a thing of the past, and remote connections now take place through a VPN.

"The environment is far more stable and more robust," she notes. For example, the firm now uses a template to provision new employees and quickly get them up and running on their computers.

"The provisioning process for a new laptop takes only about five minutes," Valenzuela reports. "We simply go into Active Directory and create a user name and password, and the process is complete." In the past, she says, setting up a new employee and loading the laptop with the right software and tools could take as long as eight hours.

The IT environment also has eliminated the need for time-consuming updates and patches, while introducing a more cost-effective and streamlined software environment. "Software licenses, including Microsoft Office, now run month-to-month," she says. "It's a very hands-off approach."

Finally, the IaaS platform has introduced a far better backup and disaster recovery model and has helped the firm improve IT security—while virtually eliminating internal support. "We really don't have the internal expertise or capabilities to focus on security as effectively as we would like," Valenzuela explains. However, with the cloud-based solution, "we now have much better protection in place."

Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).

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