Mobile Devices and the Cloud

March 27, 2014

Mobile Devices are by far the biggest technology trend in history, larger than PC’s in the 80’s, larger than “Windows” in the 90’s or desktop Internet near Y2K.
Consider for a moment that PCs put computing power at a desk at first, and then to portable computers. They did not strain infrastructure but added ‘local’ computing power. Windows replaced DOS in the 90s, and the Internet access to those PCs via existing infrastructure furthered the access of information and productivity by the time the 21st century arrived.
By contrast, in less than half that time, the humble cell phone has transformed how we communicate. Today, 20% people own at least one mobile device – 1 in 5 own a smart phone, and 1 in 17 owns a tablet. Virtually no business man, university student, or high school student for that matter, is without a cellular phone of some sort. Those who are about to become a teenager might never buy another book, instead reading on-line, on a mobile device – a Kindle or a Nook.  Pew research estimate there are 5 billion mobile devices in the world.
The use of mobile devices has grown much faster with greater impact than any single technology that came before it… from its origin as an alternative (mobile) phone, to the primary phone for many, with easy access to email, text messaging, ‘apps’ for hundreds of things, Internet browsing, and with an outstanding camera. And the bandwidth requirements to support these devices have grown exponentially in the wake of this growth.
Constant pressure for more bandwidth has been placed by the applications of Gaming, Photos/Videos, GPS mapping, logging and storing data. Using a VTC (Virtual Training Company) software application for business meetings and sharing data files in real time are all examples of commonplace applications that use these technologies which have profoundly changed the way businesses and consumers go about their everyday lives.
Enter The Cloud
In short, “the Cloud” is the infrastructure where the data storage, data processing, and data protection reside outside your home, office or mobile device. Email, for example, has been a cloud service since before “the cloud” was even a defined technology service. Now, Microsoft, Google and other 3rd party cloud service providers run your email system for you for a reasonable monthly fee also referred to as a subscription.
In less time than it took for the DOS operating system to be introduced and become obsolete, businesses have moved IT infrastructure from their premises out to the cloud. Benefits include reduced IT costs, business scalability, business continuity, collaboration efficiency, flexibility of work practices and access to automatic updates.Customer Relationship Management software “CRM” (such as Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics), Communication and Collaboration services (such as SharePoint and Lync), Office Productivity (such as Google Apps and Office 365), and VoIP systems and Desktops are available as cloud services.Other cloud services that are gaining popularity, are Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Disaster Recovery systems which give the end user piece of mind eliminating the risk of theft and the comfort knowing their data is in a reliable data center with 24×7 access and technical support.
Few IT directors will ever look back, recalling that time that they backed up their Exchange server or increased someone’s mailbox limit. Though the Cloud appears to clearly be the future of application and data delivery for the foreseeable future, it is not without its downsides and bottlenecks.
The most evident bottleneck is “Bandwidth”. Bandwidth is the end-all-be-all requirement today’s connectivity. Without adequate bandwidth, using mobile devices is a cause for headaches for even a casual user.
Bandwidth can be viewed as the ‘highway’ on which all information travels, whether that information is your voice, a document, an e-mail, a picture, a video or a game. These collective applications have created a need for more and more bandwidth as the use of mobile devices has soared. And the desire for yet more bandwidth is not expected to reduce over time.
While on-premise systems can benefit from Fast Ethernet LAN connectivity, with 10Gb becoming more prevalent in the data center and 1Gb common to the desktop, cloud services generally have to make do with much scarcer bandwidth resources. For small and medium businesses, Internet bandwidth tends to be measured in the megabits, typically ranging from 1.25Mb to up to 15 Mbps (for reference, note that 1,024Mb = 1Gb). Because of the bandwidths currently experienced by these businesses, a good case could be made that the small/medium sized market stands to gain most from cloud services.
In the Enterprise and Government sectors, hybrid cloud services and private clouds are more common. Within these spaces, IT typically moves at a slower pace than in a small or medium sized business. It takes months to ramp up a strategy, more time to ramp up an initial project and even more time to ramp up the first instances of a true cloud deployment. Thus, latency and bottlenecks extends the wait for cloud out to years.
How Much Bandwidth is Enough?
Figuring out just how much bandwidth you need—or conversely, which services you can practically use given the bandwidth you already have is not a trivial exercise. Bandwidth requirements depend on the service being used.  And with an increase of mobile devices, it is an exercise that need be done.  It’s not just the link between the business and the cloud service provider that matters; it’s also about the available bandwidth within the organization and everyone’s ability to reach out beyond the firewall at optimal speeds. This is because not all applications use the bandwidth ‘highway’ equally.
Some services, like email, require low bandwidth transport. Word documents and Excel files are generally relatively small, while photos and videos can be huge. The occasional upload of a big file to cloud storage can be enough to clog up the Internet highway, which on shared connections is a problem for everybody (like a massive traffic jam).
Cloud services, such as cloud-hosted virtualized desktops, can place heavy per-user demands on an Internet connection, especially in deployments with high resolution desktops or multimedia devices/applications. Some tasks can be highly variable. Cloud storage services—whether straightforward file sharing such as Box and Dropbox or more complex document management like SharePoint—can end up using a little bit of bandwidth or a lot.
Identifying your applications and business services along with the required bandwidth will help your business run efficiently without the risk of downtime and lost productivity.
NTI’s interest in our customers’ technology goes well beyond the physical layer infrastructure, although that is certainly an important part of our services offering.   We are committed to understanding your business applications and IT systems that are essential to your business operations, beginning with the infrastructure to support the data, voice, TV, wireless Internet, cellular wireless, security and audio/visual systems. Each of these systems depend on the technology infrastructure designed, and shall depend on that infrastructure for years to come. Beyond the ability to assist with technology budgets and design the technology rooms, pathways and spaces, we at NTI are students of our industry, remaining aware of the technology that is currently proven, the technology that is changing and those that are being considered for each of the systems that are necessary to operate a commercial building or campus.
Although NTI specializes in ITS design, we consider it critical for us to understand the big picture so we can recommend the most robust, suitable and sustainable systems for your businesses that will work today, tomorrow, and years to come.

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