Customer Cloud Success Story: Special Olympics

Customer Cloud Success Story: Special Olympics

For 50 years, the Special Olympics has used the power of sports to infuse joy, to incite action, to inspire communities, and to empower people with intellectual disabilities to discover new strengths and focus on what they CAN do.  

This worldwide nonprofit uses the Microsoft Cloud to track data for nearly 5 million athletes in 170 countries. With anywhere, anytime access, countless hours have been saved and reinvested into impacting athletes and changing the world. 


Just think—how can you make a difference and how might technology help you impact the world? Wherever you are in your cloud journey, Oakwood Systems Group, Inc. can help. Contact us to learn more.


5 Reasons Your Organization Should Move To The Cloud

5 Reasons Your Organization Should Move To The Cloud

How many reasons do you need to transition to cloud-based IT infrastructure? For most companies, it’s more than just one. At Oakwood Systems Group, Inc., we know the benefits of the cloud outweigh any of the hassle.

Microsoft cloud services offer with increased scalability and security, not to mention flexibility and ease of use. You’ll also save your business time and money by reducing maintenance of on-premises IT infrastructure.

Here are 5 reasons your organization should consider adopting the cloud.

1. Cloud Based Applications Are Here To Stay

  • The value of the cloud – The cloud market is expected to pass $500 billion by 2020.
  • Adoption is growing – 72% of organizations had at least one application in the cloud in 2015, a 15% increase from 2012.

2. Security Comes Standard

As cloud technology improves, security fears lessen. In a survey of enterprise IT managers, security is no longer ranked as the #1 concern when it comes to cloud computing.

One of the biggest advantages of moving to the public cloud is the security team that comes with it. By moving to an enterprise-level public cloud, you’ll experience:

  • Scale – A public cloud will always be large enough to store and secure your data.
  • Intelligence – Public clouds monitor for millions of threats. As soon as one is detected on one customer tenant, the cloud provider can mitigate the attack across all other tenants.
  • Automation – Less human touch results in fewer mistakes and fewer opportunities for security breaches or insider threats.

Benefits of Cloud Technology

We’re saving time and money. And every dollar we save is making it to the field to help those that need it.

Marc Julmisse – Chief Nursing Officer, Partners in Health

3. Move At Your Own Pace

Cloud migration does not need to happen all at once, and it’s recommended to migrate to the cloud over time with a hybrid approach—the combination of an on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services.

On average in 2015, businesses were simultaneously experimenting with and running data on 3 public clouds and 3 private clouds.


4. Using The Cloud Doesn’t Mean New Tools

Moving to a cloud-based solution doesn’t have to mean retraining employees. Many solutions allow you to use the same applications your employees are used to, with access to files anywhere online.


The switch to Microsoft cloud services makes us significantly more efficient in normal times but will make us far more effective when we respond to a disaster moving forward.

Mike Manning – President and Chief Executive Officer, Greater Baton Rouge Food

Cloud Benefits: Scale, Intelligence & Automation

The Sky’s The Limit

Cloud adopters see various benefits from their technology, although businesses’ top-cited benefits include:

  • Faster access to infrastructure
  • Greater scalability
  • Increased availability

Rolls Royce is Flying High with Azure IoT

Rolls Royce is Flying High with Azure IoT

Rolls Royce has over 13,000 engines in operation around the world, and they provide services to maintain those engines at peak performance. Today’s engines have thousands of sensors that can produce terabytes of data on long-haul flights. Making sense of all that data is critical in transporting customers safely and efficiently. That’s why they use a suite of tools from Microsoft to help iron out what all that data means. But adopting the right tools is easier said than done.

Avoiding operating disruptions is crucial to success at Rolls Royce. In fact, a single issue with a plane, and its inevitable effect to an entire airline, can cost up to one million dollars per day! Limiting these disruptions is the biggest reason for their investment in IoT technologies from Azure. Being able to identify problems before they arise has been invaluable for the manufacturer. With early notice, Rolls Royce can reduce inventory costs and maximize availability of parts. Saving airlines millions!

At Oakwood Systems Group, Inc., we know that it can be a challenge, that’s why we want to help you drive the transformation you need. Contact us today to find out how we can help.



3 Reasons To Modernize Your Data Estate

3 Reasons To Modernize Your Data Estate

There are major benefits awaiting organizations that modernize their data estate, including enhanced security and compliance, significant cost savings, and the ability to empower employees with business insights and advanced analytics capabilities.

With an out-of-date data platform, you could be…

  • Missing out on game changing cost benefits
  • Opening your business to potential vulnerabilities
  • Falling behind without modern analytics capabilities

What does it mean to ‘modernize’?

Modernization means taking advantage of the latest technologies to create transformational business benefits. With Microsoft, you have the flexibility to modernize your data estate in the way that’s right for your business:

  • Upgrade to SQL Server 2017: Move to a database with industry-leading performance and security—now on Windows, Linux, and Docker containers.
  • Modernize in the cloud: Move to Azure to get greater cost efficiencies, state-of-the-art security, and powerful data and analytics services – with fully-managed database-as-a-service (DBaaS) solutions.
  • Take a hybrid approach: Deploy across on-premises and the cloud to extend your infrastructure and improve business continuity.

Why modernize now?

Reduce cost & maximize your investment

Benefits of SQL Server 2017

  • #1 database in Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) price/performance
  • Unmatched Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) with everything built in
  • Get a comprehensive solution at one-fifth the cost of other self-service solutions with comprehensive BI
  • Reduce costs and create efficiencies with faster transactions with In-Memory OLTP and up to 100x faster analytics with in-memory Columnstore
  • Cut productivity losses and speed query performance without tuning using Adaptive Query Processing

Benefits of Microsoft Azure

  • Scale up or down quickly with pay-as-you-go, consumptionbased pricing and reduce licensing and hardware costs
  • 50% of businesses reported reaching ROI at a faster rate with cloud applications
  • Optimize costs for database workloads with different VM sizes
  • 75% lower costs on software licenses with Azure

Gain state-of-the-art, award-winning security

Benefits of SQL Server 2017

  • Least vulnerable of any enterprise database over last 7 years
  • Encrypt data at rest and in motion with Always Encrypted
  • Conceal sensitive data with Dynamic Data Masking
  • Control access to database rows with Row-Level Security

Benefits of Microsoft Azure

  • Meet a broad set of international and industry-specific compliance regulations
  • Continuous security-health monitoring across Azure, on-premises, and public clouds

Solve bigger problems with advanced business insights

Benefits of SQL Server 2017

  • Real-time operational analytics when you combine in-memory technologies
  • Visualize data anywhere with Mobile BI
  • Scale and accelerate machine learning by pushing intelligence to where the data lives with in-database R and Python analytics

Benefits of Microsoft Azure

  • Leading AI innovation to discover insights faster
  • Advanced machine learning capabilities at your fingertips

With the tech available to every business, modernization is now the norm. With a solution like SQL Server, you can reduce costs and maximize your investment, gain state-of-the-art, award-winning security, and solve bigger problems with advanced business insights.

If that sounds great but you’re unsure of how to proceed, it’s time to call the experts at Oakwood Systems Group at (314) 824-3000 or drop us a line in the form below. We’re industry professionals who have in-depth experience with helping businesses just like yours to plan, integrate, and execute with new technological solutions like SQL Server. Contact us today to find out more on how we can help your business.


Intelligence in the Cloud and on the Edge with Azure IoT

Intelligence in the Cloud and on the Edge with Azure IoT


Maximizing the impact of your IoT Proof of Concept Whitepaper. Download Here


The Internet of Things (IoT) is real and it’s here today, but to many of you, IoT may seem confusing and hard to understand how it applies to your business.

In this post, we hope to offer you further understanding on how Azure IoT could bring your business together in new, insightful ways – from generating new revenue streams, to increasing process efficiencies, and delivering better customer experiences.


What is IoT?

There’s a revolution underway that is positioning companies to take operational efficiency to new levels and inform the next generation of products and services. This revolution of course, is the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT, however is not a technology evolution. It’s a business revolution, enabled by technology. With Microsoft’s long history of driving business success and digital transformation for customers, it’s no surprise that Microsoft is also focused on powering the business revolution through its robust Azure IoT suite of products.

Azure IoT is for every business—it powers digital transformation by unlocking insights from connected devices. You can transform those insights into action through powerful applications to create new revenue and business opportunities.

With Microsoft’s IoT platform spanning the cloud, OS and devices, we believe it is uniquely positioned to simplify the IoT journey so any customer—regardless of size, technical expertise, budget, industry or other factors—can create trusted, connected solutions that improve business and customer experiences, as well as the daily lives of people all over the world. The investment Microsoft announced just a couple of months ago will ensure that it continues to meet customers’ needs both now and in the future.

Microsoft’s IoT offerings today include what businesses need to get started, ranging from operating systems for devices, cloud services to control and secure them, advanced analytics to gain insights, and business applications to enable intelligent action. Microsoft has seen great traction with customers and partners who continue to come up with new ideas and execute them on their platform.

IoT isn’t one “thing”. It’s about an ecosystem of things or devices, the data and insights they generate, and the opportunity to take action based on the analysis of those insights.

  • Things: Build, manage, and monitor a network of physical objects by adding sensors and creating smart devices.
  • Insights: Collect data from your network and use advanced analytics to uncover new business insights and opportunities.
  • Action: Predict needs before they arise and act with precision based on unprecedented insights from your IoT network.

Why Azure IoT?

Microsoft has built a portfolio that supports the needs of all customers, and enables everyone to access the benefits of digital transformation.

Azure IoT Central is a fully managed SaaS solution that is best used when you need to get started quickly with minimal IoT experience. If your business is pursuing speed over customization, SaaS models could be the perfect fit for your IoT implementation needs. Organizations with fewer device models, more predictable scenarios, and limited IoT/IT capabilities can now reap the benefits of IoT through a SaaS approach. Those businesses that previously lacked the time, money, and expertise to develop connected products can now get started quickly with Microsoft IoT Central. Microsoft is leading the industry in providing a mature SaaS solution that meets common IoT implementation pain points.

azure iot lifecycle

Azure IoT solution accelerators is a customizable PaaS solution that is best used when you need a lot of control over your IoT solution. If your business is implementing IoT for connected operations, or have very particular customization requirements for your connected products, you can have the control you need with Azure IoT solution accelerators. Organizations with a large number of devices or device models, and manufacturers seeking connected factory solutions are examples of companies that can create highly customizable IoT solutions tailored to their complex needs.

In addition, Azure IoT Edge provides organization with the capacity to do local processing. When combined with a PaaS or SaaS solution, edge processing can offer faster calculations and reduce the cost of data sent to the cloud.


IoT Hub

IoT Hub is a managed service, hosted in the cloud, that acts as a central message hub for bi-directional communication between your IoT application and the devices it manages. You can use Azure IoT Hub to build IoT solutions with reliable and secure communications between millions of IoT devices and a cloud-hosted solution backend. You can connect virtually any device to IoT Hub.

IoT Hub supports communications both from the device to the cloud and from the cloud to the device. IoT Hub supports multiple messaging patterns such as device-to-cloud telemetry, file upload from devices, and request-reply methods to control your devices from the cloud. IoT Hub monitoring helps you maintain the health of your solution by tracking events such as device creation, device failures, and device connections.

IoT Hub’s capabilities help you build scalable, full-featured IoT solutions such as managing industrial equipment used in manufacturing, tracking valuable assets in healthcare, and monitoring office building usage.

  • Establish bidirectional communication with billions of IoT devices: Use device-to-cloud telemetry data to understand the state of your devices and define message routes to other Azure services without writing any code. In cloud-to-device messages, reliably send commands and notifications to your connected devices and track message delivery with acknowledgement receipts. Device messages are sent in a durable way to accommodate intermittently connected devices.
  • Enhance security with per device authentication: Set up individual identities and credentials for each of your connected devices, and help retain the confidentiality of both cloud-to-device and device-to-cloud messages. To maintain the integrity of your system, selectively revoke access rights for specific devices as needed.
  • Provision devices at scale w/ IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service: Speed up your IoT deployment by registering and provisioning devices with zero touch in a secure and scalable way. IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service supports any type of IoT device compatible with IoT Hub.
  • Manage devices at scale with device management: IoT Hub scales to millions of simultaneously connected devices and millions of events per second to support your IoT workloads. IoT Hub offers several tiers of service to best fit your scalability needs.
  • Multi-language and open source SDKs: Use the Azure IoT device SDK libraries to build applications that run on your devices and interact with IoT Hub. Supported platforms include multiple Linux distributions, Windows, and real-time operating systems. Supported languages include: C, C#, Java, Python, Node.js.  IoT Hub and the device SDKs support the following protocols for connecting devices: HTTPS, AMQP, AMQP over WebSockets, MQTT, MQTT over WebSockets.

Azure IoT Edge

Azure IoT Edge is a fully managed service that delivers cloud intelligence locally by deploying and running artificial intelligence (AI), Azure services, and custom logic directly on cross-platform IoT devices. You can run your IoT solution securely and at scale—whether in the cloud or offline.

Move cloud and custom workloads to the edge, securely: Azure IoT Edge moves cloud analytics and custom business logic to devices so that your organization can focus on business insights instead of data management. Enable your solution to truly scale by configuring your IoT software, deploying it to devices via standard containers, and monitoring it all from the cloud. With IoT Edge, your edge devices operate reliably and securely even when they’re offline or have intermittent connectivity to the cloud. Azure IoT device management automatically syncs the latest state of devices once they’re reconnected to ensure seamless operability.

Seamless deployment of AI and advanced analytics to the edge: IoT Edge allows you to deploy complex event processing, machine learning, image recognition, and other high-value artificial intelligence without writing it in-house. Run Azure services such as Functions, Stream Analytics, and Machine Learning on-premises. Create AI modules and make them available to the community.

Easily build AI at the edge with the AI Toolkit for Azure IoT Edge. Most data becomes useless just seconds after it’s generated, so having the lowest latency possible between the data and the decision is critical. IoT Edge optimizes for performance between edge and cloud while ensuring management, security, and scale.

Only a small fraction of IoT data acquired is meaningful post-analytics. Use services such as Azure Stream Analytics or trained models to process the data locally and send only what’s needed to the cloud for further analysis. This reduces the cost associated with sending all your data to the cloud while keeping data quality high.

Configure, update and monitor from the cloud: Azure IoT Edge integrates seamlessly with Azure IoT solution accelerators to provide one control plane for your solution’s needs. Cloud services allow users to:

  • Create and configure a workload to be run on a specific type of device.
  • Send a workload to a set of devices.
  • Monitor workloads running on devices in the field.

Compatible with popular operating systems: Azure IoT Edge runs on most operating systems that can run containers.

Code symmetry between cloud and edge for easy development and testing: IoT Edge holds to the same programming model as other Azure IoT services; for example, the same code can be run on a device or in the cloud. IoT Edge supports OS such as Linux and Windows, and languages such as Java, .NET Core 2.0, Node.js, C, and Python, so you can code in a language you know and use existing business logic without writing from scratch.

Secure solution from chipset to the cloud: Intelligent edge devices face security threats ranging from physical tampering to IP hacking. IoT Edge is designed for security that extends to different risk profiles and deployment scenarios, and offers the same protection you expect from all Azure services.


Azure Time Series Insights

Azure Time Series Insights is a fully managed analytics, storage, and visualization service for managing IoT-scale time-series data in the cloud. Instantly explore and analyze billions of events from your IoT solution.

IoT scale time-series data store: Time Series Insights manages the storage of your data. At its core, Time Series Insights has a database designed with time series data in mind. Because it is scalable and fully managed, Time Series Insights handles the work of storing and managing events. To ensure data is always easily accessible, it stores your data in memory and SSD’s for up to 400 days. If you’re building an application, either for internal consumption or for external customers to use, Time Series Insights can be used as a back-end for indexing, storing, and aggregating time series data.

Schema-less store, just send data: Today, many organizations are limited by siloed data that’s difficult to compare onsite in one location, let alone many. With Time Series Insights, you now have a view of your time-series data across all your locations. It’s built for IoT-scale data so that you can visualize and interact with billions of streams of sensor data from all your connected things.

Easy IoT Hub connection: Azure Time Series Insights requires no up-front data preparation. Connect to millions of events in your Azure IoT Hub or Event Hub in minutes. Once connected, visualize and interact with sensor data to quickly validate your IoT solutions. You can interact with your data without writing code.

Store, query and visualize billions of events: Time Series Insights provides a query service, both in the TSI explorer and by using APIs that are easy to integrate for embedding your time series data into custom applications. You can interactively query billions of events in seconds – on demand.

Get near real-time insights in seconds: Get more value out of your time-series data with storage, analysis, and visualization, all in one place. Time Series Insights ingests hundreds of millions of sensor events per day and makes up to 400 days’ worth of time-series data available to query within one minute to empower quick action. Gain deeper insights into your sensor data by spotting trends and anomalies fast, which allows you to conduct root-cause analyses and avoid costly downtime. Plus, unlock hidden trends by cross-correlating discrete data and viewing real-time and historical data simultaneously.

Build apps using Time Series Insights APIs: Integrate Azure Time Series Insights data into your existing applications or create new custom solutions with Time Series Insights REST query APIs. Adding Time Series Insights data into existing workflows will allow you to get more out of your time series data, and when you use this data to build custom solutions for your users, you’ll provide more value to your partners.


Azure IoT Central

Azure IoT Central is a fully managed global IoT SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution that makes it easy to connect, monitor, and manage your IoT assets at scale. It allows you to bring your connected products to market faster while staying focused on your customers and it reduces the complexity of IoT solutions because it doesn’t require cloud solution expertise.

azure iot central

Fully hosted and managed by Microsoft: Azure IoT Central applications are fully hosted by Microsoft, which reduces the administration overhead of managing your applications.

As an operator, you use the Azure IoT Central application to manage the devices in your Azure IoT Central solution. Operators can perform tasks such as:

  • Monitoring the devices connected to the application.
  • Troubleshooting and remediating issues with devices.
  • Provisioning new devices.

No cloud development expertise required: You can build production-grade IoT applications in hours, without worrying about managing infrastructure or hiring developers with specialized skills. Reduce the complexity of customizing, deploying, and scaling an IoT solution. Bring your connected solutions to market faster—while you stay focused on your customers.

Device connectivity and management: Easily build and configure your IoT solution using Azure IoT Central without cloud development expertise. The easy-to-use interface makes it simple for you to connect, manage, and control access to millions of connected products remotely, throughout their lifecycle.

Monitoring rules and triggered actions: To monitor and manage the devices effectively, users can define the different types of measurements emitted by it and displayed by the application. Microsoft IoT Central supports measurements types such as telemetry including device-emitted numeric values, often collected at a regular frequency (e.g. temperature), events including device-emitted numeric or non-numeric values generated on the device, with no inferable relationship over time (e.g. button press and error code), and state including device-emitted numeric or non-numeric values which defines the state of a device or one of its parts and maintained until the state change is informed by the device (e.g. Engine ON). 

User roles and permissions: Roles enable you to control who, within your organization, can perform various Azure IoT Central tasks.

Analytics, dashboards and visualization: Microsoft IoT Central integrates Azure Time Series Insights – a fully managed analytics, storage, and visualization service for managing IoT-scale time-series – to enable users to explore and analyze billions of events streaming simultaneously from devices deployed all over the world. Microsoft IoT Central provides massively scalable time-series data storage and several ways to explore data, making it super easy to explore and visualize millions of data points simultaneously, conduct root-cause analysis, and to compare multiple sites and assets. Within an application, time-series visualization is available for a single device, for a Device Set – with the ability to compare multiple devices – and as a multi-purpose Analytics tool.


IoT Solution Accelerators

IoT solution accelerators are a collection of complete, ready-to-deploy, IoT solutions that implement common IoT scenarios such as remote monitoring, connected factory, and predictive maintenance. When you deploy a solution accelerator, the deployment includes all the required cloud-based services along with any required application code.

azure iot accelerators

The solution accelerators are starting points for your own IoT solutions. The source code for all the solution accelerators is open source and is available in GitHub. You can also use the solution accelerators as learning tools before building a custom IoT solution from scratch. The solution accelerators implement proven practices for cloud-based IoT solutions for you to follow. The application code in each solution accelerator includes a dashboard that lets you manage the solution accelerator.

All the solution accelerators follow the same design principles and goals. They are designed to be:

  • Scalable: letting you connect and manage millions of connected devices.
  • Extensible: enabling you to customize them to meet your requirements.
  • Comprehensible: enabling you to understand how they work and how they are implemented.
  • Modular: letting you swap out services for alternatives.
  • Secure: combining Azure security with built-in connectivity and device security features.

Preconfigured solutions

Remote Monitoring: Use this solution accelerator to collect telemetry from multiple remote devices and to control them. Example devices include cooling systems installed on your customers’ premises or valves installed in remote pump stations.

Connected Factory: Use this solution accelerator to collect telemetry from industrial assets with an OPC Unified Architecture interface and to control them. Industrial assets might include assembly and test stations on a factory production line.

Predictive Maintenance: Use this solution accelerator to predict when a remote device is expected to fail so you can carry out maintenance before the predicted failure happens. This solution accelerator uses machine learning algorithms to predict failures from device telemetry. Example devices might be airplane engines or elevators.


You Can Trust Azure

Microsoft understands every company, organization, and industry has unique needs and requirements. This is why they’re continuing to invest in their global infrastructure to provide the scale and performance needed to bring applications closer to users, keep them running with robust resiliency features to better meet your local data residency and compliance needs.


Still Have Questions?

The professionals at Oakwood Systems Group, Inc. can help. We’d like to talk to you about how your organization can leverage the power of IoT!


Customer Cloud Success Story: Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev)

Customer Cloud Success Story: Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev)

If you’ve ever had a beer, more than likely it was an AB InBev product. This global company brews and markets one-third of the beer products sold around the world and stores massive amounts of data in order to do so. 

With siloed datacenters, AB InBev lacked integrated systems, cohesion between markets and regions, and the agility to get to market quickly. Like businesses of every size, they needed a robust cloud solution in their digital transformation journey.  

Watch this quick video to see why AB InBev chose Microsoft Azure and let Oakwood Systems Group, Inc. show you how you can also break down data silos, increase operational insights, and cut down on IT costs with a modern data platform.


Microsoft 365 Customer Story: TransBlue

Microsoft 365 Customer Story: TransBlue

Whether you are part of a large conglomerate or a small business like TransBlue, modernizing your workplace is a necessity if you want to keep up with customer demands and the competition.

Running back and forth between jobsites can eat up time and resources, especially for a small business. TransBlue was still running their business the old-fashioned way when they updated their business infrastructure. TransBlue now uses Microsoft 365. The mobility enables them to cut out drives to the job that used to eat up an entire day.

With a suite of tools at their disposal, Microsoft 365 provides TransBlue with the collaboration and mobility their employees need to stay productive. With tools like Microsoft Teams, they can have face-to-face meetings no matter where they are and upload and share on Teams with ease. 

Your organization can benefit from the power of a modern workplace and your employees will thank you for using the suite of tools they already know and trust with Microsoft 365. Email us today to find out how we can help you plan your shift to the cloud.


The shift to the cloud brought agility to TransBlue. The future of your digital business depends on getting your IT right. Contact Oakwood Systems Group, Inc. to find out how we can help you integrate Microsoft 365 today.

Protecting Azure Resources with Recovery Services Vault

Protecting Azure Resources with Recovery Services Vault

Your data is important. You need the best data recovery service on the market. At Oakwood Systems Group we know how to help you integrate the solutions that meet your needs.

With file and folder backup and recovery, virtual machine backup and recovery, and SQL running on IaaS VMs, Azure Recovery Services Vault gives users a strong feature set and an easy-to-use data protection service for businesses to protect their data.

Like many businesses, as their organization began rapidly migrating and deploying solutions to Azure, the demand for data protection in the cloud has also increased. That’s why Microsoft developed Azure Recovery Services Vault to help manage their backup and disaster recovery needs natively in the cloud.

Microsoft implemented Azure Recovery Services Vault to provide data protection services for their growing Azure virtual machine infrastructure. Recovery Services vault is a cloud-based PaaS solution⎯by using it, their employees can quickly obtain access to data protection for Azure resources. It’s flexible and adaptable enough to meet the needs of all their business groups, and it can evolve into an even more comprehensive data protection solution in the future.

Microsoft’s data protection services team manages data protection for all Core Services Engineering (CSE, formerly Microsoft IT). They oversee the backup and recovery of almost 9 petabytes (PB), or 9 million gigabytes (GB), of on-premises data for the organization. Primarily, they use Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager for their on-premises workloads. They use it for the backup and recovery of:

  • Physical servers, files, and folders.
  • Virtual machines, files, and folders.
  • Application workloads, such as SQL Server and SharePoint.


Adapting for Microsoft Azure

In the past, Microsoft’s corporate infrastructure was hosted in on-premises datacenters. However, Azure has become the default environment for all of their CSE solutions. When they develop new solutions, they look at Azure first. By the end of fiscal year 2018, almost 90 percent of their CSE resources will be hosted in Azure. With their organization rapidly migrating and deploying CSE solutions to Azure, the demand for data protection in the cloud has also increased. Although their on-premises data protection methods using System Center Data Protection Manager can be extended into Azure, backing up cloud data to on-premises datacenters introduced several problems that they wanted to address.

Backup and recovery of Azure data depends on network bandwidth between the datacenter and Azure. Backup and recovery times can be significantly impacted by fluctuations in bandwidth, and they are non-functional if the connection to Azure is unavailable. CSE manages 12,000 Azure infrastructure as a service (IaaS) virtual machines in subscriptions. So they recognized the need to develop a solution for data protection. Microsoft wanted the solution to provide appropriate service for their Azure users. At the same time, they wanted a manageable and maintainable solution that they could provide for their business groups using Azure now and in the future.


Using Azure Recovery Services vault for data protection

Azure Recovery Services vault is an Azure Resource Manager resource to manage your backup and disaster recovery needs natively in the cloud. Recovery Services vault provides a consistent and unlimited backup for Azure virtual machines at the file, folder, and virtual machine levels. It also provides file and folder backup for on-premises devices.

Azure Recovery Services vault has some important features and functionality that fulfilled several of Microsoft’s goals for data protection. By using these features, they quickly positioned Recovery Services vault as a data protection solution for their business groups. They identified important functionality such as:

  • It stores data in Azure datacenters, so backup, recovery, and general data movement happens quickly between virtual machines and the Recovery Services vault.
  • It provides built-in functionality for both file and folder backup and the backup of entire virtual machines.
  • It fulfills many of our requirements in its default state. It required less customization, and it’s a solution that’s extensible and more flexible to grow with Azure functionality.
  • It uses familiar backup and recovery methods and user interfaces.
  • It meets GDPR requirements in that when data resides in the Recovery Service vault, that data is encrypted and protected against malware and ranswomware attacks.

Usage options for Recovery Services vault

Microsoft offers three primary methods for data protection using Recovery Services vault:

  1. File and folder backup and recovery. You can protect files and folders from within the operating system of your virtual machine using the Azure Backup agent. The agent is installed and managed for each virtual machine. Business groups can use the agent to back up individual files and folders or entire volumes, either as scheduled backups, or on demand.
  2. Azure IaaS virtual machine backup and recovery. With virtual machine recovery, you can back up the virtual machine state to a fully recoverable snapshot in Azure. It provides the most immediate and complete option for full virtual machine recovery. And it can be done using either Azure Portal or Azure PowerShell. With the latest release, you can even perform an item-level recovery of an Azure virtual machine deployed using the Azure Resource Manager model.
  3. SQL running on IaaS VMs. Recently, Microsoft introduced workload backup for SQL running on IaaS VMs. It uses the same native SQL APIs to do the backups and provides the added advantage of being able to manage all of it through the Azure portal. Seamless discovery and agentless protection has made it one of the best solutions available.

With Azure, your data is safe. Contact Oakwood Systems Group to find out more on how we can help you integrate the suite of tools you need to recover your data.

Azure Has You Covered

Azure Has You Covered

One thing that makes Azure unique is its ability to handle nearly any situation. If you’re not ready to completely move to the cloud, no problem. Azure has hybrid options that let you get your foot in the door and build on it. If you’re running an app or system that requires multiple capabilities, Azure has seamless integration across its different service offerings that can fit every need. The possibilities are endless.

What exactly is Azure? Flying at a high level, it may look like only a cloud, but delve under the surface, and you’ll discover an entire world of integrated offerings. When SitePro was looking to move their operations from on-premises physical servers, they needed a system that could handle the multiple elements of their innovative turnkey application. They found all these capabilities through Azure. 

SitePro utilizes multiple services, including Azure App Service, Azure Cosmos DB, and SQL Database, to handle the various aspects of their application and their business. This simplicity reduces cost and improves user experience.  

With service offerings spanning everything from AI to Developer Tools, we’ve got your needs covered, whatever they may be. Azure is perfect for that period of transition from your on-premises servers to the cloud and built-in top-of-the-line security and compliance.


Contact Oakwood today and learn more about how Azure can streamline your business while saving you money along the way.

The Power of Backing Up in Azure

The Power of Backing Up in Azure

Data has never been more critical to your enterprise as it transforms in this digital world. Azure Backup helps you retain rapidly increasing amounts of data while keeping storage costs low. It makes it easy for you to backup and restore your most important information when the unexpected happens. As ransomware attacks increase, built-in protection from Azure keeps your data safe. Azure Backup gives you a cost-effective, simple and secure backup solution that protects your data.


Benefits of Azure Backup: Simple, Secure & Cost-Effective

Setting up Azure Backup for your virtual machines can be accomplished in just three steps. Once the initial backup is completed, only incremental changes are sent based on a defined schedule. You can then retain your backups for as long as your compliance(s) require.

Built-in protection against ransomware helps you protect your data from unauthorized requests to delete your backups. Before ransomware has the chance to corrupt your data, you’ll be notified so you can save your data.

Store your backups in Azure instead of an offsite to reduce infrastructure costs. Pay for what you use in Azure.


Additional Key Benefits

  • SaaS pay-as-you-go service
  • Have the latest backup of your data whenever you need it at no additional cost
  • Support for VMware, Hyper-V, Linux and Windows in Azure and on-premises
  • Avoid the complexity of managing on-premises infrastructure
  • Safeguard your backups from ransomware with one-click multifactor authentication
  • Retain unauthorized deleted backups to give you time to investigate and recover your data

Simple and secure cloud-based backup

  • Hybrid and heterogeneous – Protect your data from Azure no matter where it resides – in the cloud or onpremises. Support for virtual machines running on VMware, Hyper-V, Linux and Windows.
  • Flexible – Scale protection to just a few files and folders or multiple virtual machines in a few clicks. Restore individual files and folders or virtual machines from Azure when you need them the most.
  • Efficient – Eliminate the challenges of getting started with your backup solution. With no need to provision storage, enable backup for your virtual machines running in Azure in a few minutes.
  • Fast – View your backups from Azure and onpremises in one centralized location to quickly decide what needs to be restored to keep business operating as normal.
  • Compliant – Export Power BI reports to understand information about your backups. Ensure you are meeting your industry’s unique compliance requirements.
  • Safe – Receive instant notifications of suspicious backup activities so you can take action. Generate a security PIN required to complete critical backup operations for an additional layer of protection.

We don’t have to worry about managing space on expensive purpose-built backup storage systems. We have no tape costs, management costs, nothing. Backup is dramatically cheaper with Azure.

Sean DeLessio Lead Engineer Russell Reynolds Associates

Even with the cost of adding a Data Protection Manager server to each jobsite, Azure Backup is cheaper than our previous solution—one quarter the cost. The savings increase with every gigabyte of data we add.

Chris Palmer Solutions Architect PCL Construction

By using long-term Azure Backup to eliminate tape, we could save US$20,000 annually,” Karabiber says. “We also avoided the need to build or rent an off-site backup location at a cost of $50,000.

Kerem Karabiber IT and Business Development Manager Kardem

The process for backing up data can seem complicated. With the increased importance of data in the digital age, isn’t it time you integrated a solution that helps you safeguard your data? At Oakwood Systems Group, Inc., we know how tough it can be to safeguard your data. That’s why we’re here to help.


Contact Us Today!

Interested in a 212% ROI?

Interested in a 212% ROI?

When you think about switching from running and housing your SQL Server on-premises to Azure, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the infrastructure maintenance savings.

But what about hidden savings? Like efficiency savings for your IT team and database admins? Or the freedom to expand your capacity as soon as you need it?

Just last week we detailed that SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2 will no longer be supported by Microsoft starting in July 2019. Outside of the reasons stated above, here’s a few more on why this is an issue to be addressed sooner than later.

  1. Mitigate risks with platform security and compliance: There will be no access to critical security updates, opening the potential for business interruptions and loss of data.
  2. Upgrade to better cost efficiency: Maintaining legacy servers, firewalls, intrusion systems, and other tools can get expensive quickly.
  3. Modernize to innovate: Grow your environments with data, analytics and the cloud.

In a recent financial impact study by Forrester, they detail all of the potential savings, costs, frustrations, and advantages associated with switching to the Azure cloud and the results are exciting!

At Oakwood Systems Group, Inc., we want what is best for your business. Contact us to learn more.

Six Common Cybersecurity Mistakes You Can Fix Now

Six Common Cybersecurity Mistakes You Can Fix Now

Cybercriminals are clever and on the lookout for vulnerable businesses. They exploit common mistakes and flaws to breach systems, then steal, disrupt, or hold businesses for ransom. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to be an easy mark. You can make changes right now to reduce the likelihood of a successful attack.

Here are six common cybersecurity mistakes and how to fix them:

cybersecurity

Mistake 1: Piecemeal approach

It’s tempting to stack new security measures on top of existing ones as new threats emerge. But this results in too many products and not enough integration. Every product has its own dashboard, controls, and alerts. And someone has to stay on top of it all.

This lack of integration between security products makes it difficult to see threats holistically, and even harder to respond quickly and effectively. Instead, look for products designed to work together, and partner with companies that actively seek collaboration with the security industry.

Mistake 2: Insufficient Security Expertise

Cyberthreats continue to increase every day, and 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses, which usually have limited IT resources in-house. Everyone else is focused on running the business, not security. You need help.

Consider automated, software-based processes that can monitor your systems continuously and even take action when a threat is detected. Smart automation can save you time and energy, allowing you to focus on other priorities. Also, consider partnering with a specialized security provider. And finally, invest in educating your employees on security awareness so everyone can be part of the solution.

cybersecurity

Mistake 3: Unsecured personal devices

How many ways do you access your business data? Even small businesses may have multiple computers, laptops in remote locations, personal smart phones, and tablets. A determined hacker can attempt access through many possible endpoints. In fact, 60% of breaches stem from a compromised endpoint, such as a personal device.

Identity and access management (IAM) eliminates the complexity of multiple user credentials by giving each employee a single, secure identity to access all your network resources. And multifactor authentication (MFA) offers another layer of protection, requiring a user to present a password plus secondary authentication such as a fingerprint or code sent via SMS.

Mistake 4: “I’m too small to be a target”

Cybercriminals increasingly target smaller businesses assuming that you may be complacent and unprepared. A study by the Better Business Bureau found that nearly one in four businesses with 250 employees or fewer reported having been the target of a cyberattack, and the overall annual average loss for smaller businesses from these attacks is estimated to be $79,841.

Make sure to invest in security, but realize that no program is 100% foolproof. Assume that you can be attacked and breached. Prepare an incident response plan, ensure continuous monitoring for suspicious activity, and organize the resources needed for a quick response to reduce the damage to your business.

Mistake 5: Overlooking the security of the cloud

Security is complex, and even well-funded enterprise IT departments struggle to stay on top of it. The right cloud partner can do much of the heavy lifting for you and provide smart ways to encrypt and backup your data.

Moving to the cloud doesn’t have to mean starting over from scratch. Evaluate your needs, and make the move in stages. Or even employ a long-term hybrid strategy where some of your systems remain onpremises. Be sure to evaluate cloud service providers using international standards, and look for vendors that publish detailed information about their security and compliance measures.

Public cloud providers offer better security than a small business or even a big enterprise is able to achieve. This is due to the investments that cloud providers are making to build and maintain their cloud infrastructure.

Rene Buest – Senior Analyst and Cloud Practice Lead, Crisp Research

Mistake 6: Leaving data unprotected

Data travels outside your control when it’s shared by employees, partners, and customers. But trying to lock down everything discourages productivity and innovation, and eventually leads to employee workarounds if the inconvenience proves too great. Balance protection with productivity by focusing on security at the data level.

Categorize your data based on how sensitive and critical it is to your business. Better yet, automate your data classification so the appropriate protections and monitoring are in place when the data is created. Protect what’s most important with the strongest measures, such as restricted access, limited sharing privileges, and encryption.

Build your security strategy— one step at a time

Modern cybersecurity requires a coordinated, multifaceted approach. But it’s a journey, and every step you take makes a difference and reduces your risk. If you haven’t been attacked yet, assume that you will be a target eventually and look for partners to help. Start with this free security assessment tool, and get prepared to protect, detect, and respond to the threats that come your way.

Contact the security experts at Oakwood Systems Group today and learn more about vulnerabilities you may have and how they should be addressed.