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Building IT Into Construction

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Working remotely at a construction site seldom conjures images of co-location facilities or data centers, but for many companies the idea might be a plus.

Remote access is something construction firms, in particular, need with their project managers spread out across many work sites, Michael Ehrich, CEO of Dallas-based All-In-One Network Solutions (or AIO), tells Texas Construction.

It’s a trend that Ehrich sees across all industries: the need to slash costs while adding security and availability.

“We move the brains of the operation to a data center – away from the typical client server rooms, which enables job sites to connect easier and saves money,” he says.

AIO Vice President Trey Scalf says to imagine a wheel in which information travels through the spokes to the hub. The data center acts as the “hub,” replacing the main office server room and making the information more secure and allowing more connectivity while reducing the total cost of ownership of hardware and software. Few firms budget to replace uninterruptible power supplies or servers at main offices, he says. “Co-location allows companies to be more nimble and react to changes,” Scalf says.

“If you’re a project manager, you need to share info about the project,” Ehrich says. “You’ll typically connect to the main office for e-mail, job-cost information, payroll for subs and 1099 employees, contract change orders, union payroll and more,” This is all at the main office, he says, but satellite offices need access, too. If any part of the main office goes down, all sites go down with it and work ceases. “With a data center, the entire system can be redundant,” Ehrich adds.

Additionally, in most data centers, servers are virtualized and load balanced with a farm of servers. If a firm is running five virtual servers on three physical servers and one of the physical servers fails, the other physical servers take over all virtual servers, Ehrich says.

Ehrich says co-location saves money for many, and adds flexibility. Last year, AIO had a client whose job site trailer caught fire, destroying the server. Instead of shutting down the project for days and losing valuable data, all files were centrally located in a data center. A spare job site server was rolled out to the new job site trailer the next day and the company was back up and running, he says.

 

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