Unique Ways to Reduce IT Cost

(Information in italics courtesy of BOERGER CONSULTING, LLC)


image courtesy of connectedgear.com

All businesses today receive benefits from Information Technology (IT) but many still consider it a problematic cost center of their business. As technology has progressed, more forward-thinking organizations have started to see IT as a valuable tool and an investment in their business’s future. Still, every business is looking to reduce costs and IT is often the first place they look to trim their budget.

Some of the traditional ways IT cost has been reduced started in IT hardware with the origin of cloud computing and virtualization. Virtualization is a software system that allows IT hardware to provide much greater capacity and functionality, reducing hardware costs. Other popular cost savings have come from hiring less expensive personnel such as interns or outsourcing IT personnel entirely. A more recent trend has been to utilize open source software for business processes. Open source software is developed within a community and offered for free with options to pay for technical support. However, many businesses and business functions don’t have the flexibility for open source and are required to maintain relationships with the software companies, utilizing expensive and complex licensing for their software. This has led to larger organizations taking cost reduction steps by investigating their physical assets and software licenses — a practice commonly referred to IT Asset Management (ITAM). The savings in both cost and time are staggering with a proper business management plan.

Boerger Consulting, a partner firm of Two Ears One Mouth IT Consulting (TEOM), is an innovator in the ITAM consulting realm. Their focus is helping businesses reduce the overall operational cost of their IT department by properly managing, measuring, and tracking their hardware and software assets. According to Boerger Consulting, the threat is real:

“Some software publishing firms rely on software license audits to generate 40% of their sales revenue. These companies wait and watch your volume license agreements, your merger & acquisition announcements, and the types of support tickets called in, to pinpoint exactly when your organization is out of license compliance. They count on your CMDB and SAM tools to be inaccurate. They make sure the volume license agreement language is confusing and convoluted. And they make sure their auditors always find something – unlicensed software, expired warrantees, unknown network segments – to justify your penalty.”

The payoff, however, is also real. Citing a 2016 paper from Gartner, Boerger Consulting suggests an organization could eliminate THIRTY PERCENT (30%) of their IT software budget with a proper software asset management (SAM) program:

“Part of that savings is finding the hardware and software lost in closets and under desks and odd corners of your warehouse. Another part is identifying and eliminating licenses, support, and warranties for programs and hardware your organization no longer needs. The last part is proactively locating and eliminating audit risks before the auditors do, and then pushing back on them when it is time to renew your volume license agreements.”

Although we focus on different technologies, a synergy has been created between TEOM and Boerger Consulting. We have found that when a business makes the decision to move their IT infrastructure off-site unforeseen challenges can occur. These challenges can be related to privacy and data protection compliance, resulting from retiring on-premises servers, or it may be that there are different software licensing practices required in the cloud. These are two examples of issues that TEOM and Boerger Consulting can solve.

If after reading this article you still have questions about any of these technologies, Jim Conwell and Jeremy Boerger would be happy to meet for a free initial consultation. Please contact:

Jim Conwell (513) 227-4131     jim.conwell@twoearsonemouth.net


we listen first…


open-source leaders

If Software is Eating the World, then the Community is Serving it Up!

 Five years ago, Marc Andersen, the co-founder of Netscape, wrote his famous essay for the Wall Street Journal “Why Software is Eating the World”. The premise is as true today, however, the path it is taking is evolving. Open-source or community-based software development has increased in popularity recently. According to Wikipedia, open-source software “is a type of computer software whose source code is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose”. In the following article, I will describe the origins of open-source and how it has evolved to become a primary way software is developed.

There are many different opinions as to the origins of open-source. Many believe its real momentum coincided with the beginnings of the Linux Operating System developed by Linus Torvalds in 1992. The Linux computer operating system grew quickly in the mid 1990’s creating a new segment of the software industry. This fast-paced growth was complemented by a high-quality product. In the late 1990’s Netscape released its source code for its software Mozilla which became the first widely used software available for free. Soon after that many of the major players in the open-source movement began to organize to oversee the process and the term “open-source software” was coined.

Can you make money on a free product?

To many, Red Hat the most common example of a company built on open-source software; a business model built on support. Redhat has developers that contribute to the software, but their primary strategy is to stabilize and support the open-source projects. Redhat reported overall revenue of $2.4 billion in 2017 while keeping higher than usual margins for the technology industry. Other early adopters to the open source trend in software have been IBM and Google. Both technology titans have developed a unique strategy to monetize open-source.

How do developers GIT started?

When software is being produced by multiple developers in many places consistency and version control is vital. This was discovered early on as Linus Torvalds was developing the Linux kernel. Linus and other early adopters develop a version control system called GIT for tracking changes in files and software. It has allowed open-source software development to flourish. Developers can work on the same software project simultaneously and keep it consistent. GIT controls the push and pulls of the updates from the individual contributors to the primary software product.  Many times, the entire team works with the central repository in this process such as GitHub. GitHub is an independent server hosting organization that provides a remote repository for each of the users. GitHub provides the centralized management for the developers to make changes and update the software.        

Will open-source software continue to grow?

The trend is clear and the forecast obvious, open-source will not only continue to grow but the growth will accelerate. There are too many benefits for it not to; lower cost, no vendor lock-in and the primary benefit of many minds collaborating. Some recent actions from the largest technology organizations in the world back this up. Google, who developed a cloud container orchestration package called Kubernetes donated this entire software package to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Google believes it will profit more from the software in the open-source community rather than keeping it proprietary. The most convincing argument comes from the largest software provider in the world, Microsoft. Microsoft had struggled to grow and keep its competitive edge until Satya Nadella a was named CEO in 2014. Nadella has promoted open source and embraced the competitive Linux operating system in Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure. This has changed the culture of the entire organization. His leadership has transformed Microsoft back into a growth company focused on its cloud offering instead of a monopolistic software provider. In June 2018 Microsoft announced the purchase of GitHub for $7.5 billion. This acquisition will allow the acceleration of the use of GitHub in the enterprise space and bring Microsoft development tools to a new audience. Nadella was quoted as saying “we recognize the community responsibility we take on with this agreement and will do our best work to empower every developer to build, innovate and solve the world’s most pressing challenges”. When these two giants of the cloud and technology business make such bold statements on a trend it is likely to grow.           

It’s true what Andersen first alluded to; software will play a larger role in society going forward. This is being driven in large part by the open-source community development movement and the connectivity cloud computing brings to the process.

If you would like to talk more about cloud strategies for software development contact us at:

Jim Conwell (513) 227-4131      jim.conwell@twoearsonemouth.net


we listen first…


Getting Started with Microsoft Azure



image courtesy of Microsoft.com

A few months ago I wrote an article on getting started with Amazon Web Services (AWS): now I wanted to follow-up by writing the same about  getting started with Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure is the public cloud offering deployed through Microsoft’s global network of datacenters. Azure has continued to gain market share from its chief rival, AWS. Being in second place is not something Microsoft is used to with their offerings. However, in the cloud, like with internet web browsers, Microsoft got off to a slow start. Capturing market share will not prove as simple with AWS as it was with Netscape and the web browser market in the 90’s but in the last two years, progress has been made. Much of the progress can be attributed to Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s current CEO.  Nadella proclaimed from his start a commitment to the cloud. Most recently Microsoft has expressed their commitment to support Linux and other operating systems (OS) within Azure. Embracing another OS and open source projects is new for Microsoft and seems to be paying off.

Like the other large public cloud providers, Microsoft has an easy to use self-service portal for Azure that can make it simple to get started. In addition to the portal, Microsoft entices small and new users with a free month of service. The second version of the portal released last year has improved the user experience greatly. Their library of pre-configured cloud instances is one of the best in the market. A portal user can select a preconfigured group of servers that would create a complex solution like SharePoint. The SharePoint instance includes all the components required: The Windows Server, SQL Server and SharePoint Server. What would take hours previously now can be “spun-up” in the cloud with a few clicks of your mouse. There are dozens of pre-configured solutions such as this SharePoint example. The greatest advantage Microsoft has over its cloud rivals is it has a deep and long-established channel of partners and providers. These partners, and the channel Microsoft developed for their legacy products, allow them to provide the best support of all the public cloud offerings.

Considerations for Getting Started with Microsoft Azure

Decide the type of workload

It is very important to decide not only what workloads can go to the cloud but also what applications you want to start with. Start with non-production applications that are non-critical to the business.

Define your goals and budget

Think about what you want to achieve with your migration to the cloud. Cost savings? Transferring IT from the capital expense to an operational expense? Be sure you calculate your budget for your cloud instance; Azure has a great tool for cost estimation. In addition, make sure you check costs as you go. The cloud has developed a reputation for starting out with low-costs and increasing them quickly.

Determine your user identity strategy

Most IT professionals are familiar with Microsoft Active Directory (AD). This is Microsoft’s application that authenticates users to the network behind the corporate firewall. AD has become somewhat outdated, not only by cloud’s off-site applications but also by today’s limitless mobile devices. Today, Microsoft offers Azure Active Directory (AAD). AAD is designed for the cloud and works across platforms. At first, you may implement a hybrid approach between AD, AAD and Office 365 users. You can start this hybrid approach through a synchronization of these two authentication technologies. At some point, you may need to add on federation that will add additional connectivity to other applications such as commonly used SaaS applications.


An authentications strategy is a start for security but additional work will need to be done. A future article will detail cloud security best practices in more detail. While it is always best to have a security expert to recommend a security solution, there are some general best practices we can mention here. Try to use virtual machine appliances whenever possible. The virtual firewall, intrusion detection, and antivirus devices add another level of security without adding additional hardware. Devices such as these can be found in the Azure marketplace. Use dedicated links for connectivity if possible. These will incur a greater expense but will eliminate threats from the open Internet. Disable remote desktop and secure shell access to virtual machines. These protocols exist to offer easier access to manage virtual machines over the internet. After you disable these try to use point to point or site to site Virtual Private Networks (VPN‘s). Finally, encrypt all data at rest in virtual machines to help secure data.

Practically every business can find applications to migrate to a public cloud infrastructure such as Azure. Very few businesses put their entire IT infrastructure in a public cloud environment. A sound cloud strategy, and determining which applications to migrate enables the enterprise to get the most from a public cloud vendor.

If you would like to learn more about Azure and a cloud strategy for your business contact us at:

Jim Conwell (513) 227-4131      jim.conwell@twoearsonemouth.net


Online Business Communication Tools


image courtesy of softwareconnect.org

In part one of this two-part article, we focused entirely on Microsoft Office 365 because of its dominance in the cloud based business tools market. In the final part of this series, we will focus on the competition for Office 365 as well as other applications that complement Office 365 and alternate communications strategy’s. It’s difficult to compete with a product that has such a dominating market share. To do this, the competitor must have vast resources in development and marketing. The primary competitor for Office 365 comes from Google and their product G Suite, which is built on Google’s Gmail platform. Gmail’s tremendous success in the personal email market has allowed it to be able to build a business product that is a formidable competitor with Office 365. Business Gmail, in the G suite business product, gives its customers the ability to choose an email address that includes the company domain. Additionally, it offers a shared calendar for setting appointments within and outside the group. Google voice adds additional features such as video and voice conferencing. Google has developed products that compete directly with Microsoft Office products Word, Excel and PowerPoint. These applications not only look and act like their Microsoft competitors but also interact well with them. Using Google Drive with these applications can allow collaboration on documents between users on the same account.  Despite the disadvantages of competing with the clear market leader, Google has developed a competitive product both and functionality and price.       (See figure 2 below)


To follow are some of the most popular business communication applications that provide additional functionality that Microsoft and Google’s communication platforms don’t provide.  


Slack is a cloud-based collaboration tool similar to the instant messaging platforms many of us have used in the past. This type of communication’s best place in business is when faster attention or response time is needed than email typically provides. Users can be divided into chat rooms, or channels, for specific applications such as customer service. The content of all conversations, from the start, is searchable and documents can be attached from the desktop or via integrations with Dropbox or Google Drive.


Many small and medium sized business organizations that don’t have large marketing budgets will utilize a marketing automation platform like MailChimp. Marketing automation can take over repetitive tasks such as welcoming new subscribers and reconnecting with an abandoned cart from their ecommerce website. MailChimp will also automate e-mail marketing campaigns and provide detailed analytics of their success. MailChimp‘s popularity has grown as they have developed tight integrations with e-commerce platforms like Shopify and Magneto.


Those of us who have worked in a large enterprise are familiar with customer relationship management software or CRM. These software platforms are designed to build stronger relationships with existing customers, improve communication, and increase and track sales. The companies that create and support this enterprise software are technology giants like Oracle and Salesforce.com. The barrier to entry for these platforms for the small and medium business has been the cost of the software. Not only are subscription licenses expensive but implementation and support costs are very high. More recently a group of Cloud based CRM‘s such as HubSpot has allowed the SMB market to utilize CRM. With these providers, entry costs are low and sometimes even free. Just as important, their integrations with Outlook and G Suite make it easy to implement and support. Like Office 365 described in part one of this article, this software tool has leveled the field between enterprise and SMB.

These business communications applications rely on the ubiquitous nature of the internet and the cloud for delivery. Therefore, this discussion can’t be complete without mentioning the two leaders in the cloud market: Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft Azure. While these technologies have been discussed in previous articles (Azure, AWS), an important detail must be added here. Both technologies have been made so simple to login to their console and create cloud instances it has created a business problem, cloud billing scope creep. The console administrator can select resources needed, and the services can even sense when expansion is required. However, much of the billing algorithms for both platforms are transactional or based on cloud usage. This can allow the affordability factor of the cloud to reverse itself quickly and become a costlier way to build your infrastructure. To help our clients solve that problem, Two Ears One Mouth IT Consulting has created a Cloud Billing Analysis & Savings Service (CBASS). More will be revealed later regarding this service, needless to say we can analyze your cloud billing, make adjustments and re-validate the solution.

If you need assistance with your current IT cloud project, please contact us at:

Jim Conwell (513) 227-4131      jim.conwell@outlook.com      www.twoearsonemouth.net

#cloudbillinganalysis #cloudbillingsupport #cloudstrategy #cbass

Are Containers the Forecast for Cloud?

image courtesy kubernetes.io

One of the most exciting and simultaneously challenging things about working in technology is the speed at which change occurs. The process from a cutting-edge technology to a ubiquitous and commoditized product can happen in the blink of an eye. Now that the cloud has made its way into all sizes and types of business the next related technology has emerged: containers. So it is fair to ask; Are Containers the forecast for cloud?

How we got to this port

VMware’s introduction of virtualization was thought by many to be the predecessor of cloud as we know it today. This revolutionary technology allowed early adopters to reduce costs and enhance their IT agility through virtualization software. The day of physical servers for each application are over. Cloud technology has evolved from a single software for the enterprise, to an outsourced product that is provided to businesses such as major technology institutions like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. Most recently, containers have evolved as a next step for cloud and are largely developed to suit the needs of software developers.
The difference between Virtual Machines (VM’s) and Containers
A container is defined by Docker as a stand-alone executable software package that includes everything needed to run an application: code, runtime, system libraries and settings. In many ways, that sounds like a VM. However, there are significant differences. Above the physical infrastructure, a VM uses a hypervisor to manage the VMs. Each VM has their own guest operating system such as Windows or Linux (see image #1). A container uses the host operating system and the physical infrastructure which supports the container platform such as Docker. Docker then supports the binaries and libraries of the applications. Containers do a much better job of isolating applications from its surroundings and this allows the enterprise to use the same container instance from development to production.

(Image 1)                                                            (Image 2) Images courtesy of docker.com

How can Containers be used in the Enterprise today?

Docker is currently the most popular company driving the movement for container based solutions in the enterprise. The Docker platform enables independence between applications and infrastructure allowing the applications to move from development to production quickly and seamlessly. By isolating software from its surroundings, it can help reduce conflicts between teams running different software on the same infrastructure. While containers were originally designed for software developers, it is becoming a valuable IT infrastructure solution for the enterprise.
One popular platform allowing the enterprise to benefit from container technology is Kubernetes. Kubernetes is an opensource system originally designed by Google that was donated it to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). Kubernetes assists with three primary functions in developing containers: deployment, scaling and monitoring. Finally, open source companies such as Red Hat are developing products to help utilize these tools and simplify containers for all types of business. OpenShift, designed by Red Hat, is a container application platform that has helped simplify Docker and Kubernetes for the business IT manager. The adoption of new technology, such as cloud computing, often takes time to be accepted in the enterprise. Containers seem to be avoiding this trend and have been accepted and implemented quickly in businesses of all types and sizes.

Project Management, Considering the OutSource

Project Management- Inside or Outsource?

Information Technology (IT) doesn’t deserve the credit for starting the Project Management (PM) process, but no business unit in the enterprises has developed it more. Since computers were introduced into business, and more with the advent of the personal computer, a well-defined process has to be required to keep these tools effective. A skilled Project Manager can guarantee the vision and goals of the project are maintained. In addition, the Project Manager will mitigate security risk and effectively and efficiently use all available resources. They will communicate expectations of responsibility to all team members and make sure the project is completed on time and within the budget.

PM challenges for IT

One reason IT is so challenged with effective PM is the diversity of its projects. Every other business unit is dependent on IT. In larger organizations, the IT will be working directly with finance, sales and the executive suite at the same time. All these groups have unique expectations for IT. Finance may question why the department isn’t running on the latest version of their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Sales may wonder how they can use the corporate email to communicate their products and services to their prospects. These requests, in addition to internal infrastructure repair services, keep IT departments overwhelmed and in a reactive mode. These unique and diverse requests have driven IT departments to develop and utilize different PM methodologies some of which are detailed below.

PM Methodologies

  1. Waterfall Method

    – The waterfall method is the most common PM methodology as well as the easiest to implement. Each step is developed in a logical order with one step leading to the next. The current step must be completed before the following step begins. Although this method is easy to implement, it can get complicated as the customers need change. A change in the customer’s needs can create a roadblock and set the project off track.

  2. PMI/PMBOK Method

    – PM has become so vital to all businesses that a Project Management organization has evolved, the Project Management Institute (PMI). Some managers have taken PMI’s conventions and used them to develop a methodology. Their primary conventions, or steps in the project process, are: initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing. While this creates a very broad methodology, these five standards are universally accepted.

  3. Agile Method

-The Agile method is a product of the 21st century. It was created out of the need to collaborate with your customer through the project process. Agile collaboration is valued over following a rigid plan. Project objectives are developed by the customer and the final deliverable will most likely change the process. Agile has many flavors, or sub-categories, of its methods. The most popular Agile framework to date is Scrum. Scrum is a team-based process with the team led by the Scrum Master. A Scrum Master’s primary focus is to support the team by clearing obstacles and making sure the work is getting completed in the most efficient manner. The teams meet frequently and will break down segments of the project into units called sprints. Agile, and Scrum, allows for flexibility and quick development that many times lead to a satisfied customer.

While all these methodologies will work in IT projects, each has its own set of circumstances where it is the best fit. Many articles have been written about PM and its methodologies including online training and certifications. This free information is valuable, however, the greatest value comes from an seasoned project manager that has experience with successful implementations.  Finally, the most important thing to know is that Project Management is a process, and as well know, processes can always be made better.

If you need assistance with your current IT project (Cincinnati or remote), please contact us:

.Jim Conwell (513) 227-4131      jim.conwell@twoearsonemouth.net      www.twoearsonemouth.net