The Role of Database Administration (DBA) in Business

Businesses, whether large or small, have always relied on having accurate and actionable information to gain a competitive advantage. Such information influences decisions on which products to produce, target market, and ideal prices.

Database administration structure in an integrated development environment.
Flow chart of a control panel of a web site.

Thanks to advancements in technology, collecting data is far easier than before. This has given rise to the era of big data, and now companies have access to more data than ever. Indeed, organizations that capitalize on the wealth of information available today outgrow their competitors. This is why one of the main priorities of many organizations today is to adopt a data-driven-decision-making strategy.

However, accessing large amounts of data is not sufficient to propel the growth of an organization. Once data is collected, it must be stored and processed to gain any useful insight from it. And, the entire ecosystem supporting the collection and analysis of this data must be stable, secure, and scalable to ensure the business’ needs are always met.

This is why database administration (DBA) is an integral component of any data-driven organization. In this article, you will learn all about database administration and how it can benefit your organization.

What Is Database Administration?

For data to have any value to an organization’s processes and decision making, it must be stored in a manner that makes it accessible when needed and prevents accidental disorganization. This is achieved by the use of database management systems that enable the strategic use of data. With a database, it becomes easy to access and sort data to perform functions such as:

  • Draft management reports
  • Create mailing lists
  • Identify the needs clients have

For a database to be effective and allow efficient access and use of data, it must possess sufficient processing power to sort, link, match, aggregate, calculate, skip fields, and arrange data. Databases are usually storage centers for closely related data. As such, an organization can have different databases categorized as relational, document, and graph.

A document database is one in which data is stored in the form of documents, whereas information is stored in the form of graphs in graph databases. A relational database shows the existing relationships between the different sets of data in the system.

As a business grows, its data needs will also increase and evolve, necessitating the collection of new sets of data and the creation of new databases. Database administration refers to all the functions and processes involved in managing and updating databases as well as creating new ones. All this is done in line with the data needs of the company. These functions are carried out by a database administrator who ensures that the database is always accessible for use.

Benefits of Database Administration

Database administration allows businesses to make sense of available data while ensuring the data needed for future processes is collected and availed beforehand.

1. Speeds up Decision Making

Management teams carry the responsibility of making tough decisions that propel the organization towards its objectives. Therefore, the decisions they make must be accurate and timely to ensure relevant actions are carried out on time. However, decision-making processes are often time-consuming and, at times, do not yield desired results.

According to a McKinsey report, companies that make decisions quickly make better decisions and also outperform their competitors financially. This is precisely what database administration offers organizations. With a system in place where data is well stored, managed, and availed, it is easy to draw the necessary insight that helps speed up decision making.

In the manufacturing sector, such data can be used to automate processes, which speeds up production, which is facilitating the rise of smart factories. 

2. Boosts Data Security and Integrity

Much of the ease of doing business and big data can be attributed to the internet. However, the internet has also come with a significant challenge and threat to companies. A lot of the data organizations use is highly sensitive. It may be information that gives an organization a competitive advantage or the personal information of clients and employees.

If such data is exposed, the organization, its employees, and customers are exposed to risk, which also exposes the company to liability. As such, a vital component of running a data program is security. With data administration, data is regulated, and access is only granted to authorized persons. 

In addition, data administration safeguards the integrity of data. Data integrity refers to the accuracy and consistency of data in multiple databases, thus ensuring insight is drawn from accurate data.

3. Enhances Collaboration in the Company

As a company grows, more departments are formed to carry out different functions. However, even as the departments carry out various functions, there must be a certain level of collaboration. This ensures all the processes are in line with organizational objectives. Unfortunately, many processes and ultimately, corporate growth is often slowed down by a lack of departmental collaboration attributed to slow data sharing mechanisms.

However, data administration is the perfect solution to a lack of synchrony between departments. This is because database management systems keep data in a central location which is accessible to different end-users and across multiple applications. 

4. Increase Sales By Predicting Customer Behavior

Arguably, the biggest benefit of data administration is predictive analysis. By analyzing existing customer data and collecting new data sets, companies can predict individual and collective customer preferences and behavior. This makes it possible for businesses to offer and tailor products according to their clients’ interests, which results in increased sales.

Database Administration Is All About Finding the Right Technology Partner

Undoubtedly, database administration offers organizations many benefits that help streamline processes that facilitate growth. However, setting and managing databases effectively and efficiently is no mean feat. Thus, it is crucial to find a reliable technology partner to handle your database administration needs to allow your team to focus on core business functions.

The Provato Group is a technology solutions company that helps businesses with IT and database administration needs. Reach out to us today to scale your company by capitalizing on data administration.

The Path Forward for IT in a Post-Pandemic World

The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted society in countless ways, changing the way we live, interact, and work. From an IT perspective, we’ve already seen massive shifts in how people conduct business and communicate. Some of these shifts will continue in a post-pandemic world.

But the one thing every pandemic has in common? Eventually, they all end. We may not be sure of when and what the landscape will look like when it does, but it won’t go on forever. The question then becomes: how will this pandemic change IT? What changes will remain in place once we move on? Which of these changes will lead to more permanent transformations in the way we engage with IT?

Let’s take a closer look at how this pandemic has changed IT – for good – in the future going forward. 

More Meetings Are Held via Video Conference

Video conferencing has gone from being a luxury to a necessity. Stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders have made it the only way for most companies to hold strategic meetings. Zoom has replaced the conference room for most companies. While every meeting may not be a video conference in the future, their prominence in the workplace is most definitely here to stay.

In the short-term: as stay-at-home orders are relaxed and businesses are gradually re-opened, video conferences will still play an important role. Many people will be hesitant to go back into an office if they can help it. There will be a settling-in period where people may not be as quick to travel as they had been in the past. That means that while in-person meetings may slowly become more accepted again, video conferences aren’t going anywhere. 

In the long-term: organizations will realize that video conferencing saves them time and money. Rather than send their team members on long trips either in town or out of town, they’ll find that video conferencing enables stronger engagement without the resources spent traveling. They’ll embrace the convenience and efficiency of meeting without having to leave their desks, even in a post-pandemic world. 

Remote Work Becomes the New Normal

Remote work will be the new norm in a post-pandemic world.
Man using his smartphone in his home office.

Prior to the pandemic, remote work was already increasing in popularity. Before the lockdown began, 4.7 million American employees worked from home at least part of the week. Innovation in the IT space has made this possible – email, video conferencing, and cloud software makes it easier than ever for organizations to coordinate, collaborate, and succeed from disparate locations. 

The pandemic response has forced just about everyone who can do it to work from home. While this means companies will need to adapt their meeting frequency and style of communication, many are likely finding that their workforce can be just as productive from home as they can in an office. With widespread internet connectivity available, everyone’s home office can work just as effectively as a cubicle. This can help companies save on the overhead costs associated with providing employees with a place to sit. Organizations will still have people on site but expect to see a significant uptick in remote work even after the dust has cleared on the coronavirus response. 

Communication Strategies Will Shift to Become More IT-Centric in a Post-Pandemic World

Video conferencing won’t be the only IT platform companies lean into in the coming months and years ahead. Other communication channels such as Slack, Google Suite, and Microsoft Teams will also grow in popularity as more individuals work remotely. That could lead to a demand for training in these types of services – having IT support who can guide an organization through the implementation of these systems. 

Every Organization Will Be as Effective as Their IT Support Staff

With an increased reliance on internet connections as well as a desktop and mobile devices, organizations will need to ensure their IT support is capable of handling the growing needs of its staff. That means having IT support that is reliable, flexible, and well-equipped to troubleshoot a whole host of IT issues.

Your team members will become more familiar with the various IT systems and devices they’ll need to stay connected, but issues are almost certain to occur at some point. You’ll also have to implement new systems and have more employees working remotely introduces an added wrinkle to this process. That’s why it’s critical to have IT staff who can be responsive and comprehensive in their support.  In the future, it will be all the more important to have guidance to help your team members navigate any IT issues they face – whether they’re working remotely or forced into a telecommuting situation due to another crisis. 

Efficiency Is King

The economy has taken a hit recently, and it appears as though these effects may continue even in a post-pandemic world. Organizational budgets will likely be quite lean in many cases, leaving companies to search for ways to cut spending as much as they can. When it comes to IT, that means finding the most efficient while also effective ways to operate is crucial. Having IT support and systems in place that allow your staff to focus on their jobs while helping them work efficiently can boost productivity. 

The Path Forward for IT in a Post-Pandemic World

The bottom line is that the pandemic will see organizations have an increased need for IT support and capabilities. The COVID-19 response has forced companies to turn to IT solutions they wouldn’t otherwise be using – or perhaps, not using with the same frequency. When things begin to return to normal, they’ll find that the ways in which these IT systems helped them do business during a crisis are just as useful during a steady state. 

Are you looking to level up your company’s IT capabilities? You’ll want to partner with a trusted IT provider who can help you come up with solutions that lead to better organizational outcomes. For that partner, look no further than the Provato Group. Provato Group has the people, partnerships, and solutions you’ll need to bring your company’s IT posture into the future. For more on how we can help, contact us today

How IT Systems Integrations Streamline Business Operations

We are now generating more data per year than previously in the history of the human race. Social media and the rise of digital content plays a huge factor in that, but so does the digital transformation of business. Businesses now have at their disposal software that can analyze every facet of the part of their operation that it oversees.

These tools provide invaluable information to businesses but don’t always work together. This means that some of the data is duplicated, creating the possibility for crossed signals or wasted human effort. One piece of software could potentially benefit from data that isn’t duplicated but needs to communicate with the software that has it.

Either way, getting disparate software systems to talk to one another makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts so you get even more out of your software investment.

The Most Common Types of Integration

Although there are countless smaller examples, there are three main categories of big data software product that can benefit, or benefit from, other software products. These products benefit greatly from being able to take in as much relevant data as possible and provide their greatest benefit when the conclusions they draw are used as widely as possible.

CMS

: Illustration of CMS web programming script included for IT systems integrations.
CMS coding algorithm

Your content management system powers the content on your website. It is responsible for how many of your customers communicate with you. As such, any software that will benefit from access to information about customers is a prime candidate for integration with your CMS. It could be your mailing list manager getting sent signups directly from your website or it could mean having your customer relationship manager getting information about a customer’s browsing habits or contact information.

CRM

A good customer relationship manager does for more than just keep track of your customers. It will help you nurture leads and convert them to sales. It will help keep your brand fresh in the minds of customers without annoying them. It is the central hub for all things customer-related. Integrating your website and other marketing tools into the CRM will ensure that they all have access to the data they need to do their jobs effectively.

ERP

Enterprise resource planning software is meant to automate and streamline all of your business processes. However, your ERP is not the only system that your business uses. The only way the ERP can effectively automate everything is if the other systems are connected to it. This removes the need for human intervention to transfer data and eliminates the possibility of unwanted data redundancy and human error.

Common Integrations

Now that we’ve talked generically about the type of software that benefits from systems integration, let’s take a look at some specific examples to give you a better understanding of how such integration can benefit your business.

  • Drupal with Quark – Quark is a powerful tool for publishing web design. By connecting it to Drupal, you can combine the power of Quark with the ease of content management that Drupal provides.
  • WordPress with Constant Contact – Constant Contact provides you not only with mailing list software but with analytics and marketing tools to turn the leads on that list into sales conversions. By integrating with WordPress, you can collect signups from forms seamlessly embedded into your website.
  • HubSpot with Zoom – Zoom is a popular video conferencing and webinar tool. By connecting it with HubSpot, you’ll be able to easily arrange video conferences with your customers and register them for webinars.
  • SalesForce with Adobe Sign – Working with documents that require signatures from customers is common in business. With Adobe Sign integrated into SalesForce, it will be easier than ever to send those documents to your customers and get them signed quickly.
  • Sage Intacct with Workforce Go! – As a complete workforce management system, Workforce Go! has many features will streamline your business. By integrating with Intacct ERP, you’ll save even more hassle.
  • Acumatica to Slack – Many businesses already use Slack for communication. By allowing Acumatica to use Slack for communication as well, your staff can be immediately notified of important business events.

The Benefits of IT Systems Integration

We’ve already discussed some of the benefits of just a few of the integrations that are possible. The software you task with the management of a particular form of data will always perform better when it is connected with any software that creates or uses that data. Broadly speaking, the main benefits of integration are:

  • Centralized data – By integrating tools, all of the data is kept in one place. This makes sure that everything is always in-sync and there are never any out of date data related mixups.
  • Automated workflows – When software systems that need the same data are not integrated together, the data transfer must be done manually. Integration allows for instant completion of this once time-consuming task.
  • Reduced human error – This goes hand and hand with automation and centralized data. With data automatically updated and located in only one place, the amount of human error that can occur is drastically reduced.

Who Can Best Perform Integrations?

Even if there are convenient third-party plugins that make it easy to integrate two software products, it still requires someone tech-savvy to install them. Often, though, there are not convenient tools for the job. Even when there are, a custom solution may fit the needs of your business better. Every business is different and one size rarely fits all. The goal of integration is to automate as much as possible and share as much relevant data between the programs as possible. This often requires custom work.

Knowing when custom work would be beneficial to a business takes experience. And for the many times that plugins do not exist at all, custom work is a requirement. Digital transformation is something that you only want to have to do once, as it will change the way you do business. As such, it is important to work with a team of experts who can assess your current software and needs then come up with a plan to upgrade software as needed, make recommendations for new software products, and provide the integrations necessary to get your business operating as smoothly as possible.

Conclusion

At The Provato Group, we have the expertise and experience required to look at your specific business needs and make recommendations that can streamline every part of your operation. In a digital revolution, off the shelf components simply will not cut it. You need software components and connections specially tailored to your workflows. If you are interested in automating as much of your business as possible, contact us today and tell us about your business.

Embracing the Future: 7 Common Cloud Myths Debunked

– Daddy, what are clouds made of?

– Linux servers, mostly.

Cloud computing, cloud technologies, cloud migration. The hype about the cloud is affecting the majority of businesses around the world. According to Leftronic, 90% of companies are using it one way or another. 

The wide array of possibilities offered by the virtual storage and computing has changed the way many companies work, allowed new growth possibilities, cut costs, and helped gain a competitive edge.

Why don’t all companies take full advantage of the cloud? The reason is usually the lack of information and an abundance of myths. Let’s take a closer look at what the cloud is and discuss the most common cloud myths.

What Is Cloud Computing?

In short, cloud computing involves storing your data and programs on a remote hard drive and accessing them via the internet. The name goes back to the diagram that represented the computer network. In it, the internet looked like a white puffy cloud.

Cloud computing delivers storage and services on-demand and pay-as-you-go basis.

Cloud storage gives access through an account on any device safely despite common cloud myths.

When you use your hard drive to store data or run programs, you are doing local storage and computing. When you access your data and software over the internet, you are doing cloud computing. 

The basic example of cloud computing involves uploading a file to Google Drive at home and accessing it from the computer in your office. By generating a link to the file, you can allow anybody to access it from anywhere as long as there is an internet connection.

Businesses can take advantage of different types of cloud services, including the most popular:

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Public cloud computing option, which provides access to apps via any browser. The most popular examples are Salesforce, Google Apps, and Microsoft Office 365. Instead of downloading software, you can use it through the internet.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 

A self-service for working with computers, data analytics tools, VPNs, app monitoring, networking, and storage. Without buying hardware, you can take advantage of the entire network infrastructure over the internet. Basically, you are renting space to set up a virtual infrastructure online. The most common examples are Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Compute Engine.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

This service is created mainly for software developers. You have all the tools to develop software online, including operating systems, databases, and web servers. All tools needed for custom app development are available. Well-known PaaS providers are Google App Engine, Windows Azure, and Salesforce. You can use these platforms to run and manage business apps.

History of Cloud Technologies

Cloud computing appeared in the early 2000s. However, the concept of a rentable hard drive came around much earlier. Back in the 1960s, computer bureaus would allow other companies to rent their computers instead of buying them. These services lost their appeal when personal computers became affordable.  

In the 2000s, the concept came back in the form of application service providers and utility computing. Cloud computing followed with the emergence of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud product in 2006.

For many years, companies have been renting remote computers on which they ran their software. Then Google started offering browser-based apps. Eventually, numerous SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS options came to the market, turning the cloud computing into what we are using today.

7 Common Cloud Myths Debunked

Even though cloud computing seems to be straightforward, numerous myths swarm around it. Let’s debunk a few of them right now.

Myth#1

Working on the cloud isn’t safe is one of the common cloud myths.

Truth: While cybersecurity problems can’t be underestimated, working on the cloud comes with the same number of issues as on-site computing. In the cloud, the responsibility for secure operation is shared by you and the cloud service provider.

Myth#2

Cloud migration is too tough, costly, and time-consuming.

Truth: Migration projects of any size require careful preparation and planning. With the experts handling the migration, it can go quickly and smoothly. The speed depends on the volume of data and the number of apps that require moving.  

Myth#3

After moving to the cloud, you can fire your IT administrator.

Truth: When you move to the cloud, your IT administrator takes on a new role as an advisor. Even though the cloud service provider handles security and network management, the company still needs an IT professional to assist with cloud-related operations.

Myth#4

Using the cloud means relinquishing control.

Truth: While you can’t physically touch the server your data is on, you still have the same control over work processes, data flows, accesses, and changes. By paying for cloud services, you are maintaining secure access to your data and software.

Myth#5

Another one of the common cloud myths is that using the cloud is more expensive than working with an on-site infrastructure.

Truth: Depending on the services you need, the amount of data you store, and the number of users with permission to access the cloud, it could be more expensive. However, you only pay for the computing power you are actually using.

Meanwhile, security and maintenance are part of the cost. Cloud migration can help you scale your business, cut hardware costs, enhance security, promote remote collaboration, and much more.

Myth#6

Everything can be moved to the cloud.

Truth: This cloud myth implies that the cloud is a magic cure for all the problems your company is facing. However, not all infrastructure and systems can be moved to the cloud. Proprietary and legacy enterprise systems may have to be fully rebuilt to function online.

Myth#7

It’s impossible to meet compliance requirements on the cloud.

Truth: Complying with industry-specific laws and regulations is a big concern for many companies. Most of these compliance requirements can be met on a cloud. In fact, using a cloud could make such compliance simpler. For example, a security feature like data-at-rest encryption can help you meet the data destruction requirements for some standards.

Evaluating Your Cloud Computing Needs

Using the cloud isn’t simply a trend anymore, it’s a necessity. If you need help evaluating your cloud computing needs and prospects, please contact The Provato Group today. Our experts are here to answer all your cloud-related questions and discuss new opportunities for your company. We will debunk any cloud myths you might question.

Provato’s Proven Step Zero Recruiting Process

Finding the right candidates to fit your IT staffing needs can be a challenge. But Provato’s proven process for IT staffing makes it easy to fill any position quickly and easily. Read on to learn more about how the process works and how it can help your business find the perfect person to join your team.

Step 0 – Before A Requisition Is Known

How can you have a step before a process even starts? At The Provato Group, we start our recruiting process even before we know that you have a need. Our recruiters talk to potential candidates all day long, networking and building our pool of potential hiring candidates across a wide variety of technologies and skill sets. This helps us respond very quickly to client’s needs. Rather than reacting to a client requisition by just searching all of the job boards for a potential match like everyone else, at Provato, we start by referencing our internal pool of candidates that we have cultivated over our many years of existence. In most cases we are dealing with people that we already know and have insight as to how well they will align with your requisition. Our step 0 is what sets us apart from all of the other staffing agencies out there, and it enables us to perform at a level of quality and responsiveness that others cannot match.  

Step 1 – Receive Requisition

First, Provato receives a requisition from the hiring manager or a company and begins to identify and qualify candidates based on their skill sets and talents. The IT staffing industry is extremely competitive, so we know how important it is to act fast on the requisitions we receive. However, it’s also necessary to do so strategically.

Provato works to leverage as much information as we can about the requisition, which saves time for both the candidate and the manager. When we have a solid understanding of what the manager or company needs, we can better find a candidate to fit the position.

Step 2 – Recruiter Vets Candidates

To find the perfect candidate, it’s important to understand the requisition inside and out. Provato works to learn everything possible about the position, including roles and responsibilities and the company’s culture to ensure an ideal fit between the candidate and the position. This is key in Provato’s process, as it allows our recruiters to better narrow down the candidate pool based on the specific skills and experience required of the position. At this point, recruiters work to begin the vetting process, making sure to only choose the best possible candidates to move forward.

In the long run, our ability to learn all the details about the position also benefits the candidates, because they have more information about the company and the position, which can help them decide if the role is the right fit for them. Hiring managers only want to interview candidates who have a desire to work at their company and who understand the position and the company’s culture. Again, this saves both the hiring manager and the candidate time by weeding out anyone who isn’t serious about the role. 

Step 3 – Candidates Vetted by a Recruiter Move On

Once the recruiter has chosen and vetted the best candidates from Step 2, the candidates are then vetted by senior technical leadership. This is beneficial because it narrows down the field even further. These senior experts can sort through the remaining candidates to see which ones really have the expertise, technical knowledge, and experience that the position requires.

Sometimes, the hiring manager doesn’t always have the technical knowledge necessary to determine which candidate knows their stuff the best. This is where the Provato process counts for IT staffing. We make it easy to know that you’re only getting the absolute cream of the crop. Being vetted by our senior technical team means that the candidates have the ability to ask technical questions about the position and dive deeper into what would be required of them if they got the position. This helps to clear up any confusion they might have.

Step 4 – Candidate Resumes Sent to the Hiring Manager/Company for Review

Once candidates have been vetted by both recruiters and senior technical leadership, the final contenders’ resumes get sent to the hiring manager for review. At this point, Provato has worked hard to narrow down the playing field by finding only the strongest candidates to fill the position. This means that the hiring manager ends up with only a few highly qualified applicants who really feel passionate about working for the company and who have all the knowledge and skills necessary.

IT staffing candidates also benefit from this part of the process because they are assured that they’re getting individualized attention from our recruiters and their resumes aren’t being overlooked. This way, if they’re invited in for a final interview, they can be confident that they know about what the position entails, and that they would be a good fit for it. 

Step 5 – Candidate Interview Prep

Info-graphic showing the steps for Provato's Proven Process

During this step, Provonto’s expert recruiters help the candidates get ready for their interview with the company. This is one less step for the hiring manager, and it assures them that they are getting candidates who are prepared. Also, this helps the candidates feel more confident that they’ll be ready to handle the interview.

Step 6 – Offer Is Made

After a final decision is reached about who the best candidate for the position is, an offer is made to that candidate. Once the offer is accepted, Provanto takes the time to complete a background check to make sure the candidate is who they say they are. The client doesn’t have to spend time and effort doing this, and the candidate gets started in their new position faster.

Step 7 – The First Day Is Here!

Provanto walks both the candidate and the client through their first day working together. We are here to quickly resolve any problems or issues to make sure that you have a great first day. The client can be confident that we stand strongly behind the candidate and the services we provide.

Step 8 – Performance Check-Ins

During the candidate’s tenure with the client, we check in periodically to make sure that everything is working out as expected. You can rest assured that we will never leave you in a bad situation and will always be checking back in to make sure that the fit was as good as we promised. This also helps keeps the candidate accountable for their performance on the job, and also lets them know that we care about how they’re doing.

Learn More About Using Provato for IT Staffing

The Provato Group is proud to offer this proven process to fit all your IT staffing needs. If you have any questions about any of the steps in the process or would like to know more about how Provato can help you, contact us for more information. We have a decade of experience to back up our claims and we would love to learn more about your needs as a company.

Should You Leave Your Full Time IT Job for Contract Work

A male IT worker accepting new contract work on the phone at a home office
On the phone discussing new contract work

In recent years, the availability and scope of contract work has been expanding, especially in the IT field. There are more opportunities today than ever before, and many workers are leaving behind traditional, full-time jobs to seek contract work. While it’s true that this work is not right for everyone, many IT professionals have successfully made the move from a full-time IT employee role to an IT contractor role. While this trend takes off, a lot of IT professionals are beginning to see the many benefits that contract work has to offer. However, what types of workers fit best into these roles, and what can you expect to gain from working as a contractor?

Who Is a Great Fit for Contract Work?

Contract work is definitely not a perfect fit for every employee, but it can be a good choice if you feel stuck in your current position or need more flexibility with your schedule. If you’re tired of the regular 9-5 shift working for the same company every day or think you’re in a position with no room for growth, contracting can allow you to gain valuable experience and skills so you can take a step forward in your career. And while many contract jobs may require you to be available during business hours, you’re given more freedom with how and when to work, including remote opportunities.

Maybe you aren’t quite happy in your current full-time role but aren’t sure what kind of work is really right for you. Contracting gives you a chance to try out different types of positions in a shorter period of time so you can learn more about where your particular skills can flourish. You won’t have to make a long-term commitment to any one employer, and you won’t come off as a “job-hopper” on your resume.

People who are single or are married to a spouse with a steady income may find that contract work is perfect for their lifestyles. Indeed, they may have fewer expenses to cover. This work can sometimes be risky, though, as steady work isn’t always guaranteed. Sometimes contracts can be short, lasting only a few months, which means you’ll be job seeking and applying to and interviewing for positions a lot more. When a contract ends, you can be stuck in a position where you don’t have income while you look for a new role, and it may take you days or weeks to find one. This is why it’s important to make sure you can afford to be without work for short periods if you’re thinking of trying contract work

What Are the Benefits?

If you’re considering leaving your full-time job for contract work, it’s important to weigh both the pros and the cons. One of the most obvious benefits of contract work is that contractors get to work for a wide variety of clients and learn a lot of new skills along the way. For every new contractor position you take on, you’ll have a different role and new responsibilities, which means you’ll get a lot of exposure to different tasks. On the other hand, if you’re stuck in the same full-time role for years, it’s unlikely that your position will change very much, and you won’t have many opportunities to learn new things.

Keeping Up With the Industry

Because you’ll be working in so many different types of settings, it’s easier to keep up with changes in technology and stay on top of the latest trends. And in some of the roles you take on, you may have the chance to gain leadership experience and take on managerial roles. That is not something that’s always available to employees in full-time IT jobs.

Valuable Connections

Even though some jobs may be short-term, you’ll make a lot of valuable connections along the way. Contract work is a great way to network with many different people, which can help you find future openings that match your skillset. You’ll gain lots of great experience by going to more job interviews, and you’ll become an expert at identifying great opportunities.

Cost-Effective

For the most part, contracts last for an agreed-upon period of time (usually 3, 6, 9, or 12 months, but some can last for years), so you don’t always have to be worried about sudden layoffs or firings. In many cases, it’s more cost-effective for employers to hire contract workers, which means they are able to pay you more. But remember, a lot of contract positions don’t offer benefits as traditional full-time roles do, so you’ll have to think about things like purchasing insurance and saving for retirement on your own. And taking a few days off between contracts can be a good idea, as you most likely won’t get paid time off.

Is Contracting Right for Me?

Taking the leap from a stable, full-time job into the world of contract work can be a little scary to think about, but thousands of IT professionals have made it work and made a lot of money doing so! Take a step back and look at where you are in your career. Even if you’re currently happy in the job you have, think about your chances of promotion. Are you regularly gaining new skills and seeing upward momentum, or do you feel like you may be stagnating and getting complacent?

Contract work is a great idea if you’re ready to take a gamble and potentially gain valuable skills and experience. The best way to find contract roles is by getting in touch with recruiters online, sharing your resume with them, and telling them what kind of work you’re looking for. But know that as contract work becomes a more popular form of employment, the market will get increasingly more competitive. Remember to keep your resume updated with every contract that you complete, adding new skills and achievements as you gain them.

Conclusion

If you think a career as an IT contractor would work well for you, start by getting in touch with one of our IT recruiters for more information about the contractor opportunities that are currently available.

How to Choose a CMS

CMS simplification as large content is organized and optimized into an omnichannel platform
Organized content delivery concept

A content management system (CMS) is website creation and management made accessible, even to those with no programming knowledge. You know you need one—the question is how to choose one. WordPress is probably the first one that comes to mind since it’s the CMS behind about a third of all websites. Still, there are many options available, and WordPress isn’t necessarily the best choice for you.

It pays to carefully consider a variety of factors when choosing your CMS, and to work with a web development company to help you make the most of it. They can help you choose a system and build upon it to create the website you need while you stay focused on your customers.

Here are a few things you’ll want to consider when choosing a CMS:

Is It Easy to Use?

This is a tough question to answer, because “easy” means something different for everyone—and every CMS, no matter how user-friendly, has difficult parts to manage. Certain themes can also be more challenging than others. You’ll want to focus on what you do most often, whether that’s blog posts, images, or schedules and booking. Is it easy to format, or are you puzzled when you hit “preview” and see nothing like what you thought you had created?

The more time and effort you invest in the foundation of your site, the easier it will be to use. Choosing a CMS that feels intuitive to you is a great start; after that, you’ll work with the development company to customize and simplify it until you have it where you want it. Keep in mind that it’s an ever-evolving process. For example, the company behind the CMS might make upgrades that render your customized items useless, and you’ll have to rewrite those customizations. A web development company can stay on top of those for you and make the changes with limited time spent in lost functionality.

What Features Does It Offer?

You don’t necessarily have to find a CMS that has everything—that’s what plugins are for. WordPress on its own, for example, is pretty bare-bones, but it comes with a rich marketplace of plugins, both free and paid. You can add features like a client login or CRM integration, but adding them requires some strategy. The more plugins you have, the slower your WordPress site will run, so it’s important to choose only the ones you need. Furthermore, some of them won’t work with your chosen theme, and others don’t work when used together.

If you need a client login to protect documents, you’ll want to look beyond WordPress, which would require several plugins to do the job you could find built into another CMS. If you’re going to build an entirely different site for your client portal, WordPress can still be a good option for your primary site.

The basic features you want to see are an easy-to-use content editor, customization options, and user management options that allow you to set different editing permissions for different people if you intend to have more than one person editing and managing the site.

Is It Scalable?

For your website, you have to look beyond your current needs. You’re expecting your business to grow, so you want to choose a CMS that can grow with you. It’s much easier than having to start all over when you realize your business is bigger than your website can manage.

Your development team can help you identify what features and integrations your business will need by the time you have a certain number of customers or you’re making a certain number of sales. By choosing a CMS that offers those functions and/or building them into your site from the beginning, you’ll save yourself from costly rewrites down the road.

Is It Secure?

You have a big responsibility to protect your business and client information, and that requires careful management of your platform. Though WordPress sites are most often compromised, the breaches are generally among those that are not updated and maintained: 44% of WordPress hacking was a result of outdated sites. More than half of WordPress vulnerabilities are from the plugins—which is another reason to choose yours carefully.

Some CMS companies are better at security updates than others. WordPress has a security team dedicated to staying ahead of hackers, malware, and other vulnerabilities. Some updates are made automatically by the CMS or plugin creators; other updates require action on your part. Make sure you use the latest versions to ensure you have the latest security technology working for you.

What Does It Cost?

WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, and Microweber are just a few of the free systems available. Most come with a wide range of open-source plugins and paid plugins. Other platforms, like Sitefinity, Kentico, and EVOQ require a monthly or annual fee that covers patches, upgrades, and ongoing support. These systems tend to come with the capabilities you would need to cover with plugins in an open-source system.

Customization costs vary depending upon what you need to have done, but those customizations can save you time and money in the long run if they make your site easier to use. Custom solutions aren’t always necessary, but they can provide additional control, user-friendliness, and functionality, and they can help your website stand out among the others in your industry.

Learn More About CMS

It’s a lot to consider, but The Provato Group can help. Founded in 2010, we have more than 65 years of in-house experience in IT architecture and development for a wide range of industries. Whether you need an open-source solution or an enterprise-level licensed product, we can help you choose the CMS that’s right for your business, customize it to fit your needs, and help you manage it so you can focus on your customers and let your website do what it’s supposed to do: educate visitors, build brand loyalty, and attract new clients.

Contact us and talk to one of our technology experts. We’re glad to answer any questions you might have about content management systems and how to choose the best one for your business.

Microsoft Azure DevOps for Large Teams

Microsoft Azure DevOps Logo

Large software projects present serious challenges for development and deployment. A complex product involves multiple areas of specialization. There are front-end and back-end people. Security, database management, and user interface design can all be significant concerns.

Online software products raise additional concerns. The software needs to run without significant interruptions. Downtime is expensive. Security issues need rapid fixes. In the traditional development model, the software team goes through a series of releases and the administrators have to configure and deploy each one. This is slow and clumsy when it’s necessary to run smoothly all the time.

These needs have led to widespread adoption of the DevOps model. Its basic concept is treating development and deployment as a single process rather than a handoff to a separate group. It emphasizes incremental change over big releases. It replaces manual processes with automated tools. It stresses agility instead of a methodical, stepwise approach. Developers and administrators work in close coordination.

How Azure DevOps helps

Many tools are available for DevOps teams. Microsoft’s offering, Azure DevOps, takes a cloud-based approach. This makes it especially suitable for large teams whose members aren’t always in close proximity. Its tools support a highly agile development, configuration, testing, and deployment process. Developers and operations people act as one team, even if they aren’t in the same location.

Using cloud-based tools overcomes distance. On-premises DevOps tools work well if everyone is at the same facility. When people from different places combine forces on a project, it’s a huge benefit that people can access the tools from wherever they are. Access to common resources and tools for coordination overcome distance, time zones, and languages.

Azure DevOps consists of five major tools, which can be used as a suite or separately. Teams who prefer other software tools for parts of the process can combine them with the Azure services. The components are:

  • Azure Repos. Any software project which is bigger than an afternoon’s work should use a source code repository. Teams who want to keep all their work in the same cloud can put their source code in Azure Repos.
  • Azure Pipelines. The CI/CD approach requires tools to manage the flow of software from new or changed code through deployment. Pipelines provides the capabilities for doing this.
  • Azure Artifacts. A large project involves generating and coordinating many units of code. The Artifacts tool is an important aid in tracking and coordinating them.
  • Azure Test Plans. Automated testing is at the heart of DevOps. The Test Plans tool lets developers and testers manage the many tests which are necessary.
  • Azure Boards. When many people work together on a component, especially when they aren’t all in the same office, they need a way to track its progress. Azure Boards lets everyone see and update the progress through an action.

Automated processes

DevOps automates large parts of the software cycle to produce smoother progress and fewer mistakes. Manual handoffs take more time, and miscommunication is possible. People working under pressure may want to take shortcuts. Replacing manual interactions with automated processes produces more consistent results and eases coordination among groups of people.

Testing is an important part of this process. When developers submit new or changed code to the repository, it should go through automated tests at the unit and component levels. Otherwise, bugs will inevitably find their way into the code base, causing problems that will be caught only later. A testing tool such as Azure Test Plans will make sure that tests are run with every change. Code won’t get into the system until it passes these checks. They can’t guarantee that the code is right in every respect, but they will eliminate most of the errors from careless coding and mistakes in typing.

Automation can enforce any necessary sign-offs on code. If part of the process is that a supervisor has to approve the activation of a new feature, this requirement can be built into the process.

CI/CD

Many DevOps operations embrace the concepts of continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD). It’s never really “continuous,” of course; there’s a range in how small and frequent the changes should be. But the basic idea is to eliminate the idea of versions in favor of allowing change at any time.

CI and CD use a pipeline process, where each change goes through a series of steps from code to delivery under automated control. At each step, it has to pass tests, get approvals, or both. Azure Pipelines supplies a supporting structure for this process, letting different parts of the team handle each step.

DevOps and CI/CD generally favor breaking projects up into services and libraries rather than keeping an application as one huge piece of code. It’s hard to stay agile when all the sources feed into a single build. The build process entails constructing, configuring, and deploying many units of code.

Azure Artifacts helps in this process. It provides support for code sharing, pipelines, and maintaining a store of artifacts which is separate from source control. It can deal with Maven, Python, NuGet, and npm packages, storing them all in a common wrapper format.

Source control

Azure DevOps favors Git or TFVC repositories. Teams can use Azure Repos for tight integration with the other tools, or they can use repositories such as GitHub, GitLab, or a private repository. Azure’s packaging of Git adds features such as protected branches and repository forking.

While the distributed Git model is very popular, some teams prefer a centralized repository. Repos lets them use Team Foundation Version Control (TFVC), which takes a centralized approach. It supports file-level granular permissions and change sets, giving a large team the ability to divide up responsibility and track who has changed what.

Keeping the whole team coordinated

There are many advantages to DevOps for creating and maintaining software in a fast-moving world. The larger the team, the greater the benefits, but the challenges grow as well. Developers and administrators need to think in new ways. They need tools to coordinate their efforts while working on different pieces in different locations.

Azure DevOps offers many features to let distributed teams work on large-scale projects while staying agile. Its cloud-based approach helps to overcome distances and keep everyone in sync. We can help you to get Azure DevOps working in your development organization. Contact us for a consultation.

Make Your Technology Resume Stand Out to Recruiters

In the competitive world of tech, recruiters are always looking for top-tier candidates to fill job openings. If you’re on the hunt for a new job, or just want to get your name out there, the first step towards landing a new position is making your resume stand out. Read on to get some helpful tips on crafting a great technology resume.

Formatting Matters

A cropped shot of a man updating his technology resume at the computer.
Taking the time to update a resume

When composing a resume, job seekers know that it’s important to include elements like education, experience, and relevant skills. However, they are sometimes quick to overlook the formatting of the document. Remember, your resume is your only chance at a great first impression! A resume that stands out from the crowd can easily put you ahead of hundreds of other options. This is where it’s important to do a little research. The best technology resume format for a .net developer may look different from the best resume format for a network administrator. There are a few simple rules that everyone should follow.

Recruiters are looking at so many resumes daily – do them a favor and compose yours in an easy-to-read format that highlights your skills so that they can quickly scan it to see if you may be a good fit for a position. Because these recruiters may not be as tech-savvy as you are, be sure to use language that isn’t too technical. Also be sure to, at the very least, include your name and contact information, a personal summary, and a list of your work experience, education, and relevant skills.

There are lots of ways to organize this information, but you usually want to include your name and contact information at the top, followed by your summary, and then a chronological list of your work history and education. A skills section can be towards the bottom, and you may even want to list any awards or special recognition you’ve received after that.

Spice Up Your Summary

Real estate on your resume is valuable. You want to keep it short and concise whenever possible. This means some job seekers opt to leave out a personal summary. However, this can be a big mistake. A summary is a place to make a powerful statement about yourself and your career goals. This can be particularly important if your experience reflects a lot of experience in one area, but you’re looking to change your career path. A summary is a great place to explain what you’re looking for and why.

Be sure to lead this summary with a strong sentence about your expertise, like “Tech support specialist with eight years of experience working in higher education.” That one sentence can paint a very clear picture of who you are and what you do best.

Back Up Your Claims With Evidence

Numbers and evidence are what can really sell your technology resume. If you are an IT project manager, don’t just say you managed projects, explain in detail the projects you managed and the results that were received. Talking about your achievements is important, but this is your chance to really market what you have to offer, so don’t just list your roles and the responsibilities you had at each previous job.

Did you increase the traffic to your previous employer’s website? By how much? Use statistics and numbers wherever you can, and if you have a portfolio of your work, be sure to include it. For example, if you’re a mobile developer, have a list of the projects you’ve worked on, the timeframes that you worked in, how many people downloaded the finished project, if you finished ahead of schedule, etc. These can all paint a clearer picture of how you work, and where your strengths lie.  

What Are Recruiters Looking For?

While it’s important to use your technology resume as a place to show off what you do best. It’s important to also consider what recruiters are looking for, and tailor your resume to that. Thus, look over some job listings that you may be qualified for, and pick out keywords that you can highlight on your own resume. Take a close look at what hard skills seem to be in demand. This will clearly be different for every particular tech specialty, so be sure to look at job listings that match the jobs you want.

You can also use job listings to see what kind of soft skills to highlight. Soft skills are often not given enough credit because it’s difficult to back them up with hard numbers. It’s easy for anyone to say they have great people skills or are a quick learner. But you can use examples to illustrate these skills too. If you’re a quick learner, talk about the new skills or software you mastered in your last position.

Always Edit

Keeping your technology resume up to date is absolutely essential. Be sure to, at the very least, look over it once a month and add any updates – projects you’ve worked on, skills you’ve gained, etc. Don’t forget to edit! Sometimes, stepping back from the document for a few hours or even a few days can be helpful. Indeed, you’ll come back with a fresh set of eyes and can look over it more objectively. Watch for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes, and keep the formatting consistent throughout the document.

Ask a friend or colleague if they can take a look over your resume to proofread for any mistakes you may be missing. Also, it never hurts to ask for pointers or help! There are plenty of people out there who write and edit resumes for a living. Getting your technology resume looked over by a professional can help you get some valuable feedback. A professional will know how to make your resume stand out from the rest and can give you tips on how to improve.

Don’t Skimp On Your Technology Resume

The tech industry is extremely cut-throat, and recruiters are always looking for the strongest candidates for open positions. Your technology resume is the best shot you have at landing your dream job. Make it count! This is your place to show off your skills and what you have to offer a company, so always put your best foot forward.

If you’re ready to find the perfect new position, polish your technology resume using the tips above and then contact a recruiter at the Provato Group to speak about possible technology opportunities and openings.