(5) Tech Items Every AEC Executive Should Know About Their Company – But Don’t!

June 20, 2017


At ZenTek, we spend a lot of time talking with AEC owners and executives about their business infrastructure. It always surprises me how very few of them take an active interest in the underlying technology that keeps their company running. The prevailing attitude is: “If it’s running, I don’t worry about it!” I can understand that. The design and construction world is challenging enough without borrowing the problems from, what they see as, the realm of IT folks. The problem of course is that these technologies have a dramatic impact on profits if they’re not steered from the executive level. The five (5) questions below will give you an idea of whether you have a full understanding of the costs/concerns related to your technologies, and if you need to start making executive decisions about them.


1. How many GB of data does your firm backup monthly?


Seems like a tech question, right? It’s also a cost question. Let’s look at the basic price of data transfer and IT time to control and maintain the backup process. The average amount of data that needs to be backed up in a small AEC firm is approx. 20 GB/day at a cost of $0.20/GB. You also need to do full backups weekly, which depends on the number of users you have, but for a ten-person firm, that could be another 200 GB. So, your ten-person AEC firm is spending $240/week or $960.00/month. That’s no small bill and we haven’t even looked at hardware costs.


2. How much do you spend yearly for your backup servers and drives?


Again, it sounds like something most executives leave to IT, but it’s a substantial cost center. The average on-premises backup system costs $2,000.00 and the backup software for our small AEC firm is probably another $3,000.00.  You’ll need to buy tapes (probably two per week) for our small firm so they can be ported/stored offsite. Those tapes run about $50.00 each. We also need to add in the cost of setup, configuration and maintenance of the backup system itself which is usually 30% of the total system cost annually. That puts our small firm down another $17,550.00 (+/-) per year. Not a number to ignore if you’re an executive.


3. How often is your data backed up?


Backups are a great idea, nobody argues that, but is a daily/weekly backup structure sufficient to your needs? Do you need to perform full, incremental, or differential backups? These are not IT decisions, they’re business decisions based upon your required Recovery Point Objective (RPO). In short, your RPO is how much work you’re willing to lose if your system goes down (5 minutes or 12 hours?) Only an owner/executive truly understands the business impact (in dollars) of what losing hours of work across the entire company will do to your profit and cash flow.


4. How long does it take to get your data back after a crash?


Here you need to look at your Recovery Time Objective (RTO). The RTO is how long you’re willing to wait to restore the data before your people can get back to work. Never forget that it can take hours (even days!) of full-stop downtime, depending on how much data needs to be restored, to get your firm operational again. That’s lost billable time across the entire company and the decision of what’s an acceptable RTO is not something executives want someone else deciding for them.


5. How secure is your data?


For most small AEC firms, the process is burn data to tape/disk and have someone manually cart them to storage at an off-site facility (often the owners home) once per week. Sounds simple enough, but who does the replacing and transporting? What happens when the owner is out for a few weeks and the tapes just collect on the desk next to the server? Even if you do get the backups off-site, is their storage location truly secure? What if the owner’s house catches fire or his dog uses them as a chew toy? Depending upon individuals to do the right thing and for circumstance not to interfere is the exact opposite of a secure data backup plan.


Without those answers at your fingertips, and a complete confidence in your backup systems, the AEC owner/executive is in a very precarious position. You’re one bad keystroke, or failed drive, away from major financial disaster. How do you secure your company against these five basic security concerns? Easy, you move to a cloud-based backup system like Microsoft Azure. Not only does Azure cost less than 40% of traditional backup methods, it can be run on Virtual Machines, meaning you’ll never have to buy another hard drive or tape backup again. Azure backups are also fully replicated across multiple sites (regionally or globally as needed) so your data’s always safe, even from major natural disasters. With Azure backups, you can expand your backup storage needs on the fly, increase the virtual server speeds and even do full backup restoration testing in testing environments to ensure everything works the way you want, without impacting your staff’s daily work!


Want to know more about how Microsoft Azure Backup can work for your firm? Give ZenTek Consultants a call today.


Jim C.

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