Cloud Computing Part II – Meeting the increasing demand for useful information

In this post, we share practical ways cloud computing is helping forestry and natural resources organizations function in the digital age.   

By Mike Berzinis II, RF, CSM

The future of business will be information driven.

Business owners and managers are experiencing rapidly increasing demands for information – a trend that’s expected to continue.

A successful strategy for information supports growth, the ability to work from anywhere (like necessitated during COVID), the delivery of new services for existing customers or simply to increase employee quality of life by reducing tedious data entry.

Data is like a green log, information is like lumber which is ready to use.

Data rich and information poor.

Data which does not function as “useful” information for answers and decisions is a source of frustration and lost time. The quote “Data rich and information poor” (Waterman, R. 1982) refers to being rich with data which is not easily turned into information of value.

You may be information poor if your systems formed incrementally over time where the parts do not function together as a whole (e.g. they’re fragmented).

Are your personal digital photos “useful information” or just data?

Digital photos (data) on a hard drive in a desk drawer are of limited use, whereas photos on a smart phone are easily used by just about anyone.  A digital photo taken with a smart phone has utility which was difficult to “picture” 15 years ago when most people had point and shoot cameras.  For example, digital photos on a smart phone can:

  • Be shared with others through various social media like Facebook and Instagram.
  • Be stored in one place (you guessed it, in the cloud!).
  • Be accessed securely from anywhere via a user account.
  • Be texted directly to loved ones.

Smart devices are fundamentally powered by cloud computing.

How can businesses could use their data like photos on a smartphone?

Would business data generate greater value if it were easily kept up to date and could be shared? While business systems are more complex than photos, many of the underlying digital capabilities for photos can be applied to meeting the growing information demands of businesses.   Such examples include:

  • Team members access a single, authoritative source of business information.
  • Staff with any technical ability level can share and get answers to every day questions like “what is the status of Smith Tract thinning job?”.
  • Data entry and manual processes are reduced and even eliminated.
  • Information can be shared securely inside or outside an organization.
  • Teams access real time information on smart devices wherever work is done: from home, the truck or the field.
  • Information security and trust standards are in place to reduce risks of hacking and ransomware.

In Conclusion:

Yesterday’s technology and approaches cannot meet today’s or tomorrow’s business information needs.  “Redefining forest technology” is about having choices for technologies where the parts fit into a whole to maximize the reach and utility of information assets.

SFC is a trusted technology partner and leading cloud solutions provider for numerous wood products and forest management organizations across the southeast.

Mike leads SFC’s Geospatial business line and is a military veteran with 20 years experience in forestry technology.

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Six things your business needs to know about cloud computing.

For many folks in forestry, hearing about “cloud technologies” may create a strong compulsion to run away and into an open pine stand full of briars. There’s a good chance you didn’t get into the natural resources to be up on – or even interested in – technology. However, an inability to harness the power of cloud computing in your operations could limit your growth and ability to serve your customers’ and employees’ changing needs. We hope this plain language post about cloud computing provides some context for what continues to be the biggest shift in how businesses use technology.

By Mike Berzinis II, RF, CSM

1. The most powerful business solutions (and your smartphone) rely on cloud computing.

The most capable and cost effective business technologies are based on – and enabled by – cloud computing. Neglecting the use of cloud computing platforms is akin to milling your own home-building materials when standard dimensional lumber and other materials streamline the building process by fitting together uniformly. (you’d really have to want to do all that work!) Technology providers who have yet to embrace cloud-based computing platforms will spend more to deliver less by building out features that computing platforms have out of the box.

The cloud is “[the]#1 technology for the next decade. And ultimately be the foundation on which all smaller technologies in the near future are built. -The Motley Fool”

2. Always getting better.

In our experience, cloud computing technologies are always up to date and continuously improving. With desktop personal computers, it can be a challenge for providers to keep software up to date when each computer is different. In the cloud a provider completely controls the computing environment. By utilizing cloud-based capabilities, inefficiencies due to infrequent updates or obsolescence is a thing of the past. At the end of the day, a cloud based approach allows providers to deliver more value by keeping tools progressing and with minimal business disruptions.

3. More functionality and flexibility.

Need to enable more than just email on company smartphones? Many cloud-based software are multi-user based (e.g. many can edit at once) with tools which can function simultaneously across multiple devices, users and applications. These phone and web apps can function on a single source of data making it much easier to collaborate and maintain consistency.

4. Reduced (or no) dependency on physical offices.

Since cloud-based computing solutions are in the cloud, they don’t rely on computers in offices. This means software can function independent of office power or internet. One does not need to be at the office to access information, or rely on an office computer because it has a certain software or files on it. Our experience is that cloud-based software is more reliable than software which runs on a personal computer. The value of systems being independent of offices has really hit home during Covid-19 when people needed to distance and still use business tools and data and share information between staff. One client stated that “Had we not worked with you all to move our forest technology to the commercial cloud, we would have been dead in the water for running our operations during several staff quarantines”.

5. More secure.

We know of many organizations which have been hacked or had their server data held ransom in part because they have delayed cloud adoption. These events come at a great cost and disruption to operations. In the commercial cloud (Amazon or Azure, etc) there are much more security options, and the machines being used are kept up to date and secure for you while also being backed up.

6. Highly Configurable.

Cloud-based computing platforms offer “low code” functionality that moderately technical users can manage. This allows components and features to be re-arranged in different ways to meet your needs. Low code, configurable computing is a huge movement for many reasons including reduced costs and avoidance of risks associated with custom on premise software. One our favorite benefits of configurable apps is that we can set up tools for new projects in hours.

In Conclusion:

Many organizations are avoiding adoption of the commercial cloud because they heard something in the news or don’t feel they understand what it is. We hope this post provides confidence as you walk towards a future which will be increasingly digital and where business success is inextricably linked to technology success.

In a follow-on topic we’ll talk about some ways businesses can harness the potential of cloud computing.

SFC is a trusted technology partner and leading cloud solutions provider for numerous wood products and forest management organizations across the southeast.

Mike leads SFC’s Geospatial business line and is a military veteran and technology expert with 20 years experience in forestry technology.

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Michael Dooner Receives 2020 SAF Presidential Field Forester Award

 

The Society of American Foresters (SAF) recently named Michael Dooner as a 2020 Presidential Field Forester Award winner. SAF’s Board of Directors annually recognizes one member from each of the 11 SAF voting districts who have dedicated their professional careers to the application of forestry on the ground using sound, scientific methods, and adaptive management strategies.  Michael Dooner is President and Founder of Southern Forestry Consultants Inc. (SFC), with more than 40 years of experience in forest and integrated natural resource management and planning. He is a Registered Forester (RF) in Alabama whose major areas of technical expertise are forest management, timber sales, forest economic analysis, prescribed burning, integrated natural resource management, forest inventory, and auditing. Mr. Dooner is also a Certified Prescribed Burn Manager and Licensed Real Estate Associate in Florida.

In his nomination letter for this award, Russell D. Weber, CF, SAF Florida Division chair, wrote that “I have followed Michael’s career through the years and early on it was apparent its trajectory was always professional, on the ground practical, and committed to doing the very best for private landowner’s and their forest lands.”

Under Mr. Dooner’s leadership, SFC provides forest management for hundreds of private and public clients on over one million acres in the Southeast. SFC has expanded its natural resource offerings over the years to include Southern Forestry Realty and Wiregrass Ecological Associates. Recently, SFC has entered into strategic partnerships with Lim Geomatics and Planet Imagery to provide its clients with redefining forest technology solutions.

Dooner’s commitment and passion to the forestry profession and the forest industry is exemplified through his numerous continued forms of service. He is the immediate Past-President and current member of Executive Committee for the Florida Forestry Association (FFA) and has served as the Florida Farm Bureau Federation District 4 State Director since 2000.  He chaired the FFA’s Forestry Roundtable 2009 and received its Above and Beyond Award in 2010.  Most recently he has tirelessly led efforts to secure funding for landowners and restore forested habitats in the wake of Hurricane Michael.  These stewardship efforts were recognized by the Florida Audubon through the 2019 Sustainable Forestry Award.

Additional information on this award can be found in the SAF Forestry Source, July 2020 edition.

SFC Announces Stratus, a web-based Hub for Forest Management

Southern Forestry Consultants and Lim Geomatics are pleased to present the official release of Stratus, a cloud-based asset management system and game changer for the forest industry. Southern Forestry Consultants is the dedicated provider of Lim Geomatics technologies in the southeastern United States.

Advanced technologies can deliver remarkable returns on investment for forestry companies. Stratus provides a centralized and easy-to-use hub for organizing and making the most of data investments. The web application offers a modern platform for implementing an integrated digital approach to the art and science of forest management.

“This is not some ungainly desktop application with rigid workflows or finicky data requirements,” says Dr. Kevin Lim, company founder and Chief Technology Officer. “Stratus is fast and powerful, but it’s also flexible and user-friendly. It represents the culmination of all our work within the forestry sector over the past 15 years.”

“Stratus answers the question of how forestry asset managers will function in a more digital future where demands for real time data are rising rapidly”, says Michael Dooner, founder and President of Southern Forestry Consultants.

This end-to-end forest management information system will improve the productivity and safety of each step of the operations cycle, from short and long-term strategic planning to planting, cruising, harvesting, and transportation. Stratus is stocked with a highly configurable set of tools and workflows for drafting operational plans, monitoring harvest activities, managing enhanced forest inventories, and tracking hauling and harvesting equipment performance.

The entire Lim Geomatics technology ecosystem—AFRIDS, Op Tracker, Op Tracker for Transport, and Prism—plugs seamlessly into Stratus, which was designed to accommodate the diverse workflows required by different forested ecosystems and management objectives.

The application was created alongside a team of veteran foresters from Southern Forestry Consultants who helped define and test its scope and functionality throughout the development process. The software is licensed in a set of independent but interconnected modules so it can be scaled up or down to meet the needs of small, medium, and large operations alike.

As a cloud-based enterprise system, Stratus provides a single, authoritative source for up-to-date information about the forest and ensures an unrivaled level of security and data quality. The application is run on the software-as-a-service model so you’re always working with the latest version and supported by a dedicated team of developers and designers.

“Stratus was the missing link for delivering comprehensive forest connectivity,” says Lim. “We’re excited to take this next step with our clients by offering the complete set of digital tools for getting full insight into every stage of forest management and operations.”

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Reach out to us to learn more: sales@soforest.com

Learn more about Stratus here.

SFC Announces Planet Imagery Partnership

Southern Forestry Consultants is excited to announce that we are now a Planet Labs imagery reseller. Planet is a leading global provider of daily satellite imagery at multiple resolutions and temporal scales. SFC’s geospatial solutions division will provide Planet imagery to clients across the Southeastern U.S.

Planet’s imagery products are a game changer for efficient real time monitoring of land assets. Being a provider of Planet imagery is a strategic fit for SFC’s cloud-centric strategy for digitally enabled natural resource management via real time imagery within SFC’s managed web GIS solutions which allows all access to land data anywhere work is being done, whether the office, the truck or the woods. “We at Planet could not be more excited to have Southern Forestry Consultants signed on as a partner.” said John Atkinson, Global VP of Partnerships at Planet. “Their towering competence in forestry management, combined with Planet’s unique service, will deliver the best possible results to our joint customers.”

It can be a challenge for forestry and natural resources professionals to visit each and every ongoing management activity across geographically distributed land assets. Putting eyes on all operations is increasingly a challenge as organizations run lean due to tight labor markets. SFC’s web GIS customers can add Planet imagery directly to ArcGIS (Online or ArcGIS Pro) for real time visibility across all their lands and value added silvicultural activities. Operational benefits include reduced time on the road checking jobs and having to walk sites to see the precise extent of work completion. Land managers can quickly quantify a harvest’s extent, or acres for payment, using last week’s imagery right in ArcGIS Pro instead of walking a job’s edge with GPS. Since Planet’s imagery streams directly to ArcGIS, one can reduce time spent on labor intensive and slow imagery transactions involving shapefiles, email and large file management.

Reach out to us to learn more: sales@soforest.com
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Learn more about Planet at their website : https://www.planet.com