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 customer’s and employee’s changing needs. We hope this plain language post on the cloud provides some context for what continues to be biggest shift in how businesses use technology.
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. Not using computing platforms is like building a house by milling all the materials when you could use standard sized materials like 2X4s and 4X8 foot sheeting such as plywood and sheetrock which fit 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 since they will need to build out features that computing platforms have out of the box.
2. Always getting better.
No one likes to buy software and install it on a computer only to find out it’s rarely – or never – updated as the rest of the tech world changes, or worse yet becomes obsolete and must be replaced. In our experience, cloud computing technologies are always up to date and continuously improving. The technology landscape is rapidly changing, and the business world likes the fact that a tech provider is taking care of all the messy maintenance and updates so they don’t have to.
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 across multiple devices and people at once through apps. These phone and web apps can function on a single source of data making it much easier to collaborate and be on the same page.
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.
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 recent post, the Motley Fool stated 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.”
In a follow-on topic we’ll talk about some ways businesses can harness the potential of cloud computing.
Southern Forestry Consultants (SFC) is excited to announce that Ashley Farms, owned by Don Ashley and Theo Meadows, has been recognized as the 2020 Jon Gould Florida Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year. This award is presented annually by the Florida Tree Farm Program, a non-profit organization, and the state affiliate of the American Tree Farm System (ATFS). Our SFC team in Monticello, Florida assists Ashley Farms with forest and wildlife management, a relationship maintained for over 25 years.
SFC Vice-President, Dave Lewis, began working with Mr. Ashley’s and Mrs. Meadows’ parents in the early nineties and attributes a great deal of the success at Ashley Farms to the family’s willingness to adapt. From local shifts in weather patterns to global influences on forest product markets and anything in between, the determination to “make the best of things” is unwavering.
Dave characterizes the resolve and adaptive approach of Ashley Farms in his comments that, “Regardless of the next management challenge, Don and Theo are always ready to tackle any obstacle with a solution-focused mindset.”
Ashley Farms has experienced quite the transition over the last four decades from a shade tobacco farm to a diverse property focused on striking a balance between timber production, wildlife habitat, and row crop production. These efforts also led to Ashley Farm’s recognition as the Florida State Forest Stewardship Landowner of the Year in 2007. While recognition as the Florida Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year may be the culmination of efforts focused on maintaining this sustainable, multi-use farm, Ashley Farms is excited to continue and improve for years to come.
SFC and WEA are fortunate to work with outstanding landowners who are committed to sustainable management. As a result, Ashley Farms is our fifth client since 2010 selected as the Florida Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year.
For more information on Ashley Farms and their award, please visit the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences announcement.
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.
To learn more on Michael’s leadership and vision for SFC, read his President’s Message.
We’re excited to announce a major release for Prism. Prism delivers Map-Centric, Automated tools for forest sampling, timber cruising and wildlife data collection. This major release includes dozens of enhancements for improved efficiency across the forest inventory business process by eliminating data management and providing quick answers to forestry questions.
Prism is part of our effort to Redefine Forest Technology which is based on the belief that yesterday’s technology won’t solve today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. Our business critical technologies must reliably function over the long term while adapting to changing workplace demands for automation, work from home and smart devices.
Reach out to us to learn more about how Prism is a complete rethink on forestry data collection: email@example.com
Look at our Prism page to see this release in action in a 3 minute video tour.
As owners, managers, and stewards of natural resources, we talk often of the resiliency and ability of natural systems to recover from disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. However, as we collectively navigate another challenge in the form of COVID-19, it is apparent that the people that make up our forestry industry have a similar resiliency. Over the past twenty months we have experienced pressures on our industry that are unprecedented beginning with the onslaught of Hurricane Michael in October 2018 and continuing now with the current pandemic. The weeks and months following Hurricane Michael were filled with uncertainty and confusion, but ultimately we forged a path forward with confidence that our working forests were important and meaningful enough to restore. While the recovery effort is far from over, efforts continue in earnest to restore full functionality to these working lands. Assuredly, the resolute people of our industry will confront the current pandemic with the same perseverance that has allowed us to overcome the challenges of the past.
To that end, Southern Forestry Consultants (SFC) and Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA) are proud to share the letter below sent to leaders in Washington and endorsed by members of the Legislature pushing the inclusion of the Forest Recovery Act in legislation addressing COVID-19 relief. SFC and WEA feel this is a product of the tremendous effort by the agricultural industry in general, and specifically our forestry industry, to educate our lawmakers about the financial aspects and subsequent implications of the long-term investment in timber.
While this letter alone may not result in monumental changes for the forestry industry, it is symbolic of the policy changes that our collective effort will continue to target. To that end, SFC and WEA want to take this opportunity to extend our gratitude to our clients, partners, and colleagues who have dedicated their time and resources on behalf of our industry. Furthermore, we want you all to know that we will continue to stand with you in this effort through our participation and leadership in national organizations like the Society of American Foresters and state level Forestry Associations, Farm Bureaus, and Forest Landowner Associations across the Southeast.
We will continue to face challenges as we move forward, but with a resilient group of people grounded in the natural resources entrusted to our care, SFC and WEA are confident our industry will continue to thrive and produce the many products, environmental services, and outdoor opportunities that benefit all of society.
FRA and COVID-19 Letter to Leaders in Washington