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Mar 19, 2018

Living on the Edge: The 411 on Edge Data Centers


Today’s users demand access to high-quality content at faster speeds and reliability than ever before. For businesses to continue to supply always on websites and applications, their physical infrastructure needs to adapt.

The vast majority of the internet’s computing power stems from only a handful of major markets. In the U.S., 60 percent of all colocation comes from the top 20 markets. Data storage is even more centralized with 70 percent of the market being sourced from six major markets.

This centralization is harder to maintain though, as the needs of mobile users grow both in raw numbers as well as geographic area. As demand for content grows outside of the major markets, the underlying infrastructure becomes strained as data is sent from major markets out to other computing centers.

What is an Edge Data Center

One response to changing online needs has been the rise of edge data centers.

Edge computing is a response to a fundamental law of data storage and delivery. Essentially, data is processed more efficiently when the computing power is closer to the thing or person generating it. Thus, as the need for internet services grow, the physical “edge” of the internet also needs to grow to match demand.

A few years ago, NetworkWorld published an article that still accurately lists seven criteria for defining edge data centers. Here are three points that stand out about edge data centers.

1. Location, Location, Location

One of the key qualities of edge data centers is that they should be located near the edge.

For instance, Phoenix-area businesses looking for an infrastructure provider close to home traditionally have relied heavily on Los Angeles for their computing needs. However, as the amount of content being shared online has grown, providers have spent resources to route data from centers in the largest cities to metro areas on the edge, such as Phoenix. (Shameless plug: INAP has data centers in Phoenix and other edge cities.)

2. Majority of Local Traffic

The point of building data centers in these edge cities is to bring your infrastructure closer to the eyes that will be viewing your content. Therefore, edge data centers need to be serving the markets in which they are located.

Using the example above, if the majority of end users for these Phoenix-area businesses are located in Arizona, it makes more sense for these companies to have their servers closer to their customers.

Sure, those end users will likely receive the same quality of content regardless of where the servers are physically located. However, depending on the type of information that’s being sent, that latency might be noticeable. Edge data centers allow businesses to put servers and information closer to the people who will be accessing it – both digitally and physically.

3. All the Bells and Whistles

Just because these sites aren’t necessarily built in the most populated and largest markets doesn’t mean they shouldn’t include the same features and updates as the facilities in the world’s largest metropolitan areas.

The data centers in edge cities should be Tier 3-designed and built with the same power, reliability and redundancy requirements as similar facilities in the world’s largest markets. (Another shameless plug: All of INAP’s data centers are Tier 3-type regardless of market.)

How to Get Your Infrastructure in an Edge Data Center

If you’re looking to increase your content delivery to regions outside of major computing markets, INAP has you covered. We operate in 56 data centers around the world in established and growing technology hubs.

Our facilities are equipped with top-of-the-line technology and solutions to improve your infrastructure, including colocation, managed hosting, cloud and network services. Contact us today and a data center specialist will help you determine the best services and location for your business to ensure your servers and environment are placed close to your end users.

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Jan 26, 2018

1.5 Billion Reasons to Care About eSports


The Rise of a Multi-Billion Dollar Online Gaming Industry.

In the late 1990s, Marcus Graham was trying to make it as a professional gamer.

Known by his gaming tag as djWHEAT, Graham would travel to LAN tournaments across the country for varying sums of prize money.

It was a tough gig. For gamers in the early days of eSports, tournaments were few and far between with limited rewards. In an interview with CNN, Graham said he would spend $1,500 and travel more than a thousand miles for a tournament where he’d only win $800.

Fast forward about 20 years and the eSports landscape has drastically changed.

Graham is now a well-known eSports commentator (he still goes by the name djWHEAT), and eSports has moved from a pipe dream of gaming enthusiasts into domestic and international leagues worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Major League Audiences and Payouts

Online gaming is now one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, with booming audiences in North and South America, Asia, and Europe.

Where other sports are generally defined by regional interests, online gaming has a major advantage. For instance, football is the most popular sport in the United States. In Europe and South America, soccer – a different kind of football – is king.

In comparison, eSports has followers all around the world, and the internet has given these fans a platform to connect and engage, which they are doing in extremely large numbers.

Consider this stat: More than 36 million people streamed the League of Legends World Championship match in 2015. That’s a larger audience than the number of people who watched Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals when LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the city’s first professional sports championship in more than 50 years.

And eSports payouts aren’t cheap. In 2017, the International Dota 2 Championship in Seattle played to packed crowds at the Key Arena. The total purse was more than 20 million dollars – approximately double the total prize money of the Masters golf tournament.


Growing Corporate Backing and Investment for eSports

The meteoric rise of eSports is quickly catching the eyes and pocketbooks of interested investors.

There’s no better example of this than Blizzard’s Overwatch League. Created in 2017, the league has teams based on three continents who will eventually utilize “home” arenas in their local markets. The Overwatch League has garnered support from sports icons, such as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft who recently purchased an Overwatch League franchise in Boston.

And Kraft isn’t alone. The NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers own two eSports teams, and several top European soccer clubs are also investing in online gaming.

Corporate sponsors are also taking note of the eSports phenomenon. Since the start of 2016, more than 600 sponsorship agreements have been signed (including one by INAP as the title sponsor for the 2018 Hi-Rez Expo). These sponsorships range from startups in smaller events to major corporations such as Red Bull, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola for some of the world’s most popular competitions.

The Next Steps for eSports

It won’t be long before you see colleges and universities getting on the eSports bandwagon.

In 2014, Robert Morris University – a small private institution outside of Chicago – became one of the first schools to offer eSports scholarships for League of Legends gamers. The scholarships covered up to half of tuition and room and board, adding up to about $19,000 per student.

Just three years later, gamers can earn eSports scholarships at as many as 60 universities. Most of these schools are smaller or private colleges, but the University of Utah made headlines in 2017 when it became the first university in a Power Five athletic conference to announce a varsity eSports team. The team is sponsored by the school’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering Department, which The Princeton Review consistently ranks as one of the top video game design programs in the nation.

Beyond collegiate and world championships, gamers may soon have their eyes set on a more prestigious prize. Olympic officials are expected to discuss adding eSports as a medal event at the 2024 Summer Games. There’s been no indication if the Olympic International Committee will take this proposal seriously, but if eSports is added, it would legitimize online gaming as a global sport.

The Necessary IT Backing

Competitive gaming requires significant IT resources to operate. Networking and hosting must provide reliability, high performance, low latency, and scalability to match inevitable growth. Any disruption of service during a professional tournament would be completely unacceptable.

HorizonIQ’s online gaming infrastructure is built to withstand the rigorous demands of competitive gaming. With solutions in colocation, managed hosting, cloud, and network services, INAP has provided exceptional online gaming experiences for gamers and developers around the world.

If you’re searching for high-performance IT solutions to meet your eSports or online game development needs, contact us today.

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Jan 24, 2018

Digital Advertising Trends for 2018


We are living in a digital world.

These days, everything from ordering movie tickets, to grocery shopping and even turning on and off your house lights can be done digitally from your cell phone – sometimes with just a thumbprint.

With this easy influx of information and new and innovative ways to make purchases, digital advertisers are trying new tactics to stay ahead of the curve.

Here are three digital advertising trends to expect in 2018 ­– and their impact on your infrastructure.

1. Mobile Advertising

It seems everything is done on cell phones these days.

In the United States, mobile devices have officially displaced desktops as the device with the highest internet usage. Not only do mobile devices take a greater share of the internet, but each year users also consistently increase their total mobile usage.

Gone are the days of simply launching mobile responsive ads or landing pages. To address this usage shift, expect advertisers to do more with apps and mobile-specific websites. This means companies will need to develop and run dedicated sites or applications for each platform. As you can imagine, this could quickly add demands to your servers and IT infrastructure.

[Tweet “Gone are the days of simply launching mobile responsive ads or landing pages.”]

It’s important to note that while many of the site visits will come from mobile, actual purchases are usually made on desktops – especially in the finance and banking industries. In these cases, advertisers will need to orient mobile ads towards research and prospecting, while keeping desktop ads conversion oriented.

2. Big Data Advertising

As advertisers focus on genuine customer engagement in 2018, except for big data to play a larger role.

For generations, advertisers focused on a handful of metrics such as the number of returns from an email campaign or the number of subscribers to a newsletter. Those metrics pale in comparison to the data available today.

For instance, the modern advertiser can have their customer’s clicking behavior, time spent on sites or social media preferences available in seconds. This information can help marketers know exactly when, where and on what platforms to engage customers.

3. Machine Learning

Machine learning will take the big data trend one step further. Detailed metrics will allow computer programs and algorithms to make more accurate forecasting and predictions in real time.

A good example is ad retargeting. With the use of machine learning, advertisers and marketers can retarget a customer’s purchasing preferences faster and with far greater accuracy and responsiveness.

Expect machine learning to become a staple of digital ad campaigns in 2018. Advertisers are already utilizing this technology to create unique messages and experiences specific to a user’s anticipated needs. With additional habits and analytics at our fingertips, this trend will really begin to customize the online sales process.

Investments in Improved Information Infrastructure

As advertising moves digital, increased stress will be placed on servers and IT systems. More eyes on pages means more traffic on servers. This can be a problem for advertisers who haven’t kept their infrastructure up to date.

Companies who are just getting their feet wet in the world of digital advertising often find their infrastructure is not prepared for the new traffic these ads will bring. The unfortunate result is unresponsive ads, slow loading landing pages – which causes users to leave – and a poor return on investment.

Expect digital advertisers to react with improved infrastructure and greater investment in IT. At INAP, we have the expertise and experience to keep your digital advertising running at optimal levels, even during peak periods of activity. Our data centers are located near major advertising markets, and we ensure that all our services meet the rigorous demands of your digital advertising environment.

Contact us today to learn how our high-performance, low-latency digital advertising solutions will help you meet and exceed your business goals.

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Jan 19, 2018

4 Trends That Will Impact Healthcare Technology in 2018


Advancements to Improve Patient Care.

Healthcare is one of the nation’s largest and oldest industries.

As a field focused on patient care and treatment, it’s essential for healthcare companies and product developers to remain at the forefront of technological innovations to provide better, faster and more comprehensive care.

Here are four emerging technologies and trends that will shape healthcare innovation in 2018.

1. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is one of the most exciting modern developments in healthcare. This technology changes a viewer’s vision while keeping them grounded in their surrounding reality.

AR technology can have many applications within healthcare. For example, augmented reality can be used by surgeons to help locate the relative location of a tumor within an organ.

Augmented reality can also be used to help patients and physicians better describe symptoms of diseases. Physicians can use augmented reality displays to show patients the potential complications that occur from a treatment or the effects of delaying such a treatment. Augmented reality will help healthcare providers better model, visualize and treat diseases and conditions.

2. Telemedicine

Telemedicine – the distribution of healthcare services or monitoring of symptoms through remote devices – is expected to continue its growth in 2018.

Telemedicine provides benefits in cost and efficiency, especially for populations in rural or geographically isolated areas. Patients who would otherwise be unable to receive treatment due to location can engage with healthcare providers remotely through telemedicine.

Telemedicine is moving from novelty to a real treatment option. According to Mercer, 59 percent of large employers offered health insurance that provided telemedicine services in 2017. Increased coverage of the service has led to rising adoption rates as the practice becomes more available.

Telemedicine has also become more affordable to implement. When combined with increased patient information security and new technologies which make remote monitoring more efficient, telemedicine becomes a much more viable healthcare option.

3. Big Data in Healthcare

Improved technology will also play a role in the collection and analysis of big data.

The amount of collected data in healthcare is enormous. Everything from patient records to treatment outcomes is meticulously recorded, giving healthcare providers large data sets to work with. Analytics provides the ability to sift through and interpret large data sets, bringing quantitative insights to healthcare providers.

Consider the wellness devices or fitness tracker apps that many people are using. The data from these sources may soon be integrated with the records used by primary care physicians to provide a more comprehensive view of their patients’ overall health. This means providers will have the ability to more accurately diagnose diseases, offer better treatment options and predict future complications.

4. Information Security

Information security is a technical hot button issue across all industries and healthcare is no exception.

Healthcare data is among the most sensitive and personal. Specific laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandate that patient info is kept secure. Consequently, healthcare administrators must ensure that data is protected from hackers, who are getting more creative in their attempts to access restricted information. To address growing security challenges, healthcare providers will need to enhance and update their IT infrastructure.

Technological advances such as the proliferation of smart health devices bring their own security risks. Smart devices can be compromised if not properly patched and updated. Within a healthcare and personal information context, the compromise of such devices could be catastrophic. As technological solutions further permeate the healthcare industry, healthcare providers will need to work harder to safeguard their networks and devices to solidify their informational security.

Preparing for Healthcare Technology Advancements

With all of the technological innovation that will be impacting the healthcare industry, it’s more apparent than ever the need for a robust and secure infrastructure to power the systems that are improving patient care and protecting their information.

INAP provides affordable, dependable and scalable infrastructure solutions to meet the growing performance demands placed on life sciences and healthcare technology companies. Whether your business needs additional storage options to stay ahead of an influx of data or services that ensure your company remains HIPAA-compliant, our experts have the solution to your infrastructure needs.

Contact us today to learn how your environment will benefit from INAP’s dedicated healthcare technology solutions.

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Jan 11, 2018

3 Online Retail Technology Trends That Will Shape 2018


The Future of Online Shopping.

The future is looking bright for eCommerce.

It’s no secret that more shoppers are turning to the internet to make their purchases. Just look at the record sales numbers reported by online retailers on Thanksgiving and Black Friday in 2017. During the same period, less money was spent at traditional retailers compared to previous holiday shopping weekends.

But what is driving these massive gains in market share and revenue for online retailers?

Here are three technology trends that will help online shopping continue its growth in 2018.

1. Voice Purchases

The future of eCommerce may run through voice-directed purchasing.

In 2017, 40 percent of millennials used a voice assistant prior to making a purchase. The proliferation of voice assistants ­– such as Siri, Alexa and Google Home –­ will ensure that number will continue to rise.

[Tweet “In 2017, 40 percent of millennials used a voice assistant prior to making a purchase.”]

A few businesses are already capitalizing on voice purchasing technology. In 2016, Domino’s allowed customers to order a pizza by speaking to internet-connected smart home devices.

Johnnie Walker, a distributor of Scotch whiskey, has also used voice assistance to help customers learn about their product and receive cocktail recipes.

Voice-directed purchases benefit both retailers and customers by reducing barriers and increasing accessibility. As voice-directed devices and online retailers become further integrated, voice purchases will drive even more eCommerce behavior.

2. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is expected to take another big step forward in the world of online shopping in the next year.

AR changes aspects of a viewer’s surrounding reality while keeping the user grounded within their actual physical environment.

For example, customers can use AR to see how products would look in their homes or virtually “try on” clothing before purchasing. Sephora uses AR within a virtual makeup app that allows customers to see how beauty products would look on them before purchasing. And Home Depot’s mobile app lets customers use their phones to place anything from faucets to doors in their homes so they can see how it fits in before buying.

Using AR can break down the single greatest barrier to an online purchase – the inability to see or feel a product in person. Through AR, customers will be able to visualize and test out products before making a financial investment. This will greatly reduce both abandoned shopping carts, as well as product returns.

3. Chatbots and Machine Learning

Finally, 2018 will see greater and more widespread use of chatbots within portals.

Chatbots, or automated applications that simulate human conversation, have already made significant forays into eCommerce. For instance, there are already chatbots on Facebook’s Messenger app that can be used to purchase items, get health tips or call for a cab.

2018 will bring a greater availability of chatbots as well as more natural and helpful interactions. The original chatbot was a relatively simple application. By handling queries and answering specific requests, the chatbot mimicked human behavior. The real epiphany though came with machine learning. As data became more readily available, chatbots became more responsive and adaptive to user needs.

As a result, chatbots will be more intelligent, and thus more helpful for customers looking to make any financial transaction, whether it’s purchasing a new pair of shoes or booking a flight.

Infrastructure Driven eCommerce

Consumers only see the end-user technology designed to make online shopping easier and more user friendly.

They probably aren’t thinking about the most important part of their experience – the robust technical infrastructure that supports whatever app, website or platform they are using.

Successful online retailers require a powerful hosting service that can handle high traffic at any time. Customers will flee portals that do not load properly and won’t trust environments with slow or error-prone transactions.

At INAP, our team provides high-performance colocation, hosting and network services to ensure your online retail environment is lightning fast, even during the busiest shopping periods. Contact us today to learn more about our flexible and scalable options to improve your IT infrastructure and drive revenue.

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Jan 8, 2018

3 eLearning and Online Education Tech Trends for 2018


Learning in the Online Classroom.

Online education has become a staple of modern learning.

Originally conceived as a supplemental tool to traditional classrooms, online education has emerged as a serious alternative to the physical classroom environment.

Rising costs for tuition and attendance, as well as greater exposure of online devices, has pushed the market for education away from brick and mortar schools to personalized curriculums online. And as data from online education becomes more available, you can expect education to become even more personalized and customizable to the individual student’s needs and expectations.

INAP has identified three tech trends that will shape online education and eLearning in 2018.

1. Gamification in Online Education

One of the first trends, gamification, has already been in use by several online educators.

For example, Khan Academy ­– a free online resource providing tutoring in subjects such as mathematics to art history – has used gamification since its inception. In Khan Academy, users are given experience points and badges as they complete courses and assessments. The in-game achievements simulate the progress-oriented narrative of popular video games.

This game-like behavior has been shown to increase student engagement and improve overall outcomes because learning models that incorporate game-like experiences provide an immediate sense of purpose and achievement.

Expect more eLearning organizations to utilize or improve their gamification techniques in 2018.

2. Augmented Reality in Online Education

Augmented reality (AR) is another emerging technology that can be applied to online education. This technology changes aspects of a viewer’s surroundings without removing the physical reality.

The potential for AR use in education is enormous. For instance, students learning about ancient history can use augmented reality to enter a Roman house or see themselves draped in the armor of a Roman centurion. The enhanced visual experience can help students better conceptualize and digest their educational material. This can be especially important for remote students, who can feel disconnected from their learning environments.

AR’s ability to foster interaction with learning materials gives the remote classroom a solution to help solve the physical disconnect between remote students. In addition, it can make the overall learning experience more fun and engaging.

3. Personalized Lessons in Online Education

Both AR and gamification play into our final trend, which is an increased personalization of the learning experience. After cost and accessibility, perhaps the single greatest advantage that online education has over traditional methodologies is the potential for personalization and customization.

In a traditional classroom, the instructor’s attention needs to be divided among several different students with different learning abilities; whereas, online education allows for students to each receive a tailored experience.

Much of this is possible because of the data-rich environment in which online learning lives. With rich data available, instructors can find trends and patterns that best fit their students’ needs. This is only going to increase as data becomes more available. Lesson plans and curriculums can be customized to fit student needs in both pace and depth of content. When students receive lessons that cater to their strengths and needs, their education benefits.

The Right Underlying Infrastructure

Proper online education providers need significant and reliable infrastructures to operate. You wouldn’t learn anything from an eLearning service with resources that are always unavailable or slow.

To prepare for the demands of online students, eLearning platforms and applications require solutions that are high performing with reliable uptime and low latency.

As an IT infrastructure provider, INAP helps some of the most successful education technology organizations with their performance needs. INAP has a variety of different solutions catered to the unique requirements of eLearning companies. Whether it’s colocation, managed hosting or cloud solutions, INAP provides data center services that will match your project needs and budget.

Contact us today to learn about our flexible and scalable solutions to keep your education technology at the head of the class.

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Dec 21, 2017

5 Highlights from the Gartner IO Conference 2017


Insights and Advice from our Experts

INAP was fortunate to be a sponsor at Gartner’s annual IT Infrastructure, Operations Management & Data Center Conference 2017 in Las Vegas.

In addition to exhibiting our high-performance managed hosting and service solutions, our team of experts had the opportunity to attend some of the popular keynotes and sessions throughout the four-day event.

The conference included more than 150 sessions, so naturally we weren’t able to attend every one. We would have liked to, but since time travel is still unreliable at best, our experts picked the sessions they knew would be most relevant to the future of our business and our ever-evolving industry.

And they weren’t disappointed.

Here are five key industry insights and trends our experts brought home with them from the Gartner IO Conference.

1. Make Way for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

You probably already use some form of automation in your business. Chatbots and virtual assistants are increasing in popularity, but are you doing enough to improve the efficiency of your infrastructure?

During their opening keynote address, Gartner’s Milind Govekar and Dave Russell predicted that if you don’t effectively adapt artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into your environment and workloads by 2020, your infrastructure may not be operationally and economically viable.

As a result, they expect an increase in software-centric or programmable infrastructure to support advanced platform thinking and integration with minimal human intervention. If utilized correctly, this technology will enable your environment to process more data faster with less cost.

Stay tuned.

2. Living on the Edge

It was just a few years ago that the internet of things (IoT) took off as the next big advancement in digital technology.

Businesses now need to embrace the edge by blending physical and digital resources to create an experience that provides value and makes a difference.

It’s not about rolling out technology for the sake of doing it. In a session about top trends in 2018 and their impact on infrastructure and operations, Gartner VP David Cappuccio pointed out the necessity of creating an intelligent edge. This focuses on utilizing connected devices that provide a real-time reaction and allow for interaction between things and people to solve a critical business need.

3. Data is More Valuable Than Ever

In a digital world of AI, connected devices and intelligent edges, data is becoming even more important.

Machine learning and automated systems will require additional data to analyze trends and behaviors to make logical decisions to improve efficiency, especially when connected with multiple devices. To manage the influx of digital information, a greater priority will be placed on data storage and backup. (Shameless self-promotion: INAP launched a new managed storage offering during this conference.)

More data also means more opportunities for hackers, and businesses are being forced to take additional steps to combat this risk. In a session about the state of business continuity management, we learned that average disaster recovery budgets were expected to increase in 2017.

4. Cloud Reaches New Heights

One of the overwhelming themes that kept coming up during sessions and keynotes was a focus on the cloud.

You’re probably already familiar with some of the stats that predict massive increases in cloud computing over the next few years. Gartner’s Govekar and Russell doubled down on those forecasts, claiming that by 2021, 80 percent of organizations using DevOps will deploy new services in the public cloud.

It appears we can expect more businesses to transition to a cloud-only model, where before it was just cloud first. The impact remains to be seen.

5. Mind the Skills Gap

With technical innovation and the transition to a more cloud-focused infrastructure, IT teams are being driven to master additional skills.

Some employees may be fast learners, but the reality for most businesses is that they’ll likely experience disruptions due to infrastructure and operational skills gaps.

Rather than being specialists or generalists, IT talent should strive to become versatilists – meaning they are a specialist for a certain discipline, but can easily switch to another role. In the meantime, companies need to consider the experience level of their existing teams when rushing to adapt new technology.

Implementing New Trends

Your business may already be in the process of implementing changes based on these trends. Or perhaps you’re aware that you need to get the ball rolling, but you’re not ready just yet.

Regardless of where you currently sit, you should consider how these trends will impact your industry and business model or you risk being left in your competitors’ dust.

It may seem like a daunting task, but you don’t have to do it alone. Consider a trusted partner who will be there every step of the way to provide guidance, support and the necessary services to help you achieve your business goals. That’s where INAP comes in. Our team of experts will assist you in preparing your organization and infrastructure for the technology of tomorrow. Contact us to learn how we can help you build a better IT infrastructure for today and the future.

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