Second Tech Belt Summit Draws Larger Crowd

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- The Tech Belt Technology Summit held at Youngstown State is gaining momentum as evidenced by this year's turnout, says its core sponsor.

"It's bigger," relates Mike Meloy, president of Data Recovery Systems LLC here. "We have a lot more sponsors."

Last year, Meloy reports, the inaugural event was a great success that drew a strong turnout across the community. "Vendors saw that,” he said. “They were happy with what they saw, so it's expanded."

On Thursday, 210 registered for the daylong series of workshops, speakers and seminars related to issues that confront the world of technology. Another 28 vendors opted to set up booths and displays in the atrium of the Williamson College of Business Administration.

Such conferences are essential for professionals to stay abreast with the fast-paced world of technology, Meloy emphasizes, because business and consumer must keep up with the changes.

"There's issues related to security, disaster recovery, and business continuity that we have to deal with because of these new threats out there," he says. "This is just one area where we see major change."

Among this year's additions to the event is a panel discussion that focused on the changing role of the public sector and how it treats technology such as fiber and communications.

"It's really interesting how government now is trying to turn a lot of what we do into a utility, much like power, water and sewer," Meloy says. "They're now adding fiber and Internet to that."

Todd Jackson, chief information officer for the city of Westerville, near Columbus, says an initiative his city launched some years ago -- WeConnect -- established the first city-owned data center of its kind in the country.

"It's really technology infrastructure that can be used as a tool by our economic development director," Jackson said. "We can attract and retain businesses."

Westerville treats its technology infrastructure much the same as it treats water or sewer. "We run it as a utility, so the fees generated are what paid to keep the systems running and so forth," Jackson said.

Jackson was on a panel that included Sharon Woodberry, Youngstown economic development director, Jason Bechtold, economic development director of Westerville, Greg Dunn, a partner in Ice Miller at Whiteboard, Jeff Gamrath, a consultant at Ice Miller, and Tony Paglia, vice president for media and government relations at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

The Regional Chamber co-sponsored the event.

In 2005 and 2006, Westerville was looking for ways to expand its fiber footprint and address gaps in broadband and data center services, Jackson related. "The community data center came into mind," he said, which in turn incorporated a disaster-recovery element. "It was really a community offering that was needed," he said.

Bechtold reported the initiative has helped create or retain more than 700 jobs over the last two years while another 45 were created last quarter largely because of the fiber and data system.

The Tech Belt Technology Summit hosted parallel workshops, or tracks throughout the day. Each track was directed to a specific professional discipline. One featured programs and sessions for chief information officers, another informational topics related to business owners and executives, and the third was geared to technology professionals.

The tracks, divided into four 50-minute sessions, covered topics such as mobile-device security, disaster recovery and business continuity, increasing one’s business with IT, leveraging fiber and connecting with the cloud, and data center management best practices.

John O'Neill Sr., chief technologist for AWS Solutions and an author who's written on tech issues, said his area of expertise is Windows Expert IT Pro. "I just love to learn about technology and share with others," he remarked, and the summit was the perfect venue.

"One of the biggest challenges for technologists, as well as the business and organizations they support, is that business and information is flowing faster than ever," O'Neill said. "Things that used to take days take minutes. Things that used to take minutes take seconds."

Cloud-based solutions and other enabling technology have helped businesses move forward without calling in tech professionals to support back-end technology. "You don't have to have the expertise you used to require," he said. In the past, if a business wanted to deploy Windows technology, it needed a Windows expert. "Now, when you find strategic partners like DRS, you go to them and teach them about your business, about your need, which is what you should be spending your time on. They bring the expertise in the back end."

O'Neill says the tech world is undergoing a shift from hardware "things" to subscription-based services and expects that trend to continue.

"Nowadays, we go and buy computers and they have Windows on them and such things," he added. "In five years, much of that will shift to a services model, much like a utility."

Copyright 2013 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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