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August 16th, 2014

Virtualization_Aug11_BWhile there are numerous tech systems available to small and medium size businesses, one of the most useful has proven to be virtualization. This movement of physical systems to a virtual counterpart offers many benefits when implemented correctly. Administered poorly however and you could see systems fail. To help avoid this, it is worthwhile being aware of five common ways virtualization fails.

1. Migration is forced before it is ready

One of the biggest reasons virtualization fails is that it is pushed before the company is ready for it. For example, it could be that the IT team is forced to fast-track virtualization, resulting in staff being forced to drop all other tasks and focus on migration.

If you rush, the chances of failure and mistakes always rise. And when it comes to changing systems from physical to virtual, mistakes can be compounded, thus increasing overall migration time and costs.

To avoid this you should take the time to conduct research on solutions available, workloads, applications to the move, and your specific business needs. Once you are across this, you should also take the time to get to know your systems and test them before migration.

2. Trying to implement a management plan after virtualizing systems

Some companies decide to virtualize first, and then try to figure out how to manage systems after migration is complete. This will almost always result in inefficiencies and frustration as the pressure is on not just to learn how to manage but also how to use this solution.

In order to see a more successful virtualization, you should have a management plan in place before you migrate your systems. You should look at how virtual machines will be managed, who will be doing what, as well as what systems you are going to use, and more. One of the best times to develop an overall management plan is when you are in the testing phase, well before actual migration. This will give you an idea of how systems will work in reality and how you can manage them.

3. Virtualization without employee buy-in, or involving employees

We have seen companies implement a virtualization solution without having full buy-in from the employees who will be using and managing the system. What this results in is confusion, resentment, lost efficiency, and, in some extreme situations, sabotage.

In order to successfully introduce a virtualized solution, you should ensure that all employees who will be using the system are not only aware of it but are trained on how to use it and have been given a fair chance to air their opinions. If you can achieve employee buy-in, there is a better chance that the systems will be used more effectively, and employees will be more open to other solutions being implemented.

4. Assuming one solution that works for others will work for you

An easy mistake to make is to only consider solutions successfully implemented by other businesses. The fact is, every business is different, and you should be looking for a solution that meets your specific needs.

If you go with a ready-made solution, or one-size-fits-all solution, it will likely work to some extent. However, there is a good chance that it will not completely meet your needs. This will likely result in either lost efficiency or increased investment in order to get what you need.

We recommend looking for a provider who can meet your virtualization needs with tailor made solutions. This way you will get what you need straightaway and likely not need to invest more in the future.

5. Not managing your virtual solution after implementation

Unlike some tech solutions, virtualization is not really a 'set it and forget it' type of solution. You will need to manage it from the start if you want to be able to get the most out of your systems. This includes ensuring resources are being allocated properly; machines are created and shut down properly; apps and systems are updated; and more.

While virtualized solutions do require less management than their physical counterparts, they still require some management and you will need people to help you do that. One of the best solutions is to work with an IT partner like us who can help manage your systems and ensure that they are working efficiently.

In fact, we offer a wide variety of virtualization solutions. By working with us, we can help take some of the virtualization load off and allow you to focus on running your business. If you would like to learn more, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 15th, 2014

Data is an integral component to any business. Without it we would not be able to make decisions, develop marketing campaigns, or even operate. The issue many businesses face however is that the amount of data they generate and capture is increasing exponentially and it can be a challenge to collect and leverage it. One solution is to integrate a data warehouse, but how do you know if your business needs one?

What is a data warehouse?

A data warehouse is a system used by companies for data analysis and reporting. The main purpose of the data warehouse is to integrate, or bring together, data from a number of different sources into one centralized location. The vast majority of the data they store is current or historical data that is used to create reports or reveal trends.

Possibly the biggest benefit of a data warehouse is that it can pull data from different sources e.g., marketing, sales, finance, etc. and use this different data to formulate detailed reports on demand. Essentially, a data warehouse cuts down the time required to find and analyze important data.

While not every business will need one right this minute, a solid data warehouse could help make operations easier and more efficient, especially when compared with other data storage solutions. That being said, it can be tough to figure out if you actually need one. In order to help, we have come up with five signs that show your business is ready to implement a data warehouse.

1. Heavy reliance on spreadsheets

Regardless of business size, the spreadsheet is among the most important business tools out there. Used by pretty much every department in a company, they can be a great way of tracking data. The problem many business owners run across however is that spreadsheets can grow to immense sizes and can become unwieldy.

Combine this with the fact that each department has spreadsheets that you will likely need to pull data from in order to generate a report. If this is the case, you are creating manual reports, which can take a lot of your time.

If you are struggling to find the data you need because it is spread out across different sheets, in different departments, then it may be time to implement a data warehouse.

2. Data is overwhelming your spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are designed to operate with a set amount of data (rows and columns). Reach, or exceed this limit, and you will find that the file becomes sluggish or will downright prevent you adding more data.

While it can take a while to get to this point, companies will reach it if they keep adding to their data. At this point you will see a drop in productivity and overall effectiveness in how you use your data. Therefore, a data warehouse that can combine data from different sheets may be a great solution.

3. You spend too much time waiting

If you set out to develop a report, only to find out that you need to wait for colleagues to provide the information on their spreadsheets, or to analyze their data, you could find yourself waiting for a longer than expected time.

This makes you highly ineffective and can be downright frustrating, especially if employees are too busy or just can't provide the information needed. Implementing a data warehouse can help centralize data and make it available to all team members more effectively. This cuts down the time spent actually having to track it down and communicating with colleagues.

4. Discrepancies in data and reports

Have you noticed that when team leaders or members in different departments create reports that the data or findings are different from yours, or other reports? Not only is this frustrating, it is also time consuming to sort out and could lead to costly mistakes.

This can be amplified if some departments have data sources that they don't share with other teams, as this can throw doubt into the solidity of your data and other reports. If you have reached this point, and realize that there are discrepancies in your data, it may be time to look into a data warehouse which can help sort out problems while ensuring mistakes like duplicate data are eliminated.

5. Too much time spent generating reports

Ideally, we should be able to generate a report using existing data almost instantly, or with as few clicks as possible. If you find that when generating a report you have to keep going to different sources to check if the data is updated, or to keep manually updating other sources, you could quickly see the amount of time needed to develop a report grow.

Because data warehouses consolidate data, you only have to turn to one source for data. Combine with the fact that many data warehouses can be set up to automatically update if source data is updated or changed, and you can guarantee that the data you are using is always correct.

Looking to learn more about data warehouses, or about the different data solutions we offer? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 8th, 2014

Security_Aug05_BWhen it comes to business security, many small to medium business owners and managers often struggle to ensure that their systems and computers are secure from the various attacks and malware out there. While there are a million and one things you can do to secure systems, one of the most useful approaches is to be aware of common security threats. To help, here are five common ways your systems can be breached.

1. You are tricked into installing malicious software

One of the most common ways a system's security is breached is through malware being downloaded by the user. In almost every case where malware is installed the reason is because the user was tricked into downloading it.

A common trick used by hackers is to plant malware in software and then place this software on a website. When a user visits the site, they are informed that they need to download the software in order for the site to load properly. Once downloaded, the malware infects the system. Other hackers send emails out with a file attached, where only the file contains malware.

There are a nearly limitless number of ways you can be tricked into downloading and installing malware. Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid this:

  • Never download files from an untrusted location - If you are looking at a website that is asking you to download something, make sure it's from a company you know about and trust. If you are unsure, it's best to avoid downloading and installing the software.
  • Always look at the name of the file before downloading - Many pieces of malware are often disguised with file names that are similar to other files, with only a slight spelling mistake or some weird wording. If you are unsure about the file then don't download it. Instead, contact us as we may be able to help verify the authenticity or provide a similar app.
  • Stay away from torrents, sites with adult content, and movie streaming sites - These sites often contain malware, so it is best to avoid them altogether.
  • Always scan a file before installing it - If you do download files, be sure to get your virus scanner to scan these before you open the apps. Most scanners are equipped do this, normally by right-clicking on the file and selecting Scan with….

2. Hackers are able to alter the operating system settings

Many users are logged into their computers as admins. Being an administrator allows you to change any and all settings, install programs, and manage other accounts.

If a hacker manages to access your computer and you are set up as the admin, they will have full access to your computer. This means they could install other malicious software, change settings or even completely hijack the machine. The biggest worry about this however, is if a hacker gets access to a computer that is used to manage the overall network. Should this happen, they could gain control over all the systems on the network and do what they please on it.

In order to avoid this, you should ensure that if a user doesn't need to install files or change settings on the computer, they do not have administrator access. Beyond this, installing security software like anti-virus scanners and keeping them up to date, as well as conducting regular scans, will help reduce the chances of being infected, or seeing infections spread.

3. Someone physically accesses your computer

It really feels like almost every security threat these days is digital or is trying to infect your systems and network from the outside. However, there are many times when malware is introduced into systems, or data is stolen, because someone has physically had access to your systems.

For example, you leave your computer on when you go for lunch and someone walks up to it, plugs in a USB drive with malware on it and physically infects your system. Or, it could be they access your system and manually reset the password, thereby locking you out and giving them access.

What we are trying to say here is that not all infections or breaches arrive via the Internet. What we recommend is to ensure that you password protect your computer - you need to enter a password in order to access it. You should also be sure that when you are away from your computer it is either turned off, or you are logged off.

Beyond that, it is a good idea to disable drives like CD/DVD and connections like USB if you don't use them. This will limit the chances that someone will be able to use a CD or USB drive to infect your computer.

4. It's someone from within the company

We have seen a number of infections and security breaches that were carried out by a disgruntled employee. It could be that they delete essential data, or remove it from the system completely. Some have even gone so far as to introduce highly destructive malware.

While it would be great to say that every business has the best employees, there is always a chance a breach can be carried out by an employee. The most effective way to prevent this, aside from ensuring your employees are happy, is to limit access to systems.

Take a look at what your employees have access to. For example, you may find that people in marketing have access to finance files or even admin panels. The truth is, your employees don't need access to everything, so take steps to limit access to necessary systems. Combine this with the suggestions above - limiting admin access and installing scanners - and you can likely limit or even prevent employee initiated breaches.

5. Your password is compromised

Your password is the main way you can verify and access your accounts and systems. The issue is, many people have weak passwords. There has been a steady increase in the number of services that have been breached with user account data being stolen. If a hacker was to get a hold of say your username, and you have a weak password, it could only be a matter of time before they have access to your account.

If this happens, your account is compromised. Combine this with the fact that many people use the same password for multiple accounts, and you could see a massive breach leading to data being stolen, or worse - your identity.

It is therefore a good idea to use a separate password for each account you have. Also, make sure that the passwords used are strong and as different as possible from each other. One tool that could help ensure this is a password manager which generates a different password for each account.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring your systems are secure, contact us today to learn about how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
August 7th, 2014

BCP_Aug05_BMost IT experts will agree that in order for a business to survive, they need some sort of recovery or continuity plan in place. Regardless of the type of plan, or systems integrated, all systems need to have a back up mechanism. In the last article, we took a look at four tips to help improve your data backups, and continue this article with the final four.

5. Automate your backup

It can be tough to actually remember to back up your files, especially if your business is busy. Therefore, you could look into an automated backup solution. At the very least, you should set a schedule as to when backups are conducted and set what is being backed up. While this isn't a full automation, a schedule will help.

If you are using solutions like the cloud or NAS (Network Attached Storage), you can usually automate the process by selecting which files and folders to back up and when. The software that powers these solutions will then do this automatically.

Ideally, your backups should be carried out automatically to ensure your data is available should you need it. But you should check periodically to ensure that your data is actually being backed up. This is especially true if you are backing up other systems, as there have been cases where employees have become frustrated by the backup process and simply turned it off. The business owner, thinking their data was being backed up would be in for a bit of a shock when systems crashed, if this was the case.

6. Back up your backups

Redundancy of your backups is just as important as actually backing up your data. You should keep a backup of your backup in case something happens to your original backup. While this doesn't have to be carried out as often as the 'normal' backup, this should be done on a regular basis.

In order to really ensure backup redundancy we recommend that if your main backup is kept on-site, then the secondary backup should be on another storage medium that is kept off-site.

7. Don't forget data stored on non-physical drives

What we are referring to here is the data stored on different services like your email, social media, and non-physical locations. This is especially true if you say have you own servers. It's highly likely that there is data stored on these services as well, and should they go down and you haven't kept a backup, you may lose important information.

Essentially, think about critical data that is used in the company, but isn't physically kept on computers. It may feel like this is going a step too far with backups, especially for businesses who use email services like Exchange and Gmail. However, while the chances of these systems going down are incredibly rare, it could still happen. Therefore, you should conduct a monthly to bi-yearly backup just to ensure that data is there somewhere should something happen.

8. Test your backups

Finally, it is beneficial to actually test your backups from time-to-time to ensure that they are not only working but the data is actually recoverable. If you do a trial run on recovering your data, you can get a good idea of how long it will take to retrieve this information when you actually need to recover it. You can then take steps to optimize this and let the relevant people know.

Also, testing is a good way to discover any problems, e.g., if someone has disabled backups, or one solution isn't working. This will ensure that your data is there when you need it.

If you are looking to integrate a data backup solution, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 31st, 2014

SocialMedia_July28_BLinkedIn is one of the best social platforms for business users who want to share thoughts, ideas, and content with their colleagues and connections. This professional oriented network offers a wide number of features that allow and encourage this, including the newly implemented ability to create long-form content for your profile and connections.

About LinkedIn's new publishing platform

Like other social networks, LinkedIn allows users to publish posts on their profile which are then visible to other users. In the past, there was a limit as to how long the posts could be, which influenced how users shared the content they generated. Most would simply copy and paste a link to their content into a post on their LinkedIn profile.

In an effort to make sharing thoughts, ideas, expertise, etc. easier, LinkedIn has implemented the long-form post. This feature allows you to create longer content, such as blog articles and opinion pieces, and post this directly on LinkedIn. In other words, you can now use LinkedIn as a blog which is shared with your connections.

If you create long-form content, this could be a useful way to get posts out to an even wider audience than through your blog. This is because when you publish a post on LinkedIn, it becomes part of your overall profile, with the post being visible under the Posts section of your profile. New long-form posts will also be published and shared with all of your contacts automatically.

This means that you could technically increase the overall reach of your content, especially if the content you produce is useful to your LinkedIn connections.

Writing long-form content on LinkedIn

If you would like to start publishing long-form content using your LinkedIn profile, you should be able to do so by:
  1. Logging into your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Pressing the pencil in the box that says Share an update…
Note: This update is still rolling out to users, so you may not be able to produce long-form content just yet. If you don't see the pencil in the Share an update… box, you will need to wait for a few weeks, or until you get an email from LinkedIn saying the feature is ready for you to use.

If you do see the pencil icon, click on it to open the long-form post screen. It looks like most other Web-based publishing and writing platforms with the usual formatting buttons and text field where you input the content.

You can write your article directly on this page, but many choose to write using a program they are comfortable with and then copy and paste into the text field. If you want to add images to your post, you can simply click where you would like the image to slot into the content and select the camera icon from the menu bar above the text field. Select the image and hit Submit. You can then resize the image by clicking and dragging on it.

Saving and editing your content

Once you have finished writing we strongly recommend you hit the Save button at the bottom of the text field. This will save the content to your profile, but will not post it. This means you can edit the content before publishing. To do this, click on Preview which will open your post in another window, allowing you to see what the post will look like on your profile.

While in Preview mode, be sure to check the spelling and grammar, along with the overall formatting. If you spot anything that needs to be changed simply switch back to the editing tab on your browser and make any amendments.

When you have finished writing, formatting, and editing you can then hit the Publish button. This will then publish the content on your profile and share it with your connections.

If you have content that you think your connections and colleagues would benefit from reading, then this new LinkedIn feature could prove to be useful and should be considered as a larger part of your overall content strategy.

Looking to learn more about LinkedIn and how you can leverage it in your business? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
July 25th, 2014

BusinessValue_July21_BTechnology is constantly evolving, and many businesses simply struggle to keep up with the changes, or even to manage their own existing solutions. While some may have come to terms with this and accept it as a challenge to running their business, there is an option available which could help many small business owners - outsourcing your IT to a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

What is an MSP?

When small to medium businesses look to outsource the management of their technology, many turn to a Managed Services Provider. These service providers function as partners in the management of a business's technology and often assume responsibility for managing, installing, and monitoring all, or at least a large part, of your tech on your behalf.

Because many of these IT partners are focused on technology services, they can often provide technology services equal to, or better than, hiring an in-house IT team. Beyond that, most IT partners offer services at a fixed monthly rate, thus allowing your business to effectively budget for IT expenditures.

5 Ways an IT partner can help

Aside from stabilizing costs and offering powerful IT solutions, there are many ways an IT partner can help your business. Here are 5:

1. Provide stability and direction

Technology is always changing, and the number of services and solutions available is simply staggering. Do you go with Windows, OS X, or Linux for your operating system? What about servers? Do you want cloud services? If so, which? Simply picking the right solution for your business requires an IT expert.

IT partners know technology and take the time to get to know your business needs and goals. From there, they can help pick and implement the best solutions that will support your current demands and provide the necessary IT platform on which you can stably expand your business.

2. Allow you to focus on your core business function

Anyone who is not an IT expert but has been thrust into the role of managing technology quickly comes to realize that technology management and implementation is a full time job. What this means in many small businesses is that someone has to give up time focusing on their main role to focus on technology. This inevitably results in a loss of overall productivity.

By outsourcing your IT, you and your employees can focus on core business functions, without having to worry about pressing technology issues and staying up-to-date with tech developments. This results in an overall increase in productivity.

3. Help you learn how to leverage technology to meet your business goals

To many, new technology like the cloud, advanced databases, and web languages like HTML and CSS are simply too confusing. They may even be downright scary! When people feel overwhelmed by technology, they will often not be able to use it in the best possible way or they will shy away from it. This can lead to decreased productivity, unused technology, and a wasted investment.

Many IT partners don't just install and manage systems, they also take the time to ensure that employees are comfortable with them and understand how to use them. This increases overall tech buy-in and can in turn reduce wasted investments, saving you money in the long run.

4. Enable you to use the latest technology

A common complaint of many who work in small to medium businesses is that the technology systems in the company are old or slow. This is largely due to the fact that many businesses operate on thin margins and simply cannot afford to update systems or integrate new ones.

IT partners offer their services to many different companies and therefore need to ensure that they are using the latest technology. Because most of these services are offered over the Web, they can pass along the features and updates to your business without you having to invest in new technology.

Beyond this, many MSPs offer full-service solutions that include picking the best technology for your business. They can install systems based on your budget and also manage them, ensuring that systems remain up-to-date and fully support your business needs.

5. Ensure compliance

Many industries like healthcare, education, finance, and real estate, require that businesses comply with strict regulations regarding technology and its use. Some governments even require that all businesses meet privacy regulations, making it difficult for businesses to know what the requirements are and if they are actually compliant.

IT partners also operate in these industries and are compliant. This means that they can often ensure that your business and systems are also meeting regulations.

If you are looking for an IT partner who can help your business get the most out of your technology, contact us today to learn more about our managed services.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 24th, 2014

BCP_July21_BWhile there are many different and important tasks a business needs to do, one of the most important is to back up data. Your data is important, and it really is a matter of when, not if, you will face a crisis where data will be lost. Most business owners realize this and do back up their data, but it can be a challenge to find a complete solution. In order to help, we have come up with eight data backup tips.

1. Pick the backup solution that works best for your business

When it comes to backing up the data on your company's computers and systems, most companies consider five main options:
  • Internal hard drives - You can either use another hard drive installed in your computer or partition an existing hard drive so that it functions as a separate drive on which you back your data up. This is a quick option, however should your computer or the hard drive fail - two of the most common computer failures - then you will lose this data.
  • External hard drives - These drives are essentially separate hard drives that you connect to your computer via a USB or other connection. Many of these drives allow for one touch backup and can be configured to back up data at certain times. While these can be useful, especially if you want to keep data backups easily accessible, they are prone to the same potential failure as internal drives.
  • Removable drives or media - For example, USB flash drives, DVDs, etc. These are great for backing up work you are doing at the moment or for transferring small files from one machine to another. These options are limited by smaller storage sizes however, so backing up even one computer will likely require multiple disks or drives.
  • Cloud-based backup - This is the act of backing up your files to a backup provider over the Internet. Your files are stored off-site and can be restored as long as you have an Internet connection. For many businesses, this has become the main form of backup employed, largely due to cost and convenience - files can be backed up in the background. The biggest downside of this backup option however is that you do need an Internet connection for it to work and you will see more bandwidth being used, which could result in slower overall Internet speeds when files are being backed up.
  • NAS - Network Attached Storage, is a physical device that has slots for multiple hard drives. You connect this to your network and the storage space on the hard drives is pooled together and delivered to users. This solution is like a mix of cloud-based and external backup, only the device is usually in your office. While it is a good backup solution, it can get expensive, especially if you have a large number of systems to back up.
There are a wide variety of backup solutions available, so it is a good idea to sit down and figure out which are best for your business. The vast majority of companies integrate multiple solutions in order to maximize the effectiveness of their backups and spread the risk of losing data around a bit.

2. Split your backup locations

Despite all of the backup options available, you can narrow these down to two categories, the fact that the backups are kept in two locations:
  • On-site - Data backup solutions that are kept in your office. This could include internal hard drives, or NAS, and more. The idea here is that the data backup is kept in your office. Some like USB drives may leave the office, but the main idea is that they are used primarily in the office.
  • Off-site - Data backup solutions are stored off-site, or out of the office. The best example of this is cloud-based backup where your data is stored in a data center, most likely in another city. Another example is backing up to hard drives and storing them in a secure location outside of the office.
In order to ensure that your data backups are available should you need them you could split up the locations where they are kept. Should you keep all of your backups on hard drives in the office and there is damage to the premises, you could see your data disappear. One of the most effective strategies is to have one set of backups on-site, and another off-site which will ensure that should there be a disaster in one location, the other will likely be safe and you will still be able to access your data.

3. Establish a standard naming and filing system

Have you ever seen how people organize their hard drives? Some like to use folders and subfolders that are organized neatly, while others tend to throw files into one general folder. The same can be said for they way files are named - there's just so many differences.

Because of these differences, it can be difficult to back up and recover files properly. We recommend that you pick a naming and file system that every file and folder will follow across all systems. This means backups will be quicker, you will be able to see what is new, and you will spend less time organizing files.

Beyond this, an efficient naming and organization structure goes a long way toward making it easier to find files and recover them should your systems go down.

4. Determine which files need to be preserved

While it may be tempting to back every file and folder up, in an effort to maximize efficiency of your solution, it is better to not back everything up. We aren't saying don't back anything up, but you should take time to identify what files and folders are to be backed up. For example, screenshots that have been uploaded to the Web may not need to be kept.

The same can be said for non-work related files. While these may be important to your personal life, they likely aren't to the business so should not be backed up onto your business backups.

Look at each file and folder and see if it has something to do with business decisions, or is in anyway tied to your business. If it is then it is probably a good idea to keep it.

Stay tuned for the next four tips coming soon. If you would like to learn more about data backups in the mean time however, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 19th, 2014

Virtualization_July14_BVirtualization is the act of moving a physical component or bit of software from a physical environment to a digital one that is normally delivered over a network. This concept has become one of the most sought after tech improvements of the past decade, especially among small to medium businesses. The only problem is, virtualization is complex and carries with it some confusing terminology. To make things easier, we have created a glossary of ten common virtualization terms.

1. Virtual Machine (VM)

You will often hear virtualization experts bandy about the term VM. What they are talking about when they say this is the Virtual Machine. The VM is essentially a virtual representation of the computer on your desk. It can do everything a physical machine does, only everything is virtual and usually delivered over a network connection.

Because VMs are software based, you can often run more than one VM on the same physical machine. This could equate to having say two separate versions of Windows running at the same time, or even running a different operating system, say Windows on your MacBook.

2. Virtual server

A specific type of VM, in this case a server, that is running in a virtual environment. A common setup many offices employ is to have one physical server on premise. This server then hosts separate virtual servers that in turn host different services like email, networking, storage, etc.

Other businesses choose to rely completely on virtual servers. This is where another company hosts the servers which are delivered to you over the Internet. To the computers and users it appears the servers are there on your network, and can be interacted with normally when in truth, the servers are actually virtual.

3. Virtual desktop

Much like the virtual server, the virtual desktop is a specific type of VM. In this case, it is a virtually delivered version of an operating system like Windows, Linux or even OS X.

Since the advent of virtual desktops, the idea that companies have to stick with one type of operating system has started to become irrelevant. For example, if you own a Mac and need to access a Windows only program, one solution is to use a virtual version of Windows. If you have access to one, you will be able to run Windows from your Mac without having to physically install it on your computer.

4. Hypervisor

The hypervisor is essentially a small operating system that enables virtualization. Its job is to take physical hardware resources and combine them into a platform that is then delivered virtually to one, or many different users.

5. Host system

The host system, also referred to as the parent, is where the physical hardware and software is installed. These physical components are then copied by the hypervisor and delivered in a virtual state to the user. If you are creating a virtual desktop environment, then the host system will have the desktop's OS installed on it, along with the necessary software.

6. Guest system

The guest system, also referred to as the child, is where the VM is accessed. To carry the example on from above, the OS that is installed on the host machine is replicated by the hypervisor and the copy is then delivered to the user.

The user can interact with the OS just as they would with the physical host machine, because the guest system is an exact copy of the host. The only difference is, the guest machine is virtual instead of physical.

7. Virtual Infrastructure

When you combine a bunch of different types of VMs together into one solution, including hardware, storage, desktops, and servers you create a virtual infrastructure.

This can then be deployed to businesses who are looking for a completely virtualized solution. The easiest way to think of this is that your whole IT infrastructure is combined into one solution and virtualized. Many companies look for a solution like this because it reduces the need for on-premise hardware, while making it easier for an IT partner to manage.

8. P2V

P2V, or Physical to Virtual, is a term used by IT experts to refer to the act of migrating a physical system to a virtual one. The most common example of P2V is the merging of physical servers into a virtual environment that is hosted on one server.

9. Snapshot

A snapshot is an image of the state of the virtual machine at a specific point of time. This includes all of the data, configurations, and even windows or programs open at that time. Snapshots are used kind of like the Save button on video games - it saves your progress. When you next load up the VM, you will get all of your data, programs, and configurations back.

Snapshots are also kept in case something goes wrong with the VM. You can easily revert back to an older snapshot, one that was taken before the problem.

10. Clone

The action of taking one VM and creating an exact copy that can then be used by another computer or user.

If you are looking to learn more about virtualization, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 18th, 2014

BCP_July14_BThere is a good chance that you would like to see your business survive any future disaster, and any problems that follow as well. While it is nearly impossible to predict what the next disaster will be, it's easy to prepare for, especially if you have an effective business continuity plan. When it comes to these plans, there are many key metrics you need to be aware of and the most important two are RTO and RPO.

While both RTO and RPO are important elements of continuity plans, and they both sound fairly similar, they are actually quite different. In this article we define RTO and RPO and take a look at what the difference is between the two concepts.

RTO defined

RTO, or Recovery Time Objective, is the target time you set for the recovery of your IT and business activities after a disaster has struck. The goal here is to calculate how quickly you need to recover, which can then dictate the type or preparations you need to implement and the overall budget you should assign to business continuity.

If, for example, you find that your RTO is five hours, meaning your business can survive with systems down for this amount of time, then you will need to ensure a high level of preparation and a higher budget to ensure that systems can be recovered quickly. On the other hand, if the RTO is two weeks, then you can probably budget less and invest in less advanced solutions.

RPO defined

RPO, or Recovery Point Objective, is focused on data and your company's loss tolerance in relation to your data. RPO is determined by looking at the time between data backups and the amount of data that could be lost in between backups.

As part of business continuity planning, you need to figure out how long you can afford to operate without that data before the business suffers. A good example of setting an RPO is to imaging that you are writing an important, yet lengthy, report. Think to yourself that eventually your computer will crash and the content written after your last save will be lost. How much time can you tolerate having to try to recover, or rewrite that missing content?

That time becomes your RPO, and should become the indicator of how often you back your data up, or in this case save your work. If you find that your business can survive three to four days in between backups, then the RPO would be three days (the shortest time between backups).

What's the main difference between RTO and RPO?

The major difference between these two metrics is their purpose. The RTO is usually large scale, and looks at your whole business and systems involved. RPO focuses just on data and your company's overall resilience to the loss of it.

While they may be different, you should consider both metrics when looking to develop an effective BCP. If you are looking to improve or even set your RTO and RPO, contact us today to see how our business continuity systems and solutions can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 11th, 2014

Security_July07_BAs technology continues to expand and improve, many people have come to prefer to use their own systems over their office's tech offerings. This is largely because many of us have newer personal devices that allow us to do so much more than the computers we use at our office. As a result, the issue of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has become far more important, especially due to the fact that if left unchecked, BYOD could pose a security risk to your organization.

What should I do about BYOD?

The first reaction of many office managers and business owners, worried about security threats that could stem from BYOD, is to impose an outright ban of devices. While telling your staff they are not to use their devices for work may seem like a quick and easy solution, you can be 100% sure that there will be employees who ignore this policy and use their personal devices for work regardless.

This could put your business at a higher security risk if the rule is ignored, especially if you don't implement any security measures to protect your networks and data. In order to minimize the potential threats BYOD can expose your business to, we suggest you do the following:

1. Consider embracing BYOD

Instead of simply banning personal devices in the workplace take a step back and look to see if there are any benefits BYOD can offer. For example, if you operate on razor thin margins and have not replaced hardware in years, there is a good chance your employees will have better systems at hand. This could help you reduce your overall tech costs.

The same goes for phones for your employees. Why not offer to pay for the plan and allow employees to use their own devices? Of course, you are going to want to implement security measures and usage rules, but if this is easily achieved then it may help reduce your overall operating costs. Before you do implement a system like this however, we strongly recommend you read the rest of this article and follow the steps below.

2. Set up separate networks for employee devices

Oftentimes, the main reason employees bring their devices to the office and use them for work purposes, especially when it comes to mobile phones, is because they can happily connect to Wi-Fi for free without using their data plans throughout the day.

Chances are high that because they use the work Wi-Fi on their device for non-work tasks, they simply keep using the device when they are doing work related activities. This could pose a security risk, especially if you run business-critical operations on the same network. You could nip this potential problem in the bud and simply install another Wi-Fi network for mobile devices and non-critical business processes.

It is usually quite affordable to simply purchase another line and the networking equipment to support this, not to mention the fact that it will keep business-critical processes secure from errant malware. As an added bonus, you will likely see increased productivity because the bandwidth demand will be limited, so important data will move quicker.

3. Educate your staff about security

In our experience, the vast majority of BYOD related security risks are exposed by mistake. An employee may have a virus on a personal phone and be unaware of it. When they connect to the network it can then be unintentionally spread to other computers resulting in a potentially massive security breach.

One of the simplest ways to prevent this is to educate your employees about proper mobile safety. This includes how to spot apps that could contain malware, sharing security threat updates, and teaching your employees how to secure their devices. You really need to stress just how important security is to them.

On top of this, contact an IT expert like us for a recommended anti-virus and spyware scanner for mobile devices that users can easily install. Encourage employees to not just install this but to keep it up to date too. Many of these mobile specific scanners are free and just as powerful as desktop versions.

4. Work with an IT partner to establish a solution that works for you

Beyond education and simple network establishment, it is a great idea to work with an IT partner like us. As experts, we keep tabs on the trends and solutions related to BYOD and will work with you to establish a program that works for your company.

It may be that you don't actually need to integrate BYOD but to update hardware or software to newer versions instead. It could be that there is a simple solution to employees feeling frustrated with slow performance of existing systems at work.

If you do implement BYOD, we can help establish security measures and policies that will ensure your networks and employee devices are secure. The best advice we can give however, is to do this before you start allowing BYOD, as it can be far more challenging to implement and enforce changes when employees are already using their devices at work.

Looking to learn more? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security