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VersaTrust has been serving the Texas area since 1997 , providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

A guide to virtualization and licensing

Software licensing has been a thorn in everybody’s side for as long as we can remember. It’s no surprise that as software begins to help us to consolidate and combine pieces of hardware through virtualization, we’re confronted with this problem yet again. SMBs are often unfortunate victims of licensing models that favor individual or enterprise purchasing, without enough options in between. Why don’t we delve a little deeper to see how your business can tackle virtualization while taking this legal necessity into consideration ?

Why are licenses an issue?

Virtualization is a complex topic, so let’s have a quick review. Most people are starting to work the concept of cloud storage into their everyday lives. Think of virtualization as a cloud where your server(s) store their hardware capabilities and your network computers can pull from that cloud as needed.

In this scenario, let’s assume employee A and employee B have two identical desktop computers with barebones hardware. Employee A needs to perform some basic text editing while employee B needs an in-depth scan of your client database. With the right infrastructure management, both employees will connect to your business’ server for the necessary physical processing power and server-hosted software. That means employee A will request the appropriate amount of processing power to edit text (which is likely very little) from the server, while employee B requests a much larger chunk of RAM, processing and harddrive space for scanning the database.

Understand so far? Because it gets really tricky when we start asking how many licenses are required for the server-hosted software. Licensing models were originally based on the number of physical hard drives with installed copies. However, in a virtualized environment that’s not an accurate reflection of usage. Using the most recent platforms, administrators can divide up their CPU into as many virtual machines as the SMB requires.

What do current virtualized licensing models look like?

Sadly, the virtualization and software industries are still deciding what’s the best way to move forward. The very vendors that sell the software required to manage the creation of virtual machines and segmentation of your server disagree about which model to use.

The company behind the popular VMware software has switched to a per-virtual-machine model after a huge response from customers, while other powerhouse vendors like Oracle and Microsoft have stuck with the per-CPU-core model that is based on server hardware capacity.

In any software selection process there is almost always the option of open source software. Under the open source model there are no licenses and usage is free, and just last month, AT&T committed to virtualizing 75 percent of its office under the OpenStack cloud computing platform by 2020.

What should I do?

In the end, software license considerations and total cost of ownership calculations should be a huge factor in how you plan to virtualize your SMB. When discussing the possibility of an infrastructure migration with your IT services provider, make sure to ask about the advantages and disadvantages of different virtualization platforms compared with their licensing models. You may find that paying more for hardware-based models is worth it, or that open source platforms provide you with everything you need.

No matter which platform you choose, remember to list every piece of licensed software in your office. Find out which licenses you can keep, which ones you’ll need to update and most importantly what the license migration will cost you in the short and long run.

This might seem like too much to handle at first. The process of virtualizing your SMB alone is enough to have you reaching for the aspirin. By contacting us you can avoid the headache entirely; we’ll walk you through all of the steps necessary to guide your organization through this next step in modernizing your business model.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Google Slides Q&A goes interactive

Slideshow presentations are only as good as the tools used to create them. With Google’s recent update to its Slides software, that baseline just got a huge boost. One of the biggest advantages of Google’s Drive software suite are the cloud-based features, and with the newest update to the Slides program you can explore a whole new way to interact with your audience. Keep reading to find out just how great this new feature is.

What is Google Slides?

Google Slides is a free web-based presentation creator. You can create, edit, store and share slideshows via Google’s Drive client that allows for live collaboration and presenting across the internet. Although Slides is most functional when using online desktops, offline and mobile functionality have made it a formidable competitor to more expensive software from Microsoft.

With the most recent update, your mouse cursor even doubles as a presentation laser pointer!

Enabling the Q&A Feature

Earlier this month, Google added an important feature that allows presenters to interact with their audience via their mobile devices. To enable it, click the arrow directly next to the Present button in the upper left corner of the slideshow editor. Next, click the drop-down item marked “Presenter View”. After that you should have two windows open, one that displays your presentation in your original web browser and a smaller “Presenter” that displays a number of options. In the bottom of the "Presenter" screen there should be a Start New button for a Q&A session. If you’re a Google for Education or Google for Business user, you’ll have the option to restrict who can ask questions via the presenter window.

Getting the audience involved

After enabling the Q&A tool, a short and easy-to-type link will be shown at the top of every displayed slide. Audience members can navigate to this page in order to submit questions.

Audience members who open the page will see a simple screen with an “Ask a question…” dialogue on their mobile device. Loading the site will consider them an anonymous user unless they log into a Google account. If they’re logged in, their picture and name will be associated with any submitted questions. However, self-conscious members have the option to abstain from signing in, or they can check the “ask anonymously” box when submitting their question.

Answering participant questions

After a question has been submitted, it will be displayed in both the presenter window you have open, and the communal window displayed on the audience’s mobile site. This gives them the option to upvote or downvote questions submitted by other viewers. When you see a question you want to address, or has too many upvotes to ignore, you can click the Present button in your presenter window and the question will be displayed alongside the author as a new slide. Clicking Hide will take you back to the last slide to continue the rest of the presentation as normal.

If you’re running a presentation with a particularly large number of participants, ask anyone submitting a question to include their email address. The Q&A history can be reviewed under the Tools menu for following up with answers afterwards.

Keeping a presentation interesting and engaging could mean the difference between acquiring a new client and converting your conference room into a place for audience naps. Efficient use of Google Drive software can reinvigorate your collaboration and presentation workflows. Contact us for advice on all things Google in your office!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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How to manage virtualization security risks

When it comes to security, topics like the cloud and networks get wide coverage on Internet blogs and forums. However, other types of technology fly completely under the radar. Virtualization just so happens to fall into this category. And just because people aren’t talking about it doesn’t mean virtualized machines and infrastructure should be left unsecured. If you don’t have the right defense in place, you’re leaving your business vulnerable to hackers and cyber threats. Here are some of the major risks of insufficient virtualization security and a few methods to prevent them.

Security risks of virtualization

Complex infrastructure - much like the topic of virtualization itself, the infrastructure of a virtualization solution can oftentimes be confusing to small businesses. The extra layers of infrastructure complexity added by virtualization can make it more difficult to spot anomalies and unusual events happening in your virtual machines and network.

Dynamic design - the design of a virtualized environment is dynamic by nature and constantly changing. Unlike adding physical equipment, which is a bit of an event as you make room for it in your office and install it, the addition of virtual machines can go almost completely unnoticed as they’re created in a matter of minutes and aren’t visible in your workspace. The danger here is the age old adage, “out of sight out of mind.” And if you add too many, they can easily become difficult to manage and secure, creating security holes in the process.

Quick moving workloads - as your virtualized infrastructure grows, there will come a time when you need to move workloads from one machine to another. While this may sound harmless enough, the real issue is that your virtual machines will likely require different levels of security. And when you’re juggling multiple workloads over multiple virtual machines, you may accidentally move mission critical workloads to a machine with a low level security, creating a security hole in the process.

How to mitigate risks

While these three risks may sound alarming, they can all be mitigated. The key behind effectively securing your virtual machines all comes down to process. Put some thought into your security processes and then implement them. Here are a few areas to cover:
  • Organization - decide how and where to separate your test, development and production virtual machines.
  • Audit - develop a system to regularly audit your virtual machine security. Whenever possible, use tools to automate your security checks, balances and processes.
  • Patches - Perform regular security patch maintenance, and create a schedule to ensure your patches are up-to-date for all virtual machines.
  • Overflow management - When you have so many virtual machines they’re hard to track, you need a system in place to monitor them. So be aware of what each virtual machine is used for, and manage it accordingly. While doing this, find ways to consolidate machines whenever possible and get rid of the ones under utilized.
  • Responsibility - to ensure the security of your virtual machines doesn’t slip through the cracks, designate one IT technician or manager to be responsible for it.
If you prioritize security of your virtual machines and properly manage them, security can truly be a non-issue. If you’d like additional assistance with your virtualized infrastructure or would like to implement a new virtualization solution, give us a call today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Realizing the facts of virtualization

VoIP is hardly the new kid on the block anymore; it’s been around for over a decade now. Maybe you’ve considered it for your business in the past, but ultimately decided against it. Well, now is as good of a time as any to revisit the decision. But just how will you know if your business needs match VoIP's offerings? Here are a couple of signs to look for.

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, has been helping businesses communicate more effectively for a few years now. You probably use it in your personal life, with applications like Skype, but your company just might be able to take advantage of the technology as well. Look for these signs that might indicate your business is ready to make the jump to VoIP.

Your number doesn’t match your target area


As your business expands, it can be easy to forget that your phone number will stay static. This may not seem like a big deal when conducting business in your own neighborhood, but what happens when your company’s reach expands beyond its original area code? Chances are prospective clients who don’t reside in your current area code aren’t too inclined to call another one.

Despite the fact that most cell phone packages now include free long-distance calling, there is still a stigma around dialing those three extra, and unfamiliar, numbers, for fear of extra charges. The only way around this with a traditional telephony solution is to set up another office and install a new phone system in that area code.

However, with a VoIP telephony solution, you can get a number in just about any area code imaginable and have it direct back to your office. If your business covers a greater area, you can opt for a toll-free number which means customers everywhere will never worry about having to pay to call your office.

You employees use personal devices at work


It is commonplace for employees to use a cell phone to take work calls when they aren’t in the office. However, unless you have issued cell phones to your staff, there probably isn’t a reason for them to use their personal devices to talk to clients while at the office. If this is happening, there are two things you need to consider.

You first need to think about the fact that you have no way to monitor your employees’ phone usage and behavior. Are they dealing with clients in a friendly and polite manner? Are they keeping with your company’s message when speaking on the phone? Are they even talking to customers at all?

The second issue is figuring out why employees aren’t using your phone system. Chances are it has to do with some usability or performance issues that ought to be addressed. There is no point in spending money on your current phone system if it isn’t being used by your staff anyway.

Switching to a VoIP telephony solution can take care of both issues. For starters, it will provide an easy-to-use phone system for your office with far more features than you currently have.

More importantly, for staff who still wish to use their cell phones, calls can be forwarded from their work number to their personal device. This allows you to keep track of their usage without forcing them to give up their preferred method of communication. Since the call is still going through the VoIP phone system, you’ll also be able to monitor it should you wish to.

Clients can’t reach you


Sure, your clients probably have your work, cell and home phone numbers, but that doesn’t mean they want to call them all trying to get a hold of you. VoIP can give your clients anytime access to you with a couple of different features. The find me/follow call routing system will see your work phone ring a few times, followed by your cell and then home phone, until you pick up or the call goes to voicemail. You can also set it up to have incoming calls ring on all your phones at once - useful if you would rather be able to pick up your calls on whichever device is most convenient at the time.

Give us a call and we’ll show you how to pick up the phone on all types of VoIP and IT solutions.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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