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Telecoms offering network virtualization

With virtualization yet to make its way into the lexicon of common tech phrases, many business owners are still trying to decipher the full extent of its value. Various aspects of the service have evolved over time, and we can probably expect more to come. For now, however, one of its existing functions is getting a boost from the likes of AT&T and Verizon. Virtualized network services are complex and often difficult to understand, but their value is unquestionable. Let’s delve a little deeper.

The overarching theme of virtualization is combining hardware and software resources into one large, communal pool where individual servers and workstations can pull as much as they need, rather than allocating them inefficient individual puddles that either go dry, or unused. In a workstation model, this is realized in the form of minimally equipped endpoints that access much more powerful software and hardware resource pools via web browser.

When it comes to network virtualization, it’s quite similar to virtual private networks, or VPNs. Developments in cloud and software functionalities allow administrators to eliminate time-consuming and micromanaged VPNs while achieving the same swift and secure connections between servers, workstations, and other network-enabled devices residing in physically separate networks. VPNs are like pumps between each of your network ‘puddles,’ individual pieces that require individual maintenance. Network virtualization is like installing one pump with on/off switches on each outbound pipe.

This means that setting up a VPN for the addition of a satellite office is as simple as inputting a few simple pieces of information to gain a world of seemingly local network possibilities. In another example, rather than recabling your office when one department becomes too cumbersome to fit on one switch or hub, connections and protocols can be expanded and redefined by a software client.

With the increasing popularity of any service with the word ‘virtualized’ in it, telecom carriers Verizon and AT&T have begun offering this service to clients. Whether it's because your business has a growing list of locations, or because your local network needs the flexibility to grow swiftly without waiting for costly hardware and software expansions, these services have you covered.

Both Verizon and AT&T will offer three ways to manage your virtualized network: locally, from the cloud, or a hybrid combination of the two. Once you’ve decided on a framework and deployment strategy, make sure to take time with the transition. Established networks are complex and messy ordeals, and it’s better to start migrating those puddles over time rather than all at once. Instead, move them one-by-one so any problems that arise can also be dealt with one-by-one.

Although consumer-level companies like AT&T and Verizon are offering this service, not just anyone can hop on and start getting the most out of a virtualized network. It takes expert configuration, deployment, and most importantly maintenance. With 24/7 coverage of your network, we eat, sleep, and breathe cutting-edge technology. Call us today and we’ll bring your SMB into the age of virtualization.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Amazon Web Services’ simpler data migration

Any business owner who has taken the time to truly understand how virtualization works knows that the final product is invaluable. But since nothing worth doing is ever easy, there are a lot of things that might scare SMBs away from making the leap. Amazon Web Services is working tirelessly to make that leap a lot easier and less frightening with their Data Migration Service. Let’s take a look at the latest development.

As a quick review, virtualization is best imagined by visualizing your server as a house. When a user draws computing power from your server, it’s a lot like opening the front door and just telling anyone to come in and grab whatever they need. The house gets crowded and messy quickly. Virtualization allows you to create doorways into partitioned rooms, with specifications and permissions unique to the user or application that needs them.

Much like the house in our analogy, the hardware and upkeep of servers can become quite expensive. By taking virtualization one step further, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has created the equivalent of a gigantic apartment building, online. When renting these internet-based apartments, your SMB is presented with virtualized versions of your server and desktops. You realize huge cost savings by eliminating upfront capital expenditures on hardware, and the rooms and their contents can be modified and adapted with little more than a simple request to AWS.

So you’re ready to migrate your server and clients to a virtualized environment, but after hiring experts you’re informed they will need days -- possibly weeks -- of server downtime to move your data from on-site storage to AWS. This service interruption has long been a massive speed bump in cloud migration projects. With Amazon’s Data Migration Service (DMS), that server downtime can be reduced to as little as 10-15 minutes.

This significantly reduced downtime is achieved by keeping your database live during the migration process. The final product can be stored in one of AWS’s several regional datacenters, or even copied back to your on-site server for concerns about redundancy and continuity.

Another speed bump along the road to your new virtualized home is moving from one database schema to another. Imagine the front door of your original, one-bedroom house is shaped like a triangle. But your destination, the AWS home, has a front door in the shape of a circle -- how will you get your data into its new home? Amazon’s DMS has added a new tool to take care of all of that for you. This means it doesn’t matter if you have an Oracle or MySQL on-site server; Amazon can almost effortlessly convert it to a new schema.

With such a valuable tool, AWS must be charging a fortune to utilize it, right? Wrong. Amazon promises DMS migrations will cost as little as three dollars per terabyte. Even if your business is hosting above average amounts of data on-site, that’s still a price tag any cash-strapped SMB can afford.

Just because there’s a new tool for the migration, doesn’t mean you should attempt buying a new home for your server and driving it across town alone. Think of us as your virtualization real estate agent and movers, all wrapped into one. For an inexpensive, swift migration to a virtualized environment, we’ve got just the place for you. Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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The 5 most popular virtualization platforms

Just understanding what office virtualization is can be difficult enough; picking from the long list of software providers that help you achieve it can feel impossible. Since virtualization is a relatively new practice for small and medium-sized businesses, there isn’t even a standardized way to go about virtualizing your company. So why not start with this simple list of the 5 most popular virtualization options and what their strengths are.

VMware

Any conversation about virtualization for small and medium-sized businesses usually starts around VMware. Although it wasn’t necessarily the first, VMware was the company that really put office virtualization on everyone’s action item list. The company offers a number of different solutions for different sized businesses with a wide variety of needs. Its ease of use and robust security features have secured its reputation as one of the best options for virtualization at SMBs.

Citrix

An average user may not recognize the company name, but has a good shot at previous knowledge of their popular remote access tools, GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting. Citrix has specifically geared their virtualization software, XenApp, XenDesktop, and VDI-in-a-box toward SMBs and even claims that non-IT staff can easily manage and administer the services. They even provide a free trial to prove it.

Microsoft

Although it may be a little more difficult to manage without an in-house or outsourced IT staff, Microsoft’s Hyper-V option is hard to ignore considering its integration with the popular cloud platform Azure. Whether you’re a Microsoft loyalist or you just want to minimize the number of vendors in your network, Hyper-V offers everything you need from a virtualization service.

Oracle

This company just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Specializing in marketing software, they also offer database management, cloud storage and customer relationship management software. If you’re using any of their services already, there could be benefits to enlisting their virtualization services as well. Oracle does everything, server, desktop and app virtualization, and they believe that consolidation of all of these into one solution is what sets them apart.

Amazon

And since we’re on the topic of household names, let’s talk about Amazon’s EC2 platform, which hosts scalable virtual private servers. The ability to scale and configure capacity is definitely EC2’s biggest draw for SMBs, who are preparing for the possibility of rapid growth. Although almost any virtualization service is rooted in scalability, Amazon is leading the pack in how quickly and finely you can adjust your solution to your individual needs.

Virtualization is a really hard topic for most SMBs to tackle. This list only covers the most popular vendors, and there are plenty more out there. Choosing one based on its application possibilities and management requirements is not a subject for the lighthearted. Get in touch with us today so we can break down all of the technobabble into easy-to-understand advice and expertise.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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The DR benefits of Virtualization

When most business owners think of Virtualization, they likely don’t think of Disaster Recovery. The truth is, though, that Virtualization is a multi-faceted IT solution that can provide an effective backup in case your business is hit by a disaster. So for those who are new to the idea of Virtualization as a Disaster Recovery solution, here’s a breakdown.

As opposed to tape backups, Virtualization reduces recovery time in the event of a disaster. While tape backups can be reliable, using them to fully restore your system after a backup can be an excruciatingly long process. In fact, it can take up to two days to do just that. Think of all the business you could lose in those two days. Think of all the lost money in salaries you’ll pay out out to employees who aren’t working. Simply put, Virtualization is much quicker than tape backups when it comes to Disaster Recovery. Your entire system can be restored in four hours or less. How does this happen? Well, instead of rebuilding your servers, operating systems and applications separately, they exist safely off-site and can be brought back online via your virtual backup.

While the speed of virtualized backups might sound alluring, there are a few key points you should be aware of before moving forward. Here’s what you need to think about:

  • Critical data - where do you want your critical data to be stored? Do you want it stored on tapes? Disk technologies? Or on your virtualized servers? Perhaps it’s best to spread your risk by backing up your critical data to multiple sources because, frankly, your business depends on this data. Regardless, find out what critical data you need to operate your organization and devise a plan to back it up as you see fit.
  • Data to be backed up - Whether or not you decide to store your critical data on your virtual machines, figure out what data and assets you do want stored on them. Then designate specific virtualized servers to store these assets. In case a disaster does happen, you’ll know immediately where your backups live, and can retrieve your data quickly and get your business up and running again fast.
  • Systems to be virtualized - Just as your business has critical data, you also have critical applications. Some of these may include email, Microsoft Office, and applications or software developed in house. Whether or not these applications qualify as critical for your business, identify the ones that do and focus your disaster recovery efforts on them. Like your data and servers, applications can all be virtualized and then safely stored off-site.
If you choose Virtualization as part of your Disaster Recovery solution, make sure your backups are monitored regularly so they’re up-to-date in the event of a disaster. And besides Disaster Recovery, there are many other benefits to Virtualization. Your business can reduce the amount of servers and other hardware in your office, lower your electricity costs, and save money in the process. Consider Disaster Recovery as a nice bonus that’s included with these benefits.

Curious to learn how else Virtualization can benefit your business? Interested in a dedicated Disaster Recovery solution? Call us today and discover how our experts can protect your organization and save you money.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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BCP strategies to keep your business open

Whether your business is hit with a brief power outage or an extreme weather disaster, any kind of interruption to your organization’s productivity can cut into your profits. That’s why it is important to have a business continuity plan and utilize BC tools to ensure your organization can stay in operation at all times. Here are some of the key strategies many companies rely on to keep their doors open.

Backup your data, applications and servers

Today, companies are more dependent than ever on IT and their business data. If these critical components suddenly become inaccessible, can your business stay open? For most business owners, the simple answer is no. This is why backing up these elements is vital to your business’s success. Backing them up ensures they can be restored quickly in the event of a disaster, security breach, or damage to IT equipment.

Obviously, to ensure the accessibility of your IT, you need to backup all your data, applications and servers regularly. The keyword here being “regularly”. While in the past most businesses would do this on-site and with tape backups, today more and more businesses are using the cloud. Some of the prime reasons for backing up to the cloud are as follows:

  • Affordability
  • Backups can be automated, therefore saving you time
  • Cloud providers usually backup your data to multiple locations (so if one of their facilities goes down, your backup is still safe at another site)
  • Backups can be accessed from anywhere, whether it’s at an employee’s home or at an alternate office
  • If you need to use it, backups can be restored quickly

Virtualize servers and desktops

When you virtualize your servers or desktops, they can be used at any location - be it at your workplace, home, or a coffee shop in the Bahamas. In terms of business continuity, this is useful in case your main office suddenly becomes unusable due to a disaster such as a flood, a break-in, or if you’re simply unable to get there because of hostile weather conditions.

Have a backup power supply

Power outages essentially zap all your employees productivity. No electricity means no work. And that means you’re paying them to do nothing. Having a backup power supply like a generator will ensure that when the electricity goes down, your employees can continue working. A good solution is an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). When you have this, a power outage will not affect your employees ability to work. They can work seamlessly through it, as if nothing ever happened. Also, if you have a server room, the UPS will ensure your vital servers stay cool.

Utilize social media

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Google +, most people are on at least one social network these days. And if there is any kind of weather-related disaster, social media is usually one of the first places customers, colleagues, staff and vendors will check to see the status of your business. This is because even if the phone lines or local power goes out, social media is usually accessible. So when it comes to business continuity, have at least one active social media account you use to keep your customers and followers informed.

Implement Unified Communications

Unified Communication (UC) can essentially create a virtualized communication infrastructure. That means instead of your communication tools - like phones, instant messaging, video calls - all being stored locally at your workplace, you can access them anywhere. So for whatever reason if your office is inaccessible, employees can still use your phones and other communication tools from their homes. What’s more, UC tools can route business calls to your employees smartphones. That means they’ll never miss an important call, even if they’re not in the office.

So there you have it, five tools to ensure your business operates continuously no matter what comes your way. If you’d like to implement business continuity technology in your business or develop a continuity plan, we’re happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Don’t virtualize without answers

For small or medium-sized business, getting a leg up on the competition can be the difference between simply surviving and thriving. One way of doing this is by embracing virtualization. Many SMBs have used virtualization techniques to great effect, but implementing a change can be difficult and time-consuming. Here are a few questions you should ask before virtualizing your office.

Sure, virtualization does sound fancy and expensive but, if done correctly, it can be of great benefit to your company. The process involves removing your physical equipment and instead running everything on virtual machines. This allows you to reduce expenses on equipment like servers - and, depending on your needs, even computers - while also freeing up valuable space in your office.

Before you start enjoying these benefits, or even beginning the process of virtualization at your company, there are questions you’ll need to be prepared to answer. We’re going to reveal three of the most important ones you should consider.

Who will handle the project?

Like any massive IT project, who will be overseeing the implementation of the new technology is vital to its success. There will be a lot to consider depending on whether you have an in-house IT department or utilize a Managed Services Provider to take care of your technology. Let’s take a brief look at the things you need to think about with each one.

In-house IT department - If you have IT staff on-site, the most cost-effective option would be delegating the virtualization to them. However, being cost-effective and being practical don’t always align in this situation. Before trusting your IT department with this project, you’ll want to get a better idea of their current workload, as well as what experience they have with virtualization technology. It could be in everyone’s best interests to outsource the project if you don’t believe your IT staff has the time or experience to get the project done.

Managed Services Provider - A lot of MSPs can help with the planning and execution of virtualization projects. This is normally a good thing, but make sure to ask a lot of questions in order to get a better understanding of what they do and don’t offer. Realistically, they should be able to make recommendations for your specific company and industry that align with your business goals. If you notice a lot of broad generalizations or get pigeonholed to a specific hardware manufacturer, you might consider talking with one or two other IT providers about your virtualization project.

Will you virtualize everything at once, or a little at a time?

This is a question that takes a lot of SMB owners by surprise. Many believe virtualization to be an either/or scenario, but the reality is that you can virtualize as much or as little of your technology as you want. Some businesses who are confident in the technology do it all at once, but a lot of companies take an incremental approach to their virtualization projects.

Normally, your answer to this question will come down to who’s managing the project and what your budget is. It’s not unusual for a business to start by virtualizing a few of their servers at a time. This allows you to better see just how the process works and what the benefits are. However, if you’re ready for a full-scale office virtualization, then by all means go for it; this will allow you to streamline everything into one project.

What about your applications?

Before you start the virtualization process, it’s good to come up with a list of which applications, if any, you need to be hosted at your premises. Sometimes a company may have one or two applications that they do not wish to be hosted on virtual servers. This is something you will want to take into account before the project begins, especially if you are virtualizing all of your servers. There is nothing worse than ditching everything only to realize afterwards that one or more of your applications need to remain on a physical server at your office.

We can help your organization turn virtualization into a realization. And if you’re impressed by our rhyming skills, you should check out our IT project management skills. We can help your business with all of its technology needs.

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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