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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.

Dispelling the myths about containers

Business owners barely had time to acquaint themselves with virtualization before the next trend stormed onto the scene. Although container and virtualization applications both allow users to divvy up software and hardware more efficiently, containers have many advantages over virtualized machines. There are a number of misunderstandings though, and it’s time to set the record straight.

Containers are made up of the bare minimum hardware and software requirements to allow a specific program to run. For example, if you want to give employees access to a single Mac-based server application, but everything else you run is in Windows, it would be a waste to build a new machine for just that program. Containers allow you to partition just the right amount of hardware power and software overhead to run that Mac program on your Windows server.

Misconception #1: There is only one container vendor

Traditional virtualization technology -- which creates entire virtual computers rather than single-application containers -- has had two decades for vendors to enter the market and improve their offerings. Containers, however, didn’t break into the mainstream until a few years ago.

Fortunately, there are still more than enough container vendors. Docker dominates the industry and headlines, but there are at least a dozen other programs to choose from.

Misconception #2: Containers require virtualization

In the early days, containers could only be created and managed in the Linux operating system. This meant complicated and sometimes unreliable improvisation was required to benefit from container technology on Windows and Mac servers.

First, you would need to virtualize a full-fledged Linux install on your Windows or Mac server, and then install container management inside of Linux. Nowadays, container management software can run on Windows and MacOS without the confusing multi-layer systems.

Misconception #3: You can’t create and manage containers in bulk

Separate programs, known as Orchestrators, allow you to scale up your use of containers. If you need to partition more hardware power so that more users can use a container, or if you need to create several identical containers, orchestrators make that possible.

Misconception #4: Containers are faster than virtual machines

Obviously, virtualizing an entire operating system and the hardware necessary to run it requires more management and processing requirements. A lot of people tend to think this means containers are faster than virtualized machines. In reality, containers are just more efficient.

Accessing a container is as simple as opening it and using the application. A virtualized machine, however, needs to be booted up, a user needs to log in to the operating system, and then you can rummage through folders to open an application. Most of the time containers are faster, but there are instances when that's not true.

Virtualization and containers are complicated technologies. For now, just remember that 1) Virtualization and containers are separate technologies, each with pros and cons; and 2) you have plenty of software options to manage containers (sometimes in bulk). For anything more specific than that, give us a call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Containers Vs. VMs: performance variations

Virtual containers have incrementally increased the ability of users to create portable, self-contained kernels of information and applications since the technology first appeared in the early 2000s. Now, containers are one of the biggest data trends of the decade -- some say at the expense of the virtual machine (VM) technology that preceded them. Read on to find out some of the performance differences between containers and virtual machines, and how the two can work together for your business.

When it comes to the virtual world, containers and VMs are not all that different. The VM is a good option for those who need to use more than one operating system in the course of a business project, while containers serve those who are comfortable staying within a Linux or Windows operating system without deviating. There are performance advantages to using containers, although these are counterbalanced by organizational advantages derived from a VM system.

Performance Nuances

VMs and containers both work from a virtual platform; therefore, the differences in performance relate to how they are configured and utilized by the people who maintain them.
  • Faster startup time: Containers don't have as much to start up, making them open more quickly than virtual machines. While it may not seem revolutionary, this can be up to a few minutes per instance -- a cost that adds up to quite a bit over the course of a year or more.
  • Resource distribution: Containers only need to pull hardware resources as needed, while a VM requires a baseline of resources to be allocated before it will start up. If you have two VM processes running at the same time, this might mean two of the same programs are pulled up even if they aren't being used.
  • Direct hardware access: A VM cannot pull information from outside of itself (the host computer), but a container can utilize the host system as it runs. This may or may not matter depending on what your users are doing, but certainly puts a point in the container column nonetheless.
Although it appears that containers out-perform virtual machines in most areas, there are uses for the VM environment, particularly for a business on the rise. With a virtual machine you have a security advantage because each VM environment is encapsulated with its own operating system and data configuration; additionally, you are not limited to the use of one operating system.

Virtualization is an incredibly tricky solution to grasp in its entirety. New avenues spring up all the time to get more use out of its benefits, and it might be tempting to take a “wait and see” mentality. In reality, one of the best things about virtualization is how adaptable it is as a business solution. We suggest you get into the game as soon as possible; give us a call so we can tell you how.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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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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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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How you can benefit from virtualization

Whether it’s to backup your servers, upgrade your hardware or move towards a full-blown cloud based system, virtualization has become a popular solution for many companies. While the term virtualization has increasingly become a cost-effective strategy for many businesses, is it the right one for you? Here are some advantages to deploying a virtual system to your company plus some factors you should consider before making the final decision.

The advantages

Virtualization provides your company with plenty of cost-effective benefits. Probably the first and largest advantage virtualization brings is the fact that you won’t have to buy more hardware to supplement your company’s needs. Basically, by consolidating your physical servers, there won’t be a need to maintain and update unnecessary hardware in the workplace. This means less time and money is spent on maintaining and running your servers as well as spending too much time on desk side support.

With virtual machines, backing up your entire data center has never been easier. This is because these virtual machines have the ability to take up-to-date snapshots of your servers and simply redeploy them seamlessly to another device. Unlike physical servers, where you have to create backups of your server and current data, virtual backups essentially cut the waiting time for server reboots.

This also eliminates the worry of accidentally losing files. Should disaster strike your physical servers, you can easily migrate your virtual machines to another device and keep working as if the incident never really happened.

Additionally, opting for virtualization allows your company to have a higher degree of technological versatility because virtual machines have the added flexibility to run on different platforms, servers and hardware. Meaning you won’t be tied down by a single IT provider. What’s nice about virtual machines is that your company now has the freedom to upgrade hardware without long server downtimes and even have the ability to use thin clients in the workplace.

Finally, utilizing virtualization solutions puts your business in a good position to easily migrate to a prolific cloud environment.

Factors to consider

With seemingly no disadvantages to virtualization you’re probably getting ready to set-up some virtual machines. But before you start virtualizing your business, here are some things you should consider first:
  • Initial costs to set up your network’s hardware and software still exist, so make sure you thoroughly check the services and devices that your company needs before moving forward.
  • Note that virtualization is an effective solution when you start having 5-7 servers running in your workplace. Usually 10-15 servers is the optimal number when you’ll start seeing a return on your investment. If you have less servers than the ones suggested above, then it’s probably best to opt for a different IT solution.
  • It’s important to consider your staff’s skills and experience with technology before switching over to virtualized systems. Do they need training? How can you help them transition quickly into the proposed infrastructure?
  • Will your business have enough storage capacity? As a general rule, you should set aside 30-40 GB per user.
  • Think about setting up failovers to ensure the security of your virtual system.
  • Some applications are not usually compatible with virtualization such as mobile, media-rich and some security apps. So if your employees tend to use these types of software it would probably be best to deploy a smaller scale virtualization solution.
  • Pay attention to the conditions of your software license. Installing some applications to several computers could lead to increased costs.
Overall, the increased flexibility and reduced cost that a virtualized system offers for your IT infrastructure is well worth the effort. While there are initial challenges to worry about when it comes to implementing virtual machines into the workplace, this is a step many small businesses consider to remedy their outdated IT ills. Contact us today to find out if virtualization solutions are for you.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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