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February 28th, 2014

Virtualization_Feb24_ARunning a small/mid-sized business can be just as daunting as operating a large enterprise. If you are ambitious to improve your business, then virtualizing your systems might be just the development you're looking for. Aside from being a cost-effective solution, virtualization can also boost the efficiency of your enterprise's IT infrastructure.

While it may seem like virtualization is only advantageous to large businesses, in truth, even small companies can take advantage of this rising and sophisticated innovation. That being said, there are many companies still holding back. To help you understand virtualization, here are five good reasons why you need to virtualize your business now.

You can optimize servers

Perhaps the most compelling reason to virtualize your systems is to make your computing resources (such as the RAM and processor cycles) more efficient. And with efficient computing resources, businesses can reduce their capital expenses. Furthermore, small and mid-sized business are able to manage fewer physical servers, because virtualization allows users to combine, or virtualize, physical servers into fewer physical machines.

You get cutting-edge disaster recovery plans

Since catastrophes are possible, businesses should be prepared before they are faced with a disaster. The advantage of virtualization is that many solutions come with a disaster recovery plan to get your business back to a normal operational state after a problem strikes.

It can be far easier to fully back up your entire virtualized infrastructure than trying to do the same with separate hardware servers.

It increases business continuity

While business continuity is similar to disaster recovery, the goals of each operation are different. The aim of business continuity is to achieve zero, or minimal, business operation interruptions. However, many businesses find this difficult to achieve with traditional business systems.

Many virtualization solutions offer live migration, a feature that helps preserve the continuity of business operations by eliminating the need for downtime. This system works by rapidly transferring systems from one virtual environment to another when the original is affected. This enables a business to continue operations, despite some system failures.

It's a time-saver

Compared to setting up physical hardware, which can take months to establish, test, and maintain, setting up a virtualized system for your business can usually be achieved in a matter of minutes.

You get centralized control

Virtualization makes it possible to manage your entire system using one central tool. This is one cutting-edge advantage that suits many businesses, especially small and mid-sized ones. Moreover, security and compliance features can be built in, leading to systems that are even more secure than before.

The benefits to be gained by virtualizing can prove to be a real game changer for your business. Though it may seem complex at first, considering the new lingo and foreign functions, you’ll soon realize that it's just a matter of finding the right IT partner to work with.

Our virtualization experts are here for you and can help you from start to finish. If you want to know more about virtualization and its benefits to your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 1st, 2014

Virtualization_Jan27_AA common trend many small businesses are embracing is virtualizing their data. Like any other types of data, you also need to back virtualized data up. Since backing up your virtualized data can be really challenging, we’ll focus just on this aspect. This guide will show you some of the most common difficulties you’ll be facing when backing up your virtualized data.

About data virtualization

Data virtualization is an approach to data management that takes data stored on local computers and moves it to another location, usually a server. This can provide multiple long-term benefits to businesses, some of which include integration of various types of data, minimizing data replication, and reducing physical data movement across different locations, as well as delivering sets of data to consumers in real-time.

As with every other type of data you will need to consider backing up your data. This can be a bit tougher with virtualized data. While our services do make things easier, there are still backup obstacles you should be aware of. In this guide, we highlight the three challenges and hurdles in backing up your virtualized data.

Overwhelming rapid file growth

It used to be that businesses had to worry about servers containing million of files. Now, they are warned about potentially billions of existing files. It is almost impossible to back up servers with so many files through the traditional method of copying one file at a time, as is common in legacy backup systems. The thing is, the number of files to back up is only going to grow.

You should take steps to ensure that your backup solution can handle the file growth your business will face. While a virtual solution may be working now, it is a good idea to check with your IT partner to ensure their systems are scalable.

Rapid server growth

Virtualization of networks, storage, and servers brings flexibility to the small businesses and data centers. The advent of virtualization has lead to the development of an 'app mentality' among many users and business owners. It’s safe to think that so many things you have in the world are now apps, with many being delivered through a virtual machine.

What this means for businesses is an increasing number of virtual servers that are needed to host your virtual solutions. Therefore, it is crucial to protect these virtual machines and the servers that host them because they are quickly becoming the most essential tool your business relies on. If your business is growing, your current virtual machines are likely backed up, but as you add more servers you will need to ensure that these are also backed up.

Very high user expectations

Needless to say, users have high expectations caused by misunderstandings about technology, and virtualization in particular. Users expect their IT partners to have emerging issues resolved in an instant or as quickly as possible.

While backup speeds are increasing year-on-year, it still takes time to copy data files from the backup servers, especially when the quantity of files to copy can be over a billion. It is worthwhile talking with your IT partner about backup and recovery times so you can better know what to expect when you do need to recover virtual systems.

If you have anything to share about data virtualization or virtualization in general, let your voice be heard using the comment section below.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 7th, 2013

Virtualization_Dec02_AOne of the most popular tech terms of the past year, and more, is 'the cloud'. It seems like businesses the world over are not only interested in finding out more, but are now starting to integrate it into their work environments. When you hear experts talk about the cloud, they often also mention virtualization. Because of this, the two terms are often taken to mean the same thing, when in actual fact they are different.

What is virtualization?

At its most basic, virtualization is the creation of a virtual version of something. This virtual version is housed in a physical environment, usually a server or computer. It allows one device (server) to run multiple computing environments at the same time.

Some examples of virtualization include:

  • Condensing four servers in an office down to one which runs all four.
  • Using one server to host software that 10 computers can access.
  • Installing Windows 7 on a Macbook.
One of the biggest benefits companies see from virtualizing is maximization of the use of resources, such as networks, computers, and servers; along with providing increased flexibility.

What is the cloud?

The cloud, on the other hand, is more of an umbrella term to cover any service that is delivered over the Internet. There are numerous cloud services, most of which can fit one of three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service.

Some examples of cloud computing include:

  • Using software like Google Apps or Microsoft Office Web Apps.
  • Accessing your email through the Web.
  • Storing files on a cloud-storage provider like DropBox.
The cloud carries most of the same benefits as virtualization, but can also further streamline the management of systems. Most cloud systems can be managed in a browser and can reduce the total cost of ownership for organizations.

Do the two overlap?

Where much of the confusion about the two terms stems from is the fact that there is actually quite a bit of overlap between the two concepts. Without the ability to virtualize servers, the cloud would not be able to operate.

Think about it this way: A cloud storage provider uses servers in a data center to host their storage. Without virtualization, the provider would essentially need one server per client or per group of clients. With many popular storage providers having millions of users, they would need to have an obscene amount of servers. So what they do is virtualize multiple servers and house them in one server. In other words, virtualization allows the cloud to function.

It's important to realize that the cloud is still reliant on servers, just as virtualization is. The main difference is that when companies virtualize, they usually host the servers on-site. When companies go 'to the cloud', they usually connect via the Internet to servers that are hosted off-site (outside of the organization).

Which is better for small businesses?

The main reason many companies virtualize their systems is so that they can reduce the number of servers and the physical space required to house each server. This in turn can reduce overheads. Virtualization also enables server resources to be better utilized, because when you host only one function e.g., email on a server, the hardware resources used are likely to be only a fraction of the total resources available. This results in increased efficiency and likely reduced costs.

Most companies tend to think of the cloud as a system - it provides end-users a service that they can use e.g., a word processor and document management system you access via your browser. Essentially, the cloud gives many small businesses access to enterprise level applications at a fraction of the cost - they don't have to develop, host and maintain these applications, yet see all the usability and benefits.

Because virtualization is usually local, while the cloud is seen to be more of a service, there is no real answer as to which is better - it really depends on the individual organization. If your business already has servers and systems which deliver capabilities like email, document sharing, telephony, etc. in place, then virtualization may be better employed, largely because it can help reduce your overhead and increase resource efficiency.

On the other hand, if you are a new company, or are looking to introduce a new system like document storage or production, a cloud service might well be a valuable option to look into.

Regardless of what you think would be best for your company, why not get in touch with us? Our experts can work with you to help you find the solution that best fits your company. Give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 19th, 2013

Virtualization_Oct16_AVirtualization is the creation of a virtual version of a physical technological service or solution. While this concept can be seemingly complex, it does bring benefits to companies, especially small businesses, that can't be passed up. If your company is curious about moving your systems to a virtual environment, it can be a little confusing as to which should be moved.

If you need some ideas as to how your small business can leverage virtualization then here are five ways to do so:

1. Simplify IT processes As business grow they inevitably introduce new technology and systems that need to be installed and maintained. Because many small companies don't have actual IT departments, or rely on a small number of staff, their resources are stretched even thinner, resulting in even greater potential tech problems.

By virtualizing systems, these can be easier to look after by either an IT partner or in-house teams. This will also free up resources which can be diverted to more business specific tasks. Combine virtualization with an IT partner and your IT becomes even easier to manage, largely because you won't have to.

2. Enhance security Cyber attacks are on the rise, and have always been a problem which many companies struggle to deal with or prevent. Virtualizing some systems, like the desktop or even Web browsing, could limit the chance of infection and malware attacks.

Take for example a read-only virtualized desktop, where you log in and are presented with a copy of the OS that can only be read. Files created or downloaded normally won't be saved. When you log off this session is closed and a completely new one is started when you log in again. The majority of viruses downloaded are usually eradicated, thereby enhancing the security of your systems.

Many IT partners and vendors provide scanning services and work to keep other virtualized systems clean and secure, with many systems being as secure, or more so, than their physical counterparts.

3. Backup systems As a business you likely have important data and information stored on various systems. Backing these up can be a chore, especially if the backup is done manually. There are virtual solutions out there that actually allow you to take what are called snapshots - a backup of your whole system at a specific time - that can be easily reverted to should something go wrong.

While you can do this with existing physical systems and backups, the virtual versions can often be quicker because you don't need to find the physical medium on which you stored the backup. Most services allow you to simply log on and begin the recovery process.

4. Enhance mobility Devices like the tablet have enabled us to become increasingly mobile. It's not uncommon for employees to access their systems while on the road, and truth be told the apps available now allow us to do the majority of our work from a mobile device.

There are times however when you will need to access an app or program on your PC. Using a solution such as a remote manager essentially turns your computer into a virtual machine, allowing you to access the files and programs stored on it from your mobile device. This is a powerful tool for the business manager or any employee who is on the road and needs to access their computers.

5. Server consolidation The server is an integral business component. These machines power many technical functions, like email, that your business relies on. If you are using older technology, you likely have more than a few servers in your office. How virtualization helps is that it allows you to create virtual servers on one physical server. This allows companies to decrease the number of servers in the office and save money.

If you are looking to virtualize your systems, or would like to learn more, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 20th, 2013

Virtualization_July15_ATechnical systems and devices are among the most important tools of any business. The problem with technology though is that it can be expensive to purchase and maintain. Sure, it's often a worthwhile investment, but many businesses simply cannot afford to replace or upgrade their tech on a regular basis. One solution to this is to virtualize.

Virtualization is the moving of physical systems to a virtual environment, which is usually located off-site, and connected to over the Internet. There are many benefits to virtualization, including lower costs and extended life of your technology, which has made it a popular option with small to medium sized businesses. If you have looked into virtualization, you may know that there are numerous types. Here are four.

Operating system virtualization Operating system (OS) virtualization is the movement of a desktop's main operating system into a virtual environment. The computer you use remains on your desk but the operating system is hosted on a server elsewhere. Usually, there is one version on the server and copies of that individual OS are presented to each user. Users can then modify the OS as they wish, without other users being affected.

Server virtualization Server virtualization is the moving of existing physical servers into a virtual environment, which is then hosted on a physical server. Many modern servers are able to host more than one server simultaneously, which allows you to reduce the number of servers you have in your company, thus reducing your IT and administrative expenditures. Some servers can also be virtualized and stored offsite by other hosting companies.

Storage virtualization Storage virtualization is the combining of multiple physical hard drives into a single, virtualized storage environment. To many users, this is simply called cloud storage, which can be private (hosted by your company), public (hosted outside of your company e.g., DropBox), or mixed. This type of virtualization, along with server virtualization, is often the most pursued by companies as it is usually the easiest and most cost effective to implement.

Hardware virtualization Hardware virtualization refers to taking the components of a real machine and making them virtual. This virtual machine works like the real machine and is usually a computer with an operating system. The software is ordinarily separated from the hardware resources, with the software often remaining on the physical machines. A good example of this is a Windows PC that runs a virtual version of Linux. There are different types of hardware virtualization, but this is the most common type used by businesses.

If you would like to learn more about virtualization and how it can help improve your business, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 22nd, 2013

Virtualization_June19_AThe vast majority of small to medium businesses rely on technology to be able to work, but lack the budget to upgrade to new systems when something better comes along. That's why the idea of virtualizing existing systems - moving them from a physical location to a digital one - is so appealing. One of the common types of virtualization revolves around hardware. Unfortunately, when you talk to many providers, they sometimes use terms that may be hard to understand.

Here are seven commonly used hardware virtualization terms and what they mean.

1. Host machine The host machine, sometimes referred to as the host VM, is the actual machine that the software/hardware lives on. This is usually a physical server, that may or may not be housed in your office, which provides the processing power, disk drives, memory, etc to create a virtual version of a platform, usually an operating system.

2. Guest machine Guest machines, sometimes referred to as guest VMs, are the virtual machines, or versions of the physical software. When a user accesses their guest machine, they are shown their own version of what is on the host machine. Many guest machines can use the software or operating systems as if it was on their physical computer.

To many users, there is still a computer on their desk, just the software and computing resources/hardware are hosted elsewhere. The vast majority of guest machines connect to the host via an Internet connection.

3. Hypervisor The Hypervisor is the software that allows the host machine to create a virtual version that the guest machine can access.

4. Virtual Machine Manager Virtual Machine Manager is another term used to describe the software that creates a virtual version of the host machine that the guest machine can access. The term is used interchangeably with Hypervisor, with Hypervisor being the more common of the two.

5. Snapshot A snapshot is the state of a virtual machine at a specific time. Think of this as similar to a picture taken to capture an important moment. Most snapshots include applications open, files stored in a virtual hard drive, and general state of the virtual environment. The reason these are important is because they are what enable users to resume their virtual session right where they left off.

Some companies and public domains like libraries take snapshots of an OS and present this to users when they log into the computer. If the user makes changes, they are not saved and when they log out, the next user to log in will be presented with the previous snapshot, (essentially a brand new system).

Snapshots are also useful for quick backup and recovery of virtual environments.

6. Migration Migration is the act of taking a snapshot of a virtual environment on one host machine, and physically moving it to another host machine with a different Hypervisor. This can normally be done quite quickly, often without major disruption to the user, who can pick up right where they left off after the migration.

7. Failover Failover allows the user, or guest machine, to continue operations if the host fails. The difference here is that the guest machine will continue operations from the last saved, stable snapshot. This could mean some changes, made to say a file, will be lost.

These are just seven common terms related to virtualization. If you would like to learn more about virtualization, why not contact us? We would be happy to sit down with you to explain more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 25th, 2013

Virtualization_May22_AComputing power has more or less doubled every two years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. While our computers are becoming increasingly powerful, it simply isn't feasible for many small to medium businesses to update their hardware or systems every couple of years. This often leads to businesses with aging systems facing increased costs, decreased productivity and the need (but not the budget!) to replace systems. One solution to this very real problem is to virtualize existing systems.

Virtualization is the act of taking an existing system, say a server, and creating a virtual copy of it that is hosted either in a physical unit or somewhere out of the office. Some systems you can virtualize include: Desktops, Operating Systems, servers, hardware and storage. Most small businesses start with storage and server virtualization as this can usually be done with relative ease and at an affordable cost.

Benefits of virtualization The question many business owners ask when they are looking into virtualization is what benefits it can bring. While the positives are numerous, here are the five most common:

1. Reduced space Physical hardware can take up a lot of space, and the common trend among many businesses is that the space available per person is shrinking in order to save costs. Take for example your servers. If you virtualize these, you can probably fit all of them onto one or two units. This will reduce the space your hardware takes up, freeing up extra storage capacity or possibly another desk.

2. Reduced overhead Having hardware and servers in an office can be expensive to maintain. You have to have climate control to start with which means higher electricity bills and higher maintenance costs. Virtualization will often reduce overhead costs and save you money. Beyond that, many solutions offer a pay-per-use pricing model which makes predicting costs easier.

3. Quicker backup and recovery Many virtualization solution providers also offer backup services that can be automated. This means that your vital data is always backed up and protected. Beyond that, the backups can be stored at a different location, meaning that if there is a disaster, you can recover lost data quickly and easily.

4. Longer hardware replacement cycles Virtualized solutions and platforms often require lower computing resources because they are hosted on the provider's servers. This means that you won't have to replace existing tech hardware. Beyond that, existing systems can be used for longer which will save you money.

5. Virtualization is scalable If your company is growing, you will eventually have to add new systems. In an already cramped office this means finding the space for hardware or servers needed to support your growth, not to mention investing in systems that are compatible with existing hardware. Virtualization is highly scalable, and can grow with your company, often without the need for extra services.

In general, virtualization could help your business grow, while IT costs remain stable, or are even decreased. If you would like to learn more about how virtualization of your systems can help your company, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 6th, 2013

Virtualization_Feb27_AVirtualization - the idea of taking physical systems and migrating them to a digital version - is a popular method businesses use to save space, decrease costs and potentially increase productivity. This concept is focused mainly on backend systems, like servers and desktop computers. There is a new candidate for virtualization that could take off in the next few years: your phone.

Traditional smartphones are individual packages. The operating system and user are physically tied to the device. If you think about it, there are really only a few phones out there, and millions of people probably have the exact same one that you do. They differentiate their phones from others by the pictures, apps, videos, etc. stored on the device and the way they have personalized their phones.

Should you lose your phone, that data is likely lost, and you are faced with a potentially high cost to replace it. The two major operating system developers - Apple (iOS) and Google (Android) - have started to implement virtual backup solutions. Your contacts, apps and some personalization settings are backed up to the cloud and connected with a user account. When you enter the account information, you can quickly get the most important information from your phone back.

Combine this with the various cloud storage services that allow users to store their information, pictures, etc., with access from nearly any device. This integration with the cloud has enabled users to rely less on physical devices, and points to a potential virtualization concept: Non-dedicated devices.

The idea of non-dedicated devices is that you can use any device, regardless of manufacturer or OS, to access a system you can call your own. Imagine if your phone runs out of batteries. You borrow a friend's, log in using your username and password and that device instantly becomes personalized to you.

Could this work? There are currently three identifiable virtualization trends that point to non-dedicated mobile devices becoming  a reality:

  1. Increasing adoption of cloud services by mobile uses - Many mobile users have cloud storage apps installed on their devices and store some form of mobile related information or data on it. What's more, these apps are cross-platform meaning you can access them on iPhone, Android, Mac or Windows.
  2. Heavy personalization of mobile devices - OS developers have started to store more information in the cloud. Google, for example, can store your contacts and basic personalization choices - e.g., wallpaper and apps, pictures, and even your calendar, in the cloud. Make changes on your mobile and you will see these on your computer too.
  3. Ability to access whole work systems from a mobile device - There are apps for both Android and Apple devices that allow users to access and control their desktops and work systems directly from phone or tablet. This has decreased the need for users to be chained to their desk just to be able to do work.
It wouldn't be hard for an enterprising company to develop a system that integrates these three, already existing functions into a device. The only major stumbling block we can see is that current OS developers don't necessarily get along all that well. We predict that this virtualization will become a possibility on individual systems (Android and iOS), in the near future, but across systems may take longer.

We'd like to know what you think of non-dedicated devices. Would you use one? Are there any other problems you can foresee? Let us know today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 3rd, 2013

In many tech circles the idea of virtualization - moving physical elements of existing business components onto virtual solutions - is a popular one. Among the different types of devices that can be virtualized, servers are the most common, and for many businesses the easiest and cheapest to go virtual. Are you looking to get more out of your servers?

Here's five tips on better server virtualization for small to medium businesses.

1. Reality is key - It's easy, when reading about tech, to get caught up in all the new devices, ideas, etc. and maybe begin to lose site of your situation. It's not uncommon to have a small business owner want to virtualize all servers at once. This is often not feasible - budget and technology wise.

Instead, you should take the time to assess your servers and identify which servers are best suited to virtualization. For example, if the server that handles your email is starting to show its age, this may be a prime candidate. After identifying potential servers to virtualize, you can begin to develop a better plan.

2. Check compatibility - After you have picked servers for virtualization, you should look at the software the servers handle, to see if they are compatible with the virtualization software you plan to use. Should the software not be compatible you will either have to look for another solution, or upgrade the software. Fail to do this and you could face setbacks and compatibility issues which will likely cause a drop in efficiency, or even negate the savings arising from virtualization.

It is also a good idea to look at whether the server itself is capable of supporting virtualization. Each virtualization solution has different requirements and this is a good thing to keep in mind. Virtualization solutions are always advancing, so the server that can just about handle a solution now may not be able to handle it in a year or two.

3. Don't forget about your data backup solutions - Interestingly, many virtualization providers also provide data backup solutions. It may be a good idea to look at your existing backup and if it is compatible with the systems you plan to use. If not, this could prove costly for your business if something should happen where you need this.

4. R.S.S. - Reduce. Sell. Save. Server virtualization allows for many servers to be run on one physical unit. This means you will be able to reduce the number of servers, sell them, and finally reap bigger savings through decreased maintenance and operational costs.

5. Work with and IT expert - The above steps can be daunting, even to those in the IT field. There's just so much to focus on that business owners and managers often don't have this kind of time. That's why we highly recommend that in order to get the most out of virtualization, you work with a virtualization expert who can focus on helping you stay realistic, ensure the compatibility of your systems and orient your backup systems.

Looking for an IT expert to help you virtualize your systems? Why not contact us? We may have a solution to help you get even more out of your systems.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 19th, 2013

IT has become an essential component of business. Without systems that meet business needs, a company will likely fail, or certainly struggle to stay in the black. As such, IT spending is predicted to reach USD$3.7 billion in 2013. Much of this spending will be on improving existing systems and adoption of cloud services. Is your company looking to get a little cloudy this year?

Here are five things you should ask cloud service providers when looking to make the move to the cloud.

  1. Is your service compatible with my existing systems? As a small or medium business, you likely don't have the funds to do a one-time, full transition into the cloud. This means, that it would be a good idea to ask cloud providers if their systems are compatible with yours and if you will be able to easily migrate your data over. Beyond that, you should also ask if you can get your systems off the cloud.
  2. How does your data security work? Security of data in the cloud is always a top issue for all businesses. Before committing, It's a good idea to get a picture of where exactly your data will be stored, who has access to it and the  level of storage security.
  3. What is your performance and availability? Numerous outages affecting cloud services happened in 2012. While few lasted more than half a day, this got many questioning just how stable the cloud is. When talking to cloud providers you should ask them what their uptime guarantees are and if their cloud is scalable - if you need more computing resources, are they available?
  4. What is your support policy? As you will likely not be hosting a cloud server in your office, you will be at the whim of the provider. It's advisable to suss out their support policy, such as whether they have a dedicated emergency contact and the general response time to issues and enquiries.
  5. How does your fee structure work? Finally, ask about the fee structure the provider uses. Most cloud operators offer numerous pricing schemes that companies can take advantage of.
Finding the right cloud service for your company can be a long and often tough task. Asking the right questions, comparing what different providers say and finally comparing the findings against your needs, should help you find the perfect provider. If you're interested in learning more about cloud services and how they can be employed in your business, why not start with us? We may have the perfect solution for you. Give us a call today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.