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February 27th, 2014

Virtualization_Feb24_BOften described as the future of business systems, virtualization has taken the world of IT to greater heights than ever before. With the advent of virtualization, businesses can now optimize their systems. In addition, this innovation allows them to do what they have never been able to do before, such as centralizing the control of the business environment, and a whole lot more.

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.

January 31st, 2014

Virtualization_Jan27_BOne of the more common trends among small to medium businesses is the moving of physical systems to a virtual environment. This concept, commonly referred to as virtualization, will continue to be a draw for businesses for the immediate future and beyond. As with traditional systems however, businesses will still need to back up their virtualized data, which is a process many may not be considering or doing.

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 6th, 2013

Virtualization_Dec02_BA common tech term uttered by tech experts and indeed many businesses is ‘cloud’. It is often accompanied with the word ‘virtualization’. These two terms have led many users to believe that they are interchangeable, when in fact they have actually quite different meanings. This can lead to confusion with all parties involved and even lead to companies making uninformed decisions.

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 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 physical 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 Anchor and eFolder.

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 unreasonable amount of servers. So what they do is virtualize multiple servers and house them in one physical server. In other words, virtualization enables 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 physical servers and the physical space required to house each server. This in turn can reduce overhead. 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 18th, 2013

Virtualization_Oct16_BOne of the more popular tech related trends is taking physical systems and migrating or switching them for a virtual version - or virtualization, as it's more commonly referred to. Virtualization has many benefits for businesses, but many small businesses are unsure as to what solutions they can actually migrate into the digital realm.

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 19th, 2013

Virtualization_July15_BTechnical devices and systems are some of the most important business tools used on a daily basis by owners, managers and employees. While technology is constantly advancing, many businesses struggle to afford to update their technology on a regular basis, instead choosing to make do with their existing tech. It is largely because of this cost prohibition that virtualization has become so popular.

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 21st, 2013

Virtualization_June19_BWhen it comes to technology, there are many things you and your business can do to help get the most out of what you have. One option at your disposal is to virtualize – move your physical systems to a virtual one. Virtualization has become a popular way for small businesses to do more with less. The problem is, it can be complicated, especially because of the terms professionals use.

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 physical 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.

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 open applications, files stored in a virtual hard drive, and general state of the virtual environment. The reason these are important is because they  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 24th, 2013

Virtualization_May22_BComputers are continually increasing performance at an impressive rate. In fact, the pattern of hardware power doubling every two years even has it’s own phrase: Moore’s Law. While processing power may be continually increasing, the fact is that many businesses simply cannot keep up with the changes; it’s just too costly. This is one reason why the idea of virtualization can be appealing to many company owners and managers.

Virtualization is the act of taking an existing system, for example 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 and Storage. Most small businesses start with Storage and Server virtualization as this can usually be done at an affordable cost.

Benefits of virtualization
The question many business owners ask when they are looking into virtualization is what are the business benefits? While the benefits are considerable, 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 
Servers need power and generate heat, you need climate control to start with which means higher electricity bills and higher maintenance costs. Virtualization will often reduce overhead costs and save you money by consolidating functional servers into a single or dual server hardware configuration. It’s not unusual to run two or three virtual servers of each physical host.

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 operating on ”hosted” servers. This means that you won’t have to replace as much server hardware in the future because virtualized servers are more efficent than physical servers.

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 additional physical hardware.

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 can help your company, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
March 5th, 2013

Virtualization_Feb27_BThere are numerous tech buzzwords that surface each year, one of the more common in the past couple of years is virtualization. Being able to take physical systems and replace with a cheaper, often more efficient, virtual version, is something many businesses appreciate. Up to this point, most solutions have focused on desktops and servers. We predict that the next gadget to virtualize will be the smartphone.

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 2nd, 2013

One of the most popular tech trends amongst businesses is virtualization. The common reason businesses virtualize their systems is that if it's done right, you could see substantial savings. It's quite common for a company's servers to be the first systems to be virtualized. However, while many small business owners want to virtualize, they sometimes struggle to get virtualization off the ground.

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 18th, 2013

One of the bigger tech trends of 2012 was the cloud. Browse through tech news and it’s hard not to see some news piece on some form of cloud technology. While at times the media can be critical, there is still significant positive coverage about the cloud. Companies large and small want to understand the benefits of the cloud but are understandably cautious about their data. In 2013 you may see businesses increasingly migrate some of their processes to the cloud; email, spam filtering and data backup solutions are good examples.

Here are five things you should know about when looking to the cloud.

  1. Is the cloud 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 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 about 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 the 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 about fee structure? 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.