Network Infrastructure

How the Cloud is Transforming Education

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School IT departments have generally been on the forefront when it comes to embracing new technologies, and teachers who also embrace the latest technologies can reap the benefits faster. The cloud has opened up their world, and technology is poised to finally deliver on its promise to transform education.

Assisting teachers

The cloud has reversed a disappointing trend for teachers. Previously, clunky hardware and failing technology meant wasted time and frustration – hindering rather than assisting them.

All that is changing as the cloud delivers a more flexible, responsive and less device-specific form of technology into the classroom, and the way information is stored, accessed, presented and managed is transformed. Coursework can be retrieved anytime, anywhere. But it’s more than just storage.

Education apps are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the tracking of individual student performance. In a context where there is a five or six-year difference between the most advanced and least-capable student in a classroom, distinguishing instruction is not only a worthy goal, but a practical necessity. And that's where cloud-based technology can help. Connected apps and services such as Mathletics and Duolingo allow students to work at their own pace and adjust the order and difficulty of tasks in line with their progress.

With such innovative data on students, teachers can make better informed decisions about the next steps in learning.

Improving student outcomes

Exercise books and textbooks are increasingly becoming relics. Cloud-based student learning management systems such as EdumateMoodleEdmodo and Blackboard are now staples in most schools across The United States and other countries. Their connectivity means students have access to the most up to date case studies instead of relying on textbooks, which quickly date and become unusable.

Cloud based applications like Microsoft Outlook and Google Docs allows students greater opportunities for collaboration, as documents can be edited simultaneously by multiple authors – including the teacher. This allows for more instant, targeted feedback.

Saving money

And perhaps the biggest impact the cloud can have on academics is the resolution of overstretched budgets. The security and maintenance of expensive infrastructure and internal servers are becoming redundant. Cloud-based storage services such as Amazon, Google and Office 365 provide huge amounts of space with the added benefit of the collective skill of world-class engineers to protect information.

Large upfront costs for software are also giving way to modest subscription fees for services that are continually improved and updated. And even better, many are free! The flexibility of these apps also means students no longer have to shell out big bucks for a laptop, with the ability to access many of the applications on their smartphones or tablets.

For initiative-fatigued teachers who are after a more convenient and efficient way to improve the teaching and learning cycle, a cloud solution from Current Technologies might just be the technological breakthrough they need to re-engage with technology.

We can make the Cloud work for you

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How to Secure Healthcare Files in 2019

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In modern health care, there are many reasons for very large files to be stored and sent from person to person. A growing trend is centrally located diagnostic specialists serving multiple clinics. This means image files must be moved from place to place with increasing frequency. These files must be moved and stored securely.

Fortunately for health care IT pros, there are:

  • Regulations to provide minimum expectations of what "secure" means

  • Models from other industries on techniques and technologies for protecting very large files

The road to protection starts with the security devices in place for the network.

The filtering layer

Like in every other industry, you start with standard security devices and practices. However, in healthcare an additional layer is necessary, a layer that examines file types and allows or disallows transit based on explicit permissions attached to user credentials. This additional layer of security is a filter that stops files rather than try to stop accounts. It can protect files based on:

  • Type

  • Contents (looking for certain patterns of information, such as digits arranged the way they are in credit-card numbers)

  • Allowable origination or destination addresses

Where care must be taken, though, is in the file sizes these filters can screen out and block.

The large file problem

Some security devices, especially those that guard the perimeter by looking at the contents of entire files, are limited in just how large a file they can inspect and protect. When looking at new systems, make sure to ask very pointed questions to ensure the filtering capabilities of the system you choose will adequately filter out the files you want blocked.

The VDI solution

There is another approach that some organizations have adopted, one that doesn't require moving files from system to system. A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) moves display information, but not files. Sensitive files are left on a single server, where they are easier to protect.

In a VDI scenario, the hardware emphasis shifts from additional layers of perimeter protection to server capabilities and capacities.

Critical server components

Two critical components of the server for these huge files displayed on VDI are the storage and the display adapter.

  1. The storage subsystem will be designed like that of an online analytics processor system, optimized for rapid reads and large data transfers.

  2. The display subsystem must be able to render large files with high resolution and great speed. (This will need to be matched on the workstation end by a graphics adapter that can render the virtual desktop display containing the file at equal resolution.)

Large files can be protected if all standard network and server security protocols are observed, and content filtering is added as a layer of system protection. Health care organizations also should look seriously at VDI for the benefits that come with not moving large files at all. Leaving these files behind inside a secure perimeter can be very comforting when hackers strike. Current Technologies has helped many healthcare organizations across Illinois and the Midwest find and implement the best solution for their business, and can do the same for yours!

Which Solution is Right for you?

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Manage your endpoints from one screen

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A few IT managers see their servers and network as an Iron castle of order and stability surrounded by a horde of anarchic devices. Other IT professionals know that it's as important to manage the end-point devices as it is the central servers. Understanding a few crucial points can help you adopt the latter’s serene view of their world.

See endpoints as tribes

It can be useful to view each type of your organization's endpoints as a collection of tribes. Each tribe (device) serves its particular set of users in a particular way.

Laptops and tablets serve given groups in different ways. Field sales and human resources employees use laptops in different ways. This means that as an IT manager, you can not manage each tribe the same way. It is rare that a "one size fits all" approach will be the most successful approach, but that doesn't mean you can't use a single framework for managing all the tribes.

Points of convergence

A single framework can implement a lot of different tactics for a single strategy regarding your endpoints. The good news is that a single family of software can take care of that. One of the most significant issues to be managed is configuration: Are the workstations, whether desktop, laptop, or handheld, running the approved version of the operating system, applications, and security components? Proper patching and configuration is one of the central points at which all the tribes converge.

Using agents

Things get much more complicated when employees can (or must) bring their own devices of one type or another. It's one thing for an employee to spend their own money for a work-related tool. It's quite another to ask them to agree to load an intrusive agent on their personal system. Agent-less management systems are available to enterprises, or systems that rely on minimalist agents. How small an agent can manage all your tribes? It might be time to find out.

Choose where you can

Managing the endpoints can mean choosing as many of the endpoints as possible. While most management frameworks will give you control over legacy endpoints, there's no question that current-generation hardware takes manageability to a new level. If you want, or need, the highest degree of managed functionality in your fleet of tribes, you will want to make sure that as many members of the fleet as possible use the same CPU, same operating system, or same support chips. It's your choice—use it wisely.

Manage it all from one screen

New software makes endpoint management a problem of the past. Current Technologies and our partnership with Auvik remote monitoring and management software can make the one screen dream a reality. Auvik Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) software allows you to do much more than simply watch your servers and endpoints. By utilizing RMM software from Auvik, it is easier than ever to keep an eye on everything from routers and switches to firewalls. Doing so cuts costs by avoiding outages, optimizing connections, saving time and controlling service level agreements (SLAs).

Auvik cloud based network management software has automated, networking best, practices built into every aspect from alerting thresholds to configuration analysis. Auvik RMM software features state of the art visual topology which gives your IT department the ability to view and monitor every device in your network, allowing them to do more in less time.

For more information on what Current Technologies and Auvik RMM software can do for you, please fill out the form below and we will be in touch with you as soon as possible

Find out what Auvik RMM can do for you

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IT System Management for Academics

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Universities and other learning institutes have developed many different strategies for how they provide computing and infrastructure services to their users. For some schools, a cloud model makes both technical and financial sense as a way for the IT group to deliver applications and services effectively and efficiently. For others, well secured and backed up in-house hardware gets the job done, while most go with a combination of both.

Once upon a time, offering basic services—networking, clients, servers, and applications—was all that an academic IT group would ever be called on to provide. Now departments and schools are asked of a lot more from employees and students. If you’re tasked with meeting those expectations, the infrastructure you build must accomplish three things.

1. Break it down

Services, applications, and infrastructure should be broken into individual pieces and offered on that basis. That means:

  1. Supporting virtual servers to provide those services.

  2. Investing in software-defined networks that provision network capability that changes as rapidly as the demand for computing services from your users.

Thinking of your internet technology in smaller increments means thinking of your infrastructure in more complete terms—servers, storage, and networking, all under the control of software that can manage individual services and allocate resources on demand.

2. Add it up

Breaking up your service offerings into small pieces makes no sense if you continue to account for your internet technology in old ways. An out-of-band management style that breaks things up allows for the feeding data to accounting systems without adding traffic to the production network or servers. Out-of-band management also allows for users to still do what they need to even if your system experiences some unplanned downtime.

Between new services, security, and the avoidance of outages, the importance of out-of-band servers and network infrastructure increases dramatically. You'll want to specify systems (including transaction-ready storage) that can cope with changing demands.

3. Lock it down

Smaller computing units mean a greater number of points of potential intrusion. Security, then, becomes a service that is part of everything else you offer to internal customers.

Current-generation servers offer features that provide tremendous assistance in keeping data and resources safe. Regardless of whether the server CPUs are made by Intel or AMD, similar features allow administrators to:

  1. Explore the ways in which your target operating system (or hypervisor) makes use of these features.

  2. Ensure you have configured the operating system to take advantage of those features.

When you look to the cloud for a model, you add a bit of complexity to your IT operation, but you significantly increase the number of services you can provide and the quality of those services.

Modern academics and employees have built their expectations on cloud services. Make sure:

  1. Your hardware infrastructure is up to the task

  2. You've built the right software for management and accounting

Then you'll be ready to provide the kind of IT service that keeps researchers, academics, and students happy and productive

How can we help you help your students?

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3 Ways Spending Less on Hardware will cost you

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How “Cheap” Machines Become Expensive


Everyone in business IT knows that budgets are shrinking. In an environment with fewer dollars, it's tempting to look at low price tags as the most important specification any hardware can carry. The problem, as we are reminded frequently, is that total cost of ownership (TCO) cannot be ignored. More importantly, the total benefit of ownership is a metric that IT managers must take into consideration seriously when specifying the details of servers or workstations. 

There are multiple aspects to TCO for hardware, and most of them have nothing to do with whether the hardware is likely to break and need service. For our purposes, let’s assume that any workstation you buy is going to be an absolute rock of reliability and quality. That still doesn't take away three ongoing costs of owning your workstations. 

1. Lost Productivity

You've heard that time is money, well one of the primary ways in which the cheapest priced machine can become expensive over time is through the lost productivity that accompanies the minimal performance.

Managers focused on nothing but purchase price might criticize the organizational cost of a few seconds per operation or the inconvenience caused to an employee by a desktop workstation compared to a laptop, but over the course of a workstation's lifetime, those seconds and minutes add up.

2. Reduced Effectiveness

Workers who have to deal with daily frustrations from underperforming or poorly configured workstations are less effective.

Human memory is poor, especially after the fifth meeting of the morning. Handwritten notes are better than nothing, but notes typed into a laptop are surely best. That isn’t possible for workers away from their desks if their computers can’t follow them.

There are still organizations with managers who consider laptop and other mobile computers as luxury items. IT managers might want to point out that mobile computers can increase information accuracy, improve productivity, lower network infrastructure costs, and enhance security in return for their perceived luxury.

3. Security and Network Infrastructure

Considerations such as network infrastructure cost should be considered in TCO calculations, especially when WiFi has become nearly ubiquitous, and the costs of running cable continue to rise.

IT managers who want to seriously tilt the table in the direction of mobile endpoints can discuss the cost of potential data breaches through physical intrusions. The average desktop-based client infrastructure is far less secure than an infrastructure and policy framework that has:

  • Most laptop and mobile devices locked in drawers or cabinets at the end of the day

  • The rest in the possession of employees trained in security

Moreover, connecting to central assets through a VPN can be far more secure than the average desktop-based client infrastructure.

Decisions based solely on minimum purchase price can come back to haunt an organization for years. Current Technologies specializes in consulting with your business, finding out your needs, analyzing all options and bringing you the solution best fit for your business.

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How To Improve Your Network Without Major Investment

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Simple ways to Improve your Network Without Major Investment

Who knows how many more devices will be in the Christmas haul for students, staff, and faculty? You can certainly be sure most of those new devices will appear on campus at some point or another. However, you are not likely to find an unexpected budget for a major network overhaul in your stocking. But if there is something left in the budget, you might be able to make a big difference with some small improvements.

1. Take another look at what you are made of

When planning a network by looking at blueprints and floor plans, the basic question of building materials is easily overlooked. Those materials can make a big difference to the reach of a WiFi network, however.

Dense building materials like brick or rock could smother your wireless signal. Materials that hold water can also sabotage signal strength. Not taking into account a bathroom in the way can play havoc with signal strength.

If there are dead spots in your network, double check whether you have taken building materials properly into account. Buying a more advanced access point for a place where the signal is weak will not cost the earth. And it could give you a fast, reliable connection where you did not have one before.

2. Follow the crowd

WiFi users will mob in the places with the best signals. The problem is that those mobs then bring down the very network speeds they were chasing.

You might see real benefits in a small investment in access points in the locations where users would gather if only the WiFi were better. The right access point in the right place could give you double benefit:

  1. You have good WiFi where there were only complaints before

  2. You have even better WiFi where users used to congregate in greater numbers

3. Invest in Analytics

It might be time to invest in an analytics tool. If you already have good analytics tools, it might be time to fund a project to study the data. There are questions that you should know the answers to in order to make the most of your current WiFi:

  • Who is using your network

  • When they are using it

  • Where they are using it

  • What they are using it for

The answer to getting more from your network is not always going to be to buy more bandwidth, for instance. It might be a question of allocating what you already have better—perhaps spreading it further and more efficiently as with the suggestions here. It might also be a question of defining better rules for which data has priority.

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Making Tomorrow's Classroom Today

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Creating the Right Network Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s Digital Learners


Changes in how teachers use technology to reach students is causing network administrators to reconsider the way they think about network bandwidth, and these changes are speeding up hardware refresh cycles. Are you ready?

Two huge factors are driving these rapid changes in educational networking:

  1. The way that faculty members are using media to reach students
  2. The number of devices each student brings on campus

The changes will require network administrators to rethink their network bandwidth situation.

Teacher's and student's need for more network bandwidth is placing some institutions in a tricky spot, especially if wireless access points were just upgraded two or three years ago. However, the new upgrade is one that will meet school’s needs well into the future.

Video Drives the Network

Everyone wants their YouTube and cat videos. And in class, professors are not projecting video onto a central screen. They are giving students a URL to watch the video on their personal devices. The class is now responsible for 20 - 200 network streams instead of one.

That and students constantly checking for mail and social media updates mean a dramatic increase in the bandwidth required to each classroom, and to the campus as a whole.

New WiFi to the Rescue

The good news is that a new wireless networking standard, 802.11ac Wave 2 has now entered the field. 802.11n Wave 1, the highly successful predecessor to Wave 2, could provide bandwidth of more than 700 Mbps. Access points for 802.11ac Wave 2 can provide up to 7 gigabits per second of speed. It can also provide that high-speed access to some devices while providing lower speeds to older clients. The whole network does not slow down when old devices are present.

802.11ac Wave 2, which was certified by the WiFi Alliance and rolled out late 2016 solves many wireless issues but creates a need for a faster and more robust backbone. Current Technologies is partnered with Aruba Networks, Cisco Systems, and Aerohive Networks to customize a  wireless access system using the most up-to-date technology that delivers superb WiFi performance.

New Wireless Means new Wires

Most campuses have gigabit ethernet supplying their access points. Obviously, 7-gigabit access points need more than one gigabit Ethernet, so some campuses have begun dropping 10-gigabit lines to their APs. Also, these faster APs require Power Over Ethernet+, which may involve new injectors or Ethernet switches. These are not small costs because they involve changing physical infrastructure in existing structures.

Moving to 802.11ac is not like the move from 802.11a to 802.11n. The new move is a significant upgrade to the infrastructure.

We Can Help With The Transition

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We need to embrace technology to make learning more engaging. Because when students are engaged and interested, that is when learning takes place.
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