Business Continunity

Data Center Upgrade: Not All Or Nothing

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Everyone wants one screen to rule them all: one console display to monitor and manage all systems in a data center. According to some vendors, the only way to achieve this management “nirvana” is to bring in the forklifts and replace every system you own in one swoop. If you have an unlimited budget and no executive committee to report to, that's a suitable and realistic plan.

For the rest of us, the good news is that there is a better alternative: updating servers as they hit the end of their life cycle according to the refresh cycle. A mixed fleet of servers can be highly manageable if you consider a handful of key issues while you're building and evolving the servers within.

Picking The Server Management Framework

Several decisions follow the initial decision of which server management framework is selected. The basic split is between a framework from a hardware vendor and a framework independent of any hardware tie. While they are alike in many ways, there are key differences that will have major implications for your hardware choices.

Hardware-Tied Or Vendor-Neutral?

First, it seems obvious that a hardware-tied management framework should be at the top of your candidate list if all your servers are from a single vendor. While each new generation of servers has features that work more closely in concert with management applications, the vendor's software will typically work with at least three previous generations of hardware.

Vendor-neutral frameworks may lack the ability to take advantage of some specific server features, but they tend to offer consistent management across all servers of a particular generation and across two or three previous generations. They also can be cheaper depending on a multitude of factors. The real advantage of these frameworks involves existing analytics packages that you want to continue using. Integration with a wide range of third-party software is a strength of several vendor-neutral management systems.

Preparing For The Future

With all of these management frameworks, one of the most important considerations is how well the package prepares you for the future, since changing the software that manages a fleet of servers is not something to be taken lightly. Whether the management framework comes from a hardware vendor or not, it will be the tool that allows you to manage new servers and server blades as they are brought into service through the normal hardware refresh cycle.

As servers become part of a growing ecosystem of platforms that support virtual or software-defined functions, a management framework that supports all components of an integrated environment, from the server to storage to the network, becomes more important.

A single pane of glass that allows you to monitor and manage absolutely everything in the infrastructure is not yet available, but you can have a data center management system that will provide direct management of the servers in a diverse fleet while allowing integration with platforms that manage networking, storage, and other functions.

Another valid option for network monitoring and management is hiring a managed service provider (MSP). The advantages of hiring an experienced MSP like Current Technologies are numerous and include spending less on IT personnel, the MSPs are experts, you can rest easy knowing that someone else is protecting your network, and it is cheaper than and easier than doing it yourself.  It isn’t surprising that 70 percent of CIOs partnered with outside experts to plan manageable growth in 2018, find out what we can do for you today.

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Six Easy Steps To Tune Up Your PC

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Computer Crash Avoidance

Does your PC crash all the time? Does it take what feels like hours just to load one program? You are probably thinking that it's time for a new computer, well that might be an unnecessary expense. Just like healthy eating and good personal hygiene, good computer hygiene is important. No matter what computer you’re using, there are a few things you should do regularly to ensure that everything is running as well as possible. These include:

  • Minimize Startup Tasks

Many programs install plug-ins that automatically load every time you turn on your computer, whether you need them to or not. Keep these unwanted hidden programs from slowing you down. In Windows 8 and 10, use the Task Manager by right-clicking on the Taskbar, clicking “More Details,” and switching to the Startup tab.

Bonus Tip: Pay close attention when installing downloaded software. Even many reputable programs will install extra items you may not be aware of that can slow your system down.

  • Remove Bloatware

Bloatware is any unnecessary and often obtrusive program that comes pre-loaded on many PCs, or software that gets added during the installation of legitimate software. These unwanted programs often increase boot time, waste memory, and clutter up your system tray, desktop, and context menus.
 
You can uninstall programs manually by opening your PC's Control Panel and clicking on "Programs," then "Programs and Features." And to keep from accumulating bloatware in the first place, check to make sure you're not loading unwanted programs as you install new software by reading through the installation dialogue boxes and unchecking any options to install additional programs that pop up.

  • Defragment (if you need to)

Because of the way file systems work, over time small chunks of disk space can be left stranded and unavailable for use, which means the computer needs to work harder than it should to find space to store new files. Regular defragmenting will pull together pieces of files stored all over the disk, leaving more large, contiguous blocks of empty space that will help your computer run faster. Especially be sure to defragment after you’ve deleted large numbers of files.

The more places your computer has to search to find files, the slower its performance. That makes defragmenting the hard drive an essential step in any tune-up of a PC with a traditional hard drive. In Windows 7 and earlier, defragment by using the included Disk Defragmenter tool. In Windows 8 and 10, use the program Optimize Drives. If you have one of the newer solid state drives (SSDs), however, you're in luck—they never need to be defragmented.

  • Look For Memory And CPU Hogs

If your computer is running slow, it may be due to software that’s hoarding more of your CPU and disk resources than it should. Open Windows Resource Monitor (click "Start" > type "Resource Monitor" > click on the result) and you’ll be able to identify which programs are using large chunks of CPU time. If they’re slowing you down too much, it’s worth uninstalling them and finding alternatives that are more efficient.

  • Update Your Operating System And Applications

It might seem counterintuitive, but newer versions of operating systems often run better on old hardware because they have been optimized to do so. If performance is an issue for you, update your operating system—and make sure you also update all of your applications, particularly security tools and Web browsers, to keep yourself safe online.

  • Upgrade Your System

When many users consider upgrading their computer to improve performance, their first thought is often to add more RAM. If you're currently using most or all of your RAM, then adding more will provide a noticeable boost. If, however, you're not regularly using all of your current memory, adding more may make little difference to your computer’s performance. Search for Resource Monitor in the Windows search box to find out how much of your system's resources you're currently using. However, even if you're not using all your current resources, switching from a traditional hard drive to an SSD can provide a significant speed boost.

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With The Cloud, Power Failure Isn't The End

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What Happens When the Lights Go Out?

As if building up the IT systems that support your business wasn’t hard enough, you also need to have a clear plan for restoring your services if you lose power or if a natural disaster strikes. Downtime can be measured in thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per hour, so any sort of outage can quickly become a major problem that you need to remedy as quickly as possible.

But how do you get your business back up and running if your data isn’t available?
In the past, doing this meant maintaining a "hot" backup data center, typically located many miles away or even in another state. That site would be set up exactly the same as your primary site, with identical configurations of expensive servers and storage systems to keep copies of all your data. In the event of a failure, the business would switch over to the backup site until normal services resumed.

This approach was so expensive and complex that many businesses simply couldn’t afford it. Thankfully, recent advances in cloud storage make it easy to continuously protect your servers without having to maintain your own secondary data center.

Drop It Into The Cloud

The trick is to use cloud-storage services, which you may already be familiar with thanks to services like Dropbox and Mimecast. These services automatically synchronize your local data in a secure part of a cloud provider’s systems. These systems are housed in a robust data center that is usually far away from your own business. Server protection tools like Lenovo’s Online Data Backup for ThinkServers do the same thing for a whole server worth of data—or more.

Once key corporate data and applications are set to automatically back up to the cloud, a power outage is no longer a problem, because you can access your data from anywhere you can get online. This means you can still access your core systems and data even if your office is flooded, has suffered fire damage, or has otherwise been compromised. Just set up your employees on laptops in a safe temporary site, and your business will be up and running in no time.

Power Without Interruption

Although cloud storage services will protect your data from outages, they’re not the only thing to consider when dealing with power outages. If you’re not already using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for key servers, it’s well worth acquiring one so that your systems can ride out short power outages and you can gracefully transfer data to cloud-hosted applications in the event of a longer interruption. Just be sure you get a UPS with enough battery capacity to keep your servers running for a while. That way you can also plug your broadband modem into the UPS and stay online even when the lights go off.

Protecting Your Data From The Unpredictable

New technologies can help you to build a coherent business continuity strategy that will keep your servers online—or at least keep your data accessible—even when nature strikes. Current Technologies has been keeping businesses afloat through power outages and natural disasters for 20+ years. Our team has the experience and knowledge to design a plan that will work for you, no matter what the future brings.

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Cloud Computing is the Solution you need

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How to make the most of the Cloud


You only need look at the explosive growth of services like Microsoft Office 365 and VMware for evidence of the business trend towards cloud computing. You can also check out our article on where businesses are spending their IT budget. This raises an important question: how can a business maximize the cloud’s benefits?

Happier, More Productive Employees

Perhaps the biggest advantage the cloud gives an organization is tied directly to its most important asset: employees. By leveraging the possibilities for remote work and more flexible hours inherent in cloud-based computing, it’s possible to keep staff both happier and more productive – all at little to no cost.

A study in the Harvard Business Review found that call center workers who switched to a work-from-home model experienced a 13.5 percent increase in productivity compared to their in-office peers. They also reported much higher job satisfaction and quit at half the rate of employees working in the office. Nicholas Bloom, one of the authors of the study, argues that remote work and flexible hours can give an organization an edge by allowing them to attract better talent from a wider pool by removing geographic and other barriers.

Bloom gives the example of a low-cost airline: “JetBlue allows folks to work as far as three hours from headquarters – close enough to come in now and again but a much bigger radius from which it can draw applicants. When I asked the people at JetBlue about this policy, they said it helped them gain access to educated, high-ability mothers who wanted flexibility in their jobs. The airline believes this policy has improved the quality of its workforce.”

To win the marketplace you must first win the workplace
— Doug Conant, Former President - Campbell Soup Company

Connected like Never Before

The cloud-based services also allow for easier and more fluid coordination and communication among staff, contractors and clients. Rather than working on multiple versions of the same document, team members in different locations can now work simultaneously on one version, cutting confusion and ensuring better document control.

The lesson here is that an organization transitioning to the cloud should carefully consider the increase of productivity. Current Technologies is closely partnered with Microsoft Outlook 365 for cloud email and collaboration. Outlook 365 is the industry leader allowing for your employees to check emails and tie in with peers on presentations and documents.

The shift to the cloud offers another huge plus: operational agility and capacity. Need more or less server or storage space? What about employee access to an application? Scaling capacity up or down is simply a matter of coordinating with your vendor rather than purchasing, installing and implementing expensive IT hardware and software on-site. Current Technologies offers top of the line VMware cloud storage options for businesses that are highly customized to client needs. Backup and recovery is also simplified in the event that your data is compromised. Finally, the infrastructure, platform and service options that cloud computing offers make things like implementation incredibly easy.

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