Cloud

What is the Internet of Things?

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The “Internet Of Things” is the existence of uniquely identifiable devices interconnected via the Internet. The interconnection of these devices is expected to introduce automation in nearly all fields from medicine to your own home.

There is a lot of hype about IoT, and we are at the point of wondering what it will mean for us as individuals, employees, and businesses.

The IoT will change our lives.

One example could be that your toothbrush might have a chip in it and via Bluetooth will communicate with your mobile device to tell you stuff like how long it has been since you started using it or in the case of the kids' tooth brushes, have they been used recently? Technological advances like these have people wondering, is that too invasive? We will be faced with all sorts of questions about what we do and don’t want connected to the internet.

Wearable technology is already beginning to monitor health vitals and offer connected watches that monitor or report on our movements or calories burnt. One day your refrigerator could know what is inside it and your trash can knows what you threw out. Those will work together so the shopping list on your connected fridge door can ask you to confirm the online order for replacing everything you have consumed this week for delivery tomorrow.

IoT will have very practical uses across our infrastructure as well. The ability to monitor how every piece of your internet technology is running and quickly addressing problems will be vital or businesses in the long run. The Internet of Things will also have a big impact on things like street lights and traffic lights. These will soon have sensors, so those in charge of maintenance know where to replace a burned-out bulb. Pipes will be able to detect where a leak is occurring so that water wastage is reduced (today 30% of our water supply is currently lost to leaks). The infrastructure cost savings by this sort of technology in smart-pipes will equate to billions of dollars and save many valleys from being flooded by new dams.

There are plenty more examples of this sort of sensor information making big differences in our personal lives, and when this is tied to big data and data analytics the world will change quickly and significantly. The impact the IoT will have on businesses will be huge.

IoT will affect your business, so be prepared.

Some of the technology is here today and much of it is in development now. Large companies have embarked on ambitious big data projects, and many small-medium organizations have started collecting what data they can. This is leading to a growing need for data storage systems and analytics tools today.

If your business is not paying attention to the current changes in IoT technology and looking at what it means to your industry, whether you are in education, manufacturing, healthcare or consulting services, there are changes coming to technology and the IoT that will change the way your industry thinks and works. The IoT will allow organizations to minimize waste and overall be more efficient.

We will post more updates on how IoT is affecting local businesses, but in the meantime stay alert, not alarmed, and proactively seek out how the IoT changes in your industry.

How can we make the IoT work 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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Storing Medical Data in the Cloud

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From doctor-patient confidentiality to insurance non-disclosure agreements, we do all we can to ensure our medical data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands—and for some healthcare organizations, this makes the idea of storing such data in the cloud quite alarming. Though the cloud promises to reduce costs and streamline records management, it’s all too often (and wrongly) associated with the specter of cybercrime and other security breaches. Fortunately, it’s much safer than you might think.

A slow revolution

In 2011, only 4% of healthcare providers had moved to the cloud. Adoption rates have since skyrocketed to over 70%. However, it appears that some in the industry are still reluctant to make the leap, and the main concern among detractors appears to be the possibility of a security breach.

However, when it comes to sensitive data, a security breach isn’t the only thing you have to worry about—data might also be lost as the result of a physical event, like a fire or flood. When keeping your data in the cloud, it is being secured by IT professionals at groups like Microsoft and Google, whose only job it to secure your data. In other words, storing data in the cloud might be the safest option available.

Meeting industry standards with HIPAA

The good news is that you no longer have to determine for yourself whether or not a cloud provider is able to protect sensitive medical data. In 2013, the federal government expanded the privacy and security protections established under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) so that they now apply to electronic health records. The act outlines strict procedures for storing such records using data encryption and destruction. It also imposes significant penalties on non-compliant organizations.

From the clinic to the cloud

When a healthcare organization decides to move to the cloud, it should check that its cloud provider is HIPAA compliant. The U.S. Department of Health doesn’t itself authorize any HIPAA certification programs. However, cloud providers can voluntarily undergo an audit that takes into account the HIPPA Audit Protocols. If they pass, you can be confident that they’re capable of storing your data in a safe and secure environment—which means that the prognosis for your organization’s medical records is very good indeed.

Current Technologies is here for all your data storage needs

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The Right Data Storage For Your School

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A Datacenter Filled With Small Servers


As the economics of cloud computing continues to evolve, many school districts are asking whether moving their entire datacenters to the cloud is the best way to improve IT response and keep IT on budget. There are certainly advantages to some cloud services, and any modern educational IT infrastructure should contain some elements that are cloud-based. But there are also reasons to keep some IT functions local. For those, a datacenter furnished with multiple small servers can be the perfect answer.

Converged, Not Hyper-Converged

The arrival of converged systems means that educational IT professionals have an ideal answer for many applications. Notice that it's converged systems we're talking about and not hyper-converged systems.

The highly virtualized and automated operation of a hyper-converged system is perfect for organizations with rapidly changing load levels and requirements, but most educational IT systems value stability and regularity. For those characteristics, the overhead of the hyper-converged system is difficult to justify.

Converged systems have little additional overhead compared with separate components deployed around a datacenter and a host of benefits. Converged systems tend to reduce, rather than increase, the management load of an IT staff.

  • There are physical savings that come from putting as much as possible into a single rack enclosure

  • There is the assurance that all of the components are certified by the vendor to work together

Ultimately, the key to justifying and successfully deploying small servers in a district datacenter boils down to understanding the applications that prefer the local hosting treatment.

Examples of data that might benefit from staying on local servers rather than being transported to cloud servers include:

  • Sensitive personnel records

  • Student records with personal identification information left intact

  • Financial information

Where The Cloud Comes In

That is not to say there's no role for cloud services in the modern IT infrastructure. The secret is understanding which data can best be stored in the cloud and which needs to remain in the local datacenter.

The decision should be somewhat easier with a converged datacenter because an integrated hardware stack can be configured to more easily be deployed as part of a hybrid system with cloud services.

The networking piece of the converged stack is especially important to ensure that data is shared as part of a seamless process, rather than simply being passed off from one type of computing equipment to another.

From an economic standpoint, the self-hosted pieces of the infrastructure have an advantage in that the ongoing cost will be fixed over the life of the converged stack. That cost can be lower than many professionals anticipate because, for most districts, small servers will be sufficiently powerful to handle the applications and data sets required. Current Techhologies has found that when multiple small, on-site servers combined with the right cloud services, the result will be a secure, economical IT infrastructure that will handle school needs for years into the future.

We Can Build A Custom Hybrid Solution For You

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Connecting Branch Offices Made Easier

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Branch Offices Shouldn't Be Separate Worlds


Running a business across multiple locations has always had its share of IT challenges. Past approaches consisted of duplicating data between sites or relied on an often-unreliable wide-area network (WAN) links to make remote branches seem like part of the office network. With fast Internet connectivity now widespread, there are more ways than ever to securely connect staff at multiple offices

Extending corporate networks to remote sites has become far easier now that inter-office traffic can be routed across the internet without the need for expensive telecommunications links. With providers across the country improving their broadband services, it’s becoming easier than ever to link branch offices with rapid, secure, and reliable connectivity.

Keeping Your Data Safe

Data security, of course, is paramount when linking offices over the Internet. For this reason, you’ll need to encrypt your inter-office data by setting up a virtual private network (VPN) that creates a "tunnel" through the Internet between your work sites. Such tunnels have been widely and successfully used for years to link sites and to allow mobile users to log into corporate networks while they travel.

However, encrypting data is only one part of the challenge. With large numbers of branch offices in operation, you’ll need to develop and manage a coherent data architecture that controls where data goes, where it is stored, and how it is safely stored.

Previous store-and-forward models would see branch offices—particularly in time-sensitive retail operations—caching data at the remote site and periodically synchronizing it with central databases. Now that businesses are online and always available, data is more effectively transmitted in real time for storage in central transactional databases, which are often duplicated in a second, remote data center for redundancy and disaster recovery.

Cloud Solutions

Increasingly, smaller businesses are turning to cloud services to link up their branch offices in a different way. In this model, data is stored centrally in a cloud service and each branch office uses the same techniques to access it.

This approach lets businesses locate the data in whatever mission-critical data center is appropriate for the task while providing each branch office with the ability to access and collaborate on documents equally. This architecture also allows businesses to provide more consistent access to supporting services like unified communications, video delivery, identity management, security, and more, which are available to all employees at all branches.

With a cloud storage solution set up by Current Technologies, branch offices no longer need to be treated like remote outposts. By tapping into the flexibility and configuration of Internet-based services, it’s now possible to link even remote branch offices more seamlessly than ever before.

Do You Have Issues Connecting Remote Offices?

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Why Smart Money Is Moving To The Cloud

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The benefits of owning equipment are thin when what you have bought will be outpaced within months by the next generation. The new equipment will be faster, more powerful, and cost less to run.

Outsourcing to cloud specialists means running services on better equipment at a lower cost. And not buying equipment means those costs shift from capital to operating expenses. All the expenses are deductible in a single tax year. No more carrying depreciation.

When enterprises make the decision to free up real estate, skilled staff and time by moving to the cloud, the first things they move tend to be email, accounting, software and backups.

Accounting

"An accounting file on a server or desktop is difficult to access by anyone who is not in front of the computer,” says Sholto Macpherson, editor of Digital First, a website dedicated to accounting technology. “Once it is in the cloud, a company can access it from anywhere and share it with external accountants, auditors, company directors and senior management."

That is why the cloud is where innovation is, Macpherson says. “Accounting software in the cloud can plug into many sources of data, such as e-commerce platforms, inventory and warehouse management, analytics and CRM software. Software developers are prioritizing online software, so the cloud then becomes the best source of innovation."

Email

Email is an area where vendors have significant cloud experience and supporting infrastructure. That makes it another good choice for a first move in transitioning to the cloud.

Cost savings are just one reason. When the US government’s CIO told agencies to identify at least three legacy systems to move to the cloud, many chose email. Their reasons included cost savings and also the potential to:

  • Provide more reliable services

  • Upgrade faster

  • Offer new collaboration capabilities

Software

Software as a service means lower initial costs. And there is no need to add hardware, software or bandwidth as the user base grows, because that is up to the software provider.

The software provider also manages all updates and upgrades, so there are no patches for customers to download or install.

Backup

Cloud backup avoids a common problem in backup infrastructure: a company adds storage in the primary environment but forgets to add additional capacity to match it in the backup environment. With cloud backup, you simply take as much as you need. As you add storage in the primary environment, your cloud service scales to match it.

You reduce your costs because you are not responsible for the infrastructure. And those costs can be predictable with fixed pricing.

The vendor might also offer additional benefits, like making replication between sites and keeping multiple copies.

Switching To The Cloud Is Easier Than You Think!

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IT Standardization Is Key For Any BYOD Policy

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It may have been inconceivable ten years ago, but it didn't take long for today’s workers to get used to bringing their own technology to work. Driven by claims that they can work more productively on their own devices, workers now take bring your own device (BYOD) policies for granted, even though they have created management and security headaches for IT administrators.

Businesses have long standardized their equipment to make it easier to swap in new PCs when old ones break or need to be upgraded. Yet the lack of control over laptops and other BYOD devices is challenging this practice, presenting issues for IT administrators and the integrity of business data.

Administrators often have no way of finding out, or improving, a device’s security profile. This leaves businesses exposed when a new software vulnerability is discovered since administrators have no way to patch or upgrade the software on users’ personal devices; studies regularly attribute most security breaches to unpatched vulnerabilities that had been fixed years ago but were never applied to users’ devices.

Standardize Your Apps

These problems create a compelling case for standardization—if not of the devices themselves, then of the applications that they are running. It’s not just about making system administrators’ lives easier, but by mandating a consistent set of applications, for example, it’s easier to help employees communicate smoothly and effectively regardless of where they go or what device they’re using.

Standardizing productivity applications ensures that documents can be easily shared and used, minimizing the need for costly and time-consuming manual entry of information. It also reduces the need for staff training and making it easier to move employees between locations. It also reduces the number of applications needing support. With the average business already running well over 100 different applications, any reduction in complexity can only be a good thing.

Consolidating your applications also offers considerable cost benefits: you’re likely to be able to spend less on licensing costs than you would when buying multiple applications, and because you’re buying an application for a large number of users you will have better bargaining power with your suppliers.

Consider Cloud Solutions

It’s worth noting the value of cloud-based productivity tools in meeting these goals. Although some users require sophisticated productivity tools for certain jobs, in most environments users could make do just as well with a cloud-based tool such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps. These store data in a central place where all users can easily access, view, and change information from any device, at any time.

The BYOD cat may already be out of the bag, but by standardizing your IT applications and infrastructure, you can reduce costs while remaining competitive, and improve flexibility. By identifying the best opportunities for standardization, you’ll be able to reduce technology-management overheads and ensure that your users are more productive, more often.

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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.

We Can Make The Cloud Work For You

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Which Data Backup Type Do You Need?

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Every Businesses Storage Needs Are Different


Data is vital to your business. It likely plays a huge roll in determining every decision you make. An array of technologies exist for protecting and backing up your data, and it is important to find the best solution for your needs. Here are the most popular options:

USB Drives

USB-connected drives are not ideal for business, because they rely on human intervention, and the software is usually not very sophisticated. Thumb drives are also easily misplaced. On the plus side, retention periods are reasonably good and quality of restored data tends to be high. The larger external USB hard drives can be unreliable due to moving parts. USB drives are fine for home use but they are not ideal as a business-grade backup option.

Magnetic Tape  

Tape is one of the cheaper ways to store large amounts of data and is still a popular backup medium. However it is largely outdated and it can be complex to manage multiple tapes. Lastly it is slow for restoring small amounts of data. Often tape is used in conjunction with other backup solutions as a long term repository for data.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

A Network Attached Storage (NAS) device can provide large amounts of data storage on the local network at a reasonable price. It has staging options for spooling off to other locations as well as a facility for storing and compiling snapshots of multiple servers. NAS devices can be a great source for rapid restoration of missing files or folders, but they are not the right long-term data storage solution.

Cloud Backup

Cloud is the new frontier for backup. There are many cloud backup solutions, and the quality of the service varies by provider. VMWare is one of the most popular cloud computing platforms for small to medium businesses, however Google, Amazon, and Microsoft also offer effective cloud platforms.

 Offshore data storage can be much cheaper than local storage but may cause issues with speed, security, privacy, and sovereignty. When cloud backup solutions are built right, they can be robust and hassle-free, as the scheduled backup is totally automated with no disks or tapes requiring manual intervention.

Keep in mind the cost involved in sending data over the Internet and the time it might take to restore data over a low-speed connection.

Hybrid Solutions

Like peanut butter and jelly, often times, multiple technologies combine to make the best backup solutions.

Taking regular snapshots of system files and data files throughout the day can create a point-in-time, rapid recovery option for individual files or groups of files. These snapshots are best stored on your networked server or on a NAS.

At least once a day, a data differential of the changes made during the last period should be stored on a second, external storage system. This is where a second, off-site device, tape, or cloud backup are useful. The usual approach is to backup from disk to disk, then disk to offsite.

A Final Thought

If you have personal or business data that is worth protecting, it is well worth getting professional advice on what systems will optimize your chances of recovery. Backup is a simple concept but implementing the best solution is not straight-forward, so getting good advice from the experienced team at Current Technologies is a good first step. For over 20 years, we have been helping businesses just like yours find the best way to backup their data. Every business has different storage needs, so why would you buy a generic, one size fits all storage system.  Current Technologies will customize a system for you to last long into the future.

Start Properly Storing Your Data Before It's Too Late

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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.

We can make the Cloud work for you

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