Simplifying the Private Cloud

Private CloudNot all businesses are ready for public cloud solutions due to security concerns, legacy applications that don’t integrate, lack of cost benefits or other concerns. This means many organisations are looking to build a private cloud environment to host the company applications or desktops with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

Providing the backbone of the enterprise cloud has become a complex burden for any IT department. The requirements to do more with less and to be on top of server management, application provisioning, complex storage arrays and application performance is a demanding task.

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In medium & large organisations there is a strong need to build solid virtualisation solutions for both servers and desktops. Today more than ever selection of the right technology platforms to support environments across Hyper V from Microsoft, VMware, Citrix and others is a time consuming proposition.

When selecting a vendor for your platform it is important to consider the sophistication the vendor brings to the solution including the ability to manage the storage directly from the OS, thin provisioning and compression capabilities, speed of backup and how well deduplication is handled to reduce backup capacity required whilst improving backup speeds.

Whether you are looking for a domain controller, an email server, a SQL platform, a SharePoint farm  or a VDI platform these tools need to be able to be deployed quickly using plugins and APIs to streamline operations. The systems must scale efficiently and deliver when required. It is now essential to have systems that take a building block approach and allow you to scale up or down easily.

The real test of your private cloud is in the hands of the end users of the platforms. If their applications or desktops have been centralised and they can work effectively on all their applications from wherever they are then you have gone a long way to meeting the business objectives.

When you embark on a selection process for your private cloud, consider the following:

Complexity of design

If the solution requires multiple vendors and multiple integrated technologies the design phase and quoting process is going to blow out as well as introducing risk in that if any of the integrations don’t work as they should the outcomes may not meet objectives.

Cost of solution

Finding an efficient way to build a private cloud is essential. If you select the wrong technology partner then it will be overly expensive to scale your solution as it grows in popularity across your enterprise.

Availability of local support

Local hardware support is essential for attending to urgent technical issues (e.g. a part failure). Consider the availability of trained specialists who can speed up deployment and troubleshooting when you need to change something quickly down the track. Your IT department may not be big enough have all the internal support for the platform so knowing where to find good partners can be essential.

In summary, if you are looking for a private cloud server virtualisation environment then you will do well to select a single vendor solution that is simple, efficient, flexible, well supported and powerful.

Securing your data outside of the server room

Secure Data

Organisations have done a great job of securing their mission critical data in their data centres. With measures in place such as access control, back up and DR strategies, the data centre is secure, controllable and predictable.

Outside the data centre however, the picture is very different.  Users always store data on laptops and desktops, even when there is a policy that says they shouldn’t.   The reality is that this “edge data” rarely finds its way on to a central server and in today’s workplace the reality is that corporate data leaves the building with your mobile workers each night. 

The adoption of corporate laptops and BYOD only increases the amount of data stored on these endpoint devices, creating more complexity and greater challenges for IT departments mandated to safeguard the business from crippling data loss.

The challenge for IT is how to not only easily secure and manage edge data with the same effectiveness of that held in the data centre, but to do so in a way that keeps end users happy. 

In considering how to solve this issue, IT should consider a four-step process to edge data protection:

  1. Identify basic edge data governance needs.

a. Select a solution that has the flexibility to align to your security and your cost model requirements.

i. On premises, off premises, hybrid – make sure you have choice and the ability to adapt to changing needs.

ii. Understand where your data will be held and by whom.

iii. Identify your needs: DR, Backup, Legal Hold, E-Discovery, User Productivity, Data Migration – the right solution provides more than just back up.

  1. Enable your staff with self service

a. Reduce IT overhead by allowing your staff to perform functions such as “self restore” which allows staff to recover previous versions of files that may have been corrupted, changed or deleted.

b. Enhance staff productivity by allowing them to access files remotely and securely sync and share the changes they make.

  1. Solve the performance issue with block level deduplication, which means that data is not backed up more than once (to save space and improve speed).
  1. Address security with end-to-end encryption.

a. Eliminate security risks by selecting a solution that encrypts data on each device, again during transit, again during backup, again on the server and yet again during restores.

a. Select a security model where YOU own the encryption keys.  It’s your data so make sure you own the security.

Laptop, Tablet or Hybrid?

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If it has been a while since you contemplated buying a new laptop then it is time to look again.

There are essentially three types of portables: the pure tablet (aka slate), the pure laptop or a hybrid of the two (e.g. the keyboard that flips or rotates). Your personal preference will have a large influence on which one you select.

Here are some common questions to ask yourself before you decide which model  is right for you:

How will you use it?

Think about the types of programs/apps you will regularly access, and how you will use them. If you are simply surfing the net on your couch then a tablet is ideal, but if you are regularly typing long emails and documents then a laptop with a good keyboard might be a better fit.

Usage determines specifications. For example, there are choices to make about the type and speed of processor (Intel Corei processors are typical for work, Intel Atom for basic tablet use), the amount of memory (4GB or 8GB RAM is common for work, 1GB for basic tablet use) and hard drive speed and capacity (256GB SSD or 512GB+ HDD is recommended for work).

Is weight a critical factor?

The general consensus these days is that anything over 2kg starts to feel quite heavy. But how important is an ultralight device? Does it really make a difference to you if your device weighs 800gm or 1.3kg? Don’t make your decision without first playing around with the various weights and sizes.

How many hours of battery do you need?

There is generally a trade-off between battery life and weight. However Intel and the device manufacturers are doing some neat things to squeeze out as many hours as possible.

Make sure you select a device with long enough battery and consider an expansion\second battery if you spend your life on the road.

Do you need a touchscreen?

Windows 8.1 is optimised for touchscreen, and those who use their touchscreen effectively never look back. Touchscreen is great for some tasks but not others (e.g. spreadsheets and complex apps).

What input devices do you need?

How important is a keyboard to you? These days you can use a docking station to benefit from an external keyboard & mouse at work. Some touch screen devices offer a fantastic stylus that tucks away when not in use.

What ports do you need, and how many?

It gets frustrating when you run short of USB ports, but a docking station can fix that problem at work. You don’t need to overcapitalise on connection options, but make sure you have enough. An important consideration is the VGA adapter for an external screen. Do you need one, and if so can you make do with a mini VGA port or do you need the full-size version?

Do you need the device to have 3G/4G connectivity?

Are you happy with just using local Wifi networks to connect to the internet? Adding 3G or 4G capability to a portable device is the ultimate in freedom as it allows you to work from just about anywhere with access to the internet, your email, file stores in the cloud or on your office servers if they support mobility.

A final thought…

If you are using your device for home then you have full control of your decision, but if you intend for it to be used in the workplace then first check with your IT department to make sure they are OK with the device and Operating System that you select.