Monthly Archives: August 2011

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Stop Buying New PC’s and Servers, Virtualize Them!

You’re in a situation where you’re not quite satisfied with your computing environment. You are aware of the poor state of your current systems and know you need to make some changes to operate more efficiently. When your computers are running slow, most people opt for purchasing a new one or at least reformatting their existing system and starting with a clean slate. We strongly suggest you consider virtualization as the next step for improving your network infrastructure. Server and workstation virtualization come with a wide range of benefits while still reducing costs and providing an efficient environment in which to work. We at Teleco South Florida would like to take a moment to point out just some of the features available to you once you make the decision to virtualize.

Quicker User Setup/Recovery – You more than likely have provided a workstation (PC) for each member of your staff. Each one contains a specific user profile geared towards providing the user with the applications and shortcuts they need to conduct their business. If this individual’s computer dies for any reason, do they have the ability to simply hop on another computer and have access to all the tools they need? We’re guessing probably not without considerable effort. In a virtual workstation environment, the user profiles are stored on the servers. Access to these profiles can be gained through a simple PC or what is commonly referred to as a “thin client.” Users no longer need to be connected to their PC. The device that can attach to this type of environment can be anything from a small PC or tablet computer and even a smartphone. The processing power, or horsepower, of the device is irrelevant as all activity takes place on the server. A thin client, or dumb terminal as it was referred to in years past, is typically $300-$400 less expensive.

Smaller Footprint/ Less Real Estate – You may have multiple servers now handling various tasks. For example, you might have a file/print server, email server, separate system for your accounting staff and an application server for day-to-day business. This was a common practice to setup your servers this way to keep your applications isolated when systems needed to be taken down for maintenance. In the virtual world, these systems can be combined and deployed from a single piece of hardware partitioned accordingly. By reducing the amount of physical servers, you can clearly see the cost savings here. From a space savings or real estate standpoint as, in the scenario we just mentioned, you’ve just gone from four machines down to one. If you’re hosting your systems at a third-party location, we’ll bet you’re paying for the space you use in the datacenter. Even if you’re not, by reducing the amount of servers, you’re still saving on space. This is all not to mention the amount you may save on electricity and air-conditioning alone. As an additional bonus to virtualization your IT staff will be freed-up to focus on more important, higher-priority tasks rather than having to maintain multiple systems on a regular basis.

Greater Redundancy – Systems purchased for virtualization purposes are typically configured with multiple processors and power supplies, highly redundant disk storage and multiple network cards. Couple this with maximum memory and you’ve got a pretty solid environment to house your applications and data! With this type of configuration each application server can continue running in a virtual state while any necessary maintenance is completed. The virtual server(s) can easily be moved from one device to another instantly without downtime. If you suffer from any type of hardware failure, there is a redundant backup process the server can fail over to. This means greater up-time and availability to your staff and a far less chance of data loss. To enhance this scenario even further, you could utilize clustering technology to tie two similar systems together, replicating data, either at the same location or at another facility. This brings us to our next point.

Business Continuity – Let’s just say you’ve opted to use the clustering technology mentioned above and have your servers in two separate locations. In the event of catastrophe, you can rest easy knowing all your valuable information is stored and readily available at your alternate location. Clustering can be configured to send snapshots of data at whatever timeframe your business requires. Having your data safe in a clustered environment allows you to focus on the safety of your family and employees while not having to be concerned about your company’s computer issues.

Even if you’ve not chosen the datacenter-clustered solution, you’re still pretty safe. Virtualized systems are typically backed-up regularly using what is known as “snapshots.” These are images of your systems containing configuration information as well as data which can be easily retrieved and restored in a matter of hours as opposed to days. Again, with a virtual solution in place, your road to recovery is a short one.

Cloud Utilization – The majority of companies today are making wise decisions and taking advantage of Cloud Technologies when it comes to their computing environment. Placing your servers in “The Cloud” is simply making them available from anywhere at any time to whomever you choose. This can be taken advantage of from your facilities or, in a better scenario, at a third-party datacenter. Third-party centers are known as “hardened” datacenters and are typically not as susceptible to catastrophic damage as your typical office building. They have redundant power sources; fire, smoke and water protection; and very tight physical as well as network security built into the centers. In either case, utilizing Cloud Technologies can greatly enhance the efficiencies of your business by both protecting your data as well as making it available 24x7x365 from anywhere across the globe.

Most of you are probably already using some form of these technologies today on a regular basis without even being aware. If you have a Gmail, Yahoo or Windows Live account you are already “in The Cloud.” These companies have developed a giant cluster of virtual servers in datacenters across the globe. You can too!

Why not take a moment and contact Teleco South Florida today and let us assess your current solution and provide you with recommendations on how you can improve on your company’s overall computing environment and protect your valuable business assets so you and your staff can rest easier today.


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Is Your Company Ready in the Event of Disaster?

Living in the South Florida area, we are all very aware of the threat an impending hurricane impacts our business activities but are we prepared for all types of possible catastrophes we may encounter? Have you considered electrical storms, fire or flood as potential threats? We hope so! Most businesses today rely heavily on their computer and networking systems to conduct everyday business activity but we don’t always prepare ourselves for the situations where we may lose this resource and what the effect it may have on our revenue.

The majority of companies run daily, weekly and monthly tape backups but don’t think about the reliability of this solution in the event data restoration may be needed. Have you conducted a recovery test? You should be very aware, this type of solution is dated technology and tapes do go bad quite frequently. Today’s technologies provide us with many various solutions to accommodate potential disasters and give our customers a reliable business continuity plan… here just a few examples…

Backup-to-Cloud Technology

Utilizing this type of service will back-up your mission-critical data to an alternate location making it readily available should your company suffer catastrophic data loss or damage. With this type of solution, your valuable information can typically be restored quickly and efficiently keeping your place of business up and running with minimal down-time. The “alternate” locations are generally what are classified as hardened data facilities not prone to catastrophic damage due to extreme acts of Mother Nature. They also have redundant power solutions and are strongly protected from fire and water damage as well.

Server Virtualization

The majority of businesses today have implemented Microsoft Server solutions to handle their computing and networking environment. In these situations, servers are considered as “the nerve center” of your network. They handle user accounts, security roles, file and printer sharing as well as a means to run various proprietary company applications from a centralized location. While the Microsoft solutions are considered practical, easy-to-administer and relatively inexpensive to maintain, there are potential issues which may arise in the event of major hardware failure. If a central server were to suffer an outage which would require complete hardware replacement, all of your computer workstations would no longer have the means to access company resources and perform day-to-day business activities.

Rebuilding these systems can take a considerable amount of time which could leave companies without critical access for extensive periods. Server Virtualization technologies allow companies to take “snapshot” images of existing computer configurations bringing system recovery down to what could amount to minutes as opposed to days for complete recovery as these images can be quickly restored to another piece of equipment already installed in your data center.

Link Balancing

How often has your computer or networking environment been unavailable to your staff due to vendor outages or scheduled maintenance to your voice or data connections? At Teleco South Florida we have heard this complaint from many potential customers unsatisfied with their current carriers. We also understand, from the vendor’s standpoint, that hardware does fail and there are often circumstances beyond their control. As an answer to this problem, we recommend a Link Balancing solution as an alternative to prevent these types of outages from occurring. In this scenario, we would have a centralized piece of equipment tied to two separate providers wherein should one carrier lose service for any reason, your business activities would be uninterrupted as your connectivity would be automatically rerouted to a second provider. Once your primary provider’s service outage is resolved, the connection would be restored again automatically. Another benefit to this type of solution is you can increase bandwidth performance by routing specific network traffic between both carriers.

At Teleco South Florida we have trained voice, data and system engineers that can design any of the above solutions for your business. We partner with leading manufacturers and carriers throughout the industry providing us access to a multitude of options to accommodate your business application needs.


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Is Access to Your Critical Data Secure?

The majority of companies today rely heavily on computer/networking solutions to run their business. Unfortunately, we have found a lot of organizations that have not taken the time to fully secure these environments. Is your company using a Firewall to block unwanted traffic or protect against “hack” or network intrusion? While this is a good solution and we highly commend you for implementing this on your network we still have to ask… is your Firewall being properly maintained and completely protected from the outside? How about your internal servers and workstations… have they been locked-down as well?

Network security can be an extremely difficult challenge for businesses today as they can be very complex and difficult to understand to an average user. The problem here is that to the computer hackers and network infiltrators, they’re really pretty simple! As an example as to how many intruders may gain access, a lot of Firewall or network vendors supply equipment with standard passwords that are designed to be changed after installation. The issue is, most companies and even some third-party IT vendors are not making this change therefore hackers simply attach to your network from the outside, enter this general, manufacturer-supplied password and gain total access to your systems. Likewise, we have seen many Microsoft Server installations where the Administrator account was still enabled with a blank password. Even if you are not 100% computer savvy you can still imagine what kind of damage someone could cause having this type of access to your computing environment.

Hackers!

Consider the latest “hacks” in the news due to the fact that proper network security measures were not in place. Nationwide organizations such as Citibank, Mastercard, Visa, the CIA, and most recently, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) suffered from network infiltrations. You can clearly see there is no company, big or small, that shouldn’t consider securing their network solutions properly.

At Teleco South Florida we have highly-trained, seasoned professionals that are fully aware of network and operating systems susceptibilities and are prepared to assess your current solution and provide you with the right answers which will lock-down your systems and ensure the safety and security of your valuable company information and resources. Let Teleco South Florida provide you with a FREE, no-obligation assessment of your networking and computing environment to make certain your business is not vulnerable to these and other types of threats to your company.


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Physically Secure Your Business Environment!

Are the entries and exits to your office-space open and unsecured? This can pose a threat to your employees and your business property as well. We’re also fairly certain you wouldn’t want unwanted visitors roaming through the hallways of your office!

Employers today need better control as to who has physical access to what areas of their company. Having a receptionist at the front entrance works somewhat well for visitors coming through the main doors but how often do people think about what access is being controlled internally? For example, you may have file rooms storing valuable customer information such as names, addresses and other important billing information. What about access to server rooms or data centers? You should really consider who has this type of access and whether or not it is relevant to their daily responsibilities.

Card Access Systems

Card Access Systems offer a relatively inexpensive and secure method of controlling admittance to these areas. These solutions are designed to give employers a means of easily granting or restricting which employees have right of entry to various spaces within their office and what days and times access is granted. Perhaps you only want staff members entering and exiting specific areas during normal business hours? This is easily attainable and can be configured by designated staff such as HR departments or managers. These solutions also present an opportunity to report on who specifically has gained access to certain work areas and at what time they entered or exited the room.

Teleco South Florida can design and implement a Card Access System for you that will address all of your concerns with a solution which will not only secure your working environment but also fall well within your budget. We keep up-to-date with the latest technologies and will advise you as to which systems will work best for your business. Some of the solutions we offer are badge reader access, key fob access (essentially a key-chain or token), finger-print readers and proximity reader access. We can also integrate video surveillance installations with the Card Access System which would enable you to retrieve video images from any given access point based on date and time.

If you’re thinking about the possibility of a security solution for your business, give Teleco South Florida a call today and allow us to present you with some alternatives to consider to protect your business.