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26 October 2016

The Ins and Outs of Cloud Computing




Keeping it simple, the cloud is just a metaphor for the internet. Cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the internet instead of your computer. When storing data on or running programs from a hard drive, you’re storing local storage and computing. Accessing your data is fast and easy because everything you need is physically close to you on a local network.

Storing data on a home or office network doesn’t count as utilizing the cloud. The cloud is also not about having a dedicated network attached storage hardware. To be considered cloud computing, you’ll need to access data on your programs over the internet, or at least have that data synced with other information over the web. With an online connection, cloud computing can be done anywhere at anytime.

Business vs. Consumer

Cloud computing for individuals is entirely different than the cloud for a business. Some businesses choose to use Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) where they subscribe to an application and access it over the internet. Also, infrastructure as a surface (Iaas) is used where players like Google, Microsoft and Amazon provide a backbone that can be rented by other companies.

Common Cloud Examples

Amazon Cloud: Essentially, Amazon Cloud Drive stores anything digital you buy from Amazon. If you have Amazon Prime, you get unlimited storage and hold anything you buy from Kindle.

Apple iCloud: Apple’s server stores backups, syncs your contacts, mail, calendar and more. All the data needed is available on your iOS, Mac OS or Windows device. Apple offers cloud-based version of it’s word processor (Pages) spreadsheets (Numbers) and presentations (Keynote) for use by iCloud subscribers. It’s also the place users utilize the Find My iPhone feature.

Google Drive: With this cloud computing service, all storage found online works with all Google’s cloud apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides). Drive is also available on more than one desktop and can be used on tablets, iPads or smartphones. Most of Google’s services can be considered cloud computing (Google Calendar, Gmail, Maps, etc.).

There are hybrid services as well (Dropbox, SugarSync, etc) that work in the cloud and also sync to local storage. Synchronization is a cornerstone of the cloud experience, whether using just the cloud or accesses files locally.

26 October 2016

Choosing the Best Cloud Migration Strategy




Throughout the decades, cloud services have rapidly become one of the most defining technologies in IT. Cloud services can be highly beneficial, however, in some cases, cloud migration might not be the right decision.

Organizations need to review their existing investments in infrastructure to determine if a move would be beneficial. Some migration questions are technical and other will involve nontechnical budgetary issues like whether cloud migration is cost-effective given current investment infrastructure.

One of the first things to consider in an organization is the existing data center investment. There are real costs associated with deploying on premise servers. There are licensing costs as well as the costs associated with hardware resource consumption and support infrastructure. There’s almost always a significant investment with an on premises server. Outsourcing server’s data and functionality to the cloud could mean abandoning on premises investment unless a server can be repurposed.

Although the rip and replace approach to cloud migration might not make financial sense for an organization that has a large investment in an on premises data center, the organization can still benefit from migrating certain on premises resources to the cloud. The prospect of using cloud services is particularly attractive for small organizations and startups. The use of the cloud services provides access to enterprise-class hardware and fault-tolerant features that would contrarily not be affordable. Startups can benefit from cloud services because they can get operations running quickly without having to invest in on premises data center resources.

Application requirements for cloud migration

For application servers, administrators must consider whether the application can function in the cloud. The application’s performance must be considered as well. Compatibility usually isn’t a big problem for new applications that run on modern operating systems. It’s easy to assume that performance won’t be an issue for these applications because most cloud providers will allow hardware resources to be allocated to hosted servers on a needed basis. Two major considerations must be taken into account for such applications, however:

1) Performance

Although you can provision the hosted application server with unlimited memory and compute resources, Internet bandwidth may impede application performance. It doesn’t do any good to have a high performance application server if Internet bandwidth limitations stand in the way of a good user experience.

2) Application portability

Although it can be easy to migrate a virtualized application server to the cloud, the application might have external dependencies that rule out a cloud migration.

3) Hardware Scalability

Some suggest that cloud services are ideal for hosting hardware-intensive workloads because cloud services generally offer nearly unlimited scalability. Although a cloud service provider can usually scale its offerings to meet even the most demanding work, the scalability comes at a price.

Virtualization can ease a cloud migration

Regardless of size, one of the considerations is whether or not the workloads targeted for cloud migration have been virtualized. In a few cases, it’s much easier to move workloads to the cloud if on premises servers have already been virtualized. If the servers haven’t be virtualized, a migration to the cloud is possible, nut the process might involve more work.

Infrastructure considerations

The on premises network is another factor to consider. If an organization plant to keep on premises resources, the cloud network must function as an extension of the Active Directory forest. This means that the organization will usually have to deploy cloud based DNS servers, domain controllers and possibly DHCP servers. The organization will have to figure out how to establish a secure communication path between the cloud based virtual network and the on premises network. The requirement isn’t usually a deal breaker for organizations with existing networks, but it does mean that a high amount of planning may be required for starting the migration process.

An organization contemplates the risks and benefits of cloud migration, it’s important to keep in mind that cloud migration is not an all or nothing proposition. Organizations don’t have to all fully in with cloud migration. In many cases, it will make sense to move certain services to the cloud while continuing to operate others.

 

25 October 2016

The Ins and Outs of Hybrid Cloud




Hybrid Cloud is a cloud computer environment that uses a mix of on premises, private cloud and third party, public cloud services with composition between the two platforms. Hybrid cloud gives businesses greater flexibility and data deployment options by allowing workloads to move between private and public clouds as computing needs and costs change.

As an example, an enterprise can deploy an on premises private cloud to host sensitive or critical workloads, but use a public third party cloud provider (like Google Compute Engine) to host less critical resources (like test and development workloads). Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) could be used to hold customer facing archival and backup data. A software layer like Eucalyptus can facilitate private cloud connections to public clouds, such as Amazon Web Service (AWS).

Hybrid cloud is very valuable for dynamic or highly changeable workloads. A transnational order entry system that experiences high demand spikes around the holidays is a good hybrid cloud candidate. The application could run in private cloud,  but cloud bursting to access additional computing resources from a public cloud when computing demands spike would be better to use for this situation. To connect private and public cloud resources, this requires a hybrid cloud environment.

Big data processing is another hybrid cloud case. For example, a company could use hybrid cloud storage to retain its accumulated business, tests, sales and other data then run analytical queries in the public cloud, which can scale to support demanding distributed computing tasks. Public cloud’s flexibility and scalability eliminates the need for a company to make massive expenditures to accommodate short term spikes in demand. The public cloud provider supplies compute resources, and the company only pays for resources it consumes.

Although having many benefits, hybrid cloud can present technical business and management challenges. Hybrid cloud requires API compatibility and solid network connectivity so private cloud workloads must access and interact with public cloud providers.

With public cloud pieces of hybrid cloud, there can be potential SLA breaches, connectivity issues and other possible public cloud service disruptions. To diminish these risks, organizations can architect workloads that interoperate with many public cloud providers. This can complicate workload design and testing, however. In a few cases, workloads slated for hybrid cloud must be improved to address specific providers’ APIs.

Egenera PAN Vcloud Director, Scalr Enterprise Cloud Management Platform and other management tools can help businesses handle workflow creation, billing, service catalogs and other tasks related to hybrid cloud.

25 October 2016

Battle of Cloud Solutions: Office 365 vs. Hosted Exchange




The right cloud solution for your business can be a hard choice considering the different offers to choose from. You’ll only be able to select the best solution for you after you have a clear list of your needs. If you’ve been hosting your own email servers and are now planning to migrate to the cloud, your needs will be different compared to companies that have built their IT services from scratch. Depending on the industry regulations that must be followed, you might be faced with constraints (i.e. encryption and email retention policies). Also, depending on your organization, you might have other issues to deal with like complex communication processes or office branches. To help decide, we’ve compared Hosted Exchange vs. Office 365, two great options for email hosting.

Exchange Server’s Power

Exchange Server has become the most efficient and reliable business email solution used by many organizations. Microsoft has always enhanced the platform stability with each new version and followed the trend of public cloud so many providers are able to deliver a Software-as-a-Service model. Because of this, it has allowed multiple businesses to move their email service to a multi-tenant infrastructure and reduce IT overhead. The cloud offers and reduced cost with flat monthly fees. Office 365 and Hosted Exchange are two cloud offers based on that platform. Because Exchange Server accounts for 51% of worldwide business mailboxes, your email system will potentially run on the same platforms whether you choose one over the other.

Clients and Servers

Microsoft Outlook is the email that was made to properly integrate functionalities provided on the server side. It installs on smartphones, tablets and workstations, and is available on iOS, Mac or Windows. When a new Exchange Server version is released, it usually is followed by the Outlook PC version. New versions of Outlook will become compatible with a least two previous Exchange versions (Outlook 2016, released for Exchange 2016, is compatible with Exchange 2010 and 2013 for example). Most end users know Outlook client.

It is common for customers to speak about Outlook and not know anything about Exchange, and from one version to another, the end user may notice visible changes in the interface. Moving from one version to another may require  your company to organized staff training. Make note that adapting to a new version could be time consuming. Changing management is a main reason companies are reluctant about moving to another Exchange version. If you use webmail rather than email client, know that each version can look different.

Microsoft doesn’t always carry helpful functionality over a new server version. That feature could be important for corporate applications and you might prefer to stick with the current version until an alternation option is found.

Why You Should Choose Host Exchange

Multiple Choice

You can choose the version you want to run on with Host Exchange. Security updates and service packs are tested before any deployment to avoid outages and other issues. You can on the environment that gives you the functionalities you prefer as long as you want, however, at some point the platform will reach its deadline and the provider will force it to phase out. The older the version, the higher the costs are to support it. You should check with your provider to get the best deal with a newer platform.

Migration

You have time to plan for the upgrade with provider’s support. Depending on the providers, the migration may not cost anything! Three Exchange Server platform version are currently supported world wide: 2010, 2013 and 2016. If you’re still running on Hosted Exchange, your providers may not be able to fix issues that occur because Microsoft stopped supporting that version and hotfixes aren’t delivered anymore. Rely on your provider’s support to make smooth transitions to newer environments. Migrating to the next version does not mean you need to upgrade the Outlook client to a newer version.

Get Email First

The main service with Hosted Exchange is email. The mailbox size is always unlimited no matter how you access your email (Outlook, webmail, etc.). You can choose different bundles ad even add Office applications to your subscriptions for an extra fee. It’s important to focus on what you need the most first, though. Email.

Choose Office 365 if innovation is driving you business

Apps Galore!

Your team will have plenty to play with. Office 365 is a set of products that include collaboration and productivity applications including email, services like Skype and Yammer, the popular Microsoft Office Suite and personal shared storage like OneDrive. Office 365 has several plans to choose from making it great to select the option that you like most.

The Latest Version is always easily available

With Office 365, you’re running the latest version of all software as soon as they’re released. You’ll get the newest features and enhancements instantly including new Exchange Server releases. Service packs, security updates and application upgrades are automatically pushed to your user’s devices, whether Macs, tablets, smartphones or PCs. You can choose the delay installations on active directory domains, but this is a personal choice, not Microsoft’s. There is not migration assistance because they made Office 365 to always have the ability to get the latest version.

Free Upgrades

There are no charges from Microsoft other than monthly fees! Additional cost would be related to user training or Os and device renewal. Microsoft always lets you know what new releases.

 

If you were able to narrow down your choice to Office 365 to Hosted Exchange, it means you want the best email platform for your business. Your decision depends on your business needs and corporate culture. With Hosted Exchange you have stability and control to change when you want and help with email migration. With Office 365, you have innovation with newly released app features that are delivered automatically and you can refresh your business processes and tool constantly. You can also combine different plans so you can get exactly what you need. Ask your service provider when making your decision.

 

25 October 2016

10 Foolproof Steps for Client Migration




Prevent critical information from being lost when performing desktop and laptop migration.

 

While many tools, systems and applications are available to ease the process of moving a user’s information, settings, files, programs and critical elements from one computer to the next, they really don’t address all user requirements. These 10 steps can help properly migrate laptops and desktops to ensure no information is left behind.

1) Use a Checklist

Checklists ensure critical information isn’t forgotten in an environment full of distractions. Clients will want to talk about more than just configuring DNS or migrating from an old to new computer. It’s important to engage with them on day’s topics, but in order to prevent high demand tasks from being forgotten, checklists keep you on track through every interruption.

2) Plan installation media beforehand

After learning you’ll be migrating a user’s settings or data, request that they save all original installation media as far in advance as possible. This includes application DVDs, Microsoft Office CD-ROMs, etc. Without installation media on hand, migration can take an entire day as you work to track down old and outdated installation files.

3) Inspect network configuration

A common mistake in client migration is assuming all systems tap DHCP services on the network. Some users still use DVRs, PCAnywhere and other applications and equipment that requires static IP address configuration. In some cases, computers have manually configured DNS addresses, but always check a computer’s IP settings before replacing it.

4) Operate a software inventory

Before beginning a task to migrate user settings, information and data, perform an inventory of installed software on the old machine. Use free tools or review a client’s desktop, start menu or quick launch tool bar for commonly used applications. After compiling a list, check with the user to make sure you know every program that needs to be reinstalled on the new computer.

5) Compile license keys in advance

Registration codes and license and product keys are a must for software inventory and installation media. Ensure you or your clients have the necessary documentation when you begin a client migration or you’ll lose hours searching for necessary licensing information.

6) Re-map network drives

Users become dependent on mapped drives. Unless drive mappings are replicated on new systems, applications, backups and other programs, they will not work properly. Users may not know that clicks connect to different systems, so be sure to remap all network drives to prevent user frustration.

7) Record all printers in use

One of the most common callback causes is forgotten printers. It isn’t wise to assume that just because you installed all printers in a client’s office that you’ve connected all the printers the client requires. Users must print to printers on different floors and different departments frequently. Which configuring printers on new machines, be sure to identify proper default devices.

8) Install needed third-party utilities

Users may not understand that free, popular third-party programs like Adobe Reader or Apple QuickTime  are needed in order for some files to work properly. Be sure to include popular third-party utilities in your migration checklist.

9) Note computer, work group and domain names

Best business practices won’t apply in every organization. On many occasions clients will use nonstandard computers, work groups and domain name conventions. Review a computer’s name, domain configuration and work group before beginning client migration. It’s very important, as files or printers share by a system that is being replaced won’t be accessible to other users if the same configuration is not replicated properly.

10) Never forget the .NK2 file

The most understandable annoyance users might possibly have when switching computer is the loss of autofill information in Microsoft Outlook. Users usually don’t add everyone to their contact list frequently, so many email addresses are lost if Outlooks .NK2 file isn’t migrated in their new device. The .NK2 file must be migrated back to the same location and the file name must match the Outlook profile name in order for it to work properly on the new system.