Month: February 2012

Windows to a Mobile World: Mobile Features in the Upcoming Windows 8

The soon-to-be-released operating systems Windows 8 and Windows Server 8 promise users a variety of changes in functionality and appearance. Currently, consumer Windows operating systems command over 90% of the market and the server OS an estimated 40%. Assuming these percentages translate to the next Windows operating systems, many users and businesses can expect to be affected by the changes in the new versions.

Mobility will be the primary theme of Windows 8. This theme will take three main forms: 1) The Windows “Start screen” will resemble the Windows Phone interface. Also like a smartphone, Windows 8 will accept touchscreen input. 2) The same Windows 8 operating system that runs on a normal computer will be able to run on a tablet computer. 3) A feature called “Windows To Go” will allow users to transfer their version of Windows 8, with all their settings, data, and programs, to a bootable USB storage device. Users could then attach the device to any computer and load their particular version of Windows 8. Meanwhile, their personal data would remain securely on the device.

In previous blog posts we have discussed the increasing role in the business world of mobile devices and mobile IT. The mobile-centric features of Windows 8 will only accelerate this trend towards lightweight, on-the-go technologies over desktops and heftier laptops.

Windows Server 8’s changes will add increased storage ability over the former version, Windows Server 2008. The contrast between Windows 8’s enhanced mobility and Windows Server 8’s emphasis on building stationary infrastructures and databases may seem like a contradiction. But mobile devices require a high-quality hosting infrastructure to compensate for their own dearth of processing and storage resources.

Some of the features of Windows Server 8 include:

-Extended support for Microsoft SQL Server, Hyper-V, and Sharepoint

-Built-in data deduplication (redundant file removal)

-More flexible virtualization (virtual machines can be migrated between physical servers while continuing to operate)

-Thin provisioning, storage spaces and pools (storage virtualization), and Storage Management API (external storage array management)

IronOrbit will be prepared to integrate with Windows 8 and Windows 8 Server in several ways. First, our desktop virtualization platforms and hosted applications provide accessible and secure online work environments. These services can be utilized by people using any mobile device and any operating system. Secondly, many of our desktop virtualization platforms include the predecessor to Windows 8 Server, Windows Server 2008. Our familiarity with the basic Windows Server interface will allow us to easily upgrade to the Windows Server 8 when we feel that the newer version more closely matches the requirements and preferences of our clients.

Protecting Your On-the-go Endpoints: Mobile IT Security Risks and Solutions

In recent blog posts, we have explored the increasing ownership rates of mobile devices; how large organizations like the United States Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs have integrated mobility into their IT infrastructures; and the many cost and efficiency benefits for businesses that embrace mobilization. Today’s blog post will cover the unique security risks of mobile IT and reveal the industry best practices for minimizing or removing these vulnerabilities.

Two obvious vulnerabilities unique to mobile devices are:

1) their likelihood of being lost or stolen (about 40% of organizations have had a mobile device lost or stolen)

2) the lack or weakness of their internal security protections (mobile devices often lack firewalls and anti-virus software)

This article from TechTarget suggests the following protections against these security risks:

1) strong passwords

2) data encryption

3) software that allows a person to remotely delete information on the device (“remote wiping”)

For SMBs that implement mobile IT, a mobile security expert identifies three additional security risks: device diversity, outdated firmware, and leaky network authentication and data. Here’s a summary of his advice:

-“Device diversity” refers to the fact that smartphones and tablets have many different operating system options, such as Android, iOS, Symbian, and Blackberry OS for smartphones and dozens of different device-specific operating systems for tablets. Securely integrating these devices that vary at such a fundamental level can be difficult. The expert recommends connecting and authorizing the devices in a minimal yet functional way (“It’s important to distill what you care about most when it comes to protecting your data and resources with personal devices. You can’t focus too much on what extra things you can do on a few select devices, but instead what you can do across the board so your message and remediation steps are consistent with all your employees and their devices”).

-The programs that control a device at the hardware level are called firmware. Hardware manufacturers will occasionally release a new version of firmware to remove a security vulnerability, but most people will fail to download and install the update. The expert recommends communicating to employees about the importance of updating their firmware.

-“Leaky network authentication and data” refers to lost and stolen devices. The expert expands on the topic by recommending that any device inactive for 30 days should be remotely wiped.

While useful, all the security measures mentioned above would require additional software purchases and training. Organizations would be better served switching to IronOrbit’s mobile-ready desktop virtualization platforms and hosted applications. These solutions allow mobile employees to log in to a secure, fully-integrated online work environment that resembles an operating system or individual application on a personal computer. The network administrator can ensure security by controlling access to these systems and prohibiting users from copying data to their devices. Even if a mobile device were lost, stolen, or hacked, the network administrator could neutralize the threat by removing it from the list of permitted devices.

Mobilization of a Different Kind: The Military Moves to the Cloud

Army, Department of Veteran Affairs Going Mobile and to the Cloud

The United States Department of Defense will have a combined budget in 2012 of $703 billion, over 7.5 times the yearly operating budget ($93.23 billion) of the world’s largest company by revenue, Wal-Mart. Its extensive resources allow it to utilize technologies that most small and medium sized businesses could never dream of procuring. Yet recent budget cuts, combined with a recent directive from the Obama administration to convert government IT networks to cheaper and more publicly accessible Cloud alternatives, have caused the DoD to adopt many IT deployments usually favored by SMBs for their cost-effectiveness, such as mobile devices and cloud-based infrastructures. Like SMBs, the DoD has come to appreciate that these anywhere-enabled technologies are not only cheaper but offer additional benefits in performance, centralization, and security.

InformationWeek reported on Thursday that next year the Army would begin allowing soldiers and civilians to bring their own personal mobile devices to work. The mobile Army employees would log in to a virtualized, ultra-secure “zero-client” environment that would restrict them from saving data to their device. This mobility initiative coincides with a separate Army project to centralize its email servers. Together, these measures increase connectivity and communication between Army members while improving oversight of the network (“Enterprise email should give the Army better insight into how many mobile devices the Army has and where they are”). Allowing people to bring their own mobile devices to work also lowers costs by excusing the Army from not having to procure them a device.

A different InformationWeek article from Thursday reported that, for reasons of cost, the Department of Veteran Affairs had issued a request for information (RFI) about potentially switching to cloud-based productivity applications from their on-premise enterprise deployment of Microsoft Office. Other federal departments that have switched from on-premise email or productivity apps to cloud-based alternatives include the General Services Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Cloud-based or Web-hosted applications offer several advantages over local, on-premise installations. 1) They can be accessed from mobile devices, allowing the off-site or on-the-go part of an organization’s workforce to match the productivity and collaboration levels of on-site employees; 2) Cloud-based applications allow network administrators to control access to the software, increasing security; 3) In a Cloud deployment of an application, only the server needs to have a copy of the application installed. This makes the application much easier to deploy, upgrade, and repair. These advantages combine to lower hardware and personnel costs (for example, desktops cost more than mobile devices, and manually updating each instance of an application in an enterprise saps the time of IT personnel). Pay-per-use applications offer even more cost-efficiency if selected over lifetime software licenses.

IronOrbit builds and hosts private and hybrid cloud IT infrastructures. We can also host applications. Our clients include public sector notables like Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the government-run nuclear research institution. We built a 5,000-user capacity, high-security desktop virtualization platform for LLNL that allows its workers to perform Web research and collaborate with off-site colleagues. No matter if you are a government agency with thousands of employees or an SMB with only a dozen full-time workers and contractors, IronOrbit’s cloud and applications hosting solutions will succeed in lowering your IT costs and optimizing your operations.

Think Outside the Office: Smartphones, Mobility, and the Cloud

The workers of the future will be mobile

Improvements in hardware and communications technologies have led to an increase in the adoption of the Cloud and cloud-supported mobile devices. First, both the number of people with access to broadband Internet and the number of people with access to high-speed wireless Internet have increased dramatically. A recent study shows that eighty-one million people in the United States have broadband Internet subscriptions. Worldwide, 1.2 billion people have access to high-speed wireless Internet. The cost of high-speed Internet has declined as well. Before these developments, the Cloud, via the Web, would have been too slow for some companies or too expensive for others. But the Cloud is now both better performing and cheaper than most on-site IT infrastructures, it has become the logical and preferred hosting option for most companies.

Separately, the popularity of mobile devices, and smartphones in particular, have also increased. A recent Nielsen study revealed that the rate of smartphone ownership had risen above 50% among 18-34 year olds, regardless of income. The rate increases to 60% smartphone ownership for incomes above $35,000/year. Additionally, about 20% of Americans own a “tablet” computer such as an iPad. Hardware-related technological innovations have made the processing speeds of smartphones and tablets possible, but these devices would still be fairly unremarkable without high-speed, cloud-based applications and storage services enhancing them.

Combined, these trends (increased internet speeds, a maturing Cloud, and exploding mobile device usage rates) point to an increasingly cloud-centric office. Compared to dedicated on-site IT departments, cloud-hosted infrastructures are cheaper, faster, and secure, while offering increased mobility. The advantages of the cloud will only increase in the next few years, but the competitive gains to be exploited from the technology last only as long as a company beats the competition to implementing a well-architected and advanced private cloud.

IronOrbit has been building web-hosted IT infrastructures for companies of various sizes for almost 15 years. We have extensive experience hosting applications and orchestrating private and hybrid cloud deployments. IronOrbit specializes in offering these services to SMBs in the financial and medical fields, but we can customize them according the client’s requirements or directions. Some of the applications that we have hosted for clients include Quickbooks, Microsoft Office, Abacus, Peachtree, ERPs, and EHRs. The workers of the future will be mobile, or at least linked to rest of your organization via the Web—you need to make sure you have the right hosting services to keep them connected.

Mission to The Cloud: NASA Takes Off to Cloud Computing!

Whether you are running an e-commerce business or sending people to the moon, the flexible Cloud can be scaled up or down in response to your security and performance needs.

In its 64 years, NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has historically been at the cutting-edge of technology, whether its sights were set on putting man into orbit (1962), putting a man on the moon (1968), or building recurrent-use space shuttles and space stations. The rockets and spacecraft that physically propelled its operations were the most world’s most advanced. NASA’s state-of-the-art computing technology played an important support role, too, in the design, analysis, simulation, and communications components of the agency’s many missions and projects. The IBM System 360 Model 95 mainframes used for the Apollo missions were the most powerful of their time (though they had only 4MB of memory and could be outperformed by today’s smartphones). Many years later, NASA stands at the forefront of yet another advance in computing technology: cloud computing. But while even the largest enterprises 50 years ago could not acquire the mainframes and supercomputers used at the same time by NASA, today’s most advanced and most dynamic computing technology, cloud computing, can be utilized by small businesses with even the most restrictive budgets and least existing technical knowledge and infrastructure.

NASA constructed its own cloud computing infrastructure in 2007. The NASA website describes some of the benefits of its cloud system, code-named Nebula: “Nebula allows NASA to realize significant cost savings through better resource utilization, reduced energy consumption, and by reducing the labor required to procure infrastructure or create new Web applications. Many of NASA’s dedicated compute and storage servers are underutilized but still require expensive environmental controls and a high level of on-going energy investment. Nebula allows NASA scientists to pool IT resources, only using what services they need for the time period they need it, and enabling those resources to be used by others when they no longer need them.”

In connection with NASA’s increasing reliance on cloud computing has been a corresponding downsizing of its on-site IT infrastructure. This month NASA retired the last of its mainframes, an IBM Z9. A mainframe, basically an extremely powerful, extremely centralized server, will completely perform its assigned tasks using its own processing power, in contrast with normal servers that share the processing burden with other servers or the client (desktop, tablet, smart phone) that sent the processing task. Two developments have made mainframes obsolete: 1) client devices have become more powerful and can share more of the processing burden; 2) scalable platforms allow multiple servers to combine into a consolidated pseudo-mainframe (essentially a cloud), and groups of servers still cost far less than a single mainframe.

In addition to NASA, currently around 60% of enterprises employ some form of cloud computing. About half of the companies avoiding cloud computing say that security concerns or questions about the cloud’s performance level influenced their decision. But if NASA, with its strict security requirements and the complexity of operations, can use cloud computing safely and effectively, then clearly these concerns are misguided. And the benefits to private organizations, particularly SMBs, are much greater because of the lowered costs (50-70% reduction) and their lack of much an existing on-site IT infrastructure to integrate with or dispose of.

IronOrbit builds, hosts, and manages private and hybrid clouds primarily for SMBs. As a rule we make our clouds as secure, high-performance, and cost-effective as possible, but we can also customize them for greater security or faster performance according the requirements of our customers. In other words, whether you are running an e-commerce business or sending people to the moon, the flexible Cloud can be scaled up or down in response to your security and performance needs. Here are some of the highlights of our standard cloud infrastructure package:

-Industry-leading virtualization platforms from VMware and Citrix

-Enterprise-level 24x7x365 technical support

-Top-flight data centers featuring biometric access controls, N+1 cooling systems, fire suppression systems, uninterruptible power solutions, and multi-homed Internet connectivity, operated in partnership with SAVVIS and Level 3, companies that manage the networks of some of the world’s largest telecom companies, internet service providers, wireless service providers, and cable providers

-Networks with redundant SAN storage arrays, loaded balanced switching network antivirus, state of the art Cisco firewalls, and intrusion detection systems

Boosting Revenues: Tech Tips For Small Businesses
Say goodbye to one-way costs!

Small and medium-sized businesses have to get creative to increase their ROI from tech investments.

Spiceworks, an IT advice site, estimated the average yearly IT budget for an SMB to be $108,000. That number might not seem small—until you consider that large enterprises spend about $15,000 on IT per employee, which is equal to a budget of $750,000 per 50 employees. In 2005, for example, Wal-Mart spent $4.5 billion total on IT—or about the same amount as 42,000 SMBs put together.

SMBs can help to overcome this disadvantage by trying out some jerry-rigged or unorthodox techniques, such as the ones suggested in this TechRepublic blog post (“10 ways tech can boost sales for SMBs”). Some of the tips in the blog post are no-brainers: “#5: Get a CRM,” “#10: Use Real Email, not a free email account.” Others are less obvious: “#1: Turn off your spam filters,” “#4: Automatically notify customers of status changes.” These tips contain helpful advice that applies to SMBs in all industries, but they should also inspire SMBs to think of techniques specific to their industry that could further maximize their IT investments.

An additional takeaway from the article: many low-cost tech resources are available for SMBs these days that equal or surpass the quality of the resources available only to billion-dollar enterprises. SMBs can no longer claim that their budget restricts them from installing the same internal IT infrastructure and offering the same level of tech-related services to clients as enterprise-level competitors.

-Like enterprises, they should be able to send status change notifications and provide reference numbers to clients, either manually or with low-cost e-commerce software.

-Like enterprises, they should deploy a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution—with software packages from ZohoCRM, Sugar CRM, and a fraction of the cost of the mainstream CRM systems from EMC, IBM, and others.

-Skype provides international calling and Web conferencing for free.

-The budget of the average SMB can afford professional-looking websites and company-specific email handles.

Likewise, IronOrbit provides enterprise-level hosting services within the price range of the large majority of SMBs. Essentially, IronOrbit has the software, hardware, and staffing resources of the average enterprise’s IT department—but rather than a single organization we support the operations of thousands of SMBs at once. Our clients receive the same level of performance, network speeds, security, and service as an enterprise. Meanwhile, we take care of the enterprise-grade hassles of purchasing, integrating, managing, and repairing the IT infrastructure, while providing 24x7x365 support.

IronOrbit has 15 years’ experience supporting the operations of SMBs. We understand your unique needs, requirements, and concerns. Don’t let your budget limit your IT ambitions!

Atomic Speed Technology Boasts Fastest Hosted Desktop!

As your business grows, so does the amount of data that your network has to store and process. To keep up with this explosion of data, your network has to adjust just as fast! IronOrbit’s Award Winning, “Atomic Speed Technology” allows us to scale your infrastructure at anytime with no upfront costs. We provide scalable IT solutions for organizations of all sizes, from a small office with a handful of users, to a corporation of thousands. IronOrbit delivers the fastest scaling and the best performaning infrastructure for your business!

“Anywhere Enable” Your Business With IronOrbit

From Accounting to MS Office Applications, IronOrbit can host any of your applications on a dedicated, private cloud! We specialize in virtualizing your desktop applications and hosting them on a Private Cloud engineered for your business. Your applications become “Anywhere Enabled” so that you can access them securely from any Internet connection. Along with the hosting, IronOrbit gives you have an entire team of experts ready to provide excellent support whenever you need it.

You can forget about tech hassles,  and safety scares, because your data is safe and backed up daily; simply connect, and access your data and applications from anywhere!

Learn more about how to Anywhere Enable your business.  Call 888-603-9030 or email [email protected]