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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 Salesforce.com 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 sales@Ironorbit.com

Choosing a Reliable Cloud Computing Service Provider

Cloud computing as a concept has gained ground significantly in the last few years. It is a great way for small and medium businesses (SMBs) to get access to cutting edge IT services without having to invest in infrastructure or hire new personnel.

More and more companies are realizing the benefits of cloud computing in the form of improved operational efficiency as well as cost reduction. When it comes to choosing a cloud computing service provider there are some key factors you need to consider.

Here are some of the criteria to keep in mind before making the decision:

1. Suitability: The first question that needs to be asked is whether cloud computing is suitable for your business IT needs.

Are IT concerns taking up your valuable time? Then cloud computing is the solution that can take your mind off IT, while focusing on your business.

Does your business operate from different locations? A professional cloud computing hosted solution will ensure that all your employees stay connected without any data backlog,

2. Service level agreement (SLA): The SLA is an important part of the deal that you negotiate with the service provider. The SLA is a contract that outlines the tasks and quality level committed to by the service provider, usually with a time deadline.

List your main requirements before negotiating a contract with the service provider.

The requirements should focus on major concerns like network downtime and data confidentiality along with the solutions.

3. Infrastructure: Check the facilities, physical security safeguards and the equipment used by your service provider with a trusted IT expert.

A modern data center is a sophisticated facility with high-end routers, servers, backup generators and storage units housed in a secure facility.

The equipment used by the service provider should be from a reputed company and appropriate for your needs.

4. Security: Data theft and loss due to hackers, virus, spyware, power outage and system crash can and do occur.

The cloud computing service provider needs to have an elaborate system in place, which takes care of your data from a physical as well as networking point of view.

Biometric access for physical security, firewalls and proactive network monitoring of data flow and regular backup of data are some of the measures that need to be observed for foolproof security.

5. Performance: Timely and regular reports help to gauge the performance of the service provider.

However the effectiveness of the reports will depend on the metrics or parameters selected to measure the performance.

Before signing the SLA discuss with the service provider about the metrics to analyze which will give you a clear idea about the functioning of your IT network on a periodic basis.

6. Experience: Request the service provider for testimonials from existing clients. Have a look at their client portfolio and ask for referrals from past clients as well.

Customer service is a good indicator of the level of professionalism of the service provider. If they don’t sound organized or display lack of knowledge they may not be the best choice.

An experienced and reputed cloud computing service provider will have a competent team of personnel providing 24/7 support.

Last but not the least, the cost should be flexible and affordable for small and medium businesses (SMBs). Ideally the service provider should offer the services as a pay-as-you-go option as well as a fixed monthly fee options, which allows for better financial planning for SMBs.

The advent of cloud computing

An efficient and affordable way to address your IT needs

Forget the days where you start your computer and then access your programs stored on the hard drive. Welcome to the world of Cloud Computing where everything right from your personal desktop, files, folders and programs to server and business applications are accessed by way of the Internet.

The system helps in greater mobility enabling you to access your desktop anywhere at anytime. The only requirement is a computer and an Internet connection whether a broadband or dial-up and hard wired or wireless.

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is a generic term used to describe third party hosted services accessed through the Internet. The different types of services include use of infrastructure known as Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software development in the form of business specific applications known as Software-as-a-service (SaaS).

A data center managed by a third part service provider where the hardware is owned by the service provider is an example of IaaS. The service provider is responsible for housing, running and maintaining the hardware like storage devices, servers and networking components.

SaaS involves use of software applications to conduct various business activities.

Some examples include

  • Streamlining daily operations
  • Conducting sales and marketing,
  • Number crunching tasks like accounting and managing finances
  • Addressing sophisticated communication needs involving transfer of data in various mediums

Companies can save considerably on their IT needs by way of cloud computing.

Limited upfront capital expenses: A noteworthy aspect, as mentioned above is zero expenses in procurement, setup and maintenance of the IT equipment something which is managed entirely by the service provider.

Pay-as-you-go model: Unlike traditional hosting services which charge a fixed amount usually on a monthly basis the best part about cloud computing is that businesses are billed according to demand.

So anytime you observe that you are not making optimum use of a particular resource you can simply deactivate it and cut costs, a luxury not available with traditional hosting. Why pay for extra storage capacity when you can easily make do with lesser space.

Security and reliability are additional benefits that cloud computing offers. Get a free quote to use Cloud Computing Services from www.Ironorbit.com

Why Hosted Makes Sense

To the same extent that we rely on the data which fuels our businesses, those business rely on the Information Technology (IT) systems which control that data.  Perhaps more significantly, business absolutely depend on an all-important caretaker of these IT systems.  As the cornerstone of many businesses, this trinity of (1) data, (2) systems, and (3) IT management must be available every single moment they are needed, in other words, seven days a week.  (CDW 2010).  In sum, where these three tools (data, systems, IT management) are a company’s lifeblood, those companies need access to them without excuse, and without exception. (CDW 2010).

However, achieving a comfortable level of reliability can be at odds with achieving an affordable level of reliability.  This is especially a significant hurdle for smaller businesses.  The cost of maintaining an IT staff can be oppressive.  The spectrum can range from a single employee to manage all IT needs, to a part-time independent contractor limited to upkeep and problem-solving.  Neither presents the ideal solution as there is too often a compromise of either reliability or affordability.  Many enterprises are given the unenviable decision of not hiring the internal, skilled IT staff that can manage and repair a robust computing system, or hiring an expensive full-time employee to keep their systems up and running.

 Cloud-computing and virtualization are at the heart of an outsourced IT infrastructure that can provide the solution to this perennial business dilemma.  We will consider outsourced IT and its effect on cost control, hosted applications, data virtualization management, scalability, and disaster recovery, when considered against more a more traditional IT infrastructure.

Virtualization For Disaster Recovery

Virtualization As It Relates to Data Recovery

In making the decision to utilize such virtualization technologies, Microsoft points out some important points to consider and understand regarding a virtualized infrastructure.

1. How do I protect data in the virtualized infrastructure?

2. How do I limit my risk to my virtual servers assuming they are compromised?

Every business considering virtualization should be able to answer these questions on their own or through the services of a third party provider. (Microsoft Corp, 2009).

A reputable outsourced IT organization considers these inquiries when designing and building a data center (so that the small business owner does not have to); they will have a structured system for protecting your data in case of a system failure.

Disaster recovery is a advantage of virtualization over traditional systems.  Particularly since, despite its critical importance to businesses, disaster recovery plans are often an afterthought due to equal parts cost, and wishful thinking.  Virtualization, manifested through a reputable hosted IT provider’s services, automates the process to the extent that the burden to foresee, plan, and have a data recovery strategy in place is effortlessly shouldered by the underlying virtual system.

Hosted IT Service providers and their virtual systems utilize several techniques to abolish the adverse impacts of system failures.

Take, for instance, the typical Microsoft SQL Server an accounting department may use to manage business-critical financial data for an organization – – clearly a priority for high-level protection.  A hosted IT provider can virtualize the SQL Server infrastructure so that it runs on two different physical computers and all data is stored on a separate storage area network (SAN).

By deploying the SQL Server in a virtual platform, multiple physical servers can host the application data simultaneously.  If one fails, the other instantaneously services the users the other would normally handle.

Compare, a single server model that leaves users/customers un-served after a crash. A scenario that is always unexpected, always inconvenient, and in the worst cases can be potentially crippling if the timing is bad.  A virtualized system, on the other hand, can immediately transition to accommodate users/customers from the failed system, without them even knowing any crash occurred.(Microsoft Corp., 2008).

The simple crashes described above occur frequently enough during a server lifespan that they should be addressed. Crashes in any system are a near-inevitability, they are in many ways unpreventable and can result in not only the data loss business owners dread, but also temporary interruptions of service.  Because such crashes are not completely preventable, it is paramount to minimize their impact, a principle aim of virtualization.

In fact, while virtualization can minimize the impact of potential losses of service, it can effectively eviscerate the aforementioned dread of data loss though its data management.

Virtualization: Data Recovery and Failover Systems

As stated earlier, data fuels a company’s applications.  It is the often the key resource for a business regardless of size.  Thus there is a concomitant duty for whoever manages a company’s data to zealously safeguard it.

To meet this need virtualization rapidly restores data from backups. For example, consider backing up email. Symantec and Gardner found that 75% of a company’s intellectual property resides in e-mail and other messaging applications. Traditionally, businesses safeguard and back up their data on-site through tape backup or other procedures performed by local IT staff. Some small businesses even attempt to have one or two employees with limited IT experience perform this function.  Traditional disaster recovery involved restoration of data from tape backup or similar media.  This involved laboriously reinstalling all system software so the server could function and begin serving clients again.

In a hosted environment data backup and recovery is orchestrated by a highly trained administrator.  Using virtualization technologies the administrator automates the backup process.  to a virtual backup system.  Tapes or other physical backup media are not necessary. In a virtualized environment outsourced IT providers can offer independent data storage. This type of storage is often offered through a storage area network (SAN) which uses computers operating separately from web and/or file servers.  The SAN thereby does not succumb to the same crash that affected the web and/or file servers.  In other words, separate data storage preserves the data in the virtualized environment when the primary operating system fails. In this environment recovery of the server can be accomplished by cloning the server to a backup, thereby creating a new virtual server. The clone can be immediately reconnected to data on the SAN, allowing for rapid recovery from the crash. (CDW, 2008)

The virtual environment has added advantage of various redundancies, and exponentially quicker recovery.  CDW notes that simplifying the server in order to make it easier to recover after a disaster is a principal goal of  application server virtualization and consolidation.  (CDW Business Continuity Reference Guide).  In fact, server virtualization is now the leading technology used for disaster recovery. (CDW Business Continuity Reference Guide).  This is, in part, due to the elimination of unpredictable recovery time.  A good outsourced IT provider will typically provide maximum downtime guarantees up-front for various contingencies.  For example, being able to depend on a maximum of four hours downtime and a twelve hour recovery time, allows a business to pass those time-frames on to a fickle client base that would consider taking their business elsewhere, rather than dealing with the unknown or unpredictable.

Virtualized systems also offer the additional benefit of replication; a use which can go beyond recovery.  With several simple commands, an administrator can replicate an entire data center, backed up in online storage, at will.  Such virtualized systems are accessible at any time. (Microsoft Corporation, 2009).

Virtualization also offers a “failover” or redundant/standby system that can seamlessly switch over if there is some manner of abnormal termination of an application or network.  This is just another nuance of virtualization that facilitates “business as usual” despite computer problems as usual.

Learn more about virtualization on www.Ironorbit.com