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Remote Working, Managing a Team and Life as a Mum: A 5-Day Blog


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Role: Service Delivery Manager, Cetus Solutions

Day 1 – And so it begins..

Today has been strange but positive. We are in the initial stages of remote working and we are working hard to ensure sure the rest of the teams can work effectively from home. There is a lot of uncertainty around “what happens if…” – which naturally is difficult to answer.

Part of my plan for the Service Desk is to hold daily calls with those working remotely. We’ve decided that Microsoft Teams is the way forward for all our chats, calls and meetings – thankfully it’s easy to use, even for a non-techie like myself! We are having video calls – this feels bizarre. Despite us working with technology everyday it’s surprising to see just how uncomfortable we all are seeing ourselves on video. Personally, I have found myself sitting up, breathing in, doing my hair and cringing (a lot!)

Day one done and dusted, a productive day = happy teams!

Day 2 – Toes in the water  

We’ve had a good day today. The team have been busy working on our own internal plan to iron out any issues and ensuring readiness for our full remote working policy that will be rolled out in a few days.

We’ve also been working flat out with requests from clients urgently needing to get their solutions up and running. Everyone I have spoken to seems to be in the same boat – frantic, chaotic and still can’t quite take in what’s happening, but things still seem to be upbeat. It has been uplifting to speak to people who are still managing to have a little chuckle, along with a few “the world’s gone mad” remarks before getting down to business. There is a strong sense of us all being in this together.

Day 3 – In for a penny, in for a pound

The office was eerily quiet today, most people who can do so are now working from home. As you can imagine this is causing plenty of issues for the Service Desk. We use Citrix here at Cetus, our tech teams have laptops but for everyone else thin clients connecting to the Citrix gateway is standard stuff. There will be some changes to adjust to for those who are not used to working remotely.

 Most of the issues we are encountering are users trying to get used to working a little differently. It’s funny how something as simple as logging on in a slightly different way can really throw people – myself included. Not sure if this is exacerbated by the general feeling of panic we are seeing across the nation. There is pressure for us all to rapidly adjust to the change.

 The schools will close today, so I’m enjoying the calm before the storm, making the most of what will potentially be my last adult interaction for months (aside from the odd take-away delivery driver or cashier at the tills). Such a daunting thought!

Day 4 – And we’re off!

Today is the day, anyone who can and wants to work from home is doing so. We still have a small team working in the office who are practicing social distancing. It is a very strange feeling. Like most of the country I am trying to balance working full-time, keeping two children occupied while striving to maintain some form of normality.

I got up, showered, dressed, put some makeup on and opened the laptop ready to go. My first Teams video call was at 10.30am (hence the need for some makeup) whilst I have embraced the working from home movement, I don’t think the world is ready to see my “just got out of bed” look just yet.

Thankfully, everything worked seamlessly for me, logging in to our new Citrix VPN meant that I could work from home as I would if I was sat in the office – I even put Absolutely Radio on to get true office vibes. The only thing missing was the terrible jokes and banter. I never thought I’d say this but I miss those IT crowd jokes – a LOT.

Today’s calls were really productive and I felt like everyone was set up for the day, the afternoon calls were less productive, but I’m fine with that, it’s just nice to have the gang back together.

Day 5 – What now?

 After the announcement came through from Boris Johnson, 100% of the Cetus team are now working remotely, along with the rest of the country. We had a flurry of activity this morning, but most people were expecting it and had their plans firmly in place. Now the test really will begin. There is always the question of whether a service desk can be effective when working remotely.

Will they do their work? Will they be able to perform their jobs? Will calls be answered? How will they help each other? We’ve even had customers asking if we’ll still be answering calls and the answer is of course “yes.” We use soft phones for calls, Teams is open all day every day. In fact, I would say I’ve spoken to my team more since we’ve been working remotely.

Our afternoon calls have turned into more of a catch up with everyone, and we’ve realised just how important that human interaction is – we were all dreading the thought of video calls at the start and now we are really enjoying them. I’ve even had a few external video calls with clients that were very well received, everyone is in the same boat, working from home and there now seems to be a sense of acceptance of things.

Who knows how we’ll feel about it all when we’ve been doing this for a few weeks but for now it’s going well.

 

What I’ve learned 
-I sound horrendous on video calls (I am very northern!)
-I look horrendous on video calls 
-Headphones and curly hair are not a good match
-Humans thrive off interaction with other humans – Fact!
-Kids have a knack of being able to embarrass you at any given moment
-People find the above point highly amusing
-It really is good to talk 
-Getting up and getting dressed for work every day is important

How I’ve felt

-I’ve found it hard sometimes to not constantly know what’s going on, I usually hear everything in the office
-At times it has felt lonely – strange considering there are people in my house and just a video call away
-I still need someone to speak to and run my thoughts by, good and bad (make sure you still have a sounding board)
-I have found I am not in this alone, everyone I am speaking to is experiencing a wave of emotions and we’re all on this roller coaster together

Technology has been the critical factor in getting things to work in these challenging circumstances, I truly think without Teams and Citrix we would have struggled massively, not just with performing our own work as a company but also to support our clients which is, of course, our highest priority during this uncertain time!

Credit: Service Delivery Manager, Cetus Solutions

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Cloud, IT Solutions, Microsoft, Technology, Uncategorized

Life after death – still stuck with Windows 7 and Server 2008? 


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Life after death – still stuck with Windows 7 and Server 2008? 

As the literary saying goes ‘The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. Many of us have found this to be true when migrating away from Windows Server 2008 (R2) and Windows 7.  

Whether due to budgetary or resource constraints or application incompatibilities, the effect is the same. We’re now faced with the prospect of retaining a legacy, out of support, insecure component right at the heart of our organisations, whether that’s in our datacentres or on our endpoints. 

Microsoft has already released the first extended security updates for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 and already bad actors are working hard to reverse engineer those updates and create exploits. It may not be this month or the next, but it’s inevitable that working exploit code will soon surface, and not just for these vulnerabilities for any vulnerability discovered in the future. 

Faced this with prospect, how do we secure our organisations?  

Accelerated Migration 

The best route with the most value is still to continue with migration. 

At Cetus we have a proven migration methodology and a range of technologies to assist you with your migration. We can help you overcome the challenges preventing migration. Not only does this relieve the headache of worrying about security, you’ll also be able to take advantage of new features offered by modern operating systems. We can help you get the most out of these features to reduce costs, improve productivity and justify the cost of migration. 

Extended Security Updates 

If you’re not able to migrate, consider extending your support to continue to receive security updates. 

Microsoft offers up to three years Extended Security Updates (ESU) for both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 (R2) 

Organisations can purchase ESU at any time during the next three years. If an organization waits and purchases ESU for the first time in year two or year three, they will also have to pay for the preceding years. Additionally, ESU for Server 2008 R2 requires Software Assurance (SA). 

Alternatively, migrate these workloads to Azure and receive free ESU for up to three years. Cetus can assist with a proven migration methodology and advanced migration tools. A migration to azure can be a surprisingly low risk and easy option. 

Compensatory Controls 

If neither migration nor extending security updates are viable, then we must consider how we can improve the security posture to compensate for retaining vulnerable operating systems 

AV and VLAN based firewalling provide incomplete protection. To improve posture, we must supplement these with extended controls. These controls act beyond just threat detection and response and are implemented outside of the operating system to separate the attack surface from the protection. 

Infact these measures shouldn’t just apply to legacy out of support operating systems but should be implemented for all your cloud or datacentre workloads. Some of the core compensatory control are described below. 

Distributed Firewall 

A Distributed firewall provides protection not just between VLANs but between machines in the same VLAN and extends a consistent firewall beyond the datacentre into the cloud. This micro-segmentation helps to contain threats and prevents the lateral spread should a machine be compromised. Even where communication is permitted, Layer 7 inspection ensures the communication is legitimate and detects known exploit attempts, blocking traffic to prevent compromise in the first place. 

Workload Behaviour Monitoring 

Hypervisor behaviour enforcement can learn a Virtual Machines good behaviour and detect and respond to abnormal behaviour. Breaking the cycle of the cat and mouse game of chasing bad behaviour and instead focusing on permitting only what we know to be good. 

Application and Desktop Virtualisation 

Application Virtualisation allows us to separate insecure Windows 7 apps from secure Windows 10 endpoints. By bringing the Windows 7 apps into our datacentres we can extend datacentre controls to Desktop Operating Systems. 

Desktop virtualisation goes further, allowing us to bring not only the app’s but also the endpoint OS into the datacentre. Replacing the Endpoint Operating system with a thin-client OS reduces the attack surface significantly. 

Application Containerisation 

Alternatively, Application Containerisation allows is to package legacy Windows 7 Apps in a secure container and run as an application on a Windows 10 endpoint. The secure container adds additional security and provides a layer of abstraction to prevent malicious behaviour affecting the endpoint. 

Remember, these compensatory controls are not just great for mitigating the vulnerabilities in legacy operating systems, but they also greatly improve the security posture for modern Operating Systems too. To find out more information about how they work or to get help with migrations or ESU talk to Cetus. 

 

Credit: Sam Mulhearn – Solutions Architect, Cetus Solutions

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Cloud, IT Solutions, Microsoft, Technology, Uncategorized

Windows Virtual Desktop– Everything you need to know in three minutes!


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What is it?
Windows Virtual Desktop is a desktop and app virtualisation service running in Azure.

It consists of three things:

  • The Entitlement – this is the right to run your instances in Azure and the right for users to connect to those instances. It’s available via Microsoft 365 Business/E3/E5/A3/A5/F1 or as a standalone subscription (e.g. Windows 10 Enterprise E3).
  • VDI Infrastructure services such as a gateway, a broker, license server, and a provisioning engine. There is no charge for these services.
  • The Cloud operating System – included with your entitlement. (more on this below).

WVD supports a choice of cloud operating systems:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2, 2016 or 2019 (you will require additional RDS CAL licenses).
  • Windows 7 Enterprise (with free extended security updates).
  • Windows 10 Enterprise.
  • Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session. An offering unique to Azure, allowing you to provide a Windows 10 experience, while achieving better density by allowing multiple users to connect to a single instance and share resources.

Additional to the cost of your entitlement you’ll also consume Azure instance costs such as storage, compute and bandwidth. There is no additional cost for the Cloud Operating System license this is included with your entitlement.

Why should I care?

Windows 7 – if you’re not able to fully transition from Windows 7 because of app compatibility issues use WVD to provide access to your app and get free access to extended security updates.

No Capex! – WVD desktop provides the potential to deliver a workspace solution with no capital expenditure.

Adjacent Resources – if you’re already transitioning your datacentre to Azure, WVD enables you to keep your user workspace close to your apps and data.

Scale Fast! – if you’re suddenly faced with a requirement to provision a workspace solution for additional users, either through M&A, seasonal demand or rapid growth then WVD can provide extra capacity in minutes.

New Economics – if you’ve considered virtualising desktops or apps in Azure before but found the cost prohibitive you might find the business case stacks up with WVD.

Why should I consider adding Citrix to WVD?
Adding Citrix effectively replaces the infrastructure services included with WVD with Citrix services instead giving you capabilities for:

Unparalleled User Experience – The HDX protocol is Citrix’s crown jewels, enabling, amongst other things, support for 3D graphics, smooth audio/video for Microsoft Skype and Teams, printing to any device and streaming of high definition video.

Hybrid Cloud – Manage your virtual apps and desktops with the same platform for both WVD and on-premise resources. Easily manage migrations or additional demand wherever you provision your resources.

Enhanced Management – Citrix provides a mature and full featured platform and includes full support for WVD, drastically reducing the skillset and effort required to manage WVD. Using Citrix App Layering and Machine Creation Services you’ll be able to take advantage of a rich full featured provisioning platform, with Workspace Environment Manager (WEM) you can easily manage contextual policies for controlling and defining the user experience and using Citrix Director you can quickly troubleshoot and monitor the platform.

Identity – Authenticate users from any directory with any authentication service and any 2FA/MFA product.

Reduce Cloud Costs –AutoScale intelligently provisions resources according to demand and WEM Performance Manager together with the optimisations found in HDX vastly improve user density.

Wide Thin Client Support – WVD uses a new protocol requiring a new client app not widely available on thin clients. Use Citrix to provide access to almost any thin client using HDX.

A summary of some of the benefits is illustrated below.

All that in three minutes! To find out more about our workspace solutions including lots more on WVD get in touch!

Credit: Sam Mulhearn – Solutions Architect, Cetus Solutions

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Cloud, IT Solutions, Microsoft, Technology, Uncategorized

VMware – Simplifying the Hybrid Multi-Cloud


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VMware is over 20 years old and in that time, they’ve revolutionised the data centre. VMware’s hypervisor changed our entire approach to on-premise datacentres, imagine if we were to go back to every server being physical?

For a while, with the advent of public cloud, it looked like the next revolution would be led by a public cloud provider, taking this concept even further, freeing us completely from the complexity of managing hardware. In fact, the result is even better, we’ve found a place for all the cloud providers. The reality is that we’re adopting services from whichever cloud is appropriate for that workload. Seemingly, the best of all worlds.

And it’s not just limited to Infrastructure as a Service from Azure, AWS, GCloud, SoftLayer or Oracle. We’ve adopted entire application suites from Office 365 or Gsuite, specialised apps from Salesforce, SAP or Workday and communication tools from the likes of Slack. We’re also building our own apps and adopting cloud-native services with services such as Kubernetes and Machine Learning.

We haven’t left the on-premise datacentre behind either, the reality of shaping and defining our own services through the ownership of our own infrastructure or the economics of ownership vs. consumption mean our datacentres are still at the heart of our organisations.

We have more choice than ever before, we build bespoke applications, consume SaaS applications, and in our datacentres and on every corner of the internet we run VM’s and containers, we’ve embraced multi-cloud. This introduces unprecedented flexibility, it’s the engine that keeps our organisations agile, allowing us to keep pace with the competition. It’s both essential and unavoidable.

However, I can say with some confidence that you’re already experiencing the challenge that this introduces; the sometimes overwhelming and never-ending escalation of complexity!

In the world of multi-cloud, every platform comes with its own tools and management, every service provides different capabilities and functions, data is hosted in disparate locations, connectivity must be provisioned and maintained. Indeed, the precise reason multi-cloud is so attractive is also the root cause of the challenge.

How do we operationally manage so many platforms? We have to consider backup when our data could be on any one of these platforms, disaster recovery when disaster could strike any service, monitoring across varied and diverse platforms and the skillsets and knowledge required to maintain and operate each platform. How do we enforce governance and compliance, and most of all, how do we secure all of this?

Remember our old friend VMware? They’ve been hard at work, in 2019, more than twenty years after the introduction of the hypervisor, they’re perhaps more relevant than ever, they revolutionised the datacentre twenty years ago, and they’re revolutionising multi-cloud today.

They’re transforming our traditional on-premise infrastructure, vCloud Foundation together with VxRail provides a true private Cloud. Far beyond just virtualisation of compute, storage and networking. vCloud Foundation provides Lifecycle Management meaning we can easily upgrade our entire platform with just one click and no downtime (yes really!). We can add or remove hardware with just a few clicks and without complex reconfiguration of networking or storage. vRealise is providing actionable insight and powerful monitoring including automating the discovery of network topologies and application flows, and with automation and self-service built-in, VMware are bringing the cloud experience to our datacentres.

VMware has also made good on the promise of software-defined networking. It allows us to extend our network anywhere. NSX together with VeloCloud stretches one common network from the private cloud to the public cloud, from SaaS providers to branch offices, taking our network anywhere across any telco provider or any connection type. We can stop worrying about VLANs and routing. We can stop worrying about defining hundreds of different network security policies on dozens of different platforms and the obvious gaps this might introduce. NSX delivers automated routing of traffic and consistent policy-based security wherever your services are hosted. Services such as load balancing, DHCP or VPN are delivered from one consistent platform no matter which cloud your workloads are hosted.

Transforming the entire concept of public cloud, VMware Cloud on AWS provides familiar consistency with on-premise platforms, allowing us to easily migrate services to the public cloud without re-architecting applications or redeploying virtual machines, opening up the tantalising possibility of migrating entire data centres to public cloud in days.

Developers and DevOps are well served too. With Pivotal and Bitnami we can rapidly develop apps, then with PKS, we can deploy containers and Kubernetes on-premise to run those apps, and with Tamzu mission control we can manage not only these Kubernetes clusters but any Kubernetes cluster in private or public cloud.

 Of course, no conversation about Cloud is complete without without discussing the economics, with CloudHealth from VMware we can control the cost of public cloud, we can reclaim savings by right sizing virtual machines and identifying unused and obsolete resources. We can enforce governance and visually map resources and model the costs of migration to ensure the public cloud always provides value for money.

 The next decade belongs to those who can master multi-cloud and capitalise on the advantage of hosting the right workload in the right cloud, find out how VMware is enabling this reality.

Credit: Sam Mulhearn – Solutions Architect, Cetus Solutions

Contact us to find out how we could help you master the multi-cloud

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Blog, Cetus Solutions, Cloud, IT Solutions, Microsoft, Technology, Uncategorized

The Innovation Factory


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Since the year 2000, 52% of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired or ceased to exist. On the flip side, many of the world’s most profitable companies didn’t even exist in 2000 but are now household names worth billions of dollars.

This rapid and constant re-shuffling isn’t reserved for the world’s biggest companies but affects all organisations, in fact the pace of change is probably even greater for small organisations. Change isn’t just powered by landmark revolutionary advances such as when Netflix rendered blockbuster obsolete. The march of change is evolutionary too. A constant flow of incremental small differences cascade to produce competitive advantage, creating entirely new industries or dismantling old ones.

What’s the difference between the winners and losers? I would argue, for the winners, their advantage is their people, or more accurately people who are empowered to produce innovation, to be creative, to find new ways of doing things, to disrupt the status quo. The most talented individuals are agents for change. They will seek out organisations that provide them with the space to innovate.

Innovation is a product, successful organisations must continually manufacture this product, they must have high grade raw materials , and the correct facilities to transform the raw material. In this case, talented people are the raw material, they will produce innovation if organisations provide them with the right facilities and the right tools.

With this in mind, organisations are now met with two challenges, attracting and retaining the best talent and providing the tools and facilities to enable innovation. Organisations need to be examine new ways of working. Not just simply allowing staff to work from home or from Starbucks, but making sure the environment they choose to work in provides the tools and technology best suited to the task at hand.

Part of the solution to both problems might be the introduction of Activity Based Working (ABW). Put simply, ABW creates spaces best suited to the task at hand, often alongside or within the much maligned open-plan office. ABW creates spaces perfectly suited to conducting specific tasks such as learning, focusing, collaborating and socialising.

Relatively forward thinking companies, might be able to meet a few of these demands, with meeting rooms, break rooms, the ability to work from home etc. but the most innovative companies are consulting with their staff and meeting this challenge head on.

They’re redesigning offices with acoustics in mind; providing sound proof spaces for phone calls or spaces with background white noise allowing interaction with adjacent colleagues but masking the content of other nearby conversations. They are providing flexible meeting rooms that adapt to the duration or number of attendees and come with collaborative connected technology so people can join from anywhere. They’re providing relaxed spaces where colleagues can grab a coffee and review a document together or quiet zones for focused solitary work. Incidentally, they’re also realising costs savings from the rationalisation of desk space.

If you’re not convinced that the new majority millennial workforce aren’t creating the demand for these new ways of working, and that companies which are committed to meeting this demand aren’t succeeding then perhaps it’s worth considering the recent valuations given for WeWork, a company providing innovative office space.

However, innovative office space alone won’t meet these challenges , ABW must be supported by technology too. Can a user work with the right device in the right location? Can they seamlessly move to a new space and immediately pick up where they left off? Can they continue to collaborate on the same documents wherever they are, using whatever device they choose?

Activity Based Working  isn’t enabled just by considering location, and device, but ‘how’ we work must be considered too. Can a user sign off expenses, submit holiday requests, book travel for an upcoming meeting and join a conference call without opening endless different applications and becoming distracted by the notifications in each of them. Wouldn’t it be great if the workspace just consolidated tasks, presenting prioritised easy to action activities based on what it had learnt about how and when a user works?

Organisations must also consider how they secure this new found flexibility. How can an organisation identify compromised accounts or malicious intent? How can it trust users working anywhere on different devices? How can it differentiate data exfiltration or ransomware from legitimate use?

It’s true to say that these demands are difficult, balancing the complex web of requirements with technology that is easily manageable, cost effective and secure is challenging.  However, if you’re not meeting this challenge, if you’re not transforming your organisation, not enabling innovation, not providing the space for success, then maybe someone else is? Can your organisation risk becoming the next Blockbuster? Can it risk the exodus of its most talented people. Isn’t it worth at least asking the question;
what is possible?

Who knows, with an efficient and effective innovation factory, your organisation might even become the next Netflix.

Credit: Sam Mulhearn – Solutions Architect, Cetus Solutions  

Talk to Cetus to find out how we’re helping our customers innovate. 

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Blog, Cetus Solutions, Cloud, IT Solutions, Microsoft, Technology, Uncategorized

Windows 7 to Windows 10: Migration Best Practices


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So, you’re thinking of migrating to Windows 10 before the Windows 7 end of life cut-off date. As much as your operating system isn’t always something you ponder, letting go of Windows 7 has proven to be a difficult step for a lot of users and, let’s face it, you too. But, with extended support ending in January 2020, it’s no longer something that organisations can ignore. In fact, the longer migration is left the more stressful it will be. It’s important to realise that the times are changing; Windows 10 isn’t a traditional migration by any means. Microsoft has labelled it the ‘final’ OS, by rethinking the old system of new versions every three years. This new ‘evergreen’ method eliminates the need to constantly create something better and new, by updating automatically twice a year indefinitely so that you don’t need to think about it.

While organisations can still enjoy the security of the extended support for a little while longer, it is imperative that a migration to Windows 10 gets completed before the deadline. Forgoing the update will result in an unsecure operating system. Microsoft will no longer offer technical support, software updates, security updates or fixes. Your organisation will be at greater risk for viruses and malware, leaving you open to not only significant fines, but the risk of cyber criminals exploiting the lapse. But why migrate to Windows 10 specifically? Aside from the obvious evergreen operating system, Microsoft has also officially pledged that organisations that adopt Windows 10 are unlikely to face any compatibility issues. To help you embrace the new possibilities of Windows 10, here are the best practices to make your migration as smooth as possible.

This is a transformation, not a migration
Windows 10 is unique in terms of Windows OS as it brings with it an opportunity for organisations to rethink how they do Windows management, by using new modern management features. These offer IT departments the chance to manage PCs in a way similar to mobile devices, which is significant as it allows them to manage all end-user computing devices, regardless of operating system, with the same set of tools. Modern management also allows for anywhere and anytime management, even if they’re off the domain- and it’s easier, lightweight and more modern in terms of management overall.

Pick the right version of Windows 10
With the new version of Windows, Microsoft has made three versions available for customers to choose from.
1. The Windows Insider Program (WIP) offers users the opportunity to be an early adapter of the latest features that will eventually be incorporated into the mainstream version. It’s a way for users to get a sneak peek into what’s in store.
2. The Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) is optimal for users with devices that do not change and are fixed in function, such as point-of-sale (POS), kiosks, bank teller devices and PCs attached to manufacturing or healthcare devices. This version is exclusive to organisations and is not intended for mainstream PCs.
3. The most common version deployed is the Semi-Annual Channel (SAC). This is the one whose target audience is business computers for production and is designed for the most common scenarios. Each SAC release is available for 18 months, its first pilot stage for three.

Getting the right team together
The vast majority of organisations have already successfully completed other Windows migrations in the past. This Windows 10 migration is slightly different, due to the potential impact to a broader audience, so it will require a strong cross-team effort to achieve the desired results. Your team should be made up of a project manager, a technical lead, representation from appdev, and user business units so that their interests can be included. To make sure that the migration runs smoothly, the team should be committed at least part time for three to six months (or even longer), depending on the size of your organisation, the complexity of the project and priorities.

Use standardisation to reduce complexity
PC computing can become fairly complex due to the variables of device types, application updates and user-injected activities constantly changes the makeup of what generally becomes a standard configuration. Migrating to Windows 10 is the best time to eliminate any unnecessary configurations that add to the complexity. Make the most for your IT team erasing needless applications, reducing the number of device types and minimising the variability of user configurations.

Consider different approaches to your Windows migration
There are several ways that you can handle a Windows migration.
PC refresh
This is the first choice for new PCs since there’s no legacy technology to worry about. It can however, cost a bit more, as the OEM image often includes bloatware and is generally incomplete for most users.
In-place upgrade
These are usually popular for Windows 10 since Microsoft made the upgrade process far simpler and easy to manage. Just remember that legacy application capability issues and less than ideal configurations get moved as part of the process.
Re-imagining
Extending the life of PC assets, re-imagining resets the image to a known-good state that has to be tested and vetted properly. It can, however, be expensive as new images need to be created for existing PCs and can take several weeks.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)
For the last option, VDI allows for high degrees of standardisation in a secure way from a centralised infrastructure. VDI migrations are ideal for organisations whose users have an identical application need, such as call centres or with remote agents. A slight downside, VDI does require infrastructure, which some customers find challenging.

Embrace unified endpoint management
Possibly the most significant opportunity to arise from the Windows 7 end of life is the possibility to adopt a modern IT management style that will not only positively affect your users, but your organisation as well, by leveraging unified endpoint management. It provides numerous benefits across physical devices, while enhancing security through modern configuration management of user policies, which handles the deployment of applications and manages OS patch management activities. This approach allows organisations to manage Windows with the same skills being used today on mobile while unifying activities across all EUC environments.

Sounds good? Here are the minimum hardware requirements to run Windows 10 smoothly; a 1GHz processor, 1 GB (32-bit) RAM, 16GB of hard disk space, a Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with a WDDM diver, and- obviously-, a Microsoft account and internet access. Basically, they’re the same as for Windows 7, but with a processor that supports PAE, NX and SSE2.

There is so much more to an organisation than its operating system, but then it’s such a critical part. Here at Cetus, your organisation’s IT is our priority, and with the Windows 7 end of life coming ever closer we’re the best choice for your Windows 10 deployment and support. Make sure to have a chat our experts sooner rather than later, and make the switch to Windows 10 the easiest you’ve ever experienced.

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Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Featured, IT Solutions, News, Press Release, Uncategorized

A New Future For Cetus


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It has been a long time coming. Ask anyone at Cetus; the old HQ was getting a bit, uhm, cramped. There was the nightmare that was the car park situation, with only ten spaces for the whole team of us Cetusites who could appear in droves at any moment- god forbid we have any vendor or partners in, things would get particularly messy-, the morning commute became a tad more frustrating before the first coffee of the day. Even with a department reshuffle within the building last October, which included boardroom tables moving from one floor to another, we’ve all ended up having to sit on each other’s laps at some point. But that is all set to change.

Cetus has been growing at an exponential rate and our old building in Salford Quays just couldn’t keep up. With the introduction of our sister brand instrato last summer, we’ve been setting ourselves bigger and more ambitious goals, which we just couldn’t achieve from such a tiny building. You know what they say; ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’. Except it was the opposite; from our little square building- more fitting for an episode of Blue’s Clues than an IT solutions firm extraordinaire- Cetus HQ was just not reflective of the huge projects and exciting challenges that we had going on.

After months of meetings behind closed doors and whispers in the hallways, we can finally publicly announce our flashy new Cetus HQ. Located near the Trafford Centre just outside of Manchester city, it’s two floors of sleek new desks, modern meeting rooms and, most importantly, a bigger kitchen. You know that it’s a Cetus building, with our logo and distinctive ‘Cetus purple’ everywhere. Not to gloat (too much), we have more parking spaces than we could shake a stick at, the sleekest boardrooms for the world-conquering that we get up to, plenty of break-out spaces to use for impromptu discussions without having to use an entire boardroom and lots of hot desks for the various Cetusites/vendors/partners that come to soak up all of that Cetus magic. And it’s all packaged in 360 degrees of windows for all of that sweet, sweet vitamin D.

The whole project is the epitome of the teamwork and make-things-happen attitude we have at Cetus. The mammoth task of getting Cetus into our new home had members from every department working day and night on all of the finer details to make the dream a reality. And all while making sure that all the daily tasks and huge projects continued as normal. Now that’s multitasking.

So, what does this mean for our extended Cetus family- the very people and organisations that give us the reason to get up in the morning? Now, we finally have the room to think. Cetus is made up of geniuses, whether they’re techies, sales people, Marketing or administration. With the space to think, plan and execute the strategies that we spend so much time working on, we can work on bigger things. The Cetus team is growing, and this building allows us to do that without compromising the well-being of the existing team.

With an emphasis on collaboration, we’re looking forward to having the brightest minds from our partners and partner vendors come in and work alongside us. With all of the teamwork, space to think and sparkly new everything, the motivation at Cetus is at an all-time high. More than ever, we’re ready to prove that what we have at Cetus is more than just some IT solutions to help your organisation run smoothly. We are part of your IT, from development stages to building and deploying your perfect solution, and we remain part of your IT long after it goes live. This new building and everything that comes with it is not just for us, it’s for all of those organisations, IT teams and end users that make up the wider Cetus family. This is a new chapter in Cetus history, and it’ll be the biggest yet. So strap in and join us for the latest crazy ride.

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Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

Blog, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized, VMware

Navigate Hybrid Cloud Complexity With VMware NSX


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Chances are, if you’ve been thinking about cloud, or you’ve started on your cloud journey, you’ve heard about hybrid cloud. It’s becoming the future of not only the IT departments that run the organisations, but the very culture and fabric of the organisation itself. Employees can no longer afford to be sitting in an office all day; the very definition of a lot of roles requires the flexibility and fluidity of working remotely. With that, organisations are having to modify and modernise along with this new wave of thinking. IT has had to move away from centralised data centres to a model where applications and data are mobile and easily distributed. In the race to stay relevant and dynamic, many organisations have taken the leap from managing a single data centre to adopting cloud- which usually involves more than one. But the trick with all of this digital transformation is meeting the needs of users without jeopardising security. Having so many clouds can be tricky. We’ve already discussed the issue of cloud sprawl storing data all over the place, which makes it somewhat of a challenge to identify it all and ensure that it remains secure.

Cloud promises so much. Remote working, secure storage, content collaboration, scalability, flexibility…. Plenty of yummy buzzwords that organisations want to achieve. Though, they have quickly realised that it’s not as easy as it looks, especially when it comes to incorporating and managing multiple clouds. And it’s not that they’re foolish or unprepared; deploying cloud can be a significant nightmare, full of terrors and bumps in the road, and sometimes it’s just not possible to foresee the need for something until you’re too far gone. In the haste to join the Cool Cloud group (who wouldn’t, there are badges), many organisations just didn’t have the time to address the divergent expectations and demands on IT and the business, leading to misalignment and a lot of frustration.

VMware solves the issue of the multi-cloud with their NSX solution. VMware has been a leader in the IT industry for decades, and is known for providing the modern network virtualisation solution that aligns business and IT around the same objectives, which is pretty important when IT is what drives your business. It’s comprised of several solutions that work together to create a well-rounded solution. NSX Data Centre reproduces your entire network model in software, making it easy for you to create and provision any network topology in seconds, whether they’re simple or complex multi-tier networks. It creates a common operating environment for all of your applications, either on-premises or off. A streamlined workflow is enabled by automation, meaning that you’ll be able to get more work done faster, with security that’s built-in and tied to your apps and data. NSX Cloud provides consistent networking and security for applications that run natively in public clouds, while delivering enterprise-class capabilities- just like micro-segmentation, to enable easy control over your east-west traffic. It results in precise control over your cloud networking and increases network visibility and analytics. NXS Hybrid Connect delivers secure, seamless application mobility and infrastructure hybridity on-premises and in the cloud. This provides high-performance, highly secure and optimised multi-site interconnects.

That all sounds fab, but what does it actually mean for you? What VMware NSX delivers is a unified platform, which is exactly what you want when you’re dealing with complex cloud environments. Since it’s a common operating environment, it provides a single point of control to break down silos and give you more freedom. It delivers high operational efficiency, eliminating manual network configuration and reconfiguration with its super smooth automation, which allows you to quickly grow or shrink applications across environments. With high workload mobility, NSX enables a fast, low-touch migration process that allows you to realise secure, seamless app mobility across all of your sites and clouds. And finally, with NSX technology, you can easily improve standardisation, by provisioning and managing networks and security services within a single management interface, for consistency and scale across all of your environments.

VMware is a leader in virtualisation, that buzzword you’ve been hearing about a lot but figured you’d look into it at another time. It has been a leader in enabling organisations to navigate multi-cloud complexity in this digital era. With the cloud freedom that it delivers, your IT and your organisation can become partners in innovating across clouds, without adding to cost and complexity. Here at Cetus, we love VMware, and we think that NSX is the bees knees (last year we earned VMware’s specialist competency in Network Virtualisation for our experience and expertise in delivering NSX)  If you want a bit of cloud freedom for yourself, make sure to have a chat with our experts, who love a good multi-cloud challenge.

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Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

Blog, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, Continuum, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

World Backup Day 2019: Losing Data in the Cloud


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Happy World Backup Day 2019 everyone! Or, as we call it here at Cetus, World ‘Your Systems Shouldn’t Have Gone Down In The First Place’ Day. We say that, because backups are probably one of the most important things you can do your organisation. You know how you feel when you’re strapped for cash and you’d forgotten that you’d popped a £20 into the little zip-up pocket in your bag ages ago? It’s like a little present to future you from past you. Those kinds of presents are important to show yourself how much you care about you. It’s the ultimate love, really. And trust me, you’ll get that same fuzzy feeling- and a whole tonne of relief- when disaster strikes and you’re the one who planned for it. It’s nice to be the hero of the office every once in a while. So, now that you’ve received the obligatory Public Service Announcement (backup today so that you won’t be the April’s Fool tomorrow), lets get into the gritty stuff; losing your data in the cloud.

“What?!” you mutter at me. I’m not crazy, stick with me on this. Trust me, I’m as horrified as you are. Surely, surely, the whole point of the cloud is to pop important stuff in there and sit back and relax as your office/laptop/briefcase burns, knowing that all you have to do is get your hands on another device, log in, and forget about the flames behind you. Ah, you’d be mistaken. Losing your data- even when it’s stored in the cloud- is entirely possible, and it happens more often that you think. And it’s not just Google Drive or Dropbox, it’s your favourite, and critical, SaaS apps.

It happens to all of us; you’re looking through a cluttered folder of documents trying to find something specific and it just gets a bit too much. There are some really useless files in there, clogging up your workspace. Half of the useless ones haven’t been edited or opened in the last five years. Why keep them? There, all deleted. You’re feeling more zen already. If deleting useless files feels this good, maybe it’s time to turn to the minimalist life. Who needs forty different suits? Two will do. Same with shoes. Donate all those old books, DVDs, CDs, the box of unwanted presents from your evil mother in law. You feel the calm setting in, life is that much brighter. Until your manager/supervisor/boss asks you for a particularly important file that you realise, in sudden horror, you deleted in a moment of deranged thinking. Oops. Maybe you need that clutter after all. Other times, you might be collaborating on a project in Sharefile and someone doesn’t pay attention and clicks ‘trash’. Or, that project that you started 12 months ago and was scrapped? Well it turns out it’s received another green light. Too bad you deleted all the work in a moment of frustration and defiance.

But sometimes it’s not you, it’s the SaaS app itself. No, it doesn’t have an agenda against you. They hold large amounts of data that are bombarded with edits and additions. Overwriting is a pretty common issue for SaaS applications, especially when large data sets are imported into the app via a bulk upload. There can also be an issue or two when third-party applications are used to manage the data inside the base SaaS app. A bit like having two opposing football teams. They’re there to do a job, but they’ll slide tackle each other every so often to show dominance.

And then there’s always that absolute twit in the corner who’s always up to something. You know the one; comes in late, the first one out, takes an extra twenty minutes on their break. Does the absolute minimum just to keep the Powers That Be happy. Well, this very person could also delete their own files. Why? Maybe they quit. Or maybe they think that they’re going to get kicked out. Or maybe the feud between them and your manager (the basis of all the office gossip) has reached the point where they just delete important documents out of spite. Whatever it is, those files are unrecoverable, they’re going to hop on over to the next job, and you’re the one who will have to run around picking up the pieces and trying to fit them all together again, before the customer/your scary boss finds out. Not all ‘accidental deletion’ is accidental.

Organisations like yours are so reliant on your IT infrastructure and you depend on seamless access to it anytime. If it all went down you’d probably end up with an office full of expensive, and sleek-looking, paperweights. And the amount of business data your organisation will realistically produce in the next ten years will grow exponentially. With every file created in your business, the more complex and important your infrastructure becomes. And it’s the very same instance for cloud. As I wrote before, at Cetus we take backup and Disaster Recovery very seriously. So much so that we actually have a whole branch to our organisation, Continuum, which is devoted to DRaaS and backups. Traditional disaster recovery methods are basically a series of fallible, interconnected steps. Think about tapes; they don’t exactly stand up over time. Increasing backup windows prevent complete backups being produced. The availability of sufficient compute and storage resource to provide a complete recovery target. Skilled resources not available to enact a recovery or conduct regular tests of the disaster recovery plan. It’s a domino effect of time delays and uncertainty in the case of a disaster. With Continuum, you can tick off several key functions that your organisation needs. We provide a fully-managed failover, regardless of whatever level of backup, archiving and disaster recovery you require. Testing is important, no matter where your data is stored. Continuum completes tests on whatever regularity you require, using a combination of automation and specialist knowledge of your environment. It’s also scalable (what isn’t in the ideal cloud world?), so Continuum will grow with you as your organisation grows over time. By providing business continuity and disaster recovery, you know that, even in the cloud, your data is safe.

Now that I’ve set the panic in you, (and hopefully given you the magic antidote), have a chat with our Continuum backup specialists, tell them that I sent you, and know that you’ll never be an April’s Fool again!

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Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

Take Control of Your Data Centre With Hyper-Converged Infrastructure


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It’s really hard to be part of an IT department these days. Having become the very lifeblood of an organisation, the loss of a work-reliant component of any kind can cause a revolt, scenes from the Apocalypse or even mass mutiny. Whether it’s a device, the network, internet access or email, the failure of just a single one can make your organisation grind to a halt. Let’s face it, no one wants to press something in the effort of fixing an existing issue just to get inundated in phone calls by grumpy users who can’t access anything. I’m sure that there are IT managers up and down the country nodding along, absentmindedly caressing their internal scars from the first ring of the phone and getting hit by flashbacks of an incident that frankly only an IT member can understand.

Finally, some IT genius somewhere in the world wanted to minimise the complexities and frustrations for the rest of the tech community by creating a system so simple, so easy to manage and so flexible that it would make sliced bread look like a stupid innovation. This amazing creation is called hyper-converged infrastructure and IT departments the world over are bowing down to whichever person designed it. HCI promises operational efficiency, reduced costs and manageable scaling that combines all of a data centre’s necessary components (think of your storage, networking backup and everything else) into a pre-packaged unit that can be controlled and managed by a single console. Frankly, I’d say the only reason that we don’t have a national holiday devoted to this mind-blowing achievement is the fact that cloud computing blew in, screaming for attention, and took over the hype. So, I thought it would only be fair to give HCI some of the spotlight and cheerleaders, by giving it the attention it deserves and listing its many benefits so you become Team HCI too.

Buy more to reduce cost
Obviously, anything that reduces cost becomes automatically more interesting to those who make the big decisions and have the Financial Department around their little fingers. When it comes to IT, the organisations that want to invest in any new hard- or software generally pump money into the sleekest, fastest and newest toy that’s on the market. In terms of HCI, you’ll be delighted to discover that the cost of entry of this whole new system is actually lower than you’d expect. That’s because hyper-convergence uses an economic model similar to that of public cloud providers, by using low-cost commodity hardware and scaling the data centre little by little. With this ‘Lego’ building-block approach, your IT can expand as and when you need it to.

Simplify your operations
A day in the life of your IT team involves a lot of admin and everyday tasks. Add in the complexity created by so much tech, and your IT department can quickly become overwhelmed by the little bits, rather than focusing their energy on the projects that really need their attention. Since hyper-converged infrastructure systems consolidate core storage, backup, deduplication and networking, goes without saying that hardware clutter and touchpoints get drastically reduced. All workloads fall under the same umbrella which makes it easier to migrate VMs between different appliances or data centres. With all of that previously pesky everyday admin duties taken care of, the IT department can either get smaller, or redistribute their focus into something more important. Legacy data centre hardware gets folded into HCI, which means that there’s no need to have several specialists in each resource area running around the office- IT staff only need a broad knowledge to apply infrastructure resources to meet individual application needs.

Make automation work for you
Legacy infrastructure has proven to be quite a hindrance in the face of the latest waves of tech modernisation. Because they can be so varied and complex, automation has been impossible to adopt. As hyper-converged infrastructure works on the principle of a software-defined data centre, automation of routine operations can be achieved with centralised management tools implemented. Everything is included in a unified environment, taking the headache of implementing hardware from various manufacturers or product lines. Adapting automation increases efficiency of the IT team, keeping the business as a whole agile and competitive.

Data protection
Organisations are looking for the Holy Trinity when it comes to their IT infrastructure; the ability to work remotely, having the most agile and up-to-date infrastructure, and keeping everything safe. With an organisation’s network no longer confined to the four brick walls of the building, protecting data, applications and workspaces from the evil lurking beyond the perimeter has become even more important, especially in the wake of Gen-V cyber attacks such as WannaCry. Hyper-converged infrastructure is a leader in cloud efficiency and storage, incorporating snapshotting, data deduplication and other data protection features which is exactly what you want in your corner when disaster strikes and you need to recover everything. It offers higher resiliency than traditional legacy systems, with the scale-out model relying on data being spread across multiple nodes throughout a single, or between several, data centres. If one appliance or rack goes down, you won’t have to worry about performance or availability suffering.

Feel the freedom of flexibility and scalability
Another step away from the archaic confines of a legacy system, HCI allows for greater flexibility for your data centre. Since it’s based in software, it takes a ‘Lego block’ approach to scalability, with each HCI appliance a self-contained unit that includes all of the hardware resource your data centre needs. This allows increased compatibility, and a quick expansion of data centre capacity by simply adding on an extra unit or two when needed. There’s no need for complex update plans each time you need to expand, nor do you need to plan years in the future by estimating what compute resource you might need and investing in costly data centres all in one go, just for it all to be old and out of date by the time you need it.

Simplified procurement and support
Since HCI is basically a plug-and-play unit that incorporates pretty much everything you would need in your data centre, it’s quite similar to the offerings of systems integrators. By getting one point of contact for the life of the system, your IT team can cut out a lot of unnecessary faffing about between different vendors and hardware models. This makes it more cost-effective than integrated systems, especially when it comes to upgrades. When the manufacturer makes any upgrades, the units gain the benefits automatically, without having to replace hardware.

At Cetus, we have a long-standing relationships with leading HCI vendors. Have a chat with one of our experts, and experience the benefits of HCI first-hand.

Speak to an expert

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.