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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.

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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, Citrix, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, Technology, Uncategorized

Citrix Workspace: Delivering The End User Promise


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Citrix is a lot of things to a lot of people. Here at Cetus, we’re a Citrix Platinum Partner- which we shout about at any opportunity. To others, they’re the ultimate Summit event, the paracetamol for an IT headache, or a name heard in passing when referring to ‘the IT system’. Regardless of what Citrix is to you (why not share down below?) we can all agree to one universal thing; Citrix keeps its promises. There was some scepticism when Citrix made some huge announcements and changes during Citrix Synergy last May, promising to deliver them all within the following 90 days. And sure enough, Citrix kept most of them, completely transforming the suite of products on offer.

User experience has become something of a pioneering point for workspace platforms. IT teams have realised that the platforms that they roll out have to be easy to manage and maintain and be user friendly. With the latest updates to Citrix Workspace, this has very much been a focal point for the developers. But that’s not all; Citrix Workspace unifies solutions in a single management plane, reduces complexity and simplifies solution delivery and management. It can be the way to move 100% to the cloud, or help organisations extend their existing on-premises software deployments. And that’s before thinking of the user. So, how exactly has Citrix delivered the end user promise?

All in one
Back in the day, the goal for the IT department was simply to manage and secure users’ apps, desktops and data as easily as possible. That’s all grand and good, until users go AWOL and refuse to adopt the platform- leading to shadow IT and a nightmare for the IT department. Focusing on the needs and wants for the end user is the Citrix approach for this one; by putting the user at the centre of everything there’s less chance of mutiny. By thinking like employees, systems become easy to use and the rate of adoption improves significantly. Who knew it could be so easy to deliver a simple, secure digital workspace?

We all work here
The whole point of Citrix Workspace is to be a productivity tool that provides a unified experience, enhancing the work lives of users, not causing more trouble. There are so many types of user, and we’re not even talking about the distinct difference between remote and office workers. If you stand at the door of your office and look out over all the people that are working away there’s no chance that they all do the same thing and need an identical workspace. To be successful, IT needs to be able to support all of them. Your workspace needs to be able to deliver all of the apps and data that the users need- Windows, mobile, web and SaaS- and all on the device they happen to be using. What makes Citrix Workspace different is the delivery of a consistent user experience and contextual access to apps and data. It allows access that seamlessly changes based on context, maintaining security and great user experience.

Integrating the workspace
One complaint that comes up over and over again is the actual screen that users interact with during a workspace session. Other solutions often deliver a wall of icons. Citrix Workspace delivers an integrated experience for workers, providing access to all of their apps from a single interface, but also easily accessed by a single sign-on. There’s no need to be constantly trying to remember passwords for different apps that all require updates at different times.

Access everything from one screen
How many places do you store files? On your laptop, the network drive, Dropbox, the dusty hard drive that resembles a brick (that needs its own power source?), that trusty USB with a generic logo that follows you from desktop to desktop…. We try and store things where they belong, but it’s not always possible. In other workspaces, you need to launch the app for the file that you’re trying to open first, wandering around your desktop till you find it. But with Citrix Workspace, files are available in the context of the application, so it’s just a case of clicking on the file and letting it do it all for you, locally when on a secure network or with a hosted app on an untrusted network.

We love Citrix and we love Citrix Workspace. Because we put end users as a focal point in our solutions, you can be guaranteed that your employees will work more productively. Have a chat with our Citrix Platinum Partner experts to refresh your workspace, or check out our events page, where we regularly host Citrix events.

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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

Workspace ONE: Everything You Need In A Workspace


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There has been quite a lot of excitement surrounding VMware’s Workspace ONE since its announcement in February 2016. The modern version of VMware’s 2016 Workspace Suite; Workspace ONE integrates identity management and EMM, modernising end user computing. With regular updates, the platform continues to excite users across the globe; truly revolutionising the flexible ‘any app, any device’ vision that runs the mobile workspace reform.

Workspace ONE is a secure enterprise platform that delivers and manages any app on any mobile device; that integrates identity management, real-time application delivery and enterprise mobility management. It accelerates how workspace services can be delivered, while engaging digital employees, reducing the threat of data leakage and modernising traditional IT operations for the mobile cloud era. And with yet more announcements as recently as November during VMworld in Barcelona, here are the reasons why Workspace ONE really is everything you need in a modern workspace.

Embrace your inner SaaS
Workspace ONE allows organisations to embrace SaaS and mobile apps while supporting existing enterprise applications (think of your legacy systems), and all securely.

Productivity is the name of the game
The best way for your users to be productive is to provide them the tools that give them the freedom to work, while maintaining the right data security and compliance; which Workspace ONE delivers.

Adopting Windows 10
Windows 10 is taking over the enterprise space and, with Workspace ONE, the accelerated adoption of the platform by using the same modern management framework designed for mobile devices.

Authentication that adapts
With adaptive conditional access; ensure the right level of security for each individual user based on authentication strength, data sensitivity, user location and device posture.

Cyber security with a difference
A huge issue for organisations is the users’ disregard for individual responsibility towards cyber security. Workspace ONE delivers improved security and employee engagement, incorporating next-generation automation and insight.

Improved user experience
The new Workspace ONE hub is truly user-centric, streamlining onboarding and user experience across all platforms.

And all delivered as a service
To speed up app transformation, Workspace ONE delivers virtual applications and desktops as a service.

By adopting VMware’s Workspace ONE platform, join the future of work today and combine an excellent user experience with the ease of management for any IT team. Have a chat with our Workspace ONE-centric VMware experts to get you started.

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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

How to Avoid the Common Pitfalls of VDI


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With the explosion of cloud and mobility changing the way people work completely, organisations have had to adopt more fluid digital workspaces to be able to support a dynamic workforce in the era of consumerisation. Digital transformation has quickly become the answer to the wave of innovation and new ideas behind the rapid development of technology. To keep up, organisations need to move from traditional desktop models to the digital workspaces that are tuned for mobility, a workforce using new device form factors and the agile delivery of new applications. Desktop virtualisation is the name of the game in this instance, and in response IT teams leverage virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to do this.

VDI is one of those handy little tricks that every genius in the IT department has in their box of tools. For your IT admins, VDI can reduce desktop administrative and management tasks and enable apps to be easily added, patched and upgraded. It also allows your admins to manage security and data protection from a central point of control, which in the long term will provide your organisation with a lower total cost of ownership and improved data protection. There are so many reasons why running desktop operating systems and applications on virtual machines, either hosted on-premises in your data centre or off-premises in the cloud to access via desktop clients or mobile devices, but there can be a catch. Here are the most common pitfalls that organisations come across when adopting VDI, and how you can avoid them.

As with the majority of projects that affect employees, incorporating VDI in your organisation is going to cause change. And for the most part, change is one thing that people really dislike. Clear communication is vital for project success, involving all parties early on will engage users and let them know what’s coming. Set up a schedule for periodic meetings that detail the upcoming changes and what benefits they will bring. It’s important to take a step back and consider exactly what you’re trying to achieve with virtual desktops, before you even start thinking about IT requirements. What are your users’ needs? By involving your users from early on in the process, it helps to manage expectations and understanding, which will result in their accepting of the end solution. Regardless of what project you were adopting, it would ultimately fail if your users have the perception that it won’t meet their needs or expectations.

Applying the right team to your VDI project can be easier said than done. A very common mistake of app and desktop virtualisation projects is to employ a team of virtualisation architects instead of desktop and application administrators. While architects might seem like the logical first step, the reality of VDI is that virtualising desktops and apps is very different from actually virtualising infrastructure. Admins who are skilled in virtualisation typically don’t build their own workloads, instead they focus their skills on operating servers in a virtualised environment. Build a team full of the people in your team who design and manage desktop and application environments. With desktops now hosted in the data centre, it’s important that the storage systems hosting the desktops and the networks used to access them are designed correctly. Involve the storage, server and network specialists in a coordinated and collaborative fashion.

The whole point of deploying VDI is to benefit the user, so it’s important to define your app and desktop virtualisation use cases properly. Use cases are built on types of workers and their job requirements, the applications and devices they use, their requirements for storage and multimedia performance and their network connectivity restraints. Consider the culture and needs of your organisations and your attitude towards the use of infrastructure when defining your workflow requirements. Thinking strategically, such as asking yourself if there are users that require high-definition video, will ensure that users receive the resources and system performance appropriate for the work that they do and the way they perform their tasks. Avoid oversimplifying your users needs, as different workers in the same office setting have varying performance requirements.

Conducting a pre-assessment for your new desktops and applications is crucial to gain an understanding of the workloads that will run in the virtualised client environment and their associated technical requirements. Without one, you’ll design the solution on nothing but assumptions, which will pose a risk when it goes live. By considering the applications that your users are using, how long it takes to launch them and how they perform on a physical desktop, the pre-assessment can be useful in determining how many users are actually using the applications and how it would impact the way the applications are being delivered. It also considers the utilisation of CPUs, memory, disk and network bandwidth in the physical systems, which is crucial in properly sizing the underlying infrastructure.

Before, in a traditional desktop environment, each user had full access to their own disk spindle- or dedicated hard drive, whichever the case may be- so poor bandwidth for WAN sites could be accepted and endured. When you move to VDI, it’s important to understand exactly how it will impact the performance of network bandwidth, Storage Area Network array processor utilisation and display protocols. These variables can affect application performance, which should have already been fully explored through engagement with users. Your users can help you generate realistic Proof-of-Concept or pilot workloads to validate their requirements for graphic bandwidth, storage, I/O and more. If your WAN links can’t provide the bandwidth for a VDI environment, or the latency is too high, you might want to consider local deployments.

Regardless of the size of your organisation, deploying VDI will be a complex procedure. You might have several thousands of employees on hundreds of different applications, including speciality products for particular job functions. You might have existing application deployment strategies for commonly used applications, but speciality apps can easily be overlooked, being easier to just install them for the small number of users who require them. Obviously, the need for a deployment strategy for all applications will directly impact the on the way the virtual desktop environment is designed. If applications are installed on user login a VDI environment can be properly designed to meet the constraint. Do tasks in parallel to help your project team meet your deployment deadlines. Have a clear understanding of how you will deploy, update and manage all applications that are used before considering how applications will be packaged and how wide-ranging updates will impact performance.

Finally, it’s crucial to avoid skipping or mismanaging the pilot project. Failure is a serious risk if your organisation skips the pilot phase, or if you run a pilot that doesn’t produce a clear outcome. It should have clearly defined objectives and a specified timeframe, engaging real users from various use cases to pilot the environment and generate meaningful load data. It’s important not to test the VDI environment on IT administrators first, as they aren’t representative of your entire organisation’s user base. It should engage the desktop support teams to provide end-user support to prevent the project team from attempting to provide 24/7 support to users.

With these tips, you can be sure to design a VDI environment that will provide users with most of the functionality and performance of desktop operating systems and applications along with higher availability and a lower risk of hardware failure. At Cetus, VDI is something that we’ve deployed many times and we like to think of ourselves as experts. If virtual desktop infrastructure is something that your organisation is looking to deploy, make sure to speak to our experts.

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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, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

How to Prevent Cloud Security Threats


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The end of winter is always a little grim, especially around the UK. The trees are bare, it gets dark way too early, the two-minute dash to the car threatens a soaking and the prospect of sitting outside with a cold beer/cocktail after a long day of work is surprisingly not tempting at all. I hate to be the harbinger of bad news, but it could get worse. Imagine coming in one morning, wind-swept and dripping, to the news that overnight your cloud was victim to a cyber-crime? At that point a cold beer in the snow seems like the best remedy for the situation. Despite everything, the internet isn’t as safe as you’d think, with devious no-gooders lurking around every corner, eager to take advantage of any vulnerability to make a quick buck. It’s especially important when your organisation is connected to the cloud, where your data is internet-facing instead of nicely locked up in an on-prem data centre. It doesn’t mean you should go out and raid Curry’s PC World for enough data storage to build a makeshift data closet though. Here are a few tips to keep your cloud secure, while enabling the innovation, data access and flexibility that you wanted in the first place.

We’re all in this together
The beauty of the network is that it’s all inter-linked. That’s how you can collaborate so easily, and throw your data and apps onto the cloud to access them whenever, wherever. Just remember, every ‘point of entry’ can be the weakest link, so it’s important to educate everyone in your organisation on how to protect themselves to protect the wider network community. It’s important to involve your entire organisation, making them aware that cyber security is just as much their responsibility as it is yours. Unfortunately, the biggest percentage of criminal infiltration comes down to users accidentally letting the cyber criminal in, usually through phishing or malware attempts. Phishing is a bigger threat to your organisation than ransomware is, and it all comes through malicious emails that get acted on. In this super quick blog post, I’ve already covered how to reduce the risk of getting on the phisherman’s hook. Also, it’s important to set up a (non-judgemental) plan for any user who feels that they might have been compromised, without them having to resort to throwing their laptop out of the window. Then you can be sure that they won’t be throwing out hardware willy-nilly, or sweeping incidents under the rug that could cause you harm in the long run.

Secure your data backup plan (just in case)
Data loss is a serious worry, always. Thankfully, in the case of cloud, this worry is slightly less. By storing your data in the cloud, it’s super simple to link your network to a backup storage solution to make sure that whatever happens you’ll be secure. We think that backups are so important that we’ve created a whole extra branch to Cetus; the Continuum Service. I’ve already touched on the 21st century’s answer to tape backup (it’s replication, by the way), and that’s what we offer with Continuum. It’s a full infrastructure recovery, and not just your data- making sure that your underlying server and desktop infrastructure is a-ok to get your business back on its feet in record time. It’s testing, on a regular basis, automatically verifying the integrity of each virtual backup server on its way to cloud, so that you know if something happens there’ll be minimal disruption. It’s a fully-managed service that allows your peace of mind knowing that we have a whole team on the situation, 24 hours a day. It’s a holistic backup and recovery solution that provides local file and VM restoration.

Who has access?
You can build the strongest walls around your building, adopt the most up-to-date firewall and screen every little thing that enters your network, but sometimes it’s important to be weary of the trojan horse plodding through your hallways every day. And by trojan horse, I mean an employee that could be stealing, irresponsibly sharing, or compromising your data. As an IT department, it’s important to assess who has access to what. There is absolutely no reason for Sharon in HR to be able to view or edit financial records, and what on earth could she be doing popping in twice a week at 3am? Establish access controls so that you can manage risk, tying user identities- even external ones- to back-end directories.

It’s important to put security measures in place that will ensure that your data and apps are protected. Why not embrace the latest technologies and adopt a smartphone access control system that will allow you to manage users and assign door access from anywhere?

Encryption and passwords are key
Your cloud can be quite vulnerable. Sitting up there, without the safety of your watchful eye, anything could be happening. It’s a bit like a spaceman floating in the big black expanse that is space, tethered to the International Space Station. He is protected by nothing more than his spacesuit, which shields him from the general elements, but there’s only so much you can do if he gets hit by a meteor. What he needs is an extra layer of bubble wrap and diamond outer shell. In the case of your cloud, this would look less rigidly cosy and more like good passwords and encryption.

In this example, we’re going to look at your spaceman’s bubble wrap; your password. Files in your cloud are zipped and protected with passwords, so it’s important that you choose a strong one. Having a unique password for your cloud is a must- if a hacker gains entry, they would have access to a huge amount of your data so it’s crucial that you keep it as safe as possible. Look into multi-factor authentication (which I’ve already discussed in detail in this post), adding an extra level of protection that you can control with fingerprint and retina biometrics.

If passwords are your spaceman’s bubble wrap, then encryption is his diamond shell, and it’s crucial. Cloud encryption allows your data and apps to be transformed by encryption, shooting up to the cloud securely before being stored. Encrypt at your network’s edge, ensuring that the data gets protected before it even leaves your network. But make sure to keep the encryption and deciphering keys stored away from where you store your data!

So, before you cobble together a makeshift data centre in a panic to protect your information, take a look at the level of security your cloud solution allows. The integrity of your cloud is vital for the health of your business; protecting your data and the access to it should be a priority for IT teams. Contact our Cetus experts to see how we can provide the ultimate protection for your cloud environment.

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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, IT Solutions, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

The New Hero of Cyber Security; Zero Trust


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The ability to work from anywhere, on any device, has quickly become one of the greatest developments in the workspace of all time. It’s not an exaggeration either. In the UK, 4.2 million people were working from home in 2015. In fact, between 2012 and 2016, the mobile workforce increased by 12.35%, and that percentage is growing exponentially year on year. It’s widely predicted that by 2020, half of the UK workforce will no longer be plonked in an office all day. That means that it’s time to invest in nice shoes and/or new pj bottoms. And while that’s an amazing turn of events, it will cause some significant security concerns for everyone concerned. With so much of your workforce wandering the plains of the UK, your network is no longer secure by actual brick and mortar perimeter.

Today’s increasingly decentralised enterprises have become a bit of a headache for IT, who now have to keep you secure even when you’re not potentially clicking on some dodgy email phishing links. Zero trust has evolved to answer the issue. Back when cybercrime was still all the way at Gen III, most organisations assumed that their security protection was robust enough to keep them safe. Those few who did err on the side of caution deployed security operations centres or other cyber monitoring solutions, but for the most part IT departments assumed that anything inside the perimeter was safe. Oh, but those were far simpler times.

By working on the assumption that any resource in the network might be compromised, zero trust puts monitoring solutions in place so that you have the power to take remedial action if it’s needed. With this new solution, no one service or server is considered more secure than the next. It’s basically a data-centric network design that puts micro-perimeters around specific data or assets, giving you the flexibility to apply more-granular rules can be enforced. It solves the ‘flat network’ problem of hackers infiltrating your network and scurrying around undetected. With the right guidance (you’re welcome in advance) and a little bit of know-how, it only takes a couple of steps to get started with zero trust.

Identifying your sensitive data is the obvious first step. It sounds like an easy way to start the process, but it’s a little more challenging than you’d think. You can’t possibly protect data that you can’t see or know about. You need to know where your employees store their data, exactly who uses it, how sensitive it is and how they, your partners and customers use it. Without knowing all of this, you’re putting your data and your organisation at risk. And you can’t exactly start investing in security controls until you know what it is you’re actually trying to protect. When you have a better idea of what you’re dealing with, it’s time to classify it all. I suggest procuring the help of your most organised member of staff before moving onto mapping your data.

To understand how you’re going to employ zero trust, and therefore micro-segmenting specific sensitive data, you need to know how it flows across your network as well as between users and resources. This is a fun (probably not) exercise to have with your stakeholders, such as application and network architects, to fully understand how they approach information. To give yourself a bit of a springboard, security teams should streamline their flow diagrams by leveraging existing models. A zero trust network is based on how transactions flow across a network, and how users and applications access data. Optimising the flow to make it simpler, and start identifying where micro-perimeters will be placed and segmented with physical or virtual appliances. In a network where the compute environment is physical, the segmentation gateway will usually be physical as well, whereas a virtualised compute environment will deploy a virtual segmentation gateway.

Micro-segmentation is the name of the game after you determine the optimum traffic flow, by determining how to enforce access control and inspection policies at the segmentation gateway. The point of zero trust is to enforce identity rights, so that you can control who has the privileges to access specific data, so it’s important to know exactly which users need to access what data. You need to know more than the source address, port and protocol for zero trust to work, since security teams need to understand the user identity as well as the application to establish access rights. Having created your ecosystem, it’s important to ‘Big Brother’ it to identify malicious activity and areas of improvement. There’s no point only logging traffic if it comes from the internet- god only knows what kind of infectious diseases your network could contract from a wild-spirited USB. With your shiny new zero trust network, the segmentation gateway can send all of the data flowing through it, which includes traffic destined for both internal and external network segments, straight to a security analytics tool that inspects it properly.

Now that you’re the proud owner of a zero trust network, you can rest easy knowing that your network is being monitored effectively. Here at Cetus, we believe that building the best architecture is just as important as keeping it safe. We’re experts in all things datacentre and cloud, so make sure to have a chat with one of our specialists who can help you through all of your security challenges. And while you’re at it, book yourself in for our complimentary security posture review to identify where your organisation is being exposed to the nasty things that lurk on the outside of your perimeter.

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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, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized, VMware

Transforming Your Cloud with HCI


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Over the Christmas holidays, I went on the usual trek with my mother in the beautiful Slieve Bloom Mountains in the middle of Ireland. It’s something she does every week, heading out early in the morning to slip and slide in the mud, count trees and enjoy the fresh air, coming back with nothing but new blisters and 20+ km under her belt. Every time I go home, I always end up spending half a day with her on some forlorn mountain or canal path, enjoying some quality time and a respite from the craziness of Manchester. The thing about my mother is that, regardless of being an avid trekker for over a decade now, she gets us lost, every time, without fail. I knew this, even as we planned the loop we’d walk, even when she kitted me out with all her walking gear, and even as we set out on that chilly morning. It’s daunting, going out in the wilderness with her terrible navigation skills and a couple of paper maps- how old school- just knowing that those two hours we’d planned on would end up being double. Sure enough, four and a half hours later, red-faced and exhausted, we finally got back to the car, just in time for the sunset. And that was without getting lost!

It’s the exact same thing with your cloud journey. From where you’re standing now, it looks like an impossible trek, a steep trail that leads into the whiteness of the clouds. It’s so much more complicated than plucking some whisps from the air and staking your claim. There are so many different aspects to consider, from finding the right solution designer and designing it, to actually deploying your apps/desktop/files and all of the bits in between without causing your company hundreds of thousands of pounds in downtime. And you have to be an expert in every single bit. But unlike our water-logged orientation maps, getting to your cloud destination is as easy as taking out Google Maps. Or, as we call it in the world of digital transformation; Hyper-Converged Infrastructure.

When you’re looking at digital transformation by adopting a cloud operating model, it’s important to simplify your IT infrastructure- and that’s where HCI comes in. It integrates compute, storage, networking virtualisation and management from a single plane to make it easier for you to reduce administrative tasks. It creates the foundation for your modern data centre and private cloud architecture, sort of like a map on which you add the little details; a ridge over here, a cliff over there….

But how do you know if you find the right HCI solution? People always say ‘oh you always have your head in the clouds’ like it’s a relaxing thing- it’s not. We were literally walking in the clouds for a majority of those four and a half hours and all it did was obscure the view, drown my hair and dissolve my eyebrows clean off (a very scary sight, let me tell you). But when you’re in the thick of your cloud journey, it isn’t so bad. Look for a HCI solution that combines simplicity, reliability, predictable performance and scalability to turn that misty blob into a fluffy ecosystem that feels like cotton candy and tastes like doughnuts (I can’t promise on the doughnuts).

Here at Cetus, when it comes to cloud we recommend VMware’s vSAN. It offers an exceptional storage solution and it provides a sunny, clear path to an organised, modern virtual infrastructure, so that you don’t start your cloud journey looking into a dark forest of unknowns. It doesn’t require additional software and it consolidates all of your data centre functions to reduce that pesky complexity, while abstracting compute, storage and networking resources. Combining direct-attached storage devices, vSAN forms part of a vSphere cluster that creates a distributed, shared data store. Its HCI that reduce the issues regarding complexities and incompatibilities of traditional data centres while offering a software-defined approach to control and manage your virtual data centre environment.

When my mother gets lost on the rocky face of the mountain, she has no one to rely on but herself. Or sometimes me, but I’m useless without a phone signal. Starting your cloud journey doesn’t have to be a dreaded first step into the gloom, and you don’t have to do it alone. With the Cetus team behind you, feel confident that no matter what ravine lies ahead we’ll guide you around them and straight to the cloud without fail. If you want to hear more about VMware make sure to chat to our experts, who love nothing more than cloud and HCI.

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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, Citrix, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

Five Signs You’re Ready to Embrace Cloud


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Unless you’ve been spending the best part of the last decade on a remote island devoid of human contact, chances are that you’ve heard a lot about this ‘cloud’ malarkey. And it’s a difficult one; there is just so much information out there, and it doesn’t always overlap. Even in your organisation, there can be significantly polar opinions on what’s best for your situation. In one ear, you have an IT specialist whispering “It’s the best thing since the Nokia 3310” and another one in your other ear muttering “It’ll take years to adopt, if we can even afford it”.

And both angel and devil in this scenario (decide which is which yourself) are right. Cloud is the best thing since the introduction of the Nokia 3310 redefined the use of the word ‘brick’, catapulting the world of on-the-go tech into a whole new revolution (even if that was just being able to play Snake at the bus stop). Sadly, we are constantly sold the idea of a plug-n-play service that will make a significant difference to your workforce. The thing is, it’s not the rainbows, unicorns and fluffy bunnies that we were promised. When it comes to cloud adoption, the focus is usually on going fully-SaaS almost overnight, which just isn’t really possible for long-established organisations. But it’s not all doom and gloom; if you pick the right IT solutions provider your dreams can become a reality, and deliver everything you expect. Still not sure if it’s for you? Here are five signs that you are ready to embrace cloud;

You’re adopting the new ‘mobile workforce’
Your business is growing and you’re employing more than ever. The millennial workforce has grown up with a significant experience in emerging tech, and they don’t know what life is like without it. The brightest graduates just out of uni are used to having their mobiles, tablets and laptops on the go. Let’s face it, they’re the generation that have mastered paying attention to multiple screens at once, all while walking, eating and doing whatever.

The problem is, they don’t want to be in an office all day. While the older generation are stuck in traffic three miles from the office, your mobile employees are already on their second coffee of the day, just finished replying to their emails and ready to get some real work done. Likewise, they’re more than happy to jump in the car, train or plane and join a conference, exhibition, workshop or a customer’s site and make sure they get all their work done on the spot. Gone are the days when your workforce would have to sacrifice a day to get the train to the other part of the country for an event, completely unavailable for anything else.

Work is no longer the be-all and end-all of a person’s life- living is. The modern workforce is picky. They no longer have the loyalty of generations before, sticking with one company until they retire. They want the best, and that includes the possibility of a more flexible work-life balance. So being able to work from anywhere, anytime makes far better sense. And that’s where the cloud comes in, allowing your employees to log in to their corporate virtual desktops from whatever device they happen to have on hand, regardless of where they are.

It’s time for a refresh
All tech, no matter how advanced it might seem, has it’s sell-by date. It’s a fact that a lot of organisations are quickly coming to realise. Chances are, this is the first time you’re looking at putting your servers in the cloud. Why not just replace your whole infrastructure like for like and be done with it? You’d forget how many bits of hardware makes up your IT closet, and how much of an investment it is just to keep the lights on in your data centre.

Now, it’s not as easy as clicking your fingers and just connecting everything to the cloud. There are plenty of reasons why it’s not feasible immediately; being chained to your legacy system, not having the internet connection to safely rely on cloud…. But don’t despair, there is a way to create an infrastructure so that it grows and evolves with your organisation and the latest trends in technology. Say goodbye to aging infrastructure, out-of-date applications and those constant reminders to get the latest version of your software. Poof! All of a sudden it’s a thing of the past.

It’s time to think about disaster recovery
Your organisation is built on a foundation of data. Whether that be customer lists, orders, customer data, the random PowerPoint presentation for the upcoming Directors’ meeting- you get the idea. If you couldn’t power up your laptop in the morning every employee in the company would essentially be a very expensive seat warmer. Disasters do happen, and if you can scoff that you haven’t experienced any yet, then you’re living on borrowed time. A single server fault could erase years of vital information in less than a second.

It’s even more scary when the facts state that the cost of an hour of downtime can cost from £6,100 to £534,000- and that includes small businesses too. Multiply that by the average time it takes to recover; 18 and a half hours. Could your business survive such a dramatic loss of productivity and reputation? 

By adopting the cloud and moving your data across, the majority of your disaster recovery planning is done. You can be safe knowing that your good solution provider will ensure that your data is being continuously backed up, testing the virtual backup server daily. When you do face your disaster, it’s reassuring to know that it’s simply a case of downloading the latest backups of your files and getting back down to business.

You’re growing, but you don’t know how to deal with it
Every organisation wants to expand. It’s the sign of success, of how a moment of entrepreneurship can turn into an achievement, and with every new person starting with you is an extra person who believes in your company and your message. But with every rapid expansion brings its own unique growing pains, and your organisation is no different. It’s only so easy to outgrow your physical infrastructure and network, leading to a loss of productivity. Which is exactly what you were trying to avoid in the first place, right?

Here’s another great way that cloud can make a difference. You obviously see a bright future for your organisation; full of targets being met, goals being blown right out of the water, the need for bigger offices, glittering awards nights and interviews from business newspapers on how you made it (may as well think as big as you can get, right?).

With your data, virtual servers and all of your storage in the cloud, it’s an easy fix to make your infrastructure flex with your needs. Instead of having to buy more servers and bandwidth, it’s a straightforward case of just renting a bit more of the cloud. And if you don’t need it later on, it’s quick and painless to reduce the size of what you need. As a certain meercat likes to say; “Seeemples!”

You want to beef up your data security
There are so many threats to your organisation. You always have to take care that your customer data collection and storage meets GDPR regulations, stay vigilant of potential Gen V cyberattacks, make sure that your ex-employee didn’t walk out with your company projects, there are plenty of things that could possibly go wrong. Not only do these really mess up your day, in only the politest of terms, but they could really cause you harm in the long run, too.

By running your organisation in the cloud, a significant portion of the manual processes that can lead to issues can be avoided. With automated backups, you can be sure that you’ll never have to run around patching up forgotten vulnerabilities and bugs. Having your data on the cloud makes it easier to see what your users are accessing, effectively abolishing the possibility of a user with a nefarious agenda sneaking around behind your back.

Every so often, you’ll change the door code to the office. That’s to secure your building from ex-employees who, let’s face it, have no business popping in anymore. It’s the same principle with your data. Chances are, you haven’t done anything to give them a reason to want revenge, but since they have no business rummaging around your secure files you want to make sure that they can’t. And that’s a simple thing to do with cloud, giving you the over-arching control over your users, without impeaching their self-governance.

Looking at a cloud adoption from afar can make the whole thing seem like an impossible task. When it comes to moving everything from on-premises to the cloud smoothly, while also keeping your business up and running with no disruptions, it’s akin to having your cake and eating it. At Cetus, we’ve been doing this for a while, and we’ve built a team of experts that has coordinated many a cloud project from start to finish. We’ve partnered up with Citrix and Microsoft Azure, the experts in cloud, to design, build and manage your cloud deployments. Speaking of Citrix, our Cetus experts will be attending the partner-only Summit event. We’re expecting to hear plenty about cloud migration and reducing IT costs, and we’ll be talking about it for the rest of the year so make sure to keep an eye out on our events page to hear all about our upcoming Citrix events! In the meantime, our experts are always on-hand to answer any question you might have (especially if it’s cloud-based!)

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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

Season’s Greetings


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When I was a lad, Christmas meant snow, and ‘Morecambe and Wise’ of course, but mainly snow. I know everyone says that this was what it was like in the past; but I’ve got actual photographs to prove it. Good times indeed.

How times have changed. In the UK we’re now more likely to get snow in March than December – I guess that’s progress … or something. So, this year there might not be snow at Christmas, but there are definitely clouds … a lot of clouds: Office 365, SalesForce, Azure, AWS, Google, Private Clouds and, of course, hybrid-clouds.
So, in these cloudy times; what presents might Santa be bringing on Christmas Morning? I’ve reminisced about past presents, so how about:

A Personal Organiser?
A very handy present indeed. You can put all of your appointments in it; take note during meetings; keep contact details. And, when you get back to the office; you can transfer all of this useful info into your chosen productivity tool. A very useful work tool indeed. Now that’s what I call progress.

As an alternative; why not consider our Digital Workspaces? They’re also pretty handy: with one of these, you can take your entire working environment to your meeting, or on the train, or to Christmas Dinner. You can remain connected, and up-to-date, at all times.

A Rubik’s Cube?
Enjoy hours of fun trying to get all six sides the same colour; realising that every minor change you make will have repercussions to each and every side of the puzzle. But at least you only get frustrated when things don’t work out. As an alternative, why not try managing multiple clouds as part of an ever-evolving cloud strategy: that can be a bit like a Rubik’s Cube … but with serious cost (and career) implications if you get it wrong.

The instrato approach to this challenge is called ‘Cloud Orchestration’. We can help you to take all of the, constantly evolving, moving parts of a hybrid-cloud solution; and to adapt your strategy in response to change. This allows you to deliver on your business requirements without wondering “what if I just change that bit?”

A Mouse Trap Game?
A bit old-school, but still a classic. It’s fun trying to get all of the pieces connected in just the right way so that the ball traverses the numerous hurdles to trigger the trap. There’s only one way to put the pieces together; it takes patience, a good eye and a sense of what you’re trying to achieve.

At instrato, we see the challenge of building a resilient Wide Area Network solution as being a bit like that; so … we cheat. By using Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN); we can avoid the complexity of the bit in the middle. We can ensure that the ball always reaches, and triggers, the mouse trap.

A Microscope?
One of my favourite presents from days gone by. Microscopes open up a whole new world of detail that, without the right tool, go unnoticed and unappreciated. It’s only when you can see the intricacies of how a system works, that you can truly understand what is going on inside.

Our Cloud Analytics solutions are (a bit) like a microscope. We can provide new insight into the detail of what is going on inside your hybrid-cloud solution; allowing you to identify threats, bottlenecks and potential cost reductions; ensuring that you continue to deliver on your cloud strategy.

At instrato we’d like to make all of your Christmases come at once. We can help you to start the new year with a clear, adaptable, cost-effective hybrid-cloud strategy that will definitely be ‘not just for Christmas’ – instead, our solutions will be a gift that keeps on giving year after year. Why not give us a shout in January to see how we can help you to have a ‘Happy New Year’?
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year – we look forward to working with you in 2019…

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Directors-9619Paul Kiveal – Business Development Director
Paul works with business leaders, helping combine strategic objectives with innovative technical solutions, developing inspirational new IT platforms that transform the way technology powers organisations.

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Check Point, IT Solutions, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

Here Phishy, Phishy, Phishy….


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A couple of weeks ago, there was a mandatory ‘here’s how to help keep the company from falling prey to cyber attacks’ lecture at Cetus. We all trooped downstairs, cramming into one of our board rooms, mugs clinking and teas sloshing. One of the lovely ladies from Barclays came in to give us a word of warning- or forty- on how to spot nefarious activity and not fall prey to a scam. By the end of it we were all ready to delete our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, never use an ATM, and I seriously started questioning my role within social media. It was quite the terrifying afternoon. Between social engineering, ransomware and phishing, it’s a miracle we all aren’t in debt from scammers. But the most terrifying aspect was learning just how prevalent phishing attacks are.

Big ransomware scams make the news constantly- splashed across the news, Sharon from HR standing at the water cooler to share the details in whispers to anyone who passes by- but phishing is the bigger threat here. In reality, a ransomware attack usually only demands several hundreds of pounds from the organisation it invades, while a phishing scam generally scams thousands of pounds from the victim. Not only that, but it’s easier for the cyber criminal to carry out a phishing attack. Now that I’ve given you something short of a heart attack (sorry), let’s turn this around shall we? Here are a few key ways of keeping you off the phisherman’s hook.

Beware of the sender
It doesn’t really matter whether it’s personal or corporate, receiving an email either makes you want to go on an extended holiday or celebrate. At work you’re usually too busy opening and replying in record time to get on with the mountain of tasks that grows with every email. It’s fair to say that you don’t always check who the sender is. I mean, we’re all weary of any Arabian Prince trying to get into contact, but aside from that we’re pretty chill for the most part. If they’ve gone to the trouble of finding your email address (I still can’t figure out how people manage to find me) then chances are they really need to chat, right?

Depending on how much of a nightmare you are in life, you probably won’t know the hacker. So before you jump into your emerging pile of unopened emails, take a quick look. If you suddenly get an email from someone you don’t speak to regularly on the topic of something that you don’t normally think about, be slightly weary. Check the sender’s address- does it look a bit weird? Is there a random ‘0’ instead of an ‘O’? Could that ‘i’ actually be Vietnamese character ‘ỉ’? Is there an extra letter or number in the address that shouldn’t be there? If you see one of these little tricks, bonus points for your great eyesight, and definitely get the email checked out.

‘I get scammed with a little help from my friends’
Did the email check out, but you’re still not 100% sure if you need to detonate your computer immediately to avoid any viruses escaping through the network? Take a quick look at the list of people that received the email. Do you know them? Is it a strange group, ie the sales group being added one name at a time instead of the group link? The cyber criminal might be targeting a large number of people in your organisation, so if you see people on the list that you wouldn’t normally be in contact with, or from a department that has nothing to do with yours, be extra careful.

Bit of a dodgy subject line
Aside from Sharon’s bi-monthly suggestion for drinks in the pub across the way after work on a Monday night, you should really only be getting emails that directly relate to your job function. That is, unless you’re in marketing- we seem to get our noses into plenty of unrelated jobs. If you’re getting emails about things that you know you’re not privy to or they make absolutely no sense to you, don’t open it. If it’s not spam, it’ll be malware. If you do happen to open it (oopsie), check if the email is a reply to one that you didn’t send. Does the message match the subject line? A misalignment of the two should send up an army of red flags. Also, while we all have the office oddball that likes to reply to emails at 3am, is it normal to be receiving this email from this sender at this particular hour?

Attachments and hyperlinks of doom
We’ve all opened random attachments or clicked on hyperlinks that we weren’t quite sure about and sighed with relief when it was just a video of cats acting strangely. We know we shouldn’t, but that curiosity can’t be helped. Besides, it could be important, or cats, after all. A few things to check before you right click; did you expect the attachment? Is it a common file type that you would normally receive? Does it have a weird name, or strange symbols in the file name? If you answer yes to these, maybe don’t open it. It’s quite likely to be malicious.

Not quite what you were expecting?
If you receive an email that contains unsettling, startling or urgent content that requires immediate action on your part, it’s most likely a phishing attack. There have been so many of these popping up recently, panicking the nation. At the moment, a common scam is an email from your bank claiming that your account has been hacked and you need to login straightaway, or even move the rest of your funds to another account. For the Netflix lovers among you, there have also been emails being received saying that billing information needs to be updated. Don’t fall for it. If the email includes a link to login or change account details, be extra weary. Don’t use links, web addresses or phone numbers.

Keeping yourself protected from any cyber crime can be a scary business, but even more so when it’s something you could very well unwillingly stumble into. It takes more than trusting your spam filter to keep yourself safe, having a strong cyber security solution is crucial. We work very closely with Check Point to craft solutions that stand tall against phishing, ransomware bots and all kind of nasties, using their SandBlast advanced endpoint threat prevention. Have a chat with our experts to see how we can whisk some cyber security into your perfect infrastructure solution so that it’s one less thing you need to worry about.

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.