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Saying Goodbye to your Legacy Systems


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If, when you were six, someone had asked you what 2018 would look like, how far off would you have been? In the last 20 or 30 years, the world of tech- and therefore the world around us- has been changing exponentially. And what person hasn’t been amazed by what we’ve achieved as a human race? But with innovation to that degree, we now live in a world where what we have is never good enough, and where money exists in creating the future. Before we get bored of a new technology, something bigger and better has been produced. People camp out in all weathers to be the first to get their hands on the latest gadgets. We all know someone who insists on buying the latest iPhone, spending thousands every year, purely to be able to say that they have it. Let’s face it, new gadgets can be exciting; moving images on a screen? Having a camera in our phones? Storing something in the cloud? What magical sorcery is this?

But with that comes a lot of change. And no one likes change. It’s a fact of life. Little innovations, yes, but big, huge, drastic change is never welcome. Unfortunately, in the world of tech, human instinct is rarely prioritised (this is why our screen-addicted children with all of the child-friendly apps have lesser social skills than us). Such is the case with legacy systems. When they first were created, they constituted a benchmark in the world of business and industrialisation. Suddenly, IT was more than manually putting numbers into a computer to systematically create graphs, it was running critical business operations such as general ledgers, inventory management and other back office systems. With legacy systems, key business activities could be done quickly and automatically, changing the focus of employees from mundane tasks to improving the organisation.

It will be zero surprise that the latest big, bold and brilliant innovation of the last ten years has been cloud. Organisations are waking up to the realisation that to stay ahead of the curve, and indeed keep up with the demands of customers, cloud and a cloud strategy is a major priority. We are smack-bang in the middle of the digital transformation revolution, and cloud is the ultimate destination, an essential business driver that is completely altering the world of industry. But one of the biggest challenges that face organisations yearning for cloud is their legacy systems. These siloed, inefficient and uneconomical systems are a towering behemoth to digital transformation that refuse to come into the 21st century.

They’re just plain difficult
One of the biggest barriers for migrating to cloud is the simple difficulty that a legacy system poses. One might think that maintenance costs would be minimal. With less upgrading, patching and training, legacy systems should be easy to replace and never think of again, right? Alas. Support for updates have become more challenging to come across as they reach end-of-life, and the ones that are available are usually quite expensive because of this. Legacy systems are also complex, fragile and about as flexible as concrete. Because they were created for another time, with a completely different set of parameters, they’re just disastrous in the face of the new, application-centric systems.

Security is not a priority
Oh boy, is security a problem when it comes to legacy systems. If your Data Protection Officer isn’t going prematurely grey and chain-smoking as soon as they walk into the building then someone should be worried. There wasn’t so much as a whisper of GDPR when legacy systems first became a thing, and because of this they’re way behind. This is an obvious one; updates and changes in IT are done to keep up and ahead of evolving security threats. After Wannacry, we know that cyber criminals are at Generation V when it comes to technical capabilities, and as it stands, even with improved cloud security most organisations are still at Gen III. Legacy systems are so behind they almost don’t figure on the Gen chart. And if you’re lucky enough to have a developer that’s willing to mastermind an update capable of patching major holes like Wannacry, it would be so late that the next disaster would be impending. Essentially, your legacy system is a disaster waiting to happen. But we can fix it, I promise.

It’s way behind on like, everything
If you are B2C and you’re relying on your legacy system to be in with the hip young consumers of today, you’re going to be in for a shock. Chances are, your competition may or may not be that new breed of internet-built company that began in a world where having an in-house data centre isn’t a thing. If anything, they probably don’t even know what a legacy system is. They didn’t exist when dial-up internet was the only option. Hell, they probably don’t even remember the pain of following the weak wifi signal to the top of the stairs to send an email only to sneeze and lose it again. So while they’re moving from new app to new update, optimising their performance with the latest Instagram or Windows 10 features, chatting away on instant messaging that you can’t achieve, your legacy system is restricting you and your potential.

You don’t have to be a prisoner of your legacy system, nor does it have to be super complicated. The thought of switching to a whole new way of doing something might seem scary, I know. It’s not easy to put all of your faith into an idea that you’ve never dealt with before, and the risks that you take while moving over. Luckily, here at Cetus, we’re pros. Register now for a free consultation with one of our senior solutions architects, they love a good 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, Cetus Solutions, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

Hybrid Cloud Orchestration pt 2: Hyperconvergence


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And we’re back! Who’s ready for Hybrid Cloud Orchestration part two?? If you’re not in the know (hey, we have a handy Twitter that you can follow to keep up to date with all of our blog posts), I was challenged a couple of weeks back to write a blog post on the elusive topic of hybrid cloud orchestration. After some grumbling, hair-pulling and half the day chain smoking in the sunshine, I finally got into the mood*. Surprisingly, orchestration wasn’t something completely made up by one of our alabaster techies who live in the server room**. It is an actual thing, and it’s a cool one too. I got a bit too excited with it and decided that splitting it into two posts would be nicer for everyone involved. So here we go, hybrid cloud orchestration and hyperconvergence. Go grab a coffee/tea, sit back and do try to contain your excitement.

Quick flashback to part one (for those of you who didn’t do your homework- I see you); in a nutshell, hybrid cloud orchestration is the answer to complexity. Too many sheep, not enough fences is the basic idea. Cloud enablement, if you want something more technical. More organisation, less panicking. Your IT team just needs to throw single sign on, MFA, mobility management and automated hybrid cloud provisioning at it and the complexity should all go away. Kind of. I’d recommend having a chat with one of our experts before you go throw anything anywhere though.

So, what’s the story with hyperconvergence? It’s a fairly new trend, combining compute, storage and networking in a software-driven appliance. Like orchestration, its main goal is to reduce complexity, so they’re a match made in heaven, really. It also adds greater levels of automation. The thing with orchestration is that with time it can be moulded into an effective solution. Hyperconvergence is a bit more elegant, providing practical solutions for organisations who want to manage and scale their own hardware from in-house. Don’t get me wrong, hybrid cloud orchestration is amazing. I don’t know why every IT solutions organisation doesn’t employ someone to shout it from the rooftops. However, while it is fantastic, it doesn’t provide the same level of technical infrastructure as hyperconvergence.

When it comes to the private cloud bit of hybrid cloud; hyperconvergence is another way approaching hybrid cloud orchestration. It eliminates the need for local hypervisor maintenance, or thinking about the hardware compatibility by installing on metal. It allows the customer to manage their local resources just like any other cloud resource, while also abolishing the need for disordered orchestration tools that are scattered across your infrastructure. Combining orchestration and hyperconvergence reduces time-intensive deployments for your engineers, removing the issue of virtualisation compatibility between old and new hardware.

If talking cloud and hyperconvergence excites you, make sure to have a chat with out HCI-mad experts!

*Grumbling, hair pulling and chain smoking is for comedic effect, I LOVE MY JOB!
**I’m running out of techie stereotypes, sorry.

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

The Importance of Analytics


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For a lot of people, analytics can be boring. When you have something like a hybrid cloud solution, you just want it to work and let you get on with what you need to do. Monitoring and responding to security and performance issues are important, but can be tedious. And let’s face it, if something is tedious, chances are you’re just going to put it on the long finger and hope that the last half an hour of the work day will be enough to get it sorted. To help with all this, let me introduce you to Citrix Application Delivery Management.

NetScaler is a highly intuitive piece of software, providing centralised network management, automation, analytics, orchestration (not quite sure about hybrid cloud orchestration? I’ve already written a great blog on the subject)…. All of these tools can help you to support the various applications deployed across your hybrid cloud and containerised infrastructures. You might find yourself asking these questions; is whatever Alan is doing on the network any different from what he would normally be doing? Does a particular workload normally speak to this other workload? Has user experience changed over time? What applications and data are being used the most? These are all questions that, for one reason or another, can be important to ask. With Citrix Cloud Analytics, our clients can ask these important questions (and plenty more). By deploying Application Delivery Management, it is possible to gain a deeper insight into what is happening in your hybrid cloud environment.

The world of business is ever-changing and always innovative. There are new and cool apps appearing every day, promising to not only make your tasks easier, but also keep you customers happy. That’s why it’s so important to embrace digital transformation. This digital transformation is changing the way that applications, much like the ones you use every day, are being developed and deployed. The last thing you want is application downtime, since it will cost you money, and lots of it. One of the biggest innovations in the world of tech? You guessed it; cloud. This wonderful, futuristic phenomenon allows the much more simplistic deployment of applications and data centres. And Citrix Application Delivery Management will help you to embrace all of the possibilities of cloud to make that big job of analytics as easy as possible. Who knows, you might be able to actually go on holiday for once and leave the crucial job of monitoring to your assistant. I swear, it’s possible.

There have been so many changes in recent years in application architectures, which have been prompting the need for changes in application delivery services technology. With increasing demands, applications have become much more complex, which results in more complicated availability and troubleshooting. Add in the cloud, and all of this becomes more difficult. Thankfully, Citrix Application Delivery Management is here to meet the needs of your IT team. We’re all trying to move to transform our IT infrastructures by moving to cloud. And with that, Application Delivery Management  provides much more control and visibility.

Citrix Application Delivery Management allows you to proactively manage user and application security threats, improve application performance and support continuous operations through actionable insights collected across Citrix offerings. It has been enhanced to provide valuable insight into the performance and security of your application delivery infrastructure from an application perspective, defining how they map onto the ADC configuration. This makes it easier for you to determine the state of an application, and therefore use an application-centric approach to easily collaborate with application owners. With its new application health score, Application Delivery Management summarises how well an application is performing based on an industry-standard APDEX scoring. This allows you to investigate instances of user satisfaction as well as other performance metrics and assessments of security threats.

If you’re looking for seamless integration with many leading orchestration platforms that you deploy to automate your data centre infrastructure, NetScaler has it all. More and more data centres are moving towards the cloud, working towards a fully SaaS-based infrastructure model (and I bet yours is too). With that, automating all of those supporting services will become more important. Citrix Application Delivery Management is API-driven, enabling orchestration and analytics across a lot of third-party platforms. It also allows easy management and orchestration of containerised services as well as automating NetScaler lifecycle management and provisioning. That’s a lot of automation that should make your life that much easier. You’re welcome.

If you want to keep up-to-date with what’s going on with Citrix, make sure to keep an eye on our events page where we regularly share workshops and webinars to keep you in the know!

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

Hidden Costs and How to Avoid Them


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I was hit by a ‘hidden’ car once. I’d just dropped my daughter off at nursery and was turning right onto the main road, when I was unexpectedly hit by a car that was ‘hiding’ behind a bus. Dramatic stuff.

Having swapped insurance details I pondered how to explain the incident to my insurance company. I was pretty sure that my ‘hidden car’ explanation would be received with a degree of scepticism; mostly because the car wasn’t hidden – it was obscured, and I should have checked properly.

And so it is with ‘hidden costs’. They’re not usually hidden; instead they’re more usually obscure, unanticipated or, perhaps, buried within so much legal jargon that only a very diligent artificial intelligence program would find them. They can include: cloud network costs, annual software subscriptions, unexpected dependencies on other technologies and consumption-based pricing – to name but a few.

So, let’s start by renaming this blog to: “How to anticipate, mitigate and manage obscure, poorly correlated, unclear or unexpected costs”. That’s more like it.
We’ve been helping clients to, erm … anticipate, mitigate and manage obscure, poorly correlated, unclear or unexpected costs for over 17 years now; and we’ve learned a few things in the process. Here are a few simple steps that can help you to do the same:

Build a ‘Real World’ Business Case
Most vendors will be able to point you to their own ‘TCO/ROI Tool’. You know the drill: enter some statistics about how much you pay people and, as if by magic, their product will save you money.

That’s not how we do it. We work with clients to produce a real-world business case that reflects their circumstances; identifies all real (i.e. saveable) costs; and turns their business objectives into a technology set that delivers on these. The result is a highly personalised business case that can be used internally to engage stakeholders at all levels.

Avoid Vendor Lock-In
Choose technology vendors who embrace the principle of open systems; who recognise that their technology alone will not be the answer to all of your problems. By choosing the right technology partner, you can retain control of how you deploy significant elements of your infrastructure solution as circumstances change. Take Citrix for example: they work with partners, such as Microsoft, to ensure that their products are able to integrate, and to be optimised post implementation; allowing their clients to react to changing business requirements as the years unfold.

Make Optimisation a BAU Activity
3 years is a very long time in today’s IT landscape. Decisions made at the outset of a project can be out of date before implementation has even started. From new hardware releases to Microsoft’s constantly changing Azure server instance portfolio; it’s important to prioritise your ability to adopt change as a routine business as usual activity. If you’re not optimising the configuration of your infrastructure then you’re vulnerable to unanticipated costs.

At Cetus, we offer solution lifecycle services that encompass all of the above: our design, implementation, support and ongoing management services allow you to relax, safe in the knowledge that no ‘hidden’ costs will derail your IT or business strategies. Why not give us a call and find out how we can help you to plan your IT future with confidence?

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Blog, Cetus Solutions, Citrix, IT Solutions, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

When a User Leaves


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(Potential) door slamming, cardboard boxing, silent goodbyes; it can be a bit dramatic when an employee leaves the business. Even on good, moving-on-to-better-things terms, it can take its toll. Writing up job descriptions, endless interviews, the empty desk. There’s lots to do when the ex-employee closes the door. And that’s all well and good, but what about the IT side of things? It’s not simply a case of handing over a laptop and starting anew. Without realising it, you would be watching not only a good friend walk out the door, but a security breach too. A walking, talking security breach. Imagine the nightmare. With BYOD becoming more and more popular, you don’t know what devices they were using to work or what data they have stored where. Let’s be honest, if it wasn’t a stressful situation before, the recent enforcement of GDPR has only made it worse. And it’s not like you can ask them to take out all of their devices and go through all of their files, contacts and photos. The desk would be covered in personal and company phones and laptops, USBs, the company iPad and the slightly sicky, sort-of cracked personal iPad that has every indication of a child being given it to play with during a moment of parental weakness. There would be drama for the water cooler. Or, as we call it in the UK; the Hallway Stop n’ Chat. So, what should be done when a user leaves?

Regardless of how an employee leaves, they’re going to walk away with something. Whether it’s your business practices, how you like your coffee, or behind what book Lorna hides her chocolate, something’s going to go. In this scenario, it’s a case of looking at what’s sensitive and what’s not (Lorna needs a hiding place rota regardless). Back in the day, people would slip files into their briefcases and quickly waltz out the door, whereas nowadays it’s quick and easy just to copy a digital file, and none will be the wiser.

Before there’s even chats about Having Been Here Too Damn Long or the more popular I’ve Wasted My 20s At This Desk, it’s best to prepare for the worst. And even more so if you have, or are thinking of establishing, a BYOD policy at work. Start with an extensive, written BYOD policy. Sounds easy, but I promise you that it’s not.

Treat it more like a software development project- compile ‘what if’ scenarios. Include some ‘beta testing’; a period of time to review real-life situations before handing in the final copy. A few things to consider, since there is 100% going to be the office eejit that will take the mickey; ‘acceptable business use’ is just as important as the limits of ‘acceptable personal use’- you just know some yob is going to be playing Candy Crush if they find even the tiniest loophole. Decide what kind of apps you don’t mind being downloaded, and what apps you most certainly do. What company resources (think email, calendars and so on) is acceptable to have access to on a personal device? Obviously, harassing people on company time on a company device is a no-no, just make sure everyone else knows. Same goes with texting or emailing while driving. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how much it isn’t to some people. Think security; what security requirements are needed before being allowed to connect to company networks? What happens of the device is lost or stolen? At this point, you may as well bookmark this post to come back to after doing the above. I’ll wait. Now that you have your policy defined – how do you enforce it? We use Citrix XenMobile and Citrix ShareFile to provide a centralised, single point of management for our mobile devices.

Right, with that niggly bit out of the way, let’s look at monitoring. Not the breach-of-privacy looking-over-shoulders kind of monitoring that will definitely end in tears and a lawsuit, monitoring where your data is going. That sounds much less dramatic. It is time for your IT department to shine. Set up shared company file servers for starters. There are plenty on the market, but I can say from experience that Citrix Sharefile is the best one (that’s mostly because it’s so simple even I can use it). With these file servers, make sure to set up protocols, such as who can access what files and how. With ease, IT can now monitor who is accessing those files and when. Likewise, copying anything from the company server onto a company or personal device is logged. Local devices are cool, until they’re riddled with company data. A big help in not letting too much data get downloaded is knowing the ins and outs of the applications and services that your users use. What kind of liberties do these apps allow? A central repository that can be monitored is a really good idea, adding a layer of security to company networks.

According to a report from Osterman Research, 67% of organisations don’t know if they can detect whether an employee is still accessing corporate resources. Think that’s bad? A whopping 76% can’t tell if a third party (like a contractor) has stopped working on their organisation’s systems and data. If that’s not scaring you, the thought of the fine for breaching GDPR because of some eejit who sees their chance and takes it should. But I’m not here to panic you (only a little, or you wouldn’t be reading all the way to the bottom). Like all well-established organisations, Cetus has had its fair share of employees leave for one reason or another (although thankfully far lower than the average tech company). Thankfully, we’re a team of experts that know exactly how to deal with it. If you haven’t sorted out some policies to prevent your sensitive data from walking out the door, make sure to have a chat with one of our experts. They’re only a phone call away and they’re sure to help you eliminate some of that stress.

We’ve helped hundreds of organisations to implement their mobility strategies and we’d love to share our experiences with you. We can provide everything to get you started from Business Case analysis (at no cost) to high level designs and implementation…

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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, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, Technology, Uncategorized

Why Cloud Needs SD-WAN


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What a wonderful day it is when I get to write about two of my favourite things; cloud and SD-WAN. Both have been making quite a splash in the world of IT since their conception, but it’s only recently that they’ve been put together to create an easier transition to cloud.

Software-defined (that’s the SD part) wide area network (aaaand that’s the WAN part) is a particular application of software-defined networking (SDN- this is going to get complicated) technology that’s applied to WAN connections. The purpose of SD-WAN is to integrate every aspect and corner of an organisation. And cloud….well, it’s cloud. If you’ve managed to find this blog post without knowing what cloud is I think you may be lost. Try Googling ‘cat videos’ instead.

Cloud, cloud, cloud. IT departments just can’t get enough of it. And for obvious reasons; easier analytics, scalability, cheaper cost- I could spend all day going on about
how fabulous cloud is (and I have). It’s getting to the cloud that can be the problem.

Once upon a time, at the very beginning of the story of the internet, organisations would connect computers through an internal network to move data around the building. Then, with the ability to connect outside the building, came the problem. With business branches scattered across the globe, the ability to connect, share and collaborate has never been more important. But getting everything safely and securely from A to B can be an issue. Once you leave the confines of the building network, all bets are off. With the increase in cybercrime, the threat of sensitive information getting hacked, or- worse yet- having an unknown infiltrate the once-secure network through small gaps in your architecture becomes more likely.

The importance of the network might not always be clear. In fact, unless you really have enough time to sit and think about it, its purpose might never have crossed your mind. Being able to virtualise a number of network functions from a central point, creating an abstraction layer that is custom-built for each organisation and each user is the ultimate goal. But where does SD-WAN fit into all this? It’s been said that SD-WAN will be the vehicle to bring virtualisation to the network, and without it, virtualisation to the cloud or data centre will never be achieved. Think about it, in this day and age we live and work on the edge of the cloud. It’s not a fad, it’s here to stay. But what exactly is the ‘cloud’? Nothing more than several computers, storage and plenty of cooling systems that all connect together to the outside.

Digital transformation has become another big thing in the last few years. Organisations are falling over themselves to adopt or transition to this mass integration into all areas of their business, fundamentally changing the way they operate and deliver value to their customers. But all of these new ways of doing and thinking can’t be built on foundations that were designed and created well before the idea of cloud. SD-WAN allows a more agile take on digital transformation, creating a cost-effective infrastructure that enables the leverage for cloud. With this level of agility, sites and their teams are easier than ever to support, and it’s all thanks to SD-WAN.

Additionally, traditional WAN architectures haven’t been designed to support the fast-changing consumption model of apps efficiently. Legacy WANs are past their sell-by date. Plagued from being MPLS-based with low bandwidth per site, with limited visibility and, crucially, not built for cloud, time is up. Under current legacy WANs, when a user needs to access an app in the cloud, they will do a sort of shuffle around until they hit it. This can lead to wasted bandwidth, extra costs and higher packet loss and latency. Under the traditional WAN model, organisations tend to not be able to afford them when management can be rigid, complex and cause network changes to be lengthy, All in all, it results in numerous inefficiencies and an expensive operation model. Finding the right SD-WAN solution will eliminate all of these issues, while supporting the new app consumption model. This basically means that policies can be defined based on business intent, resulting in steering traffic to where the app actually resides without having to take unnecessary shuffles or compromising on security.

In essence, SD-WAN is cloud’s best friend. And with cloud fast becoming the future of most organisations, it will be your best friend too. Provisioning for SD-WAN will not only make your move to cloud easier, but also more efficient. Contact us today to hear what we can do to help your transition to cloud, or book a free business case assessment to see how your IT environment can be improved.

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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, Cloud, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

Hybrid Cloud Orchestration pt 1: How it Works


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What?
You’d be scratching your head with all the fancy terms in the techie world. There are terms for everything you could think of; and plenty more that, quite frankly, you wouldn’t. In today’s episode of ‘Enhancing Your Vocabulary to Look More Knowledgeable in Front of Your Boss’, we’re talking about the fun that is Hybrid Cloud Orchestration. What is it? We’re about to find out. Do you need to know? Probably not, but we may as well discuss it so you can use it as extravagant conversation filler during meetings.

In ‘Explain Like I’m Five’ terms, hybrid cloud orchestration is cloud enablement. Imagine a hill, on which there is a flock of sheep. They’re all wandering about like the happy fluffy things they are. One will die, another will wander over for the greener grass from another hill and join the flock. To anyone wandering around the countryside on a nice Sunday walk, they won’t see anything wrong. Sheep, check. Hill, check. Everything’s hunky-dory. To the shepherd though, it’s all panic systems go. The sheep are everywhere, they’re dying off, new ones are joining the flock and none of them are tagged. It’s a disaster. What the shepherd needs is a field, a couple of fences. Something small, contained and organised. In this story, in case you haven’t figured it out, the sheep are applications like Office 365, the hill walkers are the user and the poor, panicked shepherd is the IT department.

Essentially, cloud orchestration is organising all of your applications and data- whether they’re on premises, in Azure, in a separate Salesforce application or Office 365 cloud by themselves- and make them easier to manage. End users won’t notice any difference, but IT departments will basically spend the rest of their careers on an in-office holiday. Hooray! That being said, it doesn’t mean that your IT department will become defunct. While it is estimated that by 2020 the typical SMB organisation will have deployed over 75% of their business applications to SaaS, in-house IT will need to evolve to cope with a largely SaaS-based application estate. At the moment, your organisation is working on an average of 17 SaaS applications, but by 2020 you’re going to be looking at 20. That’s 20 SaaS applications that need to be set up, protected from unauthorised access and use, along with all the other day-to-day administration bits that go along with them. Sounds like a handful, doesn’t it? But with cloud orchestration, poof, and the problem disappears. Your IT department can resume discussing their theories on reprogramming people and how much they hate sunlight. Sorted.

Yes, but how does it work?
Good question, because who would take my word on the ability to just eliminate work like magic? We’re big fans of Citrix here at Cetus and instrato, and we’re even bigger fans of their industry-leading NetScaler ADC that we use to make cloud orchestration possible. It doesn’t matter what kind of mess you’ve made of your hybrid cloud architecture; with this deployment and our amazing team of solution architects, we can create a simple Software Defined Network (SDN) architecture that sorts it all out.
Single sign on. Simple, effective and what end users dream about. No need to faff about with forty different passwords that all go out of date at different times of the month; just one easy-to-remember sign on and now half the day isn’t wasted by everyone involved by constantly requesting new passwords.

MFA. I hate acronyms, but I like this one. Multi-factor authentication. No, it’s not the same as single sign on. It’s close enough, just with few more steps; something you know (i.e. your password), something you have (your smartphone, one-time passcode etc.) and something you are (your fingerprint, retina scan or voice recognition- how futuristic is that? Imagine starting your day like you’re in Minority Report).

Mobility management is essentially the behind-the-scenes of ‘mobile workspaces’. It’s the glue that connects the mobile end user to the in-house IT team, helping to get the right balance between actual mobility and freedom, and the security to allow that freedom. Users expect to be able to work from anywhere on any device, but this can be a real headache for the IT department, especially if there’s a BYOD culture in the office. Mobility management solutions help to reduce the amount of administration that’s required, along with improving security without needing to go through each and every device that the user intends to work with.

Automated hybrid cloud provisioning sounds way too complicated for something so simple. It’s basically an automation that manages the cost effectiveness of the cloud deployment. Imagine a workload on Azure. The automated hybrid cloud provisioning can intelligently monitor the workload, and automatically move it on-prem if it can see that it would be cheaper or faster. See, simples.

As this took far longer than I thought, and there’s just so much more to say about hybrid cloud orchestration, be on the lookout for a part two, where I’ll fill you in on orchestration and hyperconvergence. Does that not sound like the best fun?

Expect to hear more of hybrid cloud orchestration, it’s definitely going to become a big thing. The challenges associated with it don’t negate the usefulness of orchestration, and if you’re looking at- or already have- cloud it’s something you should seriously consider to help ease your organisation’s automation. Luckily, we’re experts when it comes to all things cloud, so these challenges are minor blips.

If you want to keep up-to-date with what’s going on with Citrix, make sure to keep an eye on our events page where we regularly share workshops and webinars to keep you in the know!

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 Hosting, IT Solutions, Microsoft, Our Upcoming Events, Uncategorized

A Brief History of Azure


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You’d be hard pressed to imagine a modern world without Microsoft Azure. Since 2010, it has graced many a cloud strategy, promising to deliver an ever-expanding set of cloud services to help meet organisations’ business challenges. It’s safe to say that it provides full freedom to build, manage and deploy applications on a large scale, using plenty of tools and frameworks to achieve it. The inner workings of Azure were already in the planning stages in 2005. Hoping to bring disruption to internet services, Ray Ozzy, Chief Technical Officer and Chief Software Architect at Microsoft, insisted that Azure would bring “the effectiveness of a new delivery and adoption model” that would also create “the demand for compelling, integrated user experiences that ‘just work’.” 13 years later, and eight years after being released into the public domain, Azure has done just that.

When it comes to cloud computing, Microsoft offers all of the main categories that interest organisations; Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Microsoft, being Microsoft, has had every opportunity to innovate, diversify and establish Azure as a top-level fixture in the industry. Announced in October 2008 with codename ‘Project Red Dog’, it wasn’t always one of the Big Players in the world of cloud. Microsoft intended on launching a total of five key categories of cloud services, with Azure in the hot seat for compute, storage and networking; while incorporating Microsoft SQL Services for databases; .NET Services for developers, Live Services for filesharing and Microsoft SharePoint Services and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services for SaaS offerings.

Take yourself back to 2010. It was the year that brought so many highs and lows for the country; Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, the engagement announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the brutal loss for England to host the 2018 World Cup (which evidently went to Russia). Originally called Windows Azure, it provided a service platform for SQL Services, .Net services and Live Services. Back then, the ‘cloud’ was a semi-obscure idea that some couldn’t really get their heads around. Honestly, the internet was a wacky idea in the 90s but in 2010 we’d largely accepted it as a fundamental human right, so being able to store data and access apps online wasn’t much of a stretch. But anyway. Because of that slight doubt, Azure didn’t know it, but it was on the cusp of a technological revolution- and it was at the right place at the right time to reap the rewards.

Unfortunately, in 2011 Azure had a slight hiccup. Still in its infancy, the documentation describing Azure services and capabilities was deemed incomprehensible, and its web-based interface was difficult to use. Thankfully, in May 2011 Scott Guthrie, former Corporate Vice President of the .Net platform at Microsoft, took over the Azure Application Platform team in order to shake things up a little and make some improvements. And he did! The user interface that was formerly a Silverlight application was changed to a HTML5 web portal, which improved things drastically and made the whole platform feel more like a systematised set of services. Adding support for quite a wide variety of programming languages, frameworks and operating systems (including, surprisingly, Linux) propelled Azure into a new, more innovative age. By 2014, Azure had made significant leaps in user experience. Becoming a cloud platform known for being robust and comprehensive for IaaS and PaaS cloud computing models. By continuing to expand its cloud capabilities, it has increased its support for open source software, making Azure the first choice for organisations that don’t even run Windows. In the years that followed, Azure has gone from strength to strength, developing significantly since 2008. The platform has seen only a few major outages in its history, creating an impressive reputation of reliability in a world where even five minutes of downtime can mean hundreds of thousands in loss of profits for organisations.

Back to 2018; Microsoft Azure enjoys a very mature, stable and reliable reputation as a secure public cloud provider, holding the title of second-largest IaaS and PaaS provider (behind Amazon Web Services) in the world. We are proud to work with Microsoft, obviously a huge name in the world of IT in its own right, but also with Azure. We regularly incorporate the platform as part of a business challenge solution as its flexibility and dependability are second to none. We hope this blog post has piqued your interest in the opportunities that Azure can open. If you want to keep up-to-date with what’s going on with Citrix, make sure to keep an eye on our events page where we regularly share workshops and webinars to keep you in the know!

 

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, Continuum, IT Solutions, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

How to Develop an Effective Cyber Security Strategy


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We thought 2017 was particularly bad for cyber security threats. WannaCry (on which I’ve only just gone and written a one-year update), Peyta/NotPeyta…. The monthly rate of ransomware attacks against UK organisations increased up to 10 times the rate of 2016. But 2018 is set to beat every record made in 2017. In January alone, there were 7,073,069 attacks on UK organisations, and that number is set to soar throughout the rest of the year. The threat that a cyber attack poses is only getting worse. There were constant instances of security breaches being plastered over the news in the first half of this year alone; Ticketmaster, University of Greenwich and Timehop are only a handful of high-profile examples. So it’s not really a surprise that security and risk management were rated the most important priority in 2018 for CIOs in NASCIO’s November 2017 survey.

Panicked? Sorry, you weren’t supposed to be. In reality, all organisations- big or small- should expect a security breach at some time or another. There’s no way of avoiding it, but there is a way of being prepared. I’ll stop waffling on and get to the good stuff; how you can develop a cyber security policy and improve your best practices so that when disaster strikes, you’ll already be sorted. Mostly. (And if you do happen to face/be facing a security breach I’ve got you covered)

If you’ve got software and systems, update!
It’s really a no-brainer; IT needs to be updated regularly. Maybe in the 90s or early 00s you could get away with only updating whenever you happened to fancy the latest version of Windows to replace your current Windows 95, but it’s not the case now. With the internet, automatic updates are here to stay- whether we find them an annoyance or life-saving. Windows 10 only has two major updates a year and countless little ones that improve so much about the platform- including its security. After all, it was a dodgy unpatched Windows system that started the whole WannaCry debacle. So guys, make sure you update!

Understand the cyber security risk in relation to your organisation
Your organisation depends on a lot of things. Digital processes, data, systems, and your employees mastering the trick of gossiping and doing their work. All of these (minus the employee issue) are vulnerable to being manipulated. The whole point of a robust cyber security strategy is to protect them against fraud, theft of sensitive data and business disruption- along with the risk to your reputation along with it all. Your entire organisation has to work together to protect these vital processes from the threat. Thankfully, here at Cetus, we understand just how important it is to keep everything ticking along smoothly. In fact, we offer a complimentary security posture review to ensure that your business has the necessary security that it needs. We analyse where your organisation is exposed to security risks and provide you with recommendations on how to address them. Our finished report will analyse your network traffic to detect security threats; malware infections, usage of high-risk web applications, intrusion attempts, loss of sensitive data…. The list goes on. It will also evaluate your organisation’s end-point security, focusing on mobile management, user rights management, advanced end-point protection, patch and user rights management, and enterprise file sync and share. Importantly, the report will assess any threats posed from within your infrastructure – east-west traffic, privileged user access and user access rights. Basically, your entire infrastructure will be analysed to make sure that as little of the bad stuff as possible can breach your systems.

Taking a look at your social engineering
This is an interesting one. If you’ve never heard of this before, it’s basically GDPR handling in the office. We’ve all been panicking as we worked towards the deadline on May 25th, but privacy protection doesn’t just end there. Social engineering can be the simple calling out of a password to another co-worker behind them, or the more serious incident of pulling up a website at work and volunteering passwords and other vital information that can end up in the wrong hands. Hell, someone on the end of a phone saying the right things with the right amount of confidence could potentially sweet-talk the more trusting to give out a piece of information- and sometimes that’s all they’ll need.

Perform regular data backups
I’ll try and keep this one quick because here at Cetus we rabbit on about them all the time. Backups are great. Should you have the misfortune of having a ransomware attack, having a copy of the data that’s held hostage can be a life saver. Firstly, you’ll know exactly what data the hackers have- or if they gained access to personal information that could cause problems-, and you won’t have to worry about data loss regardless of whether you pay the ransom or not. Backups; if you haven’t got them sorted what are you waiting for?! With so many types of backups to choose from, from tape to replication (we suggest keeping up with the times and trying out Continuum), there’s no excuse not to have that sweet disaster recovery/business continuity plan in place.

Lock everything up tight
There’s no point in having the best firewalls money can buy, along with the most secure cyber security solution, and cyber attack just-in-case plan of action if a criminal can just waltz through the front door and calmly collect all of your information on a USB. If your sever room (or server part of the floor as the case may be) isn’t locked up tighter than Alcatraz then eventually there’ll be a problem. Remember, not everyone in the office needs access to the servers!

These are the most basic points to note for a cyber security strategy. Cyber threats are real and preventing attacks will always be a better alternative to reacting to one after it has breached your infrastructure. One of the most important in the list is understanding the cyber security risk in relation to your business. Make sure to book a complimentary security posture review today, and take the biggest step towards securing your infrastructure or speak to one of our cyber security experts today.

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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, Citrix, Cloud, IT Solutions, News, Uncategorized

What is ‘New’?


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Have you ever tried to create something new? I don’t mean ‘fresh’; I mean actually ‘new’ – a thing that no else is doing that will make people pause and say “Oh! That’s different – tell me more…”

This Thursday we launch a new brand. It’s been under wraps for a few months now and is the result of several years of evolutionary growth. It’s a thing that seeks to make us stand out from the crowd; to capture the imagination of prospective clients; to define the next five years of significant growth for Cetus. We’re quite excited.

It’s called ‘Instrato’ – that’s the first ‘new’ thing we needed to come up with. It’s actually rather difficult to come up with a new brand name. A new brand needs to achieve two things: 1 – capture the imagination, and 2 – be an available domain name. Instrato ticked both boxes for us.

So – here’s the bit where creating something ‘new’ becomes really tricky. Instrato is a cloud solutions brand, but it’s a cloud solutions brand with a difference. The problem is that ‘cloud solutions providers’ tend to fall into two camps: Cloud Only & Hybrid Cloud.

They each have their limitations:

Cloud Only Providers – tend to have grown up as Microsoft Azure (or AWS) partners and are really good at provisioning Microsoft Azure instances – but not much else.

Hybrid Cloud Providers – are, well, just about every IT solutions provider out there. Their message is simple – add some cloud stuff and, hey presto! – you’ve got a ‘hybrid cloud’.

So why is Instrato new? In the above cases they are either: capable of building a cloud-only infrastructure or, capable of adding some cloud stuff to meet your current needs. That’s not the way we see it at Instrato.

To us ‘the cloud’ is a journey, who’s ultimate destination is SaaS. Not convinced? Then consider this question: “if you were starting up a brand-new business – would you even consider any form of ‘server infrastructure’?”. We don’t think so – you’d spend a lot of time finding a set of SaaS solutions (e.g. Office 365, SalesForce) to provide the business functionality you need without the associated hassle of an ‘infrastructure’.

Unfortunately, most businesses aren’t in the position of starting from scratch. Instead they have years of accumulated legacy infrastructure to deal with; users who are used to ‘desktops’; shadow IT solutions that just ‘appeared. This is why instrato is ‘new’ … we get that, to most organisations, the journey to SaaS is going to take a little time to complete. The challenge is to manage the bit in the middle: a near constant state of change as their organisation transitions individual applications to SaaS.

Instrato’s role in life is to make that state of near-constant change as seamless as possible from a user’s perspective; and as simple and cost-effective as possible from an IT team’s perspective. We do so by providing technology that addresses four specific business needs during the transition:

– Cloud Hosted Virtual Apps & Desktops (to provide an abstraction layer between your users and the underlying platform)

– Cloud Orchestration – to provide automated management and provisioning of an ever-changing hybrid cloud infrastructure

-Software Defined Networking – to provide resilient, secure, cost effective connection to your changing cloud portfolio

Cloud Analytics – to provide contextual, deep understanding of the traffic flowing across your evolving network.

We think that qualifies as ‘new’ – and we reckon that makes instrato pretty unique.
To hear more about how instrato can help you with your Cloud Journey – why not visit us at www.instrato.co.uk and see how our ‘new’ way of thinking about hybrid cloud can help your organisation to accelerate your cloud journey?

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.