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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, 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.

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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, News, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

Citrix Summit 2019 from a Citrix Platinum Partner Point of View


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There are very few events throughout the year that get us super thrilled here at Cetus/instrato. Even fewer that we prepare for months before the actual event (aside from IPEXPO, which is a whole other story). But when it comes to Citrix Summit, held every January, we get very excited.

As a Citrix Platinum Partner, we stay on top of what’s going on in the Land of Citrix to make sure that we keep things fresh and up-to-date for our customers. And we’re absolutely blessed with two huge events a year to sink our teeth into; Summit and Synergy. We loved Citrix Synergy last May (and my god, we got some exciting updates on Citrix Workspace) and we’re still going on about it in our office. Of course, leaving the wet and windy UK for three days to fly to the US is a major bonus too!

As always, this year’s Summit is being held in Orlando, Florida, from the 7th to 9th of January- what a way to start the new year! Unlike Synergy, which is for customers as well as partners, Summit is only an event for partners, like Cetus, who promote and sell the Citrix Vision. And as always, we’re sending a little group of top Cetusites to go, explore and bring back the very best of Citrix.

The event is three days of inspiration, information and networking to bring the Citrix game to 100. Crazily, we’re expecting over 300 hours of training and hands-on learning, which we’ll be incorporating into all things Citrix when we get home. The event is a great way to build relationships with the biggest and brightest minds of Citrix experts and business leaders. From the opening keynote, which is always one of our favourite moments, to the breakout sessions, having those nagging questions answered at a Round Table, or just getting immersed in the hottest topics in the world of IT solutions in the Citrix Talks panel discussions, it’s going to be a crazy week. It’s events like Summit that inspire us to look to the future and adopt the latest and greatest ways of working.

One of the best things about being a Citrix Platinum Partner is the ability to really consolidate what we learn at Citrix Summit and Synergy into the huge projects that we work on. Having that foundation on which we can build our expertise is priceless, but a fair portrayal of how much we value Citrix itself as our partner. We know that having the title of Citrix Platinum Partner assures us that we’re in the best of hands, which means that our customers are, too.

When it comes to instrato, we work exclusively with Citrix and Microsoft Azure to get the optimal combination for a cloud deployment, so the fact that Microsoft will be attending makes our little cloud-enthused hearts flutter. In fact, cloud and cloud-based applications features heavily in the session previews, further strengthening its position as the future of IT. No doubt those sessions will be popular, including Citrix Talks to discuss cloud transformation projects.

You can be sure that, once we shake the jet lag, we’ll be incorporating all the latest updates and features into the solutions we design. If you want to hear a bit more about what you can expect from Citrix (and Cetus!) in 2019, have a chat with one of our Citrix Platinum Partner experts.

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.

 

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

Skyscraper: When Cyber Security Goes Wrong


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It was one of the biggest blockbusters of the summer. Dwayne Johnson’s Skyscraper thriller grossed $304.1 million during the hottest summer in living memory. Honestly, it probably would have made more, but for the fact that half of the UK population was sitting in any available patch of sun with a beer in their hands. I was one of those people, although with fruity cocktails instead. That was when I wasn’t in the office writing witty blog posts on Citrix Workspace, of course. Alas, while I had every intention on going to see the film, I never got around to it. So it was my pleasure, two Saturdays before Christmas, to snuggle in my pjs and pop it on (I lead the most exciting life when I’m not in the office). Well. While it’s action-packed with an interesting futuristic spin, I couldn’t help but spend the whole movie pointing out, sadly to no one in particular (I’m going to have to get a cat), all the various cyber security blunders that Johnson’s character made. Not one to waste my breath, or a good writing idea, I’m going to lay it all out in this blog post so that you can giggle along with me. Before we go any further though, there may be a spoiler or two, you have been warned.

In a nutshell, Johnson plays ex-FBI hostage-negotiator-turned-private-security-expert Will Sawyer, who gets called to Hong Kong in order to assess the security of the world’s tallest skyscraper. The Pearl, 225 stories and a whopping 1,100 metres tall, needs an inspection of the upper residential half before it can be opened to tenants. Since we are, after all, living through the ‘IOT for all of the things!’ revolution, no matter how mundane the appliance, it’s no surprise that the Pearl was built with tech in mind. It’s basically a giant computer, full of safety features and automations that make living and working there slightly more exciting than your average building. We saw absolutely zero evidence of it, but I’m still sure the lights turn on and off by clapping your hands. Anywho, we see Sawyer being given a tablet that controls the entirety of the 225 floors and shooed out of the door to go inspect the offsite security centre that controls the skyscraper. The tablet, obviously, isn’t in his possession for long, as it gets robbed by a group of terrorists who succeed in burning down the $200 billion structure with it. The sad part is, if the IT department had deployed a better cyber security solution, it could all have been avoided. Typical.

Who needs an effective authentication method, am I right?! This was mistake number one. For some incomprehensible reason, the only way of unlocking the tablet that controls the entirety of the building is via facial recognition. That’s it. Sure, in cinematographical terms this looks the best. It’s impressive and futuristic, suave and savvy. It’s every nerd’s dream. And facial recognition as part of multi-factor authentication is really effective. In the blink of an eye, it can analyse billions of tiny little markers on your face to unlock your device. But who on earth would think that it would be enough? For god’s sake, just signing into my Facebook requires my password, mother’s maiden name, list of my three favourite chocolate bars (in order) and the promise of my firstborn. Truth be told, facial recognition alone was irresponsible, and about as effective of protecting all that important data as using ‘1234567’ as a password. Hell, put a photo of Sawyer in front of the camera and that would probably fool it. There are so many effective ways to authenticate identity (I wrote an entire post on it). Why not have a secondary form of authentication, like having a password activate on Sawyer’s smartphone? That would have been clever.

Mistake number two; not informing the IT department of the breach. Err, this should have been the first point of call when Sawyer’s tablet got robbed. Instead, being the idiot that he is, he threw caution to the wind and went running off to save his family. Just one minute on the phone to IT and they could have stopped the disaster that was about to unfold. A good cyber security solution would have removed access to the tablet in a couple of clicks, rendering the terrorists’ efforts moot. In fact, it would have taken no time at all to wipe the data clean from the device, essentially turning it into an expensive, albeit sleek-looking, paperweight. It does echo a current issue facing organisations in terms of cyber security; the majority of security breaches come from employees who, inadvertently or not, allow the threat to infiltrate the network. This can happen from clicking on a dodgy link in an email (it’s sadly not a video of cats acting strangely)- in fact, phishing attacks are more prevalent and more likely to scam large sums of money from an organisation. Realistically, in this situation, Sawyer seriously neglected his responsibility to inform the IT department. While he undoubtedly performed some incredible gymnastics and it was thoroughly enjoyable to watch, I would have loved to hear his rationale when all was said and done. I doubt he’d be hired to assess the security of a paper bag after that!

The moral of this story is, and I’m sure it’s what director Rawson Marshall Thurber wanted to portray; don’t let your organisation become the Pearl and burn down to the ground- make sure your cyber security solution ticks all the boxes. We work closely with Check Point to incorporate secure technology into our solutions, effectively avoiding the risks that we saw Sawyer facing in the film, and many more besides. Have a chat with our cyber security solution experts here at Cetus, and in the meantime book yourself in for one of our complimentary security posture reviews!

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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, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

Citrix Summit 2019 For Dummies


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There are myriads of reasons to go to different conventions throughout the year. The chance to network with the biggest in the industry and get the first look at the latest innovations and methods can be priceless. In fact, a lot of organisations often insist that they do better after having attending key summits, or that they get their new and existing customers reaching out to them for the inside scoop.

In the world of cloud and IT solutions, the annual Citrix Summit is the event of the year. Held in Orlando Florida (so it could essentially become a mini holiday if you plan ahead), it’s where anyone who is anyone in the industry will show face. Not to be mistaken for Citrix Synergy in May, which is for partners like us as well as customers- but just as exciting as Summit. I’ve written plenty about the Citrix Vision for Citrix Workspace this year already. When it comes to fighting for the revered places, it usually comes down to the same three people who get to go, year in year out, with no questions asked. But this year you’ve been chosen. Why? You’re not quite sure, but let’s not ask any questions (it’s very likely that someone is having an extended Christmas skiing holiday this year). Gulp. That means you need to make sure you’re not on the top of your game and not make a fool out of yourself. What’s the weather like in Florida? Is there a particular dress code? Are we allowed to look vendors in the eye? As Cetus are a Citrix Platinum Partner, we’ve been around the block a few times. That is, if the block is a year, and a few times is exactly ten. So, we’ve rubbed what braincells we have to bring you the ultimate guide to survive those three fabulous days at the beginning of January.

Prepare for everything- even the disasters
It’s always best to prepare well ahead of time to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Make sure you know what airport you’re flying to, and how to get to your accommodation. Don’t leave it to someone else on the team, chances are you’ll all rock up on the day and no one will have a clue- leaving you all potentially driving around the city in a dodgy taxi at midnight, starving and tired. We’ve all been there, and it’s not the best way to start the trip!

A few weeks before Summit, have a quick look on Twitter or Google for the hashtag (bonus tip: it’s #CitrixSummit). Another fabulous hashtag, that isn’t exactly reserved for Summit but will also work in this case, is #CitrixPartnerLove. Go crazy, tweet a bit and get involved in conversations on Twitter, hopefully you’ll get the chance to introduce yourself before you even arrive. That’s one less box to tick! Second bonus tip: pack extra underwear.

One of the most convenient ‘features’ of Citrix Summit, and by far the best advice a seasoned Summit-goer would tell you would be to download the Citrix Summit app. It has everything you could possibly need to survive the event including an interactive timetable.

Get your networking hat on
Networking is the name of the game at Summit. It’s an opportunity to meet with plenty of people in a wide range of roles. To be fair, facing a sea of industry leaders can be a pretty daunting experience, but it’s best not to stick to your little group of comrades. Try to arrive earlier on pre-reg day and ‘happen to run into’ someone with the same lanyard and strike up a conversation- what are they most looking forward to? What do they expect to hear about? Where are the ladies? You get the idea.

Conference with participants going to the same seminars and workshops as you. Keep that social media involved as you go, it’ll be a great way to engage in even more conversations, and also serves as a way to show your boss that you didn’t ditch to go to Disney World. It’s great to talk to people from other organisations with more experience than you as well. As a Citrix Platinum Partner, we’re always having a chat with other UK-based companies. Also, big Citrix leaders will be mingling throughout the Summit, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled and prepare a good opening line to catch their attention. “The colour of that suit absolutely compliments the success you’ve had this year” is my favourite example. And most importantly of all, make sure that you say yes to every opportunity that arises!

Evaluate your daily strategy
The main problem with Citrix Summit is that there’s just so much material being squeezed into only three days. You could spend an entire day just making sure that you make the most of every opportunity. Between keynotes, Learning Labs, workshops and the Certification Centre, there’s a whopping 300+ hours of content, training and hands-on learning to get your teeth into. Before heading over to Florida, prepare a potential schedule for every day. Every morning, re-evaluate what you’ve already learned and what sessions could potentially be a reiteration, giving you more time to book in an extra session, Learning Lab or networking opportunity.

It’s always good to get goals, and it’s no different at Summit. What do you want to achieve from attending? What expert do you want to hear from? Is there an organisation attending that you’ve been looking into lately? Is there a topic that you could just use that extra bit of info on? Make sure to keep these in mind when you’re plodding through the days- it’s important to keep an eye on the bigger picture.

Dealing with post-Summit blues
We absolutely love Citrix Summit. In fact, pretty much anything Citrix-related gets us in a too-excited-to-sleep kind of mood. As a Citrix Platinum Partner, we make sure that we’re on top of what’s new and exciting in the world of Citrix. We want to offer the very best to our customers, both new and existing, keeping them ahead of their competition and helping their growth. That’s why we’re hosting a workshop throughout the country in January to share the knowledge we received at Citrix Summit. 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.

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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, Uncategorized

You Say Cloud, They Say….


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Oh Good!
Oh God?!
Sign here!
Really?!
Can we help?
Are you sure?

The sun is out today on this bright and crisp November morning. I’d love to say ‘not a cloud in the sky’, but hey, I’m in Manchester so the sun is a brief visitor in these parts!
So lets talk clouds. It’s much more commonplace today for enterprises to state ‘We are Cloud-first’ and ‘We are on our way to the Cloud’, a mandate often received from C-level and the top echelons. But, I ask;

Why?
Why is this a common executive strategy?
Are such decisions made with full understanding of what this actually means?

What do senior execs really understand about the Cloud? Or what it could deliver to their business? Arguably they don’t nor shouldn’t need to as they have ‘people’ to do this… One would hope they are informed and speaking with understanding of the true value and commercial benefits of what a Public or Hybrid Cloud Platform has to offer. Are they? Do they also really understand that this may or may not be possible? And what about such cost implications? Or, could it be they know ‘everyone else’ is doing it?! Cloud platforms require experience and diligence to be successful projects.

I always ask a lot of questions…
The Cloud decision requires many answers…

I personally get it. Cetus of course get it too, delivering this experience via our instrato solutions stack.
So, my thoughts are this: (Oops! Do I need the social media caveat of ‘my thoughts are my own’? ) Public and Hybrid Cloud platforms are simply a means to an end. Let’s not over complicate this! It’s not the Millennium Bug, nor the end of the world as we know it. They are solutions to assist enterprises to become more efficient, deliver improved competitive advantage and, above all, assist in delivering an improved service to your customers.

With Cetus’s instrato, we see as many customers wanting to reverse out of the public cloud as we do those trying to step in. Why? Poor implementation, poor management, a lack of experience and understanding can result in significantly increased costs, yet these organisations could be missing out on huge business advantages.
As I eluded to earlier, both technical and commercial experience with such solutions is essential. There are many so-called ‘experts’ out there, but do many hold the credibility and the proof?!

Cetus’ instrato offers services from Cloud readiness assessment, Cloud business case justification, Cloud management services through to fully managed services to ensure your platform is under control and delivering the value you want- be it public cloud or a more tailored hybrid cloud platform to suit your desired business outcomes.
You too can be Cloud First or become Cloud aware. As a certain fast food vendor states ‘Have it your way’ so why wouldn’t you?

Cetus are fully equipped with tea, hobnobs and whiteboard pens! Oh, and we would like you to provide a whiteboard (please!) and perhaps some cups too. Allow us to come and show you how your organisation’s desire to be ‘Cloud-first’ can deliver great business benefit when well executed and discuss what tools we have to assist you.
www.cetus-solutions.com
www.instrato.co.uk

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Mike.pngMike English – Managing Director
Since forming Cetus in 2001, Mike drives change and development to ensure Cetus empower and deliver real value to our customers, enabling successful business outcomes.

 

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

Application Testing in the Cloud


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If you’ve been keeping up with the hype, you’ve probably been looking into deploying a cloud of some form in your organisation. Be it public, private or hybrid cloud, the possibilities that they come with are endless and revolutionary. I’m sure you’ve heard all of those buzzwords before, building the idea of ‘the cloud’ into an amazing, it’ll-fix-any-problem-you’ve-ever-had-and-more! miracle that’s more of a unicorn than anything else. But you might have discovered that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to cloud. Application testing has become one of the little bugbears that people forget- or choose to ignore- when putting together a cloud strategy. When you roll out anything new, it’s important that it’s a success- your bottom line could very well depend on it. And without regular testing you don’t even know what you’re throwing out into the world.

Several years ago, virtualisation became a new focus for IT departments. This new ideology of sharing computing resources across multiple operating systems increased productivity through reduced costs and increased scalability and easy administration. This fabulous new way of running IT infrastructure observed the evolution of virtualisation of cloud in the form of cloud computing. It paved the way for the dream of ‘Everything as a Service’, essentially creating a foundation for many of the technological advances we have today (but for some reason I still can’t get a delivery from the McDonalds a mile away, so there are clearly more worldly advances yet to be achieved).

Cloud testing is the actual testing of the resources on demand; think hardware, software etc. Testing is crucial for the health of your IT environment, especially when it comes to your cloud offerings, ensuring that it not only meets functional requirements, but also non-functional. Securing and managing performance of your applications is essential regardless of where they are; in the cloud or on-premises. It’s not the case of testing an application when it first gets deployed and never needing to bother with it again; the status of applications can change over time.

There are so many benefits for cloud testing that are easily obvious when you experience them. The normal testing approach is to invest in the adequate hardware and software infrastructure needed to carry out the testing. Since the environment supplied to the testing team very rarely matches that of the user, testing applications in the cloud can alleviate the issue of rapidly-changing requirements, allowing the tester to easily replicate the user environment and find defects early in the cycle. Migrating apps to the cloud can also reduce the cost of infrastructure licence renewal, as the organisation doesn’t have to purchase the infrastructure that won’t all be in use at the same time. With the end user environment in the cloud, it’s a simple enough task for an IT department to customise the testing environment match. This customisation reduces the cost and time of regular testing. The testing team can easily perform load and performance testing scenarios in various permutations and combinations.

But, as with everything, there are downfalls. I hate to have to list them, but here we are. By relying on and using the cloud as infrastructure, we do face a few hiccups. But nothing too scary, I promise. Security is one; user privacy needs to be protected, while also allowing the necessary protections that hold up to standards. The security of applications that run in the cloud and security testing techniques also need to be addressed by organisations when it comes to cloud infrastructure. The performance of an application in the cloud is another significant issue that regularly gets overlooked. How are we to know if an application works the same way, especially when hosted in a private cloud? The application itself will be shared amongst plenty of users, so that could cause a delay, especially if bandwidth isn’t good enough for testing. It’s surprising that in certain instances, the particular configurations of a user can be that complex that they just simply aren’t supported by that cloud provider. I don’t get it either. Bottom line, that can make it that much more difficult to emulate a user environment. The last little issue is that of integration testing. It’s easy enough to test the network, database, servers, and whatever else needs to be done. The tester already won’t have control over the underlying environment, but on top of that they’ll have to essentially guess how it would behave. If there are interactions between two components, the tester can only anticipate risks, such as crashes, network breakdown, or your server going on a sudden holiday.

Ensuring the maintenance and performance of your applications in your chosen cloud is crucial for your organisation. Where a lot of people would just love to ignore the finicky bits of testing, here at Cetus we like to dot the Is and cross the Ts, and that includes your testing. Our experts are specialists in application testing and making sure that everything works just right. If testing of your applications is something you’d like to master, make sure to have a chat with one of our experts who will show you first-hand the benefits, while eliminating as many downfalls as possible.

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.