Cloud

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, and register for the Summit update events we’ll be hosting when we get back. We’ll see you then!

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

 

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

Your Step-By-Step Guide to Cloud Migration


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So you’ve finally agreed to try out The Cloud. You’ve read plenty of articles that you may not necessarily understand. You’ve heard plenty of chat about the possibilities, the increased security, and the savings that go along with it. But where do you actually start in Your Journey To The Cloud? This week I’ve given up entirely on counting (if you’ve missed this disaster and this almost-disaster go catch up) and I bring to you your simple step-by-step guide to moving to the cloud. I’ll make it as easy as possible, I promise.

Decide what you’re looking for
First of all, there’s no point in throwing yourself into the IT cloud solution craze unless you know what you’re looking to achieve. The cloud may sound like an exciting upgrade, exotic almost, the solution to all of your problems- but you need to decide what those problems are first. Have a sit down with your team and decide what the cloud could do to improve the way that they work. To be able to spend one day a week in a café instead of the office, and have access to all of your files and applications without worrying about being hacked? Do you want almost-instantaneous disaster recovery options? Fire, flood, forgotten door keys; your data at a second location will only ever be a flick of a switch away- and sometimes that switch will be automatic anyway. There are so many reasons to move to cloud, and I’ve popped them all into a dedicated blog post right here, just in case you missed it.

Choose the right cloud provider
Just as important; you need to evaluate your options when it comes to your vendor and IT solutions provider options. Don’t just focus on the bigger, ‘mainstream’ ones; they might not necessarily provide what you require. At Cetus Solutions, we work closely with and recommend, Citrix and Azure. However, depending on what you’re looking for, we can add a few into the mix to design a unique, bespoke IT solution that works for you. While every vendor has its strengths and weaknesses, we combine several to make sure all of your boxes get ticked. We consider disaster recovery, scalability, and what capacity demands you have and will end up needing in the future. Then you need to think about cost. This is a complicated one, don’t just make up your mind from a pricing page. You need to consider how your applications will operate in the cloud and be weary of ‘hidden charges’ like bandwidth, API calls and messages sent.

Move your files and data to the cloud
It is so important to start your transition nice and easy. There’s no point in throwing everything you have into the air, hoping to catch a cloud unawares. That will just lead to a lot of headaches and potential disaster, and that’s not what cloud is all about. Begin small, by moving just your files and data to the cloud. It’s best to start off with your files because that’s how your business runs, and the way that they’re currently being stored might be outdated, unsecure and possibly even inefficient. Cloud-based file sharing requires only minimal change to your systems, but since it affects every department in your organisation, it means that you make a bigger impact with little effort or cost. I told you we’d make it simple. Your employees (and you, too) will love the ease in storing, coordinating and sharing all of the documentation that they need. And since it’s a mobile workspace, you will all be able to do all that across all of your various devices. Nice.
It’s monumentally to important to get this step right though; you have to find the best IT solutions provider that will make file transfer an easy thing. If your employees find it difficult, they will only end up turning to other personal apps to do the same thing. These ‘shadow IT’ options are a nightmare for things like security, and with the threat of GDPR looming, it’s a threat that could cost you more than just your reputation. Besides, business-class solutions like the ones we provide at Cetus Solutions are far more integrated to maximise workflow. It’s best to trust the experts.

Move your applications to the cloud
Ok, you’ve managed the first big step. To be honest, that was actually really only sticking your toe into the pool of possibilities with cloud, and now it’s time to jump right in. It will only get easier from here! (in theory, but I’m not making any promises) With all of your files and data being kept nice and safe and warm in the cloud, it’s time to move your applications to the cloud. The thing about your apps in the cloud is that instead of being distributed to your employees through old-fashioned CD roms that install what they need (isn’t that a laughable thought in this day and age?), cloud management is centralised. Think simple, think easy, think never-going-to-hear-moans-about-updates-again. Just patch it up once, update it once and everyone is on the same plane. Hurrah. Start with the least critical applications, and familiarise yourself with the process- not that there will be much of a difference. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Move your desktops to the cloud
Last critical step, I promise. It’s not even that complicated, really. With your data, files and now applications stored carefully in the cloud, it’s time to take a step back. No more installing and maintaining operating systems, software and apps one by one on every computer, because it’s time to transfer your desktops to the cloud. This is possibly the most exciting part; cloud desktops basically virtualise everything on your employees’ desktops as soon as they boot them up. And this includes updates; how awesome is that? Any update you can think of, you’ll never have to worry about again; Windows, apps, files, nothing. And with a desktop on the cloud, it’s like having the same desktop no matter what device you’re working from.

So there you have it. But then, what do you actually have? We like to call it a digital workspace; encompassing all the data and applications you need to get your job done, in one desktop that follows you wherever you go. The simplest way to move your systems to the cloud. Here at Cetus Solutions, we don’t do complicated and we don’t do out of date. If you’re thinking of moving to cloud, or even if you want a more thorough breakdown of exactly how easy it is to transition to the cloud, make sure to talk to one of our 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, 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. Make sure to register today for your spot!

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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, Citrix, Cloud, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

The Citrix ‘Virtual Workspace’ Vision: What Have We Achieved?


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I don’t remember ever not having a computer at home. When my brother and I were little, somewhere in the rolling Irish countryside, that was technology; messing around in Paint for hours, until we were old enough to graduate to Tomb Raider (on keyboard) and whatever game demos my Dad got with his monthly PC Live subscription. If we were allowed to use the printer (that was a rare treat), we’d spend hours in Word making posters for our room, trying out every single option in WordArt and agonising over what colours we’d use- which would have absolutely no significance whatsoever since it printed in black and white exclusively. Then, as early teens, we got second-hand laptops to mess around in PowerPoint (I once did an amazing presentation on the benefits of having an allowance for my rabbit Poppy, graphics and all), and flex our creative writing muscles in Word. Back then, floppy disks were king (I still have some knocking about, storing god only knows what). Hell, I remember being 16 when my Mum bought my Dad a brand-new printer for his birthday; a super cool one that printed in colour and scanned documents and photocopied and printed wirelessly. It was amazing to have all of those features in one small device that was affordable for a modest family. And that was only in 2010!

For most of us, that was the reality until quite recently. Technology was just a cool little add-on, the ability to type out a document instead of writing it by hand, playing two-player videogames using only a single keyboard and mouse, being able to email Granny across the country- regardless of whether she’d remember how to access it or not. It was fun, but it wasn’t particularly useful. The workplace was the exact same (so I’m told); visiting the dusty clock-in machine at 9am, tapping away at an even dustier computer half the size of the desk, emailing people sitting just across from you, and finally kissing the clock-in machine goodbye at 5pm.

Last month was our Cetus Summit, a day of celebrating the achievements of the year just gone and anticipating how we can be even bigger and better in the year ahead. As part of the morning presentations, we had several vendors come and talk to us. One of those vendors was Citrix. For half an hour, they analysed a Citrix video from way back in 2001 that predicted the power and capabilities of a future workspace (if you want, you can find it here). It’s crazy to think that in 2001 we were still so behind on lots of techie features and gadgets that we couldn’t possibly imagine working without now. Anyway, since I’m betting you weren’t at that presentation, I’ve decided to do a bit of an analysis myself of Citrix Workspaces 2001 vs 2018 this week.

In the current future that Citrix had imagined (does that even make sense?), things are very 90s. Someone clearly didn’t get the memo about the segways, ripped jeans and I’d say fannypacks are the only thing from the 90s that we’d still see today (and they’re still a crime against fashion). Honestly, of all the changes since 2001, not wearing those god-awful suits is probably the best advancement. That and the awful Mercedes he drives- I swear, it’s the kind of car a drug kingpin would drive in the mid-90s. The scene is set; our protagonist, Jim, is evidently a high-flying business man, with a fancy office and no doubt an assistant. It’s the end of a workday and he’s particularly chirpy, but it’s not a Friday, so it must be a relaxed week at the office. Apparently it’s his anniversary as well, so that could be a contributing factor.

Telling no one in particular that he’s leaving work early (probably that assistant), he grabs his fancy PalmPilot-looking device and walks away, while his workspace gets transferred from his PC. Accessing your desktop via whatever device you choose is something that almost comes automatically in a virtual workspace in 2018. Indeed, Citrix Workspace makes it incredibly easy to access all of your apps, data and desktop, regardless of what kind of device. Move between your PC, home laptop, mobile or tablet, all thanks to your workspace. Getting into that God-awful Mercedes, our chirpy Jim is safety-first and pops his PalmPilot-mobile hybrid into its hands-free holder. Ever security-conscious, he accesses his device by using a fingerprint scanner. I’ve already covered multi-factor authentication (and how I feel about fingerprint scanners), and it’s no surprise that the Citrix vision of the future included biometric sign-on.

In any organisation, the ability for secure content collaboration is crucial. Jim clearly works for a huge multi-national company. On his way home, he gets a call from a colleague on the other side of the country. Some hiccup in a big deal means that he needs to try and make things happen before he can go for dinner. To fix the issue and speed the deal along, he needs to organise a conference call with colleagues in Seattle and Tokyo. Using his Citrix Workspace, he can securely call these different locations, while presenting and collaborating on documents in real time. It’s easy enough to transfer the conference call from Jim’s phone to his huge monitor- just the case of pointing his PalmPilot-thing at the screen and hey presto. I’m sure in 2001, this would have been a bizarre concept. Who would be too lazy to just turn the thing on? Nowadays, we don’t have the time to faff around with logins and transferring conference calls. With Citrix Workspace, this is a nifty little feature that’s sure to wow any newbies starting out, or even the CIO of a high-stakes partner. Honestly, try it out, you’d look terribly high-tech. Eventually Sharon, in Denver, fizzles in to add her expertise. Apparently she doesn’t have the same security clearances as the other three (is it the accent?), so Jim sets her a more limited visibility she has of the documents being collaborated on. This is also a pretty common feature of Citrix Workspace, but it covers far more than just a conference call. From a single network point, your IT department has access to, and can manage, every one of your users. That gives them the flexibility to automatically grant every user with unique levels of clearance depending on their job necessities. Sharon in HR doesn’t really need to know what’s going on in boardroom meetings, now does she?

During the conference call, they get interrupted by a failure. Now, here’s where Citrix were a tad bit off in their predictions for today’s technology. In the video, Jim can hear his colleagues as they question the foreboding ‘Switching to backup data centre’ flickering on the screen for a moment or two, before the rather more cheerful ‘Backup now active’ signals the return of the call. It’s not the case now that a failure would cut the call instantly until the WAN came back to life- thanks to SD-WAN, a failure of any kind would not even be noticed, simply switching to the secondary system component. In today’s workspace, Jim and his colleagues wouldn’t be the wiser, with zero stalling, pausing or loss of quality to signal the switch.

A lot was covered in that short seven-minute video. But it’s clear that in 2001 Citrix had a vision. It was a vision of revolutionising the workspace to make it bigger and better than ever before (and keep ill-fitting suits in fashion). And it’s a vision that continues to look to the future in order to start making advances towards it now. Here at Cetus, we’re big believers in the Citrix vision. So much so that we’re one of the few Citrix Platinum Partners in the UK. We believe that Citrix is the future of the workplace, and we want to work with you to unlock those possibilities. Our experts are Citrix-centric, so click over here to have a chat and see what Citrix Workspace can do for you.

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

 

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

It’s Halloween! Beware of Zombies!


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Well, it’s Halloween, so I thought it apt to draw attention to a blight of our modern age – Zombies! To be more precise: Zombie VMs!!

These modern terrors lurk, silently, in our data centres, consuming brains (aka CPU resource and RAM); with no clear purpose. At least, not a purpose that anybody can remember. They’re the product (or is it the cause?) of sprawl; long forgotten virtual machines, created for a particular purpose, but no longer used.

So what? You may, or may not be thinking. Arguably, in an on-prem deployment; they only consume power and minimal compute resource. There’s still a cost associated with them, but that’s also reasonably minimal. The other concern is that, being ‘forgotten’, they may present a security risk due to out-of-date applications and operating systems.
So here’s the main point: In a Public Cloud environment (e.g. Azure or AWS); Zombie VMs are also directly consuming your money. That’s definitely worse than them consuming your brains. The money lost to them could have been spent elsewhere; to increase profits, or to invest in more profitable activities.

What can you do about this horror? Run for the hills? Hide in a cupboard? No, the answer is to tackle them head on, otherwise they’ll spread as time goes by, making your problems worse. That’s where Cetus’ instrato can help you.

We call the solution: ‘Hybrid Cloud Orchestration’. It allows us to deliver a service that optimises your virtual machine estate; whether it be on-prem, in a co-lo, or on a hyper-scaler platform. Our service monitors your VM estate: to identify sprawl, and to automatically move your VMs to the most cost-effective location, or service provider instance. More importantly: our service pays for itself: both in the first instance, and on an ongoing basis.

To hear more about how we can help you to fight back against the Zombie threat, whilst saving a significant amount of money in the process: why not give us a call? We can conduct a free assessment that will demonstrate the potential savings that are awaiting you. There you go then: some good news on Halloween – not everything needs to be a horror story.

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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, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, News, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized, VMware

VMworld 2018 Keynote


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So here we are at VMworld 2018 in Barcelona for VMware’s 20th anniversary and the 10th annual VMworld in Europe. With just under 12,000 attendees, the relevance and importance of the VMware strategy in helping businesses of all sizes grow and transform is clear to see everywhere you go. Pat Gelsinger took to the stage to layout his views and VMware’s strategy highlights for the coming years. For those that have not made it to VMworld before, the main keynote is quite high level and is followed by a number of ‘showcase’ keynotes that focus on the core areas of the VMware portfolio such as Security, Hybrid Cloud and EUC etc.

Pat showed how VMware has constantly driven to help businesses bridge gaps between innovation silos and highlighted three key ‘acts’ in the VMware history:
1. Server virtualisation
2. BYO/EUC
3. Networking
The message that organisations need to deliver both profit, as well as look after its people was clear; a fully engaged workforce will lead to innovation and transformation, which will lead to a more profitable business.

Technology should be a force for good in the world and that is what VMware is driving for in everything it does (The Mercy Ships case study was very powerful). Pat spoke about four tech superpowers in the world today (Cloud, Mobile, AI/ML, and Edge/IoT) and how each of them reinforces and drives the others. VMware sees the application as a network that requires an end-to-end platform to enable it. The VMware vision image below has been consistent across four core strategies for a number of years now;
• Modernise Datacenter
• Integrate Public Cloud
• Empower Digital Workspaces
• Transform Networking and Security
The ability for an organisation to deploy hybrid cloud and digital workspace solutions that are integrated from a single vendor drives simplification and reduces costs.

vmworld 1.jpg

At Cetus our mission is to help our customers deliver on their strategic mission by delivering hybrid cloud and secure digital workspace solutions, we believe that every organisation must embrace technology as a force for change and transformation. The VMware portfolio from vSphere to NSX onto Workspace One and out to Vmware on AWS means we can deliver on our mission from a single integrated technology stack.

There were a wealth of announcements in the keynotes, and while I’m not going to try and cover them all here, I just wanted to pick a few highlights.

Security
Pat talked about how the security solutions we deploy today are broken, as bolt-on options that are chasing a bad situation without a fundamental shift in protection levels. This is shown by record spending on security solutions, and also a record number of breaches.

VMware started to address this with NSX, moving the security enforcement from the North/South boundaries to cover the bulk of East/West traffic, and as such the micro-segmentation market emerged. While this takes security to a new level, it is still based on set policies and known interactions between services within the datacenter. VMware is taking this to the next level with the introduction of vSphere Platinum Edition that integrates the app defence solution into the vSphere licence. The combination of AppDefense and NSX allows VMware to deliver what it has now coined ‘Adaptive Segmentation’, allowing admins to deliver a step change in the security paradigm. The Adaptive Segmentation concept follows three key steps:
• Learn
• Lock
• Adapt

Rather than chasing after threats, AppDefense learns an application’s intended state and behaviour, then monitors for changes to this state that indicates a threat. When a threat is detected, AppDefense can automatically respond. Leveraging this known ‘good state’ allows policy to lock down the datacenter (NSX offering network-level automation) and then adapt as needed to changes in state. This deep integration allows for a shift in the overall security paradigm.

The focus on security across the VMware portfolio is really beginning to shine and deliver real value for customers.

Any Cloud
All businesses are on a journey to a hybrid/multi-cloud world and the need to automate and secure this transformation is key. VMware is innovating in both the datacentre and EUC spaces to ensure this journey is seamless, secure and cost-effective for all.

In the datacenter space, the need for a seamless path to and from cloud/on-premises is the key to allowing an organisation to unlock the power of its investment in infrastructure services. The ability to deploy to either on-premises or cloud and move between them seamlessly as costs and needs evolve ensures IT can meet businesses’ needs at all times. This needs to be enabled via a ruthless drive for automation, which the announcements of VMware Cloud Foundation 3.5 addresses by ensuring that enterprise IT teams can deploy private cloud with the same management and automation as cloud. Cloud Foundation underpins the hybrid cloud, both on-premises and as part of VMware on AWS- truly enabling this seamless hybrid cloud. With new VMware on AWS regions opening over the next 6-9 months, the reach will be truly global. Checkout my follow up blog from the datacenter showcase keynote for more details.

The message was clear that the future of cloud infrastructure will be hybrid and that VMware has delivered a true end-to-end solution. The acquisition and integration of Cloud Health extends this capability by providing a cloud operations platform that allows customers to understand costs and compliance across multiple clouds.

Any App
The Workspace One solution has been the stable leader in the MDM space for many years and over the last couple has evolved into a complete UEM (unified endpoint management) solution that supports mobile, Mac, Windows and Chrome end points. Providing users a simple, consistent and secure access method for all applications and data on any device, while ensuring that IT retain control of the full lifecycle of the devices. One big announcement was a joint partnership with OKTA to extend the Workspace One Identity Management solution and provide full user/device lifecycle management and automation. IT can now truly step away from the job of deploying endpoints, allowing technology to provide a simple user-driven workflow.

Enhancements to the Workspace One solution continues to demonstrate this market-leading position. Look out for my follow up blog from the EUC showcase keynote covering items Like Workspace One Intelligence and what COPE stands for.

So this ran on a bit longer that I expected; lots to talk about in what was actually a rather uneventful keynote by VMware’s standards. Most of this due to them splitting out 6 ‘showcase’ keynotes over the two days that focus deeper into the entire proposition. Stay tuned for follow up posts from more sessions. In the meantime, we’re delighted to announce a free webinar on the key takeaways from VMworld that I’ll be hosting. Register here to get all the highlights from VMware and what to expect in 2019.

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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.

 

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

The Cyber Security Threats You Need to Plan for in 2019


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It’s that time of year again; time to be weary of scary things jumping out on your screen when you’re least expecting it, of monsters following you into your dreams and escaping from your [data] closet. I’m referring, of course, to National Cyber Security Month, the month to take extra care when it comes to protecting your organisation from cyber-gremlins. And I’m sure you’ve been hearing about it non-stop for the last three weeks; participating in the office games, including ‘bobbing for malware’, ‘pin the data on the phishing attempt’ and ‘pass the ransomware’. All party classics. Regardless, it’s an important issue that gets pushed to the side all too often throughout the year. So now is the time to make that extra bit of effort to make sure that you’re protected should the Big Bad Cyber-attack knock on your door (or make you realise just how badly your straw house was lacking).

To switch things up a bit, I thought it would be clever to start thinking about what lies ahead, when the dark, cold nights and endless Christmas parties make way for snow in April. Now is a good time to start planning for 2019, and what the cyber landscape might look like next year. I’ve dusted off my crystal ball and called upon the spirit of Google to tell me exactly what cyber security threats we’re most likely to hear about next year. So buckle up, take notes, and be prepared to impress your boss with your savvy goal-setting ambitions. You’re welcome in advance.

It seems like the world spent the entirety of 2018 running around trying to put out phishing fires. Unless you live under a rock, or are lucky enough to spend your days on a wifi-less beach, you can’t have missed the crazy number of phishing attacks that were publicised. Every second cyber security article had details of attacks and startling statistics (76% of businesses reported being a victim of an attack in 2018 so far). Alas, while phishing has been around since 1980, it has just been ramping up in popularity and severity over the last year or so. When it comes to internal threats, it’s by far the easiest way to get access to sensitive information. According to a Verizon report, 30% of phishing attacks get opened by American users, with 12% of those targeted by the emails clicking on the infected links or attachments. The element of human error makes it that much more appealing. Unfortunately, the only solution to phishing (for the time being anyway) is to train your users to be extra vigilant when opening emails from external sources, and make sure your spam filters are extra strong.

Here’s an interesting (albeit worrying) one; your new smartphone being compromised before it even gets in your hands. Malware is another one of those evil little buggers that can really cause trouble if you’re not very careful. Like phishing, it’s becoming a prevalent part of the internet landscape that users have to be wary about, kind of like not playing in traffic and eating your vegetables. In a society where being always-on is a necessity, mobile phones have become replacements for desktop computers. Think about it, what do you store or have access to on your laptop that you don’t on your phone? The data your phone collects on a daily basis is a very attractive target for cybercriminals. But the modern cybercriminal doesn’t have to stand on a street corner and ‘accidentally’ bump against you to steal your mobile, and ergo your data. Apps are an easy hands-free way to bypass security measures and cause trouble without even clicking on a malicious link. There have even been reports of smartphones leaving the factory floor with malware built in! This malware, called Cosiloon, can send users to download dodgy apps that they didn’t intend on accessing. The app is passive, only visible to the user in the settings section, but then connects with a website to grab the payloads that hackers want to install on the phone.

Speaking of phones, surprise, surprise; cryptocurrency is going to continue to be a massive deal in 2019. And since it is, the dollar signs in the eyes of hackers are getting even bigger. Cryptomining was a new trend for 2018, but without a doubt will gain traction during the next year. Uber-clever cybercriminals infect machines to commandeer their CPU power and steal Bitcoin. What we will most likely see in 2019 is the rise of cryptomining through mobile devices. Since cybercriminals need the infected device to be running to access the processing power, it only makes sense for them to move onto always-on mobile devices. Clever, huh? Many hackers simply create useful and legitimate apps, such as calculators, music videos or voice recording technology, and then embed a script that allows the cryptomining plugin to work silently in the background (don’t start getting any ideas). Since the nature of mobile is to simply make everything so damn complicated and finicky, you probably wouldn’t even notice the extra tab on your browser. The only thing that would indicate that you were a potential victim would be the quick-draining battery. But let’s face it, how often would you attribute awful battery life to a hacker, rather than just having an older phone? “You’d need terrible mobile security!” you might guffaw, pitying the idiot commoner that wouldn’t think of protecting their mobile devices (oops, that would be me). Alas, cryptomining doesn’t technically compromise the security of the device, as it doesn’t bypass security systems or install any rogue software. If you think you’re being clever by installing app-only or endpoint-based security solutions, you won’t be the one laughing (I don’t feel so bad then).

CheckPoint’s SandBlast Mobile is one fabulous piece of software that can and will protect your mobile devices. It protects users from threats to the OS, apps and network, and boasts the industry’s highest threat catch rate. Zero-day malware, using a software vulnerability for which there isn’t any available fix or defence at the moment, is being created and released onto unsuspecting victims every day. SandBlast Mobile blocks zero-day malware (I think it’s magic, actually), and prevents phishing on your apps. If you’re worried about infected devices accessing corporate data, it will intuitively block the device, while also blocking infected devices from sending on sensitive data to botnets. Possibly the most innovative feature of SandBlast Mobile is how it mitigates threats without having to rely on a management platform, which means that you’re protected even when you might not be on the ball (mobile attacks can also happen after late nights- you can’t have Spidey senses all the time!). Regardless of what you do or access on your mobile, if you work from your phone- even if it’s just to reply to emails- SandBlast Mobile is the all-encompassing solution for you. Well then, we can pretty much strike off two of those potential 2019 issues with just one technology!

We’re all for embracing the future here at Cetus. There is so much to look forward to, and so many awesome new technologies- both malicious and not- that will come about, regardless of how well you try to prepare. Working with CheckPoint, we feel reassured that our cyber security is covered, regardless of time, place or device. If you’re interested in what our experts have to say about all the cool things that CheckPoint offer, you can have a chat with them with here. And don’t forget to tell us what you think; what will 2019 have to offer by way of cyber security threats?

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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, Check Point, Cloud, IT Solutions, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

Cyber Criminals are at Gen-V; Are You?


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Since the dawn of the internet, we’ve learned that keeping our sensitive information under lock and key is important. Even more so nowadays, with the explosion of ecommerce asking for everything short of your National Insurance number. And nine times out of ten you can choose to save your card details for the next time you’re feeling too lazy to get out of bed to grab your wallet. If you really think about it, that’s probably not the best thing to do. But while putting our bank accounts at risk, you’d expect big corporations who have entire qualified, skilled and experienced IT teams to have a handle on their security, right?

Oh boy, could you be any more wrong. In a recent CheckPoint survey, 97% of the organisations that were assessed were not prepared for a Gen-V cyber attack. The thing is, cyber-attacks and security protections have evolved significantly in the last 30 years, but not at equal levels. Currently, organisations are at Gen-III. We fell into Gen-III in the early 2000s, when attackers learned to leverage vulnerabilities in the components of an IT infrastructure. This includes operating systems, hardware and applications. A fantastic example was the SQLSlammer worm. Since then, Gen-IV has emerged in 2010 as cyber criminals became more sophisticated, targeting the world of finance, where sandboxing and anti-bot were the main protections.

Back in 2017, the dreaded Gen-V cyber attack made a roaring entrance with the world-shattering WannaCry ransomware attack. We’re looking at large-scale, multi-vector attacks, using uber-sophisticated attack tools. It’s safe to say that we’re not in Kansas anymore. These attacks are major, generally using ‘state-sponsored’ technologies that can target networks across countries, companies and even continents. Cyber criminals are getting their hands on these technologies from simple leaks or as a result of reverse engineering, and cause major reputational damage for the organisations affected.

So what can be done? The risk of a security threat is omnipresent. No matter what you do, your organisation will be exposed in one way or another (unless you favour the slate-and-chalk method of working).

Check Point’s Infinity is one of the best ways to handle the stress of cyber security. Focusing on prevention instead of detection, it’s a hyper-aware platform that provides consolidated security across networks, cloud and mobile. Combining a single security platform, pre-emptive threat protection capabilities and a unified system for management. With the release of R80.10, it features plenty of clever capabilities and enhancements which include unique policy layers, security multi-zones and boosted performance, to ensure security management. With the move to cloud earmarked for most organisations, the integrated Check Point vSEC Cloud Security’s comprehensive portfolio integrates with both private and public cloud platforms, so you’re covered regardless of your cloud preferences.

Infinity also boasts an impressive threat prevention in the form of anti-ransomware technology that enables businesses to remain protected against even the most sophisticated ransomware and cyber extortion. If your organisation is big into mobile (whose isn’t?), SandBlast mobile has the intelligence to detect both known and unknown malware, effectively blocking it before it becomes a problem. You’ll never have to worry about poisoned wi-fi networks, ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks or SMS phishing. There are so many nifty features of Infinity that make it a clever investment for an organisation, no matter its size. Centre stage, it has centralised management and role-based administration that allows it to apply to all organisation use cases.

Gen-V will certainly not be the last upgrade in cyber security. As technology improves, expanding and intruding into more and more of our lives, the sophistication of cyber criminals will progress just as fast. It won’t be long until I’m writing about a major Gen-VI cyber-attack and its implications affecting another group of international organisations. So now is the time to start getting ahead of the hackers. We work hand-in-hand with Check Point to ensure that your infrastructure is at the highest level of cyber security so you don’t need to worry about that.

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.