IT Solutions

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

Practice Safe Mobility – Protect Your Endpoints


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It’s not the naughties anymore – the age of consequence-free mobility is over I’m afraid. It’s time to start practicing safe mobility. It’s time to put some endpoint protection on your ‘device’. The result of not doing so exposes your business to risk from threats, data loss, and unauthorised access.

For decades now, endpoint security has been the domain of anti-virus software. This was because Windows endpoints were the primary target, and we all ‘knew’ that they were vulnerable. Many businesses installed AV software on endpoint and moved on to more important matters…

So, what’s changed? Well, I would suggest that things have changed from two perspectives: the ‘use case’ has changed, and the threat environment has changed.
Taking each in turn…

From a use case perspective:
• The age of the virtual desktop seemed to be upon us (at least from Cetus’ perspective) – and then came ‘the well-managed Windows 10 desktop’.

• We’ve been acting like consumers for years now – buying smart phones, tablets and phablets and then wanting to use them for work.

• We’ve also been liberating ‘our’ data – storing it in personal cloud stores like Dropbox and sending it via our personal email accounts in an effort to be more productive
So what’s changed from a threat perspective?

• The days of good ‘old-fashioned’ viruses seemed to disappear when the use of nation state cyber weapons ransomware became an everyday thing (think Wannacry).

• Threats are now specifically targeting mobile devices (think Man-in-the-Middle Attacks. Women-in-the-Middle attacks are also a threat).

• Public cloud services are now part of most corporate strategies (think OneDrive), extending network boundaries into ill-defined, global data centres.

• Increased legislation with regards to the protection of individuals and their personal data (think the GDPR and its somewhat over stated, but none the less terrifying €20m fine).

The above list is by no means exhaustive, and tries to give a flavour of the changing threat landscape. So where am I going with this? Well, the good news is that our friends at Check Point have a solution to your cyber woes. Our cyber security portfolio provides Check Point End Point Security and Security Gateway Appliances that allow us to provide end-to-end security that encompasses your data centre, end points and the Cloud.
Specifically, from an endpoint perspective – Check Point provides data security, network security, threat prevention and a remote access VPN for complete Windows, Mac OS X and mobile device security.

If you’ve been playing fast and loose with your endpoints then we’re here to help. Our free-of-charge Security Posture Review will provide you an opportunity to discuss your endpoint security challenges, as well as your wider cyber security posture with regards to perimeter, data centre and cloud components.

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Award, Blog, Cetus Solutions, IT Solutions, News, Uncategorized, VMware

Going Above and Beyond with VMware


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It’s been an incredible start to 2018 for Cetus. You may recall a recent blog when we announced that we earned VMware’s highly sought-after competency in Network Virtualisation– now we can proudly declare that we have been recognised as the VMware Rising Star of the Year 2018!

After being nominated and shortlisted earlier on this year, we were holding our collective breaths as a small group of Cetus elite travelled to London beneath sunny skies on the 18th of April. The prestigious VMware awards were presented at the 8th Partner Recognition Dinner in the Amba Hotel in Charing Cross- very fancy altogether.
VMware hosts the annual awards as recognition for those partners in the UK who have gone above and beyond in the field of IT solutions and are key to the growth and success of the major vendor- so of course we’d at least be nominated! That being said, we knew that we’d be up against some very tough competition. But we rose above the other nominees, having proven that Cetus are one of the best in the delivery, service and support to users of VMware solutions.

The Rising Star award recognises Cetus Solutions as a quality provider of VMware, going farther than most to design a bespoke solution to fit your business and be there for you when any problems arise. It guarantees excellent service, from the moment you start researching the answer to your IT problems, all the way through to its the implementation and beyond.

“We are delighted to win the award for Rising Star 2018 at VMware’s prestigious UK&I Partner Recognition Dinner. For us, the award celebrates what has been a fantastic year helping our customers to transform their organisations with market-leading technologies from VMware. The award recognises our continued investment to achieve and maintain the highest levels of technical competency, knowledge and experience across VMware technologies to ensure we deliver first-class solutions, service and support for our customers.” said Claire Gibson, Head of Marketing and Strategic Vendor Alliances, who went to London to collect the award.

“It is a great honour to be recognised by VMware as the Rising Star for 2018 with our focus on the NSX / VSAN solutions. Cetus have been working with VMware since the early days of GSX/ESX Server virtualisation platforms and continue to develop customer solutions based on proven technologies. The award is a great testament to my team’s commitment and this recognition is proudly received,” said Managing Director Mike English.

If you want to work with VMware’s brightest star to solve your IT solution challenges, speak to one of our experts today. Alternatively, our free-of-charge security posture review will provide you an opportunity to discuss your endpoint security challenges, as well as your wider cyber security posture with regards to perimeter, data centre and cloud components.

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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, Our Upcoming Events, Security, Uncategorized, VMware

When ‘Traditional’ Approaches to Security Are No Longer Enough…


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Security attacks are without doubt increasing in sophistication and frequency. With the average time to detect a breach over 200 days(!) the damage an attack could cause is frightening… Simultaneously, for many organisations their IT infrastructure and networks are becoming increasingly complex – with 83% of businesses believing the complexity of their organisational structures and IT infrastructure is putting their companies at even greater risk for security breaches.

In recent years, the number of high-profile data breaches compromising sensitive information has continued to rise. Although breaches were achieved in different ways, the majority exposed the fundamental weakness of the perimeter-centric network security model: after all, once the perimeter is breached, it is difficult to stop threats from moving laterally (east-west) throughout the data centre. These attacks have proven that investing in perimeter firewalls is insufficient and that more investment is needed to secure east-west (server-to-server) traffic.

One solution is virtualisation. Virtualisation abstracts the underlying infrastructure from the applications running on top of it, giving IT departments full visibility into the data path. Abstracting applications from the infrastructure provides the ideal enforcement point to compartmentalise applications through micro-segmentation of the network. This allows simplified security-policy creation and management. It also helps reduce the overall application infrastructure attack surface and provides the ability to effectively prevent threats from breaching the data centre. Leveraging abstraction in the data centre also protects the infrastructure from any compromise.

In our attempt to help more organisations improve their security posture, we are proud to announce that last year Cetus Solutions earned VMware’s highly sought-after specialist competency in Network Virtualisation. VMware, who pioneered the term software-defined data center (SDDC), awarded Cetus with the accolade after demonstrating technical competency, experience and expertise in delivering NSX solutions.

VMware NSX is the network virtualization and security platform for the software-defined data center. VMware NSX brings security inside the data center with fine grained policies tied to the virtual machine they protect. Essentially, with NSX, IT departments can programmatically create, snapshot, store, move, delete, and restore entire networks with the same point-and-click simplicity and speed of a virtual machine—delivering a level of security, agility, and availability never before feasible with hardware-centric or traditional operational approaches.

Our Managing Director, Mike English, had a few words on the achievement;

“We are delighted to have secured the Network Virtualisation competency from VMware. In the last twelve months, we have seen an uplift in conversations centred around data center security and particularly micro-segmentation. VMware NSX’s capabilities makes this level of protection economically and operationally feasible for the first time for a lot of customers. By gaining this competency, it shows our commitment to helping customers define, deliver and manage their security strategy in line with their business requirements.”

With the threat landscape increasing ‘traditional’ security approaches are failing to effectively secure a modern organisation. Now is the time to revaluate your approach to security. Our free-of-charge security posture review will provide you an opportunity to discuss your endpoint security challenges, as well as your wider cyber security posture with regards to perimeter, data centre and cloud components.

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

Busted! Top Cloud Security Myths


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In the lead-up panic to GDPR enforcement on the 25th of May, I thought I’d go ahead and clear up a few of the cloud security myths that have been knocking around lately. As it is, according to Steve Morgan in the Cybersecurity Business Report, malware is projected to cost the world a whopping six trillion dollars a year- and that’s by 2021. And with cloud hosting getting more popular by the day, it’s nice to know where your priorities should lie while you’re trying to sort out your GDPR compliance. So, here we go! I’m counting again (if you missed that disaster on reasons to move to cloud in 2018), so we’ll see how it goes.

1. The cloud is still a new concept, and is therefore insecure.
It’s been over fifty years since the idea of cloud became an actual thing. And it was around then that the distrust started surrounding the concept. It’s an understandable worry- data in your control is far safer; you know exactly where your data is, how it got there and who has access (in theory- but we’ll save that for a further point). The point is, the cloud isn’t new. Neither is encryption or the risk of malicious people hacking in to cause chaos. As issues surrounding these breaches have come up, cloud providers have kept up and ahead, upgrading and designing new cloud solutions to ensure continuous improvement of cloud.

One of the advantages to cloud hosting is the investment cloud providers make into security. Since your data is being stored with a cloud provider, it’s up to them to update all its firmware and configuration changes. I don’t know about you, but I’m not very reliable when it comes to updating my malware or firewall. It’s so easy to ignore that annoying notification that pops up on the bottom right-hand corner of your screen when you boot up your laptop first thing in the morning. Cloud providers have much greater expertise in the area of data hosting, and they have the technical staff to deal with any issues that arise. Isn’t that one less headache to worry about?

2. On-premise hosting is best.
You gently brush your fingers down the server casing, cool to the touch, like a whisper shared only between the two of you. You know your server, it knows you. Stored in this piece of tin is not only data, but years of intimacy between you, an intimacy that you have been relying on for so long.

Except you can’t actually rely on it.

There’s a weird concept that when your data is stored on-premise it’s safer. I understand how, in our current GDPR-focused reality, being able to see exactly where your precious data is being housed can help quell fears. But in reality, on-prem hosting brings with it a whole other host of issues- issues that are your responsibility to deal with.

Take, for example, the destruction of your building. Fire, flood, paranormal activity- you get the idea. Everything goes, and it stays goes- er, gone. Then you have the possibility of questionable back-up processes, that aren’t questionable until you actually need to rely on them and realise that they haven’t been done in the last month. Oops. Then you have to ask yourself if the security measures that you’ve put in place are up to a high enough standard to protect all of your data.

And while you’re so worried about protecting yourself from the threats of the outside, what about that troublesome employee that you’ve finally gotten rid of after years of problems? Or an accidental or negligent security breach? These are far more common than getting hacked, but they could have the same disastrous consequences for your business.

3. All cloud systems provide the same levels of security.
There is a difference between a personal ‘data cloud’ and a cloud business system. One would understandably have to have far more stringent levels of security; I’m sure you can guess which. At the same time, you can’t assume that all cloud business solutions employ the same levels of security, and it’s important to make sure that you have a checklist for the kind of security measures that are required.

A ‘best in class’ cloud provider would normally have a top-quality data centre architecture that would be geographically apart (see ‘fire, flood, paranormal activity’ of the above point). Access is a big one; a good cloud provider would ensure plenty of application security that would comprise the industry standard SSL encryption. Restricted user access; does this person work for your company, and if so, are they allowed access to the data that they’re looking for? On your checklist should also be a dedicated security team who would identify and deal with any suspicious activity. And, of course, look out for ‘best in class’ security certifications to make sure that you’re in the right hands.

So that’s the myths of cloud covered. Now, imagine this; it’s gorgeous outside, you don’t fancy sitting in your grey office for the day, and your boss agrees to let you get your work done from home. Except you don’t. You find the nearest Costa/Starbucks/Café Nero with free wifi and big bay windows to let the sun in, and you plonk yourself there for the day. With your tiny laptop, you have all the power that you’d have if you were sitting in your office building. You’re able to connect to your company desktop through Citrix, and you’re able to write and edit the documents you were working on back at the office, thanks to Office 365.

Still not sure what exactly you should be worried about? Come speak to one of our experts about our free-of-charge security posture review. It will provide you an opportunity to discuss your endpoint security challenges, as well as your wider cyber security posture with regards to perimeter, data centre and cloud components.

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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

World ‘Your-Systems-Shouldn’t-Have-Gone-Down-In-The-First-Place’ Day


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Having been asked to write something for World Backup Day I got to thinking: what does ‘backup’ mean? In fairness I didn’t spend long thinking about it – it means “back up” of course. So; world backup day is about getting your systems back up then. A bit dull when you think about it; I mean – wouldn’t World ‘Your-Systems-Shouldn’t-Have-Gone-Down-In-The-First-Place Day’ be a day more worthy of celebration?

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of backing things up – to tape, to a USB stick, to the Cloud, whatever floats your boat. It’s good to be prepared for a disaster so that you can recover from it. You might call it something like ‘Disaster Recovery’ – a good, strong sounding thing, very positive.

I was chatting with one of our excellent customers at one of our excellent events the other day. He said to his colleague, in jest, “An outage – what’s one of those? We haven’t a system outage in 5 years”. I say he said it ‘in jest’, but the truth is, they haven’t. That’s because we designed and built (and also support) their global infrastructure to avoid such things as ‘an outage’. That’s because outages cost money and, in their case, a LOT of money. Incidentally, if you’re a bit sceptical that our client said this; drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with him – he’d be delighted to tell you all about his systems.

What our client has is a system that allows business operations to continue, despite the loss of individual infrastructure or system components. You might call it something like ‘Business Continuity’. Definitely better than having to recover, or to get ‘Back Up’.

And that’s what we do at Cetus. We design and build resilient infrastructures that are capable of continuing business operations in the worst of situations. We do so on premise, through the use of active/active and active/passive infrastructure solutions; we do so with our private cloud, to where we can replicate our clients’ infrastructures for near real-time continuity; and we are increasingly doing so by utilising the Public Cloud, by combining Citrix Cloud and Microsoft Azure to provide truly resilient solutions.

So here’s to World Backup Day. And if you’ve enjoyed this blog and have become engrossed – don’t forget to change your backup tapes before you go home. You never know when you might need them to get your entire infrastructure (i.e. business) ‘Back Up’.

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

Seven Reasons to Move to Cloud


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You might think that the whole hype around storing your data in the cloud will die out in 2018- especially with GDPR enforcement just around the corner. You’d be wrong.
The truth is, cloud hosting is only going to get bigger, and you’d better start getting on board! Not quite sure exactly why cloud hosting is revolutionary (and here to stay)? These are the seven reasons why you need to move your data to the cloud in 2018;

1. Flexible monthly costs.
For most organisations, an IT department- or just a room for data storage if you’re not in need of an entire department-, is one of those niggly necessities that come with running a business.. For starters, there isn’t a need to invest in a pricy mini data centre that you need to find a spare closet for (and don’t forget that you’ll need a great aircon system too- that’s an expensive closet). Installing in-house servers, data centres, additional desktop software, back-up servers…. It all adds up. Fast. But with cloud hosting, that’s an issue from days gone by. One of the biggest benefits of cloud is the reassurance of flexible monthly costs; instead of having to spend a big chunk of money on the cloud in one go, it’s easier on everyone to set up a handy monthly payment plan. So you pay for what you need, not for extra storage that won’t get filled up for a time.

2. Easy management.
Yes, easy management. Since you’re paying for a provider, all of the nightmarish installation and maintenance that comes with a roomful of tetchy technology fall onto them. You’ll never have to toss and turn all night over an IT problem, because it will all be magically fixed by morning (in theory). Regardless, with all the competition of new technologies and plenty of solutions to choose from, cloud vendors work far harder to ensure that your experience runs smoothly and that your data remains secure.

3. Flexible scalability.
Your business is fluid. We get that. One day it’s the end of the month with all of the reports to write and file away safely, the next it’s the week before Christmas and everyone is too busy chatting around the box of Roses to do much work. Maybe you’re growing as a business and need that extra bit of space? You’ll love the cloud so. Just scale up or down depending on your needs, it doesn’t matter. Cloud hosting provides the flexibility for you to access and add new features without the need to buy more hardware. What’s not to love?

4. Automatic updates.
Yep, automatic. We know that a reminder to restart your laptop for an update at 9:30am when you’ve just gotten into the office is a nuisance. Since the cloud is outsourced to a provider, any updates won’t affect you, ever. Which means that you just have to focus on what you do and let us work on the rest.

5. Affordable redundancy.
This could technically go under ‘costs’, but I can’t count to seven* and this is cool enough to have its own little paragraph. So, where does your resilience cost lie? How many back up servers do you have, and are they separated by 25 miles, nice and safe in the case of a flood or fire? All of these clever back up solutions can cost £12 million to buy, cable up and run. Which are acceptable costs for big organisations, but not so much for smaller ones. With a public cloud provider, instead of renting a big chunk of server all for yourself, you can share it with other small businesses to split the cost. Since you’re just renting a space in the cloud to store your data, unless there is a disaster it’s not actually running through to your desktop. Sharing is caring, and saving you money.

6. Disaster recovery.
Technology is finicky. Printers misbehave for fun, computers freeze for the craic, servers decide to give up on you out of the blue. You can never be quite sure about the physical box of cables sitting in front of you, and the smallest disaster could wipe all of your data in a second. Everything just gone. Which is why cloud hosting is business continuity made easy. Should disaster strike, the cloud makes it even faster to get back up and running- if you even notice it at all. The beauty of cloud is all the backup that runs seamlessly in the background. If something were to occur, provided your backup solution calls for it, your data stream would simply switch over to another bandwidth and you’d be none the wiser. That peace of mind really is priceless, isn’t it?

7. The beauty of mobile workspace.
We’re always talking about it, but it really is something. In this day and age, to be able to look out at the snow, make yourself a big mug of coffee and ring your boss to tell him that you’ll work from home today is a miracle. In fact, aside from not needing to get out of your sweatpants for the day, you may as well be in your office; you can easily access your custom applications in the cloud and crack on. And if your job needs you to be out in the field with clients, you can bring your entire desk with you in just a smartphone or tablet. That is great customer service and chances are your sales will increase. If you’re looking for a boost in productivity and revenue, then the cloud is definitely for you.

It doesn’t get more concise than that, and if you’re still not convinced of the benefits of cloud, there’s always the option of hybrid cloud. Whichever you’re thinking about, or even if you want to start your journey to cloud, Cetus Solutions is here to help transform your IT challenges into solutions.

*I can absolutely count to seven.

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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, News, Technology, Uncategorized

Reasons to Be Cheerful at Cetus Solutions


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Happy Tuesday! For those of you who don’t know, today is International Day of Happiness. It’s a day to take a step back, realise how good we really have it and do what we can to spread more cheer. And don’t we have so many reasons to be happy? At Cetus Solutions, we’ve all pottered over to work in our beloved Salford Quays in the rain, ready for a productive day and plenty of coffee (or, as we’re mostly Brits in the office, tea).

And there are so many great reasons to be happy at Cetus.

It’s only Tuesday, the beginning of the week, and we’re already motivated to smash our goals and targets. And it’s basically still the beginning of the year; nothing awful has happened just yet. It was only two years ago that we lost so many of our icons and superstars- the world almost came to an end the morning we heard that Bowie had passed. So we’re doing well! The weather is warming up, just, and summer is around the corner. Can you not smell it?!

We’re redecorating the office (slowly, but surely!), look at our fantastic Inspire room; it’s the most chilled spot in the building, and one of my favourite places to retreat to and think. And it’s just the beginning, soon the entire building will get a lick of fresh paint and a splash of colour to liven it up. Make sure to follow us on our social media, we like to share all of our design updates there!

We’re also delighted to be growing our team. I’ve only arrived myself just over a month ago, and we keep finding amazing, intelligent people who share our passion and excitement for all things IT. The office seems to be getting smaller, but our family is only getting bigger, and we’re always looking for more bright-eyed, ambitious people to bounce ideas off.

And despite the crazy weather we’ve been having (who else enjoyed the drive to work through the snow at the beginning of the month?), Britain has remained in the 19th place in a study published this morning on world happiness. Which really isn’t bad considering we’re up against 155 other countries!

Today is the best day to celebrate being happy and going that extra mile to put a smile on someone else’s face; be it your neighbour, your colleagues or yourself (make sure to stop off on the way home to get that bar of chocolate/takeaway you’ve been craving!).

At Cetus, our hosting makes us happy, and we’re proud to make our clients happy too.

Want to know how we can make you happy? Read one of our case studies to see what we 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

5G; The Dawn of a New Age for Cloud Hosting?


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If you haven’t been paying attention, 5G is all the rage at the moment. Hardly a day goes by without an organisation announcing on Twitter that it will be launching 5G testbeds here, there and everywhere. I’ve checked; at times there can be one tweet a minute dedicated to the uber-fast topic. And we’re starting to get a little excited; 4G is still fairly patchy all over the UK (try relying on Spotify on your mobile for an entire train journey through the British countryside and you’ll see what I mean) and there are already talks of an upgrade. Yippee!

But with regards to hosting, what is it going to actually mean? In the world of #ITSolutions, cloud computing and data hosting is The Big Thing. And everyone’s keen to join the hype of hybrid clouds, multi-clouds, and everything in between. So obviously, the speed at which your information will pop up to the cloud will improve. Or will it? And then we have to debate whether there will be a need for broadband at all, since our phones will essentially work better than any expensive Virgin/Sky/BT deals that come out of the walls. And what will that mean for data hosting?

Thankfully, I won’t be trying to offer you any knowledge that I’ve scraped together from my floundering research on the matter; I’ve had a nice quiet sit down with Paul Kiveal, our very own Strategic Business Development Director to set the facts straight.
So, according to the 5G Innovation Centre in the University of Surrey, 5G will run at one Gigabit per second. For those who aren’t in the know, that’s about 65,000 times faster than 4G. The bad news is, while O2 are testing the potential of 5G in the former Millennium Dome in North Greenwich later this year, it probably won’t roll out across the UK till 2020 to 2022.

And while 5G will make some impact with regards to cloud hosting, it won’t be an awful lot. When we think about latency, then yes, 5G will make it faster to upload content and it will be multiple times faster than 4G- think ten or twenty times faster. As it stands with 4G, we can easily stream videos, have Skype and WhatsApp calls easily, whereas the potential of 5G could have us downloading full movies in a matter of seconds. As users of 5G, it would be faster to consume and upload content, while the whole quality of the experience would improve. So obviously, your Citrix workspace would run considerably smoother, and uploading documents to ShareFile would take a blink of an eye.

Where there would be a noticeable progression would be around services such as Office 365 and other Saas. And when the next generation of 5G-ready phones come out (alas, our current handsets don’t have the ability to dream of anything more than 4G), then tethering will be much faster. Which means that, depending on the price plans of 5G, popping into a café to upload to the cloud using their wifi could be a silly thing of the past. That, of course, depends on the coverage across the country. As it stands, the excitement could all be for nothing if you happen to frequent an unfortunate area not covered by signal. Since 5G is more so a consumer technology, mobile working clients will enjoy the ability of guaranteed connectivity. Further driving the adoption of agile and mobile working.

And with regards to broadband, could it potentially make the platform defunct? Paul says that the idea of 5G is ubiquitous. The main drives of 5G are the realisation ‘smart’ things; self-driving cars, the Internet of Things, your dog’s collar- anything you could imagine, really. With the rollout of 5G nation-wide and easily available, we could in fact be looking at potentially removing the need for plug-into-the-mainframe broadband that we currently use.

So, while 5G will make a considerable difference in speed, for now, continuing the onwards drive to cloud and hybrid cloud solutions will depend on the progression of IT solutions. So maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to rely on tethering to our 5G phones to upload that end of the month report to the cloud, on the train, in the British countryside. Imagine. It looks like we’ll have to wait and see exactly how 5G will affect cloud hosting in the future. You’ll just have to watch this space.

At Cetus Solutions, we work with the most forward-thinking technologies to design the most reliable and innovative IT solutions for your business. Want to know more about IT solutions at Cetus?

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PS: Research into 6G has already commenced in China. What a time we live in!

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

Blog, IT Solutions, NetApp, News, Uncategorized

What’s new with NetApp ONTAP 9.3?


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ONTAP 9.3 was officially announced back in October 2017 during the annual NetApp Insight event. With it now officially in GA (as of January 2018), is it time to be looking at upgrading to this new release?

As always there is a buzz around the latest releases of vendor software to find out which of the new features are going to make the biggest impact. Whether it’s for individual user cases or a knockout blow to competitors in the market. With the latest ONTAP release there are the usual performance increases and additional effective storage capacity increases due to more efficient optimisations of dedupe and compression. However, the features that catches the eye the most and will certainly draw attention in the current security conscious business world is the additional features around security and compliance.

External Key Management
With the addition of NetApp Volume Encryption (NVE) in ONTAP 9.1 meant bringing encryption to existing arrays with the granularity of only encrypting specific volumes, previously it was all or nothing approach. The draw back has always been on box key management, meaning that if the storage array was compromised then the key to decrypt the data is held on the same array. This type of encryption and key management will fail some compliance standards. ONTAP 9.3 now introduces external key management by using the industry standard Key Management Interoperability (KMIP). 

Encrypting data is never a bad thing and now having suitable external key management control for volume level encryption can only increase compliance with GDPR just around the corner. I must point out that encryption is not mandatory for GDPR but it definitely helps mitigate risks and adds safeguards to any sensitive customer data being held at rest.

The other notable security feature added to ONTAP 9.3 is the introduction of MFA for OnCommand System Manager further protecting the data from compromised Administrator passwords. This will be done by using SAML authentication and Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) as the identity provider.

Performance 
As mentioned ONTAP 9.3 has performance increases over previous versions, this time by up to 30% via WAFL improvements, parallel processing and flash optimizations. Significant increase have been made in iSCSI parallel processing and general parallel processing of workloads allowing for higher throughput and IOPS at lower latencies.

Adaptive QoS  has also been introduced to manage QoS policies across multiple volumes. Adaptive QoS effectively automatically adjusts the defined IOPS/TB QoS policy when the volume grows or shrinks to keep the effective IOPS/TB inline with the data size change. As you can imagine without this management of potentially hundreds of QoS policies could consume large amounts of time from the storage Administrator.

Storage Efficiency
Storage efficiency increases are by up to 30% with ONTAP 9.3 by enabling inline aggregate deduplication on All Flash FAS (AFF) arrays. Inline deduplication, compression and compaction on all new volumes is also enabled by default to give the best possible efficiencies on all data.

With the Software Defined Datacentre in full swing and with vendors nowadays introducing faster than ever update cycles for software and vendors always recommend being on the latest release, NetApp are now on bi-annual major releases, it can be easy to get left behind with new features and performance upgrades. Most vendors include the software itself as part of the support fees businesses pay each year so why not upgrade to receive these latest and greatest improvements and others that could have been missed in previous updates. If updates aren’t completed regularly then you are not only missing out on virtually free performance and new features that could benefit the business but also vital security updates which are rolled into each update.   

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Martyn Lewis profile picMartyn Lewis: Enterprise Architect
Martyn is responsible to help understand customer business challenges and provides robust, secure solution ideas to drive business efficiency through change.

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

A Misconception of Citrix Cloud


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Last week, I posted a blog summarising my thoughts on the vision keynote at Citrix’s annual partner conference – Citrix Summit – and announced a series of events that we are running to share with you Citrix’s vision for the secure digital workspace and discuss why there is no better time to accelerate your journey to Citrix Cloud.

The early signs are showing stronger uptake from both prospective and existing customers to attend than any other workshop we have run before – but why? Our expectations of how technology empowers the people within our organisations to work has evolved, and along with it, so has Citrix. The role of the IT function has elevated and has equally become much more people-centric; focused on delivering a better user experience and enabling productivity at all costs. Challenges that once consumed the time, resource and money of the IT function – including the management and maintenance of environments, software versions and upgrades for example – are becoming one less thing to think about…

And this is what’s resonating with customers; why wouldn’t I want an ‘evergreen’ environment with a simpler approach to the design, deployment and management of my workspaces? However naturally with interest comes questions and following conversations with some of our existing Citrix customers I’d like to address a misconception about Citrix Cloud that has come to my attention.

Why should an organisation who has already invested in on-prem Citrix environments be interested in Citrix Cloud? After all “Citrix Cloud is a product / solution that mandates movement of the entire Citrix environment to the cloud” right? Wrong.

To begin addressing the misconception that Citrix Cloud mandates that existing customers move existing investments to the cloud, it’s best to think of Citrix Cloud quite simply as services. Services that allow you to deliver your secure digital workspace from any cloud or any infrastructure. When we talk about transitioning to Citrix Cloud, we don’t necessarily mean moving all applications and workloads to the cloud today, but instead leveraging the services that are available as part of Citrix Cloud to unlock an array of new benefits relating to the way you design, deploy, manage and consume your Citrix environment.

And it’s this flexibility around any cloud and any infrastructure that is proving powerful for our customers – many of whom have had ‘traditional’ on-premises Citrix environments for many years. Taking a step back and thinking about the bigger picture for a moment; every single one of our customers has a cloud vision for their organisation, and most a strategy. The majority are already benefiting from cloud in some way, shape or form – whether this be using SaaS applications, infrastructure, business continuity and DR or a complete cloud-first approach. So, with customers well and truly on their cloud journey, Citrix Cloud allows us to help you extend your cloud strategy to incorporate arguably the most important aspect of IT; your secure digital workspace.

Baked into Citrix Cloud are Citrix’s ethos around delivering unified solutions that integrate to provide an unrivalled workspace where experience, security and choice are of upmost importance – Citrix Cloud is no different.
Citrix Cloud is about choice – it is about providing options and managing multiple heterogeneous locations in parallel. Also, enabling flexible per-user per-year subscriptions.
Citrix Cloud is about security – the key here is that the apps and desktops, and their corresponding data, remain entirely under your control—either in your data centre or the cloud of your choice.
Citrix Cloud is about experience – For you as an IT function, Citrix Cloud enables an intuitive approach to managing users – there’s less to learn and you will spend less time integrating, installing, managing and upgrading and more time supporting the people in your organisation. By simplifying the approach we can reduce the time it takes to stand-up, configure, and roll-out Citrix technologies, so you can deliver more value to your organisation, faster.

To summarise, if you are an existing Citrix customer, there is even more reason to find out about how you can transition to Citrix Cloud. You have already made an investment in Citrix and at our upcoming events we will demonstrate how you can future proof that investment by leveraging services that will provide your organisation with even more value than Citrix does today. The best way to think about Citrix Cloud services is a way of simplifying the delivery and management of Citrix technologies and extend your existing on-premises deployments to create hybrid workspace services. You have the flexibility to deploy future workloads wherever you want and need – including public, private and hybrid cloud – but it by no means mandates an entire movement to the cloud. You decide where each workload or application best resides based on the requirements of the business; including performance, user experience, scalability and cost
(And, don’t panic… Cetus have a business case methodology to help you make the best decision for your business.)

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