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GDPR – That ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ might just be a train coming!


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Having been asked to blog about GDPR; I decided to avoid the standard, attention-grabbing approach of stating the size of the fine for a breach of the upcoming GDPR regulation. If you’re not already aware – check your junk mail for GDPR workshop invites; it’ll be somewhere in the header or first paragraph.

I’ll start, instead, with a question: Are you struggling to get a handle on GDPR? Welcome to the club! As organisations of all sizes stand trapped in the headlights that are ‘the May 25th GDPR deadline’; who better to turn to than the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for some clarity. The ICO provide a helpful ‘What’s New’ section; so, I thought I’d take a look at February’s ‘news’. It included such helpful guidance as:
The term “right” in the provision does not mean that Article 22(1) applies only when actively invoked by the data subject. Article 22(1) establishes a general prohibition for decision-making based solely on automated processing.

And:
Article 35(3)(a) refers to evaluations including profiling and decisions that are ‘based’ on automated processing, rather than ‘solely’ automated processing. We take this to mean that Article 35(3) (a) will apply in the case of decision-making including profiling with legal or similarly significant effects that is not wholly automated, as well as solely automated decision-making defined in Article 22(1).

So that was helpful.

Seeking even greater clarity, I turned to Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner; who has been doing the rounds ahead of the May ‘deadline’. Ms Denham is clearly passionate about her mission, and speaks very clearly on the importance of GDPR; however, there is a degree of ambiguity in her messaging. In various blogs and speeches this year; she has provided the following guidance (which I’ve taken the liberty of categorising based on her perceived stance):

Very Hard: “Last year we issued more than one million pounds in fines for breaches of the Data Protection Act, so it’s not a power we’re afraid to use.”

Hard: “There will be no ‘grace’ period as organisations will have already have had two years to prepare.”

Vague: “Compliance should involve an ongoing effort in which organisations have to show they are putting the key building blocks in place”.

Soft: “While there will be no grace period – you’ve had two years to prepare – I know that when 25 May dawns, there will be many organisations that are less than 100% compliant.”

Very Soft: Ms Denham has said her organisation “is not planning to take a hard line on the 25 May implementation date for compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation”

I hope that makes things clearer for you? No? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Cetus has run a series of GDPR workshops over the last year and they’ve been attended by a wide range of people, with an equally wide range of opinions on GDPR. These range from “it’s a disaster about to happen” to “thought I’d pop along to see what all the fuss is about”. The funny thing is that they were all correct – it’s just a matter of how well your preparations are under way that defines the potential impact to your organisation come the 25th May.

Common amongst many of our workshop attendees was the fact that ours wasn’t the first (or even second) GDPR workshop they’d attended. However, the post-workshop feedback pretty much unanimously agreed that our approach to explaining GDPR was the most helpful they’d had; but why?

Unlike others; we described how a multi-partner approach needs to be taken. We combined deep subject knowledge from a GDPR practitioner; with a holistic security approach that looks to redefine an organisations digital boundary. At the end of the workshop we’d provided clear, practical next steps to allow the attendees to prepare for the deadline.

So, is GDPR just a legislative thing? Once again, I would like to quote Elizabeth Denham – “Only one in five people in the UK trust organisations to look after their data”. That’s a pretty miserable statistic. You might ask yourself – are you one-in-five, or are you one of the untrusted 80%? It could be more important to the future of your organisation than ‘mere’ legislation.

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Blog, Cetus Solutions, News, Uncategorized

Happy International Women’s Day!


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I’ve previously been conflicted about whether I agree with International Women’s Day. I absolutely agree with what it stands for, but in my eyes, we have a responsibility to empower inclusion and equality everyday. Therefore for me, International Women’s Day is about celebrating how far we have come in improving gender equality.

Surrounded by strong women, I am fortunate enough to work for an organisation where women’s voices are not just heard; we are valued and influential. In an industry that is traditionally dominated by men (I found a dismal statistic that suggested women make up only 16% of the workforce in IT/tech companies in the UK) it makes me super proud that 42% of my colleagues are women.

Moreover, these women are not just working in the business; they are women that are leading the business… Whilst a man founded Cetus, women form an integral part of the leadership team and contribute greatly to the success of the company, with 60% of the directors who participate in board meetings being women. And that’s representative across the business – our senior management team headcount is 50% women.

From my perspective, working in an environment where your career success is defined by your contribution to our mission to help our customers; and not by your gender is an empowering place to be. And whilst, I share some positive reflections on my own personal experience at Cetus, I appreciate there is still work to be done to ensure gender parity in the wider workplace. It’s something that we all need to be mindful of 365 days a year… not just on International Women’s Day!

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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 Hosting, IT Solutions, News, Uncategorized

Citrix Summit 2018


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This week, I’ve been in Anaheim at Citrix’s annual partner conference – Citrix Summit. The event provides an opportunity to hear from Citrix’s executive leadership team about the vision and strategy for the year ahead, share industry perspective and innovation, and attend a range of interactive breakout sessions that focus on how Citrix technology can be applied to initiate change, transform organisations and solve real-world challenges to improve the way people work.

For me, Citrix Summit always proves to be invaluable. In the busy nature of every day work life, it can often be challenging to find time to fully embrace and evaluate new concepts, approaches and innovation. With the industry moving at pace, this is just one of the reasons why I love Summit… it provides an opportunity to hear, see, discuss the future of the workspace among friends and peers.

With Citrix experiencing plenty of change within the last year – including former CEO Kirill Tatarinov’s departure – I was apprehensive to see how the Citrix story had evolved. However, from the opening keynote it was evident was that Citrix’s technology focus on ‘people’ has filtered through to the top.

David Henshall proved to be a welcomed and refreshing leader – addressing critics from early 2017 head on by acknowledging that some negative press that Citrix received was justified yet by no means acceptable to the business. He continued to discuss how Citrix has turned around to end the year on a series of records including; record revenue numbers, record cash flow, record profits, record share price and record innovation – with 122% increase in new patents filed in over a year, an 80% increase in product releases, and 4 analyst leadership positions for EFSS, Mobility, UEM and Networking.

More exciting to see was Citrix’s secure digital workspace vision, which in my opinion, is superior to any other vendor in this space. Simple, secure and unified. Visionary enough that people understand the direction, development and investment Citrix are moving into the future, yet real enough that customers can get on board with that vision today and accelerate their cloud strategy to achieve benefits and eliminate / manage challenges right now.

“The cloud is not a destination… It’s the beginning of a new journey.”

Citrix’s products have evolved into solution areas; Citrix Workspace, Citrix Networking and Citrix Analytics with people-centric embedded security at the centre. The benefits of using Citrix technology together as a unified solution rather than separate products is core to the Citrix story and it’s because of this integration why Citrix stands out among many vendors. With the workspace, networking and analytics solutions integrating together to provide an unrivalled workspace where user experience, security and choice are of upmost importance. And, on integration… Microsoft corporate vice president for Enterprise Client & Mobility, Brad Anderson, joined the keynote to describe a deeper integration and partnership between Citrix and Microsoft than ever before.

As a Citrix Platinum and specialist partner, we are so excited for 2018. This year there is promise of faster, focused innovation and upmost support to accelerate customers to benefit from Citrix Cloud Services. It’s not about workloads… It’s about people. And we look forward to helping you enable your people, with Citrix, in 2018.

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

Citrix Summit Tech Series – Smart Deployments


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It has been two months since I attended Citrix Summit and the amount of cloud conversations that we are having with our customers has rocketed. The majority of which are hybrid cloud / multi cloud conversations; or customers that have started the journey and are now looking to increase performance or management. 

Citrix Cloud is really resonating with our customers – both large and small. I will pen a blog specifically on this subject later in the month, but today I want to touch on two features of the Citrix portfolio and show how they are enabling our customers to make the transition to cloud hosted desktop and application delivery.

The first element of the Citrix solution that I wanted to cover is Smart Scale. Smart Scale is a component of the Smart Tools set that comes as part of Citrix Cloud. It allows the Citrix administrators to intelligently control the power state of the virtual desktop estate based on the required usage.

Let’s consider it in the context of a 500 concurrent user deployment for a typical 9am – 5:30pm company in the UK who wants to move to Azure. Without Smart Scale (or a lot of static manual work) they would need to pay Azure costs for 500 virtual machines for the full 744 hours a month, on the presumption the month has 31 days. Now think about how many hours are those desktops actually providing user services? Consider 2am in the morning, or perhaps on a Saturday afternoon whilst the match is on…! Using Smart Scale we can power down (and therefore not pay for) desktops that are not in use, and power them back on as needed to meet demand.

 Let’s talk through the math…
No Smart Scale:
500 virtual machines x 744 hours per month = 372,000 hours of cost per month
With Smart Scale:
The requirement is only 136,200 hours of cost per month!
That is with 10% of the desktops on 24×7 (37,200 hours) and 90% of desktops on 10 hours a working day with assumed 22 days per month average (99,000 hours)

As you can see, the power of Smart Scale to save costs – over 60% – when hosting desktops in the cloud is a very powerful enabler.

Now let’s couple this with the second element of the Citrix Portfolio that I wanted to talk about – Citrix Workspace Environment Management or WEM (yes another acronym sorry!) WEM is based on a late 2016 acquisition from Citrix of a company called NorSkale. 

I will write a review on WEM as whole at some point, however for now I wanted to focus on one key area – resource optimisation. WEM provides the ability to reduce RAM and CPU usage within a virtualised desktop environment by up to 70%. If we consider this reduction again in terms of costs when hosting desktops in the cloud (or on premise) we can get more users on that Azure instance type and further reduce costs.

If we combine these two technologies with the rest of the Citrix portfolio then we can start to significantly reduce costs and help our customers make that move to the cloud a reality, while maintaining end user performance and business security at the same time.

Want to hear more about this, Citrix Cloud and all the announcements from Summit? Speak to one of our cloud experts today.

robRob Sims – Senior Solution Architect
Rob helps customers to understand their business challenges, and guides them to leverage technology as a mechanism for change.

Blog, Citrix, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, News, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

Citrix Cloud: The Coping Mechanism for Digital Disruption


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In most organisations at least one commonality exists; nobody likes unnecessary complexity. And, perhaps contrary to many stereotypes, least of all the IT department. So much so, many organisations that I have spoken to recently have prioritised simplification and automation among the highest business objectives for 2017; in order to increase their businesses agility, improve their ability to react to changing requirements and demands, and to speed up the time to value when delivering IT initiatives. 

This comes as many businesses are admittedly struggling to keep up with the constant pace of workplace change, innovations in technology, and the increasingly digital landscape in which we operate. Whilst business leaders recognise the value that digital presents including; improved productivity, effectiveness, engagement and profitability; standing in the way of achieving these objectives is complexity.

As a result, many find themselves in a state of digital disruption, with the organisations failing to react to changing workplace landscapes, user demands and organisational pressures quick enough to sustain a competitive advantage in challenging markets whilst maintaining the level of security required in today’s modern workspaces.

In addition, for many organisations it is becoming increasingly complex for their IT department to manage mobile workspace infrastructure – with vast amounts of different applications to install, ever-changing user bases to account for, challenges in forecasting capacity, both known and unknown security threats, constant installing of updates and investing in infrastructure to meet changing and unpredictable user and business demands.

This is where Citrix Cloud comes in. Citrix Cloud is a secure, evergreen SaaS like control plane that unites and integrates all of the Citrix technologies to deliver a unified administration, user experience that overcomes the challenges presented by the digital landscape – delivering workspaces the way you want that are “Secure by Design”. It has quickly become the fastest and most flexible way to securely deliver applications and data to any device, over any network, whilst simplifying the management of your secure digital workspace in the process.

In Jan 2017, I was fortunate enough to attend Citrix’s annual partner conference, Citrix Summit, and saw first-hand how and why Citrix Cloud is going to be a game changer for businesses in 2017. Quite simply, Citrix Cloud enables customers to cope effectively with digital disruption by removing complexity and empowering IT departments to say yes.

Over the past few weeks we have been running a collaborative series of workshops with Citrix SE’s to share insight and recommendations with organisations about preparing for the transition to Citrix Cloud and Hybrid Cloud strategies. Due to the positive feedback from these sessions, we added a number of additional dates for March. So if you would like to explore the features and benefits of using Citrix Cloud services, understand Citrix’s vision and roadmap for 2017 – including their strategic alliance with Microsoft “Better Together” – then we would love you to join us at one of our upcoming events.

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

Citrix Summit Tech Series – HDX . NOW & .NEXT


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Sitting in the airport on the way home from Citrix Summit, I found myself mulling over all the cool announcements and updates that had been shared and how exciting being a Citrix mobile workspace architect will be this year. So I thought I would start a blog series and cover some of these topics. Over the next few weeks keep tuned for an architects view on what’s new and exciting from Citrix in 2017.

My core ethos for virtual desktop and application delivery architectures are easy to follow;
deliver an amazing end user experience and be simple to manage.

After this the rest seems to take care of itself (with the right amount of thought and planning) but its these reasons that keep me coming back to Citrix and in delivering the first ethos the HDX protocol is key (and king). Now there are many aspects of HDX that would warrant putting pen to paper but its ability to deliver on the visual elements are what the user will see every time they interact. So let’s have a look at what’s going on here and to start I think a recap on the last 6 months and XenDesktop 7.11 is needed.

HDX.NOW
So HDX.NOW (my term not Citrix) has had some very nice updates in the XenDesktop versions since 7.6 that enable choice for the admin and deliver exceptional end user experiences. Specifically though before 7.11 we had two main (not limited to) protocol modes, but had to make a choice as the session started on which to use, these were known as:

  •  264 (Thinwire Advanced or SuperCodex)
    Great for Video playback and delivering a great user experience but at a cost of CPU on the server side VDA
  • Thinwire+
    Great for more static text environments. Great on server side VDA resource and great for older or low powered end point devices.

With the release of XenDesktop 7.11 we have a new mode known as Adaptive Display v2 that removes the need for administrators to make that upfront choice. This new mode is simply activated by a policy allowing HDX to run Thinwire+ by default and then switch dynamically to H.264 when it detects moving images within the users session or application. This can be seen in the image below, red and blue are ThinWire regions while the green videos will be rendered by h.264.

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This really cool advancement ensures maximum server side scale, least network bandwidth usage and the best end user experience regards less of content type. Delivering on both my primary ethos at the same time! For more info on this see this Citrix blog.

It’s not just for video that HDX.NOW is providing an amazing user experience. Checkout the video below I recorded at Summit with the amazing guys in the Demo Sandbox.

 

What we are seeing here XenDesktop HDX 3D Pro, Windows10, Nvidia GRID and a Raspberry Pi for the end point, delivering seamless 3D graphics.

HDX is working over only 5Mbps of bandwidth and delivering full screen real time 3D rendering with smooth and responsive interactions (even with me trying to master a 3D space mouse for the first time), HDX reduces the image quality during motion and then builds back to a pixel perfect lossless image when you stop moving. This build to lossless technology allows precise movements in high powered applications with zero quality loss when viewing.

These are just two great feature of the HDX.NOW that showcase some of the power HDX is delivering to customers right now. Now you might think that with such amazing results from the existing HDX protocol that Citrix would sit tight and rest for a while, but this is not the case.

Spending some time with the product guys for HDX revealed what they are calling HDX.NEXT, a complete and revolutionary upgrade to HDX that will be available in the next release of XenDesktop. Having watched demos of XenDesktop running HDX.NEXT over 250ms latency and 1% packet loss I can say the results are amazing. Quicker in most tests that a fat client PC, quicker video response, quicker file transfers and smoother graphics, it’s a game changer for virtual desktops for sure.

On top of the amazing performance increases we also get a 60% (yes sixty) reduction in bandwidth usage and a small increase in server density!! Simply incredible news. Don’t believe me see the results from LoginVSI testing below.

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The continued improvements in HDX over the last few years have ensured the solutions we deliver continue to meet our customers end user demands and keep the ICT teams delivering on the original promises of the solution. The world of end user computing is ever changing and the demands on bandwidth and datacenter server capacity ever increasing, HDX is fighting back and remains a core component for delivering our ‘Better than a PC’ experience.

Want to see this and all the announcements from Summit? Come to one of our free update events, network with peers and see how Citrix are delivering on Cloud, Security and User Mobility in 2018.

robRob Sims – Senior Solution Architect
Rob helps customers to understand their business challenges, and guides them to leverage technology as a mechanism for change.

Blog, Citrix, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, News, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

Citrix Summit 2017


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This week I attended Citrix’s annual partner conference – Citrix Summit – in Anaheim, California. As a specialist Citrix Platinum partner, we attend the event each year to ensure we are primed to inform our customers about the latest updates, announcements, vision and roadmap. You can register here to hear Cetus and Citrix deliver the very latest updates from Citrix Summit. 

The event kicked off with a vision keynote which allowed the senior leadership team at Citrix, lead by president and CEO Kirill Tatarinov, to offer perspective on industry transformation and position Citrix’s vision for helping customers leverage innovation and strategic partnerships in 2017 to achieve business objectives and outcomes.

Throughout the entirety of the keynote, tech talks and the numerous breakout tracks, Citrix’s strategy was clear and consistent. To provide integrated technology services that make apps and data secure and easy to access, and as a result help organisations of all sizes achieve the speed and agility necessary to grow and succeed in a rapidly changing world.

Within the content, some key themes emerged and took predominant focus in my opinion; Citrix’s Cloud Strategy, the strategic partnership with Microsoft, and integration of solutions (in terms of user experience and administration).

Citrix’s Cloud Strategy
There is no hesitation that Citrix are rapidly moving towards a cloud-first strategy, with Citrix Cloud providing a single place to access all Citrix technologies in the cloud. It’s quickly becoming the fastest, simplest and most flexible way to deliver Citrix technology to any device over any network – therefore a very interesting and attractive update was the launch of Citrix Cloud Accelerator; a comprehensive set of transition and trade-up offers for customers who own existing XenApp or XenDesktop licenses and want to move to Citrix Cloud. Also made available is a XenApp on Azure Cost Calculator, which is a tool that Cetus can help you use to provide you with a complete set of cost estimates for deploying Citrix XenApp on Microsoft Azure. In addition, a new Citrix Ready HCI Workspace Appliance Program was launched that enables hyper-converged appliances from hardware and storage partners to connect into Citrix Cloud.

Strategic partnership with Microsoft
Over the past year, Citrix and Microsoft have built the foundations and now Citrix are stepping it up a gear to further accelerate their joint innovation.

– The integration of Citrix NetScaler Unified Gateway with Microsoft Intune
Citrix unveil the integration of NetScaler Unified Gateway with Microsoft EMS. Together, Citrix and Microsoft joined forces to deliver to our customers a solution that offers conditional access for mobile users.  Conditional access delivers an added level of security for mobile users which helps customers protect their on-premise resources

– The launch of XenApp Essentials and XenDesktop Essentials
Available in the Azure Marketplace, XenApp Essentials and XenDesktop Essentials make it easier for customers to accelerate secure app delivery and cloud-based Windows 10 VDI, empowering IT to align apps and desktop services with business needs, while delivering the superior experience, reliability and value associated with XenApp and XenDesktop.

– Collaboration between Citrix & Microsoft on Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS)
The expanded Citrix partnership with Microsoft includes powerful collaboration to significantly enhance value for Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) customers with Citrix capabilities for delivering enterprise-grade productivity combined with device and data security managed over the network. This Azure-based Citrix solution for EMS will include micro-VPN capability for secure, identity-based access to on-premises applications on EMS managed devices, providing the most comprehensive mobility solution available in the market. In addition, later this year, the solution will also include versions of Citrix market-leading productivity apps, such as Secure Mail and Secure Web that customers will be able to manage with EMS.

Wrapping up this blog for now on the note of integration. At this years Summit there was a big focus on integration of solutions, from both an end user experience and an administration perspective, echoed in a joined up product strategy. To find out more, and hear what we feel are the most pressing updates, make sure you register for our update events, taking place in various locations throughout the UK.

Register for our upcoming cloud events, where we will demonstrate how the cloud can transform your work environment.

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