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Cloud, Microsoft, Technology, Uncategorized, VMware

Prepare Your Business for Windows 7 End of Life


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Why would you ever change a good thing? Because of end of life, that’s why. Grab your tissues, we’re delving into the topic that’s provoking international furore and mourning; the painful issue of Windows 7 end of life. When it comes to desktop and laptop operating systems for both personal and professional use, Windows 7 has been number one since its release in 2009. Originally intended to be an incremental upgrade to Microsoft Windows, especially after the disaster that was Windows Vista three years prior, it maintains hardware and software compatibility. A major improvement to its predecessor, Windows 7 quickly won the hearts of every computer user worldwide. Sadly, tech hard- and software are not designed to last, and it was only a matter of time before it would see end of life. Though Microsoft has tried to ease the public into the idea of something bigger and better with the release of Windows 8 (which didn’t go down as well as expected) and Windows 10 (which just isn’t Windows 7), the truth is, frankly, hard to swallow.

“But why?” you sob, “We don’t have to let it go, no one would know!” Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that. Well, it could, but it would open your organisation to all of the nasties that would just love the chance to infiltrate your system. The main problem here is support. You might be surprised to hear that mainstream support for Windows 7 ended all the way back in 2015, which means that Microsoft hasn’t been releasing feature update and service packs since then. That might give you some hope, but alas, I’m here to dash those completely. The only reason that you’ve been safely able to use Windows 7 up until now was thanks to the security patches released through the extended support period, which will end on the 14th January 2020.

Technically, you could continue to use Windows 7 after the extended support period, but the risk of a cyberattack would be significantly higher, and you’d have to ask yourself if it would be worth the risk. Microsoft won’t be taking any responsibility for any security breaches that happen to a Windows 7 operating system after the end of life date, and any breach could land you in deep water (and a deeper fine) in terms of the new GDPR regulations. The issue with end of life is the loss of the security updates that fix vulnerabilities that hackers exploit. Any new computer viruses and malware being created would be far more advanced compared to the old security patches. Why put so much money and time into protecting your business data only to leave your organisation wide open to any cyber attack that happens to be the goût du jour? You might think that 14th of January is miles away. And it is, but in terms of IT it’s not long at all.

So, if ever it was time for a spring clean, now would be it! The more time you have to plan, the less disruption your IT team and end users are likely to experience, which is likely to happen if your software is incompatible with your new operating system. Compatibility is likely to be an issue here, as is old hardware (oh look, a new reason for your printer to refuse to cooperate) and your legacy systems. Since it’s effectively changing the very foundation on which your laptops and desktops rely on, it’s important to make sure that your systems remain interoperable with one another. Some applications might have newer, more compatible versions available which will work flawlessly on your updated operating system. Another option is to move your legacy applications to a virtualised computing environment, easing the change. Before jumping straight into an OS change, it’s important to have a strategy in place to prevent everything from going a bit pie-shaped and cause any more tears. The good news is, if you’re relying on a cloud-hosted system, upgrading your operating system shouldn’t be much of an issue at all.

With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has introduced the ‘evergreen’ Windows as a service model. This is a complete revolution in terms of OS, and it has launched the idea of a ‘final’ desktop release. Instead of having to migrate to new versions every three years, Windows 10 will continuously update every six months or so, providing continued support and patched security. With shorter release periods (only 18 months now), Windows 10 can’t be treated like a traditional version. To make things that much easier, it’s now possible for an in-place upgrade, meaning that you don’t need to migrate your data and reinstall all of your programs. Windows 10 provides plenty of new features for users when compared to Windows 7, such as Windows Autopilot, which automatically provisions and enrols your device when you sign in, provided that you’re connected to the internet.

January 14th next year will be an incredibly sad day for the millions of Windows 7 users who have so far refused to move on. We’re expecting a world-wide shortage of tissues, ice cream and Windows 10, a resounding wail of “Not Windows 7! What is this Windows 10 malarkey?” reverberating in the crisp January air. Here at Cetus we know that change is scary and unwanted. We feel the pain of saying goodbye to Windows 7, but know that when it comes to your organisation, we will help ease all parties into the next operating system step. Make sure to have a chat with our experts, who will provide the tissues during this painful time, and every other OS change in the future. If you want the most in-depth info and latest tips, make sure to register for our exclusive hands-on workshop with VMware in May.

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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, VMware

Navigate Hybrid Cloud Complexity With VMware NSX


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Chances are, if you’ve been thinking about cloud, or you’ve started on your cloud journey, you’ve heard about hybrid cloud. It’s becoming the future of not only the IT departments that run the organisations, but the very culture and fabric of the organisation itself. Employees can no longer afford to be sitting in an office all day; the very definition of a lot of roles requires the flexibility and fluidity of working remotely. With that, organisations are having to modify and modernise along with this new wave of thinking. IT has had to move away from centralised data centres to a model where applications and data are mobile and easily distributed. In the race to stay relevant and dynamic, many organisations have taken the leap from managing a single data centre to adopting cloud- which usually involves more than one. But the trick with all of this digital transformation is meeting the needs of users without jeopardising security. Having so many clouds can be tricky. We’ve already discussed the issue of cloud sprawl storing data all over the place, which makes it somewhat of a challenge to identify it all and ensure that it remains secure.

Cloud promises so much. Remote working, secure storage, content collaboration, scalability, flexibility…. Plenty of yummy buzzwords that organisations want to achieve. Though, they have quickly realised that it’s not as easy as it looks, especially when it comes to incorporating and managing multiple clouds. And it’s not that they’re foolish or unprepared; deploying cloud can be a significant nightmare, full of terrors and bumps in the road, and sometimes it’s just not possible to foresee the need for something until you’re too far gone. In the haste to join the Cool Cloud group (who wouldn’t, there are badges), many organisations just didn’t have the time to address the divergent expectations and demands on IT and the business, leading to misalignment and a lot of frustration.

VMware solves the issue of the multi-cloud with their NSX solution. VMware has been a leader in the IT industry for decades, and is known for providing the modern network virtualisation solution that aligns business and IT around the same objectives, which is pretty important when IT is what drives your business. It’s comprised of several solutions that work together to create a well-rounded solution. NSX Data Centre reproduces your entire network model in software, making it easy for you to create and provision any network topology in seconds, whether they’re simple or complex multi-tier networks. It creates a common operating environment for all of your applications, either on-premises or off. A streamlined workflow is enabled by automation, meaning that you’ll be able to get more work done faster, with security that’s built-in and tied to your apps and data. NSX Cloud provides consistent networking and security for applications that run natively in public clouds, while delivering enterprise-class capabilities- just like micro-segmentation, to enable easy control over your east-west traffic. It results in precise control over your cloud networking and increases network visibility and analytics. NXS Hybrid Connect delivers secure, seamless application mobility and infrastructure hybridity on-premises and in the cloud. This provides high-performance, highly secure and optimised multi-site interconnects.

That all sounds fab, but what does it actually mean for you? What VMware NSX delivers is a unified platform, which is exactly what you want when you’re dealing with complex cloud environments. Since it’s a common operating environment, it provides a single point of control to break down silos and give you more freedom. It delivers high operational efficiency, eliminating manual network configuration and reconfiguration with its super smooth automation, which allows you to quickly grow or shrink applications across environments. With high workload mobility, NSX enables a fast, low-touch migration process that allows you to realise secure, seamless app mobility across all of your sites and clouds. And finally, with NSX technology, you can easily improve standardisation, by provisioning and managing networks and security services within a single management interface, for consistency and scale across all of your environments.

VMware is a leader in virtualisation, that buzzword you’ve been hearing about a lot but figured you’d look into it at another time. It has been a leader in enabling organisations to navigate multi-cloud complexity in this digital era. With the cloud freedom that it delivers, your IT and your organisation can become partners in innovating across clouds, without adding to cost and complexity. Here at Cetus, we love VMware, and we think that NSX is the bees knees (last year we earned VMware’s specialist competency in Network Virtualisation for our experience and expertise in delivering NSX)  If you want a bit of cloud freedom for yourself, make sure to have a chat with our experts, who love a good multi-cloud challenge.

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

 

Blog, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, Continuum, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

World Backup Day 2019: Losing Data in the Cloud


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Happy World Backup Day 2019 everyone! Or, as we call it here at Cetus, World ‘Your Systems Shouldn’t Have Gone Down In The First Place’ Day. We say that, because backups are probably one of the most important things you can do your organisation. You know how you feel when you’re strapped for cash and you’d forgotten that you’d popped a £20 into the little zip-up pocket in your bag ages ago? It’s like a little present to future you from past you. Those kinds of presents are important to show yourself how much you care about you. It’s the ultimate love, really. And trust me, you’ll get that same fuzzy feeling- and a whole tonne of relief- when disaster strikes and you’re the one who planned for it. It’s nice to be the hero of the office every once in a while. So, now that you’ve received the obligatory Public Service Announcement (backup today so that you won’t be the April’s Fool tomorrow), lets get into the gritty stuff; losing your data in the cloud.

“What?!” you mutter at me. I’m not crazy, stick with me on this. Trust me, I’m as horrified as you are. Surely, surely, the whole point of the cloud is to pop important stuff in there and sit back and relax as your office/laptop/briefcase burns, knowing that all you have to do is get your hands on another device, log in, and forget about the flames behind you. Ah, you’d be mistaken. Losing your data- even when it’s stored in the cloud- is entirely possible, and it happens more often that you think. And it’s not just Google Drive or Dropbox, it’s your favourite, and critical, SaaS apps.

It happens to all of us; you’re looking through a cluttered folder of documents trying to find something specific and it just gets a bit too much. There are some really useless files in there, clogging up your workspace. Half of the useless ones haven’t been edited or opened in the last five years. Why keep them? There, all deleted. You’re feeling more zen already. If deleting useless files feels this good, maybe it’s time to turn to the minimalist life. Who needs forty different suits? Two will do. Same with shoes. Donate all those old books, DVDs, CDs, the box of unwanted presents from your evil mother in law. You feel the calm setting in, life is that much brighter. Until your manager/supervisor/boss asks you for a particularly important file that you realise, in sudden horror, you deleted in a moment of deranged thinking. Oops. Maybe you need that clutter after all. Other times, you might be collaborating on a project in Sharefile and someone doesn’t pay attention and clicks ‘trash’. Or, that project that you started 12 months ago and was scrapped? Well it turns out it’s received another green light. Too bad you deleted all the work in a moment of frustration and defiance.

But sometimes it’s not you, it’s the SaaS app itself. No, it doesn’t have an agenda against you. They hold large amounts of data that are bombarded with edits and additions. Overwriting is a pretty common issue for SaaS applications, especially when large data sets are imported into the app via a bulk upload. There can also be an issue or two when third-party applications are used to manage the data inside the base SaaS app. A bit like having two opposing football teams. They’re there to do a job, but they’ll slide tackle each other every so often to show dominance.

And then there’s always that absolute twit in the corner who’s always up to something. You know the one; comes in late, the first one out, takes an extra twenty minutes on their break. Does the absolute minimum just to keep the Powers That Be happy. Well, this very person could also delete their own files. Why? Maybe they quit. Or maybe they think that they’re going to get kicked out. Or maybe the feud between them and your manager (the basis of all the office gossip) has reached the point where they just delete important documents out of spite. Whatever it is, those files are unrecoverable, they’re going to hop on over to the next job, and you’re the one who will have to run around picking up the pieces and trying to fit them all together again, before the customer/your scary boss finds out. Not all ‘accidental deletion’ is accidental.

Organisations like yours are so reliant on your IT infrastructure and you depend on seamless access to it anytime. If it all went down you’d probably end up with an office full of expensive, and sleek-looking, paperweights. And the amount of business data your organisation will realistically produce in the next ten years will grow exponentially. With every file created in your business, the more complex and important your infrastructure becomes. And it’s the very same instance for cloud. As I wrote before, at Cetus we take backup and Disaster Recovery very seriously. So much so that we actually have a whole branch to our organisation, Continuum, which is devoted to DRaaS and backups. Traditional disaster recovery methods are basically a series of fallible, interconnected steps. Think about tapes; they don’t exactly stand up over time. Increasing backup windows prevent complete backups being produced. The availability of sufficient compute and storage resource to provide a complete recovery target. Skilled resources not available to enact a recovery or conduct regular tests of the disaster recovery plan. It’s a domino effect of time delays and uncertainty in the case of a disaster. With Continuum, you can tick off several key functions that your organisation needs. We provide a fully-managed failover, regardless of whatever level of backup, archiving and disaster recovery you require. Testing is important, no matter where your data is stored. Continuum completes tests on whatever regularity you require, using a combination of automation and specialist knowledge of your environment. It’s also scalable (what isn’t in the ideal cloud world?), so Continuum will grow with you as your organisation grows over time. By providing business continuity and disaster recovery, you know that, even in the cloud, your data is safe.

Now that I’ve set the panic in you, (and hopefully given you the magic antidote), have a chat with our Continuum backup specialists, tell them that I sent you, and know that you’ll never be an April’s Fool again!

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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

Take Control of Your Data Centre With Hyper-Converged Infrastructure


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It’s really hard to be part of an IT department these days. Having become the very lifeblood of an organisation, the loss of a work-reliant component of any kind can cause a revolt, scenes from the Apocalypse or even mass mutiny. Whether it’s a device, the network, internet access or email, the failure of just a single one can make your organisation grind to a halt. Let’s face it, no one wants to press something in the effort of fixing an existing issue just to get inundated in phone calls by grumpy users who can’t access anything. I’m sure that there are IT managers up and down the country nodding along, absentmindedly caressing their internal scars from the first ring of the phone and getting hit by flashbacks of an incident that frankly only an IT member can understand.

Finally, some IT genius somewhere in the world wanted to minimise the complexities and frustrations for the rest of the tech community by creating a system so simple, so easy to manage and so flexible that it would make sliced bread look like a stupid innovation. This amazing creation is called hyper-converged infrastructure and IT departments the world over are bowing down to whichever person designed it. HCI promises operational efficiency, reduced costs and manageable scaling that combines all of a data centre’s necessary components (think of your storage, networking backup and everything else) into a pre-packaged unit that can be controlled and managed by a single console. Frankly, I’d say the only reason that we don’t have a national holiday devoted to this mind-blowing achievement is the fact that cloud computing blew in, screaming for attention, and took over the hype. So, I thought it would only be fair to give HCI some of the spotlight and cheerleaders, by giving it the attention it deserves and listing its many benefits so you become Team HCI too.

Buy more to reduce cost
Obviously, anything that reduces cost becomes automatically more interesting to those who make the big decisions and have the Financial Department around their little fingers. When it comes to IT, the organisations that want to invest in any new hard- or software generally pump money into the sleekest, fastest and newest toy that’s on the market. In terms of HCI, you’ll be delighted to discover that the cost of entry of this whole new system is actually lower than you’d expect. That’s because hyper-convergence uses an economic model similar to that of public cloud providers, by using low-cost commodity hardware and scaling the data centre little by little. With this ‘Lego’ building-block approach, your IT can expand as and when you need it to.

Simplify your operations
A day in the life of your IT team involves a lot of admin and everyday tasks. Add in the complexity created by so much tech, and your IT department can quickly become overwhelmed by the little bits, rather than focusing their energy on the projects that really need their attention. Since hyper-converged infrastructure systems consolidate core storage, backup, deduplication and networking, goes without saying that hardware clutter and touchpoints get drastically reduced. All workloads fall under the same umbrella which makes it easier to migrate VMs between different appliances or data centres. With all of that previously pesky everyday admin duties taken care of, the IT department can either get smaller, or redistribute their focus into something more important. Legacy data centre hardware gets folded into HCI, which means that there’s no need to have several specialists in each resource area running around the office- IT staff only need a broad knowledge to apply infrastructure resources to meet individual application needs.

Make automation work for you
Legacy infrastructure has proven to be quite a hindrance in the face of the latest waves of tech modernisation. Because they can be so varied and complex, automation has been impossible to adopt. As hyper-converged infrastructure works on the principle of a software-defined data centre, automation of routine operations can be achieved with centralised management tools implemented. Everything is included in a unified environment, taking the headache of implementing hardware from various manufacturers or product lines. Adapting automation increases efficiency of the IT team, keeping the business as a whole agile and competitive.

Data protection
Organisations are looking for the Holy Trinity when it comes to their IT infrastructure; the ability to work remotely, having the most agile and up-to-date infrastructure, and keeping everything safe. With an organisation’s network no longer confined to the four brick walls of the building, protecting data, applications and workspaces from the evil lurking beyond the perimeter has become even more important, especially in the wake of Gen-V cyber attacks such as WannaCry. Hyper-converged infrastructure is a leader in cloud efficiency and storage, incorporating snapshotting, data deduplication and other data protection features which is exactly what you want in your corner when disaster strikes and you need to recover everything. It offers higher resiliency than traditional legacy systems, with the scale-out model relying on data being spread across multiple nodes throughout a single, or between several, data centres. If one appliance or rack goes down, you won’t have to worry about performance or availability suffering.

Feel the freedom of flexibility and scalability
Another step away from the archaic confines of a legacy system, HCI allows for greater flexibility for your data centre. Since it’s based in software, it takes a ‘Lego block’ approach to scalability, with each HCI appliance a self-contained unit that includes all of the hardware resource your data centre needs. This allows increased compatibility, and a quick expansion of data centre capacity by simply adding on an extra unit or two when needed. There’s no need for complex update plans each time you need to expand, nor do you need to plan years in the future by estimating what compute resource you might need and investing in costly data centres all in one go, just for it all to be old and out of date by the time you need it.

Simplified procurement and support
Since HCI is basically a plug-and-play unit that incorporates pretty much everything you would need in your data centre, it’s quite similar to the offerings of systems integrators. By getting one point of contact for the life of the system, your IT team can cut out a lot of unnecessary faffing about between different vendors and hardware models. This makes it more cost-effective than integrated systems, especially when it comes to upgrades. When the manufacturer makes any upgrades, the units gain the benefits automatically, without having to replace hardware.

At Cetus, we have a long-standing relationships with leading HCI vendors. Have a chat with one of our experts, and experience the benefits of HCI first-hand.

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

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Citrix, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, Technology, Uncategorized

Citrix Workspace: Delivering The End User Promise


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Citrix is a lot of things to a lot of people. Here at Cetus, we’re a Citrix Platinum Partner- which we shout about at any opportunity. To others, they’re the ultimate Summit event, the paracetamol for an IT headache, or a name heard in passing when referring to ‘the IT system’. Regardless of what Citrix is to you (why not share down below?) we can all agree to one universal thing; Citrix keeps its promises. There was some scepticism when Citrix made some huge announcements and changes during Citrix Synergy last May, promising to deliver them all within the following 90 days. And sure enough, Citrix kept most of them, completely transforming the suite of products on offer.

User experience has become something of a pioneering point for workspace platforms. IT teams have realised that the platforms that they roll out have to be easy to manage and maintain and be user friendly. With the latest updates to Citrix Workspace, this has very much been a focal point for the developers. But that’s not all; Citrix Workspace unifies solutions in a single management plane, reduces complexity and simplifies solution delivery and management. It can be the way to move 100% to the cloud, or help organisations extend their existing on-premises software deployments. And that’s before thinking of the user. So, how exactly has Citrix delivered the end user promise?

All in one
Back in the day, the goal for the IT department was simply to manage and secure users’ apps, desktops and data as easily as possible. That’s all grand and good, until users go AWOL and refuse to adopt the platform- leading to shadow IT and a nightmare for the IT department. Focusing on the needs and wants for the end user is the Citrix approach for this one; by putting the user at the centre of everything there’s less chance of mutiny. By thinking like employees, systems become easy to use and the rate of adoption improves significantly. Who knew it could be so easy to deliver a simple, secure digital workspace?

We all work here
The whole point of Citrix Workspace is to be a productivity tool that provides a unified experience, enhancing the work lives of users, not causing more trouble. There are so many types of user, and we’re not even talking about the distinct difference between remote and office workers. If you stand at the door of your office and look out over all the people that are working away there’s no chance that they all do the same thing and need an identical workspace. To be successful, IT needs to be able to support all of them. Your workspace needs to be able to deliver all of the apps and data that the users need- Windows, mobile, web and SaaS- and all on the device they happen to be using. What makes Citrix Workspace different is the delivery of a consistent user experience and contextual access to apps and data. It allows access that seamlessly changes based on context, maintaining security and great user experience.

Integrating the workspace
One complaint that comes up over and over again is the actual screen that users interact with during a workspace session. Other solutions often deliver a wall of icons. Citrix Workspace delivers an integrated experience for workers, providing access to all of their apps from a single interface, but also easily accessed by a single sign-on. There’s no need to be constantly trying to remember passwords for different apps that all require updates at different times.

Access everything from one screen
How many places do you store files? On your laptop, the network drive, Dropbox, the dusty hard drive that resembles a brick (that needs its own power source?), that trusty USB with a generic logo that follows you from desktop to desktop…. We try and store things where they belong, but it’s not always possible. In other workspaces, you need to launch the app for the file that you’re trying to open first, wandering around your desktop till you find it. But with Citrix Workspace, files are available in the context of the application, so it’s just a case of clicking on the file and letting it do it all for you, locally when on a secure network or with a hosted app on an untrusted network.

We love Citrix and we love Citrix Workspace. Because we put end users as a focal point in our solutions, you can be guaranteed that your employees will work more productively. Have a chat with our Citrix Platinum Partner experts to refresh your workspace, or check out our events page, where we regularly host Citrix events.

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

 

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

How to Avoid the Common Pitfalls of VDI


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With the explosion of cloud and mobility changing the way people work completely, organisations have had to adopt more fluid digital workspaces to be able to support a dynamic workforce in the era of consumerisation. Digital transformation has quickly become the answer to the wave of innovation and new ideas behind the rapid development of technology. To keep up, organisations need to move from traditional desktop models to the digital workspaces that are tuned for mobility, a workforce using new device form factors and the agile delivery of new applications. Desktop virtualisation is the name of the game in this instance, and in response IT teams leverage virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to do this.

VDI is one of those handy little tricks that every genius in the IT department has in their box of tools. For your IT admins, VDI can reduce desktop administrative and management tasks and enable apps to be easily added, patched and upgraded. It also allows your admins to manage security and data protection from a central point of control, which in the long term will provide your organisation with a lower total cost of ownership and improved data protection. There are so many reasons why running desktop operating systems and applications on virtual machines, either hosted on-premises in your data centre or off-premises in the cloud to access via desktop clients or mobile devices, but there can be a catch. Here are the most common pitfalls that organisations come across when adopting VDI, and how you can avoid them.

As with the majority of projects that affect employees, incorporating VDI in your organisation is going to cause change. And for the most part, change is one thing that people really dislike. Clear communication is vital for project success, involving all parties early on will engage users and let them know what’s coming. Set up a schedule for periodic meetings that detail the upcoming changes and what benefits they will bring. It’s important to take a step back and consider exactly what you’re trying to achieve with virtual desktops, before you even start thinking about IT requirements. What are your users’ needs? By involving your users from early on in the process, it helps to manage expectations and understanding, which will result in their accepting of the end solution. Regardless of what project you were adopting, it would ultimately fail if your users have the perception that it won’t meet their needs or expectations.

Applying the right team to your VDI project can be easier said than done. A very common mistake of app and desktop virtualisation projects is to employ a team of virtualisation architects instead of desktop and application administrators. While architects might seem like the logical first step, the reality of VDI is that virtualising desktops and apps is very different from actually virtualising infrastructure. Admins who are skilled in virtualisation typically don’t build their own workloads, instead they focus their skills on operating servers in a virtualised environment. Build a team full of the people in your team who design and manage desktop and application environments. With desktops now hosted in the data centre, it’s important that the storage systems hosting the desktops and the networks used to access them are designed correctly. Involve the storage, server and network specialists in a coordinated and collaborative fashion.

The whole point of deploying VDI is to benefit the user, so it’s important to define your app and desktop virtualisation use cases properly. Use cases are built on types of workers and their job requirements, the applications and devices they use, their requirements for storage and multimedia performance and their network connectivity restraints. Consider the culture and needs of your organisations and your attitude towards the use of infrastructure when defining your workflow requirements. Thinking strategically, such as asking yourself if there are users that require high-definition video, will ensure that users receive the resources and system performance appropriate for the work that they do and the way they perform their tasks. Avoid oversimplifying your users needs, as different workers in the same office setting have varying performance requirements.

Conducting a pre-assessment for your new desktops and applications is crucial to gain an understanding of the workloads that will run in the virtualised client environment and their associated technical requirements. Without one, you’ll design the solution on nothing but assumptions, which will pose a risk when it goes live. By considering the applications that your users are using, how long it takes to launch them and how they perform on a physical desktop, the pre-assessment can be useful in determining how many users are actually using the applications and how it would impact the way the applications are being delivered. It also considers the utilisation of CPUs, memory, disk and network bandwidth in the physical systems, which is crucial in properly sizing the underlying infrastructure.

Before, in a traditional desktop environment, each user had full access to their own disk spindle- or dedicated hard drive, whichever the case may be- so poor bandwidth for WAN sites could be accepted and endured. When you move to VDI, it’s important to understand exactly how it will impact the performance of network bandwidth, Storage Area Network array processor utilisation and display protocols. These variables can affect application performance, which should have already been fully explored through engagement with users. Your users can help you generate realistic Proof-of-Concept or pilot workloads to validate their requirements for graphic bandwidth, storage, I/O and more. If your WAN links can’t provide the bandwidth for a VDI environment, or the latency is too high, you might want to consider local deployments.

Regardless of the size of your organisation, deploying VDI will be a complex procedure. You might have several thousands of employees on hundreds of different applications, including speciality products for particular job functions. You might have existing application deployment strategies for commonly used applications, but speciality apps can easily be overlooked, being easier to just install them for the small number of users who require them. Obviously, the need for a deployment strategy for all applications will directly impact the on the way the virtual desktop environment is designed. If applications are installed on user login a VDI environment can be properly designed to meet the constraint. Do tasks in parallel to help your project team meet your deployment deadlines. Have a clear understanding of how you will deploy, update and manage all applications that are used before considering how applications will be packaged and how wide-ranging updates will impact performance.

Finally, it’s crucial to avoid skipping or mismanaging the pilot project. Failure is a serious risk if your organisation skips the pilot phase, or if you run a pilot that doesn’t produce a clear outcome. It should have clearly defined objectives and a specified timeframe, engaging real users from various use cases to pilot the environment and generate meaningful load data. It’s important not to test the VDI environment on IT administrators first, as they aren’t representative of your entire organisation’s user base. It should engage the desktop support teams to provide end-user support to prevent the project team from attempting to provide 24/7 support to users.

With these tips, you can be sure to design a VDI environment that will provide users with most of the functionality and performance of desktop operating systems and applications along with higher availability and a lower risk of hardware failure. At Cetus, VDI is something that we’ve deployed many times and we like to think of ourselves as experts. If virtual desktop infrastructure is something that your organisation is looking to deploy, make sure to speak to our experts.

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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, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

How to Prevent Cloud Security Threats


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The end of winter is always a little grim, especially around the UK. The trees are bare, it gets dark way too early, the two-minute dash to the car threatens a soaking and the prospect of sitting outside with a cold beer/cocktail after a long day of work is surprisingly not tempting at all. I hate to be the harbinger of bad news, but it could get worse. Imagine coming in one morning, wind-swept and dripping, to the news that overnight your cloud was victim to a cyber-crime? At that point a cold beer in the snow seems like the best remedy for the situation. Despite everything, the internet isn’t as safe as you’d think, with devious no-gooders lurking around every corner, eager to take advantage of any vulnerability to make a quick buck. It’s especially important when your organisation is connected to the cloud, where your data is internet-facing instead of nicely locked up in an on-prem data centre. It doesn’t mean you should go out and raid Curry’s PC World for enough data storage to build a makeshift data closet though. Here are a few tips to keep your cloud secure, while enabling the innovation, data access and flexibility that you wanted in the first place.

We’re all in this together
The beauty of the network is that it’s all inter-linked. That’s how you can collaborate so easily, and throw your data and apps onto the cloud to access them whenever, wherever. Just remember, every ‘point of entry’ can be the weakest link, so it’s important to educate everyone in your organisation on how to protect themselves to protect the wider network community. It’s important to involve your entire organisation, making them aware that cyber security is just as much their responsibility as it is yours. Unfortunately, the biggest percentage of criminal infiltration comes down to users accidentally letting the cyber criminal in, usually through phishing or malware attempts. Phishing is a bigger threat to your organisation than ransomware is, and it all comes through malicious emails that get acted on. In this super quick blog post, I’ve already covered how to reduce the risk of getting on the phisherman’s hook. Also, it’s important to set up a (non-judgemental) plan for any user who feels that they might have been compromised, without them having to resort to throwing their laptop out of the window. Then you can be sure that they won’t be throwing out hardware willy-nilly, or sweeping incidents under the rug that could cause you harm in the long run.

Secure your data backup plan (just in case)
Data loss is a serious worry, always. Thankfully, in the case of cloud, this worry is slightly less. By storing your data in the cloud, it’s super simple to link your network to a backup storage solution to make sure that whatever happens you’ll be secure. We think that backups are so important that we’ve created a whole extra branch to Cetus; the Continuum Service. I’ve already touched on the 21st century’s answer to tape backup (it’s replication, by the way), and that’s what we offer with Continuum. It’s a full infrastructure recovery, and not just your data- making sure that your underlying server and desktop infrastructure is a-ok to get your business back on its feet in record time. It’s testing, on a regular basis, automatically verifying the integrity of each virtual backup server on its way to cloud, so that you know if something happens there’ll be minimal disruption. It’s a fully-managed service that allows your peace of mind knowing that we have a whole team on the situation, 24 hours a day. It’s a holistic backup and recovery solution that provides local file and VM restoration.

Who has access?
You can build the strongest walls around your building, adopt the most up-to-date firewall and screen every little thing that enters your network, but sometimes it’s important to be weary of the trojan horse plodding through your hallways every day. And by trojan horse, I mean an employee that could be stealing, irresponsibly sharing, or compromising your data. As an IT department, it’s important to assess who has access to what. There is absolutely no reason for Sharon in HR to be able to view or edit financial records, and what on earth could she be doing popping in twice a week at 3am? Establish access controls so that you can manage risk, tying user identities- even external ones- to back-end directories.

It’s important to put security measures in place that will ensure that your data and apps are protected. Why not embrace the latest technologies and adopt a smartphone access control system that will allow you to manage users and assign door access from anywhere?

Encryption and passwords are key
Your cloud can be quite vulnerable. Sitting up there, without the safety of your watchful eye, anything could be happening. It’s a bit like a spaceman floating in the big black expanse that is space, tethered to the International Space Station. He is protected by nothing more than his spacesuit, which shields him from the general elements, but there’s only so much you can do if he gets hit by a meteor. What he needs is an extra layer of bubble wrap and diamond outer shell. In the case of your cloud, this would look less rigidly cosy and more like good passwords and encryption.

In this example, we’re going to look at your spaceman’s bubble wrap; your password. Files in your cloud are zipped and protected with passwords, so it’s important that you choose a strong one. Having a unique password for your cloud is a must- if a hacker gains entry, they would have access to a huge amount of your data so it’s crucial that you keep it as safe as possible. Look into multi-factor authentication (which I’ve already discussed in detail in this post), adding an extra level of protection that you can control with fingerprint and retina biometrics.

If passwords are your spaceman’s bubble wrap, then encryption is his diamond shell, and it’s crucial. Cloud encryption allows your data and apps to be transformed by encryption, shooting up to the cloud securely before being stored. Encrypt at your network’s edge, ensuring that the data gets protected before it even leaves your network. But make sure to keep the encryption and deciphering keys stored away from where you store your data!

So, before you cobble together a makeshift data centre in a panic to protect your information, take a look at the level of security your cloud solution allows. The integrity of your cloud is vital for the health of your business; protecting your data and the access to it should be a priority for IT teams. Contact our Cetus experts to see how we can provide the ultimate protection for your cloud environment.

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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, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized, VMware

Transforming Your Cloud with HCI


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Over the Christmas holidays, I went on the usual trek with my mother in the beautiful Slieve Bloom Mountains in the middle of Ireland. It’s something she does every week, heading out early in the morning to slip and slide in the mud, count trees and enjoy the fresh air, coming back with nothing but new blisters and 20+ km under her belt. Every time I go home, I always end up spending half a day with her on some forlorn mountain or canal path, enjoying some quality time and a respite from the craziness of Manchester. The thing about my mother is that, regardless of being an avid trekker for over a decade now, she gets us lost, every time, without fail. I knew this, even as we planned the loop we’d walk, even when she kitted me out with all her walking gear, and even as we set out on that chilly morning. It’s daunting, going out in the wilderness with her terrible navigation skills and a couple of paper maps- how old school- just knowing that those two hours we’d planned on would end up being double. Sure enough, four and a half hours later, red-faced and exhausted, we finally got back to the car, just in time for the sunset. And that was without getting lost!

It’s the exact same thing with your cloud journey. From where you’re standing now, it looks like an impossible trek, a steep trail that leads into the whiteness of the clouds. It’s so much more complicated than plucking some whisps from the air and staking your claim. There are so many different aspects to consider, from finding the right solution designer and designing it, to actually deploying your apps/desktop/files and all of the bits in between without causing your company hundreds of thousands of pounds in downtime. And you have to be an expert in every single bit. But unlike our water-logged orientation maps, getting to your cloud destination is as easy as taking out Google Maps. Or, as we call it in the world of digital transformation; Hyper-Converged Infrastructure.

When you’re looking at digital transformation by adopting a cloud operating model, it’s important to simplify your IT infrastructure- and that’s where HCI comes in. It integrates compute, storage, networking virtualisation and management from a single plane to make it easier for you to reduce administrative tasks. It creates the foundation for your modern data centre and private cloud architecture, sort of like a map on which you add the little details; a ridge over here, a cliff over there….

But how do you know if you find the right HCI solution? People always say ‘oh you always have your head in the clouds’ like it’s a relaxing thing- it’s not. We were literally walking in the clouds for a majority of those four and a half hours and all it did was obscure the view, drown my hair and dissolve my eyebrows clean off (a very scary sight, let me tell you). But when you’re in the thick of your cloud journey, it isn’t so bad. Look for a HCI solution that combines simplicity, reliability, predictable performance and scalability to turn that misty blob into a fluffy ecosystem that feels like cotton candy and tastes like doughnuts (I can’t promise on the doughnuts).

Here at Cetus, when it comes to cloud we recommend VMware’s vSAN. It offers an exceptional storage solution and it provides a sunny, clear path to an organised, modern virtual infrastructure, so that you don’t start your cloud journey looking into a dark forest of unknowns. It doesn’t require additional software and it consolidates all of your data centre functions to reduce that pesky complexity, while abstracting compute, storage and networking resources. Combining direct-attached storage devices, vSAN forms part of a vSphere cluster that creates a distributed, shared data store. Its HCI that reduce the issues regarding complexities and incompatibilities of traditional data centres while offering a software-defined approach to control and manage your virtual data centre environment.

When my mother gets lost on the rocky face of the mountain, she has no one to rely on but herself. Or sometimes me, but I’m useless without a phone signal. Starting your cloud journey doesn’t have to be a dreaded first step into the gloom, and you don’t have to do it alone. With the Cetus team behind you, feel confident that no matter what ravine lies ahead we’ll guide you around them and straight to the cloud without fail. If you want to hear more about VMware make sure to chat to our experts, who love nothing more than cloud and HCI.

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

 

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

Five Signs You’re Ready to Embrace Cloud


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Unless you’ve been spending the best part of the last decade on a remote island devoid of human contact, chances are that you’ve heard a lot about this ‘cloud’ malarkey. And it’s a difficult one; there is just so much information out there, and it doesn’t always overlap. Even in your organisation, there can be significantly polar opinions on what’s best for your situation. In one ear, you have an IT specialist whispering “It’s the best thing since the Nokia 3310” and another one in your other ear muttering “It’ll take years to adopt, if we can even afford it”.

And both angel and devil in this scenario (decide which is which yourself) are right. Cloud is the best thing since the introduction of the Nokia 3310 redefined the use of the word ‘brick’, catapulting the world of on-the-go tech into a whole new revolution (even if that was just being able to play Snake at the bus stop). Sadly, we are constantly sold the idea of a plug-n-play service that will make a significant difference to your workforce. The thing is, it’s not the rainbows, unicorns and fluffy bunnies that we were promised. When it comes to cloud adoption, the focus is usually on going fully-SaaS almost overnight, which just isn’t really possible for long-established organisations. But it’s not all doom and gloom; if you pick the right IT solutions provider your dreams can become a reality, and deliver everything you expect. Still not sure if it’s for you? Here are five signs that you are ready to embrace cloud;

You’re adopting the new ‘mobile workforce’
Your business is growing and you’re employing more than ever. The millennial workforce has grown up with a significant experience in emerging tech, and they don’t know what life is like without it. The brightest graduates just out of uni are used to having their mobiles, tablets and laptops on the go. Let’s face it, they’re the generation that have mastered paying attention to multiple screens at once, all while walking, eating and doing whatever.

The problem is, they don’t want to be in an office all day. While the older generation are stuck in traffic three miles from the office, your mobile employees are already on their second coffee of the day, just finished replying to their emails and ready to get some real work done. Likewise, they’re more than happy to jump in the car, train or plane and join a conference, exhibition, workshop or a customer’s site and make sure they get all their work done on the spot. Gone are the days when your workforce would have to sacrifice a day to get the train to the other part of the country for an event, completely unavailable for anything else.

Work is no longer the be-all and end-all of a person’s life- living is. The modern workforce is picky. They no longer have the loyalty of generations before, sticking with one company until they retire. They want the best, and that includes the possibility of a more flexible work-life balance. So being able to work from anywhere, anytime makes far better sense. And that’s where the cloud comes in, allowing your employees to log in to their corporate virtual desktops from whatever device they happen to have on hand, regardless of where they are.

It’s time for a refresh
All tech, no matter how advanced it might seem, has it’s sell-by date. It’s a fact that a lot of organisations are quickly coming to realise. Chances are, this is the first time you’re looking at putting your servers in the cloud. Why not just replace your whole infrastructure like for like and be done with it? You’d forget how many bits of hardware makes up your IT closet, and how much of an investment it is just to keep the lights on in your data centre.

Now, it’s not as easy as clicking your fingers and just connecting everything to the cloud. There are plenty of reasons why it’s not feasible immediately; being chained to your legacy system, not having the internet connection to safely rely on cloud…. But don’t despair, there is a way to create an infrastructure so that it grows and evolves with your organisation and the latest trends in technology. Say goodbye to aging infrastructure, out-of-date applications and those constant reminders to get the latest version of your software. Poof! All of a sudden it’s a thing of the past.

It’s time to think about disaster recovery
Your organisation is built on a foundation of data. Whether that be customer lists, orders, customer data, the random PowerPoint presentation for the upcoming Directors’ meeting- you get the idea. If you couldn’t power up your laptop in the morning every employee in the company would essentially be a very expensive seat warmer. Disasters do happen, and if you can scoff that you haven’t experienced any yet, then you’re living on borrowed time. A single server fault could erase years of vital information in less than a second.

It’s even more scary when the facts state that the cost of an hour of downtime can cost from £6,100 to £534,000- and that includes small businesses too. Multiply that by the average time it takes to recover; 18 and a half hours. Could your business survive such a dramatic loss of productivity and reputation? 

By adopting the cloud and moving your data across, the majority of your disaster recovery planning is done. You can be safe knowing that your good solution provider will ensure that your data is being continuously backed up, testing the virtual backup server daily. When you do face your disaster, it’s reassuring to know that it’s simply a case of downloading the latest backups of your files and getting back down to business.

You’re growing, but you don’t know how to deal with it
Every organisation wants to expand. It’s the sign of success, of how a moment of entrepreneurship can turn into an achievement, and with every new person starting with you is an extra person who believes in your company and your message. But with every rapid expansion brings its own unique growing pains, and your organisation is no different. It’s only so easy to outgrow your physical infrastructure and network, leading to a loss of productivity. Which is exactly what you were trying to avoid in the first place, right?

Here’s another great way that cloud can make a difference. You obviously see a bright future for your organisation; full of targets being met, goals being blown right out of the water, the need for bigger offices, glittering awards nights and interviews from business newspapers on how you made it (may as well think as big as you can get, right?).

With your data, virtual servers and all of your storage in the cloud, it’s an easy fix to make your infrastructure flex with your needs. Instead of having to buy more servers and bandwidth, it’s a straightforward case of just renting a bit more of the cloud. And if you don’t need it later on, it’s quick and painless to reduce the size of what you need. As a certain meercat likes to say; “Seeemples!”

You want to beef up your data security
There are so many threats to your organisation. You always have to take care that your customer data collection and storage meets GDPR regulations, stay vigilant of potential Gen V cyberattacks, make sure that your ex-employee didn’t walk out with your company projects, there are plenty of things that could possibly go wrong. Not only do these really mess up your day, in only the politest of terms, but they could really cause you harm in the long run, too.

By running your organisation in the cloud, a significant portion of the manual processes that can lead to issues can be avoided. With automated backups, you can be sure that you’ll never have to run around patching up forgotten vulnerabilities and bugs. Having your data on the cloud makes it easier to see what your users are accessing, effectively abolishing the possibility of a user with a nefarious agenda sneaking around behind your back.

Every so often, you’ll change the door code to the office. That’s to secure your building from ex-employees who, let’s face it, have no business popping in anymore. It’s the same principle with your data. Chances are, you haven’t done anything to give them a reason to want revenge, but since they have no business rummaging around your secure files you want to make sure that they can’t. And that’s a simple thing to do with cloud, giving you the over-arching control over your users, without impeaching their self-governance.

Looking at a cloud adoption from afar can make the whole thing seem like an impossible task. When it comes to moving everything from on-premises to the cloud smoothly, while also keeping your business up and running with no disruptions, it’s akin to having your cake and eating it. At Cetus, we’ve been doing this for a while, and we’ve built a team of experts that has coordinated many a cloud project from start to finish. We’ve partnered up with Citrix and Microsoft Azure, the experts in cloud, to design, build and manage your cloud deployments. Speaking of Citrix, our Cetus experts will be attending the partner-only Summit event. We’re expecting to hear plenty about cloud migration and reducing IT costs, and we’ll be talking about it for the rest of the year so make sure to keep an eye out on our events page to hear all about our upcoming Citrix events! In the meantime, our experts are always on-hand to answer any question you might have (especially if it’s cloud-based!)

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

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

Season’s Greetings


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When I was a lad, Christmas meant snow, and ‘Morecambe and Wise’ of course, but mainly snow. I know everyone says that this was what it was like in the past; but I’ve got actual photographs to prove it. Good times indeed.

How times have changed. In the UK we’re now more likely to get snow in March than December – I guess that’s progress … or something. So, this year there might not be snow at Christmas, but there are definitely clouds … a lot of clouds: Office 365, SalesForce, Azure, AWS, Google, Private Clouds and, of course, hybrid-clouds.
So, in these cloudy times; what presents might Santa be bringing on Christmas Morning? I’ve reminisced about past presents, so how about:

A Personal Organiser?
A very handy present indeed. You can put all of your appointments in it; take note during meetings; keep contact details. And, when you get back to the office; you can transfer all of this useful info into your chosen productivity tool. A very useful work tool indeed. Now that’s what I call progress.

As an alternative; why not consider our Digital Workspaces? They’re also pretty handy: with one of these, you can take your entire working environment to your meeting, or on the train, or to Christmas Dinner. You can remain connected, and up-to-date, at all times.

A Rubik’s Cube?
Enjoy hours of fun trying to get all six sides the same colour; realising that every minor change you make will have repercussions to each and every side of the puzzle. But at least you only get frustrated when things don’t work out. As an alternative, why not try managing multiple clouds as part of an ever-evolving cloud strategy: that can be a bit like a Rubik’s Cube … but with serious cost (and career) implications if you get it wrong.

The instrato approach to this challenge is called ‘Cloud Orchestration’. We can help you to take all of the, constantly evolving, moving parts of a hybrid-cloud solution; and to adapt your strategy in response to change. This allows you to deliver on your business requirements without wondering “what if I just change that bit?”

A Mouse Trap Game?
A bit old-school, but still a classic. It’s fun trying to get all of the pieces connected in just the right way so that the ball traverses the numerous hurdles to trigger the trap. There’s only one way to put the pieces together; it takes patience, a good eye and a sense of what you’re trying to achieve.

At instrato, we see the challenge of building a resilient Wide Area Network solution as being a bit like that; so … we cheat. By using Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN); we can avoid the complexity of the bit in the middle. We can ensure that the ball always reaches, and triggers, the mouse trap.

A Microscope?
One of my favourite presents from days gone by. Microscopes open up a whole new world of detail that, without the right tool, go unnoticed and unappreciated. It’s only when you can see the intricacies of how a system works, that you can truly understand what is going on inside.

Our Cloud Analytics solutions are (a bit) like a microscope. We can provide new insight into the detail of what is going on inside your hybrid-cloud solution; allowing you to identify threats, bottlenecks and potential cost reductions; ensuring that you continue to deliver on your cloud strategy.

At instrato we’d like to make all of your Christmases come at once. We can help you to start the new year with a clear, adaptable, cost-effective hybrid-cloud strategy that will definitely be ‘not just for Christmas’ – instead, our solutions will be a gift that keeps on giving year after year. Why not give us a shout in January to see how we can help you to have a ‘Happy New Year’?
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year – we look forward to working with you in 2019…

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