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Remote Working, Managing a Team and Life as a Mum: A 5-Day Blog


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Role: Service Delivery Manager, Cetus Solutions

Day 1 – And so it begins..

Today has been strange but positive. We are in the initial stages of remote working and we are working hard to ensure sure the rest of the teams can work effectively from home. There is a lot of uncertainty around “what happens if…” – which naturally is difficult to answer.

Part of my plan for the Service Desk is to hold daily calls with those working remotely. We’ve decided that Microsoft Teams is the way forward for all our chats, calls and meetings – thankfully it’s easy to use, even for a non-techie like myself! We are having video calls – this feels bizarre. Despite us working with technology everyday it’s surprising to see just how uncomfortable we all are seeing ourselves on video. Personally, I have found myself sitting up, breathing in, doing my hair and cringing (a lot!)

Day one done and dusted, a productive day = happy teams!

Day 2 – Toes in the water  

We’ve had a good day today. The team have been busy working on our own internal plan to iron out any issues and ensuring readiness for our full remote working policy that will be rolled out in a few days.

We’ve also been working flat out with requests from clients urgently needing to get their solutions up and running. Everyone I have spoken to seems to be in the same boat – frantic, chaotic and still can’t quite take in what’s happening, but things still seem to be upbeat. It has been uplifting to speak to people who are still managing to have a little chuckle, along with a few “the world’s gone mad” remarks before getting down to business. There is a strong sense of us all being in this together.

Day 3 – In for a penny, in for a pound

The office was eerily quiet today, most people who can do so are now working from home. As you can imagine this is causing plenty of issues for the Service Desk. We use Citrix here at Cetus, our tech teams have laptops but for everyone else thin clients connecting to the Citrix gateway is standard stuff. There will be some changes to adjust to for those who are not used to working remotely.

 Most of the issues we are encountering are users trying to get used to working a little differently. It’s funny how something as simple as logging on in a slightly different way can really throw people – myself included. Not sure if this is exacerbated by the general feeling of panic we are seeing across the nation. There is pressure for us all to rapidly adjust to the change.

 The schools will close today, so I’m enjoying the calm before the storm, making the most of what will potentially be my last adult interaction for months (aside from the odd take-away delivery driver or cashier at the tills). Such a daunting thought!

Day 4 – And we’re off!

Today is the day, anyone who can and wants to work from home is doing so. We still have a small team working in the office who are practicing social distancing. It is a very strange feeling. Like most of the country I am trying to balance working full-time, keeping two children occupied while striving to maintain some form of normality.

I got up, showered, dressed, put some makeup on and opened the laptop ready to go. My first Teams video call was at 10.30am (hence the need for some makeup) whilst I have embraced the working from home movement, I don’t think the world is ready to see my “just got out of bed” look just yet.

Thankfully, everything worked seamlessly for me, logging in to our new Citrix VPN meant that I could work from home as I would if I was sat in the office – I even put Absolutely Radio on to get true office vibes. The only thing missing was the terrible jokes and banter. I never thought I’d say this but I miss those IT crowd jokes – a LOT.

Today’s calls were really productive and I felt like everyone was set up for the day, the afternoon calls were less productive, but I’m fine with that, it’s just nice to have the gang back together.

Day 5 – What now?

 After the announcement came through from Boris Johnson, 100% of the Cetus team are now working remotely, along with the rest of the country. We had a flurry of activity this morning, but most people were expecting it and had their plans firmly in place. Now the test really will begin. There is always the question of whether a service desk can be effective when working remotely.

Will they do their work? Will they be able to perform their jobs? Will calls be answered? How will they help each other? We’ve even had customers asking if we’ll still be answering calls and the answer is of course “yes.” We use soft phones for calls, Teams is open all day every day. In fact, I would say I’ve spoken to my team more since we’ve been working remotely.

Our afternoon calls have turned into more of a catch up with everyone, and we’ve realised just how important that human interaction is – we were all dreading the thought of video calls at the start and now we are really enjoying them. I’ve even had a few external video calls with clients that were very well received, everyone is in the same boat, working from home and there now seems to be a sense of acceptance of things.

Who knows how we’ll feel about it all when we’ve been doing this for a few weeks but for now it’s going well.

 

What I’ve learned 
-I sound horrendous on video calls (I am very northern!)
-I look horrendous on video calls 
-Headphones and curly hair are not a good match
-Humans thrive off interaction with other humans – Fact!
-Kids have a knack of being able to embarrass you at any given moment
-People find the above point highly amusing
-It really is good to talk 
-Getting up and getting dressed for work every day is important

How I’ve felt

-I’ve found it hard sometimes to not constantly know what’s going on, I usually hear everything in the office
-At times it has felt lonely – strange considering there are people in my house and just a video call away
-I still need someone to speak to and run my thoughts by, good and bad (make sure you still have a sounding board)
-I have found I am not in this alone, everyone I am speaking to is experiencing a wave of emotions and we’re all on this roller coaster together

Technology has been the critical factor in getting things to work in these challenging circumstances, I truly think without Teams and Citrix we would have struggled massively, not just with performing our own work as a company but also to support our clients which is, of course, our highest priority during this uncertain time!

Credit: Service Delivery Manager, Cetus Solutions

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

Life after death – still stuck with Windows 7 and Server 2008? 


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Life after death – still stuck with Windows 7 and Server 2008? 

As the literary saying goes ‘The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. Many of us have found this to be true when migrating away from Windows Server 2008 (R2) and Windows 7.  

Whether due to budgetary or resource constraints or application incompatibilities, the effect is the same. We’re now faced with the prospect of retaining a legacy, out of support, insecure component right at the heart of our organisations, whether that’s in our datacentres or on our endpoints. 

Microsoft has already released the first extended security updates for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 and already bad actors are working hard to reverse engineer those updates and create exploits. It may not be this month or the next, but it’s inevitable that working exploit code will soon surface, and not just for these vulnerabilities for any vulnerability discovered in the future. 

Faced this with prospect, how do we secure our organisations?  

Accelerated Migration 

The best route with the most value is still to continue with migration. 

At Cetus we have a proven migration methodology and a range of technologies to assist you with your migration. We can help you overcome the challenges preventing migration. Not only does this relieve the headache of worrying about security, you’ll also be able to take advantage of new features offered by modern operating systems. We can help you get the most out of these features to reduce costs, improve productivity and justify the cost of migration. 

Extended Security Updates 

If you’re not able to migrate, consider extending your support to continue to receive security updates. 

Microsoft offers up to three years Extended Security Updates (ESU) for both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 (R2) 

Organisations can purchase ESU at any time during the next three years. If an organization waits and purchases ESU for the first time in year two or year three, they will also have to pay for the preceding years. Additionally, ESU for Server 2008 R2 requires Software Assurance (SA). 

Alternatively, migrate these workloads to Azure and receive free ESU for up to three years. Cetus can assist with a proven migration methodology and advanced migration tools. A migration to azure can be a surprisingly low risk and easy option. 

Compensatory Controls 

If neither migration nor extending security updates are viable, then we must consider how we can improve the security posture to compensate for retaining vulnerable operating systems 

AV and VLAN based firewalling provide incomplete protection. To improve posture, we must supplement these with extended controls. These controls act beyond just threat detection and response and are implemented outside of the operating system to separate the attack surface from the protection. 

Infact these measures shouldn’t just apply to legacy out of support operating systems but should be implemented for all your cloud or datacentre workloads. Some of the core compensatory control are described below. 

Distributed Firewall 

A Distributed firewall provides protection not just between VLANs but between machines in the same VLAN and extends a consistent firewall beyond the datacentre into the cloud. This micro-segmentation helps to contain threats and prevents the lateral spread should a machine be compromised. Even where communication is permitted, Layer 7 inspection ensures the communication is legitimate and detects known exploit attempts, blocking traffic to prevent compromise in the first place. 

Workload Behaviour Monitoring 

Hypervisor behaviour enforcement can learn a Virtual Machines good behaviour and detect and respond to abnormal behaviour. Breaking the cycle of the cat and mouse game of chasing bad behaviour and instead focusing on permitting only what we know to be good. 

Application and Desktop Virtualisation 

Application Virtualisation allows us to separate insecure Windows 7 apps from secure Windows 10 endpoints. By bringing the Windows 7 apps into our datacentres we can extend datacentre controls to Desktop Operating Systems. 

Desktop virtualisation goes further, allowing us to bring not only the app’s but also the endpoint OS into the datacentre. Replacing the Endpoint Operating system with a thin-client OS reduces the attack surface significantly. 

Application Containerisation 

Alternatively, Application Containerisation allows is to package legacy Windows 7 Apps in a secure container and run as an application on a Windows 10 endpoint. The secure container adds additional security and provides a layer of abstraction to prevent malicious behaviour affecting the endpoint. 

Remember, these compensatory controls are not just great for mitigating the vulnerabilities in legacy operating systems, but they also greatly improve the security posture for modern Operating Systems too. To find out more information about how they work or to get help with migrations or ESU talk to Cetus. 

 

Credit: Sam Mulhearn – Solutions Architect, Cetus Solutions

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

Windows Virtual Desktop– Everything you need to know in three minutes!


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What is it?
Windows Virtual Desktop is a desktop and app virtualisation service running in Azure.

It consists of three things:

  • The Entitlement – this is the right to run your instances in Azure and the right for users to connect to those instances. It’s available via Microsoft 365 Business/E3/E5/A3/A5/F1 or as a standalone subscription (e.g. Windows 10 Enterprise E3).
  • VDI Infrastructure services such as a gateway, a broker, license server, and a provisioning engine. There is no charge for these services.
  • The Cloud operating System – included with your entitlement. (more on this below).

WVD supports a choice of cloud operating systems:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2, 2016 or 2019 (you will require additional RDS CAL licenses).
  • Windows 7 Enterprise (with free extended security updates).
  • Windows 10 Enterprise.
  • Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session. An offering unique to Azure, allowing you to provide a Windows 10 experience, while achieving better density by allowing multiple users to connect to a single instance and share resources.

Additional to the cost of your entitlement you’ll also consume Azure instance costs such as storage, compute and bandwidth. There is no additional cost for the Cloud Operating System license this is included with your entitlement.

Why should I care?

Windows 7 – if you’re not able to fully transition from Windows 7 because of app compatibility issues use WVD to provide access to your app and get free access to extended security updates.

No Capex! – WVD desktop provides the potential to deliver a workspace solution with no capital expenditure.

Adjacent Resources – if you’re already transitioning your datacentre to Azure, WVD enables you to keep your user workspace close to your apps and data.

Scale Fast! – if you’re suddenly faced with a requirement to provision a workspace solution for additional users, either through M&A, seasonal demand or rapid growth then WVD can provide extra capacity in minutes.

New Economics – if you’ve considered virtualising desktops or apps in Azure before but found the cost prohibitive you might find the business case stacks up with WVD.

Why should I consider adding Citrix to WVD?
Adding Citrix effectively replaces the infrastructure services included with WVD with Citrix services instead giving you capabilities for:

Unparalleled User Experience – The HDX protocol is Citrix’s crown jewels, enabling, amongst other things, support for 3D graphics, smooth audio/video for Microsoft Skype and Teams, printing to any device and streaming of high definition video.

Hybrid Cloud – Manage your virtual apps and desktops with the same platform for both WVD and on-premise resources. Easily manage migrations or additional demand wherever you provision your resources.

Enhanced Management – Citrix provides a mature and full featured platform and includes full support for WVD, drastically reducing the skillset and effort required to manage WVD. Using Citrix App Layering and Machine Creation Services you’ll be able to take advantage of a rich full featured provisioning platform, with Workspace Environment Manager (WEM) you can easily manage contextual policies for controlling and defining the user experience and using Citrix Director you can quickly troubleshoot and monitor the platform.

Identity – Authenticate users from any directory with any authentication service and any 2FA/MFA product.

Reduce Cloud Costs –AutoScale intelligently provisions resources according to demand and WEM Performance Manager together with the optimisations found in HDX vastly improve user density.

Wide Thin Client Support – WVD uses a new protocol requiring a new client app not widely available on thin clients. Use Citrix to provide access to almost any thin client using HDX.

A summary of some of the benefits is illustrated below.

All that in three minutes! To find out more about our workspace solutions including lots more on WVD get in touch!

Credit: Sam Mulhearn – Solutions Architect, Cetus Solutions

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

VMware – Simplifying the Hybrid Multi-Cloud


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VMware is over 20 years old and in that time, they’ve revolutionised the data centre. VMware’s hypervisor changed our entire approach to on-premise datacentres, imagine if we were to go back to every server being physical?

For a while, with the advent of public cloud, it looked like the next revolution would be led by a public cloud provider, taking this concept even further, freeing us completely from the complexity of managing hardware. In fact, the result is even better, we’ve found a place for all the cloud providers. The reality is that we’re adopting services from whichever cloud is appropriate for that workload. Seemingly, the best of all worlds.

And it’s not just limited to Infrastructure as a Service from Azure, AWS, GCloud, SoftLayer or Oracle. We’ve adopted entire application suites from Office 365 or Gsuite, specialised apps from Salesforce, SAP or Workday and communication tools from the likes of Slack. We’re also building our own apps and adopting cloud-native services with services such as Kubernetes and Machine Learning.

We haven’t left the on-premise datacentre behind either, the reality of shaping and defining our own services through the ownership of our own infrastructure or the economics of ownership vs. consumption mean our datacentres are still at the heart of our organisations.

We have more choice than ever before, we build bespoke applications, consume SaaS applications, and in our datacentres and on every corner of the internet we run VM’s and containers, we’ve embraced multi-cloud. This introduces unprecedented flexibility, it’s the engine that keeps our organisations agile, allowing us to keep pace with the competition. It’s both essential and unavoidable.

However, I can say with some confidence that you’re already experiencing the challenge that this introduces; the sometimes overwhelming and never-ending escalation of complexity!

In the world of multi-cloud, every platform comes with its own tools and management, every service provides different capabilities and functions, data is hosted in disparate locations, connectivity must be provisioned and maintained. Indeed, the precise reason multi-cloud is so attractive is also the root cause of the challenge.

How do we operationally manage so many platforms? We have to consider backup when our data could be on any one of these platforms, disaster recovery when disaster could strike any service, monitoring across varied and diverse platforms and the skillsets and knowledge required to maintain and operate each platform. How do we enforce governance and compliance, and most of all, how do we secure all of this?

Remember our old friend VMware? They’ve been hard at work, in 2019, more than twenty years after the introduction of the hypervisor, they’re perhaps more relevant than ever, they revolutionised the datacentre twenty years ago, and they’re revolutionising multi-cloud today.

They’re transforming our traditional on-premise infrastructure, vCloud Foundation together with VxRail provides a true private Cloud. Far beyond just virtualisation of compute, storage and networking. vCloud Foundation provides Lifecycle Management meaning we can easily upgrade our entire platform with just one click and no downtime (yes really!). We can add or remove hardware with just a few clicks and without complex reconfiguration of networking or storage. vRealise is providing actionable insight and powerful monitoring including automating the discovery of network topologies and application flows, and with automation and self-service built-in, VMware are bringing the cloud experience to our datacentres.

VMware has also made good on the promise of software-defined networking. It allows us to extend our network anywhere. NSX together with VeloCloud stretches one common network from the private cloud to the public cloud, from SaaS providers to branch offices, taking our network anywhere across any telco provider or any connection type. We can stop worrying about VLANs and routing. We can stop worrying about defining hundreds of different network security policies on dozens of different platforms and the obvious gaps this might introduce. NSX delivers automated routing of traffic and consistent policy-based security wherever your services are hosted. Services such as load balancing, DHCP or VPN are delivered from one consistent platform no matter which cloud your workloads are hosted.

Transforming the entire concept of public cloud, VMware Cloud on AWS provides familiar consistency with on-premise platforms, allowing us to easily migrate services to the public cloud without re-architecting applications or redeploying virtual machines, opening up the tantalising possibility of migrating entire data centres to public cloud in days.

Developers and DevOps are well served too. With Pivotal and Bitnami we can rapidly develop apps, then with PKS, we can deploy containers and Kubernetes on-premise to run those apps, and with Tamzu mission control we can manage not only these Kubernetes clusters but any Kubernetes cluster in private or public cloud.

 Of course, no conversation about Cloud is complete without without discussing the economics, with CloudHealth from VMware we can control the cost of public cloud, we can reclaim savings by right sizing virtual machines and identifying unused and obsolete resources. We can enforce governance and visually map resources and model the costs of migration to ensure the public cloud always provides value for money.

 The next decade belongs to those who can master multi-cloud and capitalise on the advantage of hosting the right workload in the right cloud, find out how VMware is enabling this reality.

Credit: Sam Mulhearn – Solutions Architect, Cetus Solutions

Contact us to find out how we could help you master the multi-cloud

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

The Innovation Factory


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Since the year 2000, 52% of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired or ceased to exist. On the flip side, many of the world’s most profitable companies didn’t even exist in 2000 but are now household names worth billions of dollars.

This rapid and constant re-shuffling isn’t reserved for the world’s biggest companies but affects all organisations, in fact the pace of change is probably even greater for small organisations. Change isn’t just powered by landmark revolutionary advances such as when Netflix rendered blockbuster obsolete. The march of change is evolutionary too. A constant flow of incremental small differences cascade to produce competitive advantage, creating entirely new industries or dismantling old ones.

What’s the difference between the winners and losers? I would argue, for the winners, their advantage is their people, or more accurately people who are empowered to produce innovation, to be creative, to find new ways of doing things, to disrupt the status quo. The most talented individuals are agents for change. They will seek out organisations that provide them with the space to innovate.

Innovation is a product, successful organisations must continually manufacture this product, they must have high grade raw materials , and the correct facilities to transform the raw material. In this case, talented people are the raw material, they will produce innovation if organisations provide them with the right facilities and the right tools.

With this in mind, organisations are now met with two challenges, attracting and retaining the best talent and providing the tools and facilities to enable innovation. Organisations need to be examine new ways of working. Not just simply allowing staff to work from home or from Starbucks, but making sure the environment they choose to work in provides the tools and technology best suited to the task at hand.

Part of the solution to both problems might be the introduction of Activity Based Working (ABW). Put simply, ABW creates spaces best suited to the task at hand, often alongside or within the much maligned open-plan office. ABW creates spaces perfectly suited to conducting specific tasks such as learning, focusing, collaborating and socialising.

Relatively forward thinking companies, might be able to meet a few of these demands, with meeting rooms, break rooms, the ability to work from home etc. but the most innovative companies are consulting with their staff and meeting this challenge head on.

They’re redesigning offices with acoustics in mind; providing sound proof spaces for phone calls or spaces with background white noise allowing interaction with adjacent colleagues but masking the content of other nearby conversations. They are providing flexible meeting rooms that adapt to the duration or number of attendees and come with collaborative connected technology so people can join from anywhere. They’re providing relaxed spaces where colleagues can grab a coffee and review a document together or quiet zones for focused solitary work. Incidentally, they’re also realising costs savings from the rationalisation of desk space.

If you’re not convinced that the new majority millennial workforce aren’t creating the demand for these new ways of working, and that companies which are committed to meeting this demand aren’t succeeding then perhaps it’s worth considering the recent valuations given for WeWork, a company providing innovative office space.

However, innovative office space alone won’t meet these challenges , ABW must be supported by technology too. Can a user work with the right device in the right location? Can they seamlessly move to a new space and immediately pick up where they left off? Can they continue to collaborate on the same documents wherever they are, using whatever device they choose?

Activity Based Working  isn’t enabled just by considering location, and device, but ‘how’ we work must be considered too. Can a user sign off expenses, submit holiday requests, book travel for an upcoming meeting and join a conference call without opening endless different applications and becoming distracted by the notifications in each of them. Wouldn’t it be great if the workspace just consolidated tasks, presenting prioritised easy to action activities based on what it had learnt about how and when a user works?

Organisations must also consider how they secure this new found flexibility. How can an organisation identify compromised accounts or malicious intent? How can it trust users working anywhere on different devices? How can it differentiate data exfiltration or ransomware from legitimate use?

It’s true to say that these demands are difficult, balancing the complex web of requirements with technology that is easily manageable, cost effective and secure is challenging.  However, if you’re not meeting this challenge, if you’re not transforming your organisation, not enabling innovation, not providing the space for success, then maybe someone else is? Can your organisation risk becoming the next Blockbuster? Can it risk the exodus of its most talented people. Isn’t it worth at least asking the question;
what is possible?

Who knows, with an efficient and effective innovation factory, your organisation might even become the next Netflix.

Credit: Sam Mulhearn – Solutions Architect, Cetus Solutions  

Talk to Cetus to find out how we’re helping our customers innovate. 

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

Windows 7 to Windows 10: Migration Best Practices


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So, you’re thinking of migrating to Windows 10 before the Windows 7 end of life cut-off date. As much as your operating system isn’t always something you ponder, letting go of Windows 7 has proven to be a difficult step for a lot of users and, let’s face it, you too. But, with extended support ending in January 2020, it’s no longer something that organisations can ignore. In fact, the longer migration is left the more stressful it will be. It’s important to realise that the times are changing; Windows 10 isn’t a traditional migration by any means. Microsoft has labelled it the ‘final’ OS, by rethinking the old system of new versions every three years. This new ‘evergreen’ method eliminates the need to constantly create something better and new, by updating automatically twice a year indefinitely so that you don’t need to think about it.

While organisations can still enjoy the security of the extended support for a little while longer, it is imperative that a migration to Windows 10 gets completed before the deadline. Forgoing the update will result in an unsecure operating system. Microsoft will no longer offer technical support, software updates, security updates or fixes. Your organisation will be at greater risk for viruses and malware, leaving you open to not only significant fines, but the risk of cyber criminals exploiting the lapse. But why migrate to Windows 10 specifically? Aside from the obvious evergreen operating system, Microsoft has also officially pledged that organisations that adopt Windows 10 are unlikely to face any compatibility issues. To help you embrace the new possibilities of Windows 10, here are the best practices to make your migration as smooth as possible.

This is a transformation, not a migration
Windows 10 is unique in terms of Windows OS as it brings with it an opportunity for organisations to rethink how they do Windows management, by using new modern management features. These offer IT departments the chance to manage PCs in a way similar to mobile devices, which is significant as it allows them to manage all end-user computing devices, regardless of operating system, with the same set of tools. Modern management also allows for anywhere and anytime management, even if they’re off the domain- and it’s easier, lightweight and more modern in terms of management overall.

Pick the right version of Windows 10
With the new version of Windows, Microsoft has made three versions available for customers to choose from.
1. The Windows Insider Program (WIP) offers users the opportunity to be an early adapter of the latest features that will eventually be incorporated into the mainstream version. It’s a way for users to get a sneak peek into what’s in store.
2. The Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) is optimal for users with devices that do not change and are fixed in function, such as point-of-sale (POS), kiosks, bank teller devices and PCs attached to manufacturing or healthcare devices. This version is exclusive to organisations and is not intended for mainstream PCs.
3. The most common version deployed is the Semi-Annual Channel (SAC). This is the one whose target audience is business computers for production and is designed for the most common scenarios. Each SAC release is available for 18 months, its first pilot stage for three.

Getting the right team together
The vast majority of organisations have already successfully completed other Windows migrations in the past. This Windows 10 migration is slightly different, due to the potential impact to a broader audience, so it will require a strong cross-team effort to achieve the desired results. Your team should be made up of a project manager, a technical lead, representation from appdev, and user business units so that their interests can be included. To make sure that the migration runs smoothly, the team should be committed at least part time for three to six months (or even longer), depending on the size of your organisation, the complexity of the project and priorities.

Use standardisation to reduce complexity
PC computing can become fairly complex due to the variables of device types, application updates and user-injected activities constantly changes the makeup of what generally becomes a standard configuration. Migrating to Windows 10 is the best time to eliminate any unnecessary configurations that add to the complexity. Make the most for your IT team erasing needless applications, reducing the number of device types and minimising the variability of user configurations.

Consider different approaches to your Windows migration
There are several ways that you can handle a Windows migration.
PC refresh
This is the first choice for new PCs since there’s no legacy technology to worry about. It can however, cost a bit more, as the OEM image often includes bloatware and is generally incomplete for most users.
In-place upgrade
These are usually popular for Windows 10 since Microsoft made the upgrade process far simpler and easy to manage. Just remember that legacy application capability issues and less than ideal configurations get moved as part of the process.
Re-imagining
Extending the life of PC assets, re-imagining resets the image to a known-good state that has to be tested and vetted properly. It can, however, be expensive as new images need to be created for existing PCs and can take several weeks.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)
For the last option, VDI allows for high degrees of standardisation in a secure way from a centralised infrastructure. VDI migrations are ideal for organisations whose users have an identical application need, such as call centres or with remote agents. A slight downside, VDI does require infrastructure, which some customers find challenging.

Embrace unified endpoint management
Possibly the most significant opportunity to arise from the Windows 7 end of life is the possibility to adopt a modern IT management style that will not only positively affect your users, but your organisation as well, by leveraging unified endpoint management. It provides numerous benefits across physical devices, while enhancing security through modern configuration management of user policies, which handles the deployment of applications and manages OS patch management activities. This approach allows organisations to manage Windows with the same skills being used today on mobile while unifying activities across all EUC environments.

Sounds good? Here are the minimum hardware requirements to run Windows 10 smoothly; a 1GHz processor, 1 GB (32-bit) RAM, 16GB of hard disk space, a Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with a WDDM diver, and- obviously-, a Microsoft account and internet access. Basically, they’re the same as for Windows 7, but with a processor that supports PAE, NX and SSE2.

There is so much more to an organisation than its operating system, but then it’s such a critical part. Here at Cetus, your organisation’s IT is our priority, and with the Windows 7 end of life coming ever closer we’re the best choice for your Windows 10 deployment and support. Make sure to have a chat our experts sooner rather than later, and make the switch to Windows 10 the easiest you’ve ever experienced.

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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, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized, VMware

Workspace ONE: Everything You Need In A Workspace


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There has been quite a lot of excitement surrounding VMware’s Workspace ONE since its announcement in February 2016. The modern version of VMware’s 2016 Workspace Suite; Workspace ONE integrates identity management and EMM, modernising end user computing. With regular updates, the platform continues to excite users across the globe; truly revolutionising the flexible ‘any app, any device’ vision that runs the mobile workspace reform.

Workspace ONE is a secure enterprise platform that delivers and manages any app on any mobile device; that integrates identity management, real-time application delivery and enterprise mobility management. It accelerates how workspace services can be delivered, while engaging digital employees, reducing the threat of data leakage and modernising traditional IT operations for the mobile cloud era. And with yet more announcements as recently as November during VMworld in Barcelona, here are the reasons why Workspace ONE really is everything you need in a modern workspace.

Embrace your inner SaaS
Workspace ONE allows organisations to embrace SaaS and mobile apps while supporting existing enterprise applications (think of your legacy systems), and all securely.

Productivity is the name of the game
The best way for your users to be productive is to provide them the tools that give them the freedom to work, while maintaining the right data security and compliance; which Workspace ONE delivers.

Adopting Windows 10
Windows 10 is taking over the enterprise space and, with Workspace ONE, the accelerated adoption of the platform by using the same modern management framework designed for mobile devices.

Authentication that adapts
With adaptive conditional access; ensure the right level of security for each individual user based on authentication strength, data sensitivity, user location and device posture.

Cyber security with a difference
A huge issue for organisations is the users’ disregard for individual responsibility towards cyber security. Workspace ONE delivers improved security and employee engagement, incorporating next-generation automation and insight.

Improved user experience
The new Workspace ONE hub is truly user-centric, streamlining onboarding and user experience across all platforms.

And all delivered as a service
To speed up app transformation, Workspace ONE delivers virtual applications and desktops as a service.

By adopting VMware’s Workspace ONE platform, join the future of work today and combine an excellent user experience with the ease of management for any IT team. Have a chat with our Workspace ONE-centric VMware experts to get you started.

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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!)

Speak to an expert

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