hybrid cloud

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

Citrix Summit 2019 from a Citrix Platinum Partner Point of View


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There are very few events throughout the year that get us super thrilled here at Cetus/instrato. Even fewer that we prepare for months before the actual event (aside from IPEXPO, which is a whole other story). But when it comes to Citrix Summit, held every January, we get very excited.

As a Citrix Platinum Partner, we stay on top of what’s going on in the Land of Citrix to make sure that we keep things fresh and up-to-date for our customers. And we’re absolutely blessed with two huge events a year to sink our teeth into; Summit and Synergy. We loved Citrix Synergy last May (and my god, we got some exciting updates on Citrix Workspace) and we’re still going on about it in our office. Of course, leaving the wet and windy UK for three days to fly to the US is a major bonus too!

As always, this year’s Summit is being held in Orlando, Florida, from the 7th to 9th of January- what a way to start the new year! Unlike Synergy, which is for customers as well as partners, Summit is only an event for partners, like Cetus, who promote and sell the Citrix Vision. And as always, we’re sending a little group of top Cetusites to go, explore and bring back the very best of Citrix.

The event is three days of inspiration, information and networking to bring the Citrix game to 100. Crazily, we’re expecting over 300 hours of training and hands-on learning, which we’ll be incorporating into all things Citrix when we get home. The event is a great way to build relationships with the biggest and brightest minds of Citrix experts and business leaders. From the opening keynote, which is always one of our favourite moments, to the breakout sessions, having those nagging questions answered at a Round Table, or just getting immersed in the hottest topics in the world of IT solutions in the Citrix Talks panel discussions, it’s going to be a crazy week. It’s events like Summit that inspire us to look to the future and adopt the latest and greatest ways of working.

One of the best things about being a Citrix Platinum Partner is the ability to really consolidate what we learn at Citrix Summit and Synergy into the huge projects that we work on. Having that foundation on which we can build our expertise is priceless, but a fair portrayal of how much we value Citrix itself as our partner. We know that having the title of Citrix Platinum Partner assures us that we’re in the best of hands, which means that our customers are, too.

When it comes to instrato, we work exclusively with Citrix and Microsoft Azure to get the optimal combination for a cloud deployment, so the fact that Microsoft will be attending makes our little cloud-enthused hearts flutter. In fact, cloud and cloud-based applications features heavily in the session previews, further strengthening its position as the future of IT. No doubt those sessions will be popular, including Citrix Talks to discuss cloud transformation projects.

You can be sure that, once we shake the jet lag, we’ll be incorporating all the latest updates and features into the solutions we design. If you want to hear a bit more about what you can expect from Citrix (and Cetus!) in 2019, have a chat with one of our Citrix Platinum Partner experts, and register for the Summit update events we’ll be hosting when we get back. We’ll see you then!

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

 

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

Your Step-By-Step Guide to Cloud Migration


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Cloud, IT Solutions, Uncategorized

You Say Cloud, They Say….


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Oh Good!
Oh God?!
Sign here!
Really?!
Can we help?
Are you sure?

The sun is out today on this bright and crisp November morning. I’d love to say ‘not a cloud in the sky’, but hey, I’m in Manchester so the sun is a brief visitor in these parts!
So lets talk clouds. It’s much more commonplace today for enterprises to state ‘We are Cloud-first’ and ‘We are on our way to the Cloud’, a mandate often received from C-level and the top echelons. But, I ask;

Why?
Why is this a common executive strategy?
Are such decisions made with full understanding of what this actually means?

What do senior execs really understand about the Cloud? Or what it could deliver to their business? Arguably they don’t nor shouldn’t need to as they have ‘people’ to do this… One would hope they are informed and speaking with understanding of the true value and commercial benefits of what a Public or Hybrid Cloud Platform has to offer. Are they? Do they also really understand that this may or may not be possible? And what about such cost implications? Or, could it be they know ‘everyone else’ is doing it?! Cloud platforms require experience and diligence to be successful projects.

I always ask a lot of questions…
The Cloud decision requires many answers…

I personally get it. Cetus of course get it too, delivering this experience via our instrato solutions stack.
So, my thoughts are this: (Oops! Do I need the social media caveat of ‘my thoughts are my own’? ) Public and Hybrid Cloud platforms are simply a means to an end. Let’s not over complicate this! It’s not the Millennium Bug, nor the end of the world as we know it. They are solutions to assist enterprises to become more efficient, deliver improved competitive advantage and, above all, assist in delivering an improved service to your customers.

With Cetus’s instrato, we see as many customers wanting to reverse out of the public cloud as we do those trying to step in. Why? Poor implementation, poor management, a lack of experience and understanding can result in significantly increased costs, yet these organisations could be missing out on huge business advantages.
As I eluded to earlier, both technical and commercial experience with such solutions is essential. There are many so-called ‘experts’ out there, but do many hold the credibility and the proof?!

Cetus’ instrato offers services from Cloud readiness assessment, Cloud business case justification, Cloud management services through to fully managed services to ensure your platform is under control and delivering the value you want- be it public cloud or a more tailored hybrid cloud platform to suit your desired business outcomes.
You too can be Cloud First or become Cloud aware. As a certain fast food vendor states ‘Have it your way’ so why wouldn’t you?

Cetus are fully equipped with tea, hobnobs and whiteboard pens! Oh, and we would like you to provide a whiteboard (please!) and perhaps some cups too. Allow us to come and show you how your organisation’s desire to be ‘Cloud-first’ can deliver great business benefit when well executed and discuss what tools we have to assist you.
www.cetus-solutions.com
www.instrato.co.uk

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Mike.pngMike English – Managing Director
Since forming Cetus in 2001, Mike drives change and development to ensure Cetus empower and deliver real value to our customers, enabling successful business outcomes.

 

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

It’s Halloween! Beware of Zombies!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Directors-9619Paul Kiveal – Business Development Director
Paul works with business leaders, helping combine strategic objectives with innovative technical solutions, developing inspirational new IT platforms that transform the way technology powers organisations.

 

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

VMworld 2018 Keynote


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

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

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

vmworld 1.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register for the webinar

Blog, Citrix, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

How a Secure Digital Workspace Solution will Simplify Your IT


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A lot has changed since we were children. Children no longer spend all day outside harassing the neighbours and it’s not the norm for cars to stall halfway up every hill. You can book a train ticket on your phone, order a takeaway online and find your way around a foreign city without having to buy a map or ask for directions in the wrong language. In fact, there’s an entire industry of young people whose sole jobs are to create videos, write blog posts and take Instagram photos for their thousands, sometimes millions, of online followers. And these influencers make your entire month’s rent just by posting one sponsored photo. How crazy is that?

The idea of ‘work’ has changed just as much. When we were children, our parents (usually our fathers, because that’s how it was back then) would come home late from a 12-hour shift, exhausted and with frayed nerves, having spent the day in a grey room the size of a teacup doing nothing of particular note. And that’s if they were lucky; sometimes those 12 hours were overnight, so your mother would send you out to play into the freezing rain to give him a few hours of undisturbed sleep during the day before it started all over again. And that’s just how it was, day in, day out; barely making ends meet until they turned 60 and got to retire.

For the most part, that’s not the case anymore, thank god. Work is no longer a tedious, mind-numbing 12 hours; we’ve got robots for that! The idea of ‘work’ has moved from what we go to, to what we actually do. Realistically, what do you need to get done that absolutely can’t be accomplished in your pjs, on the couch, watching Jeremy Kyle reruns? Not a whole lot. And then there are those who can’t stand being in one place for more than a meeting, flitting from one building to another, one city to another, one country to another. And it’s (mostly) thanks to digital workspaces. IT has always been designed to make life that bit easier. From the humble eat-your-finger rotary phone and the computer the size of a closet, to Google Maps and Uber; IT brings with it an improvement- even if that’s ordering a McDonalds through your Deliveroo app instead of on the computer. Unless, of course, we’re talking about the iPhone; nothing really changes year in, year out, aside from how many functions you can squeeze into a jack, and how much more screen space there is for you to break when you drop the damn thing trying to charge it while listening to Spotify. Digital workspaces, such as Citrix Workspace, play into this idea of increased simplicity, ultimately reducing the challenges that have been known to cause issues for all those involved. IT management becomes far simpler for the IT teams, while delivering a better experience for your end user.

Work securely, even on the go
It takes more than sitting in an office to make the world around us tick. But with that freedom comes a security risk that no IT department wants to face. It’s in the name; a secure digital workspace solution is, well, secure. Users are able to access their apps, data and desktops securely from wherever their ‘office’ happens to be that day- be it a McDonalds, a petrol station or their sofa (wifi not included). And since the workspace is device-transferrable, you can trust that they’ll be safe, regardless of whether they’re using a company-supplied laptop or their own device. And that security also translates to any network.

For the IT department, it allows users to do their thing without having to manually intrude in their working days, while you manage and monitor what they do through one control panel. With a single sign-on, the secure digital perimeter will follow your users wherever they are, giving you the peace of mind of contextual access that guarantees that they won’t be accessing what they shouldn’t. Because unified endpoint management comes built-in, a lot of the usual day-to-day management can be done automatically, such as the actions that are to be taken when a user violates certain rules. It basically gives you powers of god, from wherever you happen to be working. Remote wiping a device? Setting it to out-of-compliance? Revoking the device? Sending a notification to a user to correct an issue? You have the power.

Control the risk for your user
Shadow IT is an issue that has exploded in the workplace in recent years. While we have been lucky to experience so much new and amazing software to make our daily tasks faster and easier, often it proves to be too complex for the end user. Instead of making use of these monitored, regulated technologies, users are migrating to free, unsecured software (such as Dropbox or Google Drive), essentially creating an even bigger problem that what you had in the first place. And the worst part is, your IT team probably doesn’t even know about them. Is it that surprising that users are the number one reason for a security breach in an organisation? Hardly.

A good digital workspace solution will have a better, easy-to navigate file-sharing system. Let’s face it, a lot of users aren’t the most technical, and don’t want to spend half an hour trying to share a document with Stacy from HR who sits two doors down. You’d be faster to print it and send via paper plane. At Cetus, we usually set our customers up with Citrix ShareFile. It’s super easy to upload your documents for easy backup (don’t you know how important it is?) and share with other users. Store, share and sync your documents quickly across all of your devices to collaborate with colleagues and customers alike. I particularly like being able to upload a document and be able to share it with someone externally, all by using a link. And it’s just as easy to give the access some parameters; requiring the other person to supply their email to view it, or only give them a certain window to access the documents.

And since security is incorporated into the very DNA of Citrix Workspace, IT will always remain in control. Use closed-loop analytics to track user behaviour and automatically implement security protocols, giving your users all of the flexibility to work effortlessly, while being sure that everything is safe.

Access your data, wherever
With all of this cloud business being so new, a lot of organisations are trying to leverage as best they can while still working in a largely-oblivious environment. As with all things that are brilliant and new, it can take a while to get your head around all the fabulous features of cloud. As a result, it’s not unusual to go searching across your hard drives, clouds, network drives and other solutions for one single document, before giving up and Skyping the person next to you in shame and asking if they’ve seen it recently. It’s a bit of a nightmare, the amount of times you have to ask the person beside you for a document on a daily basis counts as a conversation and it’s impossible to manage everything. Welcome to the world of cloud!

Make sure to find a secure digital workspace solution that allows a simplified access to your files, creating a seamless sync across all of your apps, cloud providers, devices, company servers and content management systems already in place.
Since organisations are all different, it’s important that your digital workspace solution molds itself to you. Your storage needs and requirements will vary from other organisations and industries. Whether you have to host your data on premises for regulatory reasons, or on the cloud, with a digital workspace you have the option to flex to suit the needs of your organisation through one workspace.

Make it easy with single sign-on
Possibly one of the best features of a digital workspace is single sign-on. Because it brings together your apps, data, services and all of your devices regardless of clouds and data centres, you no longer have to worry about managing multiple security protocols. Sign in once with your organisation credentials and you have full access to everything.

Your secure digital workspace solution should work for you, by increasing flexibility, visibility and managements of everything, making everyone happy from the end user to your IT team. As a Citrix Platinum Partner, we have the expertise to bring you the best that Citrix has to offer. Have a chat with our friendly specialists to see what we can do to give you all of the benefits a secure digital workspace solution has to offer, so that you can start working smarter.

Speak to an expert

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

 

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

Application Testing in the Cloud


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If you’ve been keeping up with the hype, you’ve probably been looking into deploying a cloud of some form in your organisation. Be it public, private or hybrid cloud, the possibilities that they come with are endless and revolutionary. I’m sure you’ve heard all of those buzzwords before, building the idea of ‘the cloud’ into an amazing, it’ll-fix-any-problem-you’ve-ever-had-and-more! miracle that’s more of a unicorn than anything else. But you might have discovered that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to cloud. Application testing has become one of the little bugbears that people forget- or choose to ignore- when putting together a cloud strategy. When you roll out anything new, it’s important that it’s a success- your bottom line could very well depend on it. And without regular testing you don’t even know what you’re throwing out into the world.

Several years ago, virtualisation became a new focus for IT departments. This new ideology of sharing computing resources across multiple operating systems increased productivity through reduced costs and increased scalability and easy administration. This fabulous new way of running IT infrastructure observed the evolution of virtualisation of cloud in the form of cloud computing. It paved the way for the dream of ‘Everything as a Service’, essentially creating a foundation for many of the technological advances we have today (but for some reason I still can’t get a delivery from the McDonalds a mile away, so there are clearly more worldly advances yet to be achieved).

Cloud testing is the actual testing of the resources on demand; think hardware, software etc. Testing is crucial for the health of your IT environment, especially when it comes to your cloud offerings, ensuring that it not only meets functional requirements, but also non-functional. Securing and managing performance of your applications is essential regardless of where they are; in the cloud or on-premises. It’s not the case of testing an application when it first gets deployed and never needing to bother with it again; the status of applications can change over time.

There are so many benefits for cloud testing that are easily obvious when you experience them. The normal testing approach is to invest in the adequate hardware and software infrastructure needed to carry out the testing. Since the environment supplied to the testing team very rarely matches that of the user, testing applications in the cloud can alleviate the issue of rapidly-changing requirements, allowing the tester to easily replicate the user environment and find defects early in the cycle. Migrating apps to the cloud can also reduce the cost of infrastructure licence renewal, as the organisation doesn’t have to purchase the infrastructure that won’t all be in use at the same time. With the end user environment in the cloud, it’s a simple enough task for an IT department to customise the testing environment match. This customisation reduces the cost and time of regular testing. The testing team can easily perform load and performance testing scenarios in various permutations and combinations.

But, as with everything, there are downfalls. I hate to have to list them, but here we are. By relying on and using the cloud as infrastructure, we do face a few hiccups. But nothing too scary, I promise. Security is one; user privacy needs to be protected, while also allowing the necessary protections that hold up to standards. The security of applications that run in the cloud and security testing techniques also need to be addressed by organisations when it comes to cloud infrastructure. The performance of an application in the cloud is another significant issue that regularly gets overlooked. How are we to know if an application works the same way, especially when hosted in a private cloud? The application itself will be shared amongst plenty of users, so that could cause a delay, especially if bandwidth isn’t good enough for testing. It’s surprising that in certain instances, the particular configurations of a user can be that complex that they just simply aren’t supported by that cloud provider. I don’t get it either. Bottom line, that can make it that much more difficult to emulate a user environment. The last little issue is that of integration testing. It’s easy enough to test the network, database, servers, and whatever else needs to be done. The tester already won’t have control over the underlying environment, but on top of that they’ll have to essentially guess how it would behave. If there are interactions between two components, the tester can only anticipate risks, such as crashes, network breakdown, or your server going on a sudden holiday.

Ensuring the maintenance and performance of your applications in your chosen cloud is crucial for your organisation. Where a lot of people would just love to ignore the finicky bits of testing, here at Cetus we like to dot the Is and cross the Ts, and that includes your testing. Our experts are specialists in application testing and making sure that everything works just right. If testing of your applications is something you’d like to master, make sure to have a chat with one of our experts who will show you first-hand the benefits, while eliminating as many downfalls as possible.

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

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, IT Solutions, News, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

When 2019 Comes


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It was the mid-nineties, ‘IT’ was the new ‘data processing’, and we’d started using a new gadget called a ‘modem’ to connect our business to the outside world. They were exciting times; technology was changing how we communicated; and we could access technical information at any time. So … I decided that it was time to enlighten my team with a broad-thinking; almost visionary statement: “this Internet thing is really cool … but it’s just for techies”.

In hindsight; it ‘might’ be argued that my statement was, perhaps, a little bit short of ‘visionary’. In fairness; my comment was based on the, then, limited capabilities of CompuServe; which was nothing more than a chat group and download site for technical documents.

And so, with my ability to predict the future firmly and clearly established; it’s time for me to get to the topic of this blog: Top Predictions for 2019. As we, Cetus, look forward to the year ahead; we’re keenly aware that a number of technological drivers will affect the nature of our business. Here’s a few of the key drivers that we are gearing up for 2019:

1. The Internet. I’d better address this one – the Internet will continue to be quite popular in 2019. There, that’s that one put to bed.

2. Windows Desktops. Once the direct target of our VDI marketing efforts (due to its total cost of ownership and unpredictable user experience); the ability of Windows 10, in particular, to deliver a well-managed user environment has put Windows 10 back on the ascendancy.

3. Hybrid-Cloud. It’s been around for quite some time now, and many solutions providers are saying that it’s the future apparently. We beg to differ. Hybrid-Cloud is the ‘now’. You need look no further than Office 365 and SalesForce to see that we have been hybridising our clouds for quite some time now. 2019, however, will see the adoption of IaaS and PaaS, from the likes of Microsoft Azure and AWS, increasingly be the first choice of organisations across all sectors, public and private. 2019 will continue to favour solution providers who recognise that the resulting complexity is a feature not a failure of hybrid cloud; and who provide solutions that embrace and mitigate the complexity, rather than amplify it.

4. SD-WAN. Strongly related to the increasing adoption of the hybrid-cloud model; Software Defined WANs will see significant growth due to their ability to provide: increased resilience, lower price point and better performance over traditional WAN deployment methodologies.

5. Gen-V Security. Also referred to as Next Generation Security – the ability to deploy advanced threat protection that integrates boundary protection, endpoint protection and community threat intelligence is becoming a business necessity, rather than a nicety. Throw in Analytics and Micro-segmentation and you’ll soon realise that technology is providing a robust response to today’s multi-threat cyber security environment.

6. Virtual Workspaces. You might think that this is just the latest marketing term for VDI. We see it rather differently. Virtual Workspaces encompass more than just the desktop; we deliver a workspace that sees the desktop as merely a means to an end; namely a way of accessing applications and data. A Virtual Workspace now, more than ever, must be mindful of the desire of organisations and users to access their workspace using any device; from any location and at any time.

7. Automation. Our principle partners; Citrix, Microsoft and VMware all recognise that the increasing complexity of today’s IT environments require a more open approach to integration. This manifests itself as an increasing focus on cross IT element automation; relieving the IT function of large swathes of BAU activities, allowing them to focus on business innovation.

The above are all encapsulated by our 2019 Solutions Portfolio. By working closely with our primary vendor partners; we are able to draw down their strategic visions, and to combine these with over 17 years of delivering Secure Application and Data Delivery Platform solutions. The result is that we now have hundreds of customers who count on us to help guide them through turbulent times; who see us an extension of their IT teams; and with whom we have the genuine pleasure of travelling into 2019 as partners.

To hear more about how we can help your organisation get ready for the challenges of 2019; why not join us at one of our upcoming Cloud Workshops? Of course; I’ll be presenting, and I’ve prepared a fascinating session on “Why Smartphones are Cool – but just for techies”. I can’t wait!

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Directors-9619Paul Kiveal – Business Development Director
Paul works with business leaders, helping combine strategic objectives with innovative technical solutions, developing inspirational new IT platforms that transform the way technology powers organisations.

Blog, Cetus Solutions, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

Who Would Prefer Digital Workspaces, Cats or Dogs?


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When it comes to blog post topics, I usually ask our Business Development Director, Paul Kiveal for topics to squirrel away and write about. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the fabulous ‘Hybrid Cloud Orchestration’ and ‘Is The Password Dead?’ posts weren’t my ideas. This week though, I caught him at the worst time, while he was in a strange mood (or sick of my constant craving for topics), and he gave me the worst title; ‘Who Would Prefer Digital Workspaces, Cats or Dogs?’. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be a challenge. I’ve already asked a handful of people with zero IT knowledge for advice and they all gave me different answers, so I’m on my own with this one.

Originally, I thought cats would prefer digital workspaces. And it’s not because I’m a cat person (sorry). I just have no problem imagining a hipster Maine Coon- we’ll call him Salem- with his fur tied up, sitting in a café sipping huge bowls of the blackest coffee (or milk?), working away on his laptop. Why would he want to spend the day in the office, getting swiped by all the other cats for no reason whatsoever? God only knows, he wouldn’t be able to concentrate with all that purring. And every two minutes there’d be a flurry and a yelp as one of them forgot where they were and attacked their mouse. So, because Salem’s a very busy hipster cat, off he’d pop, with his laptop and catnip in his satchel to the closest Costa. A bit of quiet to get one step ahead. And let’s not forget the toasted tuna baguette for lunch.

Dogs however, they’re the ones who would love digital workspaces. Can you imagine telling a golden lab about how their work life would change? Let’s set the scene; some fancy, all white laboratory, not unlike the setting for James Bond’s Q. You stand in a white, unbuttoned lab coat, clipboard in hand, while Scooby sits at your feet, tail wagging.
“Access your applications and data no matter where you are in the world.” “Oh yeah, yeah, I like it, that sounds good!”
You lower your head to look at him over the rim of your glasses. “Seamless user experience; easily transition between your laptop, iPad, and mobile.” “Yeah, yeah?!”
“Optimise your productivity by meeting your business objectives while you work from home, in the office or on the go.” “Oh boy, that’s just amazing, isn’t that amazing?”
At this point he’d lose control and wipe the desk behind him of electronics with his over-enthusiastic tail. That’s another reason why dogs would prefer digital workspaces; can you imagine how many devices they’d break? A moment of excitement and their iPad would be history. And if you tossed them their mobile from across the room it would be crushed between their teeth. But with a seamless user experience, all of their data and applications would be in the cloud, so it would be a simple sign-on to whatever other device you’d have on-hand and they’d be on their merry way.

But, going a bit deeper into all this theoretical stuff, if you had an IT department full of cats, they’d love digital workspaces too. You’d have to move them from their cosy spot on top of the warm servers first though. All you need to create your own kitty IT department is a closet of Mac laptops, those small ones that fit in handbags. Cats don’t take up much space, they have tiny paws perfect for tiny laptops, and they get distracted by Windows. With increased agility, even the laziest tabby could easily deliver and manage a connected workspace to any canine user, regardless of what device they’ve just been given to replace their broken one, over any network. And they’d make the higher ups very happy with the reduced costs in managing complexity of the infrastructure. And since we can all imagine Salem being the Data Protection Officer in an organisation, complete with shirt and teeny, tiny tie, he’d love the secure corporate data feature. With so many files and applications flying around the ‘net, the risk of a security breach is high. But with that security feature, those kitties would be able to deliver their services without compromising security.

So, I can only conclude that, regardless of whether your furry friend is a cat or a dog, they’ll love digital workspaces for their own reasons. Pop Salem in the IT closet on your way up to the office, or link Scooby with the latest gadgets that will keep him connected with customers and the rest of the office while he’s out and about. If you fancy hearing more about what digital workspaces can do to improve your users or IT department (regardless if they happen to be human or otherwise), have a chat with one of our animal-friendly experts. Or just show them photos of your pets, they’d love that as well!

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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, IT Solutions, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

Improving your Network Security; it Doesn’t Have to be a Scary Business


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It’s finally October! Time for the quintessential Pumpkin Spice Latté from Starbucks, complaining about the sudden early evenings and frantic last-minute costume shopping for the office Halloween party. It also happens to be International Cyber Security Month; a friendly reminder to take extra care when it comes to your cyber security, lest a cyber-Dracula should invade and exsanguinate you of all of your rich, iron-filled data. Here at Cetus, we’re always up for a bit of spooky fun, but when it comes to security we’re serious. This week, in honour of Anti-Malware,-Ransomware,-Phishing,-And-All-Things-Evil Month (it’s original title wasn’t quite catchy enough), I’m going to try and make improving your network security a little bit more fun. I’m only 125 words in, so there can be no promises.

Along with an effective cyber security policy, creating a plan in the case of a cyber-attack, using micro-segmentation to minimise the damage of said cyber-attack, making sure that you have ample backups in place to maintain your business after a cyber-attack, and many, many more stress-inducing topics for you to worry about, making sure your network security is up to scratch is also crucial for your business. (If you’re looking at that list and wondering what on earth you’ve been missing, they all link to delightfully hilarious posts that will alleviate all of your fears.) Your network is the glue that holds the entirety of your organisation together. Or, in this instance, it’s the stitching that holds the body parts of your Frankenstein Monster of an organisation in place. Ever try sharing a digital document with Stacy from HR in the next building without a network? It would be faster to train a carrier pigeon to knock on her window- but that wouldn’t be without the risk of interception. Or practise morse code- unless Stacy is on the other side of the building. If you’re lucky enough to be by a window directly across from her, there’s always the option of folding up a paper airplane or, my favourite, using a tin can telephone. And those are all well and good, but what about if Stacy’s office is in another country- or continent? An ultra-sophisticated, time-locked carrier pigeon is the only way to go. Unless you have a secure network, that is.

But ‘pub tonight?’ emails aren’t the only things your network adds to your business (though it might be one of the most important ones). Think of all of the many files that are stored on your organisation’s shared network drive, and all of the instances you need to access one. Last-minute edits to the document that your sleepy, unsupervised intern prepared for your board meeting? Holiday request form? I guarantee you, you pop in there at least once a day to spend half an hour looking for a document someone else created. Without your network, you’d be a building of USBs wandering around the office. Your extremely helpful Outlook calendar that allows you to own the time of your colleagues (but also allows them to rule over yours) is thanks to your secure network, too. Want to work in a café/building site/park bench (near a Wi-Fi source; it’s not that magical)/car park? Feel free to use whatever open Wi-Fi network you want without the worry of a cyber-creep stealing all of your organisation’s secrets. And a lack of network security cost UK small businesses a collective, but nevertheless horrific, £11bn in 2016. So, how do you take care of your Frankenstein Monster?

If your network is Frankenstein Monster’s stitching, then a healthy network security policy is the age-defying, pollution-barrier moisturiser that keeps everything supple. A clear, simple and comprehensive network policy makes everything work smoothly. All it takes is a written document that outlines user policies; who is allowed to access the network, what privileges and limitations do they have, etc. There’s no point letting just anyone who happens to be working for the organisation into every file; unless you’re sending her paper airplanes, Stacy from HR shouldn’t be included in the notes of the main board meeting. A good risk assessment test, identifying important data sets and creating a disaster recovery plan is all that is needed to make sure your network security policy is ready to go! It’s also a good idea to organise drills within your IT department to make sure that the new implementations have been well received by your users, and to identify if they need further training.

A lot of organisations do well to make sure that their network is safe, by investing in the most expensive, most sophisticated and most snazzy infrastructure to keep the outside out. However, where they fail is usually keeping the ‘snazzy’ up to date. We already know that loopholes from unpatched networks can cause some serious security breaches (WannaCry, anyone?), so it’s crucial that your IT department acts on whatever updates may come about. If, for example, Frankenstein’s Monster were to lose a finger or nose, you wouldn’t leave it be, right? So, patch, patch, patch. Speaking of, bad passwords are like skin erosion. Let that fester and it won’t take long until the bad outside germs (cyber threats, in this example) pierce through and infect the entire body. In the age of Gen-V cyber-attacks, it’s important that your password policy is up to the security demands of your organisation. Maybe think about multi-factor authentication? I’ve already written loads on that, but to make it brief, think about making passwords expire every 60 to 90 days, just to be safe.

It’s time to don your favourite lab coat and get into your Dr Frankenstein head space, because now we’re talking about auditing and mapping. Place your monster on the slab and open him up! Know everything about your entire network’s infrastructure; what servers, printers, computers, devices and users are connected? How to they connect, and how do they maintain their connectivity throughout the network? Look for vulnerabilities that could end up causing you trouble in the long run. Keep an eye out for ways you could improve security, performance and reliability. Basically, see if you can replace a few weakened patches of skin with some robust tin and give it a zap to bring it to life.

Last but not least, Dr Frankenstein would hardly have created his monster without making sure he had plenty of backup arms and legs, just in case. And neither should you. Chances are, a hacker will find their way into your system. Which sounds a whole lot less scary if you’ve already read all about micro-segmentation and you’re compartmentalising your network. Regardless, it would be best to make sure you’ll never be caught out if it were to happen. As always, we’ve got you sorted, since we always take backup seriously.

IT’S ALIVE! Now that we have all of that sorted (that wasn’t as torturous as you’d thought, was it?), we’d love to hear what you think. Is Frankenstein’s Monster the best monster comparison of your network? Have you suddenly realised that maybe you need to take another quick look into your security? Have a Halloweeny chat with our experts to see what we can do for you, and decide what you’re going to dress up as this year.

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Speaking of, I’ve finally decided on my costume for the office party; Cyber-Dracula. Sorted.

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.