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How to Avoid the Common Pitfalls of VDI


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

Don’t Build Sandcastles – Build a Boat Instead


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I went to a castle once. It was solid, built to withstand everything that its enemies (perceived and real), and the British weather, could throw at it. Walls two meters thick to resist every imaginable attack; a moat and drawbridge to control who could access its inner sanctum; skilled people to ensure that the castle was watered, fed and protected (they’d gone by the time I got there, but I could sort of ‘feel’ their presence). Everything about it screamed permanency and timelessness.

I build an infrastructure once. It was solid, built to withstand everything that my organisation could throw at it. Servers piled two meters high; perimeter security to control who could access its near sanctum; a highly trained team to ensure that the infrastructure was watered, fed and protected. Everything about it screamed permanency and timelessness.

When measured on a timescale of traditional budget cycles; my IT infrastructure was, sort of, timeless. It lasted the five years I needed it to, without too much of a struggle.
Today, traditional IT infrastructures are still like castles; it’s just that they’re more like, well, sandcastles. What was once able to weather the storms, is now increasingly crumbling the first time the tide of change comes in. The once thick walls crumble from the base under the pressure of the waves. The moat and drawbridge become the first point of failure, rather than the last line of defence. The people can prove to be one of its major weaknesses, rather than its greatest strengths.

So, where am I going with this? I would suggest that, if the tides of change are the greatest threat to your infrastructure, you should think of building a boat, not a castle.
As waves (of change) constantly batter your infrastructure (think Digital Transformation, Agile Working, Hybrid Cloud etc.); a ‘boat’ would be a better way to ride the waves. A boat will allow you to use the tide to your advantage, allowing you to move with the times; to take advantage of new opportunities; to keep your ‘crew’ safe and to reach the destinations that your organisation sets on a moment-by-moment basis, not on a five-year basis.

So, what should you call your new boat? Since Boaty-McBoat-Face has been taken, how about ‘SS Hybrid Cloud’? That’s what we recommend. Our Hybrid Cloud solutions leverage the ever-increasing waves of technological change. They allow you to build an IT strategy that embraces change; not try to withstand it.

Here at Cetus, we’ve created ‘instrato’ to help our customers with their cloud journey. We provide hybrid-cloud design, build, migration, optimisation and management services to allow you to navigate your way through change.

Actually, ‘SS instrato” would be a good name for a boat. Why not have a chat with one of our experts to hear how we can get you off the shoreline, and on your cloud journey?

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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, News, Technology, Uncategorized

Reasons to Be Cheerful at Cetus Solutions


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, Uncategorized

The Age of Change


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I know for those who know me, I ramble on about evolving, keeping with the times etc. but something dawned on me the other day…

The average age of hackers in the UK is 17 (an example of this being the Talk Talk hacking) Then I got thinking about the “millennials”; where, during their interview, the interviewer ends up being quizzed by the interviewee, what device will I have, can I work from home, can I use my own devices, can I work in a coffee shop, do I get an iPhone?

The business world is being influenced by people that 15 years ago were told to make the teas, clean the bins and do other pointless jobs no one wanted to do. Does this make me ageist? Or the world? What is happening with businesses and the usual board of directors who are all waiting for the next two years to retire and get their nice pay-out, so they can sail around the world?

It isn’t the same anymore; not because we have become ageist, it is because for a start we are living longer; which means that the 30’s are the new 20’s and the 40’s are the new 30’s. The average age of C level execs is dropping, the average age of millionaires is dropping. But, it has nothing to do with their age, it is the age of change.

What is the age of change? Well, 5 years ago when I entered IT, conversations were all about simplifying the desktop rollout, enabling users and bringing down TCO of end points; but at the same time getting more from less with the staff. The phrase “making the device superfluous” was coined a lot and still is today. Also, providing a “ubiquitous” environment to users, regardless of where or how they access their applications and data. Has this changed? No, it hasn’t. We still have this need today, even more so. But, something else has changed…

The datacentre, is now superfluous and the datacentre should now be a ubiquitous platform wherever it may be. Cloud, private cloud, public cloud, elastic cloud, sheep with no legs, whatever version you want to give it. It is irrelevant as to its form. No longer is it about it needing to be a yellow widget as “secure” as possible 20 miles from our office. It needs to be secure, adhere to the relevant regulations, policies and procedures of your industry, customer base etc. and deliver for you in the best way a solution to deliver what the business has asked you to do in helping achieve their goals.

I was with a public sector organisation and a well-known vendor who has a solution that is named similar to something bright blue in colour like a cloudless sky. This customer stated that they didn’t want their data and applications in this vendor’s “solution” as it couldn’t pass their rigorous tests of security. The customers own data centre, was a cupboard. The solution that is named similar to something bright blue in colour like a cloudless sky is so secure, it has anti-tank trenches. The next problem was location, we need our data in the UK; well the good news is, the solution is in the UK.

We are no longer talking about which widget is fastest, which whistle is cheapest. It is purely, working towards a goal to enable the business to keep with The Age of Change and, as we can now make the datacentre in itself superfluous and therefor the likes of tapes, the likes of sweating assets for 10 years, using data centres in the cheapest part of the country or a cupboard; these are issues that can be addressed. But only if, you accept the change and embrace.

Oh, and another thing. It is also cost effective, Cetus worked with a Council saving £9,000,000 by helping them in “embracing change”.

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Blog, Cetus Solutions, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

Raison D’être


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I recently joined Cetus Solutions, after knowing them for a number of years and in the throes of business against each other I decided to sign up. I have often been frustrated with their customer base being almost fortress-like, it is difficult to see or know why when you are on the outside.

Now I have joined as a Sales Manager for Cetus I have been enlightened on the reasons why and more interestingly how their ability to work on such large scale customers and projects is a reality.

Working in the industry we do, it is no secret that a lot of money is spent on technology. A number of people see this (normally finance ;-)) as a cost, but actually I feel there is a different way to explain the spending on technology.

If we look at the world today, a car, a Blu-ray player, checking in at a hotel, a new build home. None of these would be considered a suitable purchase or process without modern technology of today. Some people won’t buy a TV without Wi-Fi capability, most people certainly won’t buy a new car if you cannot connect your phone via Bluetooth.

So, why is it acceptable for a business not to do the same? We look at the companies we know and revere in this modern day, we look at how they use IT as a business enabler and these companies all have one thing in common. Huge growth patterns, both financially and also in size. Companies are worth $1b in less than two years, the only way this can happen is investment in technology. Yes we can argue that people are the biggest asset but these people won’t be working at a company that give them a 7kg laptop and a mobile phone they can’t speak to family on.

I shall also bring in my favourite quote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”.

But, not all businesses can hire a huge team of technology experts who can advise or consult on the best technology to meet the requirements of an ever changing and more demanding world. So it becomes a struggle to just keep the lights on, let alone let Margaret in Marketing use her personal iPad to access corporate marketing information on a public Wi-Fi in Shanghai whilst on holiday. This also isn’t saying, that technology is everything. But it is the most effective and reliable enabler a business can invest in, enable the idea, the people, the product to do more and this can only mean positive results.

Let’s get to my point… raison d’être. Translated from French this means “the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence”

This isn’t Cetus’ tag line obviously, but after my first couple of weeks that phrase is entirely apt. Cetus’ whole ethos and mantra is about understanding how, when and where a business requires their assistance. The genuine focus is on what is best for the customer, I have seen and heard more about other businesses than I have Cetus in my few weeks here which shows that they truly pull together for one aim. Their raison d’être.

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Blog, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

“I’ll have a Large Stuffed Crust Meat Feast Laptop Please…”


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I am very fortunate in my role having the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of Vendors, Partners and Customers at various events and hearing their thoughts on the market and how “I.T.” is driving competitive advantage in a wide variety of sectors.

It was at a recent round table event I found myself asking when does a company go from being the producer of a product or deliverer of a service to being an “I.T.” company!

There does of course have to be a product that enables the organisation to transact business but through using I.T. in a strategic manner and encompassing it as part of the core strategy the product does not have to be market leading to become a market leader!

Dominos – Pizza company or I.T. company?
I believe a case can be made they are an I.T. company. I have to confess I am more of a Pizza Hut fan when it comes to the quality of the Pizza… BUT I tend to order Dominos on those lazy Friday evenings… WHY? Because it is Dominos who communicate with me at 15:00 on a Friday afternoon via text and email planting the seed of a pizza for dinner, it is Dominos who have the easy to use app that tells me at what stage in the preparation process they are, it is Dominos I can see the delivery driver driving down my road so I know to lock my dog outside before she goes ballistic at the door bell…. Through offering an excellent and easy to use convenient service by leveraging I.T. Dominos has, in my opinion, the better offering despite a lesser quality Pizza.

Uber – Taxi service or I.T. company?
Again I believe the case can be made for I.T. I had years of standing outside Walkabout in Birmingham trying to flag down a black cab in the freezing rain only to be gazumped by a nimbler taxi flagger…. The revolution of Uber has made that process so simple and more orderly…. The end product is still a taxi home , the process of getting home has been made far less stressful and far more convenient by leveraging existing GPS technology on existing smart phone technology to offer a better taxi service.

It is now more important than ever to look at go to market strategies from multiple angles and having a look at how putting technology at the forefront of a strategy can help:
– Increase your customer reach
– Improve your customer experience
– Drive greater margins through automation
– Improve the efficiency of business processes
– Rejuvenate a struggling product
– Quickly launch a new product
It will be well worth the investment in time.

Cetus are well placed to have these conversations with any type of organisation as we have a blend of highly skilled Technical Architects and Innovative Management Consultants who spend their days having art of the possible conversations with existing and potential customers to help them be more successful.

Challenge us to show you how leveraging I.T can help shape the strategy, improve the efficiency and grow the profitability of your organisation.

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Current Vacancies, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

It’s Value, But Not As We Know It…


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To be honest, I’ve never been much of a Treky, but the new Star Trek film had me reminiscing about years gone by. And, having recently returned to the IT reseller channel after a 20 year journey through the land of systems integrators and vendors, there’s lots to reminisce about!

It was obvious that things would have changed, but even in the fast paced world of technology it’s amazing how much the market has moved on. And as a Sales and Marketing professional, I can see the impact runs deeper than just the changing dynamics of the IT sector.

A new landscape
Cast your mind back to the IT market of the 1990’s (if you are old enough!) and you find a land of plenty. Prospective customers actively seeking out information on new products, their enquiries fulfilled by sales and marketing teams focussed on features and specifications. When demand outstripped supply, adding value was rarely more than an afterthought for IT vendors and resellers.

Fast forward to the present and the situation could not be more different, with an increasingly congested IT market where it is difficult to stand out from the crowd. And the growth of the web, with powerful search engines and a proliferation of content, has caused an irreversible change in buyer behaviour that dilutes the effectiveness of traditional marketing techniques.

As personal experience will tell you, bombarding people with email or telephone calls rarely delivers results. People now buy differently, they do their own independent research, identify different potential solutions to their problems, and produce a shortlist of suitable suppliers, all through the use of the web. Search engines mean they can discover all they need to know without speaking to pesky salespeople!

Behaviour change
This new behaviour is known as ‘inbound marketing’ and has dramatically changed the interactions between customers and suppliers. The customer no longer needs to speak to a salesperson for product information, so the first time they engage is at the end of the process when they are ready to buy. In principle this is good for everyone, it’s an efficient use of time and resources, but it has a couple of key problems.

Firstly, the quality of the end result is dependent on the customer’s research uncovering the best possible solutions, and in today’s time pressured environment that isn’t always the case. And conversely, it’s more challenging for suppliers to get their voice heard and add enough value to earn their place in the buying process.

So, in the brave new world of inbound marketing, how do IT resellers add real value?

Creating value
The answer lies in the customer’s expectations of their suppliers in this new world. They expect suppliers to inject new ideas they can’t discover for themselves, and to challenge their thinking with insights that are directly relevant to them. In turn, this demands that suppliers build a detailed knowledge of their customers, the markets they operate in and the stakeholders they serve.

This is a real challenge for many IT resellers, who are naturally focused on the technology sector rather than their customers markets. But the prize for meeting the challenge is early involvement in the buying process, bringing the opportunity to shape thinking and influence strategy – in short, the chance to add value.

So for IT resellers to add real value for their customers, they need a detailed knowledge of the vertical markets their customers operate in, a clear focus on business outcomes, and a proven ability to deliver tangible benefits. Coupled with a tailored approach for each individual customer that is relevant, personal and compelling.

Our DNA
Here at Cetus we’ve thrived in the changing IT market of the last 15 years, largely because the ability to add real value for our customers is embedded in our DNA.
But don’t take my word for it, let us prove it!

Just contact us and give us the opportunity to ‘walk the walk’. Alternatively, if you want to learn more about working with Cetus, take a look at the Who we are  section of our website, or register for one of our upcoming Inspired Leaders Programme events.

Directors-9688Gary Hyman – Sales & Marketing Director
Gary’s core focus is to find potent solutions that help customers confront specific business challenges, equipping them to enrich the lives of their customers and stakeholders.