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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, Cetus Solutions, Citrix, Cloud, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

Citrix Summit 2019 For Dummies


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There are myriads of reasons to go to different conventions throughout the year. The chance to network with the biggest in the industry and get the first look at the latest innovations and methods can be priceless. In fact, a lot of organisations often insist that they do better after having attending key summits, or that they get their new and existing customers reaching out to them for the inside scoop.

In the world of cloud and IT solutions, the annual Citrix Summit is the event of the year. Held in Orlando Florida (so it could essentially become a mini holiday if you plan ahead), it’s where anyone who is anyone in the industry will show face. Not to be mistaken for Citrix Synergy in May, which is for partners like us as well as customers- but just as exciting as Summit. I’ve written plenty about the Citrix Vision for Citrix Workspace this year already. When it comes to fighting for the revered places, it usually comes down to the same three people who get to go, year in year out, with no questions asked. But this year you’ve been chosen. Why? You’re not quite sure, but let’s not ask any questions (it’s very likely that someone is having an extended Christmas skiing holiday this year). Gulp. That means you need to make sure you’re not on the top of your game and not make a fool out of yourself. What’s the weather like in Florida? Is there a particular dress code? Are we allowed to look vendors in the eye? As Cetus are a Citrix Platinum Partner, we’ve been around the block a few times. That is, if the block is a year, and a few times is exactly ten. So, we’ve rubbed what braincells we have to bring you the ultimate guide to survive those three fabulous days at the beginning of January.

Prepare for everything- even the disasters
It’s always best to prepare well ahead of time to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Make sure you know what airport you’re flying to, and how to get to your accommodation. Don’t leave it to someone else on the team, chances are you’ll all rock up on the day and no one will have a clue- leaving you all potentially driving around the city in a dodgy taxi at midnight, starving and tired. We’ve all been there, and it’s not the best way to start the trip!

A few weeks before Summit, have a quick look on Twitter or Google for the hashtag (bonus tip: it’s #CitrixSummit). Another fabulous hashtag, that isn’t exactly reserved for Summit but will also work in this case, is #CitrixPartnerLove. Go crazy, tweet a bit and get involved in conversations on Twitter, hopefully you’ll get the chance to introduce yourself before you even arrive. That’s one less box to tick! Second bonus tip: pack extra underwear.

One of the most convenient ‘features’ of Citrix Summit, and by far the best advice a seasoned Summit-goer would tell you would be to download the Citrix Summit app. It has everything you could possibly need to survive the event including an interactive timetable.

Get your networking hat on
Networking is the name of the game at Summit. It’s an opportunity to meet with plenty of people in a wide range of roles. To be fair, facing a sea of industry leaders can be a pretty daunting experience, but it’s best not to stick to your little group of comrades. Try to arrive earlier on pre-reg day and ‘happen to run into’ someone with the same lanyard and strike up a conversation- what are they most looking forward to? What do they expect to hear about? Where are the ladies? You get the idea.

Conference with participants going to the same seminars and workshops as you. Keep that social media involved as you go, it’ll be a great way to engage in even more conversations, and also serves as a way to show your boss that you didn’t ditch to go to Disney World. It’s great to talk to people from other organisations with more experience than you as well. As a Citrix Platinum Partner, we’re always having a chat with other UK-based companies. Also, big Citrix leaders will be mingling throughout the Summit, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled and prepare a good opening line to catch their attention. “The colour of that suit absolutely compliments the success you’ve had this year” is my favourite example. And most importantly of all, make sure that you say yes to every opportunity that arises!

Evaluate your daily strategy
The main problem with Citrix Summit is that there’s just so much material being squeezed into only three days. You could spend an entire day just making sure that you make the most of every opportunity. Between keynotes, Learning Labs, workshops and the Certification Centre, there’s a whopping 300+ hours of content, training and hands-on learning to get your teeth into. Before heading over to Florida, prepare a potential schedule for every day. Every morning, re-evaluate what you’ve already learned and what sessions could potentially be a reiteration, giving you more time to book in an extra session, Learning Lab or networking opportunity.

It’s always good to get goals, and it’s no different at Summit. What do you want to achieve from attending? What expert do you want to hear from? Is there an organisation attending that you’ve been looking into lately? Is there a topic that you could just use that extra bit of info on? Make sure to keep these in mind when you’re plodding through the days- it’s important to keep an eye on the bigger picture.

Dealing with post-Summit blues
We absolutely love Citrix Summit. In fact, pretty much anything Citrix-related gets us in a too-excited-to-sleep kind of mood. As a Citrix Platinum Partner, we make sure that we’re on top of what’s new and exciting in the world of Citrix. We want to offer the very best to our customers, both new and existing, keeping them ahead of their competition and helping their growth. That’s why we’re hosting a workshop throughout the country in January to share the knowledge we received at Citrix Summit. Make sure to register today for your spot!

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, 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, Cetus Solutions, Citrix, IT Solutions, News, Technology, Uncategorized

IPEXPO 2018: A Newbie’s Perspective


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As part of the marketing department, I’m privy to a lot of the cool and interesting things we at Cetus get ourselves into. From Christmas parties to our workshops, and everything in between, I hear of all the things we do- sometimes I can’t sleep from the excitement (though that could be from the coffee I’m drip-fed in the office). So when I popped into an IPEXPO organising meeting last month I didn’t think too much of it. IPEXPO is a utopia for all things IT solutions, cloud solutions, cyber security…. If it has something to do with running the IT in your organisation, there will be a company there with more experience and knowledge than you could possibly need. We’ve been exhibiting at IPEXPO since 2011, so it’s something that I’d heard about since I started at Cetus in February. I piped up with the mandatory odd line to justify my presence while I practiced my ‘I’m-totally-contributing-to-this-conversation’ face as I fell into standby mode. That was, until Mike English, our Managing Director, mentioned something about blogs. That rebooted me up real fast. It was with shock, horror, and a tiny bit of excitement that my name was etched on the list to go to the event.

That excitement faded away completely as I stood in the middle of Euston Station. My first ever time in London (I’m a poor girl hauled out of the Irish countryside) and I was not prepared for it. People, everywhere. They swarmed around me, dragging behind suitcases and children alike, totally oblivious of the commotion that was ripping through my mind. I very nearly pulled a sickie there and then, but for the fact that I’d already let the Marketing Head know that I was on the train into London. Bugger. But Euston wasn’t even the worst part. It was dragging myself and five kilos of ‘just in case’ pages of collateral all the way to the ExCeL convention centre on the edge of the city. And I was going to have to use the transportation of nightmares that makes men cry, brakes souls and causes couples to break; The Tube. To be honest, the worst was just finding my way around King’s Cross as I tried to figure out where to buy a ticket, and what constituted the difference between the train and the Tube entrances. I was a human Sim character for about 20 minutes, wandering around in circles trying to figure out why I was there and how to get out.

Two hours*, a packed Tube and a cheerful Twirl bar later, I found myself at ExCeL. It’s a marvellous, imposing building, shoved at what feels like the other end of the world. If I thought Euston station was bad, I was in for a bigger shock. The convention space was packed with nerds as far as the eye could see. And the place was incredible. Flashing lights, red carpets- I felt like I was in Hollywood. The elaborate stands were stocked full of toothy smiles, chocolates, pens, and enough collateral to build the DLR line all the way back to Euston. And the room was massive.

I waded through the throng of matching t-shirts and rucksacks, trying to find my way to the Citrix Partner Zone to find our stand. We were delighted to be displaying alongside Citrix again this year, especially with the introduction of our new instrato brand. With instrato, we work with Citrix and Microsoft Azure to revolutionise the journey to the cloud. We were even more excited to introduce our new project to the thousands of delegates that were in attendance, getting to chat with them and see how instrato could make their cloud journey simpler. And when I finally rocked up to the stand, it was clear that it was catching the eye of plenty of people. Thank god the girls had all bought matching blouses in Cetus purple, it made them so much easier to spot in the crowd that had manifested.

This year, we were especially excited to have a speaker at the event. In April, we won the highly fought-after Lewisham and Greenwich NHS tender. It’s a big deal for us at Cetus, one of the most prestigious projects we’ve ever taken on. Six months later and we’ve well and truly sunk our teeth into it. With healthcare IT hugely under-reported on, it made sense to introduce the instrato project in the theatre. Thankfully, I had made it just in time for our speaker slot, held in the App Virtualisation & Mobile Workspaces Theatre, which was just behind our stand. As always, our Business Development Director, Paul Kiveal, gave a brief introduction to Cetus and instrato, as relaxed and well-spoken in front of the packed theatre as he is during team meetings. As much as Paul could have detailed what benefits and improvements we are delivering to the NHS, he handed the reins over to Justin Beardsmore, Chief Technology Officer for the Lewisham and Greenwich Trust, who was more than happy to talk in depth about the project and why the Trust chose to work with us. Impeccably dressed, he stood at the top of the lecture theatre watching the chairs getting filled up as delegates made their way in.

An experienced senior technology leader, Justin captivated the audience with the situation of the NHS and what we are doing to improve the lives of not only the working staff, but also the patients that rely on the service. Justin went into detail about the community NHS staff, those incredible people who work remotely to provide a top-tier healthcare service to patients who aren’t able, or don’t need, to attend hospital. As you can imagine, the paperwork and procedures that has to be completed for each patient, regardless of location, can really pile up, so an innovative solution has to be sought.

It was a quick and captivating 30 minutes, and it was a delight to see delegates coming up to Paul and Justin after the lecture for their know-how and suggestions for their own projects. Our stand was swamped directly after the lecture as well, whispers of our successful lecture having spread around the convention, and everyone wanted to find out more about our exciting Citrix-Azure-instrato partnership. Essentially a human lump of a paperweight at the stand, I decided against striking up conversations with delegates and scaring them away with my limited IT knowledge. I played ‘undercover blogger’ and wandered around the convention, popping into cybersecurity lectures and avoiding eye contact with everyone I met (god forbid I get kicked out for being too stupid).

Alas, it was only too soon before I got the dreaded ‘let’s go make our way to the Tube :)’ text and had to say goodbye to the ExCeL centre. Weary that our beds were still another six hours away, we piled into the Tube (why on earth is it so short?) along with hundreds of other delegates who decided rush hour was the prime time to leave before they came back again the next day to do it all over again.

Did you go to IPEXPO this year? We hope you managed to pop by our stand for a chat (I swear, everyone else is extremely intelligent and knowledgeable in IT) and found out more about instrato and what exciting projects we have planned. If you didn’t make it to London, or just didn’t have the chance to come say hi, we still have the same experts (minus Justin, I’m afraid) on-hand to talk through your upcoming projects, and they’re easily available here. As for us, we’re going back to the drawing board to start planning for next year, can’t wait to see you there.

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*It took me two hours because I can’t read CityMapper and I refuse to ask for directions. It should only take 30 to 40 minutes.

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, Technology, Uncategorized

instrato or Lexus?


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Toyota is the world’s second largest automotive manufacturer, and in 2017 was standing as the fifth largest global company by revenue. So why did such a successful company create another totally new brand – Lexus, in a highly saturated and ultra-competitive marketplace?

Lexus was an idea from the Japanese car manufacturer, not to enter a new diverse market sector, but to show the world just how good they are at manufacturing high-quality vehicles, appealing to both existing and new customers alike. They believed they needed a fresh, more relevant brand which was built on their already trusted and proven heritage, a brand which appealed to a wider audience with perhaps a different use case. Strangely, many didn’t regard Toyota as a world-leading brand, so this perception had to change.

Toyota responded to their customers, bringing together many years of success, quality, experience and proven customer satisfaction in an exciting, new, forward-thinking premium brand.

We live in the Cloud-era; not a day goes by without the word Cloud in whatever context. We see large multi-national vendors placing their ‘cloud-bets’ with their entire reputation. I guess if they are, well it must be good, right?! I’d rather test such a theory, so we did and have been for several years… We’ve also seen a flurry of the new kids on the block, ‘born in the cloud’ they say! Such organisations claiming to harness the power of the public cloud, yet with limited experience and actual solution design heritage. Why would an organisation place all their commercial eggs in a basket of hope?!

Here at Cetus, we have been designing, building, implementing and supporting infrastructure solutions for almost twenty years and haven’t times changed eh, especially in our industry?! Cetus adopted Cloud strategies many years ago and have successfully built and run our own private cloud platform – Continuum C3 for over six years now for our customers; the public cloud providers were not the appropriate choice for this, not back then anyway, but watch this space…

Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS and Google Cloud are the alleged leaders today, the weapons of choice one may say.

As a true Solutions-House, Cetus actively respond to customers challenges and market forces, and we too must place our bets! Our solution stack is so, by design, a well-developed and focused set of products and solutions to drive business outcomes and address real business challenges. Enter stage right, the Public Cloud to our strategic catalogue and its time to refresh our thoughts!

Instrato is Cetus’s new fresh and relevant approach in the journey to the Cloud, ‘on-point’ and developed with a focused set of technologies, capitalising and leveraging Cloud Infrastructure combined with Cetus’s experienced 17-year heritage in delivering successful customer solutions. Cetus have delivered successful public cloud projects which, combined with the Cetus Team’s knowledge and experience, set us apart from many ‘new to the cloud’ organisations. “Real, proven and trusted experience is hard to find…” states a valued Cetus customer.

Instrato redefines Cetus’s approach to your journey to the cloud and the ultimate goal of SaaS. Instrato is a compelling set of technologies and solutions which, akin to Cetus, deliver on our proven experience and knowledge to assist customers into the world of the cloud. “We’re proudly letting the market know we have deep and unparalleled experience in the world of cloud computing, combining our years of infrastructure solution success to deliver to our customers” says Colleen O’Brien, Head of Marketing at Cetus.

So here we have it!
Instrato builds on our heritage and experience of listening to customers, designing successful solutions and delivering business outcomes by adopting and integrating Cloud and SaaS technologies! Experience counts…

This is a strange blog for me, this time I am discussing and marketing a fresh, new and exciting brand, Instrato, but just think about that should you step into a Lexus; it may be new but its built-on years of experience and proven success, wouldn’t you want that underpinning your business decisions in such a competitive world?
C’mon in instrato!
Find out more at hello@instrato.co.uk and visit www.instrato.co.uk

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, GDPR, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

Is The Password Dead?


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My boyfriend was amazing me last weekend when he showed me how he could unlock his brand-new Google Pixel 2 using just his voice. I was seriously impressed until he laughed and showed me the index scanner on the back that actually unlocked it. To be honest, it’s a perfectly useless piece of hardware since I know his pin code anyway. Which isn’t much of a win- I just get full access to the albums upon albums of stupid memes that he stores for later consumption.

These days, it seems as though you’d need to live and work in the Pentagon to keep your data safe. And even then, you’d probably be safer by having a photographic memory and never writing or typing anything. Ever. For the entirety of your life- and chances are, you’ve ballsed that one up already, right? If not, there you go, cyber security problem solved. You can tell that annoying antivirus update pop-up reminder where to stick it because you JUST DON’T NEED IT. However, if you don’t have the privilege of a) living in the Pentagon or b) having a photographic memory, then keeping your data safe can be a smidge harder (and I’m betting that’s most of us). Back in the old days of computers and the internet, simple passwords were enough to keep sensitive data safe. Nowadays, the opportunities for cyber criminals to exploit this information are too good for these less-than-moral people to miss out on.

But, as with the Google Pixel 2, we’re quickly catching on to the fact that a simple password or pin number isn’t enough, especially when it comes to our accounts online. According to password management company Dashlane, a single email address can be registered to a whopping 130 passwords. This tells us that some people either have too much time on their hands or a terrible memory, or both. Let’s be honest, when we have a password that we can remember, has a capital letter, a special character AND contains more than eight letters, we all use the same one for the random things around the web. Deliveroo, Amazon, Tesco Delivery; so many things are online now and they all require an account. And it’s not much better in the workplace. ‘For security purposes’, passwords get changed every three months or so at work, but it’s just a case of using a particular word and going up the number line each time we get that annoying notification. I am definitely guilty of this (I wait until the absolute last minute to message around to all of our IT support techies to get it changed. So they all end up knowing my new password. I like to call it ‘herd immunity’). And 42% of workers admit to sharing their passwords with co-workers. So, in the age of GRPR and a heightened awareness of cybercrime, we have to ask ourselves; is the password dead?

A recent Verizon report states that two thirds of data breaches are caused by stolen passwords or misused credentials. So basically human error. And it’s not like we can remove that problem until AI progresses enough to create robots that can do the work for us- wouldn’t that be convenient? Maybe robots are the answer, but not in the short term.

Passwords are a lot like mayonnaise. You wouldn’t consume it on its own (or at least not more than a tablespoonful or two straight from the jar at a time), but it’s a nice little addition to a dish. So what would be the ‘piece de resistance’? We have biometrics that are starting to become popular. Even I managed to fall into the ‘high tech’ phenomenon of having a thumb scanner on my ancient iPhone. And how many times has NatWest bothered me about getting their banking app? “It’s so much safer!” they say. “I don’t trust mobile devices!” I scream back. “WE’VE NEVER HAD A SECURITY BREACH!” they holler. “I WILL NOT BELIEVE IT!” I finish. I’m paraphrasing, of course, the conversation I had with my, considerably older, banking agent. Shocked that a twenty-something would have so little faith in technology, he took out his fancy phone to show me. Needless to say, I won that argument. As it was, it took me a while to get into the idea of biometrics. Realistically, all it takes is some criminal genius to sever your finger to access your bank account. I don’t know about you, but having someone steal my money after stealing my thumb is, quite literally, adding insult to injury.

So what about removing the password altogether? I’m not suggesting we scrap the whole thing, of course. But multi-factor authentication has become something of interest recently. Microsoft shocked the world in May when they announced in a blog post that they were trying to rid the world of passwords for good. Promising a future where end users will never have to deal with passwords while also vowing that user credentials will never be ‘cracked, breached or phished’ seems too good to be true. But apparently, with 47 million users worldwide, Windows Hello is very much a thing. And it only needs one authentication method; facial recognition (luckily, you’re slightly less likely of having your face severed), fingerprint or retina scan. If you are absolutely adamant that fingerprint scan is the way you want to go, you can buy a tiny little USB device to plug into your laptop, a bit like the connection bit of a wireless keyboard. I’ve said it before, but starting my day like Tom Cruise in Minority Report sounds pretty cool. I might just start getting out of bed at the first alarm every morning. My ultimate favourite feature of Windows Hello is Dynamic Lock. It’s a fancy name for something pretty simple; essentially, your computer detects when you’re out of reach and automatically locks itself. And by ‘you’, I mean your phone. So you’ll never have to worry about fire drills, emergency pee breaks, or having your laptop stolen out of the window by sleuths with fishing rods. True peace of mind.

What makes Windows Hello so secure? If you use facial or fingerprint recognition, Microsoft does not transfer the raw data over the internet. So that’s already a huge chunk of potential Mission Impossible criminals who won’t be able to make latex copies to break in. Apparently, Microsoft doesn’t even store the raw data, creating a digital abstraction instead that can only be interpreted with a machine. And what user information does get transferred across the internet gets encrypted to almost-Pentagon standards. And all you need is the Windows 10 Anniversary Update- easy!

So, what do you think? Will you be chucking that little black notebook full of usernames and passwords? (Maybe burn it instead) Or will you insist on keeping the same password you’ve used since you had to put your social media profiles on private? Either way, you might be interested in hearing what our experts 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, Microsoft, Our Upcoming Events, Uncategorized

A Brief History of Azure


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You’d be hard pressed to imagine a modern world without Microsoft Azure. Since 2010, it has graced many a cloud strategy, promising to deliver an ever-expanding set of cloud services to help meet organisations’ business challenges. It’s safe to say that it provides full freedom to build, manage and deploy applications on a large scale, using plenty of tools and frameworks to achieve it. The inner workings of Azure were already in the planning stages in 2005. Hoping to bring disruption to internet services, Ray Ozzy, Chief Technical Officer and Chief Software Architect at Microsoft, insisted that Azure would bring “the effectiveness of a new delivery and adoption model” that would also create “the demand for compelling, integrated user experiences that ‘just work’.” 13 years later, and eight years after being released into the public domain, Azure has done just that.

When it comes to cloud computing, Microsoft offers all of the main categories that interest organisations; Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Microsoft, being Microsoft, has had every opportunity to innovate, diversify and establish Azure as a top-level fixture in the industry. Announced in October 2008 with codename ‘Project Red Dog’, it wasn’t always one of the Big Players in the world of cloud. Microsoft intended on launching a total of five key categories of cloud services, with Azure in the hot seat for compute, storage and networking; while incorporating Microsoft SQL Services for databases; .NET Services for developers, Live Services for filesharing and Microsoft SharePoint Services and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services for SaaS offerings.

Take yourself back to 2010. It was the year that brought so many highs and lows for the country; Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, the engagement announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the brutal loss for England to host the 2018 World Cup (which evidently went to Russia). Originally called Windows Azure, it provided a service platform for SQL Services, .Net services and Live Services. Back then, the ‘cloud’ was a semi-obscure idea that some couldn’t really get their heads around. Honestly, the internet was a wacky idea in the 90s but in 2010 we’d largely accepted it as a fundamental human right, so being able to store data and access apps online wasn’t much of a stretch. But anyway. Because of that slight doubt, Azure didn’t know it, but it was on the cusp of a technological revolution- and it was at the right place at the right time to reap the rewards.

Unfortunately, in 2011 Azure had a slight hiccup. Still in its infancy, the documentation describing Azure services and capabilities was deemed incomprehensible, and its web-based interface was difficult to use. Thankfully, in May 2011 Scott Guthrie, former Corporate Vice President of the .Net platform at Microsoft, took over the Azure Application Platform team in order to shake things up a little and make some improvements. And he did! The user interface that was formerly a Silverlight application was changed to a HTML5 web portal, which improved things drastically and made the whole platform feel more like a systematised set of services. Adding support for quite a wide variety of programming languages, frameworks and operating systems (including, surprisingly, Linux) propelled Azure into a new, more innovative age. By 2014, Azure had made significant leaps in user experience. Becoming a cloud platform known for being robust and comprehensive for IaaS and PaaS cloud computing models. By continuing to expand its cloud capabilities, it has increased its support for open source software, making Azure the first choice for organisations that don’t even run Windows. In the years that followed, Azure has gone from strength to strength, developing significantly since 2008. The platform has seen only a few major outages in its history, creating an impressive reputation of reliability in a world where even five minutes of downtime can mean hundreds of thousands in loss of profits for organisations.

Back to 2018; Microsoft Azure enjoys a very mature, stable and reliable reputation as a secure public cloud provider, holding the title of second-largest IaaS and PaaS provider (behind Amazon Web Services) in the world. We are proud to work with Microsoft, obviously a huge name in the world of IT in its own right, but also with Azure. We regularly incorporate the platform as part of a business challenge solution as its flexibility and dependability are second to none. We hope this blog post has piqued your interest in the opportunities that Azure can open. Luckily, we are hosting a series of cloud workshops as part of instrato, where our experts will discuss how to leverage the power of cloud to get you on your cloud journey.

Register today to see how Citrix and Microsoft Azure can help you
on your cloud journey

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, Citrix, Cloud, IT Solutions, News, Uncategorized

What is ‘New’?


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Have you ever tried to create something new? I don’t mean ‘fresh’; I mean actually ‘new’ – a thing that no else is doing that will make people pause and say “Oh! That’s different – tell me more…”

This Thursday we launch a new brand. It’s been under wraps for a few months now and is the result of several years of evolutionary growth. It’s a thing that seeks to make us stand out from the crowd; to capture the imagination of prospective clients; to define the next five years of significant growth for Cetus. We’re quite excited.

It’s called ‘Instrato’ – that’s the first ‘new’ thing we needed to come up with. It’s actually rather difficult to come up with a new brand name. A new brand needs to achieve two things: 1 – capture the imagination, and 2 – be an available domain name. Instrato ticked both boxes for us.

So – here’s the bit where creating something ‘new’ becomes really tricky. Instrato is a cloud solutions brand, but it’s a cloud solutions brand with a difference. The problem is that ‘cloud solutions providers’ tend to fall into two camps: Cloud Only & Hybrid Cloud.

They each have their limitations:

Cloud Only Providers – tend to have grown up as Microsoft Azure (or AWS) partners and are really good at provisioning Microsoft Azure instances – but not much else.

Hybrid Cloud Providers – are, well, just about every IT solutions provider out there. Their message is simple – add some cloud stuff and, hey presto! – you’ve got a ‘hybrid cloud’.

So why is Instrato new? In the above cases they are either: capable of building a cloud-only infrastructure or, capable of adding some cloud stuff to meet your current needs. That’s not the way we see it at Instrato.

To us ‘the cloud’ is a journey, who’s ultimate destination is SaaS. Not convinced? Then consider this question: “if you were starting up a brand-new business – would you even consider any form of ‘server infrastructure’?”. We don’t think so – you’d spend a lot of time finding a set of SaaS solutions (e.g. Office 365, SalesForce) to provide the business functionality you need without the associated hassle of an ‘infrastructure’.

Unfortunately, most businesses aren’t in the position of starting from scratch. Instead they have years of accumulated legacy infrastructure to deal with; users who are used to ‘desktops’; shadow IT solutions that just ‘appeared. This is why instrato is ‘new’ … we get that, to most organisations, the journey to SaaS is going to take a little time to complete. The challenge is to manage the bit in the middle: a near constant state of change as their organisation transitions individual applications to SaaS.

Instrato’s role in life is to make that state of near-constant change as seamless as possible from a user’s perspective; and as simple and cost-effective as possible from an IT team’s perspective. We do so by providing technology that addresses four specific business needs during the transition:

– Cloud Hosted Virtual Apps & Desktops (to provide an abstraction layer between your users and the underlying platform)

– Cloud Orchestration – to provide automated management and provisioning of an ever-changing hybrid cloud infrastructure

-Software Defined Networking – to provide resilient, secure, cost effective connection to your changing cloud portfolio

Cloud Analytics – to provide contextual, deep understanding of the traffic flowing across your evolving network.

We think that qualifies as ‘new’ – and we reckon that makes instrato pretty unique.
To hear more about how instrato can help you with your Cloud Journey – why not visit us at www.instrato.co.uk and see how our ‘new’ way of thinking about hybrid cloud can help your organisation to accelerate your cloud journey?

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, Check Point, Cloud, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Security, VMware

WannaCry: What We’ve Learned One Year On


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It felt like the world was held to ransom. All over the globe – an astounding 150 countries in fact -, little red boxes popped up on computer screens, causing dread and havoc. ‘Ooops, your files have been encrypted!’ they read, asking for between $300 and $600 (£230 to £470) in bitcoin for the safe release of the files. On Friday May 12th 2017 nations of the world collectively gasped as these faced the most devastating and widespread cyber security incident at that time. Over 200,000 machines were affected, with the perpetrators scamming over $112,000.

In Britain, the NHS was hit the hardest. The little red WannaCry pop-up appeared at 1pm on the screens of only four trusts, demanding the ransom. By 4pm, when the ‘kill switch’ was accidentally found, it had spread to 16 trusts. The cyber-attack threat was officially ‘stepped down’ by NHS England a week later, but not before the affected reached a staggering 80 out of 236 hospital trusts as well as 603 primary care and affiliate NHS organisations. Public health in the UK was seriously affected, since the ransomware attack resulted in thousands of cancelled appointments, infected systems and the diversion of A&E patients to other hospitals.

In hindsight, and a little bit of digging, it was a disaster waiting to happen. The NHS had been warned as far back as 2014 that their level of cyber security just wouldn’t cut it. With a failure to undertake the most basic of IT security procedures, which included patching and updating software, as well as not putting a strategy in place to properly deal with a cyber security incident, it’s a miracle that it didn’t happen sooner. But it was a huge wake-up call, not only to the NHS but to businesses globally. No longer would cyber security rest on the hopes of a flimsy firewall that hadn’t been updated in several years – this is a real risk, with significant consequences. So, in the year since WannaCry, what exactly have we learned?

It’s horrifying to think that WannaCry was a Gen-V cyber threat, while according to Check Point’s Cyber Security Generations Survey from March 2018, only 10% of IT security professionals are at Gen-IV and, worse still, only 3% are at Gen-V.

According to a recent report by cyber security firm Tanium, most organisations would still be unprepared should another incident like WannaCry happen again. The survey of 500 frontline IT security workers in the UK is shocking; 40% admit that their organisation is even more exposed than last year. Only 31% confessed that their organisation had invested in new security systems since WannaCry. As I stated already slightly higher up, it was basic IT security procedures that were the gateway for WannaCry, yet a staggering 66% of the IT security workers admitted that they still hadn’t improved their patch management process.

The results are definitive; it’s time to start safeguarding against further, potentially more devastating, cyber-attacks.

It’s all about the patching
WannaCry sneaked through a Windows weakness where there was a lack of security. Shockingly, it had been discovered and there had been a patch for the offending loophole two months before the attack. I know having to update is a major pain, but guys, it just needs to be done. WannaCry was a Microsoft Windows ransomware, a software that locked the files by encrypting them. This particular ransomware was particularly nasty because it was network enabled, which allowed it to essentially spread like a virus throughout not only the local network, but the internet as well. What your organisation needs right now is a patch management solution in place to patch for known vulnerabilities as soon as they arise, so that no little malware buggers can infiltrate your systems.

Backup, backup again, and verify
Had your organisation been hit with the WannaCry malware and you’d had all of your data backed up, you’d have been laughing – for the most part. Regardless of encrypting malware potentially hitting you, backups are critical for all things disaster recovery and business continuity. Whether it be tape or cloud (like Cetus Continuum), all of your data needs to be replicated somewhere safe. Regardless of where you store it (and we really do suggest cloud), it should all be encrypted. Security is, after all of this, a priority.

Use all of the threat intelligence and prevention
If you haven’t heard, micro-segmentation is really in right now. Which is really great in the face of cyber security. Life may be like a box of chocolates, but your data centre needs to be more like a hotel and protect itself from east/west traffic. This next point is important; invest in some good threat intelligence and threat security. At the moment, we’re working with Check Point and VMware to highlight how merging Infinity and NSX can create the ideal security solution to protect you.

Figure out where you stand with a security posture review
There are hundreds of ways to fall foul of a cyber-attack in this day and age. With work no longer confined to the office, mobile workspaces have become all the rage – and for good reasons. Being able to work while on the field instead of having to wait to get back to the office, being able to work from home, or just simply being able to sort out an urgent matter when on holiday is revolutionary. And everyone’s trying to get into it. However, using some random Wi-Fi is always a risk. Honestly, you’ve not lived until you stand outside an O2 store trying to rob a second of Wi-Fi to send an email. In the rain. But how secure is that? A security posture review is essential to identify where your security has slipped. And it just so happens that we offer complimentary security posture reviews, where we analyse network traffic to detect a variety of security threats, evaluate end-point security, assess any threats that lurk in your infrastructure as well as other crucial little things. Have a chat with our experts to see where the danger can find a way in.

One thing is for definite; cyber security has never been so important, and making sure that your IT reflects that is the way to protect yourself as much as possible from an attack. It’s important to be proactive in your cyber security, or you’ll be reacting to a security breach instead.

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, Check Point, Cloud, IT Solutions, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

Practice Safe Mobility – Protect Your Endpoints


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It’s not the naughties anymore – the age of consequence-free mobility is over I’m afraid. It’s time to start practicing safe mobility. It’s time to put some endpoint protection on your ‘device’. The result of not doing so exposes your business to risk from threats, data loss, and unauthorised access.

For decades now, endpoint security has been the domain of anti-virus software. This was because Windows endpoints were the primary target, and we all ‘knew’ that they were vulnerable. Many businesses installed AV software on endpoint and moved on to more important matters…

So, what’s changed? Well, I would suggest that things have changed from two perspectives: the ‘use case’ has changed, and the threat environment has changed.
Taking each in turn…

From a use case perspective:
• The age of the virtual desktop seemed to be upon us (at least from Cetus’ perspective) – and then came ‘the well-managed Windows 10 desktop’.

• We’ve been acting like consumers for years now – buying smart phones, tablets and phablets and then wanting to use them for work.

• We’ve also been liberating ‘our’ data – storing it in personal cloud stores like Dropbox and sending it via our personal email accounts in an effort to be more productive
So what’s changed from a threat perspective?

• The days of good ‘old-fashioned’ viruses seemed to disappear when the use of nation state cyber weapons ransomware became an everyday thing (think Wannacry).

• Threats are now specifically targeting mobile devices (think Man-in-the-Middle Attacks. Women-in-the-Middle attacks are also a threat).

• Public cloud services are now part of most corporate strategies (think OneDrive), extending network boundaries into ill-defined, global data centres.

• Increased legislation with regards to the protection of individuals and their personal data (think the GDPR and its somewhat over stated, but none the less terrifying €20m fine).

The above list is by no means exhaustive, and tries to give a flavour of the changing threat landscape. So where am I going with this? Well, the good news is that our friends at Check Point have a solution to your cyber woes. Our cyber security portfolio provides Check Point End Point Security and Security Gateway Appliances that allow us to provide end-to-end security that encompasses your data centre, end points and the Cloud.
Specifically, from an endpoint perspective – Check Point provides data security, network security, threat prevention and a remote access VPN for complete Windows, Mac OS X and mobile device security.

If you’ve been playing fast and loose with your endpoints then we’re here to help. Our free-of-charge Security Posture Review will provide you an opportunity to discuss your endpoint security challenges, as well as your wider cyber security posture with regards to perimeter, data centre and cloud components.

Speak to an expert

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.