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


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

It consists of three things:

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

WVD supports a choice of cloud operating systems:

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

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

Why should I care?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A summary of some of the benefits is illustrated below.

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

Credit: Sam Mulhearn – Solutions Architect, Cetus Solutions

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

VMware – Simplifying the Hybrid Multi-Cloud


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: Sam Mulhearn – Solutions Architect, Cetus Solutions

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

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

The Innovation Factory


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: Sam Mulhearn – Solutions Architect, Cetus Solutions  

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

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

Windows 7 to Windows 10: Migration Best Practices


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cloud, Microsoft, Technology, Uncategorized, VMware

Prepare Your Business for Windows 7 End of Life


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

World Backup Day 2019: Losing Data in the Cloud


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Workspace ONE: Everything You Need In A Workspace


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

How to Prevent Cloud Security Threats


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Blog, IT Solutions, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

The New Hero of Cyber Security; Zero Trust


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The ability to work from anywhere, on any device, has quickly become one of the greatest developments in the workspace of all time. It’s not an exaggeration either. In the UK, 4.2 million people were working from home in 2015. In fact, between 2012 and 2016, the mobile workforce increased by 12.35%, and that percentage is growing exponentially year on year. It’s widely predicted that by 2020, half of the UK workforce will no longer be plonked in an office all day. That means that it’s time to invest in nice shoes and/or new pj bottoms. And while that’s an amazing turn of events, it will cause some significant security concerns for everyone concerned. With so much of your workforce wandering the plains of the UK, your network is no longer secure by actual brick and mortar perimeter.

Today’s increasingly decentralised enterprises have become a bit of a headache for IT, who now have to keep you secure even when you’re not potentially clicking on some dodgy email phishing links. Zero trust has evolved to answer the issue. Back when cybercrime was still all the way at Gen III, most organisations assumed that their security protection was robust enough to keep them safe. Those few who did err on the side of caution deployed security operations centres or other cyber monitoring solutions, but for the most part IT departments assumed that anything inside the perimeter was safe. Oh, but those were far simpler times.

By working on the assumption that any resource in the network might be compromised, zero trust puts monitoring solutions in place so that you have the power to take remedial action if it’s needed. With this new solution, no one service or server is considered more secure than the next. It’s basically a data-centric network design that puts micro-perimeters around specific data or assets, giving you the flexibility to apply more-granular rules can be enforced. It solves the ‘flat network’ problem of hackers infiltrating your network and scurrying around undetected. With the right guidance (you’re welcome in advance) and a little bit of know-how, it only takes a couple of steps to get started with zero trust.

Identifying your sensitive data is the obvious first step. It sounds like an easy way to start the process, but it’s a little more challenging than you’d think. You can’t possibly protect data that you can’t see or know about. You need to know where your employees store their data, exactly who uses it, how sensitive it is and how they, your partners and customers use it. Without knowing all of this, you’re putting your data and your organisation at risk. And you can’t exactly start investing in security controls until you know what it is you’re actually trying to protect. When you have a better idea of what you’re dealing with, it’s time to classify it all. I suggest procuring the help of your most organised member of staff before moving onto mapping your data.

To understand how you’re going to employ zero trust, and therefore micro-segmenting specific sensitive data, you need to know how it flows across your network as well as between users and resources. This is a fun (probably not) exercise to have with your stakeholders, such as application and network architects, to fully understand how they approach information. To give yourself a bit of a springboard, security teams should streamline their flow diagrams by leveraging existing models. A zero trust network is based on how transactions flow across a network, and how users and applications access data. Optimising the flow to make it simpler, and start identifying where micro-perimeters will be placed and segmented with physical or virtual appliances. In a network where the compute environment is physical, the segmentation gateway will usually be physical as well, whereas a virtualised compute environment will deploy a virtual segmentation gateway.

Micro-segmentation is the name of the game after you determine the optimum traffic flow, by determining how to enforce access control and inspection policies at the segmentation gateway. The point of zero trust is to enforce identity rights, so that you can control who has the privileges to access specific data, so it’s important to know exactly which users need to access what data. You need to know more than the source address, port and protocol for zero trust to work, since security teams need to understand the user identity as well as the application to establish access rights. Having created your ecosystem, it’s important to ‘Big Brother’ it to identify malicious activity and areas of improvement. There’s no point only logging traffic if it comes from the internet- god only knows what kind of infectious diseases your network could contract from a wild-spirited USB. With your shiny new zero trust network, the segmentation gateway can send all of the data flowing through it, which includes traffic destined for both internal and external network segments, straight to a security analytics tool that inspects it properly.

Now that you’re the proud owner of a zero trust network, you can rest easy knowing that your network is being monitored effectively. Here at Cetus, we believe that building the best architecture is just as important as keeping it safe. We’re experts in all things datacentre and cloud, so make sure to have a chat with one of our specialists who can help you through all of your security challenges. And while you’re at it, book yourself in for our complimentary security posture review to identify where your organisation is being exposed to the nasty things that lurk on the outside of your perimeter.

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

 

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

Five Signs You’re Ready to Embrace Cloud


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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