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Hybrid Cloud Computing

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The need to respond more quickly to customers and stay ahead of competition has made the agility and cost-effectiveness of moving applications to the cloud an increasingly appealing option.

In general, the term cloud computing typically refers to a public cloud which is shared by thousands of customers all over the world. These cloud providers usually sell storage space, bandwidth and computing power to companies at much cheaper rates than those of physical servers. Using a public cloud can save your company a great deal of money, however, the shared aspect could cause concerns over accessibility, availability and security.


If you have sensitive information you wouldn't want stored on a public cloud, you would potentially store it on your own private servers. To satisfy this need some businesses set up their own cloud-like computing processes, which act as a private cloud. Private clouds work the same way as public clouds but they are used exclusively for one business and can be firewalled away from the rest of the Internet. This gives the private cloud more security and better performance.

Hybrid Clouds
Since most businesses can't get everything they need out of using a public or private cloud exclusively, they use a combination of both to take advantage of the benefits of each type. Public clouds can be used for less sensitive tasks, and private clouds can be used for secure or vital processing tasks. The combination of both these clouds is the hybrid cloud, and it is quickly becoming the preferred method for many businesses. 

An organization might use a public cloud service for archived data but continue to maintain in-house storage for customer data. Ideally, the hybrid approach allows you to take advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness that a public cloud computing environment offers without making critical applications and data vulnerable.

Advantages Of The Hybrid Cloud
Cost Savings: Keeping all of your IT services exclusively internal (on private clouds) or placing everything in the public cloud would require you to spend additional money. A hybrid environment allows you to leverage both systems, reducing the potential costs of hardware, software, and services. Services such as managed hosting can become very expensive, while hybrid computing is available at very reasonable rates.

Scalability: With the hybrid cloud you can mix and match your IT systems and infrastructures between internal private cloud solutions and multiple public cloud environments. This eliminates the need to rely solely on any one system.

Security Management: Security levels vary with each organization and with a hybrid cloud you can maintain security internally, or outsource it to IT Resource. Some organizations may have fewer resources and confidential information to manage and others may find that there are specific providers that offer higher levels of security for their data.

Redundancy: By having your data distributed between multiple sites within the hybrid cloud, you have less downtime and data loss.

Flexibility: Hybrid clouds offer the ability to run individual workloads on either the public or private platforms, taking into consideration cost, performance, security and other requirements. Hybrid clouds provide more flexible solutions when compared to either private or public clouds individually, when you consider the entire workload.


Security Issues In The Cloud
Concerns about the safety of data could be resolved by storing sensitive data on the private cloud, and storing all other data and applications on the public cloud. Another resolution is to carry out critical or security based operations in your own data centers, while using the public cloud to carry out tasks that are larger. By implementing this type of setup you can take advantage of both types of data storage.

Overall, hybrid clouds are designed to quickly assess your needs. Because there are several processes going on behind the scenes to achieve a seamless route between various types of clouds, hybrid is the ideal solution for large-scale projects that can be cumbersome to an in-house server. Using the hybrid cloud would save you the extra costs of purchasing server hardware for a specific project, which would otherwise be unnecessary.

If you have questions on how a hybrid cloud relates to your business, call IT Resource. Our engineers would be happy to meet with you to discuss your needs.

Disaster Recovery Warranty Programs

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Networks are the lifelines that connect your customers to goods and services, and the effects of downtime can be significant, decreasing productivity, eroding customer confidence, and losing revenue.

What is a Cisco SMARTnet?
A Cisco SMARTnet is a warranty program that supplements a Cisco purchase. It provides hardware replacements for the duration of a renewable contract. It also gives an organization’s IT staff 24-7 access to specialized assistance, automated troubleshooting, and authorized entry to online resources – including technical documents and support communities. A SMARTnet will increase business efficiency, maximize business continuity, and implement disaster recovery protocols. 
Hardware Coverage
The SMARTnet hardware warranty offers a variety of options based on specific business needs. Hardware replacement can be available by 5p.m. the next business day or even the same day, within 2 hours with the 24x7x2 hour plan. This option is ideal for a business that cannot afford to be inoperable for more than a couple hours. The coverage also offers a Return for Repair option and an On-Site option where a Cisco engineer will travel on-site to troubleshoot and resolve an issue.

Certified and Professional Assistance
A SMARTnet provides free certified IT assistance by directly connecting its users to the Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) through e-mail, phone, web collaboration, or face to face. TAC can be directly accessed 24 hours a day, 365 days. The professionals at TAC are experienced and make it simple to submit a service request, track the issue, and have it resolved. 

Preemptive Diagnoses and Automatic Software Updates
The SMARTnet program provides alerts and identifies issues in real time on Cisco devices. These issues are detected and dealt with by Cisco engineers before it affects business operations. This will maximize business continuity and help prevent disasters. Operating system software updates will also be available free of charge as they are released.

To learn about all of the SMARTnet features and pricing, please contact Sales at 616.837.6930.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How long would your business survive without access to your network, phones, email, or internet? You may think it will never happen to you, and many businesses play the odds. However, we get calls from customers whose facilities have been struck by lightning more often than you may think. Things happen. Lightning strikes, flooding or a fire takes out your server room, and of course we can't forget human error.

The focus of business continuity is making sure all your critical applications stay up and running in the event of a disaster. The first thing to understand is that business continuity is not disaster recovery, and it is not something that should be implemented at the time of the disaster. Business continuity is the planning and implementation of a system that ensures all critical business functions will be available to customers, suppliers, and of course, employees, whenever the need arises. The proper system can include a number of essential activities such as project management, system backups, communication systems, and your help desk. Business continuity includes activities performed daily to maintain service, consistency, and recoverability.

In order to determine the appropriate protocol for your business, you first have to determine how long your business can function without your critical applications, then we will work to determine a solution. If you are a medical facility, such as a hospital, you wouldn't be able to last long at all. However, if you don't rely as heavily on critical business applications, you may be able to last a day or longer.

Common Barriers to Business Continuity Solutions
When we work with customers to develop their business continuity plan, we often discuss various hurdles with them, as this often helps us determine what level to approach their plan. Some common issues we see in businesses include:

  1. Business owners and management may not realize their systems are at risk, or if they do, to what extent
  2. Technical staff may not have the knowledge to implement and maintain true disaster recovery and business continuity solutions
  3. The cost to implement disaster recovery and business continuity solutions in-house may be very high
  4. There are often misperceptions of what disaster recovery and business continuity really are

What are the Ultimate Goals for Business Continuity?
The obvious goal is to continue with a seamless work flow, despite the disaster. However, going beyond that we want to ensure that: 

  1. There is no single point of failure that causes a major system or technology outage
  2. There is an assurance of system uptimes
  3. There is secure protection of information and data even in the event of loss of systems or entire buildings
  4. The system is predictable and testable
  5. There is little to no loss of business revenue due to system outage

Achieving Business Continuity In The Cloud
Cloud based solutions are quickly becoming the standard for business continuity systems. You'll want to consider moving essential services to the cloud, including email, voice, data backup and off-site replication, web, and critical applications.


The steps to a successful solution include:
  1. Identifying your critical business systems and rank them by importance
  2. Assessing your current backdrop and disaster recovery solutions for each critical system
  3. Implementing virtualization solutions
  4. Investing in high-quality, high-speed and redundant internet connections
  5. Migrating critical business services to cloud-based providers
  6. Scheduling and testing failover and failback procedures

You don't want to wait for a disaster to happen before you begin thinking about a business continuity plan. We've seen unfortunate circumstances where businesses were hit with a disaster and were not able to recover in a timely manner because proper plans were not in place. By engaging an IT partner you can ensure that your systems will be taken care of in the event of a disaster, and that minimal downtime will occur. If this is something you would like to take a closer look at, our staff would be happy to discuss your business continuity plans with you. Don't wait until it's too late.

Tee Time

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Our annual golf outing took place last week and as usual, we had a fantastic showing of customers, friends, and vendors there to join in the fun.

Deidra McClelland of The Skye Group and It Resource's Molly Reid are ready to get started.

Justin Graeff and Carrie Borchers prepare to head out.

Golfers listen to a few announcements by Gary and Leo  - don't forget to look for the prize holes, and as always...have fun!

Tim Felstead looks forward to a day on the course and Andrew Watson gets the job of sitting on hole 17 to be a witness in case anyone makes a hole-in-one and wins the car from Fox Ford!

A big thanks to our marketing team, Andrea Snyder of STUDIO3TWENTY and Kim Helmers who planned our entire day.

Leo's foursome is beating the heat. Pictured here are Mike Kounelis of Skillman Corporation, Dan CLeary, Leo Reap, and Courtney James of Skillman Corporation.

It Resource's Carolyn Martin wants to make sure the putt goes in so she checks it carefully. By the way, she does make it in :)

Thanks so much to everyone who came out - we had a wonderful time and can't wait to see you all again next year!

Paul Montag: Senior Account Executive

Monday, July 15, 2013
People profiles give you a chance to meet our staff - the folks you may deal with on a regular basis here at IT Resource.

Official Title: Senior Account Executive
What do you do at IT Resource? Do you have any special certifications? I work with clients as an additional support resource by providing a communication path for maintaining strong customer relations, while identifying current and future initiatives in supporting the client’s business network operational needs. I have both Cisco and Microsoft certifications.

What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? I'd own a sporting goods & bait shop with a bar and grill, that had a charter fishing operation, all located on a picturesque river…. (Hey as long as I can’t fail I might as well make it a big dream.)

Do you have any hidden talents? Nothing huge..basically what you see is what you get. The rest is a surprise.

What is the best part about working at IT Resource?  There is a solid culture of willingness to lend a hand, answer a question when needed as well as a willingness to ensure that the customer is well taken care of.

How long have you worked at IT Resource? Since June, 2013

If you knew then, what you know now, what piece of advice would you give yourself? Buy Stock in Microsoft, Apple, and Dell. And keep that 1967 Ford Mustang.

What do you want to be when you grow up? I hope I never grow up... I would like to keep a bit of the kid in me.
But when I was a youngster I wanted to be a hockey player.

What is the most interesting job you’ve ever had (not IT related)? Besides being a dad and a grandpa, I was in the military - helicopters; weapons; flight deck aircraft launch recovery crew.

Tell us something your colleagues don't know about you. If I told you then everyone would know.

Bringing Your Own Device is Not Just a Trend

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

If you think the concept of bringing your own device to work (BYOD) is just a trend, think again. A recent study by Gartner predicts that by 2017, half of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes. This statistic follows a global survey of CIOs by Gartner, Inc.'s Executive Programs indicating that 38% of companies expect to stop providing devices to workers by 2016.

"BYOD strategies are the most radical change to the economics and the culture of client computing in business in decades," said David Willis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "The benefits of BYOD include creating new mobile workforce opportunities, increasing employee satisfaction, and reducing or avoiding costs."

Being able to work remotely has been a springboard for increased mobility and collaboration and BYOD just adds to the potential. By increasing the number of mobile application users in the workforce, a business is able to give employees a more immediate way of collaborating, and helps close the productivity gap created by globalization. We're seeing benefits far beyond the traditional email and phone capabilities. Many common company applications are being used in this scenario, all to help with productivity. Essentially, you're allowing an employee to use a single device for both personal and work purposes, which many folks see as a benefit. We're seeing this system used in large enterprise level businesses, but it has advantages for the SMB market as well.

Businesses that incorporate BYOD can save money by housing software and hardware systems on a server, thus eliminating the cost of updating each individual device. Additionally, the cost of purchasing a laptop or mobile device for your traveling employees is eliminated when you allow them to use their own device.

On the flip side, a common concern we hear from our customers is the need for increased mobile security. These concerns can be alleviated by building a solid infrastructure and putting proper mobile security functions in place. Deploying a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) model delivers applications and data securely on BYOD devices. All components of the traditional desktop are virtualized, which allows for a highly flexible and much more secure desktop delivery model, regardless of the BYOD device (including smartphones, tablets or laptops). VDI also supports a more robust desktop disaster recovery strategy as all components are essentially saved in the data center and backed up. If an employee loses their device or it is stolen, all the components of that user’s desktop will be present at login from another device.

However, even with a solid infrastructure that supports VDI for BYOD, as a business owner you must set forth expectations as to how the device should be used, and make sure employees understand who is responsible for managing and securing the mobile device. Having a corporate policy on BYOD applications, monitoring your company’s mobile devices and having a BYOD use policy will help communicate with your staff what will and will not be monitored, what apps are dangerous to the company, what kinds of devices and operating systems are allowed, manage privacy expectations and what to do when a device is lost or stolen.

Offering a BYOD program certainly offers many advantages to a business owner, but the proper steps must be taken to ensure a secure and productive environment. Given the trending numbers, if you're not already on board with BYOD, you'll no doubt want to begin looking into the concept in the near future.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Mention going green and cutting down on operating expenses and you've caught the attention of a business owner, but these two concepts don't have to be a distant vision. By introducing Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI, as an alternative to a traditional workstation you can, in fact, save money and go green.

VDI works by allowing users access company files, hardware, and operating systems right on their own device. This method of virtualization consolidates all your desktop resources in one data center, which can have many benefits. 

Benefits of VDI
- Greater efficiency, reduced costs, and greater security
- Desktops can be set up and ready to go in minutes
- IT costs are reduced because there are fewer tech support issues
- Fewer software compatibility issues
- A more robust desktop disaster recovery system is supported with VDI
- Maintenance and upgrades are made at the data center, reducing costs of having to maintain and upgrade each individual device
- Telecommuters can access applications and data without being physically present

Let's Talk Security
With VDI, your information can be hosted locally, on a central server, or in the cloud. This minimizes security risks because the information is not on the end user's device. This is a major benefit in the event the device gets stolen or hacked, or if the employee is no longer with the company. In addition, VDI can archive all your data on a regular basis, which leads to a better means of disaster recovery and business continuity. 

If you have questions on how VDI can benefit your work environment, give us a call. We’d be happy discuss an IT security assessment of your virtual environment to help you prepare for VDI.

Software Audits On The Rise

Monday, June 17, 2013
As reported in a recent Grand Rapids Business Journal article, the number of software audits targeting local businesses have been increasing, forcing businesses to react, sometimes very quickly, in order to avoid costly licensing and penalty fees. At the same time, software vendors continue to change their existing licensing rules and requirements while introducing new licensing models, such as cloud-hosted and subscription-based licensing services. And this is not only a local issue, the trend continues throughout many parts of the country where we support customers.

The good news is we can help you understand what licensing you have and help you avoid the audits. With the IT Resource Remote Monitoring and Reporting (RMR) program, your business will always have up-to-date and detailed information on exactly what software applications are installed on every device on your network at any time. In fact, this solution can also insure compliance by automatically uninstalling non-compliant software should you require that feature.

If you are a current IT Resource RMR customer, we recommend you review your current software licensing status at this time. To receive your report, simply send an e-mail to help@itrw.net and request a ‘Software Audit Report’ which will be provided to you at no cost. If you are not currently enrolled in our RMR program and would like to learn more about what it offers, please contact our Sales Account Manager Molly Reid at (616) 837-6930 or mollyr@itrw.net.

The entire Grand Rapids Business Journal article can be found here.

Women in Technology: Turning the Tables

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

When it comes to women in the workforce, society and the media traditionally place them in nurturing or social fields such as nursing, teaching, or administration positions. With time and a savvy business acumen, that stereotype is changing as we are seeing a shift in women joining fields that are traditionally held by men. June is National Women in Science and Technology Month, it celebrates the roles females play in what is traditionally considered an industry dominated by males.


In the United States, only 20% of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are held by women. As technology begins to take over every aspect of our personal and business lives, it only seems natural that more women would, in one way or another, find themselves embracing the field, and allowing their own career paths to lead them towards technology.

The Tables are Turning
“When I was growing up there was a scarcity of women in leadership and highly visible positions in STEM, other than women teaching science and math and even then, the men outnumbered the women in those departments,” explains Carrie Borchers, Director of Sales at IT Resource. “Today, we have Meg Whitman (Hewlett-Packard CEO), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo! CEO) and Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) all over the news so it will be interesting to see if this plants seeds of opportunity in young minds.”

As more women fall into the technology field, whether it be on purpose, or by way of a happy accident, we will see more of a shift. Amanda Regnerus, Vice President, Marketing, US Signal Company, explains that historically woman have worked in help or service industries. “I'm sure statistically, there are less than 20% of jobs in the service industry that are held by men. As time goes on and we continue to move toward gender equality in the workplace, these numbers may even themselves out.”

Perhaps another reason we see such an unbalance in the workforce is because of the gender roles created by media and other family members. Kim Helmers, Sales and Marketing Assistant at IT Resource explains that if women follow the career paths of other females in their lives (sisters, mothers, etc.) who held positions in healthcare or retail, they may have a lack of interest in the technology fields simply because of what they were exposed to at home.

Is Gender A Barrier?
Being the minority in your field can come with its own set of struggles, but the outcome is directly related to how you handle the situation. Lori Brandt, Help Desk Manager at IT Resource, fell into technology, then followed up her self-learned knowledge with a related college degree in the field. She explains that she feels her degree validates her knowledge, but the path didn’t come without resistance. “I don’t feel that I had many struggles once I made the decision to base my career in technology. Doors were always open to me, but they did not open on their own. I had to make the effort to go to the door and open it.”

Most of the women I spoke to did not see their gender as being a barrier for their success in this field. In fact, a few even pointed out that it’s not so bad being the minority. “When I go to an event or environment when there are one or two women and 50-60 men, it’s a lot easier for people to remember me, as opposed to one of the many ties and flys,” said Borchers.

Along those same lines, Regnerus indicated that she thinks it’s a great opportunity to be a part of a field that is always evolving, growing, changing and continually challenges you to learn new things. “I love the field of technology and don't look at my gender as a barrier.  But, that's just me, I don't really look at anything outside of myself as a barrier to success.”

I began to see a common trend among these women. All successful in their own right, and each understanding the skills it takes to succeed in the workforce. Molly Reid, Senior Account Executive at IT Resource, explains that in a field that requires a plethora of skills to survive, she is happy to be someone that can critically think to handle problem solving, decision making, and  analysis for her customers. “I love to see a client that has a problem, get it resolved and know that the engineers and I helped so that they can focus on making their business thrive,” says Reid.
Abundant Opportunities In An Ever-Changing Field
Whether women are interested in technology in college, or fall into the career later in life, there is always opportunity for them to thrive in this ever-changing field. Catherine Lazarock is the owner of Symplicity Communications, a Grand Rapids based telecommunications company. She encountered a lot of criticism when generating her start-up, but she believed in what she was doing and seven years later she is running a successful business. She recalls how she stumbled upon the technology field and how it changed her career path. “My background was public relations and marketing and a job change brought me to the door step of the technology industry.  I like to think that I was pushed off the cliff,” says Lazarock. “This industry is so exciting, with fast, evolving products and a huge market, what’s not to love?  I literally can go anywhere in the world and sell technology services.” 

Women Can Make A Statement
Given the hurdles and challenges these women have faced, would they recommend this mostly male field to up and coming females? Sarah Van Elderen, Marketing & Event Coordinator, US Signal Company, says young females should not be afraid of joining a field where they are the minority. She indicates the most important thing to remember when selecting a career is to find something you love. Van Elderen says she came from a techie family so she had always been interested in the field, but it wasn’t until she landed at US Signal, which she describes as a “right place, right time” situation, that she embraced the technology field as a career. “I came in as a Pricing Analyst with no telecom experience, and learned everything about telecommunications, network services, and cloud hosting from the ground up,” says Van Elderen. “My biggest accomplishment is more of a general feeling of success. When I look back to four years ago when I started at US Signal, it’s amazing to me how much I have learned and how much I have grown.” But, VanElderen explains, there is a flip side. “My biggest struggle has also been the amount of information I have had to learn. Because technology is always changing, there is always new information to learn.”

While there will be struggles, when you enter an ever-changing industry, Lazarock says “Embrace it!  There are so many opportunities for women in technology. Because it is dominated by men, women can truly make a statement, and quickly, within this industry. Because we are the minority, naturally we are going to stand out if we create a solid niche and move forward with strong integrity.”

The advice and beliefs that each of these women shared was not simply related to the technology field. As successful business women, they all think on a global scale, which translates across many platforms when it comes to advising other young women.

A New Image For “Tech Geeks”
Technology is an industry that’s here to stay, and the image of the lone “tech geek” working in the basement is being overtaken by a new wave of intelligent, up-and-coming people who are paving the way for this flourishing industry. This field is changing the way we think, the way we live, and the way we work.

“The term “girl geek” is actually somewhat of a compliment to me. In recent years, the term “geek” doesn’t have so much of a negative connotation anymore. A geek is now someone who is incredibly intelligent and ahead of the game on technology,” says Van Elderen. “To be referred to as a girl geek would make me feel as though I’m part of the inner circle of technologically savvy people in this era. I don’t think I have reached girl geek status yet, but I hope I’m on my way!”


Contributors:
Carrie Borchers, Director of Sales, IT Resource

Cloud Computing With The West Michigan Whitecaps

Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Join IT Resource & US Signal in the Super Suite at Fifth Third Ballpark on May 20 from 9:30a-2p to learn more about Cloud Computing & watch The West Michigan Whitecaps take on The Bowling Green Hot Rods. Food & beverages will be provided throughout the game.

Plus, drop off your business card during registration to be entered into the drawing for an iPad Mini at the end of the presentation!

On Deck: Registration 9:30a-10a, Presentation 10a-11a, Opening Pitch 11a

*Seating at this event is limited, register today! Contact Kim with questions at kimh@itrw.net or 616.837.6930.