Under the BYOD walk

 

Bring Your Own Device – Another one of the buzzwords, basically a term encompassing the fact that workers use “their own tools for the job” that they do, in addition to/or instead of  existing supplied equipment of the company.

 Immediate Advantages?

Actually starting with a negative, can there be an advantage letting people loose on your corporate/enterprise network with their own equipment?

Well two key advantages are financial, physically saving money on supplying hardware to staff, off set by the second advantage that staff have freedom to work with equipment that they are familiar with (possibly reducing training time) ,and  increasing their productivity allowing completion of work at the office and from home.

Instead of Fred nervously carrying the laptop around the office (like a waiter with the shakes) to show people something, how much easier would it be if he had his own tablet. Staff with smart phones could utilise VOIP to associate their deskphone to their mobile, so if waiting for the important call they can still get lunch, or attend a briefing and still be contactable. Improving productivity away from the desk.

 

Immediate Disadvantage?

IT Managers grey hair! Opening up the network to possible insecure external devices opens immediate risks, after all a family laptop may have visited various sites and contain bots, malware or even worst a virus all of which could spell the downfall of the network.

The spanner to knock in a nail: No matter how impressive someone’s smartphone is, is there really an advantage on running a desktop app on a 4 inch screen? Ensuring people are using the most suitable device for the work is also imperative. Support workload, expecting IT to cover the possible myriad devices & software available is unrealistic, so again some guidance will be required.

 

Implementing BYOD

Security, obvious first smartphone/tablet/laptops allowed access to the network should have antivirus software. There’s a wide variety but they all cover the fundamental basic protection of the device itself. Again the user should be familiar with what they use, so IT involvement is purely an initial check to ensure the software suffices and is kept up to date. User responsibility is paramount.

Device transport, the device is outside the office and runs the risk of the loss of a device that contains, or has access to the company information or systems is another serious risk. Locking screens, secure the device even ensuring that the device is remotely wipeable should be considerations by staff and IT so as not to leave doors wide open.

Compatibility to the network, allowing the use of VPN or even remote desktop enables the BYOD device to utilise the information and application software from the network system, from a walled secure garden the “kids can play” but you know their safe J

Desktop Virtualisation can be one of the simpler offerings for staff to connect to with their device. Again cost effective, easy to maintain and repair for IT support, and the device visibility (what’s actually on the network that not yours is easier to control). Also offers accessibility on the move from a “single” easily controlled point of access.

The key to working BYOD is policy/rules, awareness to existing and new recruited staff is essential. Governing rules as to the amount of support BYOD staff can expect, should limit lost/wasted time. Rules over proper acceptable use and privacy should be documented for awareness too.

Reimbursement are you paying staff to use their own equipment /broadband access etc ? That too will need consideration for the implications that could affect company policy   

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

Software’s Farewell to XP (Chicago Platform)

With Microsoft’s XP/2003 Server rapidly approaching it End of Service, meaning no more security updates as of April 2014. Support has received several calls from sites with regard to desktop and Server upgrades and the running of our applications.

Windows Server 2008 R2 is the base upgrade path, the later version of IIS7 offering far more reliability for web hosted  applications. Selima’s Cloud  SaaS servers run on this platform, so customers wanting to go “virtual” can be assured this is a solid platform. Support will be trialing Server 2012 shortly and we’ll keep customers updated on performance and reliability on that version.

The alternative desktop O/S choices for sites are Windows 7, or Windows 8/8.1, either of which are fine with the HR and Payroll applications which run happily in both. Selima managed services has run Windows 7 since its inception, and several weeks  worth of testing have taken place on the Windows 8 desktop (non touch) satisfactorily from a support viewpoint. But there are considerations that sites should be aware of with regard to Internet Explorer 10.

IE10 is now part of the standard updates for Windows 7, and comes by default with Windows 8 (pleasenote at time of writing IE11 8.1 was not available) and the update has unfortunately caught out some clients, with IE10 dropping them out of the HR system. This in no way means that HR won’t run under IE 10, simply that a slight configuration change is all that is required, by the user or site IT department.

This is down to the fact that Microsoft moved the goalposts somewhat when the IE10 browser was released and implemented over 30 new standards , such as HTML5 , CSS3 effectively altering the default HTML  standard the browser runs in by default, from the previous widely used earlier IE versions.

Basically the browser has a ‘compatibility mode’, which the browser can switch back and forth from depending on the url site. This should be configured to run under IE9. A simple operation completed by :-

From the browser menu  select  Tools> Developer Tools (use [ALT]) to invoke the menu (or F12 to get straight there)

Then from the menu that appears simply click on “Browser Mode” and from the drop down select the IE version you wish to be compatible with IE9 is fine, but better results are obtained with IE8.

To save the option you’ve selected,  go back to the Tools menu and Click on the Compatibility View Settings simply adding the ipaddress / hostname or domains (and sub domain if required) to the list of compatible sites

With the existing HR interface now respectfully showing its age, after over 10 years service.  The company  have developed a new front end and implemented various improvements to the HR system performance with the release of a HR4 system, which is being rolled out to sites.

This new version not only has a new visual front end in keeping with the Windows  layout, but several performance improvements, all without changing the actual functionality of the system. So, little training is required, simply familiarisation with the feature layout changes such as the “charms” and the floating menu which replace the older icon bars and menu system.

HR4 has the advantage of being  non browser specific, so will run in all popular browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome, offering better alternatives for home on site self service users.

 If you wish to find out more about HR4 please contact for details or demonstration.

 

 

 

 

Virtualisation vs Dedicated Servers

Virtualisation vs Dedicated Servers

Virtualisation of a server  is the transfer and consolidation of number of physical servers onto a single more powerful machine able to cope with the increased load. Server designed machines are designed use only a small portion of the total CPU, RAM, and I/O, so it’s an economic choice primarily so that you can squeeze the worth out of your companies  hardware investment. 

You’ll read some articles that state dedicated servers are “dead”. Not true, dedicated servers still play an important part in any companies set up, be it for isolation security, or dedicated processing power for specific purposes .

 Virtualisation has come to the headlines over the last few years via Cloud technology, which makes use of Virtualisation and makes it available over the internet. Virtualisation is a separate entity to the cloud, but Cloud technology  makes an excellent partner in providing Saas PaaS technology available to users,

 

 It’s all about the money

Virtualisation  is all about economy so as  save money, an important consideration to budgets. This may be hardware costs , IT staffing /human resource, or energy related savings. But the initial outlay in  buying individual servers will always be higher than virtualisation. Even though you may save costs on hardware, the costs of the virtualisation software and licensing can become high. You may have to treat each virtual server as a physical instance like before, so normal licensing costs for each virtual server stays as same, again this is where the Cloud cross over steps in. Cloud technologies such as Saas (Software as a Service) often incorporates licensing, reducing the outlay to the client. Or looking to specific software that offers advantanges such as Office 365 (multi user licence for small business or corporate)

 

 Performance (the two edged sword part 1)

Take time to understand, usually after reading the following the statement the door is slammed on virtualisation. But, its an obvious consideration that the performance will not as be good if you increase the work load for a single machine must handle. While the virtualization hardware improves by getting faster and better  each year, you still have more resources being used with virtualisation. Performance needs for an application should to be addressed on a case by case basis, whether this is a virtualised PC or Server.

The majority of dedicated servers are only using about 35% of their computing capacity (the classic IT rule of thumb) .  and is a waste of usable resource which is the main reason companies are looking for virtualization. Trying to get the most out of your hardware can be  more difficult using a dedicated server environment.

Tolerant CPU power from the host, be that Cloud or the hosting server for the virtual is the main consideration, the better the processor and available memory the better the virtual environment will sit (and behave on the host)

A standard server that is running one application will be faster than the same server running multiple applications. There are times when a virtual server simply cannot perform like a dedicated server and we all have to determine when that time comes. For example consider a database server a dedicated server wins on performance but efficiency is its flaw, the slight compromise of performance  moving to virtual enables other advantages  as you’ll see.

 

 Managing Time

Virtualisation products have advanced management tools that help you to monitor and review information quicker across more servers. This can reduce the human resource needed and less 3rd party software that you have to learn along with less errors. When you have more items to manage, the risk of making mistakes also increases.

Dedicated hosting solutions are more complex due to their hardware separation. Hardware management requires more time. For virtualization, many of these items are built into the software package.

 

Disaster Recovery

The jewel in the crown of Virtualisation is disaster recovery Most virtualisation software comes with a number of features that may increase server up-time. If one virtual server fails, it will come up instantly on another machine. Load balancing is also easier. Many packages also come with their own data backup solutions such as ‘snapshots’ to protect data. In case of Physical server, we have to opt other backup and recovery options.  The  overall outcome being that what may be weeks of work re=establishing a working server can be reduced to hours or a day in restoring the virtualised copy,

 

When is it too much (failure points)

Eggs in baskets time, should  you have 10 virtual servers on a single piece of hardware and if that goes down, the consequences are obvious. Minimizing these risks may require additional hardware like redundant physical servers and SANS so as reduce the possible risks. This adds more equipment and cost which are the exact point that virtualisation aims at reducing.

We can’t let our entire business shutting down due to a single failure. With dedicated servers we know that a single server failure rarely takes down everything, unless its the domain controller!. Virtualisation increases the risk of a major event when you loose a single server. One of virtualizations selling point is the ability to load balance servers easily. The separation of services could be a good thing for many different configurations.

 

Security considerations and Cloudy skies

Setting up a security plan for a virtual server environment is easier because you can focus on a universal security model. A more focused approach for overall security across fewer dedicated machines is easier than security for more hardware, right?

Your virtual server might be on the same physical server of another company. This is especially true if you are using a hosting company on a cloud environment. If you are leasing cloud space from a hosting provider look into  how your server is  protected on the cloud. Usually with SaaS you’re looking for seperate IP address, and non domain access as the two main stalwarts of security. The security of your virtual server depends on many factors and could complicate a few items when dealing with industry regulations.

 

 Ease in IT Expansion

Adding a new server or increasing RAM, CPU, or hard disk is as easy as pressing a few buttons using Virtualisation. The ease of deploying new servers can decrease the time it takes to launch new products and services. When you have to add a new physical server to your environment it takes some planning. You have to purchase equipment and then load the OS, security patches, and plan out physically connecting the server to your network. Using virtualisation you can usually bring up another server within minutes by using a copy of a virtual server. If you are a company adding 10 servers per month then this will be the perfect choice. The virtualization of servers does equal less hardware which can help reducing our net power usage with virtualisation.

 

 Migration

Some virtualisation software comes with utilities to assist in moving A to B. Initial  shadow copies and further snapshotting of changed data allow you to drip your software over to the virtual environment without any “downtime” loss on the original server. Or, the closure of the existing dedicated server for a time, while copies are taken and restored to the virtual allow for parallelism in that you can compare the two side by side and should there be any performance issues then going back to performance monitoring will allow you to fine tune the system offering more of the required resource.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusions?

Virtualization advantages out weigh on the whole the disadvantages be that from the PC to a server. The configuration and migration being the overall out lay. What you end up with is  an expandable system with a degree of portability that’s easily maintainable. The key is resource of the hosting machine be that a PC for the Virtual XP that windows 7 offers, to the VM Ware product sitting on a five year old server.

 

But, is it the right thing to do? That’s entirely down to the client, one man’s meat is another man poison is the old saying. The cheers from IT having less to mantain, may be drowned by the moans of users  grumbling at response times reduction, and the server that runs the virtual (if badly set up or is itself limited in resource). Building your virtual fort on a soft ground (networking issues, low in efficient CPU on hosting server) may contribute to negating the advantage