4 biggest challenges for IT Managers today

happy birthday virtualDCS - cloud computing expertsvirtualDCS has recently celebrated its ten year anniversary, and for us it’s been both a time of reflection and a time for looking ahead to what the next ten years might bring.

We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. What started out as a few conversations in a coffee shop is now a thriving business with 16 staff, including five recruited in the past 12 months as part of our major growth plans. Our team is like a family and we have very little churn, which for our clients means continuity and the guarantee of a familiar friendly face.

We’ve had 50% growth year-on-year for the past five years, with one of our customers being a very large retailer with £2bn turnover across 500+ stores. Having enabled their back end systems, that £2bn now goes through our infrastructure.

Another big highlight for us has been working with interesting organisations, like the Royal College of Physicians, getting involved in their businesses and understanding how they work.

Innovation remains at the core of what we do, so we’re always thinking about how we can solve our clients’ future problems.

From being the first UK provider to offer Veeam Cloud Connect (now one of the largest in Europe) and the first VMware Service Provider Enterprise partner, virtualDCS has continued to innovate and push boundaries.

Plans for this year include being the first provider to release a fully customer driven 365 solution – so watch this space!

Therefore, in this blog post we’re going to explore some of the key challenges that we see IT Managers facing now and in the future – and look at how they could potentially be solved or mitigated.

(1) Data governance, security and privacy

big data security - cloud security

According to Forbes, 2019 will be a critical year for data governance, security and privacy. This has always been a key concern for IT Managers, particularly around cloud based solutions – and it’s one we take very seriously in everything we do. But with Brexit on the horizon, data security concerns have come into sharp focus.

Ransomware is another concern we are hearing more and more about. Businesses have always protected against viruses, but with increasing numbers of office smartphones and BYOD “bring your own device” policies, corporate IT becomes more difficult to protect.

Many businesses are now using our Veeam cloud backup service to give them that air gap, which means if Ransomware is on their network, it can’t reach ours and corrupt their data.

For more information and advice on this, you might find these posts useful:

We’ll also be exploring cloud solutions risks Vs benefits in detail in another blog post soon, so do look out for that. 

(2) Cloud network issues

SaaSAlso in the top five Forbes 2019 ‘industry’s biggest challenges’ list are cloud network issues. Digital transformation has seen many organisations moving their workloads into the cloud. But building the right cloud network to support your data processing requirements is also vital.

It’s important to find a strategic partner who can work across your whole business and advise you an appropriate IT infrastructure model, rather than one who simply seeks to sell you a flashy “off the shelf” solution you don’t need.

A key differentiator of virtualDCS, compared with other cloud hosting providers, is that we are not exclusively wedded to the cloud. We have a mix of customers with both on premise and cloud based setups. This provides an interesting challenge for a techy like our Operations Director John, and gives our team variety which keeps everyone interested in different types of projects. But crucially it also gives us an insight into how we can really make a difference and fully understand a client’s architecture.

For example, when J R Rix & Sons asked us to migrate its 30+ physical servers onto the cloud to deliver lower operating costs, we knew exactly what needed to be done. We migrated the servers to a VMWare vSphere platform consisting of three high-spec hosts using HP Proliant servers and an expandable HP fibre channel storage solution, initially with three disk shelves.

 

Rix IT Manager Paul Codd said:

“This allows us to vMotion across the hosts when demand for CPU/RAM is needed without any impact on our users, specifically the successful outcome we were seeking. … Additional benefits included a power reduction to the server room, which helped to reduce our carbon footprint and lower our operating costs.” 

“One of the most satisfying aspects of this project was that we achieved all we had set out to accomplish with virtually no down time.”

Our approach is to work in partnership with our clients to ensure that their infrastructure is also ready to exceed the service currently demanded by their business.

(3) Quantity of data versus GDPR

cloud computing and big data storage

When we talk to CIOs and CTOs, a lot of their current issues are around the

quantity of data they have to manage. Storing data is cheap, so the tendency has been to hoard it. You can buy a 1TB USB flash drive for just for a few pounds. Consequently, companies have tons of data in lots of different places.

But with GDRP you can no longer hoard data without reason. And with cyber security issues frequently resulting in data being extracted from these companies, the financial penalties are huge. Potentially it could bankrupt a company that doesn’t manage its data carefully.

Basically it’s all a big headache that needs cleaning, organising and securely storing. You can do this yourself, but most companies now choose a specialist partner who can do all this more cost effectively and more securely than they can.

(4) Managing backups for multiple operating systems

Businesses are increasingly running multiple operating systems and environments, with more Apple Macs being used as part of the mix. Apple Mac virtual machine users have had to use Apple’s own cloud backups or a separate system for disaster recovery. Of course this equates to additional cost, time and management, with all the complexities that integration between various systems can bring.

We knew there had to be a better way. So we developed integrated apple failover protection for Veeam, becoming the first company globally to offer Veeam Virtual Apple Mac Replication. Our system removes all the costs and hassle of separate disaster recovery backup systems. It provides complete control over all data, effective protection and flexible backup using Veeam Cloud Connect.

For us, the next ten years will see us become more internationally focused. Brexit will probably generate challenges for some of our clients, but the global nature of cloud computing makes it easy to accommodate and diversify.

We will continue to research the best solutions for our clients. For example we’re already heavily involved with Microsoft Azure, but we expect to see huge growth in that are in the next five to ten years.

As a company we will continue to innovate the technologies and we’ve tried to stay quite specialist with that, hopefully that will continue.

If you would like an informal no obligation discussion about finding solutions to your current IT challenges, call us today on 03453 888 327 or email enquiries@virtualDCS.co.uk

Google Beacon – persistent project or privacy predicament?

Just another day at the office when an unexpected parcel from Google drops on the door step… the random gift of a Google Beacon!

The organisation is pushing the initiative once more by sending businesses free Beacons to encourage implementation. Unfortunately, in today’s security conscious environment these deliveries are sparking more privacy questions than implementations.

What is Project Beacon?

Project Beacon provides proximity experiences for customers using Bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology to send signals to local smart devices. The device continuously broadcasts an identifier which connects to a user’s device. Once your device has interacted with the Beacon it can then transmit its programmed action to the device.

Google Beacon

What are they and why is Google promoting Beacons?

Google is promoting the advantage of improved offline attribution with Google ads. Since the Beacons can be used to pinpoint a physical location, you can track conversion from online advertising to in store visits.

For example, if someone searches for a winter coat locally and visits a Google advertisement for your store but then clicks off before purchasing it wouldn’t have been classed as a conversion. However, with Google Beacon, the device can be tracked into the store as a physical visit.

For the customer, Beacons enable promotions to be broadcasted to receptive devices in the Beacon range to encourage in-store visits. You can read more about the features and benefits of Google Beacon here.

What does this technology mean for privacy?

The concerns around Beacon privacy and security is not just relevant to Google, but other distributors as well, including Apple. Although many may consider these threats minimal, they are still concerns according to Kontakt.io.

Hijacking

As default, most Beacons do not encrypt the data that’s transferred to them from connected devices. Kontakt.io explains a hacker could change the connected Beacon password and change it so that they have full control of the device, putting the entire IoT infrastructure at risk.

Physical tampering

Unsurprisingly, as a Beacon is a physical box, it is also subject to physical attacks. Although this is extreme and unlikely, someone could physically remove the device, take it apart to access its information.

Cloning and Piggybacking

One of the largest threats is from cloning, where an attacker listens to the device and captures Beacon data, copying the information to an external application without consent. After capturing the data, the hacker may clone it, copying the configuration and contents to another Beacon in order to mislead customers. Using a duplicate Beacon opens up an array of possibilities for the hacker, including triggering in-app payments.

As the latest drive continues and technology gets smarter, so do the hackers and the future of project Beacon is still undecided.

Wannacry and the importance of patching

A blog by Ross Devine, head of technical support.

I’m sure that you’ll all of heard about the outbreak of the ransomware WannaCry which was widely reported in the UK media due to the devastating effect it had on parts of the NHS.

wannacryThis Ransomware was propagated via a vulnerability that was patched out by Microsoft back in March.

We completely understand that patching has typically been regarded as a bothersome task that people would rather put off until tomorrow.

Hindsight, however, is all good but had the organisations and bodies kept up to date with their server and client patching they would not have suffered at the hands of the criminals that released this Ransomware into the wild.

This outbreak has shown us all that patching, no matter how mundane, should be placed at the core of our security plans rather than at the periphery. We advise all of our customers and businesses, in general, moving forward, to review their update schedules.

For all our customers that take Proactive Support, this is a task that we will be happy to assist with where required.

What this has done is thrust the importance of server patching for any organisation, or end user’s IT systems into the public consciousness, no doubt the next time you have an outage your MD or end user will be asking if the servers have been patched, what will your answer be?

 

For information on security and managed hosting services contact virtualDCS on 03453 888 327 or by emailing enquiries@virtualDCS.co.uk

 

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