Technology in the classroom, part 1: Learning about your school’s IT needs

digtal learningMore than 50 million students throughout the U.S. returned to school this fall. Across the nation, results-driven curriculums and Common Core standards, though controversial, measure student progress, track teacher success, administer computer testing, and push digital learning initiatives to a higher threshold in 98,500 public schools.

IT should take a similar results-driven approach. How is your school’s IT environment performing this year? Does your school or district have enough laptops, desktops, or tablets? Does it have the bandwidth and wireless network capabilities to add more devices? What’s on the IT plan for next year? (more…)

Here’s how to deploy IT hardware in America’s most complex city

new york cityIf you think a major IT deployment in New York City is easy, fuggedaboutit.

That was the challenge The Legal Aid Society faced when preparing a new hardware rollout. About every seven years, The Legal Aid Society refreshes its hardware infrastructure, which is about 2,500 devices in 26 offices spread throughout New York City. Because The Legal Aid Society provides free legal assistance to some of the city’s poorest residents, its staff of lawyers, paralegals, and interns (more than 2,000 law professionals) couldn’t be disturbed by long waits for new equipment.

But while the process of deploying new laptops and desktops might sound simpler than many other IT jobs, it wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds. The Legal Aid Society had to carefully adhere to grant funding requirements, as well as manage union rules, building policies, and the logistical problems associated with a large scale IT initiative in New York City. (more…)

5 ways to deploy tablets in your retail store

In Store Catalog -- Glacier at Argos RetailFrom national chains to neighborhood shops, retailers understand that tablets can greatly enhance shopper experiences and they continue adopting this technology in store. Tablets and their applications possess such potential for changing the way people shop and spend that eventually all stores will be connected.

Today’s shoppers are more knowledgeable than ever before, and they’re demanding in-store, experience-altering technology – digital price tags that reflect price changes, kiosks that provide assistance and deals, and mobile checkouts, for example. Retailers are appealing to these shoppers with tablets, and are using these devices to interact with shoppers and to drive sales.

Here are five ways retail stores are creatively using tablets to reach today’s shoppers: (more…)

The 2 most important considerations in server migration

Win2k3Workloads are your company’s lifeblood. Physical servers, virtual machines (VMs), or a combination of both are running Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, and various other applications. Inevitably the time will come to migrate these workloads to different hardware or VMs.

For organizations running Microsoft Windows 2003, that time is coming soon. These companies will need to migrate those servers to a new operating system before Microsoft ends support in July of this year. Migrating workloads from one server to another can be difficult, whether from one version of an operating system on a physical server to a newer version on a physical server, from a physical server to a virtual server, or from one hypervisor platform to another.  Application and version compatibility issues, network connectivity, and authentication and security problems can present challenges during a migration. Many organizations conducting a migration experience one of these situations; a recent survey conducted by IDC found 48 percent of companies run both physical and virtualized servers, and 54 percent of companies run more than one hypervisor in their environment.

This is especially true when moving a production workload to a new OS environment when it is intimately linked to the current environment. The two most critical steps in every migration are effectively backing up a full log of the data, and using the right tools to conduct the actual migration. Full image backups ensure all data – content and application settings, for example – can safely be migrated, and universal migration tools can simplify the actual process so it’s as easy as it is effective.

If done incorrectly, organizations can lose data, extend downtime, miss revenue opportunities, and adversely affect customer service perceptions – not to mention the long, hectic extra hours it takes to fix the problem. (more…)

One of the biggest security flaws in your network is one of the most unexpected

secure printingData breaches seem to make headlines every week. And as of late 2014, 43 percent of 567 U.S. executives surveyed said their companies experienced a data breach in the past year.

But what’s shocking is how unprepared U.S. companies are for these hacks: 80 percent of the executives said employee negligence was a root cause, and 27 percent of companies didn’t have a response plan in place.

Still, the threat of a hack has pushed network security to the top of the IT priorities list, and organizations are locking down servers and networks. But there are a number of less obvious targets that could still expose sensitive data. Printers are just one example of the ancillary devices that could leave your security strategy vulnerable. (more…)

3 ways organizations can use 3D printing today

3D printers3D printers have moved from industrial labs and hobbyists’ basements to the mainstream: Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to reach more than 217,000 in 2015, and then double every year thereafter. Vendors continue to refine their products, making them smaller, less expensive, easier to use, and more accessible for businesses and consumers alike.

In case you’ve never seen one in action, 3D printers expand on the concept of a standard ink-jet printer by adding a third axis that enables both vertical and horizontal printing. This capability offers immediate appeal to hobbyists and designers, but amidst the hype for 3D-printed fashion accessories, 3D-printed cars, and 3D printers in space, many organizations are still struggling to determine what, if any, practical 3D printing applications exist for their business.

Look no further. Here are three tangible ways organizations can utilize 3D printers today: (more…)

The surprising state of the PC market in two charts

desktopReports of the PC’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Written off after a slow 2013, PCs fought back last year with sales growing 1 percent in the fourth quarter year over year. The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) offered further optimism, showcasing advances that could breathe new life into PCs, including new hybrid laptop/tablets, curved screens, and ultra-thin laptops with big boosts in battery life. Clearly, PCs aren’t down for the count just yet.

In fact, according to a new SHI poll, they’re far from it. We commissioned an online survey, conducted by Harris Poll in December, of U.S. IT professionals to peek into their 2015 plans for new hardware and devices. We asked what percentage of PCs they plan to replace this year and whether desktops, laptops, tablets, or Chromebooks would be the replacement. Their answers show that PCs might have a longer lease on life than many think.

Here’s what we learned: (more…)

Life in the fast lane: Maintaining Ethernet that drives your IT environment

EthernetThe need for speed is a central concern for data center operators. These admins juggle server virtualization, cloud computing, LAN/SAN convergence, and big data collection, all of which require higher speeds. Not to mention the system limitations, data hogs, bottlenecks, and outdated cables that all act as roadblocks to optimal IT performance.

To keep IT running smoothly, administrators must balance their current network infrastructure with the demands of data-heavy applications. That means most data centers will need faster Ethernet at some point. But how you speed up your network depends in large part on your current system and future needs. Consider the following guidelines to kick your Ethernet into high gear.

Need a speed upgrade? Here’s how to tell. (more…)

Strive for disaster prevention with a colocation data center

colocation data centerA lot of organizations chase down the idea that they need a disaster recovery center. The specter of flooding, earthquakes, malware, or even just power outages often spurs the thought.

But the truth is that for many companies, it’s an unnecessary step. Much of the time, disaster prevention is a better option, and one that’s also less expensive. The move to a disaster prevention site, or colocation, is also an option for organizations that need more servers or storage space and can’t afford to build new or expand their current infrastructure.

Colocation should involve a Tier 3 data center, which safeguards IT systems from man-made and natural disasters (minus administrator errors). But choosing a colocation site will hinge on a number of factors. From what to look for in the data center to different disaster prevention migration options to planning for contingencies, keep the following strategies in mind to ensure a successful move. (more…)

How the IBM-Lenovo deal affects you

IBM x86 serverLenovo’s recent acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business, completed on Oct. 1, makes it one of the largest suppliers of x86 servers in the world. As far back as January, when news of a deal first emerged, organizations of all sizes have been anticipating the change while also wondering what implications the deal would have on their IT purchasing.

How will this deal impact product support? How will the x86 acquisition affect the cost of these systems? How will procurement change?

For months, our customers have asked these questions and more about what this purchase means for them. Now that the ink on the contracts is dry, here’s how the Lenovo-IBM deal will impact organizations of all sizes.

It’s business as usual for you. The IBM and Lenovo sales programs will remain in place for now, and Lenovo will transition IBM’s x86 server segment into its core business over the next six months. The only change for current customers is what they call it. Moving forward, Lenovo will refer to the x86 server line as System X. Other than nomenclature, organizations will experience no differences when working with SHI for their x86 server needs.

The deal will streamline x86 procurement. Lenovo has more distribution channels for hardware than IBM, making it easier for companies to acquire new equipment. Organizations that need to expand their server capabilities can do so more quickly.

Organizations have more options. The x86 server is popular in large organizations, and by adding the x86 to its portfolio, Lenovo will emerge as a serious contender in the enterprise space, going head to head against HP, Cisco, and Dell. And Lenovo’s addition of the x86 server business also means customers will finally get the blade server options some have been clamoring for, without having to strike a separate deal with another manufacturer or abandon Lenovo completely for a vendor with a more comprehensive portfolio. Overall, Lenovo customers will have more options when purchasing server hardware.

Lenovo now offers pocket to cloud solutions. Lenovo is known for its PC business, but recent acquisitions have expanded its scope in the tech marketplace. Lenovo entered the smartphone business when it announced plans to acquire Motorola, a deal that should be finalized by the end of 2014, and the x86 acquisition adds enterprise-class server options, giving customers a single source option for their entire ecosystem.

Businesses big and small can now benefit. Traditionally, Lenovo’s portfolio served small and medium-sized businesses, while IBM focused on enterprise clients. Because Lenovo’s x86 server acquisition broadens its product line, companies of all sizes can partner with Lenovo to acquire complete hardware solutions.

Over the past six months, many customers told us they were hesitant about buying additional server capability because of uncertainties surrounding this acquisition. If you were holding back on purchasing new servers, there’s no reason to fear — with the bulk of changes coming to the supply and partnership channels, you won’t miss a beat over the next six months. For customers, the deal amounts to faster procurement channels and additional Lenovo hardware options to complete their IT ecosystems.

If you have any other questions about the Lenovo x86 acquisition, contact your SHI account team today.