Why your 2-year-old computer is making you unproductive

improve performanceFor years, organizations have worked on a 3- or 4-year hardware refresh cycle – a timeframe that has become the conventional wisdom. But that conventional wisdom may no longer be accurate.

Hardware fresh out of the box is quick to boot up, full of memory, and responsive. But after a few years, laptops and desktops alike are running well below optimal performance – hard drives are filled up, and boot times can be measured in minutes, not seconds. Plus, these older computers are probably running old operating systems vulnerable to security breaches and intrusions. Newer operating systems like Windows 10 include automated updates but aren’t suited for older equipment. (more…)

Check this: How Belly planned ahead to avoid bandwidth bottlenecks

mobile apps retailBelly had a fairly simple problem: Success. As its user base grew, so did its data, to the point that it outpaced the company’s available bandwidth.

Belly’s loyalty platform allows businesses to create unique rewards for their customers. Small businesses can set up an iPad where customers scan a QR code in their Belly mobile app to check in and earn rewards points – sometimes for quirky benefits and rewards, like winning an ice cream date with Jerry from Ben and Jerry’s or a 30-second shopping spree. This digital loyalty program generates heaps of data in the form of check-ins, as well as information about customers and their habits. (more…)

How one school’s simple hardware upgrade helped improve its entire IT infrastructure

educationEven the simplest IT environments can harbor complex challenges. And for some organizations, one simple fix only uncovers a new need. A public charter school in Washington, D.C. had exactly that kind of environment.

The school has a fairly simple IT environment to support its more than 320 students from grades 6 to 12. An HP shop, it had two servers and a SAN, and virtualization through VMware.

Upgrading that environment by replacing a few components seemed simple on the surface, but some network constraints and unexpected challenges made the job a search-and-rescue operation of installations and fixes. These challenges were more than the IT department could handle in house with a school of students, teachers, and staff to keep up and running.

A seemingly easy hardware upgrade? Maybe not.

With a few hardware components approaching end-of-life, the school aimed to expand its processing capability by adding two next generation (Gen9) servers to its environment and decommissioning one of the older (Gen5) servers, increasing the number of production servers from two to three. It also needed to replace its one storage array, an HP MSA 2212. The school was satisfied with its HP hardware, and budgeted to replace its soon-to-be-obsolete server and storage unit with the newest models.

Of course, a storage replacement would also entail some data migration, which posed a challenge. Nearly every school-related IT task, from email to VoIP to management applications to students’ personal information, was stored and run on this simple architecture. Any downtime, as a result of the migration, had to occur during non-school hours or weekends, or threatened to effectively shut down teaching for a school day.

But the school’s IT department was lean, and needed a helping hand in installing the servers and storage, and migrating the data, without disrupting teachers and students and while attending to the day-to-day IT workload. What the school needed was a plan, and an expert that could help carry it out.

Solving one problem, followed by solving a few more

The school purchased the new hardware through SHI, which had provided virtualization software support for the past year and a half.

And although it was only increasing its net server capacity by one, the school’s IT department needed help to install and configure the new hardware, two HP DL360 Gen9 servers and one HP MSA 2040 array, while also providing in-classroom support to students and staff. SHI’s technical expertise would mean the new hardware was installed quickly and properly.

But when it started replacing the hardware, the IT team and SHI saw this was a bigger job than anticipated. Working together, the parties were able to rack, cable, and initialize the hardware without a hiccup, but as they did so, they discovered that the school’s VMware needed proper configuration and was behind in the upgrade cycle. It was another wrinkle to the project, but one that could be solved by cleaning up improperly defined rules within VMware, in addition to upgrading the software to version 6.0.

Still, the biggest part of this hardware upgrade was yet to come – data migration. Transferring the data to the new MSA wasn’t the most complex job, but it needed to be carefully executed to minimize work disruptions. SHI’s experts teamed up with the school’s IT team to take the system down during night and weekend hours to complete the migration, which redistributed 19 VMware virtual machines and migrated approximately 3 terabytes of data.

But while they were at it, they discovered another issue that needed to be fixed – two storage network switches needed proper configuration. Finding the right tools and establishing the right credentials took time and expertise to sort through, even for a relatively simple task like this one. Finally, the school’s data migration was completed, its minor problems patched up, and its network enhanced.

The slow and steady approach to a set of problems

The school’s hardware upgrade wasn’t as simple as plug in and go – it learned its network switches could be better utilized and its virtualization needed a proper configuration. Its data migration had to avoid disrupting students learning in the classroom.

The school’s hardware upgrade ballooned into a bigger project that, once carried out, improved the IT setup of the entire school through new storage and enhanced virtualization. But in a busy IT environment central to the school’s operation, an expert’s help not only accelerated the project, but set the entire IT house in order.

Technology in the classroom, part 3: Making your new initiatives work

digtal learningThe best teacher you ever had didn’t simply read the textbook better than the teacher in the next classroom. Great educators use out-of-the-box methods and subtle strategies to teach students — without the class even realizing it.

A mature technology plan, developed by a school’s IT staff, will include goals for devices, software, security, and back-end support. The technology used in the classroom may be static from one year to the next, but a strong technology plan that encompasses multiple school years will give teachers and students the resources to succeed every year. (more…)

Too hot to handle: Is your data center cool enough?

data center coolingHow important is proper data center cooling? If your equipment matters to you, it should be critically important. A data center with poor cooling measures can see temperatures rise 30 degrees in just one hour. That’s a problem, as constantly warm temperatures (80 degrees and up) can damage equipment and shorten its useful lifespan.

Although cooling accounts for around 40 percent of annual data center operating costs, it usually isn’t the first priority when small to mid-size data centers are built. But as computing needs grow and heat production increases, inadequate cooling solutions compromise equipment performance and cause shutdowns. Data center expansion only makes these heat problems worse. (more…)

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…)