Is your retail store ready for new tech?

retail technologyThe National Retail Federation’s Big Show was the biggest one yet, as 35,000 retail professionals flooded the Javits Center in New York City to see the newest retail technology and to stay up on industry trends. From digital signage to same-day delivery to mobile payments, the many breeds of technologies for bricks-and-mortar stores dominated conversation at the Big Show. But one key question remained unanswered: How do retailers accomplish it all?

Over the next eight months or so, retailers large and small will be planning, buying, and installing new technologies in anticipation of the 2015 holiday rush. But some organizations are better prepared than others to take the reins and lead the charge. Is your organization ready to start a major tech push, from planning and buying to rollout and support?

The health of your IT environment stems from your IT infrastructure, professionals, and policies. Ask yourself the following questions to check up on whether your IT department is fit enough to start implementing the newest retail technology. (more…)

Clearer vision: How to keep an eye on IT security

IT securityAfter discussions with hundreds of IT and security professionals, one concern rises above the rest in the modern IT environment: visibility. How often have you heard or read the phrase “I don’t know what I don’t know?”

Even after years of deploying perimeter controls and endpoint protection, IT is still challenged with identifying and responding to unknown infrastructure threats in a timely manner. This can be attributed to a variety of issues, including changing threats, limited resources, and improperly deployed or configured security controls.

Having identified these challenges as top of mind for IT, how can organizations possibly start to regain security vision? Fear not: Every organization can take steps to repair its vision and gain insight into security and operational events. These steps can be as simple as updating supervisory controls and as complex as deploying next-generation firewalls (NGFWs).

As you look to fortify your IT security, consider these three critical steps: (more…)

Everything you need to know about converged infrastructure, hyperconverged infrastructure, and reference architecture

infrastructureGone are the days when IT professionals had to rack, stack, connect, and configure every piece of data center infrastructure. Now, you can plug in a single box, thanks to converged infrastructure.

Converged infrastructure, hyperconverged infrastructure, and reference architectures are in essence the same thing. They all combine compute, network, and storage resources into one cohesive unit, but the main differentiator is the way they are procured and installed. Before you try to decide whether these options are right for your organization, and which to choose, it’s critical to understand the subtle but significant differences among the three types of converged infrastructure.

Generally speaking, there are three approaches companies can take to settle on a new data center installation: (more…)

The biggest security mistake you can make (and how to avoid it)

biggest security mistakeNo organization is immune to security risks. Between malware, viruses, network attacks, and data breaches, organizations must keep a watchful eye on the health of their IT environment.

But often the biggest security risk is the one you’re not paying attention to. It’s not forgetting to patch security vulnerabilities, or not running antivirus, or relying on outdated software. Those are bad ideas, for sure, but there is one idea that’s worse than all of those combined: Not conducting regular data backups.

Organizations that don’t follow through with regular data backups aren’t alone, and a proper system backup solution doesn’t have to be a budget-busting endeavor. IT can easily fill this security gap with the right support. (more…)

What is flash storage, and why do I need it?

storageIf you’ve been in this business long enough, you know the Solid State Drive (SSD) has been around since the late 70s/early 80s. Fast and unbelievably reliable compared to spinning disk drives, SSDs for many years were a favorite only at financial institutions, investment houses, and stock markets – some of the few companies that could afford them and needed the speed and reliability of a non-stop system.

Today, organizations of all shapes and sizes can benefit from the ultra-high speeds and friendly price tag of SSDs. But it’s crucial to understand the uses of flash storage in a data center environment and how it relates to your organization’s business needs. That way you can make the right decisions about solid state drives and related storage units. (more…)

What retailers will be talking about at the National Retail Federation Big Show

shopping mallThanks to holiday shopping, retailers pull in 70 to 80 percent of their year’s revenue in the last three months of the year. While reports show sales were slightly down in bricks-and-mortar stores to start the holiday season, these stores still have a leg up on online retailers.

But there’s no question that online shopping is a thorn in the side of retail stores. With free shipping more common than ever before and daily (sometimes hourly) deals to entice buyers, online retailers are racing to close the gap with bricks-and-mortar stores to keep customers coming back. But physical stores are fighting back: Digital displays with dynamic price adjustments offer better in-store pricing, beacon technology and apps enhance the customer experience, and mobile payment options attempt to make shopping easier and more seamless.

These options will inevitably be the talk of this year’s National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show, being held from Jan. 11 to 13 in New York City. But it’s not just about technology — it’s about how that technology can provide a better customer experience. Retailers will try to crack the code on what the store of the future should look like, and consider the industry’s biggest mystery: How do we do it first? (more…)

IT time wasters: Why you should take a second look at your email archiving

clock in trashNo matter how hard you try, it’s seemingly impossible to solve the problem of an overloaded inbox. Organizing the endless onslaught of emails is a daunting task, and just isn’t a high priority for most users.

IT, of course, sees it all a little differently. It’s not just a matter of storage and security, but compliance as well. If your company is audited, or your lawyers need specific emails because of a pending legal case, how will they access those important documents?

For some organizations, emails can only be retrieved with a great deal of effort and no small amount of detective work among stacks of tape backups. Others stick to external hard drives and other manual backup practices, carrying out archiving so ineffectively that it could take hours — maybe even days — to access the emails needed.

How can organizations take a smart and effective approach to email archiving? How can they pull up important old emails no problem while minimizing the time they spend backing up everyone’s correspondence? By reviewing your backup procedures and enacting a few new practices, you can put this classic IT time waster to bed once and for all. (more…)

5 ways technology can increase sales for brick and mortar retailers

shopping mallThe majority of U.S. retail sales still occur in brick and mortar stores, but maybe not for long. Online shopping has drawn dollars away from big box stores, which continue to struggle to attract customers given the convenience and discounts online retailers have to offer.

The giants of e-commerce are also swaying business in their favor through ever-shifting pricing, big data analytics, and a restless approach to capitalizing on technology. But physical stores are starting to catch up, increasingly adding new technology and methods to better serve customers. While some are taking a piecemeal approach and adopting new technologies as they go, the stores that stand a chance of competing with online retailers will look to integrate solutions for a better overall customer experience.

Consider these five ways technology can get shoppers offline and back to your business. (more…)

3 roadblocks to big data ROI

big dataBig data is offering answers to everything from the best ways to treat patients in a hospital to ensuring every airline flight arrives on time. Some organizations have built their success on big data. Netflix, for example, has found wide viewership for its award-winning original series in part because its data shows exactly what its viewers want to watch. Amazon too has an uncanny ability to predict what its customers want to buy, even to the point of shipping products before they’re purchased.

The era of big data is now, and while making sense of it is one of the biggest challenges facing organizations, big data offers companies large and small a window into their business, customers, and future. Organizations that think they don’t have anything to learn from big data are letting the competition jump ahead, propelled by insights that offer a competitive advantage.

Pursuing big data initiatives can help your organization make better strategic decisions and answer the most important questions about your industry. But before jumping into big data, or even if you have already, realize that with big data collection comes potential challenges. As you pursue a big data initiative, try to avoid these three major obstacles: (more…)

Is converged infrastructure the answer to Windows Server 2003 migration?

Win2k3As their responsibilities multiply, IT professionals can add another line to their resumes: multi-tasking to an extreme. IT’s workload balloons with company growth as servers and networks expand in size, volume licensing becomes increasingly complicated, and complex silos of information swell. Yet administrators must maintain optimal speed and storage, often on a shoe-string budget.

And now many IT professionals are also planning for Windows Server 2003’s end of support. The clock is ticking, and they must consider a number of factors for the migration, including hardware upgrades, software licensing, and whether current applications and systems will still function as needed after the migration.

In an effort to manage their Windows Server 2003 migration, lower costs, and condense their IT footprint, some organizations are investing in converged infrastructure (CI) solutions. Converting to CI offers a number of advantages for small to medium-sized organizations, as it frees up IT teams to more effectively manage software and hardware systems, especially as Windows Server 2003 approaches end of life. (more…)