Blog

Disaster Recovery Maturity

December 17, 2013
As an IT Business Continuity Consultant, I come across many organizations who think that having a solid disaster recovery strategy in place or even better, a well-documented Disaster Recovery Plan on hand provides the assurance that they will successfully recover their IT environment following a disaster or a loss of access to the IT infrastructure. This is often far from reality; because you have documented the recovery procedures for your critical systems and have a technology solution in place in support of recovery, this provides no guarantee that you can recover from a disaster. Much like a fire department with a ladder truck but with no training and without a fire chief, a disaster recovery plan without ownership and commitment offers no guarantee. Successful, dependable and repeatable recovery can only be ensured as organization reaches a certain level of DR maturity. The answers to these initial questions will help you determine your organization’s DR maturity (be honest):
  • Do I have full executive support for Disaster Recovery Planning?
  • Is there an annual budget in place specifically for DR or is it funded like any other project?
  • Is there staff allocated to owning, updating and testing the DR plan (DR Plan ownership)?
  • What type of DR tests do we conduct and how frequently?
Some of this may seem obvious but let’s dig a little deeper. If your DR planning efforts are only mostly IT driven, your DR capabilities will always be somewhat limited. For one, you likely have to take a best guess at what the business recovery requirements are. With top executive support and commitment, you get to work with the business groups on defining those requirements. With executive support also comes the funding for DR as process rather than a project. Without an annual budget allocation, plan maintenance, testing and training must be justified and funded each year and risk being put on hold to accommodate higher priorities. Staff allocation for DR ownership comes with executive support, commitment and funding. This does not have to be a dedicated role and, depending on the size of the organization, can be part of a broader job description. However, ownership of the DR program is vital to ensuring regular plan maintenance, testing and DR training. Without ownership, everyone assumes someone else is taking care of it and your plan quickly becomes untested and obsolete. I mentioned testing a number of times already so let’s talk about it. It is a very common mistake for organizations to want to conduct a full blown DR test following the completion of a DR plan; this not only a mistake but also an unreasonable expectation and overall a bad idea that can turn into a disaster of its own by disrupting the production IT environment. Like anything else, you only get better with practice so do not expect to break the world slalom record the first time you ski; start small with something like a table top exercise at first (reading and ‘acting’ the plan as a group) and add new elements with each new test by including technology recovery components. Testing is one of the most noticeable signs of achieving DR maturity; as you DR tests increase in scale and integrate real recovery scenarios, you team gets better at it, becomes more familiar with the procedures and continuously improve the plan. This is also the best form of training allowing the DR team to achieve a constant state of readiness which ultimately, it the true sign of an organization’s DR maturity.
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SAM the Cloud

December 16, 2013
With software vendors trending towards cloud licensing at a rapid rate, companies across the globe are asking themselves the same questions.  How does Cloud affect my software asset management practices? What is the difference between on premise and cloud licensing terms? How can I ensure compliance? Understanding software asset management in the cloud means understanding the changing license structure. Cloud licenses are almost exclusively subscription based, but some clouds do offer transferability of your on premise licenses to the cloud environment - check your current contract for terms and conditions. Subscription based licensing, rather than perpetual on premise licensing that you own and deploy in-house, is the part of cloud licensing that most dramatically affects your Software asset Management and compliance. With perpetual licensing you controlled when new versions were released, but were also responsible for the costs to deploy the new version including the software upgrade costs if you did not already have a software protection or assurance plan in place. Tracking software is mostly done by the hardware asset. With subscription licensing, cloud providers will move to the next version of software and you will be migrated along with the change, please note some providers do offer the ability to stay one version back. These costs are all included in your monthly or yearly charge with the vendor. Tracking software is primarily done by tracking the user. With these different license types come different software asset management tracking and in today's environment you will most likely be adapting your software asset management practices to track both on premise and cloud licensing for some time as mixed environments prevail. Ensuring compliance means following your software asset management best practices regardless of where the license resides. 1. Inventory Frequently 2. Get Organized 3. Review and Evolve Policies and Procedures 4. Maintain your SAM Plan For more information on software asset management visit http://www.longviewsystems.com/solutions/it-procurement-services/licensing/or for the latest updates follow us on twitter @LongViewSystems.
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HP Storage Announcements from Barcelona

December 13, 2013
Data and back up are continuing to grow at an exponential rate, as are the business challenges that accompany any advancement in technology. This week we have been watching announcements from HP Discover conference in Barcelona, and here are some solutions that help address these common pain points. Upgraded Security In the HP StoreOnce product line, HP has announced an upgraded operating system which will add backup integrity checking, VLAN tagging, and multi-tenancy capacities.  An optional StoreOnce Security Pack Software will provide the ability to encrypt data at rest and securely erase data for compliance purposes. Physical and Virtual models To complement the OS upgrade, HP has introduced a number of new physical and virtual models.  The virtual solution is a StoreOnce VSA which can be used in Cloud and ROBO deployments.  The following physical solutions have been added to the portfolio:
Model Capacity
HP StoreOnce 2700 Series 5.5TB
HP StoreOnce 4500 Series 36TB
HP StoreOnce 4700 Series 160TB
HP StoreOnce 4900 Series 432TB
HP StoreOnce 6500 Series 1.7PB
  95% Reduction in Stored Backup Capacity The StoreOnce 6500 Series offers a capacity of 1.7PB (estimated 35PB with deduplication) and promises to be 40% faster than the StoreOnce 6400.  HP is also offering a guarantee under a new program called the “HP Get Protected Guarantee Program”.   The program guarantees a 95% reduction in stored backup capacity consumption when using solutions from the new portfolio. 2X Performance In the HP StoreAll product line, HP has announced the StoreAll 8200 Gateway.  This device will be available in February, will provide 2x the performance and is estimated to cost $34,650.00 USD. Public Cloud to In-House Production An upgrade to the HP StoreAll OS (v6.5) in January will provide support for OpenStack Object Storage.  This will allow for Cloud Storage applications to be developed in the public cloud and then moved in house for production. Enhanced Search Capabilities The StoreAll will have enhanced ExpressQuery search capabilities and will provide more flexible queries, customizable reports, and file auditing for data forensics or discovery. Increased Performance and Reduced Latency In the HP 3PAR StoreServ product line, HP has announced an upgrade to the OS and larger MLC SSD’s (480GB and 920GB) which will be available in the new year.  The results of these improvements will be increased performance and reduced latency.  Optional Priority Optimization Software will provide QOS functionality for applications or tenants. For further updates from the conference, and the latest technology news, follow us on Twitter @longviewsystems or visit our website http://www.longviewsystems.com/solutions/it-project-delivery/storage
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What Does a Customer Really Want?

December 12, 2013
As I started my journey, I went to the only true source of relevant information – Google. In 0.46 seconds I received 1.3 billion answers to the question “What do customers want?” This made me pause. If this was a case study, and I was a customer of Google, did they just deliver what I wanted? They answered my question, surely, but were my specific needs met? Was I able to easily find the answer? Overwhelmingly the research argues that customers desire fundamentally basic things, though the order might vary depending on the product or service the customer plans to consume. At a most basic level, and in no specific order, customers want:
  • Value for money
  • Ease
  • Good service
  • A quality product
  • Predictability/reliability
Though each of these answers is obvious and relatively straight forward, they only describe the needs of a specific interaction. In the IT services business there is an underlying requirement for a trust based relationships, especially if there is a transformational or annuity characteristic to the transaction.  A foundation of trust must already exist for there to be an opportunity to satisfy the “wants” of the customer. The more transformational, or the longer the commitment associated with the decision, the stronger the trust based relationship needs to be. As magnitude or complexity of the decision increases, so does the need for relationships to extend to multiple layers of the organizations. At Long View, we have set ourselves on a 100 year journey. We have chosen to focus on customer relationships to lead our market segment as argued by Treacy and Weirsema in “Discipline of the Market Makers”. This necessitates that a strong trust based relationship, our integrity pillar, exist before we are able to apply customer specific wants like value for money or ease to each transaction. So did Google meet my needs as a customer? Yes. I wanted an answer to a question which I received quickly and easily. The experience and output was predictable and it didn’t cost me a cent. Follow me @pedge07
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Security Update – What is Ransomware?

December 10, 2013
While most of you have heard of Malware, I want to take the time to send out information regarding the latest malware that is on the rise. What is it? Ransomware is malware that stops you from using your PC until you pay a certain amount of money (the ransom). The two types that exist are Lock Screen, which locks the screen and prevents you from accessing anything on your PC, and Encryption, which encrypts the files on your PC to stop you from accessing them. The Encryption ransomware is the most malicious since the malware can encrypt your data using an algorithm that cannot be broken, and it warns the user that if the ransom is not paid to the malware operators, the key will destroyed and the data lost forever. How is it propagated? Essentially the malware enters through an infected file from a site or email. An example is below of how one company’s files were infected:
  • Account department received an email from a software company with a zip file attached
  • When the receiver opened the file, a white box quickly flashed on screen
  • Within a few hours, the company received word of a corrupt file on the system
  • By the time the file was found on the network, hundreds of gigabytes of data was lost
How do I protect my PC? First, make sure that your PC operating system and antivirus/malware protection are up to date and always observe best computing practices such as avoiding visiting unverified sites, clicking links from unknown sources, and avoiding executing/opening attachments from dubious email messages. If you have any questions please contact us through our website: (http://www.longviewsystems.com/contact/) If you would like further information on this threat, see the link below to Microsoft’s protection center: https://www.microsoft.com/security/portal/mmpc/shared/ransomware.aspx  
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End of Year Spend

December 10, 2013
For many of our clients the end of year is a time when they may realize they have a bit of money left in their budgets. Many clients ask us for our ideas on what is the most effective way to use that spend to help their organization. In general, our recommendation is to use that spend on ensuring additional IT capacity. We know that areas such as storage are growing at a rapid pace; therefore, using budget on items like disk storage ensures capacity will be in place once all the demands of the New Year start to unfold. Outlined below are the three most common areas we see our clients using their yearend budgets on:

Storage – as we all know the demand for storage is only increasing.  We see many clients purchasing additional storage this time of year

Blades – As more and more of our clients are using blades in their infrastructure, they purchase additional compute capacity they can turn on as the demand increases in the New Year

Desktops / laptops – the New Year usually means new initiatives and new employees coming on board, and many of our clients purchase a few additional standard units to be prepared for this

On a final note, one of the key things to keep in mind this time of year is that shipping dates are heavily affected by the official holiday dates. We highly recommend that you get your orders in as soon as possible, especially if you are looking to receive them before everyone returns from the holiday season.
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The Gift of Giving

December 5, 2013
Every year as the holidays approach, there is much talk of Santa Claus, family and the dreaded Christmas shopping. But it’s also a time to reflect on the year that has passed. What did you set out to accomplish in 2013? From day one, Long View’s vision has been to be a great company with great people who do great work for our clients – but also who give back in their communities. Over the last year, we have been able to support many of the not for profit organizations across North America that our people volunteer for, and also some that have really touched our hearts. A few of these are: Spark Science Center Rethink Breast Cancer Big Brothers Big Sisters United Way Youth Singers of Calgary Canadian Cancer Society BC Childrens Hospital 16 Ways Foundation Meals on Wheels Kidsport In May, 2013, some of our staff, friends and family travelled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to build 3 school playgrounds. We all paid our own way for the trip, and others across Long View pulled together to raise $25,000, enough to not only cover the cost of the playground materials, but to also provide program costs for a “Long View Summer Camp”, an educational camp for children. Every day I hear about a way that someone, somewhere is giving back. Just this morning I learned that we have a group of people in Vancouver playing in a charity hockey tournament in support of BC Children’s Hospital. We are so proud of our Long View family for all that they do to help make our world a better place. So while you are indulging in a holiday feast or watching your friends and family enjoy the magic of this time, think about what you hope to accomplish in 2014. Dream big. You never know what you can accomplish, until you try. Follow me @TashaWesterman!
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An Exposition of Long View Culture

December 5, 2013
I’ve worked in People Services with Long View since starting with the company in 2007. In my time here I’ve seen first-hand, our culture grow and flourish. What I’m most proud of, as a veteran Long View employee, is the way that career progression is hardwired into the foundation of our culture. All of this is on my mind as I think back to the third LVS Expo I’ve helped assemble, which took place this October. The Expo is a great way for us to showcase opportunity to our existing staff, and to indulge in some of our unique culture character at the same time. Long View consistently encourages movement between different disciplines of our organization. I think this promotes a much stronger overall team, with a cross pollination of skills and talents between different departments. It’s great for our staff, as each person has the ability to shift their career and try a new direction. Change is growth and that’s a philosophy we’ve built into the company, with the Expo as a prime example of this. Over 400 people attended this year’s version. If you’ve never been, the Expo is a big, loud, boisterous event. One that you can’t help but step away from without a huge smile on your face. There are games, contests, prize draws, and a whole lot of interactive learning and hijinks. Long View teams are responsible for building a booth that shows off their mojo. Then we award prizes for the best booth in various categories. It can get pretty imaginative. And competitive. The Expo continues to grow and represent what we are and what we’re looking for; people that can embrace our core values of Integrity, Competence, Value and Fun. In others words, they’re passionate about IT, well rounded, and active in different activities outside of their careers, and are engaging people that can connect with their clients and coworkers alike.
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How to say “No”

December 2, 2013
OK, it’s not really “No”, we are a customer service company after all….. One of the keys to being an effective IT consultant is the ability to respectfully and tactfully push back on a customer request.  This is not as counter intuitive as it might seem. In fact the concept is embedded in two of Long View’s core values Competence and Value! When companies hire IT consultants they are hiring an expertise or capacity they don’t maintain internally. The value proposition when hiring an expert is that they provide professional advice that marries industry best practices with practical application within the constraints of the organization hiring the consultant. Inherent in the value chain is the necessity for a consultant to recommend against strategies or tactics that are suboptimal or introduce excessive risk. Despite the customers desire to consume a particular solution, professional IT consultants must stand steadfast in their recommendations and ensure customers understand and sign off on risks associated with alternate solutions. A consultant’s competence must come from both training and experience. At Long View, for example, our IT consultants have the opportunity to participate in a Leadership Development program, the newly launched Consultant Development program, multiple technical training courses, and industry conferences. They are also responsible for delivering over 400 technical projects a year. Our PMO conducts lessons learned from each project so we can bring our previous experience to every engagement, completing the value cycle. That is professional IT consulting! Follow me @pedge07
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Rethinking Breast Cancer with Boobyball

November 27, 2013
The statistics behind breast cancer in Canada are staggering. One in nine Canadian women are expected to develop breast cancer in their lifetime. And the disease will kill one in 29. These numbers should hit close to home for any woman. But they hit especially close to home for me, as I’ve had breast cancer twice. What I discovered when I was first diagnosed is that there weren’t a lot of people for me to talk to. Not a lot that I could relate to, anyway. I was a young, career focused, new mom. I had just returned from maternity leave and suddenly my world was turned upside down. The local cancer agencies put me in touch with a breast cancer survivor to talk to, however she in her 60’s and her experience with the disease and recovery could in no way relate to what I was about to go through. This is how I found Rethink Breast Cancer. Rethink approaches awareness of the disease in a way that makes the message much more impactful to women under the age of 45. In their words, they "infuse sass and style into the cause". And in 2007, I made a call to the Toronto founder and after she came to Calgary, we started a volunteer run Rethink Breast Cancer presence here in Calgary. Through events like Boobyball, we’re able to raise money to help a generation of breast cancer patients that no one was speaking to. We provide emotional support for them and their family, plus a community of peers to draw strength from. None of what we’re able to give in Calgary could’ve happened without the support of Long View. Long View has been our main sponsor since Boobyball Calgary’s inception and their support has allowed us to fund programs locally that make sense to this demographic. Many Long View employees have either attended the event or were instrumental in helping to put it on. The most rewarding part of Boobyball is seeing the very people we are trying to help at this event! They dress up, show up, and are able to have a good time because the services Rethink provides help to give them the peace of mind to step away from their sickness for that night. That’s an important thing for their spirit. Our 2013 event completely sold out and brought in over $86,000. The Rethink brand and the Boobyball event are continuing to be more recognized in Calgary, and I anticipate that next year will be even better.
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