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Why Three Clouds Are Better Than One

December 19, 2016
Cloud computing is entering its second decade with continued hype and a few remaining misconceptions. Although more and more organizations are turning to the cloud to transform their business, the choice to adopt cloud technologies must be for the transformative outcomes cloud can deliver, rather than for the sake of following the trend. Choosing cloud technologies is not an all-or-nothing decision, nor a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s about finding the right place for the right application.

Your Options: Three Cloud Possibilities Defined

The Internal “On-Premises” Cloud: Data centres owned and operated by the businesses that use them provide an on-premises solution that can enable full customization and more control, which is ideal for mission-critical applications. Maximizing the efficiency of your data centres is the first step to “data centre Nirvana”, creating an “internal cloud” that provides the self-service, automation, agility and efficiency a public cloud can deliver. The Private Cloud: Managed by a third-party provider, a private cloud offers dedicated infrastructure for individual clients. When existing infrastructure investments cannot meet the demands of your organization, a private cloud can provide the scalability, customization and control capabilities your workloads require. In addition, the private cloud can provide the needed agility, security and guaranteed performance if your organization lacks the skill to manage cloud environments. The Public Cloud: Data centres are owned and operated by third-party service providers, and customers share from the same infrastructure pool. A public cloud, like Microsoft Azure and AWS, offers global reach, on-demand scalability and commoditized cloud services at a lower cost. However, limited customization is possible. Just like each company is unique, each cloud solution needs to be as well, tailored to the applications, changing demands and internal requirements of each organization. Every cloud solution requires a unique blend of elements – public, private and on-premises. We call it Hybrid IT.

Why Three Clouds Are Better Than One: Three Points of View

To understand the value of a hybrid solution, look at how certain application considerations affect your choices:
  1. Latency – The speed at which you are able to send and receive data from an application will dictate where your application will reside. If an application requires low latency, meaning faster data transfer, an on-premises solution is best practice. In a private or public cloud scenario, the physical distance between the user and the application could inhibit the necessary latency requirements.
  1. Customization – The nature of an application, its hardware requirements and the need for customization to meet business goals will dictate the type of cloud an application will live in. If high levels of customization are required, the public cloud will not suffice. A private cloud would be ideal to achieve customization requirements and cost-effectiveness.
  1. Data Sovereignty – Government compliance and industry or internal regulations may control where data can reside. It may be compulsory to use an on-premises solution or strict private cloud solution. As more public cloud service providers expand their global data centre footprint (like we saw with Microsoft’s new Canadian data centres), data sovereignty is becoming less of a barrier for public cloud access. However, sensitive data regulations may continue to dictate the type of solution an organization can use.
The right cloud solution is a hybrid cloud solution where applications have a host of considerations that need to be addressed. By looking at the examples of latency, customization and data sovereignty, it is clear one cloud cannot do the job alone. That’s why three clouds are better than one. Hybrid needs to be your strategy. In our eBook, Why Public Cloud is Not Enough: Maximize Your Cloud Investment with a Hybrid Solution, we explain that an effective hybrid cloud combines different cloud types across platforms. You can manage all resources across on-premises, private cloud and public cloud platforms, while blending various consumption models based on the needs of your organization, your workloads, and even the distinct facets of a single application. If you’re wondering how your organization can begin to implement hybrid IT, join our free cloud-enablement webinar, “Why the Public Cloud is Not Enough: Maximizing Your Cloud Investment, on January 26, 2017 at 1 p.m. EST, to walk through a cloud and application assessment with a Long View cloud architect. Register Now.  
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A Better Way to Understand Cloud Infrastructure

December 12, 2016
According to Ed Anderson, research vice president at Gartner, the foundation for staying relevant in this fast-paced world is a cloud-first strategy. However, the cloud is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The challenge is in determining what cloud technologies are the best fit for your organization and unique applications. For IT decision makers, choosing the right mix of cloud infrastructures requires an understanding of the different types of scenarios possible, and selecting the right partner to cloud-enable the business. Have a look at what we mean through this lawn-care analogy: As a homeowner, you know there are a variety of “to-do’s” necessary to keep your home well maintained. One of these is keeping a healthy, green, weed-free lawn. To properly care for your lawn you buy the necessary tools, like a lawnmower and weed whacker. Every week or so you cut and care for the lawn. If something breaks down, you replace or repair it. This is like a traditional infrastructure model, where you own the infrastructure and you do all the work to manage and maintain it. As time passes and your children get older, lawn care becomes the responsibility of your son or daughter. You pay to get the job done as part of an allowance. Your child regularly uses your lawnmower and weed whacker to do the job. If the lawnmower or weed whacker breaks, it’s your responsibility to fix it, but you continue to let your child handle the lawn care. This is how managed services work – you own the environment and pay someone else to manage it for you using your tools. Your children go off to college, and you’re older and tired of the headache of maintaining your lawn and the equipment. So you hire a landscaping service to come and cut the grass every week, using their own equipment, and you pay them each time they do it. This is like the cloud model – private or public. You don’t own any of the infrastructure and do not have to do any of the work. But you know when you look out the window that the lawn is cut and looks great. But, guess what… the landscaping company you hired doesn’t offer weed control. You find a different company that specializes in eliminating weeds. They come at different times to provide an application to make sure your lawn is weed-free. You understand that one size does not fit all, and because the landscaping company you hired is not the best at weed control, you need someone else to handle the task. This is like a hybrid cloud. You’re dealing with more than one vendor and getting everything done in a best-practice scenario. You’ve found the right place to look after each item you needed handled for your home’s lawn care. Long View’s Role: The Property Manager Finding the right service providers can be difficult. What’s even more challenging is managing all the pieces in a hybrid environment. At Long View, we know who the best guys are at “cutting lawns,” in “weed control,” and even in “snow removal.” Our role is akin to a property manager; we help you manage all the moving parts to ensure your cloud infrastructure is done in a best-practice scenario for your organization and unique business applications. If you would like to learn more about how to cloud-enable your business with the right mix of cloud infrastructure, read our eBook: Why the Public Cloud is Not Enough: Maximizing Your Cloud Investment with a Hybrid Solution.

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Why a One-Size-Fits-All Public Cloud Is a Recipe for Disaster

December 8, 2016
“Everything is moving to the public cloud.” We hear that comment a lot in our industry. We’re here to tell you that it’s really not true. Most companies are taking a public cloud-first approach. When the public cloud is not the right fit, companies look to an on-premises or private cloud solution to fill the gap.  Determining which workloads to put in which cloud becomes the challenge.  You need the right mix of workloads (applications) that transcend all three areas of cloud – on-premises, private and public – determined on a case-by-case basis. The public cloud-only approach will be a recipe for disaster. Think of it this way: Applications are like cookies (the baked goods, not the HTTP kind): If you want just one type, all you need is one good recipe that makes a dozen. However, if you want just one vegan/paleo/gluten-free cookie for “that friend”, then you need to make an entirely new batch so that your friend can have that one cookie – and there goes the economy of scale for the one-off situation. Changing just one cookie out of the dozen isn’t an option; it just doesn’t work like that. Similarly, if your entire team uses an application “out-of-the-box”, then the public cloud will work perfectly. Once you begin to configure and customize applications, however, integration with the public cloud can become problematic. Take the example of Exchange for email. If an entire organization only needs to be able to send and receive email, and manage a calendar using Exchange, “out-of-the-box” in a public service is the way to go. However, it’s unlikely this will be the case. Departments with varying job functions have diverse email needs which may require customization and application integration that the public cloud cannot deliver. Hybrid needs to be your strategy.  Another example: A manufacturing company has a department of workers whose job function is to be on the floor making products, but email is needed to receive HR notices, safety correspondences, corporate updates, and to communicate internally. “Out-of-the-box” Exchange would work perfectly, making this group of workers’ email requirements ideal for the public cloud. However, there are others – the architects, the designers, the sales people and so forth – that require a higher level of security, document storage and other restrictions (like data sovereignty or latency concerns that impact the end user experience) that aren’t as available in a public environment. An on-premises environment is a must in order to provide these individuals with the email features necessary to perform their jobs. If we apply a “one-size-fits-all” mindset to this situation, the manufacturing company is either going to cripple the people as a result of poor end user experience and lack of functionality or blow the budget by putting everyone’s email on-premises. Instead, two cloud environments – public and on-premises –  can be stitched together into a hybrid scenario, providing the customization and cost savings the manufacturing company needs to provide all levels of the organization with the right application. The reality is that a “one-size-fits-all” solution will not work for every organization. Your cloud solution needs to be as unique as your business applications are. It’s a matter of finding the right place for the right workload.   Our eBook Why the Public Cloud is Not Enough: Maximizing Your Cloud Investment with a Hybrid Solution details why businesses must strategically choose between on-premises, private and public cloud solutions on an application-by-application basis to successfully implement cloud infrastructure.

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Manage Conference Season (and Access) With Intune

September 6, 2016
As we carry out the summer months and head into the fall, conference season is upon us. Your employees will be traveling all over North America—maybe even all over the world—attending trade shows, networking, presenting, and gathering valuable insights to share with the rest of your organization. If your organization has already deployed Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), having employees in different time zones won’t affect their productivity or access to company data. If two VPs on your sales team need to coauthor a PowerPoint while in different cities, they can do it in real time, even from their smartphones and tablets. Your users can also access their documents and productivity apps from any browser with Office 365, so if they need to quickly print off a one-pager for a new connection, they can do so from any device with an Internet connection—including public computers. Most hotels have a business center where guests can use computers, and conferences or trade shows often have computer kiosks. Anyone can access these, anyone can download documents to these public computers—and then anyone else can see those documents if they’re left on there, which might include proprietary IP or other confidential information. Or your user might not sign out from their Office account, letting anyone else using that computer get access to their account. So what’s IT to do? How do you give your users the flexibility and productivity they need without compromising security?

Limit access with Intune

One straightforward approach: say “no” to unmanaged devices. It’s easy to limit email and OneDrive access to only devices that are managed by your organization using Intune, part of EMS. Intune is Microsoft’s cloud-based management solution for mobile device and application management. It helps you give your users the anywhere, anytime, BYOD access they need while on the road, but helps avoid nightmare scenarios where well-intentioned users accidentally expose sensitive data to the world. In this case, you simply visit the Intune dashboard and change settings so that only managed devices can be used to access email through Exchange Online, or documents stored on OneDrive for Business or SharePoint. That way, you can make sure that your strongly authenticated users will not accidentally leave corporate data on an untrusted computer—making sure your data is secure during conference season.
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Securely Issue Shared Tablets to Your Workers

August 30, 2016
  Task workers are increasingly making use of mobile technologies. Think of the last time you went shopping for clothes, or electronics, or went out to your local coffee shop, or a food truck. More and more, the people helping you see if an item is in stock or pay for your order are using tablets to serve you better. It makes sense: when task workers take technology with them around a warehouse or on a sales floor, they are more productive, more efficient, create a better customer experience, and have better customer interactions—which increases sales. From a user experience and customer engagement perspective, this is a huge improvement. From an IT perspective, however, this presents challenges: chiefly, how do you manage all these tablets?

Intune and limited-use mode

To keep the user experience simple (as well as users on task, and data secure), shared tablets are usually handed to employees in limited-use mode, so that a single line-of-business app is the only thing the employee can interact with. If a worker’s main task is completing transactions, that’s all they need to do on their tablet, and the applications available to them reflect that. If your organization has Office 365 with Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), you’re probably already familiar with Intune, Microsoft’s solution for mobile device and application management. Intune is also your go-to solution for managing shared tablets in limited-use mode. With Intune, you can bulk provision, secure, and centrally manage shared tablets configured to run in limited-use mode. This makes IT’s a job a lot easier: you don’t have to configure settings on individual tablets, and you don’t have to do anything differently than you would for devices not in limited-use mode. With Intune, your transactions, inventory, and other information are protected, no matter what your tablets are used for.
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Conditional Access Unveils the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

August 23, 2016
One of the buzz phrases we hear these days is “the rise of the mobile workforce.” Well guess what? The mobile workforce isn’t on the rise—it’s here, it’s here to stay, and most organizations have caught on already. Gartner estimates that by 2017, 90 percent of organizations will support BYOD to at least some extent, and by 2018 twice as many employee-owned devices will be used for work as enterprise-owned devices. This makes a lot of sense. One, employee satisfaction is highest when workers can use the devices of their choosing whenever and wherever they want (and we’ve seen time and again that they’ll do this regardless of corporate compliance rules); and two, BYOD maximizes IT budgets by limiting cost and broadening access. In that same report, Gartner found that the cost of supporting user-owned tablets was 64 percent lower than buying and supporting enterprise-owned tablets. That’s to say nothing of the enhanced productivity that both user and organization enjoy. BYOD is a win-win.

Breach or business as usual: which is which?

Of course, security is a major concern, and one of the most common forms of data breach occurs when someone is not who they appear to be. A 2013 Verizon data breach investigation report found that over 70% of network intrusions exploited weak or stolen credentials—meaning someone posed as an authorized user, got in, and caused untold damage. Worse yet, this wolf in sheep’s clothing could avoid detection for weeks, months, or even years because they had the proper credentials and evaded common safety nets. One of your first lines of defense is to spot fishy logins: is someone accessing data from far away, at a weird time? However, since mobility solutions allow employees to work wherever they are—anywhere in the world, at any time—how do you tell what’s a breach, and what’s just business as usual, without disrupting your business?

Conditional Access keeps your data safe—smartly

Let’s say a Sales VP is on a business trip to London, and recently accessed the corporate SharePoint from her personal iPad. An hour after that login, her account attempts to login again, but this time from an IP address in Romania. Sound plausible? Or even possible? That looks like a case of compromised credentials, and is exactly the kind of thing you want your mobile management solution to catch. If your organization is using Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) to manage devices and applications, you already can identify odd behavior signaling a possible breach with Conditional Access. Powered by EMS, Conditional Access is the industry’s most comprehensive access solution. By setting customizable requirements including location, device compliance, behavior, and risk, you get identity and threat mitigation that works for your organization and your mobile users. Conditional Access can also help with compliance, by making sure only compliant devices can access data. If you’re interested in learning more about how Conditional Access and Enterprise Mobility Suite with Long View Advantage can prevent data breaches and transform how your organization works, give us a call today.
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How to Prevent Absent-Minded Data Breaches

August 16, 2016
It seems like every few months, another large, prominent organization has to announce a data breach to their customers. In 2014, hackers exposed 100 TB of data from Sony, including everything from email passwords to unpublished movie scripts. Also in 2014, the Home Depot was breached for information for 55 million credit cards, and 145 million eBay customer records were exposed including their names, physical addresses, dates of birth, and more. Your business might not even have 100 customers, but there’s still information you want to keep safe. When confidential information is exposed, you lose clients, customers, and your competitive advantage (and put your business at risk for legal action). Even if you’ve got a good firewall in place and have taken the necessary steps to prevent against hackers, sensitive data can still be exposed. And it can make its way out in the most easily preventable way imaginable: sending information to the wrong people. Sure, a message about lunch plans sent to the wrong George in finance might be harmless. But graver mistakes happen all the time. Look no further than the US presidential election, where an aide for Donald Trump emailed the campaign’s strategy against Hillary Clinton to the wrong guy with the last name Caputo—instead of a campaign adviser, it went to a reporter for a preeminent political publication. Ouch.

Keeping business and leisure separate

Email flubs are just one example of how easy it is to accidentally expose confidential data. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) enhances productivity, but also increases the opportunities to compromise security. Think about your average user, who looks at email on his or her smartphone. Those emails include attachments that they may want to save for later for quick, offline access. Documents, photos, screenshots—those all get saved in the same place as a user’s vacation photos. Then there’s no guarantee that this information isn’t going somewhere it’s not supposed to.

Information only in front of the right people

The goal is to ensure that the right information is only in front of the right eyes, no matter:
  • What device it’s accessed from
  • What device it’s sent from
  • What device it’s sent to
  • What application accesses it
  • Whether it’s accessed online or offline
So what’s an organization to do? The answer is to set up rights management with policy-based permissions rules. Solutions like Google Docs and Dropbox have this at a very basic level, where you have to give users permission to access a link, but once they’re saved to a device or information is copy-and-pasted elsewhere, all bets are off. Microsoft Office 365 comes with a more comprehensive solution in Microsoft Azure Rights Management Services (RMS). It protects documents as they move across SharePoint, Exchange, and OneDrive, and maintains permissions while saved online and offline. With features including one that won’t let you send a sensitive file to someone who’s not authorized to receive it, RMS is something the Trump campaign wish they had.
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Secure Communication in Office 365

August 9, 2016
According to a 2014 report, more than 80% of employees use non-approved software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications at their jobs. This means that users are potentially exposing organizational networks to cyber-attacks and malware that result in identity theft and stolen IP—the kind of events that tarnish reputations and hurt business. In addition, these apps are managed by outside vendors and may experience disruptions that hurt productivity. Some of the more popular SaaS apps used on the job are for communication—namely, instant messaging. AOL Instant Messenger, Facebook Messenger, and Google Chat are just some of the popular options workers use outside of IT’s knowledge, without your organization’s standards for security and compliance. When sensitive files are being discussed and shared across these applications, you’ve got a security breach waiting to happen. So what’s an organization to do? If you’re using Microsoft Office 365, all you need to do is make users aware of the following recent updates that make life easier (and more secure) for users and your business alike.

Real-time chat in Office 365

With Office 365, you already get Skype for Business for video chats, conference calls, and instant messaging. Now, O365 has deeper integration with Skype for Business, so that users can start IM chats from within the documents themselves. Users can now open chats from within Word and PowerPoint documents while using desktop Office. This is particularly useful while coauthoring a document. Simply click a person’s thumbnail to start an IM conversation in Skype for Business. If working away from their desk, users can start chats in browser-based Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote for any document stored in SharePoint or OneDrive for Business. All they have to do is click the blue Chat button to start IM’ing with everyone editing in the browser at the same time. The new real-time chat feature keeps conversations secure, protects your IP, and makes it easier to use Skype for Business than to switch apps and work through a non-approved SaaS option. You can learn more about real-time chat and coauthoring at the Office Blog.

Send attachments from within documents

Another issue with unapproved chat apps is that files can be unsafely shared through them. Office 365 lets you share your Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents from within the documents themselves. Simply click File, Share, and select how you want to share:
  • As an email attachment
  • Through OneDrive for Business
  • Send by instant message through Skype for Business
Again, Skype for Business’ integration with Office 365 makes sharing easier and more secure for your users, so that it’s more of a hassle to open up Google Chat and attach a document than it is to click File, Share. Plus, if a document is encrypted or has permissions, the document maintains those settings when shared. That’s another way to make sure the right information is only in front of the right people. If your organization is not currently using Office 365 but would like to learn more, give one of our Long View experts a call today.
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Comparing the HPE Hyper Converged 250 and 380

July 4, 2016

HPE offers two hyper-converged solutions: the HPE Hyper Converged 250 and the Hyper Converged 380. Let's start by covering a few features sets that are common to both appliances:

The HPE Hyper Converged 250 and the Hyper Converged 380 both offer:

An intuitive user experience — Management of both systems is handled through HPE OneView, which makes managing and monitoring these resources very simple.

Low-entry point — Both solutions allow you to start with as few as two nodes and build from there.

Fast scalability — Either Hyper Converged 250 or the Hyper Converged 380 nodes can be added in as little as 15 minutes for easy, fast expansion.

Simplified lifecycle management — Both systems allow you to perform functions such as setting up new VMs or updating firmware and drivers with just a few clicks.

One vendor support — Both solutions are supported 24X7 by HPE Technology Support Services.

High availability — Both solutions provide 5-nines availability levels.

Real-time alerts — Through System Center's real-time alerts, both systems make it easy to know what's going on in your data center even when you're nowhere near it.

The list of benefits offered by both systems could go on, but let's cut to the chase. What's the difference? One of the biggest differences for most of our customers is that while the HPE Hyper Converged 250 allows you to expand up to 4 nodes within a single chassis, the Hyper Converged 380 allows for expansion up to 16 nodes. Supporting more nodes per box can lower the need for additional infrastructure and may be a benefit, especially in larger organizations. Video: See how easy it is to set up and manage the HC380. On the other hand, the HPE Hyper Converged 250 has a unique advantage as well. It comes in two flavors: the HPE Hyper Converged 250 for VMWare and the HPE Hyper Converged 250 for Microsoft. Video: Hyper Converged 250 Chalk Talk

There are a few other nuances. There are three ways you can learn more:

#1 Download the HPE Hyper Converged 250 solution brief here. #2 Download the HPE Hyper Converged 380 solution brief here. #3 Talk to an actual human by reaching out to one of our Hybrid IT consultants here. I highly recommend #3.

Of course, you can also connect with me by adding a comment below or reaching out to me directly at Glenn.Bontje@lvs1.com

 
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4 Potential Pitfalls of Hyper-Convergence

June 27, 2016

In post #1 in this series, we defined hyper-convergence, then in the next post, we talked about some common use cases. Now, it's time to talk about the potential pitfalls of hyper-convergence and what you can do to avoid them.

Luckily, this will be a short post because there aren't all that many, but there are a few things that you should think about in the context of your overall IT strategy.

#1 Should you expand capacity in your on-premises data center?

Yes, hyper-convergence is easy to deploy and makes it easy to expand on-premises capacity. But should you? Before making any additional investments, take the time to consider whether the organization might benefit from housing those applications and databases in a public or private cloud. Learn more about the hybrid cloud

 #2 You need to understand your data storage requirements.

Again, because hyper-convergence is so easy to set up, it may lead you to deploy it in scenarios where it may not fit. For example, because compute and storage resources are sharing the same appliance, it can limit storage capacity. If you don't understand the storage requirements of your applications, performance can suffer. If you have concerns, our hybrid IT experts can help you work through them.

#3 While technology advances, human nature stays the same.

If you have a team of IT staff focused on provisioning and maintaining data center resources, they may find themselves with a lot more time on their hands. Of course, most IT departments already have far too much to do, so that may not be an issue. And, these freed-up resources can often be better utilized in other ways, i.e., focusing on how technology can meet the needs of the business instead of on how the business can meet the needs of the technology. Nevertheless, you need to think through how the improved efficiency brought about by a hyper-converged infrastructure may be perceived, at least initially, by the human resources in your IT department.

#4 Consider the full ROI when making the business case.

Many IT departments use a continual upgrade loop for data center resources, upgrading servers in one cycle, storage resources the next, etc. Spreading the investment out like this may look cheaper on paper, but it increases costs in the long run. Plus, it decreases the IT department's ability to respond to the dynamic needs of the organization. When something unexpected crops up, IT needs to go through a round of budget approvals, procure the resources, implement them, etc. That's hardly an agile IT environment. When making the business case for hyper-convergence, make sure you're looking at the total cost of ownership and not just the initial budget requirements. In our next post, we'll take a look at two hyper-converged offerings from HPE. As always, I'd love to hear from you.  Please add your thoughts in the comments section or reach out to me directly at Glenn.Bontje@lvs1.com.    
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