Archive for the ‘Cloud Computing’ Category

The Cloud and Microsoft Office 365

February 14, 2012

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Guest blog by Geoff Rigsby, Microsoft Account Manager at Synnex

On a weekly basis I am asked, “What is Office 365 and how can it help me?”

For instance, if you’re running a small business with 5-10 employees, setting up your own IT infrastructure can be a monumental task.  First, you have to purchase the hardware and software like an HP Server and Windows Server 2008 software.  Second, if you want to have your own email domain, you’ll need to purchase Exchange Server software.  And if you want to share files between employees, you will need SharePoint Server software and you can’t run that without SQL Server software.  It adds up and before you know it, you’ve just spent $50,000!  In addition, you will need someone to configure and maintain.

This is a great deal of expense for just a few employees to communicate, collaborate, and work.  Here is where Office 365 is beneficial.  It eliminates the need for a large infrastructure investment and allows you to take advantage of enterprise IT tools for a fraction of the cost. Office 365 will give you the same productivity and collaboration tools delivered in a subscription based service.  It is licensed on a per-user per-month plan and allows you to scale up or down easily and as-needed.

Depending on the needs of your company, you can obtain every option; Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online, and Office Professional Plus in a nice, neatly bundled package or as separate units.  This allows  all of your employees to easily and securely access the same information, from anywhere, anytime – whether it be on a PC, phone, or web browser. User management is made easier by using a single administration access point that allows you to set up new user accounts, control access to features, and receive status updates on all services and tools in real time.  Support is available directly through Microsoft but I recommend working with a Microsoft Partner.  Partners can help you choose the right services, provide added capabilities, and assist with the transition.  They can efficiently manage your network and provide ongoing support for Office 365 giving you more time to run your business.

Paying for Office 365 is easy!  Just work with a Partner. They will send you a quote.  Then you accept the agreement and submit your credit card information in a secure transaction.  Payments are scheduled automatically each month to the card on file.

For more information on Office 365 and how it can help your company, visit www.microsoft.com/office365 and make sure to work with a Microsoft Partner in your area.

Geoff is a Microsoft Partner Account Manager working at Synnex.  You can contact Geoff at: v-grigsb@microsoft.com

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Top IT Trends for 2012

January 6, 2012

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]In keeping with our new year’s tradition, we have compiled our list of the top technology trends for 2012. We scanned the available data, reviewed our previous predictions and made some leaps of faith. We are optimistic about the economy and expect many delayed IT expenditures to be completed this year. Advances in business technology continue their steady progression with many smaller businesses adopting leading edge technologies.  This year will be interesting for consumer electronics.  Maybe Steve Jobs left his next great invention in the Apple pensieve.

Local Data Centers – As Cloud Computing gains acceptance and market share, more business will move their equipment and applications to the cloud.  Companies will look for neighborhood data centers that are accessible and provide boutique services. This provides an opportunity for IT service providers and managed service providers (MSPs) because smaller businesses will be looking for help in managing their collocated equipment and cloud applications.  Many small businesses are accustomed to contracting IT services rather than maintaining in-house IT expertise and will look for service providers that can meet their changing IT model.

mCommerce – Mobile commerce is not only for impulsive buyers, but for smart, savvy shoppers looking for the best deal.  The 2011 holiday season broke all records for mCommerce and this will continue as increasing numbers of merchants and consumers embrace mobile applications.  Powerful processors will give handhelds a big boost in acceptance for those that have been reluctant to adopt the technology.  Near field communication (NFC) will take off as applications are developed that use NFC for everything from sharing contact information to reading garment labels to purchasing anything with the swipe of your phone.  In 2012, if you are in the consumer market – become an expert in NFC and mCommerce.

Speech Recognition – This could be a breakout year for speech and voice technologies.  Speech recognition has been used by medical and legal for years and widespread acceptance is just around the corner for all types of businesses.  As mobile device users embrace speech recognition for on-the-go computing, they will bring this technology into the office for a variety of efficiency improvements.

Handhelds Replace Laptops – With more powerful CPUs, handhelds can replace many of the features of laptops.  The keyboard and screen size continue to be obstacle but projection and foldable technology will bridge the gap.  One day we will think and our computer (probably won’t be called a computer) will translate our thoughts into input and output, but in the meantime virtual docking stations will be used to interface with our analog (hands and eyes) systems.

Another Social Media Surge – With Google+ claiming that it will have 400 million members by the end of 2012, we are expecting another surge as social media expands its audience. Online aficionados will continue to be plagued with spam and scams, but new strategies will emerge to catch and isolate the offenders.   The number of users and the average time spent online will increase, but there are too many platforms for the market.  Users will consolidate around the most beneficial and productive sites.  Facebook may take over the world in 2012, but then again it may not.

Disclaimer: Like horoscopes, our predictions for the Top IT Trends of 2012 are general in nature and for entertainment purposes only.

If you have your own 2012 trends, please send to me at mary@lansystems.com.

Weathering Storms in the Cloud

September 12, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Twice over the past few weeks Microsoft’s Office 365 suffered interruptions.  The first occurred on August 17th and was reported as a network interruption.  Several blogs reported the cause as faulty Cisco equipment, but that fact was not verified by Microsoft.  The interruption lasted for three hours and Microsoft has offered a 25% discount to Office 365 customers for the trouble. The second interruption was on September 9th and seems to be tied to the widespread Western US power outage.  Any discount has yet to be announced for the second occurrence.

Microsoft is not the only Cloud service to see outages. Clouds, networks, communications and power that make up the Internet have all been down either briefly or for extended periods.  Although it is frustrating, it is part of the risk we all accept in using and being dependent on technology.

Power and phone outages have always been disruptive to business.  If the power and phones are out, often you have not choice except to close the store or the office.  Only in rare cases are backup generators used and then only to keep essential systems like emergency lights and security systems on until the building can be cleared.  Hospitals, data centers and essential services are the exception, but even hospitals have limited backup power.  Our modern power system is extremely reliable, but it is not faultless. That’s why we keep candles and flashlights in the kitchen.

Cloud Computing relies on centralized servers and the Internet to receive and deliver data to the users. If the servers or the Internet are down, the users experience an interruption.  Just like you have a power out kit in your kitchen, you need a Cloud out kit for your office.  Your Cloud power out kit should consist of a computer or mobile device so you can continue to work offline locally and save your work until the system is back on.

When email is down, you just have to wait whether you are using a Cloud service or your own email server.  If the server didn’t confirm receipt of the email message, the sending server will usually try again for a couple of days before giving up.  That means that for short outages, it will be delayed but you’ll get your email.  It is always surprising that people perceive email as more reliable than FedEx and as verifiable as Certified Mail – it is not.  Email is a great tool and 99.44% of our mail gets through but you have to allow for the .56 % that gets lost.  Certainly, the email that you can’t miss will be in the later.  Use delivery and read receipts to make email verifiable.  (The Ivory soap reference to 99.44% is a bit of humor.)

During an interruption, if you still have access to your computer or mobile device, you can compose messages but will have to wait for the system before you can transmit them. With Microsoft Office 365, you can use your Office products offline and transmit to the Cloud when available.  For other Cloud products, you have similar options to work offline and locally.

Using Cloud Computing gives you economy of scale and the benefit of redundant systems that you probably don’t have in your home or business. Most problems with power or communications will still be on the user side so be sure you have the ability to work offline locally to prevent disappointment and loss of productivity.

Clouds in an Azure Sky

January 30, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Clouds are made of increased bandwidth and storage blended with the advances in virtualization and remote access. Today’s technology allows us to compute anywhere, anytime. The sky is clear blue for cloud computing, but it hasn’t always been that way. 

Cloud computing grew out of the centralized or mainframe model. For those who remember mainframes, it was the only way to compute. We had remote access, but it was cumbersome, slow and expensive. Programmers got in the habit of coding all night long when rates were the cheapest. Then those long, sleepless nights were replaced by distributed computing, a computer for everyone, but somehow programmers still program all night. 

The distributed computing model was embraced rapidly. With amazing graphics and Internet availability, the computer became a household appliance.  But distributed computing had its drawbacks, it was hard to interface disparate systems and collaborate in real-time. Recently, 100% availability and remote connections at LAN speeds have resurrected the centralized computing model with a new name. You could say that computing has come full circle back to a centralized computing model that we call Cloud Computing.  It is provocative, exciting and revolutionary. 

New technology holds a dilemma as most computer users don’t really care about the technology; they just want it to work easily and reliability.  And business owners are only slightly interested in the merits of a distributed or centralized computer model. They want computer systems that are economical, productive and work without needing a staff of IT gurus. 

The cloud or hosted computer solution (called ASP, SaaS, Cloud Services) has been around for years, but has enjoyed only limited success.  Most of the early adopters had sophisticated IT experience and the trained staff to develop and manage cloud solutions. Today, even popular hosted applications have reduced features online or make it difficult to migrate out of the cloud. Microsoft has addressed these issues with Azure.  It is powerful enough to host your world-class enterprise datacenter with the reliability, efficiency and agility you demand, yet provides simple, scalable, portable services. 

Microsoft Azure supports three roles: Web role, Worker role and a Virtual Machine (VM) role.  Enhancements are planned for the Web and Worker roles that have been used by many companies for programming and development. The new VM role will provide a generic environment that can be used for test or production.  It will also compete with Google and Amazon offerings. Learn more about Microsoft Azure and Cloud Power.

Azure SQL provides high-availability, fault tolerant relational database services in the cloud. You can serve local or cloud-based applications and only pay for what you use. Administration is simplified. You don’t have to install, setup, patch or manage software. Built on SQL Server you can leverage the same development and management tools used locally. Learn more with SQL Azure videos.

Azure has great appeal to programmers and developers as is evidenced in the keynote and sessions at PDC10, but for users the cloud is still a confusing concept. Perhaps the average user will never really understand or be awed by the technology that fuels cloud computing, but it will be widely used because of its economy and availability. 

Cloud computing will enjoy widespread use until the next technology revolution replaces it with another better, faster and less expensive solution. Who knows what that might be, but it might look a little like distributed computing.

For more technical notes and information go to: www.lansystems.com/technotes.html