Archive for the ‘SaaS’ Category

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

Fighting Spam

March 31, 2010

[tweetmeme source=lansystems only_single=false]

Over 90% of email is unsolicited and unwanted. Junk emails flood the electronic delivery system with messages that we just don’t want and phishing schemes fool millions each year.  These abuses waste time and resources and are one of the biggest productivity drains that businesses face.

Unfortunately, you can’t get rid of all spam but you can manage the problem and protect your business from incidental damage.  Make sure you have a clear email policy and train users so they don’t fall for spam tricks. 

  1. Use a Spam Filter – although spammers work on beating the filter, this is your best first defense.
  2. Never reply to spam, not even to unsubscribe – often this just confirms your email is valid.
  3. Disable automatic downloading of HTML pictures –  spammers get confirmation that you opened the message if the graphics (pictures) are downloaded.
  4. Don’t participate in chain emails – these often harvest email address and many recipients find them irritating.
  5. Don’t respond to email requests that ask for personal information or money – this is the most common phishing scam.
  6. Use privacy settings on your accounts – especially for social media sites, don’t publically list your email address.
  7. Use care when giving your email – if you list your email on any site (or on your business card) remember it increases your chances of being spammed.
  8. Don’t spam others – if you have a eNewsletter or send email information be sure you follow proper protocol and allow your recipients to easily unsubscribe.
  9. Turn off read and delivery receipts and automatic response to meeting requests – these responses are used to validate your email address.
  10. If you receive spam in your inbox, you can forward it with the proper header to uce@ftc.gov.

More technical notes at www.lansystems.com/technotes.html

Desktop Upgrades

March 20, 2010

[tweetmeme source=lansystems only_single=false]You’ve had your business desktops for a couple of years and they have gotten noticeably slower.  The staff wants new, fast and fancy PCs but you are just not sure if that is a good use of your resources.  You want everyone to be as efficient and productive as possible so it’s time to do a computer ROI analysis.

When discussing desktop upgrades, there are several strategies to use and many ways to mix-n-match them. You can upgrade your existing desktop to extend its life, you can move to a desktop virtualized environment, you can use online software services or you can use a combination of all.  Our overview gives some of the most common choices, but it is not exhaustive. There are many ways to solve this complex issue. 

1)   If you have desktops that the user accesses for programs and files, consider these ideas:

a) Upgrade memory

b) Move local disk storage to a server

c) Use external drives to expand data storage

d) Replace CRT monitors with LCD panels.  Consider dual monitors for users that use many application windows or do considerable cut-and-paste. Most users that use the dual monitor arrangement declare it makes them more productive and less likely to make mistakes.

e) Tune-up the PC.  Scan, clean and remove unneeded programs and files.  Sometimes reinstalling the operating system and applications can fix a host of problems, but it can be time consuming.

f)  If you are looking at upgrading the operating system or application software, consider going to desktop virtualization or purchasing a new desktop.  Often, these choices can be a more cost-effective solution.

g) If the desktop is not worth upgrading, consider donating to a non-profit that can make good use of the equipment. LAN Systems can assist, we have a program with a nominal fee to remove data and verify software licenses.

h) If you have to dispose of computers and electronics, please choose a responsible recycling program. LAN Systems has a free program to recycle.

2)   If you are considering desktop virtualization on your own server, you should know:

a) This strategy can significantly extend the life of the desktop

b) The user will get their desktop and applications from the central server not locally.  Most of the processing is done by the server, so the desktop only uses a small amount of resources.

c) Choosing the right desktop virtualization software is essential.  There are many different offerings with different feature sets.

d) Review application licensing to see what costs will be incurred in going virtual

e) Do a complete cost analysis to make sure you get your ROI

3)   Consider online software services (SAAS):

a) Evaluation costs over your ROI period

b) Consider hosted email, spam and virus protection

c) Look at other hosted software like email marketing, sales, contact management, and accounting to replace in-house software

If used wisely, your computer system can be one of your best competitive advantages.  Often minor changes or upgrades that are quite economical can give you the biggest returns.  For more technical tips, go to:  http://www.lansystems.com

If want to discuss these and other ideas, please email me at mary@lansystems.com.