Is a SAN out of your budget? Think again!

With many businesses entertaining the idea of said technologies such as virtualization and/or high availability clustering, often what holds them back is the cost of implementing a SAN.

A SAN for those of you who don’t know; is a “Storage Area Network”. The network and equipment contained in it provides “shared storage environment” often required for SQL 2008 clustering, virtualization (for features such as High Availability and Live Migrations), etc…

Lately, on my personal blog I’ve been going in to quite a bit of detail regarding emerging iSCSI target technologies and way to minimize the costs of implementing a SAN. While most of my focus has been on Lio-Target A revolutionary linux based iSCSI target, a new player has entered the field, the “Microsoft iSCSI Target Software” which as of now is free!

While I’ve done extensive testing with Lio-Target and found it to be fully functional, promising, and extremely stable (and as of recently is now a part of the mainline linux kernel), I’m interested in what Microsoft has to offer. For those of you who are looking at purchasing/building a SAN, this now offers a second choice.

This is great news that will help alot of companies re-evaluate their decision not to implement a SAN due to cost.

More Information on Microsoft iSCSI Target for free at: http://blogs.technet.com/b/canitpro/archive/2011/04/05/the-microsoft-iscsi-software-target-is-now-free.aspx

Posted in Microsoft, Storage

El Fresko Technologies launches next-generation archiving and data protection solution

Digitally Accurate Inc. as a proud partner (and reseller) of El Fresko Technologies, is happy to pass on the following press release:

March 9, 2011

El Fresko Technologies launches next-generation archiving and data protection solution

MagnaStor® FS Archiver creates a compelling managed service opportunity

El Fresko Technologies is pleased to unveil MagnaStor® FS Archiver, an archival storage solution that ensures the long-term preservation and integrity of digital information to protect organizations from corporate, legal and compliance risks. Ideal for small and medium-sized businesses, MagnaStor FS Archiver has a robust set of features, including WORM data capture and secure, real-time replication to the cloud. With automated migration of static data from more expensive primary storage systems to archives, organizations can also improve backup and recovery efficiencies by up to 90% as static data is eliminated from repeated full backup cycles.

“Business data volumes are growing exponentially as organizations of all sizes embrace new online tools to connect and communicate. As a result, vital business data has evolved beyond simple documents and now includes vast amounts of static unstructured data in web sites, blogs, online chat logs and call center recordings. It is imperative that companies have an effective data management strategy in place to protect themselves against unanticipated corporate, legal or regulatory challenges,” said Mark Fowlie, CEO of El Fresko Technologies. “With MagnaStor FS Archiver, it is simple and cost effective to implement a next-generation solution that protects all of a company’s digital information and ensures that it is always available, non-alterable, searchable, verifiable and recoverable.”

“MagnaStor FS Archiver represents a new opportunity for managed services providers like Digitally Accurate and we are excited to make the product available to our customers,” said Stephen Wagner, President of Digitally Accurate, a leading provider of managed services and IT solutions. “As business communications evolve and generate ever-increasing volumes of data, we see a very real need for improved information management both in terms of storage efficiencies and to reduce corporate, legal and compliance risk.

Archives and backups are complementary

Backups are essential for disaster recovery, but can consume significant IT resources to properly manage, especially when data is scattered across multiple workstations, servers, and distant networks. Industry surveys show that up to 90% of the data produced daily, and subsequently backed up, is rarely changed or accessed after being at rest for more than a few days. By automatically consolidating this static data to a MagnaStor archive, the efficiency of backups and recovery procedures for the remaining 10% of active production data, is greatly improved.

“Confusion still exists for many end-users when it comes to the different roles of backup and archive. An archive solution such as El Fresko’s MagnaStor FS Archiver can provide critical compliance with industry regulations, corporate governance, legal e-discovery, or ‘just’ long-term data retention and availability. Both backup and archive remain key components of an organizational data protection policy, but mistaking one for the other can prove costly,” said Dave Pearson, Senior Analyst, Enterprise Storage & Networking at IDC Canada

Some of the key benefits of MagnaStor FS Archiver include

  • WORM protection on magnetic media ensures all content is preserved and unalterable
  • Data is always online, fully searchable and cannot be delete
  • Real-time, secure and encrypted replication to the cloud eliminates risk of data loss while satisfying strict privacy regulations
  • MagnaStor Timeline records the details of every file update and allows all files or any individual file to be reviewed or recovered to its exact status at any point in time
  • Policy-driven data governance follows the data wherever it is located; even privileged users cannot disable or circumvent controls
  • Background health and integrity monitoring with automated self-healing procedure
  • Digitally signed audit history enables non-IT personnel and/or external auditors to verify the chain of custody of any file

Pricing and Availability

MagnaStor FS Archiver is available immediately. Additional information and pricing is available from El Fresko.

El Fresko Expands Partnership Opportunities

El Fresko is expanding its partnership program and intends to join forces with a select number of companies in all global regions. Organizations interested in becoming MagnaStor FS Archiver resellers are encouraged to contact El Fresko directly.

Providing trusted data archiving solutions for more than 20 years, El Fresko is an innovative provider of archiving, data protection and compliance solutions in a cloud environment. With MagnaStor FS Archiver, managed service providers can leverage existing cloud infrastructure to offer high-value, tiered storage that strongly complements existing data backup services. Benefits to end-user customers are wide ranging and include continuous data protection and preservation, an embedded compliance policy and a complete audit history of archival data.

Further Information

El Fresko media/analyst contacts
Phone: +1.416.489.0092
Email: media@primorisgroup.com

El Fresko sales, pricing and reseller inquiries
Phone: +1.403.265.5727
Email: sales@elfresko.com

Original Link: http://www.elfresko.com/News/03-09-2011.aspx

Posted in Backup and Disaster Recovery, Business, Storage

Set your new Windows Phone 7 up for e-mail from Microsoft Exchange and/or Microsoft Small Business Server 2008

Well, the new Windows Phone 7 has arrived! And with it, comes a new generation of devices from Microsoft that STILL (thankfully) support Exchange Push to the phones. You die-hard Windows Mobile users know what I’m talking about!

A few new things have changed however. Due to the new limitations of not being able to access the filesystem, you have to find a new way to get your corporate certificate on the device.

This can be accomplished two ways.

1) You can setup one of your free e-mail accounts on your phone (such as Windows Live, Hotmail, or Gmail) and then e-mail yourself the certificate (tap to install).

2) You can upload your certifcate to a website, navigate to it on your phone, and install it that way.

After you have the certificate installed, configuration is the same as before, be sure to know your server address, username, password, and domain!

Have fun with your new phone… We are sure you will like it!

Posted in Exchange Server, Small Business Server, Windows Mobile (and Windows Phone 7)

We are pleased to announce a new partnership with El Fresko Technologies

El Fresko provides proven, scalable and cost-effective long-term data storage and compliance archiving solutions to protect businesses and preserve their critical data. MagnaStor™, the company’s patent-pending software solution, offers continuous data protection for long-term file storage while leveraging the high performance of magnetic disk.

El Fresko is a company based in Calgary, Alberta Canada.

Posted in Business

We are pleased to announce a new partnership with RisingTide Systems

RisingTide Systems is the leader in development of open source commercial grade iSCSI storage solutions and services. Numerous products featuring their software currently hold the “VMWare Certified” stamp for compatibility with VMWare vSphere 4.

Posted in Business

Microsoft Small Business Server 7 Preview is out!

Well, it’s that time again. The public preview of Microsoft Small Business Server version 7 (SBS 7) has been released.

We are currently testing it and are looking forward for the final product to be released! We’ll be posting some information on new features and functionality as soon as possible!

Posted in Small Business Server

How do you want your network to run?

There’s a few different ways you can support and maintain your computer network at work. Often, poor decisions are made in efforts to cut costs.

Some companies focus on the break-fix method. Often no “Solution” is implemented, and their network is a mash up of different 3rd party software applications used to backup, maintain, support, provide remote access, etc…

Other companies focus on actual solutions, integration, and using different pieces of software that are integrated and developed by large companies often the same company.

When a company decides to implement a “Solution” for their internal infrastructure, it costs more upfront. It needs to be implemented, it needs to be configured, and of course there will always be post-implementation support to deal with all the bugs, and changes that occur.

When a company decides to use the break-fix method, they often purchase a low end server designed just for file-sharing, and a few other small components. This is usually cheaper upfront because in this circumstance, they don’t have a true computer network (some IT people will argue this), nothing needs to be setup, configured, and it often only provides the single service they purchased it for.

A full infrastructure “Solution” often includes systems that provide file sharing access, patch management, remote access, e-mail, backup systems, and other systems all integrated in to a single sustainable system. These systems can often be monitored, and when issues to arise, they can be pro-actively troubleshot before they escalate into bigger issues that can cause downtime, and/or data loss.

Using a bare bone network without a “Solution” often means nothing is integrated, nothing can be managed or monitored, and as the requirements of the IT system grow with the company, a hodge-podge of 3rd party applications are installed which wouldn’t be as reliable as a full-fledged solution.

Often when a company does implement a solution, then later decides to neglect it by not supporting it, these solutions often can run for some time before a failure occurs with the users. When a failure does occur, it often can be resolved in a faster fashion then if the solution was never implemented in the first place. Keep in mind that even if the system is working and not being supported, valuable maintenance is NOT occurring that should be. One of the biggest problems that arise from this is security issues.

Companies that implement a break-fix type solution, often already have numerous security issues and holes that are not known. Their systems are often not configured in a way to be managed, so the computers (and server) are often full of junk, malware, spyware, and often viruses (even if virus protection is installed).

Conclusion

If you choose the break-fix method, you have an unstable environment which will constantly require support to maintain and keep it running. And DON’T forget that this is the perfect opportunity for a break-fix IT Service provider to keep coming on-site and billing you.

Break-fix types of networks often have limited backup, limited security protection, limited functionality, and in the event of a disaster usually always mean downtime.

An actual solution provides your business with a feature rich stable and secure foundation in which you won’t worry about your IT Systems, or your data, security, etc… They are easy to maintain (such with Managed Services), and can make sure your systems keep up with your business.

Overall, by going with break-fix you will be paying out on a continuous basis for support that wouldn’t be needed. These costs are usually always higher than if you would have installed a full infrastructure solution. Every time you need to use your break-fix systems for something new, you will have to fork out money for these features, and of course it will increase your monthly spending on maintaining and supporting these, every time just adding to the complexity of your network.

When it comes to upgrades, actual solutions usually have migration paths that make upgrading extremely easy, whereas with break-fix type of networks you often have to start from scratch.

How do you want your network to run?

Posted in Backup and Disaster Recovery, Business, Security

What Managed Services can do for you!

Some people expect and only want it; others think it’s a complete waste of money. We are talking about Managed Services!

Managed Services is an attempt to effectively and pro-actively manage a corporate IT infrastructure. These services often allow you to receive a better and a higher quality of services than if you were to employ your own IT staff, and also allow you to do it for cheaper. Without getting too technical this is the BEST benefit.

Often sometimes businesses are too small to have the requirement to employ their own IT Staff, I guess you could say they are at the 75% (as an example) of the requirements to need to employ a single IT staff person. Managed Services providers allow companies like these to have a fully supported infrastructure without the cost of employing one full time person.

Other companies, very large companies, often utilize Managed Services to replace IT departments, or outsource certain components of their IT environment, where it may actually be cheaper to outsource, instead of hiring staff directly.

Managed Service providers often have numerous partnerships with major companies that design, develop, and manufacture the products and systems (both software and hardware) that your company is probably using. These partnerships allow Managed Services providers to keep in better touch with these suppliers to make sure you utilize the software and/or hardware to its full potential. Also, the relationships allow Managed Services providers to better implement, support, and deal with environments better than a typical IT person. Managed Services providers often keep in regular touch with major vendors to make sure they are fully aware of the products limitations, capabilities, support requirements, known issues, etc…

When using a Managed Services provider you often receive the expertise of a person who is running and maintaining a similar, or like system at their other clients. This collaborative nature of maintaining multiple similar environments provides huge benefits. The experience, knowledge, and potential issues that can occur are often better known with Managed Service providers, rather than a single person who works on the same environment on a daily basis. The knowledge and accumulated expertise is gathered and processed at a higher rate with a Managed Services provider than a single IT person just because of the number of environments, and types of environments they deal with. And don’t forget the resources that your provider may have, at a lower cost than you employing someone full time you could actually receive and have access to the expertise and resources of multiple talented individuals!

Managed Services providers often provide monitoring and management. Using monitoring software, they can often resolve issues before the issue escalates into a bigger one that could cause problems and/or downtime for your company. Often resolving these issues immediately can save huge amounts of money instead of waiting for a serious failure. When it comes to Management, they often track all your licensing, manage patch management (keeping software up to date and blocking those nasty security holes), and often have more resources to effectively manage your environment.

Contact us for more information on what Managed Services can do for you!

Posted in Business

Why is it important to keep my computer systems up to date?

One of the biggest arguments amongst IT professionals and the companies they serve is keeping their systems up to date. Two specific hot topics are:

  1. Software Upgrades
  2. Hardware Upgrades

I’ll be separating this blog entry in to two separate parts to cover each topic, following a conclusion which ties the two together.

Software Upgrades

Software upgrades have traditionally always been a nuisance. Whether it be the IT professionals putting new software into place, or being the end user having to deal with the bugs associated with the new software, both of the above parties have to battle with software upgrades.

These software upgrades are essential for continued operation. On the technical side of things, these upgrades provide fixes for known issues, provide new enhanced features, and often resolve and fix major security flaws or other types of flaws inside of software that could put your company and your company’s data at risk.

Smaller updates are easier to deal with, most of the time there is an actual piece of software that installs or manages these small updates. Larger updates and/or upgrades often require intervention and have to be performed by a technical person.

It’s often very important to keep track of updates and test them whenever possible before deploying them to a production environment. On some complicated infrastructures, applying something as small as a small security fix could bring down multiple integrated Line of Business applications. In an event like this it could cause huge problems!

You should always spend a decent amount of time and resources (whether it’s staff and/or software to manage updates) to make sure you keep your systems up to date.

If you don’t maintain these systems, and don’t perform upgrades and/or updates, you can seriously cause numerous security concerns for your company, and make it rather difficult to perform required major upgrades in the future since nothing has been maintained.

Just as an example, ignoring security updates could leave a huge security hole that could be exploited by a virus, or malicious piece of software and infect many of your systems.

Another example, is when it comes time to do larger upgrades, or migrate systems to new servers, the migration/implementation time could be multiplied 2-10 times just because you haven’t kept your systems up to date.

Hardware Upgrades

Hardware upgrades are always a touchy topic, while IT professionals would like to keep all the systems they maintain up to date, it doesn’t necessarily always fit the budget of the company.

One of the most important values that I pass on to my clients, is the importance of maintaining equipment that has a valid warranty, and also making sure you are using a manufacturer/vendor that provides immediate responses on warranty replacements.

I can’t tell you how many environments I have been called in to, where a company was fed-up with their old IT Solutions provider and called us in to resolve an issue, only to find out:

  1. Equipment Age – They need to purchase new equipment, since replacement parts aren’t available anymore, and the equipment’s warranty has expired. In most cases we try to “hack up” a temporary fix to get them operational until we can properly design, sell, and implement a new system.
  2. Vendor Warranty – We are called in to resolve an issue on a new server environment, but it turns out the equipment just came off warranty after 3 months. Not all hardware vendors are the same. We (Digitally Accurate) prefer HP since their standard warranty’s often go above and beyond other vendors expensive (additional purchase) warranties. In these cases where there isn’t warranty, it’s often required to pay for support to identify exactly what has failed, and it is the expense of the company to replace the failed equipment. (What if it’s hard to identify what has failed and you end up purchasing equipment that didn’t fail?)
  3. Consumer Grade Equipment – Some IT Solution providers, and/or IT staff feel they can build their own servers, or purchase off-the-shelf consumer grade equipment for business use. Consumer grade equipment has a shorter shelf life, horrible warranty, lacks redundancy stability, and cannot be diagnosed and troubleshot in the same way that commercial grade equipment can. In these situations we often recommend replacing the equipment after a temporary solution can be found.

All of the examples above mean time and money wasted, and blame sometimes varies between both the IT Solutions Provider and the actual company itself trying to cut costs. In situations where you do have a valid good warranty from a recommended vendor, you can often have hardware replaced under warranty by the next business day, minimizing downtime. Using commercial equipment that is redundant, you can often have failure occur without even causing downtime.

It is imperative to consider your IT infrastructure as an essential component of your business and spend accordingly. A lot of businesses don’t understand that when the IT systems go down, that their company goes down as well.

Conclusion

So do you hold off on software and hardware upgrades for years and years? Do you live with the mentalities that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it? Truth is you need to find the perfect little soft spot in the middle.

Security and critical updates need to be applied urgently when possible. Upgrades or updates that increase features, functionalities, and correct software flaws are also important, but not as important as security/critical updates.

Major version changes of software should be tested, scheduled, and only implemented when all of the above have been done. This are often only important when the business requires a feature of a “new version” or when the “new version” has a significant change that affects the technical side of things (performance, integration, etc…). Also it’s important to maintain your support contracts with your software vendors to make sure you receive the “new version” upgrades for free if possible.

Hardware should be upgraded when either the equipment is coming off warranty, or when you need to upgrade for performance/capacity reasons.

Small environments can often utilize hardware upgrades as the perfect time to implement major “new release” software upgrades. Large environments should AVOID this as their systems are often more complicated, integrated, and complex.

Posted in Business, Security

Manage your Astaro Devices with Astaro Command Center

One of the biggest problems that network administrators face in a large enterprise situation is management and monitoring of key network devices.

A lot of large companies have devices and/or systems in place to provide content filtering, anti-virus and malware protection, intrusion prevention, and act as firewalls. In large environments it can be incredibly difficult to monitor and maintain these devices, especially when many separate networks are involved. When you have devices off-site at remote locations or branch offices, this even becomes more difficult.

As a Network Administrator I’m sure you are aware of exactly what I’m talking about so I won’t spend too much time on that. If you aren’t a network admin and are involved on the business side of things, you should ask your IT staff or provider exactly how much time is spent on maintaining these systems!

Astaro (the manufacturer of the BEST Network Security Devices (in my opinion)) provides the “Astaro Command Center” to help network administrators manage multiple Astaro Security Gateways.

The Astaro Command Center allows you to centralize all logging, management, and patch management. From a single web based interface you can configure Astaro units, upgrade versions (firmware) on Astaro units, check into stats and logs on many units. Let’s say you needed to deploy an upgrade across 10 units, you could do this with a few simple clicks of a mouse button.

It doesn’t get easier than that. And this is one of the main reasons why we are so proud to be an Astaro Partner; their devices were designed for real-life use. The products not only help businesses, users and companies, but also help make our life as technical guys extremely easy.

For more information on Astaro products or the Astaro Command Center, feel free to contact us!

Posted in Astaro, Business, Security