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Updated: 1 week 7 hours ago

Refresh or Reinvent?

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 11:24

There’s a couple of important questions I need to ask: Which of these two better represents your business—Charles Darwin or the dodo? Now, which would you prefer represented your business? It’s been over 130 years since Darwin’s death, and he’s still considered a pioneer and thought leader. Now that’s a lasting impression. The Dodo? Not as happy of an ending.

So what does all of this have to do with your business? It’s simple: evolution of the IT landscape. When was the last time you refreshed your PC, IT, or network infrastructure? Three years? Five years? Be honest—are you still relying on equipment—any equipment—that’s older than 10 years? Because if you are, you’re incoming employees weren’t even teenagers when it was manufactured.

The next generation of workers is arriving at your doorstep every day. These are adults that grew up in a world of 24 x 7 connectivity, mobile phones, and instant access. And if your networks, systems, infrastructure—basically everything—aren’t ready for this incoming workforce, your workforce can’t help you become a pioneer.

To help your business become the best at what it has to offer, you need to be ready to embrace some new ideas, strategies, work styles—anything that gives you opportunity to pull ahead of the competition. This requires innovation on many fronts and must be done with ever increasing velocity. But where do you start?

PC Connection recognizes that change is dynamic in nature and is here to help you understand it better. Watch our Workplace Transformation podcast to learn how Intel is revolutionizing the office with powerful, innovative tools.

Cutting the Cords that Hold Back Productivity

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 14:23

Here’s an interesting thing about organizations that embrace workplace transformation: employees’ personal experiences with technology often drive the move. That is, they love the convenience and capabilities that their personal devices offer and they’re insisting on those same advantages in their professional lives. Consider the impact of a single change: the reduction or outright elimination of wires from the office environment.

Just think about the freedom we now take for granted afforded by cell phones and Wi-Fi-enabled notebooks—freedom that was practically unheard of barely a generation ago. They’re both pervasive in the modern workplace, but I’ll bet your first cell phone was your own personal device. Mine was.

PC Connection and Intel® have made it easier for organizations to take the first step, initiate new technology use, and be more proactive when it comes to advancements. This partnership is helping organizations lead the way, extending wireless freedom to other parts of the workplace with a suite of complementary technologies that promote collaboration while maintaining privacy and security. Your team wants it, your organization deserves it, and now it’s more feasible than ever before.

Open Up Meetings to Everyone

In the conference room, for example, Intel® Pro Wireless Display, or Intel® Pro WiDi, is making it easier to launch a presentation, share content, assume or hand off control, and crucially protect information. Intel® Pro WiDi enables viewers to participate without the hassle of finding and physically plugging-in compatible connectors. Instead, users wirelessly—and securely—connect their devices (each one powered by an Intel® Core™ vPro™ processor) instantly and effortlessly. For privacy, users must verify their connection to help avoid inadvertent sharing and to prevent unauthorized views.

Now All Participants Are on the Same Page

Enhancing the wire-free meeting experience is another complementary piece of technology that should be mentioned. Intel® Unite™ turns a conference room into a smart meeting space. Running on a mini-PC powered by the Intel® Core vPro processor, Intel® Unite™ easily and wirelessly connects all Unite-using participants—whether they’re in the room or halfway around the world. Everyone can interact in real time, accessing displays, projectors, and interactive whiteboards. And, thanks to a rotating PIN code and 256-bit SSL encryption, your meeting is secure.

Your Desktop Is Ready When You Are

Another transformation site where wires are falling by the wayside is the individual workspace. Employees no longer need to spend their first 10 minutes at work linking to their peripherals. Instead, Intel® Wireless Docking uses proximity-based sensing to connect them as they arrive at their desk. No cords or clutter, no incompatibility or complexity.

Forward-thinking organizations have proven all too happy to migrate to a wire-free workplace. Why? Because they know they’ll reach new opportunities before their slower-to-adopt competitors. And to do that, they don’t need to be tripping over wires.

Questions about deploying your own wire-free workplace? Intel® and PC Connection have answers. Tell us where you’d like to cut the cords and we’ll help you find the ideal solution. Learn more here.

Know Your Enemies—Assess and Manage Your Risk

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 14:55

Any competent IT professional will tell you that one of their top priorities— probably the top priority—is securing their enterprise’s data and network. Indeed, CIOs typically allocate a healthy chunk of their overall IT budgets to security.

Concern, however, does not always translate into competence, or even common sense. Further, throwing money at a problem without first properly assessing and prioritizing an enterprise’s unique IT-related risks actually can create greater vulnerability. You can’t just buy technology, put it in your environment, and assume that your assets are safe.

Enterprise IT is constantly changing. As new technologies enter the enterprise—mobile devices, cloud storage, Web apps and more—they bring with them new and often unique vulnerability challenges.

To avoid the predictable dangers of this “set it and forget it” mindset in an era of dynamic change, it is imperative that IT professionals conduct a thorough risk assessment as the first step toward a sound security strategy.

That means 1) determining the types of threats that pose the most danger to the enterprise, 2) mapping where valuable data exists in the network (or cloud) and how it can be accessed, and 3) locating main points of vulnerability. The latter can be accomplished through penetration testing.

Once a comprehensive risk assessment is completed, risk can be measured against existing policies and procedures. This reality check is the starting point for enabling IT professionals to develop specific, customized security policies and roadmaps that takes into account physical security, access to network-based digital assets, business continuity and emerging technologies.

The best IT security strategies are useless without proper implementation and execution. Enterprise security that can neither detect nor react to threats in a timely and effective manner is no security at all.

Beyond that, IT professionals must understand that risk assessment and security management are ongoing processes, as well as building blocks for strong security profile. To help protect their enterprises’ critical assets, IT professionals should consider partnering with a managed security services provider that can guide them through the threat life cycle on a continual basis.

The IT Crowd

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 09:20

Lamborghini. Ferrari. Porsche. BMW. Jaguar. Mercedes. These companies use cutting edge engineering and materials to make some of the fastest, most agile sports cars in the world. But none of that matters if someone doesn’t tighten the lug nuts on one of the tires.

Welcome to your service desk. You can have the best IT system in the world, but if the service desk doesn’t run right then the wheels come right off.

The first step to making sure that doesn’t happen to you is familiarizing yourself with the challenges that your service desk will face. Here are the six top problems to prep for:

1. So Many Different Devices: BYOD means a huge number of different types of hardware, operating systems, and apps in an overwhelming number of different configurations.

2. Growing Ticket Volume: More people using non-standardized devices means many more problems to solve. And if the huge increase in volume isn’t enough of a problem, the additional needs of end-to-end activity tracking and workflow management make those tickets even more of a chore.

3. Growing Ticket Complexity:  The ticket tsunami makes it harder to track the dependencies between tickets, ticket severity, response time, effectiveness of ticket handling, and communication between the end-user and the technician.

4. Adding the Right Staff: As if it wasn’t hard enough to find staff with the particular technical skills to handle all the BYOD chaos, they also need to have the right people skills as well. And you get to do this at a time when demand for IT workers at an all-time high.

5. Improving Metrics: Measuring response times and first time fix rates are just the beginning. To truly understand how well a service desk is operating you should also measure:

  • Cost per call
  • Calls per agent per day
  • Hold time
  • First contact resolution
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Number of calls/issues fixed vs. number received

6. Better Communication: As a caller, there’s nothing more aggravating than having a service desk technician insist on following a particular troubleshooting script that seems to have nothing to do with the problem at hand or that you have gone through before with another technician. Even if the problem is resolved the caller goes away feeling like some of their time has been wasted. Having technicians communicate with users better by explaining why they are doing what they are doing can make a huge difference in customer satisfaction.

If all this seems like a lot to take on that’s because it is. Doing more with the less has been a fact of life for so long that being asked to do more with the same is considered a big victory. However, you don’t have to go it alone.

PC Connection delivers service desk on-shore/off-shore/hybrid models with methods based on ITIL principles. We can help with everything from modernizing service delivery methodology, policy, procedures, and SLAs to mapping the transformation of the desk into a SPOC support model. We’ll even check the lug nuts. For more information on what PC Connection can offer, complete this information request form.

IT Services

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 12:51

Cloud wrangler is an odd phrase. It conjures up images of a cowboy lassoing a big old cumulonimbus or wrestling a tornado to the ground before it plows through a nearby town. Cloud wrangling in the IT field is a little less romantic, but still pretty important.

Nearly 60 percent of business leaders see cloud wrangling becoming a main responsibility for the CIO in the very near future, according to an IDG poll. To them, instead of riding hurricanes, a cloud wrangler is someone who orchestrates various IT service providers. CIOs themselves aren’t as certain as those other business leaders of this future. In fact, they’re split right down the middle, with 49% agreeing and 51% disagreeing that their main role and responsibility will be to wrangle service providers.

The Uncertainty of CIOs Is Understandable

We’re in the midst of a massive transition regarding the entire idea of IT Service Management (ITSM). With the proliferation of BYOD, the company’s ability to say which devices were allowed to connect to their networks began to disappear. This was the start of an obligatory trend to get IT out of HQ and better align it with business units. In some cases departments outside of the IT department are entirely taking over IT resources, including acquisition, implementation, and management.

This is forcing IT departments to find new ways to manage and support all these far-flung assets.  They are being asked to suddenly create new controls limiting what devices are able to do when connected to the company network. Even at a time when rapid change is the norm, IT departments are finding it hard to sustain the rate of change being demanded of them—especially if they’re required to stay on budget. Personnel with the required skill sets to plan the future of ITSM don’t come at a discount, after all.

Deliver Best Practice and Best Value

Combine those limitations with aggressive application adoption, rapidly evolving infrastructure, end-user sophistication, and the previously mentioned phenomenon of business units assuming IT, and it’s easy to see why IT departments are in such a bind. How are they supposed to sustain governance, safeguard infrastructure, and maintain service level agreements? The old service desk operations have to evolve into an ITSM framework that provides remote infrastructure management, provisioning, and asset management solutions. That kind of system requires a thriving, customized cloud solution—and a CIO experienced in cloud wrangling.

Whether they see it as their primary value or not, smart CIOs are leveraging their resources, expertise, and experience to build custom, cloud-based solutions for their ITSM. The real challenge is in discovering service providers who can distribute the programs and expertise to exactly where they’re needed.

The best IT service providers offer dedicated solutions and battle-tested implementation via steady state operations. They also have committed support resources that guarantee seamless project execution, as well as ITSM service operations that work in conjunction with service delivery teams, sounds like a job for our experts!

The Road to Hyper-Convergence

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 09:58

Server assessments are an essential step on the road to migrating to a hyper-converged data center infrastructure. Understanding how you are utilizing your existing resources is critical for capacity planning as you strategically determine how to implement hyper-convergence solutions in your data center to reduce costs, streamline operations, and simplify management.

Hyper-convergence combines computing, storage, networking, and management into one centrally managed cluster of standardized appliances.  Understanding your current server scenario requires the ability to assess server utilization and accurately map workload demands.  With energy costs continuing to rise, and hyper-convergence bringing even more efficient solutions to the market, now is a great time to optimize your resources by implementing server consolidation and virtualization initiatives on a hyper-converged platform.

We are ready to help. Our Data Center Server Assessment gives you the tools you need to make sound decisions about which servers you should consolidate. You’ll be able to get accurate performance and utilization facts so you can optimize your IT capital and resources as you deploy hyper-converged data center infrastructure.

In addition to the green benefits of reducing energy costs with high-efficiency equipment and virtualization, server consolidation helps you get more out of your existing resources. You can lower your total cost of ownership by reducing your physical data center infrastructure while at the same time increasing system performance, application availability, and the effectiveness of your current IT staff.  

Our Data Center Server Assessment performs scenario modeling to help you understand your expected consolidation ratios and what the resulting server performance will be across several different target platforms. We use industry standard and proprietary tools to receive statistics and data regarding server performance. This information is analyzed and presented in a comprehensive report that details the current environment and potential ways to virtualize, resulting in higher efficiency and cost savings.

We’ll schedule a server assessment discovery workshop led by a one of our services engineers, and we’ll install our agentless data collection tool. It will run for 30 days and generate detailed reports, and our engineers will provide recommendations and present a final report.

Our Data Center Server Assessment offers insights into your current inventory, system performance, and model consolidation ratios—so you will have an actionable plan for virtualizing your servers. You’ll have hard, actionable data that can guide you on your journey to hyper-convergence. Visit the PC Connection Data Center Server Assessment web page where you can learn more the service and download a sample server assessment report.

Get a Smart Start to Your Hyper-Convergence Journey

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 09:05

IT professionals know from experience that the growing complexity of enterprise technology makes data center management more important than ever, yet increasingly difficult.

Traditional IT infrastructures struggle to meet the performance needs of enterprises in the digital and mobile economy, in which agility, flexibility, and scalability are competitive necessities. Further, IT resources and money get directed toward low-level admin chores, hardware expenditures, and maintenance costs rather than enabling strategic business goals.

Hyper-converged systems provide data centers with multiple infrastructure components in a single, modular appliance to streamline network and systems management while offering the functionality and interoperability required to support the business. Hyper-convergence makes data center management simpler and less costly while delivering to enterprises a number of significant competitive and operational benefits.

If you’re among the growing number of CIOs and other enterprise decision makers ready to leverage the advantages of hyper-converged data centers, where do you start? An ideal place is by getting a realistic assessment of your current network. This will give you a good idea of what you already have, as well as what you will need, to migrate to a hyper-converged system.

PC Connection conducts in-depth network infrastructure assessments for enterprises interested in upgrading or expanding their network. These assessments can help you gain a clear understanding of your existing network’s capabilities and shortcomings.

One of the biggest challenges for IT managers running expanding data centers is keeping track of assets and equipment. PC Connection’s Network Assessment service begins with the creation of graphical map that clarifies your network hardware layout, allowing you (perhaps for the first time!) true transparency into your network’s physical infrastructure.

The next step is generating a detailed inventory of hardware and software lifecycles, along with a report showing which devices are creating performance bottlenecks.

Once a full assessment is conducted, PC Connection will provide enterprise IT decision makers with a comprehensive network asset report, a network topography (generated with Microsoft Visio), and a detailed analysis of both Windows servers and network efficiency. The assessment’s final report will include recommendations for improving your network’s performance.

PC Connection can get you started toward a full assessment of your network with a kickoff call to review the project and schedule delivery of a network assessment appliance to your site. The appliance collects your network’s data for five days, after which PC Connection analyzes the data, generates reports, and makes recommendations.

Migrating to hyper-converged infrastructures can transform data centers and the enterprises they drive. But the journey toward hyper-convergence can’t really begin unless you know where you are. An experienced guide can’t hurt either.

Learn more about PC Connection’s Network Assessment here.

Microsoft Project: The Bigger Picture

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 10:09

Project portfolio management (PPM) is nothing new. Businesses have been using it for countless ages to keep track projects, hours, costs–you name it. The advent of the PC saw PPM move to a digital format. And as the workforce became more mobile and distributed, PPM in turn became an even more important part of daily office life.

With Microsoft Project, successful PPM comes down to what you want to manage, the project’s location (on- or off-premises), and the tools you need. All versions are great for project managers and developers alike—but which one is better for you? It’s not easy to do general comparisons of off- vs on-premises as the products do differ in functionality. But, below, I’ve made some comparisons and have even attached a link that does a good job at breaking things down.

Standard vs. Online So, the choice—at the beginning—is Standard or Online. Project Online is a Web app—meaning there is no local install. Standard works like, well, a standard install and sits on your PC desktop. Online also works just like it sounds and provides anywhere, anytime access. The other big difference is SharePoint. With all Project Online subscriptions you get the built-in ability to connect to SharePoint. With Project Standard, you do not. Project Lite Project Lite is not a stand-alone product. It’s kind of an accessory that can only be used on projects managed with Project Online. It’s also a low-cost online subscription and adds a lot of functionality to an already great program set. Project Lite allows for sharing and collaboration as well as SharePoint task sync and timesheets. Project Standard does not. But, Project Lite does not allow for Project Scheduling / Costing or Reporting and BI—Project Standard does.
Project Online vs. Lite Online and Lite are nearly the same, such as being Web apps. But, with Online, there’s quite a few nice features that are not available with Lite—hence the ‘lite.’
• Reporting and Business Intelligence
• Resource Management
• Demand Management
• Portfolio Selection
• Optimization

Now, it’s important to know that before Microsoft launched Project Online Services, in order to collaborate using Project, customers would be required to purchase the following:

With Project Online, the service includes the backend licenses of Project Server, SharePoint, and SQL. And that’s important to know when looking at the cost of Project Online.

Project Pro for Office 365 Subscription

This subscription includes a full copy of Project Pro that can be locally installed rather than just a Web app that can be installed on five PCs. This version is similar to Project Lite in that it includes all the same features with the exception of Share documents and Timesheets. It includes most of the features of Project Online with the exception of share docs, timesheets, demand management, portfolio selection, and optimization.

Project Online with Project Pro for Office 365

Finally, Microsoft offers Project Online with Project Pro for Office 365. This is the full version of both, and includes all the features of Project Online as well as Project Pro for Office 365.

You can compare all of these versions and more by clicking here

Software-Defined Networking: Adoption Update

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 09:54

As you might imagine, software-defined networking (SDN) eliminates a lot of the routine maintenance and support that ties up IT resources. This gives an enterprise the opportunity to better think strategically, become more flexible and agile, and better leverage cloud applications and a converged infrastructure. Where are we with adoption? And what role is SDN playing in the hyper-converged trend? What do IT leaders need to know about this?

SDN is an approach to designing, deploying, and running networks based on programming the transport decisions in routers and switches via software from a central server. It differs from traditional approaches that require configuring each device separately. SDN streamlines provisioning of network services by allowing network administrators to manage network services through abstractions of higher-level functionality.

IDC predicts that the global market for SDN enterprise and cloud service provider segments will grow from $960 million last year to over $8 billion by 2018, an annual growth rate of nearly 90%. According to Rohit Metra, Vice President, Network Infrastructure for IDC.

“With SDN’s growing traction in the data center for cloud deployments, enterprise IT is beginning to see the value in potentially extending SDN to the WAN and into the campus to meet the demand for more agile approaches to network architecture, provisioning, and operations.”

SDN is being deployed aggressively in data centers to support automated provisioning, network virtualization, and network programmability. Other popular SDN use cases include unified wireless and wireless communications, virtual machine migration, cloud hosting, load balancing, and software-defined clouds. SDN allows centralized management of resources based on policies, therefore eliminating many of the routine operational maintenance tasks that have traditionally consumed the time of IT personnel.

Hyper-convergence combines computing, storage, networking, and management into an integrated system, providing all of the resources in one centrally managed location. The deployment of hyper-converged infrastructure with SDN is allowing the enterprise to simplify operations, eliminate dependence on legacy silos of independent IT components, and streamline the provisioning of resources to support emerging application requirements.

IT can dramatically reduce the number of devices in the data center, and leverage a higher-level abstraction layer to simplify network management and operations. The deployment of hyper-converged infrastructure also significantly reduces the overall port count to be managed in the data center, further simplifying SDN management and enabling more workloads to communicate over the lowest latency connections in the same compute host while reduce East-West traffic within the data center.

PC Connection offers a range of Data Center Services that can help you assess your SDN and hyper-convergence infrastructure options. Learn more about how our qualified experts can help you optimize your data center through our Network Infrastructure Assessments, Server Assessments, and Storage Assessments.

Hyper-Convergence: The Modern Way to Enable Innovation

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 09:53

Most of the time managing legacy data centers is spent on troubleshooting, provisioning, and conducting routine maintenance tasks. These activities consume the majority of IT resources, restricting IT’s ability to drive business innovation.

Hyper-convergence is a computing infrastructure for virtual workloads that seamlessly combines all of the IT components and services below the hypervisor into an x86 building block. With hyper-convergence, there are no silos of independent IT components and no need to manage discrete devices or require specialized training in component-level technology.

Moving to hyper-convergence in the data center allows organizations to shift IT resources from low-value operations to high-value innovation, so that IT can better support the strategic goals of the business. Hyper-convergence combines computing, storage, networking, and management into an integrated system, providing all of the resources in one centrally managed location. By implementing hyper-convergence and simplifying data center management, IT can spend less time on routine maintenance and more energy on strategic business initiatives.

A hyper-converged data center infrastructure addresses the problem of siloed architectures and IT sprawl by pooling and sharing IT resources. Rather than dedicating a set of resources to a particular computing technology, application or line of business, hyper-converged infrastructures create a pool of unified virtual infrastructure shared by multiple applications and lines of business, greatly reducing costs compared with operating a traditional environment.

Hyper-converged data centers allow an organization to scale seamlessly and dynamically, with the efficiency and ease of managing the environment from one central console, no matter how much the organization grows. Program development, testing and quality assurance can all be done in one environment, increasing productivity and efficiency. Rather than having to manage each siloed environment, IT staff can now focus on higher-value and more innovative activities.

The ability to centrally manage virtual environments globally through a single interface is key to improving operational efficiency and reducing operational expenses. IT can dramatically reduce capacity required for storage and backup while streamlining the ability to backup, restore, clone, or move a VM from a single management console.

Centralized management allows IT to create and update policies for thousands of VMs across dozens of remote sites from a single console. And with hyper-converged data centers, IT can get the enterprise-class performance, protection, and resiliency required while streamlining operations and freeing up resources to focus on strategic initiatives. PC Connection offers a range of Data Center Services to help customers migrate to hyper-converged data centers and allow IT to support more high-value and innovative solutions to drive business growth.

Hyper-Converged Data Center

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 09:51

Enterprises of all sizes are relying on converged infrastructure to enable business agility and flexibility while reducing IT complexity and cost.

Converged infrastructure integrates two or more data center components (such as storage, network, servers, virtual environments, and cloud automation) into a single packaged solution. Converged systems make it easier for businesses, organizations, and enterprises to deploy and deliver modern IT infrastructures and services that benefit their employees and customers. The results are faster decisions and actions, better management of data center and network systems, and more efficient and strategic use of internal IT resources.

For those enterprises seeking even greater levels of data center efficiency and agility, hyper-convergence is a logical and obvious choice. While traditional converged infrastructures integrate two or more infrastructure components into a rack system or solution, hyper-converged systems combine several IT infrastructure elements into a consolidated x86-based appliance. Hyper-converged systems allow additional appliance nodes to be automatically added to a cluster as they are detected, thus making scaling a data center fast and inexpensive. Additionally, hyper-converged appliances typically include built-in features such as storage compression, deduplication, backup and disaster recovery, as well as single pane of glass management.

That last benefit of hyper-converged data centers—performance—is huge given the continued exponential growth of data in the digital economy and the competitive imperative facing enterprises to manage and extract value from their data.

Making the move to a hyper-converged data center, however, requires careful planning and a willingness to commit to a single-vendor solution. An experienced third-party services provider can help guide this process by determining which solution best meets an enterprise’s specific needs.

The first step enterprise IT leaders should take in choosing the best hyper-converged system is to determine current and future workload requirements as well as budget constraints.

As an experienced IT services vendor, we also help enterprises determine their node requirements. This is important because some hyper-converged systems vendors require a minimum number of clustered node. Since a single node can cost more than a traditional infrastructure in terms of unified software licenses and hardware, enterprises should work with a services partner to choose the nodal architecture that best supports required levels of performance and availability, while right-sizing the environment and maximizing economies of scale.

A quality IT services vendor can guide enterprises through assessments of existing storage, server, networking and virtualization infrastructure needs in order to select the right hyper-converged data center vendor. From there, a services provider can work with enterprises to plan, design, integrate and implement the new system with existing IT infrastructure.

Data center decision makers should consult with vendors or third-party support professionals like us, to determine their best hyper-convergence options.

We’re All on the InfoSec Team

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 14:35

A 2015 study showed “a disturbing rift in cyber security knowledge between those who make decisions and manage the budgets and those who have to implement and manage the security measures.”[1] What are the consequences of that gap, and what can you do about it?

For enterprises to best defend against security threats, they need to reconsider corporate communication at all levels. With the accepted reality that a breach will happen for most companies, corporate security is no longer an IT concern, but a business concern. The hole in communication between executives and the security team can result in costly losses and damages to data and enterprise reputation. 

According to a 2015 Ponemon study, boards of directors are not as informed and knowledgeable about cyber security risks as they should be in order to fulfill their governance responsibilities. Across a wide range of industry sectors, IT professionals reported a lack of confidence in the effectiveness of their board’s cyber security practices.

The lack of communication works both ways, though. While professionals question the governance of security policies and procedures, they tend to focus on incident response to minimize the impact on the business without communicating their primary concerns to the board. As a result, their security concerns differ from those of the IT professionals.

The consequences of this gap in communication are vast and not only financial. Breaches result in a loss of confidential data and sensitive records. There are also financial impacts as well as loss of confidence in the brand. The average cost of a breach has risen to an average of $7 million, but there are also legal ramifications for not being in compliance with laws and regulations.

Reconfiguring the executive team and making security and technology a top priority and agenda item will shift the focus and open lines of communication. Staying informed and knowledgeable about the security of the enterprise will also build a valuable trust between the board and IT professionals.

As a Champion of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) 2015, PC Connection, Inc. is committed to promoting cyber security and online safety. Our in-house team of security experts is dedicated to helping organizations of every size reduce their risk with industry-leading security solutions and services. PC Connection’s Security Practice can help create comprehensive security programs that leverage the latest technologies from our partners, including: Cisco, Check Point, Core Security, Dell, Intel Security, Security Innovation, Sophos, Symantec, Trend Micro, and VMware.


Our team is proud to support the goals of NCSAM:

  • Promote online safety
  • Ensure everyone has the resources to stay safer and more secure online
  • Engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives with the goal of raising cyber security awareness 

The Security Challenge

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 14:32

One of the greatest concerns about the future of technology is being able to fill the demand for highly skilled professionals. The field of cyber security can be particularly daunting, especially for smaller organizations that don’t have the appropriately skilled, or credentialed, people leading the IS function. Identifying and attracting the necessary IT talent can be a significant challenge, due to the size of their team or budget constraints. What can leaders do to promote and hire the next generation of security pros for their organizations? 

In reality, every organization should function with the assumption that every employee and partner is a “potential” threat.  This might sound harsh, but here’s why. If a company assumes that none of the people who come into contact with their critical data, or even a portion of the people, could do damage, then they are immediately vulnerable. In my professional opinion, every information security program should be based around the fact that everyone is a potential threat. Period. Then build policies and monitor with that understanding in mind.

Universities across the country are working in partnership with the K–12 sector, offering programs like the one at the University of Maryland designed to engage young students in the skills they will need to be highly qualified IT professionals of the future. 

The Center for Internet Security teamed up with Monster Government Solutions to create Cyber Comp X, a virtual community designed to engage cyber security talent.  CIS hosts the U.S. Cyber Challenge, which runs competitions and cyber camps to train new talent in the skills that are in high demand across industry sectors.

PC Connection also has a staffing division to aid organizations in overcoming hiring challenges. Organizations may not have a human resources department, and dedicating time and other resources to finding talent isn’t always the most viable or economical option. We work as a strategic partner to quickly find the IT expertise needed. Whether you need the skills of helpdesk analysts, developers, engineers, project managers, directors, or even a CIO, our staffing experts will find you the right candidate. With our attractive contract-to-hire program and competitive rates for permanent placements, you can stretch every budget dollar while recruiting the talent you need to staff critical IT projects and strengthen your security posture.

As a Champion of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) 2015, PC Connection, Inc. is committed to promoting cyber security and online safety. Our in-house team of security experts is dedicated to helping organizations of every size reduce their risk with industry-leading security solutions and services. PC Connection’s Security Practice can help create comprehensive security programs that leverage the latest technologies from our partners, including: Cisco, Check Point, Core Security, Dell, Intel Security, Security Innovation, Sophos, Symantec, Trend Micro, and VMware.

Our team is proud to support the goals of NCSAM:

  • Promote online safety
  • Ensure everyone has the resources to stay safer and more secure online
  • Engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives with the goal of raising cyber security awareness 

Deploying Office 365 Pro Plus?

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 08:27

I’ve been reading on Technet and other blogs about co-existence issues between MSI and Click-to-Run installations of Office 2013 products. Can’t say for sure if this will continue when Office 2016 comes out, but if I had a nickel…I’d say yes. It seems probable due to the way that click-to-run (C2R) technology works. Most organizations have Project and Visio out there, but when you’re moving to Office 365 it’s easy to forget about them. All the focus is on setting up Cloud IDs and dealing with Office. But if you have users that will be on Office C2R, you need to also plan for their Project and Visio too. Here’s why.

Let’s start with a quick refresher: C2R is the installation/update technology behind Office applications in the Office 365 Stack. It allows you to provision Office products and future updates from Microsoft Cloud down to your devices. Think of C2R as how you hook up your Microsoft Cloud Identity to your Office applications. I use it, and I can personally validate the cool factor of C2R.

I did the full C2R experience, installing my apps directly from my Office 365 Portal. Most organizations will probably use imaging or a SCCM for the install, but when I did the full soup-to-nuts C2R install I was using Office in less than six minutes over my wireless LAN connection. I pushed a button, got the spinning wheel for a few minutes, and then I was doing spreadsheets and email. Rinse and repeat for Visio but that was even faster.

All technical issues aside, this is a good time to take a look at Project and Visio anyway. They’ve evolved—the GUI is slick, there are new cloud options around the Project stack, and user-based subscriptions mean you can run them on multiple devices under one license. Plus, there is appeal to the idea that once you’ve installed it, Microsoft Cloud will keep it up to date moving forward and it’s all hooked up to the user’s single cloud ID in Office 365. C2R provides an opportunity to assess your usage of Project and Visio to make sure you’re getting the most out of these applications.

So – if you’re looking at Office 2013 and Office 365, don’t forget Project and Visio!

Check out my recent articles on our blog: http://www.pcconnection.com/blog/authors/lane-shelton

You can also find my posts on Infoworld.com and CIO.com


Protect Your Data in the Cloud

Fri, 10/23/2015 - 16:12

Effective backup and disaster recovery are must-have components of a comprehensive IT strategy. Containing both a business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plan will ensure your organization can retrieve critical files and application data if your data center encounters a prolonged outage­—or worse a disaster.  Creating an effective plan, however, requires you first know and understand all of your options. We can help. Our experts will map out your current or desired practices and propose solution patterns that leverage Cloud technology to reduce costs and improve performance.

Let PC Connection design, test, and validate business continuity and disaster preparedness plans to give your organization the confidence and peace of mind that comes from knowing that it is protected.

Watch Part 3 of our podcast series, where Kevin O’Connor, Senior Director, Technology Solutions, PC Connection, Inc. discusses key considerations for any business continuity and disaster recovery plan.

Watch Now

Simplify IT

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 15:45

Today, I want to shine the spotlight on VMware Workspace. With Workspace, all of your apps, all your file content, virtual desktop, and apps from all different places can now exist in one location—and you can easily access them by logging into an HTML browser. Workspace is simply a great tool where end users can easily access corporate files and applications in one central place.

Workspace is customizable, which means administrators can make it reflect everything about your brand. Your color, even your logo can be customized. And this is just the beginning. Read on to learn about other key VMware Workspace features.

The Password Conundrum

A lot of people have apps in the cloud, and it’s very easy to work from the cloud. But this can easily cause password problems. For example, for every Software as a Service (SaaS) application—whether it’s SalesForce or pcconnection.com or Concur or Kronos or SAP or Server Care—users all have individual user names and passwords. This is a management struggle when new users come on board. IT administrators must visit all kinds of different portals and sign up the user with the new username and password. It’s very labor intensive! And it’s confusing for the user too, since they’ve got to remember all these usernames and passwords.

Then there are the dreaded IT calls: “I can't login to my app anymore,” common when folks are using the password and username for a different SaaS application. Believe me when I tell you that this is not how IT wants to spend their day.

All apps available in the workspace portal are single sign on from Citrix, to Remote Desktop Host (RDSH), to Microsoft Office 365, etc.

SAML to the Rescue Workspace uses a process called Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) to exchange authentication and create a trust between the customer and a SaaS provider. Once a trust is established, you no longer need a username and password. All of the communication and logging into the SaaS application is done in the background, passing tokens between workspace and that SaaS application. Logging on one time will bring a smile to your user’s face and solves many password problems at the same time.

Mirage as a Solution

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 15:43

When does VMware Mirage really make sense? For users who travel frequently—say you’re on a plane, in a car, or just on the move—you may not always have network connectivity, but you still need that full operating system on your device. This is where Mirage comes into play. It works on dynamic layering from the data center delivered to the device.

How does it work? We add a Mirage agent to your operating system on your device and it decomposes the system into different layers. The layers are user info layers, OS, driver tables, etc.  User data includes profile info, My Documents, and any user-installed apps.

Say you’ve got two users that have laptops they’re using for work that aren’t really managed by IT. They bought one at pcconnection.com and one somewhere else. IT wants to start supporting those users and getting them under control. They download from a very simple URL, a Mirage agent, into their system. It starts to decompose the system into those layers in the background.

Centralize and Save

The next thing it does is to centralize all of what’s on those laptops or devices back to the data center. In fact, it’s actually doing a backup of everything that’s on those devices back to the data center. It’s a great way to back up everything in case one of those users has a problem with the device, protecting the data in the event of a lost file—or even a lost laptop.

Centralization Is Very Efficient

Mirage centralizes everything (backs up to the data center) on the device, but does so in a very efficient matter. If that version of the OS has already been centralized, it only has to move unique bits on that machine that are different than what’s already been backed up—maybe some registry files, AV, software, etc. The same thing applies with the top layers. If laptop user #1 has already centralized a specific PowerPoint presentation or Excel spreadsheet, when laptop user #2 tries to centralize that same file, Mirage doesn’t need to back it up. All it needs to know is that the file belongs to that specific user, and it’s able to keep track without wasting storage or bandwidth. It’s very efficient in terms of what actually goes back and forth over the network.

Management Made Easy

Let’s say the centralizations for both laptops have been completed and now IT wants to download a corporate image to the user. This is a new image with everything IT wants: licensing, anti-virus, firewalls, etc. They simply push those layers over. Every time the user is actually on the network, those bits start to stream to the device. If they shut the laptop off or they disconnect from the network, it stops temporarily until they’re back on the network. When they come back, the data continues to stream until it’s all there. Similarly in this direction only the unique bits need to traverse the network.

When all of the bits are there, a screen pops up and asks you to reboot your laptop and now you are running on the new IT-delivered operating system. Your folders, your data, your customization, your profiles, and even your user-installed apps are all intact. Now every time IT needs to make a change, such as a service pack update or the addition of an app, they can put that change into that base layer, and as you connect to the network, you would get the update. And any time you’re making changes to your desktop, your files would periodically get centralized back to the data center. Those are all settings that you can adjust.

It’s actually pretty incredible how this new technology allows IT to manage devices—especially when those machines are scattered across the country. IT doesn’t have to struggle anymore

Any Available Device Becomes a Replacement

One specific instance comes to mind where a customer had all of the data on their laptop centralized. The laptop suffered an unfortunate malfunction.  Fortunately, we could take that centralized image and temporarily create a virtual machine for the user—exactly like what was running on their laptop—and then allow them to access their virtual machine with another device they had—whether it’s a home PC or hotel kiosk. When the user gets a new device, they put the Mirage agent on the device and it will download their image back onto that device.

Use Mirage as a Migration Tool

Mirage can be used as an OS migration tool, and a hardware migration tool, in addition to a repair and update tool. It’s a pretty versatile asset to have in any IT toolbox.

Find Your Footing Before You Leap Forward

Now you might be thinking, “Hey, let me just buy Mirage…that’s all I need.” But stop for a moment, maybe the Workspace Suite—which includes Mirage—would actually be a better value for you moving forward, as you build out your end-user computing environment. Consider all of your options. That suite is a great package because it manages virtual desktop and creates a Workspace portal for access to all your stuff. Take a step back and let us help you assess your environment.

I think it’s definitely the time to start that journey conversation.

Drive the Cost and Complexity from Your Data Center

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 15:41

I'm really excited, because VMware recently made a number of acquisitions to boost its end-user computing portfolio—from cloud-based virtual desktops to AirWatch for managing your devices to App Volumes for simplifying desktop management by managing the apps. These are all great new offerings that will empower IT to quickly and easily deliver a desktop to the end user and help drive the cost and complexity from your data center. Let me explain how.

What’s on the Horizon for Desktop and App Virtualization?
  • App Volumes—Some of things I hear when talking to customers is how can I simplify management of my applications? And how can I optimize the delivery of these apps to many different devices, environments, and users? An app volume is a real time application delivery system with lifecycle management.
  • Horizon Air delivers a simple-to-deploy cloud-hosted virtual desktop. This is for folks that don't have complex needs for desktops, and getting their desktops from the cloud makes sense for them. Managing virtual desktops is simplified through a single, web-based, intuitive interface. IT administrators can easily assign desktops to a user and the user logs into their desktop with a simple URL. And they can quickly add, remove, or modify desktops as needed, from any location with a browser too. It is very simple for administrators—and more importantly—very simple for users.
  • Horizon Workspace provides end users access to all of their virtual desktops, applications, content and online services through a single workspace with a few simple clicks. And with EMM (enterprise mobility management), Horizon 6 can manage mobile devices both corporate and BYOD. Users can now easily access their workspace portal of app, desktops, and content without affecting their personal device.
What’s Best for Your Organization? Horizon 6 includes three platforms to deliver, protect, and manage desktops and applications: View, Mirage, and the Workspace Portal. View is for desktop users who are well connected to the network; Mirage is for users who need offline capabilities, and Workspace Portal lets users access their applications, desktops, and content on any device for better workspace management. The challenge is figuring out which delivery option—or combination of options—works best for your environment.
  • Horizon View lets you deliver and manage applications to support truly stateless desktops with a new product called App Volumes. Now, every time a user logs in, their applications are delivered to their virtual desktops with an appropriate app stack. Something I’ve personally seen as an issue for a long time is the difficulty with managing user-installed applications. Not anymore.  App Volumes now allows me to give a user a writable app stack to store their user installed apps in, and that is delivered each time they log into a desktop. App Volumes really drives IT's ability to deliver apps without compromising the end-user experience. Horizon View has also added great new tech to address user profiles with UEM, 3D graphics with vGPU and recent release to support Linux desktop OS in a virtual desktop.
  • Mirage gives you the ability to manage those users that need to operate even when they are not on the network, still needing a full windows OS on their device. Need a backup solution for laptops? Well, VMware Mirage can do that. It takes snapshots of an entire PC—including OS, user applications, user files, and profiles—and can restore their image on a replacement laptop even it’s a different model and brand.  But most of all, it allows a layered approach to managing and updating the user’s window’s device. 
  • Workspace Portal provides a central, unified portal that users can access through a modern HTML browser. Workspace provides a single pane of glass that gives users convenient access to all of their applications, desktops, and content regardless of type of device you log in with. The great thing about a customized Workspace portal is the ability to deliver all things needed, including Citrix XenApps, RDSH (remote desktop service apps), Office 365, and even full virtual desktops.
Are You Ready for the VDI Journey?

Creating a modern data center is a journey. You need to understand that your data center will continue to evolve—just like VMware. At PC Connection, Inc., we offer a number of services to get you started on that journey—from assessments to health checks to test the overall efficiency of your infrastructure to a Proof of Concept Application to prove that this tech works in your environment with your apps to installation services when you’re ready to implement or upgrade. Laying out your EUC journey is exciting and our experts can help you every step of the way.

Pros and Cons of Unified Communications

Thu, 09/10/2015 - 08:56

Many IT professionals are overwhelmed by the proliferation of communications networks and devices being used by today’s enterprise employees: voice, video, Internet, mobile devices, email, text, and so on. Managing these various tools can be expensive and time consuming for resource-strapped IT departments.


That’s why more organizations are turning to Unified Communications (UC).

By merging multiple modes of communication and data sharing into a single IP-based infrastructure, UC offers powerful competitive advantages to organizations, making it easier and faster for employees, partners, and customers to exchange ideas and information, ask questions, participate in remote meetings, and access data.


While it has clear benefits, conversion to UC isn’t always smooth. Most of the problems encountered during the shift can be traced to staff resistance and interoperability issues. Below are the major pros and cons of Unified Communications.


Boost Productivity
Imagine employees being able to access and share critical business information no matter where they are or what type of device they’re on—all while using a common interface. This flexibility not only makes employees more efficient, it makes them less frustrated. It also enables the business to be more agile overall, which in today’s digital/mobile economy translates into more revenue.

Save On Deployment Costs
Enterprises lacking a UC system have separate management tools for their voice, data, and video networks. This is both inefficient and a waste of money. Further, the extra time spent by IT managing separate networks—troubleshooting, scheduling maintenance, testing, etc.—could be spent on activities that grow the business.

Eliminate Information Siloes
By integrating real-time communication modes—such as voice and instant messaging with voicemail, email, and texts—UC makes it easier to access and deliver information when it’s needed.

Increase Transparency and Agility
Because it combines multiple communication modes into one interface, UC enables employees to see in real time which colleagues are available as well as how, be it email, DM, text, etc. If a conversation has to happen right now, it can.


Foot-Draggers Who Diminish the Impact
Many employees will eagerly embrace a new UC system, recognizing the multiple ways one can help them do their jobs better. Others are used to routine and fear change. Overcoming resistance is one of the major barriers to a successful UC deployment.

Learning Curves
Even employees who eagerly embrace the concept of UC may have to learn new ways of doing their jobs. This will take time and initially be a drag on productivity.

UC Platforms and Services are an Investment
In addition to the up-front cost of UC solutions—which can be an issue for enterprises with tight IT budgets—there may be integration and ongoing management costs.

Interoperability Issues
Some UC systems are incompatible with some network hardware. If the UC system of your choice requires different hardware than what you currently have installed, the up-front cost of the deployment will go up. The alternatives are to settle for limited functionality or choose a UC platform to match your hardware. Both are self-defeating in the long run.

This white paper defines and certifies interoperability scenarios, delivers implementation guidelines, and recommends best practices for interoperability between UC products and existing communications and business applications.

Staff May Lack UC Expertise
As with many emerging enterprise IT technologies, UC skills are rare relative to market demand. This means another initial deployment expense in the form of hiring or training.

The benefits of UC are clear and compelling, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some stumbling blocks. IT must take the lead to ensure that the organization gets the UC system it needs and isn’t blindsided by unanticipated conversion expenses.

To do so, IT decision makers must work first with business executives and key stakeholders to determine the features and functionality needed from a UC, and then work with UC vendors to determine whether the solutions they’re offering match business needs and existing network assets.

For more information, read this white paper from Cisco Systems on Understanding the Total Cost of Unified Communications


Windows 10—More of What to Expect

Thu, 09/10/2015 - 08:02

Earlier this year, I wrote a post detailing what to expect with the release of Windows 10 and what it would mean for users. Since then, we’ve learned a few more things. Probably the biggest news is the licensing options.

When licensing Windows 10, you will finally have options. The Windows OEM license is still the only way to technically purchase the full license, but the upgrade has been tweaked to help customers get common licensing in their environment. Windows OS Upgrade will still be offered as a per device license. However, in order to be common with Office 365 licensing options, there is now a per user option. This will allow Windows 10 to be accessed on multiple devices, with only having to account for one upgrade license. You can now do this as a subscription as well, so it really blends well with the Office 365 licensing model.

Even more exciting, current Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 customers will be able to download Windows 10 for FREE! That’s right, for FREE! Microsoft is so excited about the new release that they are giving it away to customers who qualify. It is easy to use; it has a start menu, and is setup for desktop and mobile touch users—upgrading seems like a no brainer to me.