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What You Missed at VMworld 2014

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 15:01

One of the most important tech events this year was VMworld 2014, a gathering of VMware employees, IT pros, thought leaders, and industry experts to discuss the latest advances in virtualization and cloud technology. If you were unable to attend, you missed a number of big announcements from VMware. PC Connection’s VMware team was out in full force at VMworld, and we’re here to share with you some of the biggest announcements. For the fullest experience, watch our webinar recap of the whole show. 

Their first big announcement was in the area of software-defined data centers:

vCloud Suite 5.8 brings new features in site recovery manager and user data protection, plus improved interoperability with NSX, allowing you to customize the provisioning of NSX firewall routing services using vCloud Suite technologies. And it features vSphere Support Assistant, which is a free vCenter plugin you can use to identify issues before they become actual problems.

The next big announcement was of the EVO offerings. EVO is VMware’s brand for their hyper-converged infrastructure technologies, and VMware announced two versions of EVO converged infrastructure solutions: EVO Rail and EVO Rack. EVO Rail is a 2U 4-node rack appliance that you can purchase directly from your server hardware vendor with VMware technologies fully enabled on it. It’s the easiest way to roll out a software-defined data center. EVO Rack delivers a full hyper-converged infrastructure used to build and operate a high performance software-defined data center.

The third big announcement was the convergence of VMware’s management products into the vRealize line of offerings. The vRealize Suite includes vRealize Cloud Management Platform and vRealize Operations Air, vRealize Automation Air, and vRealize Business Air. The vRealize Suite will greatly help clients manage the delivery of  IT services whether they are hosted in their data center or from an external cloud provider all under one unified management experience.

Those are just a taste of the announcements that came out of VMworld 2014. For a deeper dive on these and other items from VMworld, check out our webinar with Sam Tessier, technical partner manager at VMware, where he goes through all the details of this year’s show.

Watch Now

 

Don't Leave Your Business Unprotected

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 10:09

Windows Server 2003 has been viewed as a secure and bulletproof platform for well over a decade, but the cyber security landscape has changed dramatically over that time—and new threats appear continuously. Sadly, legacy servers may be ill equipped to handle new threats, and organizations should seek server upgrades to protect both hardware and software against attacks. The plain fact is that when Microsoft ceases distributing security updates and patches for Windows Server 2003 software on July 14, it will become more expensive to secure legacy servers than to upgrade them for most companies.

The costs of maintaining legacy, unsupported servers against unacceptable exposure to cyber criminals will siphon resources away from IT budgets, especially if the organization has to implement new firewalls and intrusion detection systems. Plus, applications running on Windows Server 2003 will likely fail to meet compliance standards and regulations, leading to an additional cost burden to shore up security standards.

The silver lining is that when you upgrade your Windows Server 2003 platforms, you increase security by capitalizing on new software and hardware security capabilities that were heretofore unavailable on your legacy system. Upgrading security using Windows Server 2012 R2 and the Intel Xeon processor E5 v3 product family allows the enterprise to ensure ongoing protection while improving efficiency and productivity. It provides the enterprise with a secure and supported server environment that enables continued compliance with regulatory requirements that demand ongoing software updates.

 Windows Server 2012 R2 offers businesses an enterprise-class, multi-tenant data center infrastructure that simplifies the secure deployment of IT services and enables the secure, streamlined integration of premises-based and cloud-based applications.

Access to corporate resources such as workloads, storage, and networks help increase the agility of your business while protecting corporate information. Windows Server 2012 R2 also provides frameworks, services, and tools to increase security, scalability, and elasticity. Evolved features such as centralized SSL certificate support and application initialization help improve enterprise security and server performance. Your IT staff can provide consistent access to corporate resources by more efficiently managing and federating user identities and credentials across the organization while providing secure, always-available access to your corporate network.

Implementing Windows Server 2012 R2 on more secure hardware platforms also helps you further secure enterprise infrastructure. Deploying Windows Server 2012 R2 software on servers based on the Intel Xeon processor E5 v3 family protects the infrastructure by providing a hardware-assisted security foundation that strengthens malware protections and guards the operating system against escalation of attacks. It also provides added protection from threats against hypervisors, firmware, and other prelaunch software components.

By upgrading to Windows Server 2012 R2 on servers running E5 v3 processors, you gain access to powerful security and performance benefits, such as accelerated data encryption, strengthened malware protection, and the ability to create a trusted boot environment to protect your server landscape against malware or other tampering. You can also accelerate encryption and decryption via the use of the Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel AES NI).

For more information on the security advantages of upgrading to Windows Server 2012 R2 on servers running E5 v3 processors, watch this brief video.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.

Survive Your Windows Server 2003 Migration

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 15:18

It’s clear that continuing to operate an unsupported server is a great security risk that could have a significant impact on your budget and productivity. But migrating to a new server is also a significant cost—and can be a risky prospect, especially when you’re already behind the ball. Windows Server migrations are inherently risky, requiring a unique set of skills, experience, and technologies to execute successfully.

Fortunately, you can mitigate most of the risk of migration with proper preparation. Organizations that want to streamline migrations from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012 need to accurately assess their risks and identify the exact skills required to migrate from Windows Server 2003. Careful planning and clear insights into the budget ramifications of an upgrade—which have driven the delays of most migration plans—can help your organization easily visualize the long-term cost benefits, and ultimately gain budget approvals for server migrations.

To avoid starting from scratch and taking the 200–300 days that are typical for server migrations, many enterprises are turning to online assessment tools to help them evaluate options and accelerate migration plans. Online assessments offer a disciplined approach for gathering the information necessary for server migration and receiving structured recommendations. They allow the enterprise to accelerate server migrations, which is particularly crucial at a time when servers will reach the end-of-support stage before the migration is complete.

Dell’s Windows Server 2003 Migration Risk Assessment gives you unique insights to help you simplify, improve, and streamline your infrastructure. Each free assessment is short, taking only a few minutes. Once completed, a custom PDF report is generated based on your feedback, identifying areas of risk for your IT project. You'll also receive tailored recommendations to minimize those risks, accelerate project timelines, and improve ROI.

Migrating from Windows Server 2003 requires careful planning. You’ll want to take a close look at your existing infrastructure and consider the organization’s future needs so you can establish a Windows Server environment that will enable growth, deliver flexibility, and ensure security and availability. The initial questions in Dell’s Risk Assessment program are designed to assess your pre-migration preparation to identify your risk level during the migration phase.

Once your migration begins, you'll need to ensure availability and coexistence with legacy systems while leveraging the tools and expertise necessary to complete your project on time and under budget. The next questions assess your execution plans to identify your risk level during this migration phase.

Perhaps most important to many enterprises, though, is whether or not you can continue maximize your ROI, ensure security, and effectively manage your new infrastructure after the migration. For this concern, the final set of questions are designed to assess your post-migration management plans to identify your risk level during the operational phase.

Based on your answers, your risk levels will be assessed for each phase: pre-migration planning, migration execution, and post-migration management. You will also be presented with recommendations for planning, migration, and management, and with resources that can you can utilize throughout your migration process.

The security, compliance, and operational risks of maintaining non-supported servers are frightening, so taking advantage of readily available tools like the Dell Windows Server 2003 Migration Risk Assessment can help you not only streamline your migration, but in some cases, transform an impossible task into a near-future reality for your enterprise.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.

Perfect Timing

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 15:17

Most enterprise IT professionals understand the importance of a modernized data center. Unfortunately, trying to convince the C-suite to invest in a new infrastructure can be an exercise in futility.

The pending end of support for Windows Server 2003 on July 14, 2015 provides a rare chance to transform a business challenge into a big break for IT. Armed with the facts and a little bit of business savvy, IT pros now have the perfect opportunity to persuade reluctant business leaders to migrate from an aging platform and embrace emerging technologies.

That bad things will happen if the enterprise clings to Server 2003 should be an easy case to make—because they will over time. Bugs and glitches will destroy files, make data and apps inaccessible, and eventually cause the business to fall out of compliance. This means fines, penalties, auditing services. That’s a lot of hassle for an unsupported software suite. Add in lost business and lower employee satisfaction and you have a real problem on your hands.

Fortunately, the necessity of migrating from Server 2003 arises at a time when cloud computing and other modern technologies are turning data centers from storage repositories into dynamic drivers of business.

Enterprises that move data and apps to the cloud are unconstrained by the space and performance limitations of an on-premise data center. Cloud platforms allow for unlimited storage scalability—a critical feature at a time when data is growing exponentially.

Cloud computing provides the ideal, flexible environment for mobile devices. It enables developers to collaborate more easily and quickly—which means you’re getting products and tools out the door faster. And when utilized properly, the cloud serves as a powerful platform for data analytics that can uncover actionable insights to enterprise decision makers.

Migrating from Server 2003 also offers enterprises an opportunity to deploy virtualization, which can reduce hardware costs and vendor lock-in, as well as make the network more flexible and easier to manage. And by moving apps, infrastructure, and computing platforms to the cloud, enterprise IT functions can be delivered as a service.

Seems like the benefits of upgrading are piling up almost as quickly as the risks of remaining stuck to unsupported legacy technology, doesn’t it?

The data center of tomorrow will be a dispersed and dynamic configuration of technologies designed to make enterprises more agile and employees more productive. For C-level executives counting down the clock on Server 2003 EOL, that’s got to look like a compelling business case.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.

It’s More than a Necessity; It’s an Opportunity

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 15:15

You’ve probably read enough dire warnings about the terrible things that will affect your business if you keep using Windows Server 2003 past Microsoft’s announced End of Support deadline in July. It’s springtime, so let’s put aside the negatives and focus on the good things in store when you migrate to a new and better server platform. Read on for our top four benefits to making the move to Windows Server 2012 R2

1. You’ll enjoy an instant boost in performance and productivity—This alone is worth the effort, especially as data demands are accelerating at a staggering pace from more users and more devices. Servers based on the Intel® Xeon® processor E5 v3 product family running Windows Server 2012 R2 deliver up to 6x faster performance than comparable previous-generation systems. And if your existing servers are four or more years old, the performance bump will be all the more dramatic. The benefits of a data center refresh extend to storage media as well: new Intel® solid-state drives are up to 1,300 times faster than four-year-old hard drives.

2. You’ll save money by reducing data center cost and complexity—A single new Intel-based server can do the work of three older servers, which means fewer servers occupying less space; what’s more, intelligent built-in power capabilities are designed to reduce energy consumption. And remote management features reduce the number of costly desk-side visits, freeing IT staff from time-consuming maintenance issues to concentrate on high-level initiatives.

3. You’re well-positioned for the cloud—A data center refresh with the built-in virtualization capabilities of the Intel Xeon processor E5 product family enables you to tap the full advantages of a cloud-based environment that can make you much more competitive. These capabilities are fully complemented by the advanced features of Windows Server 2012 R2.  

4. You’ll have your security bases covered—The combined security capabilities of the Intel Xeon processor E5 product family and Windows Server 2012 R2 help enable your customers to continue doing business with you, maintaining compliance with HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, PCI and other regulatory standards. Intel-based servers are designed with foundational, hardware-assisted security capabilities that safeguard data through encryption and protect against malware and other attacks. And you’ll continue to receive ongoing support through Microsoft, Intel, and PC Connection, Inc.  

Yes, you need to migrate your data center away from Windows Server 2003, and soon. But the good news—and there’s lots of it—is that you’ll be glad you did.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.


Discover, Assess, Target, Migrate: Windows Server

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 15:13

July 14, 2015 is the date to remember. Windows Server 2003 is going end of support, and like thousands of others, your organization must consider the best path to upgrade. For most, the greatest benefit can be derived by examining the entire server infrastructure (including hardware, operating systems, and application modernization) all at once. For the four key steps to this critical process, read on.

Upgrading your data center OS can be summed up like this:

1. Discover—Get a better understanding of the Windows Server 2003 environment. This is the time to identify workloads that are currently running on the server.

2. Assess—Your comprehensive understanding of your current workloads will present an opportunity to retire under-utilized applications, consolidate licenses across the company, and update older applications to access the benefits and new features to their full potential.

3. Target—Consider and lock your sights on the deployment options for each workload. Some applications might be moved to new hardware running Windows Server 2012 R2 while others may benefit from a hybrid cloud solution or even Microsoft Azure.

4. Migrate—Use the previous phases in the process to prioritize critical applications and workloads so that they are moved in a timely fashion. This will eliminate disruptions and risks.

Most companies will find that they have instances of Windows Server 2003 powering old applications that they do not even know about. A recent study found that 61 percent of businesses are still running at least one instance of Windows Server 2003 somewhere in their organization.

Part of this process includes migrating foundation services such as DNS, active directory, file/print, and DHCP associated with an operating system upgrade to Windows Server 2012 R2. It is always helpful to reach out to a trusted technology partner when taking on efforts such as these. PC Connection, Inc. offers resources, migration expertise, and solutions to get you through the process.

To get started, check out our Windows Server 2003 End of Support page. This will give you the basic information from Microsoft that you will need to begin your migration process. Our server assessment tool can be found here. By answering a few questions about your current workloads, the tool will help create a migration strategy that optimizes performance and maximizes value for your business.

With about a couple months left, if you haven’t started thinking about your Windows Server Migration, the time to do so is now. Windows Server updates are undoubtedly a complex project that will require lots of upfront planning. Luckily, Microsoft helped make this process slightly more manageable by outlining a four-step process and designing this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads. The Microsoft Practice Team, within PC Connection Inc., is also here to help!

Disaster Recovery

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 15:10

When a disaster, whether natural or man-made, threatens to affect your organization, you need to be fully prepared to rebuild your operations and continue providing service and support to your customers. While most organizations understand the importance of planning for disaster recovery (DR), they are not always confident with the plan they have in place. Once their procedures go into place, they can quickly become outdated as applications change. I can tell you that testing the effectiveness of a disaster recovery plan—or whether a plan works at all—is crucial to its success. 

Do you have a fully tested DR plan in place? The team I work with can help. Our experts have built disaster preparedness and business continuity plans for organizations of all sizes. Wherever your organization is in the disaster recovery lifecycle—from initial policy to periodic testing—we can help you make sure your plan is well designed, test it, and then measure the results from that test to instill confidence in your DR strategy. 

Watch our video, The Importance of Testing Your Disaster Recovery Plan, and learn why the benchmark of any good DR plan is testing. Whether you have a simple or complex plan in place, discover why testing is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure success in the event of a real disaster.

If you are in the preparing or updating stages of your plan, watch our video, Preparing for Disaster Recovery, learn more about how the disasters you don’t think about can destroy your data as easily as the disasters you do. And discover the different types of disaster recovery technology available to you today to map out a solid DR plan.


Consider Your Windows Server 2003 Upgrade

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 15:09

Enterprises migrating from Windows Server 2003 face a bewildering world of options, with most of those residing in the cloud. For those IT departments trying to determine the best way to leverage their migration to Windows Server 2012, there are numerous cloud models—public, private, and hybrid, for starters—and even more cloud hosts to consider. It can be a bit overwhelming, and many IT decision makers would prefer moving to the cloud gradually and with a committed, experienced partner. For those businesses, a managed cloud solution of some kind may be the best way to go. Read on to find out which solution is the best fit for your business.

Commonly known as Co-Los (for co-location), managed clouds are private clouds located at a third-party facility. The managed cloud services provider furnishes the physical infrastructure (building, power, and cooling equipment) and ensures connectivity to the client’s network, while the enterprise’s IT pros manage and control the off-premises server environment.

Managed clouds allow enterprises to deploy apps and store data at a third location with the same level of confidence and access afforded by self-run private clouds. Further, they enable IT to focus on supporting core business goals and not redirect resources to cloud infrastructure management.

That’s a big advantage for enterprises migrating from Server 2003. IT pros who have been managing a network running off a 12-year-old server implementation likely haven’t developed cloud management skills or the ability to select and manage one or more cloud vendors.

Enterprises also can deploy a managed cloud in conjunction with the expansion of an existing data center. This results in a hybrid cloud environment that allows IT flexibility in storage and the allocation of computing resources while modernizing and scaling on-premise data center infrastructure.

An experienced IT services provider can help an enterprise determine the total cost of ownership of various cloud models. More importantly, they can help 1) choose the right implementation for an enterprise’s current and future computing requirements, 2) design the appropriate deployment plan, and 3) execute on that plan.

Microsoft’s ending of support for Windows Server 2003 (on July 14, 2015) is forcing enterprises to make decisions about the cloud they may not be prepared to make—but Microsoft isn’t abandoning those enterprises when it sheds support for its workhorse server. Whether a managed cloud solution is the most sensible path for these enterprises or not, Microsoft is uniquely qualified to provide the experienced partner that enterprises need to make the migration to the cloud.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.


Microsoft Windows Server 2012

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 15:05

Migrating from Microsoft Windows Server 2003 to Microsoft Windows Server 2012 is your chance to take your relationship with virtualization to the next level. It’s also an opportunity to upgrade to high-performance, power-efficient servers that provide a fast ROI.

Windows Server 2003 has been a reliable workhorse for over a decade—a bastion of corporate computing available in multiple editions targeted toward particular sizes and types of business. But on July 14, Microsoft will stop releasing critical patches for it.

Windows Server 2012 makes it simpler to consolidate workloads onto fewer, more powerful servers. Virtualization allows you to simplify IT administration and manage server loads easily and efficiently. You can also implement cluster maintenance during the day with no downtime to end users, and streamline backup and recovery.

More Flexibility

You say you want more operational flexibility? Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V capabilities include network virtualization, multi-tenancy, storage resource pools, cross-premise connectivity, and cloud backup. Combine these capabilities to spin up in minutes, which would have taken weeks to implement in a Windows 2003 environment.

In addition, the Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Replica feature makes replication of servers across a WAN or a secure VPN a reality—even for small businesses. Take note, because this was once something only larger companies could afford.

Maximum Efficiency

In my view, server consolidation is the most compelling virtue of virtualization. A typical non-virtualized application server may reach just 10 or 20% utilization. But a virtual server can easily reach 80% utilization. The net result is obvious— efficient hosting with more virtual machines on fewer physical servers.

This translates directly into reduced costs for hardware acquisition, maintenance, energy, and cooling system usage. According to Gartner, at least 70% of enterprise x86 server workloads are now virtualized. There’s a reason why so many of these server workloads are already virtualized—the economic arguments for virtualizing are overwhelming. So are the arguments for reaping the IT productivity and flexibility advantages that come with virtualizing workloads.

Cost-Effective

Virtualization typically requires fewer, more powerful servers. It’s crucial to select energy-efficient server platforms, so you can control operational costs moving forward. Look for server platforms like the high-performance, Energy-Star certified Lenovo ThinkServer RD440 when you’re looking to benefit from the many virtues of virtualization.

By selecting powerful, scalable, and energy efficient servers, you can achieve an accelerated ROI for your server investments. This is accomplished through the productivity gained, by both enterprise users and IT operational staff, as well as the reduced energy costs you’ll realize as you consolidate workloads onto more efficient platforms.

With the end-of-support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time-or an easier time-to plan your data center transformation.  Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.

Upgrade Economics: Windows Server 2003

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 15:02

What is the cost of doing nothing? If your business is still using servers running Windows Server 2003, that cost may be substantial—and growing. In the dozen years since Windows Server 2003 debuted, the world has seen huge strides in both the hardware and software that comprise business IT. Processing power has continued to obey Moore’s law by doubling about every 18 months, and there have been two versions of Windows Server to supersede Windows Server 2003. On July 14, 2015, the official end of support (EOS) for this venerable workhorse finally arrives.

Some costs are fairly obvious: Windows Server 2003 EOS means the end of security patches and updates from Microsoft. Without them, it will be easier for hackers to find vulnerabilities, enabling them to pry confidential or regulated information from these servers. Inaction itself may violate HIPAA rules requiring that businesses are “guarding against, detecting, and reporting malicious software”, which may no longer be possible for Windows Server 2003 servers.

Other costs are not as obvious. With the increasing adoption of cloud computing services, having the ability to use the cloud to scale IT resources rapidly to support new projects or business growth makes sense. However, Windows Server 2003 servers are not equipped to run the advanced virtualization tools that enable cloud integration, so failure to migrate could mean lost business agility and lost opportunity.

Even if an organization has no immediate cloud plans, the benefits of adopting cloud strategies—such as consolidation and virtualization for on-premises solutions—are clear. Older Windows Server 2003 servers often hosted just a single application or database, whereas today’s offerings such as Cisco UCS enable many older server workloads to be combined on a single physical server using Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V. This greatly reduces the number of servers, software licenses, power and cooling expense, real estate, and overall maintenance costs.

On the other hand, taking action can pay back big time, and quickly. According to the Forrester Research report titled “The Total Economic Impact of Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2”, businesses can expect to see a whopping 270 percent return on investment (ROI) with a six month payback for their investment in migrating to this new OS. What’s more, the report cited a 35 percent reduction in ongoing server management costs and further savings due to reduced need for expensive SAN gear to integrate with new server features and functionality.

Choosing your new server OS is just part of the picture. Smart hardware choices should further increase an organization’s payback on investment. Cisco UCS features a ‘stateless’ architecture that simplifies provisioning and reusing servers without worrying about MAC address and IP address changes. Cisco also offers Unified Fabric and SingleConnect, which together greatly simplify connection and deploying of server, storage and network elements, all while delivering industry-leading performance for new workloads and old.

To find out how to get started on this new path to keeping data safe and improving overall performance, take the assessment then give us a ring.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.

Compliance and Risk: The Time for Migration Is Upon Us

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 15:01

Of the nearly 9 million Windows Server 2003 systems still running as of last month, it is estimated by security firm Bit9 that about 2.7 million will still be chugging away after July 14, 2015—the official and final end of support (EOS) date for Windows Server 2003. For some organizations there has been little incentive to upgrade. Others have been struggling with shrinking IT budgets. And many smaller organizations don’t have in-house IT or are completely unaware of the looming EOS date. What does this mean for your organization? In a word, risk.

First, there’s the risk to the servers themselves. Without security patches, Windows Server 2003 will become a primary target for organized hackers looking to benefit financially from uncovering the information stored on those obsolete servers. And since these systems lack the virtualization and compartmentalization tools that can isolate one program from another, clever hackers can remotely encrypt every file on the server and then seek a ransom for the decryption key. 

There’s also the risk of failing an audit related to governance or regulation. Whether consumer credit card information protected by PCI, health information protected by HIPAA, or financial information that’s covered by Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), regulatory guidelines are nothing to be trifled with. Businesses that cannot demonstrate they are taking the steps necessary to secure protected information could face fines as well as loss of licensing, adding insult to injury.

A third area of concern is older application code. Software written for decades-old operating systems often does not receive the same level of support from developers—both internal and external—as software written for a current OS—such as Windows Server 2012. The result can be orphaned code that is itself vulnerable, with little chance of patches for obsolete versions running on rusting hardware.

So, risks abound and include an infrastructure that can be compromised, aging code that exposes new attack surfaces, and inaction that leads to expensive penalties.  Clearly, the time for migration is upon us.

Begin your upgrade strategy by assessing your current infrastructure inventory to learn what application and middleware workloads are running on which obsolete platforms. Once your inventory is in hand you can rank the importance of each workload to the organization and determine whether or not older custom or orphaned code can be replaced by more modern, off-the-shelf applications. Then, armed with that knowledge you can determine the new target environment—usually a virtual server deployed on a Windows Server 2012 system—for each workload. Simple, right?

For most organizations, turning to a trusted partner for help with migration makes sense. Leveraging years of migration experience can accelerate the process immensely and provide a safety net to ensure the compliance and security for your programs, data, customers, and users.

That’s where Lenovo can help. Working with their industry-leading System x servers, Lenovo teams have managed countless migrations, ensuring the maximum safety of each organization’s data before, during, and after switchover to new Windows Server 2012 servers. Lenovo’s team of experts can help you assess your existing servers and applications and source exactly the right configurations to consolidate server workloads to drive up efficiency—even as you improve your overall application and server security.

To find out how Lenovo can help lower your risk while improving IT performance, reach out to us today.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.

Windows Server 2003 Goes EOL

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 15:00

IT professionals face two fundamental challenges every day: 1) Keeping their enterprise’s network running, and 2) Keeping it secure.

Which is why it’s so important for enterprises still relying on Windows Server 2003 to migrate from the aging server OS, which Microsoft will cease supporting after July 14, 2015. Once Redmond no longer offers support, organizations relying on Server 2003 will face a number of risks that over time will only increase in severity.

Ade Foxall, CEO of London-based application performance management vendor Camwood, describes Server 2003 end of life as “the biggest security threat of 2015.”

Still, a January survey showed that 8% of respondents had no plans to migrate from Server 2003, even though the vast majority of these dead-enders (85%) cited concerns about security.

This is somewhat ironic because the first and most obvious danger associated with an abandoned server platform is that the manufacturer no longer will issue fixes and patches for vulnerabilities that could be exploited by viruses, spyware and other malicious code.

While it may be tempting to believe an outdated server OS with a shrinking installed base might be overlooked by hackers and other digital miscreants seeking bigger game, the opposite is true: Zero-day exploits, which target unknown security flaws in software for which there are no patches, are very common. And you better believe those looking to take advantage of vulnerable networks are well aware that several million Windows 2003 servers will be running after July 14.

Further, even running just one instance of Server 2003 can endanger other parts of the network. According to CIO.com, “A compromised Windows Server 2003 operating system could open the door for the bad guys to pry into other systems in your data center for the purpose of launching attacks against them.”

And any potential short-term compliance issues incurred by migrating from Server 2003 would be more than offset by the risk of running afoul of financial regulations and other certification requirements by choosing to stay on an outdated, unsupported platform.

This is a serious problem for enterprises in industries such as healthcare and finance because they must comply with government standards regarding the security and privacy of customer and patient records. An inability to safeguard sensitive data because a server platform is vulnerable could lead to fines, penalties, and lawsuits.

And private industries are subject to similar oversight. The millions of e-commerce sites that process credit card data must meet strict requirements regarding the protection of private customer information as well, if they want to stay in business. They must adhere to the regulations set by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (commonly called PCISS) in order to retain the ability to accept credit card payments – not to mention keep the trust of their customers. One data breach can cost a company millions, and running on an outdated platform like Server 2003 is like letting cybercriminals know you’re leaving the back door unlocked. 

Change can be scary and sometimes dangerous. But running your business on a 12-year-old server OS that no longer will be supported isn’t just dangerous, it’s truly reckless. And reckless behavior can lead to disastrous results.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.

Do More than Just Keep the Lights On

Thu, 06/25/2015 - 09:52

Think of your IT infrastructure as a house…a bit of a strange analogy, but hear me out. Twenty years ago, that house was a one bedroom/one bath on a quiet street that rarely saw traffic from visitors. Over the years, the neighborhood has changed—and so have the demands on your little house. Today, it’s grown into a much bigger, more complicated structure with more rooms, more outlets, and more windows and doors. Now your utility bills are higher than ever before, and you spend a huge chunk of your monthly budget just to keep the lights on. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, too many organizations today are trapped in the cycle of spending 70% of their budgets maintaining old equipment. With so much of your budget tied up, you have to pass on opportunities to spur innovation and implement new ideas. You’re forced to do more with less, even when you see great possibilities in things like data analytics, new flash storage technologies, and converged infrastructure. What you need is someone who understands the current layout of your house, the most efficient way to utilize the space, and how to transform it into your dream home.

PC Connection has the resources and expertise to help you do just that. We can break that cycle of “just keeping the lights on” and enable you to allocate more of your budget to drive innovation. Instead of trying to keep up with data growth, we can show you strategies to get ahead of it—to make your data more accessible, more secure, and more easily transformed into useful information that advances your business. We’re able to do that because we partner with industry leaders who share our vision of simpler, more powerful IT solutions.  

PC Connection’s experts work closely with EMC to stay on the cutting-edge of technology—and believe me when I say that’s no small endeavor. Did you know that EMC reinvests 12% of their revenue back into R&D every year? That’s a lot of new technologies, new features, and new possibilities. And our specialists are right there alongside the experts at EMC, learning about the latest solutions and figuring out how to customize them to fit your unique environment. Part of the reason that relationship between PC Connection and EMC produces such excellent results is that they share our dedication to customer-focused solutions. There is no “one size fits all” approach in their playbook.

I could talk for ages about the depth of experience on our team of technical experts and how our technicians are certified to the highest levels that EMC has to offer, but that’s not front of mind when you’re searching for opportunities to improve your IT organization, is it?  What all of that expertise boils down to, though, is more options. More options for you. With PC Connection, you have more options to solve your challenges. And when you have more options to choose from—and an experienced technology advisor to help guide you—you end up with a solution that works exactly the way you want it to.

Together, EMC and PC Connection offer that flexibility. From servers and storage to networking and everything in between, our experts know how to create end-to-end solutions that deliver results. We can help you lay out a floor plan that ensures your IT house is efficient, secure, and—most importantly—delivers the features and functionality you need to get everything done in your busy day.

Learn more about PC Connection’s partnership with EMC by watching our latest video series. You’ll get a great behind-the-scenes look at how our teams work together to help you drive innovation, increase agility, and plan for the future. 


Investing in Life-Saving IT

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 09:39

It’s not every day that IT investments are credited with helping save lives. But that’s exactly what Advanced Medical Transport (AMT), located in Central Illinois, accomplished with their innovative use of advanced digital signage solutions.

There is a paradigm shift in managing healthcare IT today, presenting a unique opportunity for providers to improve patient care, ensure better outcomes, and achieve compliance. Digital signage is playing a key part in that evolution.

AMT uses a 27’ x 9’ video wall to provide critical information to dispatchers and ambulance crews heading into emergency situations. From road closures and service area maps to national news and up-to-date weather feeds, the digital signage communicates vital information that helps AMT’s experts arrive on scene faster.

For more details on the IT solutions designed for maximum performance, reliability, and value—read the case study “Life-Saving IT Solutions”.

Is Flash A Good Fit for You?

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 14:26

Recently I wrote a blog on a basic breakdown of flash technology. For this round, I’m going to delve a little deeper into the subject of storage and your organization. 

As you probably know, flash storage offers a lot of benefits. No moving parts, requires less power, read/writes very quickly. It’s a perfect upgrade in certain respects, and it's finding a place within the IT infrastructure more and more often. That’s right, it’s for more than just notebooks and desktops. It can be used right in the heart of your organization’s data center. But is this always the case?

You’ve heard the good, but what about the bad? Well, flash can’t be everything to everybody. There are certain situations that require flash and others that don't. A storage array is a perfect example of where flash is a very good idea. It can handle the load faster than typical hard drives can—even those rated for enterprise storage.

To discover if it’s right for you, all you really have to do is examine your situation and ask yourself:
• What kinds of applications are you running?
• What is the performance expectation of the end users?
• Are your storage servers actively used or are they for deep archiving?

If your users need lightning-fast access or you’re running an application server, then flash storage is the way to go. However, if you have a data server that’s rarely accessed, then stick with a run-of-the-mill hard drive or hybrid flash.

Hybrid storage—a traditional hard drive with built-in flash memory— allows a business to take advantage of flash storage at a lower cost.  It lets you access commonly used files quickly, while keeping seldom-used files on a slower partition. 

At PC Connection, Inc. we're finding that hybrid or a mix of hybrid and full-flash storage works best for most of our customers. We suggest you stick to flash when you need pure performance and stick to the spinning disk when you need capacity. Between the two, you’ll end up with a very cost-effective solution.

If you have questions about your storage situation, you can always call on

PC Connection, or view this video for more information. We offer no-obligation assessments that help discover the right path for your storage infrastructure.


A Windows Server Migration Is a Big Job

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 13:26

You’ve all heard Microsoft will cease support for all versions of Windows Server 2003 on July 14, and after that there will no longer be any software updates issued. The potential costs of maintaining outdated servers and protecting them against cyber attacks can have crippling impacts on IT budgets. But as the costs of operating Windows Server 2003 increases, organizations can instead migrate to Windows Server 2012 to reduce costs and increase productivity by taking advantage of advancements in virtualization, management, storage, and networking. 

Migrating to Windows Server 2012 will allow you to deliver modern application services while virtualizing on your own terms, and you can automate IT operations to drive quality and efficiency. But there’s one major challenge facing organizations that are still running Windows Server 2003: Even if you’re planning to migrate to Windows Server 2012, you’re already late.

A typical server migration can take 200 days or more for many enterprises, which is a long time to risk exposure to potential security threats. Sophisticated tools are needed to help streamline and accelerate the migration so IT can avoid the costs of implementing Band-Aid approaches to protecting the server infrastructure while cost-justifying investments in new servers and analyzing efficient migration strategies.

Intel offers free tools and resources to help with migration, such as the Intel Xeon Processor-Based Server Refresh Savings Estimator. This enables businesses to model server refresh activity and see the cost and maintenance impact of implementing new hardware. Developed from Intel’s IT experience in justifying server refreshes internally, this web-based tool allows you to enter data about your existing environment and evaluate the benefits of replacing it with the latest generation of Intel-based servers, Ethernet products, and solid-state drives.

Enter information about your existing data center environment into the tool and you can easily evaluate the optimal servers for your project life cycle. You can quickly model the combined effects of compute, memory, and I/O to understand the overall implications for server sizing and selection to meet your service level agreements.

Intel’s estimator tool also incorporates the required number of servers to address projected workloads and helps IT evaluate the cost impacts of using solid-state versus hard disk drives and migrating from 1 Gb to 10 Gb adapters. Plus, it can help identify opportunities for the possible freeing of IT staff to address other critical IT business needs.

Reduced operating system licensing costs is a primary factor driving up the ROI for consolidating servers, so it is important to input your current per-server OS licensing costs to reflect your actual situation. Once you’ve entered the data via a browser interface you can download a report summarizing your personalized refresh project. Armed with detailed, customized information based on your business’ unique needs, CIOs and other internal decision makers should have the tools they need to make a financial case for migration.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.

Soup Up Your Windows Server 2003 Upgrade

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 09:52

IT professionals working in enterprise environments can see the clock winding down. The time to migrate to a modern server operating system is upon them; Microsoft ends support for its Server 2003 on July 14, 2015. Enterprises will face many tough decisions as they prepare to upgrade, but the best solution may be the one that’s staring them right in the face.

The obvious destination is Windows Server 2012, a system built specifically to leverage cloud computing and other emerging technologies for which Windows Server 2003 was not designed. Server 2012 offers enterprises great flexibility and scalability for their cloud deployments, thanks to a common architecture that allows applications to be developed and run on public, private, and hybrid clouds.

But the impressive features of Server 2012 simply cannot be fully leveraged without modern server hardware, just as the latest generation of Google Play apps would be wasted on an old phone with inadequate processing power. Some apps will run, others will run slowly, and some won’t run at all. And nobody buys a brand-new server OS to get that kind of outcome.

To get the most out of Server 2012, enterprises need server hardware able to manage heavy loads efficiently while being easy for IT to maintain and configure.

Dell PowerEdge servers use the latest processors (which include multiple cores and greater memory bandwidth) along with next-generation flash storage and greater storage throughput. Local storage offers flexibility to vary densities, capacities, and performance options.

This gives enterprises a robust server hardware platform that can handle transmission and storage for vast amounts of data. And let’s face it, the ability to rapidly collect, process, and analyze data from multiple sources—including mobile devices, social media, and the Internet of Things—is mission-critical in today’s digital economy.

Dell PowerEdge servers also can deliver benefits to the financial and management sides of an enterprise running Windows Server 2012. The higher densities that PowerEdge servers accommodate can reduce data center power consumption. And the streamlined management tools that come with Dell PowerEdge servers—which include policy-based automated updating and zero-touch remote deployment—free up IT to focus on strategic initiatives instead of maintenance and housekeeping.

Together, Windows Server 2012 and Dell PowerEdge servers provide enterprises with a dynamic computing platform that increases their agility, scalability, and flexibility, while reducing inefficiencies and operational costs.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.

Help for SMBs Upgrading From Windows Server 2003

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 09:34

As Microsoft’s deadline for ending Windows Server 2003 support looms, some IT professionals may be overwhelmed by the complexities of a major migration.

After support ends on July 14th—and Microsoft stops releasing critical patches and updates—applications running on Windows Server 2003 will likely fail to meet compliance standards and regulations. HP warns that mid-size firms might take the hardest hit as a result of this.

According to Iain Stephen, HP's Vice President and General Manager for Servers in EMEA, “For most small companies, it's a relatively simple transition. They are probably buying one or two servers every three or four years and the next server they buy will have an up-to-date operating system version. The customer that worries me is the one that has 30 or more servers—probably of mixed ages—who may have heard something about the end of life deadline, but they may not be doing anything about it."

The legacy platforms running Windows Server 2003 are insufficient for running Windows Server 2012. Migrating from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012 is not causing major application compatibility issues. So, for many SMBs who are only now realizing that there will no longer be patches and software updates for their legacy servers, deploying new hardware platforms with a new server operating system can be handled efficiently.

Optimizing licensing and managing migration can be daunting for SMBs, particularly when facing time pressure budget constraints.  But the burden may not be as severe for all companies—depending on their circumstances. Since Microsoft offers volume licensing for enterprises with less than 200 employees, Stephen says that many SMBs may already have the rights to deploy an updated version of Windows Server without even being aware of it.

HP offers an innovative solution, and it all starts with the HP ProLiant Gen9 Servers.  SMBs with modest IT departments have enough on their hands just juggling day-to-day operations, and upgrading the company infrastructure could seem like an impossible task. But those businesses still running Windows Server 2003 after July 14 will likely experience major burdens on their time anyway, as they will then have to personally handle all patching and updates that used to be handled by Microsoft.

To support organizations that can’t spare the resources internally, HP works with channel partners, such as us, on transformation services. Maintaining unsupported servers is a task that that no one wants to take on, and a risk that they shouldn’t have to take.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.



Transform IT from Cost Center to Value-Add

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 08:33

Unless you’ve been living in a bunker you probably know that July 14, 2015 brings the end of all support for Windows Server 2003. That means the end of support for the servers and applications that millions of businesses rely on every single day. At particular risk from this event are small to medium-sized organizations. They often lack formal IT departments, and those with IT staff are constantly struggling with shrinking (or flat) IT budgets. Not very high on the IT buying agenda is spending money on fixing something that doesn’t appear broken.

Yet migration from Windows Server 2003 has moved from an option to a necessity, as once support ends every system will be at too great a risk of malware attacks and data loss. As the bad guys find new security holes and vulnerabilities, there will be no patches forthcoming to repair them. In no time, those systems will be under siege.

But perhaps the biggest reason to get migration plans into gear is the bottom-line business benefits that can be reaped by re-thinking IT altogether. Instead of viewing IT as just a necessary expense, businesses can use this inflection point to look at ways IT can add value to the organization with technologies that are difficult to deploy on older servers.

First on that list: business analytics and big data. Instead of using technology to just recap what happened—a.k.a., descriptive analytics—moving to new platforms will enable deployment of predictive analytics tools that can help you move a step ahead of the competition and anticipate your customers’ demands.

Next up for IT transformation is enhancing your mobility profile. With users driving the bring your own device (BYOD) mobility revolution, having infrastructure that enables any device, anywhere support for business data and applications empowers employees to react faster and collaborate better. The result: improved efficiency of the workforce.

Then, of course, there’s the cloud. Smart businesses are using cloud computing to augment their on-premises IT during periods of peak demand, or moving workloads like Web and email to cloud hosts to reduce network bandwidth challenges and the need for IT staff resources. Want a seamless transition from on-premises to cloud and back? Think Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V to give you a running start to enhanced business agility by first enabling more efficient use of the new hardware (saving money) and simplifying the integration of on-premises and cloud applications.

For those businesses with limited resources—or who have resources focused on new application development and improving business processes—PC Connection, Inc. and HP can become an extension to your IT organization and bring years of experience in server migration to bear in crafting an approach that’s right for your organization. Together, we can help you through the key phases of discovering what’s actually running on your servers, assessing the level of difficulty of migrating those applications, targeting your destination, and ultimately getting you up and running without a hiccup.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.


Windows Server 2012 and Cisco UCS Can Upgrade Enterprise Performance

Wed, 06/17/2015 - 17:22

Many enterprises migrating from Windows Server 2003 to Server 2012 may be doing so only because Microsoft will cease support for its old server OS on July 14, 2015. For those reluctant enterprises, here’s some great news: A strong majority of businesses that have migrated to Server 2012 report numerous performance benefits. Read on to find out the three top benefits to migrating.

A recent IDC survey showed that up to 75% of enterprises that migrated to Windows Server 2012 reported improved application performance, while another 62% said they had improved both network security and patch management. 

This shouldn’t be a surprise: There have been substantial advances in enterprise computing and storage technology in the nine years since Server 2003. Many of these—including mobile app hosting, social media and collaboration tools, improved clustering management, and streaming video—are fully supported in Server 2012.

But to truly take advantage of the features and functionality of Server 2012, enterprises need a platform that consolidates a network’s computing, networking, storage, and virtualization resources into a single system that can be easily monitored and managed by IT.

Cisco System’s Unified Computing System (UCS) helps enterprises derive performance benefits from Server 2012 in numerous ways. Here are three of the most important:

1. Advanced IT infrastructure—Cisco UCS runs on a 10 Gigabit Ethernet unified network fabric that can handle the delivery of enterprise-class apps and huge amounts of data. UCS also fully supports VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V, the two most popular virtualization platforms.

2. Powerful processors, more memory—The high-computing demands of today’s digital enterprise require processors that can handle the workload. Cisco UCS employs Intel Xeon processors that enable your computing infrastructure to meet the processing needs of multiple production virtual machines with high-computing requirements.

In addition, Cisco UCS blade and rack servers can support up to 6TB of RAM per virtual machine, versus 1TB of RAM for Hyper-V and vSphere. This allows enterprises to consolidate virtualized servers.

3. Greater networking efficiency—Cisco UCS uses Cisco Unified Fabric and SingleConnect Technology, which eliminate the multiple networking and storage interfaces that make basic management difficult. Cisco Unified Fabric lets IT wire once for bandwidth, avoiding the necessity of supporting separate NICs and making it easier to manage bandwidth allocation.  SingleConnect allows enterprises to connect their Cisco UCS servers on one network fabric and one network layer. This makes it easier to manage and configure network connections.

By providing more power, flexibility, scalability and better management tools, Windows Server 2012 and Cisco’s Unified Computing System can take enterprises to the next level of computing.

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.