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Pros and Cons of Unified Communications

Thu, 09/10/2015 - 09:56

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 - 09:02

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.

Creating a Sensible Unified Communications Strategy

Tue, 09/08/2015 - 09:49

A growing number of enterprises are eager to leverage unified communications (UC) to transform their organizations. The UC trend supports the convergence of multiple modes of communication and data sharing—including voice, video, mobile devices, and the Internet—around a single IP-based infrastructure. 

Unified communications enables employees, customers, and partners to share information or participate in audio or video conferences through one platform, regardless of their location or device. The right UC solution can make communications, collaboration, data retrieval, and group training far easier than a set of disparate tools that lack consistent accessibility, interoperability, or reliability, and are difficult for IT to manage. Further, UC can integrate communications with an organization’s processes, increasing efficiency across the enterprise.

While the initial capital outlay for a UC solution can be steep, the benefits and long-term savings derived can more than justify the up-front costs. There’s a caveat here, though: For organizations to choose the UC solution that works best for them, it is imperative that they first develop a unified communications strategy that spells out their goals and needs. “Ready, aim, buy” works a lot better than “ready, buy, aim.”

What considerations should go into determining an enterprise’s UC strategy? The most important thing is that the conversion goes as smoothly as possible. Disruption is the polar opposite impact a UC rollout should have on the organization.

Thus, a smart first step is to assess your current network. Will your infrastructure be able to support UC? Upgrades to your LAN/WAN may be necessary to support traffic coming from both phones and digital data sources, or you may have to expand your storage area network to accommodate voice messages and emails. These types of infrastructure changes must be accounted for when pricing and assessing a UC platform.

Once you’ve assessed your infrastructure for UC readiness, it’s time to assess the needs of the people who will be most impacted by a UC adoption: Your employees. IT professionals have heard this message plenty in recent years, but it bears repeating: Everything must begin with the user. The whole point of UC is to make people more productive and processes more efficient.

That means talking to workers about how they use communications technology to do their jobs. Who’s reliant on mobile devices? Who only uses text and email? Who is unfamiliar with collaboration applications? These are your customers, and any smart organization will assess the impact of a major change on their customers before making a commitment.

Even after deciding on a UC platform, enterprises must still take measured, strategic steps to implement it. First, choose which organization unit is the most logical candidate for a limited rollout. A new UC platform should never be introduced unilaterally across the enterprise. Let a small group work out the bugs to streamline experience the benefits. Do everything you can to make sure it’s a positive experience for these first adopters. Those employees will be important down the road when it comes time to get buy-in from other departments.

Secondly, integrate training into your UC rollout strategy. People are often afraid of new technology because they fear they won’t understand it and that it will negatively impact their job performance. Walking them through the unfamiliar processes – and exposing them to the positive experiences of the UC test group – can help resistant employees overcome their anxiety.

There are a number of factors to consider—technological, organizational, and even emotional—when devising a UC strategy. Organizations that methodically address these concerns as they build their UC roadmap will see their efforts pay off in the long run.

Unifying Data Center and Cloud Management

Fri, 09/04/2015 - 10:05

As cloud models continue to evolve and proliferate, managing the network becomes an increasingly complex task. To meet their needs, many organizations are deploying not just one monolithic “cloud,” but multiple clouds with greater flexibility and focus.

The adaptability of multiple clouds is essential in the modern digital/mobile economy. However, greater complexity in the network means more management challenges for IT.

That’s where the concept of a unified management platform comes in. A unified management platform helps data center professionals by integrating the network into a single dashboard of information from multiple data storage and compute sources. This eliminates the necessity for disparate management consoles for cloud deployments because everything can be monitored and managed from a single hypervisor.

Data is entering enterprise networks from a greater variety of sources than ever—the Internet, mobile devices based on different Operating Systems, the Internet of Things, and more. This flood of data makes effective data storage and data management increasingly vital. And in a digital economy where decisions often must be made in real time, a unified management platform delivers numerous competitive advantages.

Unified management platforms offer data center professionals a level of transparency and control that is exceedingly difficult to achieve using multiple management dashboards and tools. By providing IT pros with a comprehensive view of the data center’s various physical and virtual resources—including on-premise servers, private clouds, public clouds, and hybrid clouds—unified management platforms reduce complexity and risk.

Unified management platforms also allow for greater agility and scalability in data centers by enabling IT to consolidate servers and automate processes, both of which can reduce operational and maintenance costs.

For example, data center professionals using a unified management platform can schedule IT processes and automate network provisioning in a way that optimizes resources to meet demand. In a customer-facing data center (such as one run by an online retailer), that could mean the difference between successful transaction and a sale lost to latency.

However, unified management platforms are only effective if they can be integrated with all other components of an enterprise’s data storage operation. That’s why it’s important for data center professionals considering a unified management platform to make sure they work with an experienced vendor whose solution meets their integration needs.

The right unified management platform gives data center professionals a powerful tool that makes their data “management” job easier, thus liberating resources (both computing and personnel) to focus on meeting strategic business goals.

Is a Unified Data Center Right For You?

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 10:34

Deciding to go with a Unified Data Center (UDC) would seem to be the easiest decision ever. UDC uses people, process, and technology to treat the information overload faced by many organizations. However, even easy decisions need to be thought through—especially ones as big as this. Have you thoroughly examined the underlying strategy to determine if it will work best within your business?

First you need to familiarize yourself with two key concepts of UDC: Service profiles and virtualized I/O. Service profiles are completely configured through software and provide definitions of a server and its LAN and SAN network connectivity. It defines a single server along with its storage and networking characteristics. It is independent from any specific hardware and is coupled with virtualized IOs, making it easy for profiles to be reconfigured and transferred between blades.

Virtualized I/O simplifies and reduces the number of adapters and connecters.  Servers use many I/O adapters for Ethernet and SAN connections. Along with those are the internal Ethernet and Fiber Channel switches for aggregating these connections used by blade systems. By contrast, UDC consolidates all of this virtually. It puts interfaces on the server blades then passes them straight through the chassis via pass-through modules. These adapters are then configured so the operating system sees them as virtual Ethernet, iSCSI, or Fiber Channel over Ethernet adapters.   

With that, we can take look at some of the pros and cons of UDC to make sure you’re asking the right questions and forming realistic expectations.


Learning Curve: Going from your old way to UDC will mean rethinking how you have done things and learning new ways of doing them. Expect significant instruction, practice, and in-the-field fine-tuning.

Cost: Re-inventing your data center won’t be cheap. Carefully examine the ROI versus the initial cost to determine whether it makes sense for your organization.

Existing Infrastructure Support: The best UDC solutions are based on an open architecture and can easily integrate with existing management systems and tools.

Single Vendor: Does buying all the gear you need for your data center from one vendor mean you are now locked in to that vendor? It shouldn’t. While there will always be some things you will want to get from your original vendor, a state of the art solution will allow you use the vendors you choose.


Increased Server Efficiency: With more memory for server platforms you can increase the virtual servers hosted on each physical server.

Ease of Management: The best UDC solutions allow you to manage your entire infrastructure as a single entity. Managers of storage, networking, and servers can easily collaborate to define service profiles for applications.

Savings: UDC usually takes up less space and requires less to be spent on utilities than traditional data centers.

Less Time Spent on Maintenance: A UDC streamlines data center resources, scales service delivery, and sharply reduces hardware setup, all of which will radically cut the amount of time and resources spent on infrastructure maintenance.

Get Bigger but Not More Complex:  With your computing, networking, storage access, and virtualization all unified in one cohesive platform, you can scale up modularly from one server to thousands without adding new complexity in management.

Performance Advantage: Integrated and enhanced storage and network I/O provides significant performance boost, especially in large data center deployments.

Click here to learn more about the unified data center.

Windows 10 Support Options

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 11:12

The recent release of Windows 10 has left many IT execs confused over the support options available. While evaluating the various editions of Windows 10 and the possible upgrade options and timeframes, figuring out the enterprise support options isn’t easy.

Support for Microsoft’s Windows as a Service seems to be based primarily around three service branches. PCs running Windows 10 Home will not have a choice: they’ll receive the Current Branch, and Microsoft will automatically push new features, bug fixes, and security updates to them via Windows Update. But corporate PCs will likely be running Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Enterprise, the most expensive edition that’s only available by volume licensing agreements. 

If you’re running Windows 10 Pro, you can opt for Current Branch or select Current Branch for Business, which provides more flexibility about when the updates will be applied, although updates cannot be deferred indefinitely. It also allows the enterprise the option of distributing the updates via Windows Update or by using enterprise management tools such as Windows Update for Business or Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).

With Windows 10 Enterprise, IT has maximum flexibility for assigning users to a support option. They can assign PCs to receive their updates via Current Branch or Current Branch for Business, and they can also assign users to receive updates via the Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB).

This option provides flexible options for managing Windows updates. It can be customized to only accept security updates, with additional upgrades deployed centrally via Windows Update for Business or WSUS. LTSB is the only option that will allow the enterprise to selectively decline new features that Microsoft delivers as part of its Windows as a Service strategy.

Windows 10 support options will likely become clearer as more organizations begin deployment. Meanwhile, for additional information—including a simple chart showing the options for each branch and each Windows 10 edition—visit these Windows 10 FAQs by Microsoft VMP Andre Da Costa.

Windows 10 is here. It’s the Windows you know, only better. Be more productive with a familiar Start Menu, stay safe with new security features, and get more done across multiple devices. Experience the operating system of the future. Our experts can offer expert advice and ensure your Windows 10 Migration success. 

Managing Data Breach Risk

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 11:07

For today’s organization, managing risks to your critical information should be a business priority, not just an IT responsibility. We all know cyber-attacks damage reputations, destroy customer trust, and affect revenues. Yet, many organizations are still left wondering: What’s the true financial impact of a data breach?

 Consider these facts:
  • Lost business costs average $3.72 million (IBM and Ponemon Institute’s 2015 Cost of Data Breach Study: United States)
  • 20% of customers terminate their accounts with breached companies immediately after an incident, and 40% consider it (Ponemon, Lost Customer Information: What Does a Data Breach Cost Companies?)
  • 54% of companies believe it can take anywhere from ten months to more than two years to restore a company’s reputation following a data breach (Experian and the Ponemon Institute)
  • 60% of breached small organizations close down within six months
The Data Breach Reality

The reality is that any company or educational institution that maintains personally identifiable information (PHI) about employees, patients, students, or intellectual property is at risk for a data breach.  As highlighted by the White House, the current state breach-notification laws can impose substantial complexity and expense. Even the most innocuous breach can require investigation and response costs, and draw further scrutiny of state and federal regulators.

A classic example is the laptop computer that contained unencrypted personnel files left in the back of a taxicab. The likelihood that the data on the computer will ever be used for identity theft or other financial fraud may be relatively low, but in most instances that will not excuse the company from providing notice to the affected employees and, in many states, the state attorney general. Notice of the breach may then result in a broader inquiry into the company’s security policy. The cost of simply investigating and providing notice can be significant.

Prepare for the Inevitable

Cyber risks will never be eliminated. Today, organizations must remain vigilant and agile in the face of a continually evolving threat landscape. For many organizations, some governance directive such as HIPAA-HITECH, GLBA, PCI DSS, and others mandate encryption. Encryption in the Federal Government is required by entities such as FISMA, the OMB and Presidential Directives and implemented using NIST, FIPS, and other similar guidelines.

However, proof of encrypted data often times provides a safe harbor.  For example, the HITECH Act requires that patients be notified of any unauthorized acquisition, access, use, or disclosure of their unsecured PHI that compromises their privacy or security. The HITECH Act defines unsecured PHI as any PHI that is not secured by a technology standard that renders it unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable to unauthorized individuals, and is developed or endorsed by a standards developing organization that is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). If PHI is encrypted, it provides covered entities and business associates a safe harbor; and these entities are not required to provide the notification otherwise required by section 13402.

Avoid Becoming the Next Breach Headline

Every day, you hear about another security breach at another big company. Don’t let your company fall victim. Dell provides simple, robust security solutions to safeguard your systems and data, enabling your business to quickly support new initiatives. Dell Data Protection and Encryption can secure your data and help you achieve compliance—and their robust endpoint security solution gives you the power to protect data from the PC to the cloud.  This is particularly impactful, as most large enterprises have a hybrid client IT landscape.  This solution really sets itself apart from the competition with:

  • Security, Manageability and Reliability—Only Dell offers advanced protection in all three areas of authentication, encryption, and malware prevention.
  • Comprehensive Data Protection— Dell Data Protection | Encryption runs on Dell and non-Dell PC’s, Mac, self-encrypting drives, Microsoft Bitlocker™, USBs, Android and iOS devices, and public cloud – protecting data wherever it resides.
  • One Central Console Manager—All endpoints are managed, including encryption policies, audit, and policy-setting capabilities, from one central location without disrupting existing IT processes.
Think Data Breach Won’t happen to you?

You’re kidding yourself if you think that your organization is immune. Data breaches will happen no matter who or how big you are. So, it’s imperative that you safeguard your most valuable asset—your data. Our security experts stay on top of the latest trends, risks, and attacks. The team agrees—Dell Data Protection | Encryption is worth a closer look. Dell’s Data Security Solutions are designed to help you protect your data wherever it goes. The suite includes an Enterprise version, a Hardware Crypto Accelerator (expansion card) which offloads the encryption process to onboard hardware, a Cloud Edition specifically targeting cloud based encryption, a Mobile Edition for iOS and Android devices, a BitLocker Manager which augments the use of Microsoft BitLocker drive encryption and a Personal Edition ideal for the smaller organization or department use. On laptops, mobile devices or in the cloud, larger enterprises, or small business, Dell can protect your data wherever it resides.

While there is no guarantee against a breach, organizations can greatly manage their risk by becoming more vigilant in covering their bases. 

Securing the Emerging Internet of Everything

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 12:03

As innovative technologies enter the workplace, advanced threats designed to exploit their unknown vulnerabilities seem to arrive almost simultaneously. This has happened with the Internet, email, instant messaging, mobile devices, and other technologies.

The latest emerging target of hackers and malware is the Internet of Everything (IoE), defined as an interconnected Web of people, processes, and physical objects embedded with sensors (the Internet of Things) that transmit data across networks to each other or to (and from) servers for storage and analysis.

Collecting vast amounts of data generated by the IoE offers tremendous opportunities for enterprises. While the IoE data deluge creates storage challenges (which many enterprises meet by deploying scalable cloud models), it also introduces security concerns because many of the devices and sensors transmitting data may be outside of an enterprise’s secure network. If those devices and embedded objects are compromised, there’s a chance they are transmitting data that could be carrying malicious code.

Security Challenges and Where to Start

The IoE introduces complex and always changing connections that can easily bypass endpoint security efforts and other static methods to protect enterprise data. So how does an enterprise secure its network when data is being transmitted from everywhere? More than anything, it requires an entirely new approach to security, one in which security is embedded everywhere within an intelligent network infrastructure rather than solely at certain selected points, such as on a mobile device.

Security everywhere must include several elements. First, it must be pervasive; that is, all attack vectors must be detected, anticipated, and covered. That includes the data center, the cloud, branches, devices, applications, virtual environments and, yes, end-points. The difference between traditional network security—which essentially relies on a collection of disparate and unconnected checkpoints—and the everywhere security needed for the IoE is vast. Everywhere security adds:

  • Broad-based and continuous network visibility
  • The application of analytics to apply correlation and provide context
  • Dynamically applied controls

 In essence, “everywhere security” transforms the network into a giant, self-aware, sensor.

Creating a Smarter Security Strategy

Your new security strategy must also be intelligent, which necessitates adaptability and an infrastructure in which all elements are integrated and able to share actionable information about security threats anywhere within the network. Easier said than done, but an important guiding principle to bear in mind as you move forward.

Also, like potential threats, an “everywhere security” strategy is always on. It demands continuous monitoring and protection of every attack vector within a network, even during an attack.

Finally, effective security for the IoE demands an open approach that enables integration with specialized third-party security solutions that can complement and augment data and network protection. This may well be the biggest stumbling block for your organization simply due to its counterintuitive—even paradoxical—nature. But rest assured, working closely with outside vendors to handle your most sensitive data may not only be the best way to battle impending threats with state of the art solutions—it may be the only way.

The Internet of Everything will require enterprise decision makers to rethink business strategies and processes to fully leverage this expanding interconnected world. And with effective security being a big concern, conventional approaches to network security will likely mandate an equally radical and comprehensive shift for many organizations.

Revolutionize Your Data Center

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 12:23

Let’s face it—a good portion of any IT budget is spent maintaining your data center’s integrity. Depending on your infrastructure and the size and availability of your funds, this definitely helps define how much you can spend to embrace new initiatives, update outdated hardware, and invest in new technologies.

But you no doubt still want great performance along with a simple and efficient way to manage your data—all without breaking the bank. The Cisco, EMC, Microsoft VSPEX video series lets you close the gap between your maintenance and innovation budget and deliver agile and efficient—not to mention fiscally sound solutions—for your business.

Next Generation Data Management

Go ahead and refine your data center strategy.  Our experts can help you advance to a modern data center and invest in new technology and innovation to manage more data, more efficiently and meet all your organization needs.

Watch our VSPEX video series—created in partnership with Cisco—to find out how you can achieve new levels of data center performance, protection, and compliance along with easier ways to manage your data.

Watch Now

Top 5 Enterprise Advantages of Windows 10

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 12:27

Windows 10, the last version of Microsoft Windows, will pack new productivity features and security updates to accommodate enterprise users. From a specific business edition to Universal Windows Apps, there are a few key differences that set it apart from its predecessors for enterprise deployments. Read on to discover how…

1. New Universal Windows Apps

Advances Microsoft’s goal of allowing developers to write apps for “One Windows” that will work across multiple platforms. This simplifies the process for developers, who can build a single application to support a wide range of platforms. It also enhances productivity for enterprise users running applications on multiple business and home devices.

2. New personal assistant

The Cortana voice-activated personal assistant allows enterprise users to launch applications, set reminders, send email, find files, keep track of calendar items, and conduct Internet searches.

3. New Web browser

Previously referred to as Project Spartan, Microsoft Edge is Microsoft’s new, lightweight web browser. It replaces Internet Explorer as the default browser and it’s built around web standards and offers tight integration with other Microsoft services, such as Cortana and the OneDrive cloud storage and file hosting service.

4. New Security features

Application-vetting and biometric authentication, are key new security features in Windows 10 that will secure enterprise information. Microsoft's new Device Guard is designed to block zero-day attacks by vetting applications attempting to access a Windows 10 machine. It is intended to block any applications that are not signed by specific software vendors, the Windows app store, and an enterprise itself.

5. New biometrics secure identification

Windows Hello uses biometrics such as a scan of your fingerprint or your eye to launch Windows 10 devices, and the Passport feature lets enterprise users enter Websites, networks, and applications without passwords. Users merely confirm with Windows 10 that they are in possession of their device via biometric scan in order to automatically access a variety of services and websites like email, social networks, and e-commerce pages.

In total, these new capabilities in Windows 10 are particularly appealing for organizations seeking to increase workplace efficiency while strengthening enterprise security. For example, our team can help you deploy enterprise mobility management and take full advantage of everything Windows 10 has to offer. Learn more about how Windows 10 can help productivity soar, our experienced technology specialists with expert advice are standing by to ensure your Windows 10 migration is a success.

Windows 10 is here. It’s the Windows you know, only better. Be more productive with a familiar Start Menu, stay safe with new security features, and get more done across multiple devices. Experience the operating system of the future. Our experts can offer expert advice and ensure your Windows 10 Migration success. 

Time to Let Go

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 08:55

Data centers have grown increasingly complex over the past decade as enterprise IT infrastructures have had to accommodate mobile computing, big data, cloud technology, green initiatives, and more.

As any IT professional knows, complexity creates data center management challenges, especially in a world of tight budgets and minimal staff. Infrastructure problems can go unaddressed as IT workers tend to other responsibilities. By the time outages and access problems are detected and corrected, the damage—including lost productivity and revenue, frustrated employees and customers, etc.—may have already been done.

In a world of high demand for on-demand and real time services, manual solutions to data center challenges just don’t cut it anymore, and automation is the key to staying afloat. Enterprise technology vendors have responded to these growing demands by offering products and services designed to automate IT processes in on-premise data centers as well as cloud deployments.

Automation of infrastructure processes and workloads enables IT professionals to better allocate data center assets and IT resources. IT professionals can deploy automated processes across physical and virtual environments, extending into and including cloud infrastructure services. This makes enterprises more flexible and agile because IT workers can focus on helping to implement strategic initiatives rather than spend hours monitoring server loads, applications performance, and power consumption, or manually provisioning and de-provisioning resources.

An automated data center makes enterprises more competitive because it produces results faster. Today more than ever, the ability to anticipate and serve customer needs as quickly as possible can spell the difference between success and failure.

And the productivity and efficiency benefits of automation extend well beyond the data center. Automation allows the delivery of infrastructure resources to application developers for testing and rollout. It enables end users to access applications on a self-service basis. And it extends financial and portfolio management across multiple clouds and service providers, helping to prevent unexpected overcharging.

Automation also offers enterprises a powerful tool for efficiently capturing, storing and analyzing data—arguably the key to competing in today’s mobile and digital world. Workload automation can instantly connect an enterprise’s data resources and processes, allowing line-of-business leaders and C-level executives to connect the dots faster and execute on informed decisions in a timely fashion.

Data centers are powerful engines that can transform an enterprise’s business—if managed efficiently and effectively. Automation provides IT professionals with a versatile tool that can ensure the delivery of data center services to the right people when they need them, all while freeing up IT resources to work on business goals.

Ready to transform your organization and unleash the power of your data center? Discover how Cisco technologies and PC Connection’s Data Center Services can help you take advantage of automation today.

It's Time to Get Personal

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 11:45

Which computing form factor best matches your professional persona? That is to say, what’s the ideal device for how and where you work, offering the capabilities you need and the features that keep you productive?

In today’s business environment, most of us realize that there’s no easy one-size-fits-all solution. And yet, never have end-users enjoyed such an array of sizes, shapes and functionalities of 2 in 1 solutions from which to choose. What’s more, never have so many 2 in 1 devices been able to share the same platforms and applications, all linked and synched so that users can toggle easily between them. So how do you find the right device for you?

In pursuing a successful workplace transformation, some companies are taking a persona-based approach, delivering new user experiences that support how each individual works: better performance, easier mobility or smaller footprint, and extended productivity—all wrapped in secure manageability that frees IT to focus high-level initiatives, not day-to-day maintenance. For greater flexibility, those user experiences are fluid between devices, so that a project that begins as notations on a touchscreen tablet can be developed further via notebook and augmented with a supporting presentation created at the desktop.

With so many 2 in 1 form factors to choose from—and with so many overlapping capabilities among them—it can be a challenge to match the right device to each end-user. Nevertheless, here are some general guidelines to help you make informed device choices based on what how and where people work:

The User Profile Helps Determine the Right Device

  • “I’m productive in one place”—Not everyone is into mobility. Contrary to what you might have heard, the desktop is alive and well, as a great many professionals perform exclusively in the traditional office environment. For the stationary worker, a traditional PC might be ideal. Or, a smaller form factor with a modest footprint, such as a mini PC, helps minimize clutter, maximize desk space and conserve power consumption. If touch capabilities are important—for routine data entry, say—a desktop all-in-one device makes good sense.
  • “I’m usually working the floor”—Whether in a retail setting, restaurant, or medical center, these workers are constantly on the move and require the ultimate in portability and ease of use. For them, a thin, lightweight tablet with touch capability and specialized software provides the ideal tool for recording transactions, inputting vital stats and other data-capture functions on the fly.
  • “I travel for work constantly”—For every personal preference in mobility, from screen size to ruggedized construction to super-sleek design, there’s a notebook out there to accommodate. Are client presentations a big part of their job? A media-rich notebook with stunning visuals and HD audio is a must. Does the work entail compute-intensive capabilities? A portable workstation might be called for. Intel and PC Connection can help determine the ideal notebook for every user profile.
  • “I need different devices for different things”—Say a user needs to collect data in the field but compile the information in a more detailed report later. Now there’s a 2 in 1 device for those who need the best of both worlds: a highly portable, detachable tablet designed for touch, and a snap-on keyboard for the performance capabilities of a notebook.

Matching Persona to Processor Performance

Form factor is only part of the equation. It’s not “the right device” until it delivers the optimum compute capabilities. Intel’s selection of processor families enables you to choose the appropriate compute power for each device and work requirement to enhance collaboration, productivity, and innovation at every level.

  • Intel® Core™ vPro™ i5 and i7 processors offer up to 10% stronger performance over previous generations for compute-intensive applications and best-in-class performance for heavy-duty workloads.
  • Intel® Core™ M vPro™ processors are engineered for ultra-slim, fanless detachable or premium tablets, providing up to seven hours of productive battery life on a single charge.
  • Intel® Core™ processors have the optimum performance power to meet your business productivity needs today and tomorrow.
  • Intel® Atom™ processors deliver energy-efficient performance and extraordinary battery life that is ideally suited to business-ready tablets.

Questions about matching the right device to each user’s work profile? Intel and PC Connection are here to help: tell us your computing challenge and we’ll help you find the ideal solution.  Learn more here.

Top 3 New Security Features of Windows 10

Wed, 08/19/2015 - 09:53

Security is first on everyone’s list of priorities in the digital landscape, and Microsoft is trying to make it easier for you with their three new star features. Windows 10 is offering three big-deal security changes—all are free with the upgrade, too, which may be one way Microsoft intends upon making up to everyone who was disappointed in Windows 8. Read on to find out more.

1. Device Guard is like a really beefy bouncer of sorts for all of your devices that are loaded with Windows 10. Device Guard researches every app or download that attempts access, and then alerts you if the system owner is not signed by its creator or a part of the Windows Store. In other words, if it’s something that’s questionable or not trustworthy, you’ll know immediately—taking care of a lot of security issues (and likely mitigating innumerable helpdesk tickets) on the front end.

2. Passport is a super savvy means of accessing all of your apps and programs with only one access code. So, right now, you may be accustomed to a password for your email, one for Salesforce, one for your project management system, etc. With Windows 10’s Passport, you sign in just as you do on a smartphone—only once—and you can immediately access everything, without any further sign-ons needed.

3. Hello is the most futuristic of the three new security features on Windows 10, as it can scan a face, an iris, or a fingerprint to allow access to the system. As long as you have a fingerprint scanner or iris scanner handy for your enterprise’s devices (it’s not included), you can use Hello as a means of accessing Windows 10 in place of a password.

Microsoft is certainly out to change our thinking about passwords—and soon you may be able to stop coming up with creative ways to make your pet’s name into a new access code. All three of these security measures make it harder for hackers to get to any of your data, regardless of whether or not they know that RoverRocks!

Windows 10 is here. It’s the Windows you know, only better. Be more productive with a familiar Start Menu, stay safe with new security features, and get more done across multiple devices. Experience the operating system of the future. Our experts can offer expert advice and ensure your Windows 10 Migration success. 


What's Happening in the Workplace?

Wed, 08/19/2015 - 08:35

As computing technologies advance, sometimes it’s easy for marketers to overstate the significance of this or that innovation. But step back and look at the larger picture of what’s happening right now: an array of new capabilities that, taken together, amount to more than just the next evolutionary baby-step, more than merely the latest iteration of what you already use. It’s an actual workplace transformation that fundamentally changes how people relate to the devices that help them succeed.

In this transformed workplace, people are able to do more from wherever they happen to be, on whatever device they’re using at the moment. Even the most recognizable brand names are struggling to embrace radically different business models based on mobility and cloud technology. Your business rivals are experiencing this transformation, too, and possibly even adapting to it faster than you to improve service and compete on price.

Business leaders are realizing: it’s either transform or get left behind.

Intel and Microsoft are leading this transformation as it reaches into the office, the classroom, or wherever people are engaging with the technologies that enhance their lives. The two are collaborating on new devices that get you up and running faster, letting you share wirelessly with ease, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from multilayered security, data protection, and manageability.

Their proactive vision for workplace transformation, and the role of technology in realizing that change, addresses three key ways that organizations can reinvent themselves:

  • Closer collaboration that enables mobile workers anywhere in the world to share information and brainstorm solutions easily and without barriers
  • Increased productivity achieved by simplifying workflows and enabling wire-free workplaces and biometrics-based security
  • Integrated workspaces that are present in the facilities themselves: immersive, high-quality audio and video for a natural-feeling experience

In the coming months we’ll share more about how PC Connection, Inc. will play an important role in introducing the vision shared by Intel and Microsoft, and embodied in the launch of Windows 10. In the meantime, we’ll help you accelerate your understanding of these business-changing technologies—the challenges and the opportunities alike—to help you achieve greater success. Learn more about workplace transformation now.

How the IT Skills Gap Hits Your Bottom Line

Fri, 08/14/2015 - 09:42

More than half of all enterprise CIOs expect to struggle with a shortage of IT skills over the next year, according to IDG’s 2015 State of the CIO survey. That percentage rises from 56% to 62% for larger enterprises – perhaps because those organizations are actively pursuing emerging technologies that require more advanced skills such as cloud computing, virtualization, and big data analytics. 

A skills gap is more than a mere annoyance to enterprises: it affects the bottom line. A CareerBuilder survey published in March 2014 concludes that, “on average, a company loses more than $14,000 for every job that stays vacant for three months or longer.”

For CIOs charged with helping support and even transform the business while working within a tight budget, filling open positions and closing the IT skills gap can be a great challenge. No matter how motivated employers may be to fill a position, they can’t hire anyone if there are no qualified candidates. And budget constraints may prevent them from getting into a bidding war for a coveted hire.

Solving Today’s IT Skills Gap

But there are several other ways enterprises can successfully close the IT skills gap. The rise of the contract workforce gives CIOs flexibility to hire IT professionals for short-term projects that are ideally suited to their existing skill sets.

Contract jobs can save on payroll and benefits, and they also offer another advantage: CIOs and other IT decision makers essentially can audition potential full-time employees over a period of weeks or months.

A related alternative is contract-to-hire, in which a staffing firm or recruiter will place an IT professional in a temporary job with an enterprise. The difference from a straight contracting job is that the recruiter or staffing company will pay the salary of the worker for the duration of the contract. If an enterprise and contract-for-hire worker hit it off, full-time employment is an option (though the company then has to pay the salary; sorry).

Another alternative to closing the IT skills gap is to train existing employees and promote the future leadership of your enterprise from within. Encourage your most promising IT professionals to pursue training in the latest technologies and reimburse them for their expenses and efforts—after all, you’ll all be benefitting from it. In addition to the career development you can offer in-house, a number of certifying organizations and large technology companies have developed courses and curriculums to teach IT professionals the skills they need to run the enterprises of tomorrow.

By tapping into the resources and expertise of training organizations, CIOs can not only ensure that current IT staffers continue to grow and develop new skills, they can tap into a growing pipeline of IT talent.

Big Data Is on the Rise

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 10:41

Despite the numerous and well-documented competitive advantages provided by big data and analytics, 39% of respondents to a recent IDG Enterprise survey said that, at least for the next 12 months, they have no big data plans.

Are those enterprises jeopardizing themselves by staying on the big data sidelines? Some of them surely are. Larger enterprises in particular run the risk of falling behind competitors willing to invest in big data and analytics to better understand customers and markets, create new products, and improve operational efficiencies.

For large enterprises in dynamic markets (such as retail and finance), the flexibility and agility required to succeed virtually demands a big data initiative. But for many other businesses, big data and analytics may not be a good fit or simply aren’t a competitive imperative.

Simple, Little Data

Many enterprises rely on big data and analytics to manage and extract value from huge amounts of information—much of it unstructured—emanating from multiple sources such as databases, transactional software, worksheets, browsers, and mobile devices.

SMBs, however, get “significantly more data than (large) enterprises” from email. The IDGE survey shows SMBs also handle far less unstructured data. In other words, plenty of SMBs don’t even have big data. After all, big data and analytics probably could help the corner convenience store sell more milk, but at what price?

“Avoid searching for a Big Data problem you don't have, which can only be solved by Big Data technology you don't need,” writes ITworld contributor Martyn Jones.

Not Worth the Money?

Many organizations, especially SMBs, have budget constraints that require them to target their spending toward the day-to-day logistics of running a business. If decision makers can’t persuasively argue a positive long-term return on a big data initiative, they shouldn’t go forward with one.

No Analytics Skills

SMBs typically can’t afford many specialists. An investment in big data technology is wasted if there’s nobody on the staff who can interpret and communicate analytics information to the lines of business, but it’s the rare small business that can hire a chief data officer or assemble a data science team.

And even if an SMB were willing to hire an analytics leader or team, the shortage of data scientists would make it difficult to find potential candidates or compete with large enterprises.

Finding the Balance

Despite the constraints and barriers to entry, there are obvious and desirable benefits to big data analytics—ones that go beyond buzzword appeal and job security. For the SMB or cautious enterprise that may not benefit from a full-scale assault, there do exist some scaled solutions that leave a lighter footprint and still extract meaningful analysis. The need for this balance leads some SMBs to bring in outside contributors. Cisco leads the way with certain technologies designed to aid small and mid-sized enterprises in managing their networks and data.

Big data and analytics can transform a business, but only if they are used to serve enterprise strategic goals rather than being something “we need to have” without a specific purpose. Enterprises must decide whether their business will improve by using big data, rather than deciding to use big data and expecting it to somehow improve the business.

Windows 10 Updates and the Enterprise

Thu, 08/06/2015 - 14:59

Windows 10 represents a significant evolution in the relationship between deploying the Windows OS and licensing the Windows OS. We’ve already seen other major changes to Windows licensing: the introduction of the user-based subscription, the ability to purchase an upgrade license to Windows Enterprise without the need for Software Assurance—and there are more changes to come. One of the most significant changes specific to Windows 10, however, is the way you’ll be consuming updates. Until Windows 10, there’s always been something of a dividing line between security updates and features updates. Security updates are quick and ongoing, while the features updates are rolled into big groupings—and deploying those is usually a heavy lift for IT.

Windows 10 takes its cue from consumerization of IT trends, mixed in with a little of what we’ve seen behind Office 365: no more dividing line between features and security. Just the ongoing push of all updates as they are developed and rolled out. This is fantastic for consumers, who don’t generally worry about application compatibility and helpdesk issues. However, most businesses are more circumspect about their updates. They need time to test, time to make sure end-users don’t have their workflows interrupted by a new feature they weren’t expecting. There’s a balance that needs to be struck between the pace of change and the demands of the infrastructure.

Enter Windows 10 “current branch” and “long-term branch” update methodologies. Microsoft is trying to thread the needle between the needs of cloud-first, mobile-first computing and the more traditional environments that must prioritize stability and minimize the disruption of change. Both environments exist, often must co-exist, and so Microsoft is doing their best to accommodate both at the same time. So what does it mean? In a nutshell, current branch is the “give me the updates as they come” version. It’s designed for systems that can handle that pace—think BYOD and non-mission critical systems. You set them up, the updates happen, end of story. You will, however, have the ability to delay these updates for a time. This is a nice balance as well—perhaps you have some systems that you’d rather be current branch but you just need to make sure they work with that one critical legacy application that everyone uses. Otherwise they’d be a perfect candidate. Put them on the current branch and delay the updates and prioritize your testing so those systems can be checked out first. Bear in mind the practicalities, however. If you can delay updates, but they happen on a frequent basis, it’s still going to mean that you’ll eventually be doing updates on that regular basis. Each batch of updates will land in succession, even with a delay – which means that no matter what – you’ll have to be prepared.

But what about long-term branch? That sounds a lot like business as usual in terms of Windows deployment, and it should be, but with a huge exception. Long-term branch will only be available as part of Windows Enterprise. There are many enterprises out there that upgrade their OS with new systems, using the Professional version of Windows that comes with those systems. But, they use a long-term branch deployment methodology, even though we didn’t call it that until now. Under Windows 10, these two things become incompatible. You can’t do Windows Pro with long-term branch anymore, and that means you’ll have to make a big decision: change the way your infrastructure works to support a current branch methodology or make a big investment in Windows Enterprise. Neither of those are easy choices, and both mean a strategic-level investment either in the way you operate IT, or the amount of money you’re spending on Microsoft licensing. While both have costs, both have significant potential benefits as well.

Many IT leaders I’ve spoken with in recent months expressed a strong desire to get out of the upgrade business, but realize it will be a big challenge. Windows 10 may be just the thing to kick-start that heavy lift—a rallying point with a clearly defined set of rewards for successful transformation. If current branch just isn’t going to work for all your systems, then you’re looking at a major new investment in Windows technology. If that’s the case, it means you’ll be deploying Windows Enterprise for the first time—and I would encourage you to look hard at all the features that come with it. Don’t just swap what you’re doing for a more expensive version of what you’re doing. Use it as a transformative moment to see what new things you can accomplish for your end-users with Windows 10 Enterprise. If you have to spend the money, do everything you can to get your money’s worth.

Either way, I believe Windows 10 will require transformation for most enterprise-sized organizations. We look forward to exploring these new avenues with our customers. This is just getting started, and it’s a big change so we’ll be writing on this a lot, especially when we learn new tricks and best practices begin to emerge!

Windows 10 is here. It’s the Windows you know, only better. Be more productive with a familiar Start Menu, stay safe with new security features, and get more done across multiple devices. Experience the operating system of the future. Our experts can offer expert advice and ensure your Windows 10 Migration success.

Windows 10

Thu, 08/06/2015 - 14:57

Microsoft is including three big, new security features as part of Windows 10, including Device Guard, Microsoft Hello, and Passport. All three of them are geared toward better security—without passwords. We may be headed for a password-free world in the very near future, and your desktop, laptop, and/or device may function in a very similar way to your smartphone.

Windows 10 enhanced the system’s security outright with Device Guard, letting the user know immediately if an app or download is not a safe bet, and scanning to see if the program is signed-on to specific vendors. And Device Guard will keep working, ensuring that the unwanted stays out of your Windows 10 interface, even if Windows 10 itself is compromised.

Passwords can be difficult to keep track of and remember. They’re numerous, have to be changed periodically, and in many ways are hacker-friendly. But they’re necessary, so we have passwords for every single program and app we encounter on our desktop or laptop. Windows 10 is trying to marry the security that a password theoretically provides with the ease of one point of access—just like your everyday smartphone does—with one entryway and one code and a feature called Passport. So when you log in, it’s simpler to function in numerous apps and programs without extra logins—and more difficult for a would-be security threat to enter at all.

Windows 10 is also providing the option of biometric scanning. Think futuristic here, with iris and/or fingerprint scanning available for entry into your system, with a feature named Hello. That’s the kind of control that may be the norm in a few years, and clearly more difficult than passwords to bypass. 

Ensuring your data is secure, while allowing seamless accessibility is an ever-present challenge. And although some of us would love to eliminate passwords altogether, Microsoft is still offering a password-friendly environment if your enterprise feels strongly about that option. Still, the allure of eliminating passwords while enhancing security is strong—and smartphone-style access sounds dreamy.

Windows 10 is here. It’s the Windows you know, only better. Be more productive with a familiar Start Menu, stay safe with new security features, and get more done across multiple devices. Experience the OS of the future
. Our experts can offer expert advice and ensure your Windows 10 Migration success

Should I Upgrade to Windows 10?

Thu, 08/06/2015 - 14:56

There are some significant advantages if you choose to upgrade to Windows 10 sooner rather than later. Chances are good that if you’re utilizing Windows now, you’re going to need to upgrade to the new version eventually, but waiting is not in your best interest for a number of reasons.

Cost Advantage Are you’re already on Windows 7 and upgrading 15 computers or less? If you upgrade now, you’ll be able to do it for free. Plus, any further upgrades on the system will be free as well. If you wait, you’ll pay around $200 for each machine. If you have more than 15 computers to upgrade, you’ll still pay less now than later. Procrastination, in this instance, is decidedly not a good thing. Upgrade Schedule According to Microsoft, Windows 10 (and subsequent patches and service packs) is going to be it for a while. In other words, if you wait a few years for the next upgrade version, you’ll still be buying Windows 10, but you’ll spend more on the product and the training. So why not get it for less—or even for free—now? Training Opportunities Microsoft says Windows 10 doesn’t require a lot of extra training to implement or utilize effectively. Upgrading now means your teams will already be immersed in the new version of Windows 10 as more improvements are made. Future add-ons will have a shorter, simpler learning curve.

Microsoft is currently offering training on Windows 10 at a lower cost than what it will be in a few years. In other words, if you upgrade now, you can expect to spend a lot less money on training than if you wait.

Windows 7 Support: Going, Going, Gone Mainstream support for Windows 7 ended January 13, 2015 and extended support ends in 2020.  Upgrading to Windows 10 means you’re fully supported. This could make moving projects through the pipeline a lot more seamless. Our Microsoft Practice Team is here to answer any questions you may have – give us a ring.

Windows 10 is here. It’s the Windows you know, only better. Be more productive with a familiar Start Menu, stay safe with new security features, and get more done across multiple devices. Experience the operating system of the future. Our experts can offer expert advice and ensure your Windows 10 Migration success. 

Microsoft Makes the Move to Windows 10

Thu, 08/06/2015 - 14:54

Microsoft is slotted to release Windows 10 this summer— July 29th. Many people are skeptical of their ambition to create an OS that will function seamlessly across all platforms and devices, especially due to the criticism they received over Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Microsoft tried to deliver 8 and 8.1 in the same fashion, and I think it’s safe to say that they weren’t exactly successful. The OS itself was laid out very nicely, but is without a doubt optimized for touch devices; trying to navigate the tiles on a non-touch device or even trying to figure out how to shut the device down proved to be a frustrating task (even I’m guilty of not being able to find the darn button!) So what makes Windows 10 different? Read on to find out.

First, you might ask, “Where’s Windows 9? Why go from 8 to 10?” I like to think the move denotes a fresh start, just as OS X was a breath of fresh air for the Mac. Microsoft is striving to find the “right balance between familiarity and productivity,” according to Joe Belfiore, Corporate VP of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group. Another thing worth mentioning is that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8.1 users for a year. There are plenty exciting aspects of Windows 10, but the one that might catch your eye is Cortana and her capabilities to be more or less a virtual personal assistant. That’s right—move over, Siri, you have competition!

It is fascinating to watch Cortana transform from being a character in one of the most epic, legendary video games of all time, Halo, into one of the most useful tools to grace the business world. She is multifaceted; she comes with voice recognition, can perform simple tasks, and answer questions, and that’s not all. With the capability to learn through Microsoft’s search engine Bing as well as cloud-run machine learning algorithms, Cortana can constantly improve and absorb a plethora of information, and it all benefits the end user.

I recently read an article by Joab Jackson, U.S. Correspondent, IDG News Service, where he detailed his experience in watching a demonstration of Cortana and her capabilities.

“Cortana can be used to help IT departments answer frequently-asked support questions from employees. The user asked how to project his computer’s screen in another display, and Cortana answered right away.”

This, for obvious reasons, would be helpful to countless technologically challenged people, and eliminate whatever particular process one would have to go about to find a solution to their issue. It cuts out the middle man and helps the end user maximize their time and increase their productivity.

Now, let’s dig a little deeper. Sure, it’s cool that Cortana can be of assistance when it comes to simple tasks. But what about actually contributing to analyzing data? What about directly accessing, parsing through it, and coming to some logical conclusion? Turns out she can do that, too.

An example of this would be from the Build Conference that took place in April:

“Microsoft compiled the Ignite attendee data in the PowerBI tool, an extension of Excel. From the start screen, Belfiore asked Cortana to use PowerBI to find out how many attendees had registered for the conference. It answered 20,000, the figure at the time the data was compiled. Cortana also grouped the number of attendees by country and by industry. Attendees were asked how many computers their company has. Cortana sliced the data by vertical industry and determined that, on average, defense companies have the most computers.”

Obviously, the Cortana component to Windows 10 is pretty remarkable. This is a tool that could truly alter the average day in the life of business workers. The beautiful thing is, Cortana is everything you want her to be. Simple or complex, she can handle it all. Just need to ask a quick IT question? You’ll get your answer in a snap. Need to evaluate statistics from last quarter and break them down into different categories? Cortana’s got your back. This is just one of the many mechanisms that will be deployed within the Windows 10 OS, so I would be willing to bet a few bucks that Microsoft quite possibly got it right this time. As much as I am excited for Cortana, I need to make sure I keep up the good work—with everything she has to offer, she may very well put me out of a job!

Windows 10 is here. It’s the Windows you know, only better. Be more productive with a familiar Start Menu, stay safe with new security features, and get more done across multiple devices. Experience the operating system of the future. Our experts can offer expert advice and ensure your Windows 10 Migration success.