Archive for Disaster Recovery

What Mac’s Battle for Workplace Dominance Means for IT Professionals

mac
by Tom Fedro

Mac’s growing popularity in the workplace doesn’t have to be a whole new set of IT headaches – if IT pros are willing to consider broader enterprise management tools.
For more than three decades, Apple has had a strong play in desktop publishing, education and other creative fields (e.g. photographers, graphic designers, video editors), but for many years, it was a rare exception to see a Mac in most other business environments. Ever since the BYOD (bring your own device) phenomena began picking up momentum over the past decade, things have changed.
According to JAMF Software’s second annual global survey of IT pros, 96% of all enterprise IT professionals say their internal teams are now supporting Macs. In fact, PC shipping estimates from Gartner show that the Windows PC market has been steadily declining, with shipments down 9.6% in Q1 2016 compared with the previous quarter. At the same time, worldwide Mac sales are holding steady.
Macs Bring New IT Management Challenges
Although end-users may find Macs easier to use, 73% of IT administrators feel the exact opposite, according to a study by Dimensional Research. Specifically, there are three areas where IT administrators run into challenges with Macs in the workplace:
1. Security. There is an obvious risk of putting business software and other intellectual property on personal devices—especially when employees lose their devices, or they terminate employment. The Find My iPhone app, which is the same app used to manage MacBooks and iMacs, is not able to distinguish between personal data and corporate data when performing a remote wipe. Additionally, the software requires an IT administrator to use the device owner’s user ID and password, which are the same credentials used to access users’ personal emails, photos, videos and anything else stored in iCloud. This can create a power struggle between users and IT professionals, and many headaches as well.
2. Backup and Recovery. Like Microsoft, Apple bundles backup and recovery software with its computers. However, Time Machine, like the Find My iPhone app, has its shortcomings. For instance, Time Machine doesn’t, in normal operation, create a bootable backup of the internal drive. It can only restore an internal drive from the backup archive. Additionally, Time Machine offers no flexibility with backup intervals; it runs a backup once per hour, which for some companies may be too often and for others not often enough. It is also difficult to verify the success of each backup since Apple makes the backup file log an invisible file, not intended for user inspection.
3. Networking. Although many popular software suites run on Mac and Windows platforms (e.g. Microsoft Office), there are always one or two that either only support Windows or have limited functionality on a Mac. Rather than using two devices, Apple’s Boot Camp software, which is included with Macs, can be used to install Windows on a Mac and allow users to switch between platforms during the boot-up process. Configuring Boot Camp requires hard drive partitioning, which isn’t problematic until users need to add more space to the partition down the road, an IT professional wants to move one of the Boot Camp partitions to another computer, or to perform an advanced task such as converting a partition table without data loss.
Minimize Mixed OS Frustrations with Disk Management Software
Instead of accepting Mac’s software limitations, there is another option that many IT teams overlook: investing in a disk management solution. When made specifically for the Apple platform, these solutions can give IT pros the kind of advanced data protection, backup, networking and overall granular control that they’re accustomed to in traditional PC/Windows environments, including:
• Secure disk wiping of business apps, files and directories using system administrator privileges instead of users’ personal IDs and passwords.
• Snapshot-driven backup and recovery and sector-level imaging, which minimizes backup storage footprints and enables users to create bootable USB drives, recover lost or accidentally deleted partitions, and perform full bare metal restores.
• The capability to resize partitions and redistribute unused space, perform non-destructive partition conversions and move partitions to new machines.
If you’re an IT professional who’s hoping Mac’s presence in business is a passing fad, you might want to reconsider your position, especially since millennials are playing a greater role in businesses’ IT strategies – and a large percent of them are Mac loyalists. Today’s new breed of enterprise-grade solutions built just for the Mac make it possible to get beyond what many consider a “Mac vs. Windows” IT battleground, and instead focus on getting the job done right, regardless of platform. The good news is both platforms can (finally) play nice together and create a better work experience for everyone.

First seen in CTR
Published with permission of WestWorldWide, LLC, publisher of Computer Technology Review. All rights reserved. 2016

Five Million Critical Trends You Must Understand in Cloud Computing

Cloud2

By Tom Fedro

Okay, I understand the reasoning behind it. The blogs you’re supposed to write to catch the eye of your potential reader should be list based.  FIVE THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT BATMAN.  TEN SURPRISING TRENDS IN DESIGNER SOCKS.  EIGHT REASONS TO EAT POTATO SKINS.  THE TOP FIVE REASONS TO DRINK A GALLON OF WATER EVERYDAY.  These lists are everywhere, and since I focus on technology, I invariably end up reading a ton of posts.  I’ve been struck by the number of lists coming out about the cloud.

  •  Five Cloud Computing Trends for 2015
  •  Seven Cloud Computing Trends for 2015
  •  Four Big Cloud Computing Trends for 2015
  •  Five Cloud Computing Trends That Will Be Big in 2015
  •  Four Game-Changing Trends Coming to Cloud Computing in 2015

Why is everyone hyped up about the different trends in cloud computing?  The answer’s simple.  Cloud computing is the current future of technology in much the same way that hosting was once the current future and networking was one the current future and ecommerce was once the current future.  We’re in the midst of the process of cloud computing becoming a mature industry and a mature technology, and in the midst means it’s in flux.  In flux means speculation, and speculation means “Four Trends You Can Expect in 2015.”

If we add up all of the unique trends we’re supposed to see, there will be hundreds of them, so I prefer to think of the cloud in much the same way as I think of all technology.  We call departments that handle it IT, Information Technology.  Cloud computing is all about information management, disbursement, storage, and dissemination. It’s the logical next step in the information age.  If I had to bet on the future of cloud computing, I’d focus on the information.  How do the so-called trends indicate what cloud computing will do to help its stakeholders store, access, and utilize information.  Any other approach might make a good title for an article, but it misses the point entirely.

Competition, Cooperation, and Dell’s Cloud Strategy

DellCloud

By Tom Fedro

It’s not too much of an out-of-the-box strategy to position a company in such a way that partners handle non-core activity.  Really, the point of a partnership in the first place is to enable a company’s strengths to benefit another’s weaknesses and vice versa.  Still, in technology there’s been a trend toward handling everything in house in the last decade (or just buying up companies that handle what you want.)  So, it was interesting for me to read that

Dell’s cloud strategy is to be a supplier and allow the channel to build private and public clouds. 

The decision to supply the technology but to allow channel partners to set up the cloud networks is an obvious one, but it still resonates oddly because of the resistance most large technology companies have shown in similar situations.  The channel has reacted positively, and there’s no surprise there.  Dell can certainly provide the servers and the software, but creating their own public cloud network or servicing the creation of private or hybrid networks falls well out of the scope of Dell’s core business, and as Michael Dell has completed his quest to bring the company private, he’s wise not to be distracted.

To me, the critical issue at hand, really, is the nature of competition and cooperation.  Had Dell chosen to provide the public cloud service, the company would have instantly gained competitors it didn’t have yesterday, many of which are current partners.  It would have done so while not positioned to have a definitive competitive advantage.  Instead, the company now has new partners in the cloud sphere it didn’t have a week ago.

Believe it or not, this post has nothing to do with cloud computing.  Really, it’s just an example, an illustration.  Dell is a large technology company with a large enterprise development division.  Almost inexorably, pseudo-market forces demand they enter into cloud development.  Those forces are wrong.  They’re the same forces that drive technology companies into non-core ventures on a regular basis.  They make for neat little press releases and short term upticks in share price, but they do nothing for the value of the company.  One of the basic business concepts at play in a new market is “barriers to entry.”  In simplest terms, that can be phrased as “What does a company need to overcome to get established in this segment?”

For a large tech company with resources and infrastructure available, it’s easy to see barriers as non-existent.  I wonder how many poor decisions are made in the technology segment simply because it’s possible to make them.  Dell was wise.  The company’s positioning as a supplier, as an enabler if you will, of cloud technology might not be as sexy and exciting as sitting at the helm, but it’s good business, and that’s ultimately the key for any enterprise.

Weighing the Costs of Backup and Recovery

Weighing the costs of backup and recoveryWith technology critical to all organizations no matter their size, both profit and non-profit leaders are betting their company’s life on having the right systems in place at the right time. Some leaders look at technology as a mere accounting expense. Although one does not need to be a CPA to manage an organization’s finances, a basic understanding of the concepts is required to make sound financial decisions for the business. When it comes to technology the same applies in order to make informed decisions on the IT budget. For example, a basic understanding of data storage is important when projecting costs related to backup and recovery in case of a disaster.

As would be expected, storage requirements and protection of the data can range widely in price depending on the vertical market of the company (see Gartner IT spending forecast for 2013 below*). For instance, data storage needs differ greatly between a bank and a non-profit. In the former, high-availability storage is needed for fast access to critical data so speed and performance with absolutely no down time is imperative (requiring a higher investment); in the latter, stored data may be less critical and thus can be backed up on less expensive media with longer intervals between full backups.

Knowing the risk of data loss and weighing that against the investment in appropriate computer hardware and software is also critical. One just needs to look at the damage inflicted upon the telecommunications industry following Hurricane Sandy in 2012**. A lack of investment in infrastructure was to blame for widespread outages. The damage hammered the credibilty and was a financial blow to telecom providers; even spuring an FCC inquiry***.  Despite this, and other natural as well as man-made disasters, many businesses are still not implementing disaster recovery plans to ensure business continuity.

One way to get on track is to do disaster recovery and business continuity prepartion audit.  Many of my company’s partners can provide this service and I am happy to refer you – please email me here at tom@tomfedro.com if I can be of assistance.

Sources:

* IT Spending To See Modest Growth In 2013, Informationweek, January 04, 2013.

**Looking beyond Hurricane Sandy, CounterPunch.org, November 15, 2012.

*** FCC holds Hurricane Sandy hearings into telecom failures, fixes, NJ.com, February 05, 2013.