Whether your firm is moving to the "new” model of computing , Cloud Computing as we discussed last issue, or staying with more traditional in-house methods of servers and networks or virtualization, there are techniques that your IT team should be using. The ideas are to have 1) lower costs, 2) more reliability, 3) greater speed, 4) shorter recovery time, and 5) more consistency. We want these results regardless of where the servers live or how the desktops and laptops are deployed. The following are the key items to ask your internal IT team or your IT outsourced provider if they are using.
Tape backup and backup to Network Attached Storage (NAS) or removable hard drives is not the most effective backup method today. Today’s appliances, like NetRescue, can back up your data every 15 minutes, restore individual files in seconds, copy the data to another appliance in another firm location or into the cloud, and can be running a replacement virtual machine for your firm in 8-12 minutes. Backup Appliances today can replace 1,2,4,8 or 16 servers and backup 25 locations or more with 2-20 terrabytes of storage being quite common.
It is almost always cheaper to virtualize than to run traditional servers in any size firm. Oddly enough, the servers run faster, more reliably and are quicker to recover if needed. From the free VMware ESX to the full high availability capability in VSphere 4, virtualization can be a key strategy in both your short term in house approach as well as your long-term cloud or in-house methodology. Virtualizing your desktops is the next natural step.
There are technical details of your networks that need to be looked at daily, weekly and monthly, and there are benefits to monitoring some parts of your IT infrastructure continuously. There are higher value things for your IT team to be doing than to look at server logs. Managed Services is the concept that with sophisticated software tools, an outside vendor can watch most of your day to day operations freeing your IT talent up for more important tasks. The outsourced provider can also serve as a backup to your IT team while watching, alerting and/or repairing items that have gone wrong on your network, using a collection of sophisticated software that you probably could not afford as a firm.
The most valuable resource you have are your people. Affordable Software as a Service (SaaS) Human Resources software allow you to align your business plans with your strategies. An example of a product in this class is Manage to Win, recently selected by CRN as a Top100 Emerging Product. Additionally, you can do action items, reviews and other proactive business management using these tools. If you’d like to have a continuous learning plan for future partners/shareholders/owners, you can add this option with the Professional Excellence Path program.
One of the easiest things to put off is developing a business continuity plan. Not having a plan could be one of the worst business choices you have ever made. There are two tools that can help you get a comprehensive plan in place at low cost, Survivor or Statistic (SOS), and Agility Solutions. SOS is a self-documenting 64 step approach to documenting a business continuity plan. Agility Solutions provides a plan authoring tool as well as a contractual relationship for placing generators, servers and workstations at your location in the event of a large scale disaster.
Transferring Files with Encrypted Email or Portals
There are a number of products that can be used for encrypting email, but nPEN provides encrypted email with firm branding. The difficult job of setting up a portal is done in minutes by using ShareFile if you are not using NetClient CS Portal or the CCH Portal. ShareFile brands to fit your firm, and can easily move very large files. A newly added feature to this product is Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for full text search of all the documents in the portal.
Windows Deployment Services and Windows Sync Center
A surprisingly large number of IT teams don’t know about the new desktop and laptop image capture and deployment system that is part of Windows Server 2008 R2. When used in conjunction with the Sync Center feature of Windows Vista & 7, you can copy software, user settings and data from an old machine to a new one in less than 20 minutes. If a machine fails, rebuilding a new one with all the settings is pretty trivial. To keep yourself legal on software licensing, you do need to be on an Open License agreement.
Encryption with PGP or Windows 7 Bitlocker
With the security breach laws that are in force and with more coming, we are recommending using disk encryption on all desktops and laptops. PGP has been our traditional recommendation for around $170, and this product was recently acquired by Symantec. That could be good or it could be a problem. Alternatively, if you obtain Microsoft Open Licensing for your firm for Windows 7, you will have access to Windows 7 Enterprise, the edition that includes Bitlocker encryption software for around a $90 cost of upgrade.
Boomer Circle members have membership discounts available on many of these products or services. Contact your Boomer liaison today to understand your opportunity.