Business in the Midlands

We have been providing IT support to the Midlands since before the recession, during, and what we feel after (even if double/triple dips). We see clients from small to large and while it hasn’t been easy for everyone, we believe a lot of companies have come out of things a lot stronger.

Some of our clients have had to adapt and change what they do, others have had to streamline, others have had to gamble and take on as much as possible to come out of things what can only be described as booming!

We also work with start-ups and new businesses, and while we have seen some struggle, we have seen others fill gaps in the markets and even create new markets, we are very proud to say some of our clients and friends really are thriving with a whole new zest and passion for their businesses and life.

Kixo started in 2009 towards the beginning of the recession, because we saw there was a better way of providing IT support to people. We feared for our jobs security at existing companies because service was slipping and clients money was getting tighter. Rightfully so, bad service simply could not be tolerated, in the middle of a recession we quit our jobs to start Kixo.

As a more streamlined company, we could look after clients IT needs and support them without having a high turnover of engineers, team leaders and ten different managers. So for us streamlining was best practice from day 1. For both us and our clients things are best when they are simple and personal.

Five years on and our clients and Kixo are growing, not too fast and making sure to stay personal and streamlined. Things have been tough but looking around the Midlands now we see it’s a great time to be in business in the Midlands!

SSL /secure by default, and why you should be too!

SSL Secure by Default

SSL or HTTPS – what’s the big deal…. SSL/https means secure encrypted traffic. And we here at Kixo like to be early adopters so we can test for our clients and we have gone super secure!

Traditionally encrypted traffic has been reserved for credit card orders and on-line banking as there have been a lot of costs involved with going secure, now the costs have come down there isn’t really an excuse to not do it. So as of this week all pages and content of Kixo’s public website are protected by a certificate….Great… but what does that actually mean?

Well a lot and not a lot! We now have a secure public website…. yes slightly oxymoron, but it’s about the bigger picture. It’s not going to change your browsing experience today but will as time goes by, and why would we secure a publicly available website and content?

  • With hacking becoming more easier, automated, political, for hire and simply more common. Our site is now less vulnerable to Hacking (less doesn’t mean totally) – so this protects the people we work with. Also attacks like DDoS are hard(er) to be as effective.
  • Trust – we are who we say we are, we have to pay and follow standards to show who we are, again this is good for everyone to do, ANYONE can set-up a website overnight.
  • Secure shows committed to long term business and security, you have to secure a site for 1 Year or longer, we have gone for 5 YEARS to show we are uber serious!
  • With SSLs it will separate some of the fly-by-night websites so as SSL becomes the standard, it will make the internet a less spammy place because people and businesses have to commit to their websites.
  • Less than 1% of global queries are secure, it should be 100% this will reduce (but not stop) people snooping on traffic that is open in plain text. Think of it as; would you be happy to tell strangers all the websites you’ve been on recently?

You may have nothing to hide but do you want to broadcast things? SSL doesn’t stop motivated hackers, network administrators, ISP and governments from seeing things, but surely it’s just common sense to reduce your on-line unsecured footprints.

So…secure by default, SSL and https everywhere is a good thing for everyone online to do!

Windows 10 from Microsoft – One Product Family

Windows 10

Windows 10… not 9 but 10! Microsoft have jumped a version for 2 reasons supposedly, if you’re a geek it’s the 10th kernel version so they wanted to bring it in line with that, or if your the end customer Microsoft say it so far ahead its jumped a version!

Microsoft have defiantly spent way to much time thinking about the name, but we have been trialing the BETA testing Windows 10 for a while now and I personally really like where Windows 10 is heading. It is a little bit of a shame that it feels like 1 step back and 2 steps forward. They have ditched the full screen metro/modern UI and gone back to the start button as we know it and I’m sad to say I like it.

I liked metro but it only made sense on tablets (Windows 10 sticks to the modern metro style on tablets). Windows 10 has kept the tiles and put them in the start menu, which I do like. There is a new notification center which is very much like the type you get on your mobile, a nice simple area that shows you what’s going on.

There are some graphical tweaks in Windows 10 as well, things like windows explorer icons and Windows in general have had a polish and re design, I’m also a fan of them! Windows 10 is still in the BETA so anything I see now may not be final but as time goes on its looking more definite and polished! Businesses will love Windows 10. General feedback was Windows 7 was good, Windows 8 was not so well understood so Microsoft has addressed this. Also there is promise of lots of amazing new toys in Windows 10 like Cortana for desktop!

No word on the release date of Windows 10 yet but it could be 2015? Until then any big changes we will keep you up to date!

Geek Speak

Geek Speak

Everyone knows in the Nerd world we love to shorten everything

Below are the “human” translations!

 

Hosted Email – Traditionally a business had to have a server in their office which provided emails, now you can rent email boxes, so instead of a flat bill of £1000 per year you can now pay less than £10 per user per month, obviously maths says this is good for small business, bad for big users, however a lot of larger companies like hosted because of the simple scalability and lack of CapEX (see below).

Servers -powered by the combined will of the business to “go faster”.

Desktops – the box under your desk you keep stubbing your toe on.

Laptops – The computer you loose in the car and never seem to find the charger for.

Mobiles / Mobile Devices– the device your other half accuses you of having an affair with.

Virus & Spam Protection – stopping bad things getting to you and occasionally saying “don’t click on that”.

Pro-Actively – yes its a buzz word but we believe in it, we go out looking for things to fix BEFORE they break, controlled repairs preventing downtime.

Monitor – in our sense we have a constant connection to devices “saying are you ok” if the device doesn’t answer or answers saying its anything other than optimum, we get an alert and log on to fix it!

Marvin – We have a monitoring system we lovingly call Marvin, he also handles emails see him here

Wireless /WiFi – this can be various ways of connecting networks and soon powering devices without cables.

Printers – the thing that runs out of ink faster than you can buy it!

SLA (Service Level Agreement) – how long it takes to call you back and get things fixed!

CAPEX (Capital Expenditure) – in its simplest term paying money in one lump up front. Full Description

OPEX (Operation Expenditure) – in its simplest term paying money in byte size monthly. Full Description

There has been a large shift in business and IT from CAPEX to OPEX, less large blocks of money upfront for servers vs small monthly costs per user per month. Better for cash flow, only real difference is you will not own a server, but rent instead. Over a period of 3-5 years it works out on average the same outlay *this is a guide.

SEO/ SERP – Search Engine Optimisation & Search Engine Result Positioning, simply how well you rank in google and other search engines

VOIP / SIP – Phone calls over the internet.
SQL – A type of database, most large businesses use multiple databases, SQL is the platform it can run on.

ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning, normally the software that runs all aspects of large businesses. Examples are Dynamics, SAPS, Epicore

Virtualization – turning physical hardware into a software version, this means better flexibility, and potentially better usage of hardware so cheaper

Cameron’s Cryptic Encrypted Problem

encrypted

Politics and IT are clashing again, this time David Cameron has been talking about encrypted traffic over widely used encrypted public apps and platforms such as WhatsApp, Snapchat. Skype etc

David Cameron
“Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read?” “My answer to that question is: ‘No, we must not.’ ”

The underlying mechanics of what he said could have a very serious effect on all businesses. Private businesses are not countries or political parties, a lot of companies span multiple countries so what’s OK in one is not OK in the other. The danger of governments getting involved in apps to stop terrorism is a very slippery slope to businesses having to jump through more hoops to keep a politician happy.

Whatsapp is an app, but its also a private business. Cameron seems to be mistaking an App for a tool, 99.9% of people will use a tool for good, sadly some will use it for bad. Monitoring traffic will not prevent bad things, people will just use something else.

Either something is encrypted or its not, if a government is in the middle then its not secure, so when you as a business say “our systems are secure” you are actually not telling the truth, because of government monitoring in the middle! The government after all are just people, what’s to stop rogue staff from giving away data?

Companies will have a real world cost attached allowing government access to their data, not to mention all the paperwork attached to this. Apple and Microsoft have decided to remove the costly problem of government and law enforcement requests of data by simply removing themselves from being able to access the data, and by the same token its a huge selling point to businesses. Microsoft and Apple cannot give away you’re data if your an individual or a business, so if you use them its even safer!

Microsoft and Apple have made a very clever business decision to cut themselves out of a costly and bureaucratic problem and turn it into a marketing bonus! Please don’t mistake what i am saying with people should be allowed to hide, but the definition of encrypted which is part of our business fundamentals and common sense is on the same path as banning secure personal chat apps. Secure should be Secure, Private should be Private

We are now a Lenovo business partner


We are very proud today to announce that we are now an Official Lenovo Business Partner. We work hard to partner with different vendors as we see a very real difference in the support we are then able to give our customers.

By teaming up with Lenovo we know the products better and have a more direct line of support should it be needed. Also this means we get a much more competitive price for you.

Lenovo Yoga Pro 3

Over the last few years we have seen a lot of management staff wanting premium designed computers, traditionally they headed towards apple macbooks and macbook airs, but have been frustrated by the operating system. Since then a lot of manufactures have caught up on hardware design and have really started to produce some amazingly beautiful pieces of kit. Such as the Lenovo Yoga Pro, which are blistering fast computers supported by windows 8.1 that makes for an amazing ultra thin, ultra powerful, ultra stylish laptop.

Lenovo All In One

Also Lenovo have a range of all in one’s, again Lenovo have been taking a share of the iMac market with its range, once more combining huge power, beautiful displays and well designed hardware. Lenovo really have some products to shout about and we have been getting swamped with people wanting them!

Microsoft Lync

Kixo have been using phone and VOIP systems for over 15 years but in the last few a new contender has entered a crowded market – Microsoft Lync. There is a bit of a new buzzword that’s flying around recently as well – Unified.

Put the two together and people get cautious including us! But after playing around with the servers, hardware, and mobile apps, we have fallen in love. We originally looked into Lync for one of our clients in Birmingham but it jumped out at us that it suited us perfectly! We have invested in both Polycom and Aastra phones, and use the mobile apps, Microsoft Lync is so simple and sturdy but so very smart, we add an appointment into our outlook calendar, and during times marked as busy it rings our phone on silent, so we aren’t disturbed.

Lync knows if we’re in the office or out so instead of dialing a persons number and if they don’t pick up call thier mobile after, Microsoft Lync you dial a name and lync works out where you are, office, home, app, or forward to mobile number. It just works.

Lync goes further with exchange 2013 if someone is on a call or in a meeting or out of office, Your phone will tell you that person is busy and doing what (if you wish to share) so it lets you know not to bother calling them, its such a simple idea that Microsoft have nailed. Lync is not what you call a small infrastructure set-up, its not for the faint hearted, but Microsoft has a Lync product to suit all business, small you use Office 365 lync, mid size you use co-located, and if big you can host your own, the good news is price doesn’t really change but the functionality does with it.

Here in Birmingham we don’t exactly have the largest network and high speed internet we would like, traditionally VOIP fails with that, but lync using some amazing compression, it sounds HD but we use it over 3G and ADSL lines.

Visually lync 2010 was a little rough around the edges, it was a modified version of OCS which was far from a polished product, but in its 3rd incarnation Lync 2013 is beautiful, simple and solid. Apps available on iOS, Android, and Windows, plus web versions, plus hard phones we think Lync 2013 is going to be very popular over the next few years.

 

Future of data centers

Data centers are to be found in the most unlikely places — from the icy tundra of Antarctica or the belly of a converted 19th century church, to a retrofitted nuclear bunker or a 32-story colossus.

In 2009, Google received a patent for the idea of building data center platforms that would sit some miles offshore. Picture an oil platform for compute and storage and the whole thing running off wind and solar power.

The jury is still out about the future of the data center. Will it become a modular shipping container and be shipped out to sea, one stacked on top of the other (similar to Google’s idea), or will it become an enormous, ultra-efficient warehouse out in Nevada or in the solar goldfields of the Saharan desert?

Whatever happens, one thing is clear: we will need ever-increasing amounts of data storage and computing power.

The cloud may not have won every battle for outsourcing the datacenter—a significant number of enterprises prefer to build their own—but it’s winning the battle for convergence. Through hybrid cloud innovations, the line between the corporate firewall and the massive scalability of tier 1 hosting providers is becoming a blurred one.

Geography is becoming virtual and data, regardless of where it lives, must scale massively and across multiple platforms. NoSQL and MySQL and Oracle queries emerge within this ecosystem as allies, not sworn enemies.

When Facebook recently announced that it will open source Presto, the data engine that fuels storage and retrieval of over 300 petabytes of data for its one billion users, it signaled that Open Source will continue to play a vital role in the future of the data center.

Wherever it goes, and whatever it looks like, the data centers of the future will be super efficient and push the boundaries of the physical, but they’ll also be driven by open source innovation.

Click to see a live webcam of Antarctic conditions at the McMurdo Station data center.

Source The Next Web

 

Flash Virtualization

Virtualization has changed the way modern datacenters operate, but I/O bottlenecks still hamper storage systems and application performance. Flash hypervisors could be the answer.

In today’s enterprise, IT managers need a way to efficiently scale storage performance using virtualization, much in the same way they scale server compute and memory. This has given rise to a new technology, called the flash hypervisor, which is paving the way to true software-defined datacenters. By aggregating available flash storage into clusters that accelerate the performance of reads and writes, flash hypervisors are changing the way that IT owns and operates datacenters.

Overcoming storage bottlenecks
I/O bottlenecks in primary storage can add significant latency to virtual applications, resulting in slow or unusable applications. This frustrates end users and creates numerous problems for IT, including unpredictable expenses and costs.

To date, the only option when faced with the above challenge is to throw storage hardware at the problem. For example, storage administrators can improve the capabilities of a storage area network (SAN) by upgrading interconnect speeds or deploying faster disks and processors. Unfortunately, these are all very expensive and disruptive solutions, and don’t even guarantee an improvement in application performance.

Many companies are keen for a change. They want a solution whereby storage performance is decoupled from storage capacity, eliminating the need for unnecessary storage hardware upgrades. This has created an enormous market demand for server-side flash, which in turn has created a need for flash hypervisor software.

Why flash virtualization?
A flash hypervisor virtualizes all server-side flash into a clustered acceleration tier that enables IT to scale out storage performance quickly, easily, and cost-effectively, independently of storage capacity. Just like traditional hypervisors abstract physical CPU and RAM into a logical pool of resources, a flash hypervisor does the same for all server flash devices across a datacenter.

More specifically, the flash hypervisor provides a resource management scheme that multiplexes multiple VMs to a set of flash devices according to user-specified policies. The result is dramatically faster and truly scale-out read and write performance for all virtual machines, without the need to change existing storage infrastructure.

A flash hypervisor virtualizes server-side flash into a clustered acceleration tier that delivers scale-out storage performance independent of storage capacity.

 

Flash hypervisors fundamentally change datacenter design. Gone are the days when storage was designed with performance and capacity in one tier. For the first time ever, storage performance can cost effectively scale out according to demand.

For example, a traditional midrange SAN costs about $100,000, and delivers around 50,000 I/O operations per second (IOPS). To double this performance, one must buy a new SAN, which doubles the total price to $200,000. In contrast, a flash hypervisor can deliver around 100,000 IOPS on a single flash device, which is twice the performance at less than one tenth the cost of the SAN (less than $10,000).

[For more background on how the software-defined trend affects storage, read: Software-Defined Storage: A Buzzword Worth Examining.]

To double the amount of IOPS, one must simply add another inexpensive flash device to the flash hypervisor cluster. The result is substantially higher storage performance at a fraction of the cost of a SAN alone.

What makes a flash hypervisor different from traditional server-side flash caching solutions? Below are the key criteria that make this technology unique, and that IT departments should evaluate in the context of their own environments:

  • Seamlessly works with all VMs, hosts, and storage
  • Supports heterogeneous flash devices (PCIE and SSD)
  • Cluster technology transparently supports all virtual machine operations, such as vMotion, DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduler) and HA (High Availability). This ensures virtual machines can move around freely between hosts without impacting application performance.
  • Supports read and write acceleration (with replication between flash devices for fault tolerance). This ensures that all read- and write-intensive applications will benefit.

Storage has long been a war-of-the-boxes, with marginal innovation. Flash hypervisor technology signifies a giant leap from the storage status quo. It brings a scale-out microsecond-level storage acceleration tier to every workload, in every virtualized datacenter. Its enterprise-class features and unparalleled benefits make it a strategic infrastructure investment that will fundamentally change datacenter storage design.

Jeff Aaron is vice president of marketing at PernixData, and has almost two decades of experience working in high-tech software, networking, and telecommunications companies.

Source Informationweek

Cloud – fastest growth in 2014

Cloud will be the strongest technology sector in 2014 with software-as-a-service [SaaS], business intelligence [BI], and analytics set to be the top performers in the coming 12 months.

Analysts at Forrester expect the three segments to achieve double digit growth over the coming 12 months with SaaS in particular seeing the highest level of growth at over 20 per cent in 2014.

“The combination of strong growth in new software categories and restored growth in older categories will help make software the leading tech category. That also helps the US tech market, because the US has an almost 60 per cent share of SaaS and analytics spending,” said Andrew Bartels, VP and principal analyst serving CIOs at Forrester.

Bartels also expects the continuing adoption of SaaS to adversely affect IT services revenue growth in 2015 and in the year following that. Even with this being the case, Bartels fully expects the entire world economy to start moving in the right direction in the next 24 months and the technology sector to benefit.

“Beyond 2014, we are expecting a strengthening global economy in 2015 will propel global tech market growth higher across the board, but with software growing at double-digit growth rates for the first time in many years,” Bartels said.

The growth of cloud software isn’t all bad news for the traditional on-premises software categories, which has suffered in slow-growth markets during 2012 and 2013. Bartels expects the sector to “revive” in 2014 with Europe, Asia and emerging markets seeing particularly sustained growth.

Forrester’s projections are just the latest in a series of heady predictions relating to the cloud’s influence on the IT industry as whole in 2014. IDC figures show that cloud adoption and big data are set to push global IT expenditure past $2 trillion [£1.2 trillion] in 2014 as even more firms jump on the cloud services bandwagon.

Source IT Portal

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