The Application Rental Company Blog
As many of you may know, Microsoft will soon stop supporting Windows XP. Windows XP is so old, it predates 9/11. Yet more than 12 years later, a substantial number of PCs (around 29%) still use Windows XP as their operating system. On April 8, official support from Microsoft will cease. Microsoft will no longer issue patches or system updates to protect against viruses, spyware and other malware. If any other kinds of snags are encountered, Microsoft will not be available for technical assistance.
Because of the high level of continued XP use, a more sophisticated threat landscape will loom. In fact, criminals may have been stashing away attacks to use once Microsoft has left the scene, leaving the OS open to unpublished lines of attack. Not only that, criminals can reverse-engineer patches for supported operating systems issued by Microsoft and apply the vulnerabilities they uncover to no-longer-updated Windows XP devices. XP devices already represent a significantly higher risk from a security standpoint than more modern operating systems like Windows 7 and Windows 8, and will only become exponentially more so over time when Microsoft stops maintaining it.
What can businesses do in the short time remaining before Windows XP's end of life? One of the key measures that companies should undertake is to work out the extent of the problem by surveying their IT estate. A lot of businesses will have XP devices here and there. Discovering them is the key to being able to manage and assess the risk.
It is also important for businesses to focus on measures that are not only effective, but also relatively cheap and easily accomplished, such as limiting XP use to approved applications. Other simple, but effective measures include ensuring anti-malware software will continue to be supported under Windows XP, switching the browser to a supported one, locking down the workstation, and taking away admin rights if users have them.
The best way of dealing with the end of XP support, in the long run, is migrating toward newer Microsoft operating systems, but this isn't necessarily a simple matter. For an in-depth discussion feel free to contact us to address your individual concerns.
Upcoming federal mandates with their increased focus on efficiencies are placing extraordinary pressure on IT departments within the healthcare sector. They are expected to deliver excellent results with limited budgets and staffing resources. Updating IT infrastructure to support the new electronic health record system along with the latest user devices is a challenge for many healthcare organizations.
Many healthcare organizations are turning to desktop virtualization to meet their complex IT needs. Desktop virtualization, along with the use of thin clients, present many benefits. Let's take a look at a few areas that are positively impacted by the use of desktop virtualization.
Many hospitals and healthcare practices that have adopted desktop virtualization have seen an increase in practitioner productivity. Practitioners can log into the central server and access patient data from any station, without the need of reloading files. This has led to more one-on-one time with patients.
From an IT management perspective, accessing core applications from a centrally-managed data center makes it much easier for administrators to deploy, manage and support such applications. Ease of management leads to significant time savings, as IT managers only need to check their data center, instead of desktops distributed across a large hospital or practice.
Using a central data center allows data to be secured in a safe, central location without being spread to less-secure individual client computers. Of course, security precautions should be in place, such as SSL-secured connections and firewall use where appropriate. Data losses can be easily traced to the data center in a server-based network, providing security traceability needed for sensitive medical environments.
The use of desktop virtualization also lessens the risk of virus and agent attacks, as they can only be effective if they penetrate the data center's defenses. This provides for safe storage of patient and doctor records with a minimal chance of outside agent attack. If a virus is contracted, it can be isolated quickly, without risking exposure to an entire network.
There are many ways that desktop virtualization can help healthcare practices save on their expenses. The use of thin clients and a centralized data center cuts down on the cost of buying hardware. Software licensing is also generally less expensive if using data center installed applications. Server, storage and network refreshes cost less as there is no need to install updates to individual desktop. The need for IT support staff can be reduced. And, since there is less heat generated and less power used, many healthcare centers see a reduction in their utility costs.
Desktop virtualization can help healthcare practices in many ways. How can it help your practice? Contact us at The Application Rental Company. We will come up with an individualized plan to benefit your company's needs.
Mobile Application Management (MAM) is a term applied to software and services that supply and control access to internally-developed and commercially-available mobile apps used in mobile devices. Mobile application management is the delivery and administration of enterprise software to end users’ corporate and personal smart phones and tablets. Mobile application management is a subset of mobile device management (MDM), which manages the entire mobile device.
As the number of employees who bring mobile devices and apps into the workplace grows, there are several mobile app delivery, management and security options to consider. Basically there are four approaches: enterprise app stores, Web-based apps, cloud-based apps and desktop virtualization.
Enterprise App Stores
Enterprise app stores provide a delivery platform that allows users to browse and download IT-approved apps. They furnish control over issues related to compliance, data governance, bulk purchasing and licensing. Developing an app store can be challenging, however. The store must be able to control and monitor application life cycles, track usage, remove outdated apps and control which versions workers use. Such a solution can require a considerable investment in resources.
Native mobile apps require a mechanism for app distribution and regulation, but Web apps run in browsers. Not only does this make apps more compatible across an assortment of devices it also allows IT to easily deliver, maintain and upgrade without the need for multiple versions or a distribution system. Web-based apps still present many challenges for IT. The functionality of mobile device browsers are limited and Web apps can't take full advantages of device features such as messaging and scanning. With the increase in processing speed, faster connections and the push toward HTML5, however, Web-based apps may prove to be an effective delivery strategy in the near future.
Implementing cloud-based apps requires organizations to either develop their own offerings or pay to use cloud-based storage services that already exist. Both options can require a sizable investment. In-house service offers more control, but enterprises will need to invest in the necessary resources to develop, implement, house and maintain the system across multiple mobile platforms. Using existing services is simpler when it comes to getting up and running, but control is lost over how and where sensitive data is stored. In the end, cloud apps offer flexibility and help simplify mobile app delivery and maintenance.
Desktop virtualization provides a traditional PC environment to any device. Users connect to in-house servers that run operating systems and applications that they need. A thin client on the device connects to the network and renders the virtual desktop. All sensitive data is stored in an organization's secure data center and it's easier for IT to manage applications and control and monitor usage. Consistent connectivity is key for effective virtualization and some virtually-delivered apps don't always adapt well to mobile devices because of limited screen sizes. Apps that require intensive keyboard input or mouse actions can also be a challenge for mobile device users.
Determining the best mobile app delivery method for an enterprise can be a complex undertaking. Native apps will be around for a while, and this makes app stores attractive options. As technologies mature, Web- and cloud-based apps, along with virtual desktops will provide robust alternatives. Flexibility and the ability to shift strategies will be key.
Have you ever lost an hour of work on your computer? Imagine if you lost days or weeks of work. Imagine losing your client database, financial records, and all of the work files your company has ever produced or compiled. What would happen if your network went down for days, where you couldn’t access e-mail or the information on your PC. How frustrating would that be?
What if a major storm, flood, or fire destroyed your office and all of your files? Or if a virus wiped out your server…do you have an emergency recovery plan in place that you feel confident in? How quickly do you think you could recover, if at all? Many small business owners tend to ignore or forget about taking steps to secure their company’s network from these types of catastrophes until disaster strikes. By then it’s too late and the damage is done.
Statistics find that 6 out of 10 small- to medium-sized businesses will experience some type of major network or technology disaster that will end up costing them between $9,000 and $60,000 in repairs and restoration costs on average. That doesn’t even include lost productivity, sales, and client goodwill that can be damaged when a company can’t operate or fulfill on its promises due to technical problems. If you’ve ever had your business grind to a screeching halt because your server crashed, you must have some idea of the frustration and financial loss to your business.
Take a look at these statistics:
· Companies experience an average of 501 hours of network downtime every year, and the overall downtime costs an average of 3.6% of annual revenue. (Source: The Costs of Enterprise Downtime, Infonetics Research)
· 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster, and 50% filed for bankruptcy immediately. (Source: National Archives & Records Administration in Washington.)
· 20% of small to medium businesses will suffer a major disaster causing loss of critical data every 5 years. (Source: Richmond House Group)
· This year, 40% of small to medium businesses that manage their own network and use the Internet for more than e-mail will have their network accessed by a hacker, and more than 50% won’t even know they were attacked. (Source: Gartner Group)
· Of those companies participating in the Contingency Planning & Management Cost of Downtime Survey: 46% said each hour of downtime would cost their companies up to $50,000, 28% said each hour would cost between $51,000 and $250,000, 18% said each hour would cost between $251,000 and $1 million, and 8% said it would cost their companies more than $1 million per hour. (Source: Cost of Downtime Survey Results, 2001)
· Cyber-criminals stole an average of $900 from each of 3 million Americans in the past year, and that doesn't include the hundreds of thousands of PCs rendered useless by spyware. (Source: Gartner Group)
While it's impossible to plan for every potential computer problem or emergency, a little proactive monitoring and maintenance of your network will help you avoid or greatly reduce the impact of the vast majority of computer disasters you might experience. With proper backups and a disaster recovery plan in place, you’ll minimize the risk of downtime and ensure a speedier recovery.
The Application Rental Company can help with your computer network management and maintenance, freeing you from expensive, frustrating computer problems, downtime, and security threats. Give us a call. Let's discuss ways that we can ensure that IT disasters don't happen to your business.
Cloud Computing Offers BYOD Security
“Bring your own device” (BYOD) is a term used to describe the practice of a company allowing their employees to bring their personally-owned mobile devices to work and connecting to the company network. There can be many business benefits to BYOD, such as increased productivity and employee morale. BYOD can also help a company control their costs of equipping a mobile workforce.
Although companies consider BYOD an attractive technology option, the practice can give IT security personnel nightmares. Every security issue that can affect a PC can be replicated for mobile devices. Malware, spam, and hacking threats specific to mobile devices continue to rise. The downloading of unreliable business apps and the possibility of data commingling can cause security breaches as well as the possibility of an employee losing their device.
The BYOD practice is not going away, however. It will continue to be an IT trend, because in many cases, it is simply not preventable. As the practice grows, many companies are turning to cloud computing to alleviate their BYOD security concerns.
There are a growing number of companies that offer Security as a Service (SaaS) cloud products. These products secure mobile devices by offering services such as authentication, anti-virus, anti-malware/spyware, intrusion detection and security event management. Additionally, mobile device management (MDM) tools have been developed that extend cloud security policies to mobile devices, helping to to secure devices in a central cloud environment.
Enterprises can also use cloud computing services to deal with malware -- Data is scanned before it ever reaches a mobile device. Cloud services can enable a company to respond faster if a device is lost by quickly wiping data or disabling the device. They focus on data encryption methods and best ways to authenticate users and devices. Also, using a cloud-based services saves companies money because they don't have to invest in new servers, software, training and on-going staff for maintenance.
In the end, although SaaS-based cloud services can help, end users must be educated. Ground rules, as part of a BYOD policy, should be developed and the rules enforced. A good BYOD policy will help mitigate risks while taking advantage of cloud computing benefits.
from the Legal Loudspeaker
Managed Services is one of the fastest growing sectors of the technology industry. Law Firms and professional service organizations need more predictable, proactive IT services to deal with rampant security threats, evolving technology, and to level spending patterns. A Managed Services Provider (MSP) will protect your IT environment and stabilize your budget. But not all MSPs are created equal. Remember that while many people SAY they are an MSP – most are not. Know what qualifies someone as an MSP and how your firm can benefit from using one.
It seems that there are misconceptions out there concerning “cloud computing.” Some think that cloud computing involves merely having a data center, or the co-location of data in a data center. Others think of managing hosting or hosting, while others think of cloud computing as a simple “aaS” platform. Although the above terms do relate to cloud computing, they are only a piece of the puzzle.
Technically speaking, cloud computing is internet-based computing, where shared resources such as servers, disk space, firewalls, backup, software and support are provided to end users through various devices. An example of a cloud-computing service is “software as a service,” or SaaS. The end user is not responsible for the hardware, software and support; it is the sole responsibility of the SaaS provider. Salesforce, Google Apps, Facebook and Gmail are examples of SaaS providers.
Cloud computing can best be compared to purchasing electricity through a utilities company instead of maintaining an on-site generator. Now, instead of having a computer network in house, a company can pay for basic IT necessities on a utility basis.
There are several advantages of using cloud computing versus using traditional networks. The cost of buying, installing and supporting a computer network goes down drastically. Greater flexibility is gained for accessing computer network remotely from various devices. Disaster recovery and data backup is built in.
Less expensive workstations and devices can be purchased and they last longer since the computing power is in the cloud and not in individual workstations. It's also less expensive to add and remove software from networks and hefty network upgrade costs can be avoided.
What are The Qualities of a Good Managed Services Provider?
There are many aspects involved in seeking a good Managed Services Provider (MSP). When evaluating services from a current or potential MSP, one must look beyond their ability to host off-site servers or to continually backup data to the “cloud.” An MSP must be able to provide these services, plus much more. Below are some qualities to look for when evaluating an MSP.
Is Your MSP Proactive?
Your MSP must provide system monitoring at all hours of the day, every day of the year. You need to be confident that someone is available to receive alerts at any hour of the day and to act on those alerts before downtime occurs. Your MSP must also be able to provide a help desk that is staffed with experts who can resolve issues at any hour of the day.
An MSP must have a plan for fully backing up and protecting all of your data assets. This not only involves the day-to-day backup of your data. This also involves having a plan in place for a full system recovery and the ability to test that plan at an off-site physical or cloud-based infrastructure. The MSP you are evaluating must be able to keep an inventory and security policy in place that insures that all of your assets are well tracked, and your warranty statuses are updated.
Does Your MSP Listen?
Everyone's needs are different. Your MSP not only be able to automate and standardize your IT. It must also be able to handle the basic and not-so-basic requests that make each company unique. A good MSP will make you feel that it's not just some MSP, but that it's your MSP and are concerned with your best interests.
Is Your MSP Innovative?
A Good MSP won't just provide you with current industry standards. They must be able to provide you with new technology options that benefit your company on a continuous basis.
Are there other specific qualities that you can think of when evaluating a current or potential MSP? Join the discussion. E-mail us with any issues that you think should be discussed and we'll explore them in future issues.
Can Cloud Computing honestly reduce your IT budget?
In the past three years cloud based computing has leaped to the forefront on the next technology trend. Forecast models are that the return of the “dumb” terminal or stripped P/C will be the standard for all corporate applications, small and large. The debate over whether a cloud computing framework is financially viable continues to be a topic of conversation. As of mid 2012 Information Technology (IT) contracting firms are shifting their focus from the traditional service technicians visiting a client’s place of work, to managing their clients from centralized locations. Microsoft, Cisco and other technology suppliers are shifting their strategies to cloud based applications. Monthly cost for technology will be fixed, based on user access with little or no need of large upfront cost. The concern for obsolescence will soon be eradicated via cloud based solutions.
The truth is that cloud computing is most definitely cheaper for most applications or businesses, but it’s not for everyone. There are many different factors to consider when looking at the cost effectiveness of Cloud Computing vs. a traditional based network. The most notable include:
- Hardware costs
- Licensing fees for software usage
- Storage concerns
- Administrative costs
- Backup costs
- Energy usage and cost
- Software usage
- Firewall – Spam Filtering and Antivirus
- Access – anytime anywhere
The cost of having to constantly upgrade hardware and software alone is enough to move businesses away from the traditional office server based networks and straight into cloud based computing. Looking forward, more and more software developers are writing software code in order to catch up with the next technology. They see the idea of releasing cloud-based software packages as the next step. However the biggest financial benefit of switching over to a cloud network is still hardware-related. Where traditional networks require the servers and hardware to be replaced on a three to five year basis, cloud computing eliminates that budgeting process and simplifies IT cost. That in its self should be huge analysis for business owners to address. This essentially means that fewer overall upgrades are necessary over a 5 year period, which is important when you consider that there’s no worry about of ‘loss of performance capabilities’. A firm can expand and most importantly reduce their technology cost on a monthly basis.
Cloud computing is also more flexible and efficient with its storage capabilities. With cloud computing the entire network shares storage space, with other clients of the cloud vendor. The cloud vendor has an enormous amount of storage space available for each client. This unrestricted storage capability of the cloud vendor gives the client worry free storage of e-mail and data.
Another area where cloud computing excels is in its back-up abilities. A traditional network requires a lot of effort and man hours to effectively back-up; not to mention additional hardware costs. This translates into large amounts of capital that must be spent just to ensure that a network and its data are secure in the event of an emergency. This is a non-issue in cloud computing. A typical cloud computing network will be set up to perform daily back-ups of the entire network of servers, compromising of every bit of information (including user information, settings and preferences). The data is usually stored off-site in a secure location and often on another cloud vendor that duplicates the redundancy. This process is automated via the cloud vendor. Personnel required to do the same thing on a traditional network is costly. Then there’s the issue of maintenance; in a traditional network there is a need to employ or contract out a significant number of IT specialists just to keep the system up and running. Once again, cloud computing is head and shoulders above in this regard as well; because a large cloud vendor can be effectively managed by a much smaller team of specialists.
Cloud-based networks also tend to use less energy than office based networks. This is due to the simple fact that there is less actual hardware present at the client’s office. Housing onsite servers is a significant issue when it comes to uninterrupted power supplies and cooling. A traditional network must be “on” all the time and with today’s offices eliminating HVAC on weekends and at night, the servers will experience overheating unless there is a secondary cooling system installed.
Access to information anytime and anywhere is the most undersold benefit of a cloud based solution. Laptops, Iphones, hotel based P/C clusters and working from home allow cloud based systems to stand way ahead of the traditional network server application. The cost to install and enable a Citrix based platform for remote access is out of reach for many small companies.
Microsoft Exchange for e-mail hosting, forwarding, collaboration with peers, calendaring and backing up of all the sensitive data that flows with today’s work environment is a selling factor that cannot be overlooked. The traditional MS Exchange server setup is expensive not only for hardware and software, but the maintenance cost for IT personnel is often overlooked.
The cost of a traditional network based system to install and maintain adequate firewall, e-mail filtering (spam) and antivirus protection is a monthly cost that is often discounted. System failures due to hacking and the daily review of junk mail flooding you’re in-box will be totally removed via a cloud based system. Traditional networks are brought down on a relatively monthly basis due to users accessing websites that allow viruses, spyware and most often malware to infect the systems. Cloud based computing dramatically removes those risks due to the expensive hardware and software applications provided by your cloud based provider.
One of the unforeseen benefits of cloud computing is its ability to provide management and accounting with solid data platform that they can use to prepare better fiscal budgets. Remote access to your payroll, accounting, billing, collection and reporting can now be accomplished by off-site management companies such as B2 Legal Management LLC. No need for back office staffing which consume valuable space and overhead. Today’s companies spend significant portions of their budgets on tech-related expenses because they are completely reliant on the abilities of these systems to help them run their firm.
The near future will standardize cloud computing. It will not only be cheaper to operate and manage the firm than a traditional network but, it also gives the entity the power to do more than ever to diversify and control cost.
There are drawbacks when a client chooses to use a cloud based system. But they are substantially overweighed by all of the previously mentioned benefits. Since the clients cloud based solution houses all their critical data, systems and procedures must be in place to insure that users do not modify, install or change the clouds system integrity. That means that users for the most part will not be allowed to install free software and applications on their browser. Users will not be given “administrative” privileges, thus limiting them on what task they can perform. The cloud based vendor can add software and modify the users profile for a small hourly fee, which is substantially lower than bringing down a traditional network based system due to malware or corrupted installs by the user.
The workaround for users to have all the latitude and administrative privileges that they may be accustomed to is simple. The user can configure their browser; install their favorite programs, games, links and applications on their personal computer and not on the secured cloud. The cloud based system needs to be looked at by the user as the firms operating system which houses the critical data and processes that is insures the day to day operations from being compromised.
In summary, a traditional office based network will soon become the cell phone of yesterday. The initial cost of hardware, software and installation can easily be $25,000 for a small firm of 5 people. The ongoing cost for IT support for the traditional small network will be a minimal of $75 per hour. This monthly IT support cost alone will substantially wipe out the current cost of $100 per user/per month to be on a hosted cloud based solution. A five person firm can expect to budget $600 per month or $7,200 a year for a cloud based platform vs. a yearly cost for a traditional network amortized over a 5 year period of at least $11,000 per year.
Herb Holloway Jr.
B2 Legal Management LLC
1209 W. Fifth St., Ste 200
Austin, TX 78703
SILVERcloud is the flagship service offering from The Application Rental Company. It is a fully hosted IT platform that is used to run your business. It includes everything you need to run your line of business software applications including email and any Microsoft compatible software. It is an all inclusive service that the client pays for monthly like a utility.
Our computing solution includes a new Microsoft application server (v.2008,r2), which includes all of the
processing power, memory, storage, and a complete file level backup system that a company would need.
The SILVERcloud platform includes:
1. Cloud Software Licenses
2. Windows Application Delivery Licenses
3. Microsoft Office Pro 2010 for
4. Servers: 1 server 2008 r2 application server with 4 GB RAM
5. 60 GB storage for corporate files
6. Bandwidth 7 GB upload/download
7. Standard managed backup (30 day retention) – file and print files
8. Email: Microsoft Exchange and hosted exchange 2010 for 10 users
9. 24/7 server management and trouble shooting
The monthly user price for the complete SILVERcloud infrastructure is:
$ 99 per user, per month
One time installation fee for the entire infrastructure: $ 2500
Total cost year 1: $14,380
Total cost year 2: $11,880 (less the installation fee of $2500)
Please compare these prices to owning and managing your own server in-house:
a) New Microsoft server hardware and software $15,000
b) Microsoft Office Pro 2010 for 10 users $ 3500
c) Remote offsite backup for 100 GB of data $ 3600
d) Microsoft Exchange for 10 users $ 2000
e) Server installation $ 5000
f) Managed IT services yearly $10,000
Minimum cost in year one: $39,100
Cost Savings from using SILVERcloud: $24,720 year one
$27,220 subsequent years
The IBM, Dell and HP servers that are traditionally in a small business office are not like the servers that typically are housed in a data center. Your small business servers do not have the same processing power, or storage like you would see in a big data center. The servers in a data center are what are called enterprise class servers and are much more robust and powerful than you can find in a typical small business. You ultimately will want these more robust servers running your software applications so that they perform correctly. The enterprise class data center typically has a separate storage device called a SAN. This storage area network is the data storage device in an enterprise class data center. More on the SAN and its benefits on the next entry.
Servers are at the core of the enterprise. They host your applications and your data and they are critical to your business. For this reason they need to be secure and robust enough to handle the load from having all of your users on at the same time. Having your servers in your office is very convenient. You know where they are and you know if there is a problem with them. However the security risks of having (sometimes undersized) servers in your office are great.
The servers in your office are subject to security vulnerabilities as well as power outages from cut power lines or storm interruptions. This is why everything goes haywire when there is a storm the night before.
For these reasons it is a good idea to have your servers in a secure tier one data center. These data centers have redundant power, telecom and servers. There are multiple servers running your data at the same time so in the event of an outage of any kind your applications still run and you can access your data.