Cloud Computing’s Refuseniks: How Long Can They Hold Out?

Is your organization a “Cloud Computing Refusenik”?

This article excerpt, by Dave Cartwright, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1Wvmbu7

Umpty-squillion surveys come out every week, and they generally disagree with each other. Personally I tend to take notice of the ones that tell me that red wine is good for weight loss and long life.

I read one recently, though, in which no fewer than 51 percent of managers said they’re not presently investing in cloud technology. “OK”, I thought, half the population isn’t doing it yet. Then I read that in the same survey that 49 per cent said that in two years’ time they still wouldn’t be investing in it. And I was more than a little surprised by that.

Cloudy thinking

Bear in mind that they weren’t talking about whether they’d move their entire world to the cloud: it was whether they were investing in cloud at all. At all.

Fair enough, I understand organisations not moving en masse to (say) hosted virtual desktops. But no Office 365? No Google Apps? No DropBox? No AWS for a cheap server for a pilot project?

Some organisations tend to shy away from cloud services – specifically those with particularly high security requirements on the data they store. But even then there must surely be the temptation to adopt some kind of fully managed hosted service for applications under less scrutiny – public-facing brochureware websites, for example.

Furthermore, the cloud can be incredibly attractive in a business continuity context. Say you host your email service in a co-location data centre facility where you own all the servers and network kit, you manage the servers yourself, you have a secure remote access mechanism with two-factor authentication. Is it really that big a leap of security confidence to decide to shift it all to (say) Office 365?

And even if it is, what about that two-factor authentication system you’re using on your private data centre installation? Is that an on-site offering? I’ve recently been getting to grips with Symantec’s hosted offering – it works a treat and doesn’t need me to feed and water it.

Taking the concept further, you could even use the cloud to monitor and control your internet usage behaviour. Even the most paranoid security officer must surely find it hard to complain about using an Internet-based system to control your internet browsing.

In this sense I’m talking about services such as Websense’s cloud offering, which I introduced to my infrastructure in a previous life and which I found absolutely excellent – access gateways worldwide, synchronisation with our Active Directory, resilient services, a single management GUI, not overly expensive, and I got to throw away a fleet of god-awful ISA servers that hosted the legacy on-premises version.

I completely understand why people don’t move wholesale to the cloud. A fully cloud-based infrastructure is something that suits only a minority of organisations. But I’m still astounded to see that almost half of those questioned in the particular survey I read are of the belief that they won’t be using it at all in two years’ time.

Okay, there are concerns. There’s security. There’s the fact that it’s easy to forget what you left running and end up with a bigger bill than you expected.

There’s the fact that in all but the smallest cloud providers you have bugger all influence over their techies if the infrastructure goes down and your finance server is unavailable at year end, or your email’s not working for a couple of days. I get that.

Keeping up with the hackers

Surely, though, the people who say they won’t be using the cloud in the future are forgetting that what you can do with it is likely to change radically in the next 24 months. Security will have kept up with the hackers; connectivity will be even better than it is now (my fiver says that by then you’ll see proper quality-of-service guarantees over the Internet as if it were a private WAN).

I reckon that some vendors of traditional IT products may even entirely stop shipping software and appliances, instead stripping down their support division (supporting customers with on-prem solutions is highly non-trivial) and supplying their services as entirely cloud-based services. Will this 49% of IT managers simply avoid those services even though they’re acceptable to the auditors and the best of breed?

No, I don’t think they will. I suspect simply that when they were asked: “Will you be investing in the cloud in two years’ time?”, they’re thinking: “Hell, I’ve got so much to do now, and so much on my roadmap for the next 24 months, that I can’t even think about cloud as well”. But that in fact by the time they get part-way down their roadmap they’ll find themselves with a cloud solution.

Because by that time we probably won’t be calling it a cloud service. Or a SaaS product. Or an AnythingaaS solution, for that matter. Because by that time we’ll be so used to the idea that we won’t have a special name for it: in two years time it’ll just be called a product.

Troubleshooting: Migrating Office 365 Public Folders

Migrating Office 365 Public Folders

Not that I expect many people to have this problem, but I learned something new today. Did you know, that if you have public folders you are moving to Office 365 that exceed 50 GB, you have to wait for Microsoft to “Auto-Split” them?

Basically what is supposed to happen is you have a public folder and as it grows close to the 50 GB limit, an automated process is kicked off that will migrate some date to a new public folder mailbox. This is seamless to the end user and allows you to continue to add data. What I was doing was migrating a very large amount of data at one time. This caused the public folder to reach the limit of 50 GB in a few days. I was not moving data slowly, so the automated process did not have time to run. Since I was in a time time, crunch I needed to find a solution.

According to Microsoft, it can take up to two weeks for this process to happen. And I didn’t have two weeks. I needed it to happen, roughly — immediately — so I knew I needed to figure something out. I thought I could just create a new public folder mailbox and that would be that. The problem is, that was not working. It was still binding me to the 50 GB limit. I read that if you create a new public folder mailbox Microsoft will use it for its auto-split process. Again this did not help me.

I did a little research and found that there were two solutions to my issue. The first was to wait the up-to-two-weeks for the automated process, and the second was to run two PowerShell commands. Of course, I opted for the PowerShell commands. Here is what I did.

First I started power shell as an administrator. Then I ran the following script to connect to Exchange online via PowerShell.

Set-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted -Force
$LiveCred = Get-Credential
$Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri
https://ps.outlook.com/powershell/ -Credential $LiveCred -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection
Import-PSSession $Session

Once connected I then ran this command (The public folder email address can be anything you wish.):

New-Mailbox -PublicFolder -Name MasterHierarchy

Once that was complete I ran this command (Again the name can be anything you wish.):

New-PublicFolder -Name PF201 -Mailbox SecondaryPFMbx

Once the commands were complete I had a new folder under my public folders. In the Exchange management console, in the Office 365 public folder mailboxes I had a new 50 GB limit. I was now able to start moving more data and effectively had a 100 GB limit to now use.

I hope you have found this helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them below. Also, make sure you follow and friend us through social media at Twitter or Facebook.

Ryan Ash

 

Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
ryan.ash@customsystems.com

 

 

 

©Custom Systems Corporation 2015

 

Are Cloud Offerings Good for SMB?

The title for this blog came about from a number of our SMB clients asking two questions:

  1. What exactly are cloud services?

  2. Should we be looking into them?

Here is a general answer to the first question: Cloud services are on demand solutions made available to users through an Internet connection from a Cloud provider.  For instance, Office 365 provides an e-mail solution (and more) from Microsoft that users can access anywhere they have Internet access from almost any device.  I can even get to Office 365 from a certain gaming console.  In the early days of cloud computing, cloud referred to services that came through the Internet from a third-party.  However, today we have private in-house clouds as well.

As for the second question; yes, you should be looking into Cloud solutions.  Every year, IT has a buzz-word that rises to the top of the list.  In the ancient past of a few years ago, ‘client/server computing’ was the major buzz-word.  More recently, ‘virtualization’.  Though virtualization is still a major buzz-word today, ‘Cloud Computing’ is now on the top of the list.  There is a reason these buzz-words rise to the top of the list, they are a rising, viable trend for IT solutions.  Cloud may not be for everyone, but there is not a single administrator who should not be looking to see how cloud services can help their organization.  Funny, I said the same thing about virtualization not too long ago.

So, why should your organization we be looking at cloud services?  Here are some major reasons:

  • Lower IT costs without the risk. If you host a service in house, you need the hardware resources to house it, the expertise to build and maintain it, and the resources to operate it.  Most of the time, cloud services are a subscription based service.  When first looked at, the monthly cost of those subscriptions may be substantial.  However, you have to compare it to what it would cost you to have the services in-house.  Add up the cost of the server, the environment to protect the server (power and air conditioning), installation, maintenance, backup, and upgrades.  You get all of that from the cloud without you having to deal or worry about it.  The cloud service has the security and the disaster recovery resources already which means lower risk to you.
  • New methods of collaboration. Sharing ideas, files, and data can be done almost anywhere, anytime, and on any client.
  • As stated above, being able to do things almost anywhere, on any client, at any time.

Most SMB do not have a large IT staff with a wide variety of technology skill sets.  They usually have the one or two people who have to be a jack-of-all-trades.  I have seen places where this person is the head of accounting.  They have a CPA, not a BS in Information Technology.  With cloud solutions, the need for in-house expertise on a product is practically eliminated.  The burden on the ‘IT’ people is lifted and day-to-day IT tasks are reduced.

Here are few examples of cloud offerings and what they give you (some items depend on the subscription level):

  • Office 365 gives you hosted Exchange e-mail services, the latest version of MS Office for multiple devices, shared information and files, hosted storage, and more.
  • Trend Micro Worry Free Business give you cloud administered antivirus. The AV client still resides on each device, but the administration is in the cloud.  This way, you do not need to install AV administration services on a local server.  You can also get to the console from anywhere to perform tasks.
  • Carbonite offers highly compliant backup solutions to the cloud. You don’t need the storage or administration hosted in-house.
  • Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services make it possible to put any server, even your entire server infrastructure in the cloud.

There are many more cloud offerings than these.  It is most definitely worth looking at cloud services whether you are a small or large company.

Do you have any questions about the cloud and your business? Custom Systems can help! Feel free to post any questions or comments below or reach me directly by email.

 

AZS-3

 

 

Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)| Sr. Network Consultant craig.kalty@customsystems.com

 

 

©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

The End is Near! (for Windows XP)

How many cell phones that were available for purchase in October, 2001 are still in use today? When we see someone on a flip phone, what do we think (or even say to them)? The excitement for new smart phones is conveyed in TV commercials while the lines of people waiting to be the first to have one, is reported on the news. We love our new cell phones and hate using old ones. The technology available today compared to 12 ½ years ago is mind blowing!

But when it comes to our Windows — we love our 12.5 year old systems! Windows XP was officially released by Microsoft on October 25, 2001. While we like using XP and have a comfort level when we sit down at our computer, time marches on. On April 8, 2014 Windows XP and Office 2003 will be officially designated as “end of life.” What does this mean? Starting April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates, upgrades, or other patches for the operating system or the office products. Below are the details from Microsoft’s website regarding the impact of Windows XP End of Life on your business:

What does end of support mean to customers? It means you should take action now!

After April 8, 2014, there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates.

Running Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 in your environment after their end of support date may expose your company to potential risks, such as:

  • Security & Compliance Risks: Unsupported and unpatched environments are vulnerable to security risks. This may result in an officially recognized control failure by an internal or external audit body, leading to suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organization’s inability to maintain its systems and customer information.
  • Lack of Independent Software Vendor (ISV) & Hardware Manufacturers support: A recent industry report from Gartner Research suggests “many independent software vendors (ISVs) are unlikely to support new versions of applications on Windows XP in 2011; in 2012, it will become common.” And it may stifle access to hardware innovation: Gartner Research further notes that in 2012, most PC hardware manufacturers will stop supporting Windows XP on the majority of their new PC models.

If you still have Windows XP or Office 2003 in your business environment, you’ll need to start planning a transition to newer operating systems and office products. You’ll likely also need to consider hardware upgrades, as most modern operating systems will not run on older systems designed for Windows XP.

There are many options for upgrades these days. For the operating system upgrades you can move to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. For Office, you’ll want to upgrade to Office 365. Office 365 is a new paradigm for Microsoft: you can use the software on five different devices per user; you can use it installed on a local desktop or via a web browser; hardware requirements can be reduced with hosted Exchange and hosted SharePoint. The new office product offering is a good move and competes more directly with Google Apps. You can learn more about the new Office 365 by clicking here.

If you need assistance getting your systems upgraded or determining which version of Microsoft Windows or Office is right for you, contact us today!

For more information on Windows XP migration, take a look at our other blogs:

 

DaveDavid Bubb
Sales Director
Network Services Group
David.Bubb@CustomSystemsCorp.com

 

 

© Copyright 2014 Custom Systems Corporation