Infographic: The Strategic CFOs Guide to Cloud Technology

The world in which many Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) operate is changing. Increasingly modern organizations are turning to their CFO for strategic leadership and insight on how best to position themselves on a competitive footing. Accordingly, the CFO of today needs a tool-set capable of supporting them in this new role.

Cloud technology offers a fantastic platform for any strategist looking for an agile and robust set of tools capable of driving their company forward into the future.

Below is an infographic which will help you start to approach the cloud from a leadership position, and begin to leverage IT as the strategic asset it can be.

When To Replace a Server

Every IT professional would agree that servers are the lifeblood of your organization. No matter what daily task you perform, whether it is responding to email, preparing for a presentation, or completing other workday tasks, it’s important to have a server in your office that runs smoothly. No organization, no matter what the size, wants to face the IT issues associated with a slow or non-responsive server. While there is no way to accurately predict when a server will need to be replaced, there are some general guidelines you should observe to ensure that this critical piece of equipment is running properly.

How CPA Firms Can Benefit from Managed IT Services

Let security and confidentiality be your watchwords!

When it comes to safeguarding your CPA firm’s confidential data, there is zero tolerance for risk. CPAs rely upon various forms of technology to gather data – whether it is a tax return or an independent audit.

CPA firms have made great strides by implementing such technology as electronic data management systems, client portals, and cloud-computing systems. However, records maintained by CPA firms must remain confidential because of professional standards, statutes, and regulations governing record retention. Data breaches can happen in numerous ways, including the following: fraud, hacking, improper disposal of data, or even a lost or stolen device.

A CPA firm will need their IT department (or an outsourced Managed IT Services vendor) to implement and maintain a comprehensive list of data and network security controls. It is helpful to understand the basics:

Perimeter security. This first line of defense includes firewall and intrusion detection systems, in addition to intrusion prevention systems. These should be configured with appropriate restrictions to block and filter both incoming and outgoing Internet traffic.

Endpoint security. Endpoint security requires each computing device on a corporate network to comply with established standards before network access is granted. These measures protect the servers and workstations and include safeguards such as administrative access limitations and anti-virus protection.

Network monitoring. Part of the control environment should include a frequent and ongoing monitoring program for all IT systems.

What We Do

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Comprehensive Support Program™ (CSP) — Bryley provides ongoing, proactive maintenance and remediation support to ensure a stable, highly-available computer network. Our most-popular Comprehensive Support Program (CSP) consolidates all end-user devices (mobile and desktop), servers, and computer-network equipment issues into one, Bryley-managed, fixed-fee program. Among the many services delivered under the Managed IT umbrella, Bryley installs and manages all software updates and patches.

Secure Network™ (SN) – An ongoing, managed-IT service that prevents intrusion, malware, and spam from entering the computer network through its Internet gateway and can restrict web-site surfing to inappropriate sites.

Multi-Point Security Hardening Service™ (MPSHS) – A periodic review to harden your computer-network security by reviewing/updating policies and configurations and testing. With this program, Bryley Systems can help your organization comply with the technical aspects of Massachusetts 201 CMR 17.00.

If you are looking for a business partner to help you navigate the ever-changing technology and cybersecurity landscape, we’re here for you. For more information about Bryley’s full array of Managed IT Services, Managed Cloud Services, and Cybersecurity Services please contact us at 978.562.6077 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com.

Time for a Server Refresh?

There is no crystal ball for an IT manager to look at to accurately predict when a server will need to be replaced, but there are some general guidelines you should observe to ensure that this critical piece of equipment is running properly.

A server refresh cycle is the length of time that typically passes between installations of new servers.  Generally, the refresh cycle averages 3 to 5 years. Replacing your server will allow your organization to deploy updated equipment intended to improve reliability, enable new capabilities and save money in the long term.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Is your equipment more than 3+ years old?  If your server is three years old (or more), you should seriously consider replacing it.  Your reaction may be “I just bought it”.  You may be tempted to try to squeeze a little more life out of it.  You definitely could do that – perhaps you already have, but the reason you want to replace a server after three years isn’t just to avoid a potential server outage.

According to IDC, “the moment your server hits its fourth birthday, support costs raise by approximately 40%. Your users often won’t report the troubles they’re having with your slow server – employees are notorious for working around these issues.” 1

If a process takes much longer than it is supposed to, lost productivity costs your organization money and that lost time adds up.

Warranty.  Your server should never outlast the warranty it came with.  The reason you will want to replace your server after the warranty runs out is that if it crashes, you will be able to get it fixed or replaced. At the point in which the manufacturer is not going to do this, you should take this as a sign that your server may have reached its use-by date. If your server has a very high workload, it may limit its lifespan.

When you’re choosing your new server warranty, they often come with different support levels to fit your needs. Typically, it covers replacement parts and an on-site tech to replace those parts.

Hardware Support.  When you’re considering replacing your server, you should check to see if it is still being manufactured.  If your server is still in production, that’s the first piece of good news.  If something breaks, it won’t be that hard to find replacement parts.

If it’s no longer being built, hardware issues may be difficult to fix. The parts you may get are going to be more expensive, possibly second-hand, and may take a while to get to you.  That’s why if your server is out of production, it’s good to make sure you shelve it as well. That way you won’t be hit as hard by hardware failure.  Much like with a warranty, if your manufacturer has decided to shelve the server, it’s likely you should too.

Your Server Has Issues.  Oftentimes people try ignoring a temperamental server instead of just replacing it.  The longer you ignore it, the worse it will get, and you put your organization at risk if it completely shuts down.  There are some things that can’t be fixed no matter how many parts you replace.

You Need More from Your Server.  Growing organizations place higher demands on their servers. When use of your server reaches 70% of maximum, or drive space is running low, you’re going to see a drop in server performance.  This is where virtualization can come in handy. If you have two or more servers – or you suddenly have the need for them, you can purchase one really good server and run virtual machines off it.  Since you can scale virtual machines to your needs, this means you can change your infrastructure to fit your growing business needs.  If your organization is expanding with new locations, it’s time to consider upgrading your server.

Your organization’s server hardware is there to support your operating system and applications that you’re running off it.  If you are barely running Windows Server 2008 properly, then it won’t handle moving to 2012 or 2016.  When you’re upgrading your operating system, it is the perfect time to upgrade your server as well.  This effort will take some planning and additional work, but doing it in a phased-approach is much easier.

Before deciding whether or not to upgrade your datacenter servers or virtualize your environment, talk to Bryley Systems.  Our team of experts will help you navigate through this process and the important decisions including determining how to size your physical or virtual server hardware for the workloads that you are planning to put on it. Contact us at 978-562-6077, or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com to learn more. We are here to help.

References:

1 –  IDC

Tech Target

Business Technology News

 

 

 

3 Recommended Practices to Keep Your Servers Running All Winter

Based in Central Massachusetts, wild New England weather is nothing new to us.  While simply making it in to work during a storm can be a significant challenge in itself, in a modern business environment, keeping essential technology systems operational 24/7 can prove even more critical.  That is why we have put together this list of three best practices we recommend you follow to keep your technology working, even when you are stuck at home shoveling out your driveway.

1. Deploy Uninterruptible Power Source (UPS) Devices – And Check Them Regularly

Deploying UPS devices for critical network equipment, as well as high priority PCs and workstations, is an excellent way to protect your most essential devices in the event of a power failure.  This is even more critical if you have on-premise servers.  It is important to ensure that any servers are able to communicate with their UPS(s) so the server can detect that it is running on stand-by power, giving it a chance to shut itself down properly.

2. Add an In-Line Generator

If you have devices that must continue running in the event of a power failure, adding an in-line generator is your best bet.  When the power goes out the generator takes over, powering equipment and feeding UPS devices.  At Bryley Systems we utilize an in-line generator to ensure that our local data center is always operational, no matter what.

3. Establish a Fail-Over Site

It is a good idea to develop a disaster-recovery plan that includes the ability to migrate to a fail-over site in the event that your primary data center becomes unavailable.  This will ensure that your data is always accessible, even under the worst of conditions.

You can learn more about how Bryley Systems is able to ensure business continuity through the use of our own fail-over site on our Back Up/Data Recovery page.

Stay safe this winter!

 

Have You Considered Moving to Remote Desktop Services (RDS)?

These days, many organizations are looking for ways to help their remote workers and road warriors stay connected.  One solution that works for many is implementing RDS, or a Remote Desktop Services server, which enables workers to access the network anywhere from any device that is VPN compatible as if they were sitting in the office.

What are the benefits?

  • Implementation process and cost savings. Once the initial cost and time of setting up the server is made, it becomes cost effective to move to an RDS environment. “The enormous cost savings that is gained from a Remote Desktop Services server implementation is in the reduced time it takes to do the implementation and even more so in the time saved with ongoing maintenance and management of your company’s end-user desktop infrastructure.”1 Unlike a traditional environment, once the devices are configured on the server level once, individuals can easily add another user with the same configuration. This allows the initial setup cost to be divided amongst the number of users, opposite of a PC-based environment, where setting up a machine must be done separately.
  • Software Updates/Management. Since all users are connected to the same server, updates only need to be performed once to ensure that everyone has access to the latest versions. This drastically reduces costs, time, and potential for mistakes or inconsistency.
  • Scalable. Once the server is setup, it is simple to add a new user.
  • Enhanced Security. With an RDS, no data is stored at the local level of the machine. RDS prevents users from installing unauthorized software, further protecting the data.  With this enhanced security, organizations are able to save on purchasing expensive laptops with encryption and can purchase significantly cheaper laptops or “dummy” computers as all the processing is done through the server.
  • Increased Mobility. Unlike with a standard VPN, users on an RDS are able to end a session on one device and pick it up at the same point on another. For example, if you are holding a meeting in a conference room, you can log into RDS and take notes.  Upon completion of the meeting, you can close out of the session and pick it back up at the same point on your laptop or other device.
  • Disaster Recovery. In the event of the office burning down or inaccessibility, as long as employees have a compatible VPN device, they can work like nothing happened if the RDS server is being hosted at another location.

Before you commit to what to think about when considering moving to RDS? Is this solution right for your business?

  • What programs do you regularly use? If you use programs that use a large amount of memory, RDS may not work for you – speed will become an issue. Some programs that are not compatible with RDS are: CAD programs, Graphics Rendering programs, and any program that requires bolstered hardware.
  • What is the size of your largest files? If you are not at the physical site that hosts the RDS server, it will take a significant amount of time to upload a movie file for example.
  • How many users will be on the network? This ensures you can allocate the necessary resources to each user so they will not see a reduction in speed.
  • Will there be any printers added to the server? It is helpful to know which printers end users will be printing to from the RDS server if it is hosted in the cloud. If it is a large-scale printer (such as a large-format plotter printer) cloud based RDS may not be the best option.

 

Be sure to have a full list of programs that your organization uses to ensure they will work in an RDS environment.  A Hybrid solution may be a good option for these organizations.

Working with a Managed IT service provider can assist you in seeing if an RDS environment is right for your organization.  You are not alone in this process, Bryley can help. Contact us at 844.449.8770 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com to learn more. We’re here for you.

 

1 http://blog.hcd.net/terminal-services-remote-desktop-services-the-many-benefits/

Bryley Success Story

Bryley technicians recently assisted one of our clients from what could have been a serious situation. The client’s server went down, and Bryley techs responded quickly to the matter. Actions were performed onsite, but further testing needed to be performed back at the Bryley Office.

It was determined that the client’s server was overheating and needed to be replaced or they risked losing their data. Luckily, Bryley had a spare server that ran on a similar operating system, so technicians were able to move it over and recover their information. The client was pleased to have their data recovered and is conducting regular backups.

We are extremely fortunate to recover their data, but this case highlights the importance of regular checks of one’s equipment as well as conducting backups on a reliable service, such as Bryley’s. Let Bryley help you double-check your IT infrastructure, recommend solutions to eliminate weak links in your security chain, and help you develop an organization-wide policy to help prevent data loss. Contact us at 978.562.6077 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com. We’re here to help.

Case Study: WRTA Turns to Bryley to Help Coordinate Move to New Facility and Deploy New Computer Infrastructure

The Company: Worcester Regional Transit Authority

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) services the City of Worcester and 36 surrounding towns with a bus fleet that includes all-electric buses and many diesel-electric hybrid buses. As the second-largest regional transit authority in Massachusetts, WRTA features a real-time bus arrival information system that includes the latest advancements in communication technologies—with automatic vehicle announcement, locator and monitoring systems as well as dynamic message signs. The organization is operated by Central Mass Transit Management.

The Challenge: Find an IT Partner Who Also Understands the Big Picture

As the buildings that house the buses, the garage, and the computer data center began to age and experience environmental issues, the WRTA planned a major move into a new facility. The servers and the network were also reaching end-of-life status, so the organization decided to upgrade the computer infrastructure at the same time.

Given the scope of the two projects, the WRTA had to coordinate planning across several third parties. When it came to the new server and network infrastructure, the organization thus needed an IT partner with high-level technology design skills who could also work well with the building construction crew as well as the telecommunications provider and the company that provides the technology to operate the buses.

“With all the moving parts and players, we needed an IT partner who would help us make sure the entire project kept moving forward,” says Donna Novelli, Director of Risk Management and Administration for Central Mass Transit Management, the private entity that manages operations for the WRTA. “It was important to work with someone who would focus on the big picture and not just be concerned with their role.”

The Solution: Bryley Systems—A Long-Time Trusted IT Partner

From the start of planning the project, which began several months before the move deadline, Novelli knew who the IT partner would be. She never considered anyone else.

“Bryley Systems has been our outsourced IT partner since 2011,” Novelli explains. “They have done a superb job keeping our computer network running at peak levels on a daily basis while also advising us when the time is right to deploy new technologies. Bryley has the technical and the logistical project management expertise as well as the resources to help organizations like ours successfully complete a major move and a technology upgrade at the same time.”

Knowing in advance that the move to the new facility would occur, Bryley advised WRTA to hold off on upgrading the computer network until the move and then helped the organization ensure the previous network infrastructure would continue to meet its IT needs. For the move to the new facility, Bryley designed a new computer infrastructure that includes 28 virtual server instances running on five physical Hewlett Packard servers, 16 Cisco network switches, and a Cisco Wi-Fi network.

The infrastructure is protected by four firewalls and system backups that replicate data and applications to an offsite data center managed by Bryley. Bryley also disconnected approximately 60 workstations in the old facility and then reconnected them in the new facility.

The Deployment: Changing Timeline Requires Nimble Flexibility

To help keep the project moving forward, Bryley Systems met with Novelli and the other partners on a weekly basis to synchronize their tasks. As Bryley configured and burned in the servers, switches and the Wi-Fi gear in advance of the implementation, the five-person team expected to have a six-week window in which all the devices could be deployed. But as the construction timeline changed, and as other partners needed more time to prepare their installations, the window shrunk to about two weeks.

“Bryley remained flexible the entire time, and they coordinated all their resources to make sure their portion of the project was still completed on schedule—despite the much shorter timeline,” Novelli says.

Bryley’s efforts included implementations during weekends and very early in the morning. With buses running until about midnight and starting up as early as 5:00 a.m. the next day, the downtime window was very small.

“We kept to our committed bus schedules even during the final cut-over weekend when we closed down the old building and made the final move into the new facility,” Novelli points out. “That was a big accomplishment, and Bryley played a major role in our success by adapting to the changing needs of the situation.”

Benefits: Improved Network Performance and Peace-of-Mind

With the new IT infrastructure, WRTA now has a complete virtual local-area-network along with a wireless network that both utilize the latest technologies. This includes advanced solid-state flash storage from Hewlett Packard that speeds up file save and access processes for end users such as vehicle tracking, location prediction and record keeping as well as real-time communication between drivers and dispatchers. The new network also ensures better application performance.

Looking back at the success of the project, Novelli says the major benefit that she and the organization receives from Bryley Systems is peace-of-mind knowing that IT systems will function as required: “Whether it’s handling a major move like this one, or making sure our computer network remains up-and-running, we trust Bryley to get the job done. They proactively make sure all the details are taken care of so that we can avoid surprises that hamper daily operations.”

The partnership with Bryley also continues to allow Novelli to maintain a minimal internal IT staff. “It’s just me and one other person—otherwise we rely on Bryley for everything from help desk support to long-term technology planning,” Novelli says. “We continue to partner with Bryley for their expertise and the value they bring to our organization. They provide a full range of staff that can assist at the consultant level for servers and design along with the technicians that help our end users. They are always responsive to anything new we need—even if we need it right away.”

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Major Benefits—IT Infrastructure Deployed in New Data Center by Bryley Systems:

  • Implemented during off-hours to avoid network downtime during operational hours.
  • Coordinated the deployment to sync with construction activities and actions of other vendors.
  • Met timeline requirements even as the window for deployment shrunk from six to two weeks.
  • Provided peace-of-mind that computer network would continue to function after the cut-over.
  • Delivered new technologies that enhance application performance for end users.
  • Enabled internal IT team to maintain minimal-size staff.