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Five Business Benefits of Virtualization

Posted & filed under Networking Solutions, Software.

It’s a safe bet your business is always looking for ways to reduce waste. One place you might not yet have looked? Virtualization of your information technology. Choosing to virtualize servers offers several business benefits. Here are the top five.

Let’s first clarify what we mean by virtualization. We’re not talking about a Ready Player One-like takeover of your business. Employees aren’t donning VR headsets to work in an all-encompassing virtual universe.

Instead, we’re referring to a virtualization of servers. The work of multiple physical servers are handled on a single server or a cloud-based environment. Say you have three physical servers: one handles mail, another handles internet and routing, and the third proprietary, business applications. Each of these dedicated servers may not be at full capacity, but you need all three.

With virtualization, the workloads are no longer tied to specific hardware. Software monitors and allocates IT resources. This means many things can happen at once on the same machines. That’s where we start seeing the benefits this article explores.

Virtual Server

#1 Greater Efficiency

With virtualization you can make better use of your server capabilities. Computer hardware running a single operating system or application underutilizes your IT. Organizations running more than one virtual system on a server take full advantage of their tech.

#2 Lower Costs

Virtualizing a server helps reduce spending. Housing many applications on one server, a business better meets storage and processing demands. This can cut down on hardware expenditure.

The business also isn’t paying to power machines it isn’t using fully. Plus, cutting back on hardware in the physical environment can reduce cooling demands. This saves on energy bills while helping the business’s corporate social responsibility goals.

Reclaiming the space used for physical servers, the business can also increase profit generation.

#3 Improved Responsiveness

Virtualization offers greater operational flexibility. A business can respond to market changes with faster dynamic resource management. With a virtual server, you can backup operating systems and applications efficiently. Rather than dealing with hours of downtime, a virtual environment is deployed in minutes. Moving, copying, or saving data from virtualized machines can be point-and-click simple.

#4 Enhanced Disaster Recovery

A severe weather event or malware attack could take a physical server out of commission. The business struggles to install its backup (if it has one) on a new server. With a virtualized server, it’s much simpler to replicate that information.

It’s also easier to do full backups with server virtualization. A business is more likely to have the latest, most up-to-date data available in the event of a disaster.

#5 Reduced Need for Repairs and Support

Owning physical servers means constant monitoring and maintenance demands. Reducing the need for physical hardware can cut back on repairs and demand for support. With fewer servers and related hardware, valuable IT experts can focus on challenging, rewarding work. That helps with employee morale and retention, too!

Gartner (a research and advisory company) has estimated that businesses that virtualize save up to 50% compared to those relying on physical resources. That virtualized business is also increasing their speed and security. Save the staggering costs of downtime, and improve IT productivity with server virtualization.

Ready for virtualization? We can set up the right virtualization solution for your business. Reach out to us today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

Take IT off Your Plate with an MSP Partnership

Posted & filed under IT Security.

Let’s be realistic. You don’t care about information technology (IT). Or, you do, but only so far as it supports you getting the things you care about done. You’d rather not think about IT at all. Many businesses are that way. That’s fine by us. We care enough about IT for all our clients.

You love developing products, designing campaigns, or determining financial strategy for clients. A managed services provider loves supporting you in doing those things. You don’t have to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of networks, systems, software, and applications. We will. Happily.

Managed Service Provider

The thing is, we typically aren’t aware of what we don’t know. You may have more of a general feeling of unease. You wonder if:

  • your business could be performing better;
  • your team could be collaborating more;
  • your processes could be more efficient;
  • you have the right answers to cybersecurity risks and issues;
  • your business has the best technological tools to meet its needs.

But the learning curve seems too steep, and you have other things to be doing for your business. Researching new technologies, weighing upgrades, keeping up with cybersecurity, and maintaining and monitoring IT are responsibilities you’d rather avoid.

Yet being uninformed is not going to work as an excuse in a breach, and your employees expect high-quality technology in their work. To recruit and retain people who drive business success, you need IT to support mobility, efficiency, and productivity. Your people want the tools to work smarter, not harder.

That’s why many businesses turn to Managed Service Providers (MSPs) for help.

MSPs Make Your IT Their Business

So, IT isn’t what interests you. That’s fine. Partner instead with a service provider focused on IT. You can keep doing what you do best and care most about. But you can be confident your IT strategy is smart and secure.

Plus, you can save money working with an MSP. For one, the MSP gets to know business processes and objectives to help your IT infrastructure run better.

Your IT partner will identify opportunities for greater efficiency. Perhaps you’re paying for software licenses you don’t need, or you could gain greater mobility and improve business continuity with cloud migration.

Your MSP partner will do the research to make sure your business is benefitting from its IT savvy. The MSP doesn’t gain from selling you more than you need. This expert team shops around for the right plans (whether office broadband, mobile phones, or cloud subscriptions). Even small businesses can access the best technological tools.

The MSP can also provide server monitoring and IT maintenance services. You may know you need antivirus protection and firewalls, but that may not be enough. Your IT partner can do a cybersecurity assessment. This lets your business be proactive instead of trying to fix problems later. Gartner estimates business downtime can cost as much as $5,600 per minute or around $300,000 per hour. That’s a financial hit you want to avoid.

Plus, the right MSP tailors its services to your workload size, regardless of company size. The goal is to match your business with the right technology to do things better and cheaper. It may not interest you, but it’s a fun challenge for our IT experts.

Don’t leave your technology and cybersecurity needs unattended. Be proactive with an MSP as your IT partner. Our experts guide IT strategy, secure systems, and suggest solutions to achieve your business goals.

No matter how you feel about IT, we care a lot. Contact us today!Give PGP Computers a call at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

11 Reasons To Upgrade to Office 365 Today

Posted & filed under Software.

With Office 365, it seems common sense has finally prevailed, giving business the changes they actually want. It’s still Office, and your staff will still know exactly how to work it, but they’ll get so much more done.

1. The whole Mac/Windows drama is over

Office 365 brings with it a stack of benefits, but perhaps the most relieving is the in-built file compatibility across all platforms. No more converting (or corrupting) files back and forth, productivity black holes have essentially been eliminated.

2. It’s always ready to go

Microsoft are so confident in their cloud-based software and data storage; they’re giving a 99.9% uptime guarantee. You can even call a real life human for support.

Work online, offline or mobile – the choice is yours.

3. Security is built in

A large part of Microsoft’s uptime certainty comes from their extremely robust security protocols. Office 365 offers enterprise-grade admin controls at your end, as well as government-grade security at their end.

4. Generous data allowances

Each user gets 1TB of cloud space for file storage, which can be shared at folder or file level.

5. Work anywhere, anytime

Previously, staff needed to establish a VPN or manage security concerns which made working off-site difficult and cumbersome. Office 365 has solved that problem and working from anywhere is now easy.

6. Integrated organization

Calendar, email and contacts are all synced and updated across multiple devices: Laptop, desktop & mobile.

7. Yours for no upfront costs

Once upon a time, updating your Office version meant paying a small fortune and half a day downtime. Office 365 changes that, with no upfront cost or installation delay.

8. Mailbox storage through the roof

Forget the days of ‘user mailbox is full’ – each user is given a whopping 50GB in a gorgeous, easy-to-use mailbox.

9. Built in malware and spam protection

Data security doesn’t stop at file storage: email is scanned for malware and spam, protecting your organization from all manner of attacks before they happen.

10. Collaboration tools and virtual meeting

Cancel your 3rd party services and bring all your collaborations into the one platform.

11. Integrated Team planning

Schedule tasks, meetings and track allocations from a top-down level to know exactly how projects are progressing.

If you need help with your Office 365 migration and setup, give PGP Computers a call at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

What is the Best Way to Backup?

Posted & filed under IT Security.

“That will never happen to me.” We get through our lives telling ourselves the worst won’t happen to us. It’s the same with business: “We won’t need this data backup.” Yet, whatever your industry, secure, reliable backup ensures business as usual. So, what’s the best way to backup? Here’s help.

Why You Need to Backup

  1. Business disruptions of any kind can be costly. The disaster might take one of several shapes:
  2. Natural (e.g. wildfires, floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes)
  3. On-site (e.g. hardware/software failure, power outage, inability to access building)
  4. Employee driven (e.g. damaging mistakes or intentional sabotage by a disgruntled employee)
  5. Cyber-attack (e.g. data breach, ransomware, or distributed denial of service attack).  

Regardless, the best backup solution can help reduce downtime and damage. 

Data Backup

Approaches to Backup

There are several off-the-shelf backup options your business can use. Let’s consider the pros and cons of the most popular ones.  

USB Thumb Drives — Also known as “flash drives,” “pen drives,” or “memory sticks,” these thumb-sized devices are compact and portable. But, they have size limitations compared to hard drives. Also, the mobility makes them easy to lose (which can actually set the disaster scenario in motion).  

Additionally, a USB thumb drive is robust when not plugged in, but more vulnerable when attached. If someone inadvertently snaps the drive or employs too much force, they can put the data on that backup at risk.

The cheap ones also tend to be slow, which can make backing up sluggish. 

USB Hard Drives — Portable hard drives increase the data storage available, often at a decent price. They are designed to be compact and mobile. You can prioritize durability, processing speed, storage volumes and more. 

Hard drives are less likely to get damaged than a thumb drive. If knocked or jostled, the cables are flexible. Still, a hard drive can be prone to physical failure. Selecting an external solid slate drive (SSD) can help since it has no moving parts. Information is stored instead in microchips. 

Cloud Storage — Backing up to the cloud stores data on an external, secure server. If thieves take your computers and USB backup, you can still access your data on the cloud. Cloud storage providers build in redundancy to ensure your backup remains safe.  

Most cloud storage services back up to secure centers with thousands of servers storing data. Oh, and they’ll have their own server backups too, just in case they’re the ones hit by a disaster. The providers also encrypt data during transit to further ensure compliance and security. 

Migrating to a third-party cloud storage service also cuts the clutter at your premises. You can count on expert help to ensure security and compliance. Plus, you can cut operational costs by offloading in-house storage or external hard drive expenses. 

OK, What’s the Best Answer? 

Don’t think disaster won’t strike your business. Research has found data loss and downtime are most often caused by:

  • Hardware failures (45% of total unplanned downtime)
  • Loss of power (35%)
  • Software failure (34%)
  • Data corruption (24%)
  • External security breaches (23%)
  • Accidental user error (20%). 

We recommend the 3-2-1 backup strategy. This means having 3 copies of your data. Two (2) of these would be located on different devices (e.g. on your computer and on a backup drive). The other remaining backup copy (1) would be secured offsite, in the cloud.

If you need advice or assistance on how to backup data for your business, give PGP Computers a call at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

What’s Causing Your Bandwidth Woes?

Posted & filed under Networking Solutions.

Every time employees send or receive data online they need bandwidth. Like time and money, bandwidth is a scarce resource in many offices. After all, computers and digital devices rely on bandwidth to complete tasks online.

Bandwidth is the amount of information that can be sent or received per second. This might be measured in Kbps (thousands of bits per second) or Mbps (millions of bits per second). Many people think having a higher bandwidth will mean a faster user experience. In fact, it’s only one factor that affects response time. Bandwidth is actually about capacity more than speed.

Eight bits of information is one byte. A byte is the amount of memory it takes to store one character, such as the letter “Q.”

You can’t drive fast on a one-lane road when there’s a lot of traffic. You also can’t navigate the information highway as quickly in online congestion. If you’re the only one in the office late at night, you’ll have no trouble trying to stream an online webinar, but you might struggle to stream the same webinar when sales are on a video conference call and advertising are sending a graphic-heavy email.

Handling Bandwidth Issues

What Is Using Bandwidth?

There is greater demand on bandwidth every day. Your business migrated to cloud services for greater mobility and online consistency, but sharing information in real time requires bandwidth usage to synchronize data.

Backing up to the cloud provides businesses with greater peace of mind, yet it can be a headache if that backup is happening right when you want to get on a video chat with a client – your connection can suffer. You’ll be that person who keeps dropping in and out of that important meeting!

When you’re using an online meeting tool (audio or video), you can also slow things down for others.

Even email needs bandwidth to send and receive data. The bigger the files (e.g. images or spreadsheets), the more bandwidth activity. Uploading a few PDFs can take up 20–40Mb of the total, which can choke a network with limited upload capacity.

All those personal devices your people are bringing to work can make a difference, too. Smartphones will often start backing up to the cloud when they are on a Wi-Fi network.

Bandwidth Usage Solutions

Often, there is no option for greater bandwidth because the infrastructure where you’re located won’t support greater bandwidth. You’re already getting the most capacity your provider can offer.

Still, there are ways to better manage bandwidth:

  • Switch to a business-grade router or a Unified Threat Management (UTM) appliance. These allow you to identify and manage bandwidth usage better. They also add security (firewalls, filtering) to your network connection.
  • Set up Quality of Service (QoS) to rank the activities your business values more (e.g. configuring video conferencing to take data preference ahead of file downloads).
  • Block some devices entirely, such as employee phones backing up to the cloud.
  • Schedule some activities for a more convenient time (e.g. set your system backups to happen in the middle of the night, fewer people are likely to be trying to do things online).

Want to regain control of your internet capacity? A managed services provider can monitor traffic and usage, and help you set up a solution for smarter bandwidth usage.

Improve productivity and give employees something to smile about (other than a cat riding a vacuum cleaner on Facebook) with better bandwidth management.

If you need assistance managing bandwidth for your business, give PGP Computers a call at 763-691-1957 or contact us.