Oct 21 2011

When the Cloud Goes Dark — BizTech Quick Take

BizTech Quick Take is our weekly digital tour of the web, serving up news and notes on IT and business that you need to know — and some things you’ll simply be glad to know.

When The Cloud Goes Dark

The demand for cloud computing is an undeniable, unavoidable trend in business IT. Business managers are hearing all about the benefits of the extensible, flexible and scalable features that the cloud offers. This puts pressure on the IT team to pull together some sort of cloud solution for the organization. However, without a clear set of benchmarks, a defined scope and a thorough assessment of needs and resources, building a cloud quickly turns into a stormy nightmare.

Chuck Hollis of EMC recounts the story of what he saw at a large financial institution in a recent post on his blog. The IT team called him in as an EMC rep to gather more information on EMC products, as they were interested in possibly using them for their pieced-together cloud environment. But when Chuck began asking questions about the project and how it was going, he realized that the situation had some problems.

After offering some advice that the team start measuring its solution against vendor offerings on the market, Hollis closes with this takeaway:

The bottom line? Had they chosen a different path, they would have been using their cloud in production for several months. They'd be moving on to the next challenge. Or, they could look at what VCE had done, and make an informed case to do better themselves.

Instead, it looked like all they had was a pile of assembled components, and nothing really useful to show other than some interesting experiences and some more stuff to put on their resume.

Sure, there are cases I've seen where —yes — it could make sense to invest in a big team and a big project to create a hand-crafted cloud. But that's the rare exception, and only after a sober analysis of the costs and benefits of doing so.

The first few times I saw this, it was unusual. But it seems to be happening more.

And I think that's not too good for anyone.

Read Hollis’ full post on how a cloud computing solution can go wrong on Chuck’s Blog.

Stay One Step Ahead of IT Security Threats

IT security is in many ways, a living, breathing thing. New threats are generated daily and as solutions and patches are created, malware proprietors are hard at work creating newer, more aggressive malware to infiltrate enterprise IT networks and wreak havoc.

That’s why every business’ approach to IT security has to be one that is consistently looking ahead and scoping out the landscape. In other words, IT security isn’t a one-time fix, so every company needs to be in it for the long haul.

Cisco’s Small Business blog has some helpful advice for businesses that are worth reading up on. They list three approaches to staying on top of IT security threats:

Taking the DIY approach

If you have the resources and the inclination, you can squarely hit the moving target of security vulnerabilities on your own. First, start by subscribing to the security advisories that each vendor provides free of charge for their networking gear, computers, and software. Many companies publish an advisory for any issue impacting an individual product, so it’s possible you’ll receive a glut of alerts that don’t pertain to your network. So, make sure you know which products are installed on your network and just focus on the relevant advisories.

Signing up for a service

If you want some help with security updates but don’t want to invest a lot of money, you can subscribe to a service that provides an application that can help you find and automate software updates on your computers. Two popular free services are CNET TechTracker and Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI). These applications compare the software on a computer against a continuously refreshed database of vendors’ software updates and patches. The service then generates a report from which you can download the necessary software updates. Using your favorite engine, similar “vulnerability management” services are available for your network infrastructure.

Bringing in outside help

Keeping up with the latest security threats can be a full-time job. Sometimes the best way to stay current on vulnerabilities is to enlist the help of an expert, such as a local Cisco reseller who specializes in security. A partner can inventory your network devices and systems, monitor for security holes and other issues and install the appropriate patches or updates as needed.

Read more about keeping up with IT security on the Cisco Small Business blog.

It’s Time to Market IT Ops More Effectively

Sometimes you just need a good hype man. IT staffs do a lot of the critical work that keeps businesses running smoothly and efficiently, but too often they don’t get the credit or recognition they deserve.

That’s why Bill Keyworth, a consultant for the Cutter Consortium, believes it’s imperative that IT workers start marketing themselves and speak up about their value to the business.

If we don’t ensure market recognition of what we do within IT, it simply won’t happen. Delivery of technology and IT processes for business use is a competency factor that is second nature to IT operational staff whose career anchor is in providing critical automation tools and effective service.

However, positioning or “marketing” that delivery so that its value is simple, compelling and obvious to business personnel is not second nature to most IT professionals. Rather, within IT circles, it’s difficult and uncomfortable to blow your own horn. So the typical IT response may be, “Don’t they see what we’re doing for them?” Generally, the answer is “no.”

Can you think of some easy ways IT in your organization can communicate their value more effectively?

Read more about IT workers marketing themselves better in Keyworth’s post on the Cutter Consortium.

What’s Zombie Technology?

With Halloween around the corner, now is the perfect time to delve into the intersection of zombies and tech. But what is zombie technology exactly?

Greg Schulz of the Storage IO blog has some Halloween fun with IT as he examines the technologies that have been declared dead, yet still enable productivity for customers that use them and often profits for the vendors who sell them.

There’s of course much debate about exactly when a technology is dead. And that’s the point of Schulz’s list. In his opinion, the “zombie technologies” aren’t really dead at all and the fact they’ve still proven useful demonstrates that sometimes those who are eager to declare something as dead do so out of hype, rather than reality.

In Schulz’s eyes, becoming a zombie technology is actually a compliment too. “Being named a Zombie technology is actually an honor in that it usually means someone wants to see it dead so that his or her preferred product or technology can take its place,” writes Schulz.

Some of the zombie technologies that Schulz listed for 2011 include: Hard drives, printers, tape, fibre channel, data centers and PCs. Disagree? Then cast your vote in the poll.

Read more about Schulz’s zombie list on the Storage IO blog.

Spiceworks Community Is Getting Hot, Hot, Hot!

Spiceworks, the Facebook of the IT world, is growing at a healthy rate, according to Scott Abel, the site’s co-founder and CEO. The site now boasts 1.7 million IT professional users, according to a press release from the company. These users spent an impressive total of 350 million minutes on the site in September.

Here are a few interesting statistics about this growing IT community:

  • SMB IT pros worldwide now use Spiceworks to manage 97 million computers and devices and support 58 million workers. This is the equivalent of supporting more than double the number of employees of all the Fortune 500 companies combined.
  • Spiceworks has powered 174 million help desk interactions and currently manages more than 10,947 total petabytes of storage.
  • IT professionals in the Spiceworks community have created 120,000 different discussion topics and 830,000 unique posts related to SMB IT management. In addition, they have rated and reviewed 25,000 technology products.

The company is currently hosting its annual user conference, Spiceworld, in Austin, Texas. And they’ve recently rolled out Spice buttons, which you can see and use right here on BizTechMagazine.com. Also, be sure to follow CDW’s official profile on Spiceworks as well.

For more on the growth of Spiceworks, read the press release from MarketWatch.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Did you know that October is national Cybersecurity Awareness Month? The campaign was started by the Department of Homeland Security, the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, reports Absolute Software.

As any IT security professional knows, the first step to waging a winning battle in IT security is raising awareness. If people don’t know security is important or how it’s important, they’re less likely to pay attention to it.

How will you be celebrating Cybersecurity Awareness Month in your organization? Perhaps you can go to the office dressed in overalls made of McAfee and Norton antimalware boxes on Halloween.

Read more about National Cybersecurity Awareness Month on the Absolute Software blog.

7 Steps to Windows 7 Migration

The clock is ticking on support for Windows XP. Has your organization made the switch to Windows 7 yet?

If not, you might find our seven-step guide to a successful Windows 7 migration handy. Alan Joch writes about seven steps he picked up from a Symantec community manager on making the switch. These simple and concise tips are strong guidelines for drawing up enterprise OS migration plans.

Read all of the seven steps to a smooth Windows 7 Migration in this article from BizTech.

Find great content from the bloggers listed here and other IT blogs by checking out our 50 Must-Read IT Blogs.