Bare-Metal Cloud Beats Virtualization for Web and eCommerce Hosting

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided by Graeme Caldwell — Graeme works as an inbound marketer for InterWorx, a revolutionary web hosting control panel for hosts who need scalability and reliability. Follow InterWorx on Twitter at @interworx, Like them on Facebook and check out their blog, http://www.interworx.com/community.

Here’s a question that many who enthusiastically embrace the cloud don’t seem to consider: who does cloud virtualization benefit? The cloud industry would have you believe that the checks are all in the client’s column, but for the vast majority of use-cases, and particularly those that involve web and eCommerce hosting, virtualization’s main benefits accrue to the vendor. If you recall, the first cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service platforms were developed by Internet giants like Amazon who had excess capacity that frequently sat idle. Virtualization allowed them to sell that excess capacity to clients as virtual servers and networking infrastructure, maximizing the ROI on their hardware procurement and maintenance budgets.

It was a smart strategy and one that prompted an explosion of interest from data center and hosting providers who wanted a way to increase the efficiency of their hardware utilization in an industry that was being forced by price wars in a highly competitive environment to ever narrower profit margins.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service provided definite benefits to certain areas of the market. But those benefits are not universal, in fact they pertain to a fairly narrow sector. It’s useful to those who want access to High-Performance Computing without renting time on a supercomputer. It’s great for a service like Netflix that depends on high levels of elasticity. And it’s handy for development and testing, where the ability to spin up an ephemeral test platform is useful.

But web and eCommerce hosting are a radically different proposition, ones for which performance, stability, reliability, and availability are of significantly greater importance than by-the-hour elasticity. For site owners, the purported benefits of virtualized platforms don’t really apply. Instead, the vendors get the advantage of virtualization and clients get the all of the negatives: degraded performance for very little in return.

In comparison to virtualized cloud platforms, bare-metal clouds, in which the virtualization layer is eschewed and client operating systems run directly on the physical hardware, provide significantly better price/performance ratios.

Cloud cheerleaders might consider bare-metal clouds a retrograde step, but that’s an attitude that reflects a belief that one strategy is best for all situations. If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Stepping back from the hype and focusing on what hosting clients really need, it’s clear that bare-metal clouds or server clusters are the best option. They’re not as elastic as virtualized platforms, but almost no-one actually needs that level of elasticity, and certainly not the average web site or eCommerce store. Any decent hosting provider is capable of managing horizontal scaling of a bare-metal cloud on a timescale of hours and days, which is more than sufficient for all but a tiny percentage of users.

With a bare-metal cloud, you get all of the performance, scalability at speeds adequate to meet the needs of almost every business, and none of the negative consequences of running a virtualization layer.

Infographic: Fun Facts About the Internet of Things

The number of connected devices is steadily increasing, fuelling the continued growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). To help demonstrate the impact IoT will have, we’ve created an infographic containing six fun facts about the technology.

6 Fun Facts IoT

For businesses that haven’t adopted IoT yet, it’s time to start thinking about what your competitors could do if they embraced IoT solutions faster than your company? Or consider what new business ventures can be created through the use of IoT. This technology has the potential to change the way companies communicate with their customers, and the way customers interact with their devices. If you haven’t started exploring IoT – now is the time (like, right now).

Don’t know where to start? Click here to learn more about Internet of Things.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

5 Tips on Protecting Your Business from a DDoS Attack

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An escalating number of businesses are falling victim to distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks. Compared to this period last year, there has been an 47% increase in the total number of DDoS strikes. The companies that take advantage of their attack experience by learning from it and educating their employees on cyber security go a long way. Getting hit by a DDoS attack can help uncover some vulnerabilities or mistakes that your IT department may not have previously been aware of. Combining your experiences with these 5 tips on protecting your business from a DDoS attack is the best way to help prevent future incidents.

  1. Conduct an Assessment: Review your company’s current state of network security – whether you’ve experienced problems in the past or not. This will give you a sense of where your weak points are and allow you to reinforce them.
  2. Know your Network: Reducing the cost and impact of an attack starts with early detection. The better you know your network, the easier it is for you to identify a problem. Having an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each network component will also give you a better understanding of what kind of assaults you can protect yourself from (such as a small attack originating from a single IP address) and if you need to outsource to help fill any security holes.
  3. Implement General Rules to Help Mitigate Attacks: Some general rules to help defend against a DDoS attack include turning down all unnecessary ports and protocols, implement an IP blacklist, block invalid and malformed packets, and configure and harden network equipment.
  4. Communicate with your ISP: In some instances, an attack can be so big that it completely saturates your bandwidth, making any other preventative tactics ineffective. Be sure to learn the procedures for getting your ISP to intervene if necessary. Work with your ISP to plan and practice for any possible large-scale attacks, and be sure to examine your Service Level Agreement (SLA) to learn your ISP’s options for defending against DDoS assaults.
  5. Create an Action Plan: In the unfortunate even that your company suffers an attack, having an action plan in place can help you stay in control – because once an attack is occurring, it’s too late to decide what action to take and how to respond. Be sure to structure your plan by severity level, since your responder actions will vary depending on the impact of the attack.

DDoS attacks can happen to any business at any moment. It’s naive to think that your website is too small to attract the attention of hackers, especially since DDoS is a relatively easy attack to perform. Reducing the cost of an attack starts with preparation and early detection.

Click here to learn more about how to protect your company from cyber attacks.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

The Pros and Cons of Hosting Your Website

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided by Nina Hiatt, a freelance writer who researches and creates articles on a variety of topics – including news and technology. You can learn more by visiting her Google+ profile by clicking here.

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Sorting through all the available web hosting services takes time and presents an overwhelming number of options. Wouldn’t it just be easier (and cheaper) to host the site yourself? Here are some pros and cons to help your company decide:

Pros:

Hardware Control. The biggest benefit of hosting your website in house is that you have complete controlover the entire process. You control the hardware specifications, which means you can utilize hardware combinations that datacenters may not offer.

Web hosting providers usually have different sizes and speeds of processors, memory, storage, and bandwidth. Usually when you want more storage, you have to pay for a faster processor and more bandwidth as well.

However, certain websites may benefit from having large memory and a slower processor, or a fast processor and little storage. If you are hosting your own site, you can make decisions as to how fast, slow, big, or small your equipment is. Your company can also save money by not paying for services you don’t need for your site.

Money Savings. Any time you decide to provide a service on your own, you will be saving money. There’s no need to stress over paying bills or worrying about what products you have access to with your subscription package.

Software Control. Self-hosting a site also gives you control over the software you use and what features you put on your company website. If you use a free hosting service, like WordPress or BlogSpot, you may not have access to all the features you’d like your website to have. Even a paid hosting service may not offer what you are looking for, like chat capabilities or ecommerce.

Making Changes. Any changes, updates, or modifications can be made quickly and easily. You don’t have to go through a technical staff. If you make any changes you don’t like, you can immediately reset everything to its original state.

Instant Satisfaction. If you want to make changes to your server or your site, you can make the changes instantly. There is no waiting period between communicating your desires to the web hosting company, and seeing the changes on your site.

Cons:

Complete Responsibility. Along with complete control comes complete responsibility. You’re company can decide what hardware to use, but you have to actually know how to use it. If anything breaks down, it is up to you to figure out the problem and find a solution.

24/7 Duty. You are also responsible for monitoring your site at all times. If your server goes down, nobody is going to alert you that there is an issue. You not only have to fix all issues, but you have to be able to detect them as well.

Web Providers. Another potential roadblock you may run in to with web hosting is that many web providers don’t allow their users to host their own. Some of them explicitly forbid it in their contracts or they block the ports needed for hosting. Still others may dramatically increase their prices for any subscribers who want to run a server.

Even if your broadband connection does allow you to connect your own server, it probably won’t be as quick or as reliable as you will need for your site. Any downtime your web provider experiences will affect your server and your site.

Heat and Noise. Housing all the necessary hardware for a website server means you will have some loud equipment in your office. Servers generate a lot of heat, and the sound of the fans mixed with the sound of the processor will create a constant hum. The more traffic your site gets, the harder your server will have to work, and the hotter it will be. You may have to use additional cooling devices in the room where you house all of the equipment.

Takes more Time. . Letting someone host your site for you—called “managed cloud hosting” or “managed web hosting,” depending on which you choose—means that you don’t have to spend time worrying about or fixing any issues that come up. You can just sit back and work on the content of your site. When you host your own site, you will have less time to spend on the site itself.

Some Final Words of Advice

If you decide to host your site on your own, make sure you have all the technical knowledge you will need to manage the hardware and software. If you opt for managed web hosting, shop around and find the service provider that will best meet your needs. Hosting companies will usually show a comparison of their different packages. You can see examples of different packages on sites like VI.net, or you can read articles on sites like lifehacker.com that talk about the top web hosting companies and what they offer.

 

Data Loss and Business Downtime

Over the past year, computer users worldwide created 1.8 billion gigabytes of data. Much of that data was pertinent for business dealings and operations. Unfortunately, some of that data was also lost, causing expensive downtime for businesses – many of which will never recover from the loss.

There are several factors that commonly contribute to the loss of data. However, the two top causes of data loss are the failure of an uninterrupted power supply and human error. Some of the other top causes include exceeding UPS capacity, cyber-attacks, equipment failure, water incursion, weather-related issues and circuit breaker failure. There are several business continuity tactics and procedures that companies can put in place to prevent or diminish the impact. However, businesses need to implement a disaster recovery plan as well in case their prevention methods were not enough.

Of companies that lose a data center for 10 days, 93 percent file for bankruptcy within a year. Additionally, 43 percent of companies that experience such disasters never reopen. Only six percent of companies without a recovery plan will survive long term. Companies that design and implement a disaster recovery plan have a better chance of surviving catastrophic data loss.

First, businesses need to perform an impact analysis, which involves organizing the data by order of recovery importance. It is important to identify your company’s most valuable assets and critical business functions. These are the tools that must be preserved in an emergency in order to keep your business operational.

Next, companies should perform risk assessment in which they identify potential points of system failure and then take action to eliminate as many as possible. By proactively testing your operational functions for a weak spot, you may be able to prevent a larger problem from occurring. Finally, each company needs to manage their risks by instituting solutions that address points of vulnerability.

This infographic was supplied to us by SingleHop. SingleHop is dedicated to bringing cloud hosting solutions to businesses. They build and maintain hosted infrastructures for companies worldwide.

Technology Trends Expected to Change the Game

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Ramya Raju, a freelance writer from India. With over 8 years of writing experience, Raju discusses a variety of topics, such as data centre technologies, SEO, web design, and mobile. You can learn more about him by visiting his website. 

Whirlwind changes are happening in the world of business and organizations, and that has had an impact on IT as well. The IT sector will have to go through a major transformation in 2014 and that can be seen in cloud, mobile and social technologies. There is an increasing amount of focus and demand on access to information, and these technologies are quickly “coming of age” in order to keep up. As a result, it’s now necessary for companies, especially their IT, to reinvent themselves. And there are some major trends that will make their presence felt in 2014.

The Internet of Things will make things more interesting and challenging for IT

There are a large number of Smartphones and devices that are out there today. Bring your own device (BYOD) culture is also gaining ground to a large extent and that in itself can be a tricky proposition for IT. But things won’t stop at that because Internet Of Things will pose further challengers to IT masters. It involves different types of constituents including wearable personal technology and smart consumer and medical devices. There are sensors in different parts of the world and connected machines to deal with as well, and that doesn’t make the task of IT any easier.

IPv6 has been lapped up in all kinds of places and the addresses it comes with are endless. Thus there is going to be an explosion of data that will have to be handled very carefully. Thus there will be a growing emphasis on scalability and complexity. IT will have a task on its hands when it comes to these factors.

Analytics gains prominence

The industry has often focussed on connection and data movement. Immediate application functionality was another aspect that was given a lot of importance. But now Analytics will takes its place of pride. It will definitely move from being an add-on that often seemed like an afterthought for people till date.  There are several factors that have contributed to this sea change in approach. The major onslaught of large amounts of data is one factor and the impact of Internet Of Things is another. The importance of data is also observed and acknowledged a lot more today, which has made it necessary for people to incorporate analytics right from the beginning. Context sensitive and location aware abilities for IT will also become common place.

More attention on apps

People are paying a lot of attention to the performance and functionality of major projects, especially in the healthcare sector. But expectations from application delivery will be a lot higher in 2014 and things like model drives, user based development will be stressed upon. Thus IT has its task cut out as far as apps are concerned.

It means that the new age, fast development tools will be in the spotlight. People will also have to think about processes that will lead to speedy delivery, which will remain important. Other crucial aspects to think about will be predictability and reliability. To make things more challenging, people will have to think hard about meeting service level requirements and keeping the costs under control as well.

PaaS will be widely accepted

Platform-as-a-Service will get its due and wide recognition in 2014 and it will be one of the important trends of the year. This is a cloud layer that certainly has its advantages and they will be noticed by people, who are only going to lap it up. Some of its benefits include agility, analytics and faster development. Moreover it is more suited for scalability, which is something people will want. And of course, it has the cost benefits of cloud, which will be a huge bonus.

There are few other reasons why people will take to PaaS in 2014. It is known to offer structure and control for strategic needs of organizations. And that’s an appealing proposition for companies irrespective of their size. Once these advantages are noticed, the industry will be forced through a major change. It will lead to business specialists being in charge of data integration tools. Overall data integration will become omnipresent.

Budget Shift in IT

Now that cloud is becoming widely accepted and democratized, development trends seem to be the norm, individual lines of business will start getting more power. They will be in a position to start funding their own projects and wrest the initiative from IT.

As a result, companies and CIOs will have to come up with strategies to ensure that they cope with the evolving climate without losing information. They will also have to ensure that there are no security risks involved and they don’t get into technically dead-end situations. Things will change rapidly and they will have to learn to adapt quickly.

In 2014, one size fits all philosophy will become more redundant than ever before. It could mean different things and strategies for different people based on their requirements but they will certainly have to be worked on. In short, it’s all about making it possible to access information anywhere, anytime and wherever it’s needed.

The Great NSA Debate has Companies Moving to Canada

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This week, privacy advocates around the world staged a protest online in an attempt to protect their data and company information from the world’s government intelligence agencies. Over 6,000 websites took part in the protest, which was branded as “The Day We Fight Back” campaign, by displaying banners at the bottom of their web pages to encourage individuals and companies to participate. Heavy hitters like Google, Twitter, and Mozilla took part in the protest.

Even though the protest itself was more of a whimper than a roar, the controversy over government surveillance still had a significant impact on the businesses economy south of the Canadian border. A recent estimate completed by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation stated that the American economy could stand to lost up to $35 billion in lost revenues as a result. Because of our proximity to the U.S., skilled workforce, cold climate, and affordable energy sources, Canada is a very ideal location for businesses who no longer want to house their data in the States. Several businesses have already made the move to a Canadian-based data centre, including European banking and insurance firms with operations in the States as well as American retail outlets and oil and gas companies.

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Telus and Rogers are expecting data storage sales in Canada to increase by 20% this year, not including the number of businesses seeking refuge from the ever-watching eye of the NSA. Though it would be naive to assume to any data stored in Canada is fully exempt from government surveillance, there are stricter rules on what government agencies can access. The Canadian Privacy Act, established in 1983, limits the amount of personal information the government can collect, use, and disclose.

So what does this mean for Canadian businesses? With more businesses looking for storage in data centre colocation facilities, there will be increased competition for space. Data centres are a finite resource. Once the space is gone – it’s gone, putting pressure on Canadian companies to get their foot in the door before the data centre is full. Many companies will also be looking to utilize cloud computing services, further driving the demand.

There will also be an increased need for bandwidth as businesses transfer data to their colocation facility or cloud, so obtaining a reliable and secure high speed connection is critical. In order to obtain the full benefits of cloud computing, users will require a symmetrical connection so they can upload and download data at an efficient rate.

To learn more about Canadian data centres, click here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

How to Train Employees on Company Cyber Security

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Theo Schmidt, an independent blogger. Schmidt has an interest in computer science and engineering, which he uses to fuel his blogging. You can learn more about him on Google+.

No matter your line of work, company cyber security is something that should weigh heavily on your mind. Whether it be phishing scams or malware attacks, it is important to ensure that employees know what they are expected to do to prevent and avoid security breaches.

Suspicious Links

It is important that employees realize that the sites they visit can negatively affect the entire company. Typically these sites are not sought after but are brought on via email or links from other sites.

A company can help to prevent visitation to harmful websites by installing a powerful firewall protection. However, employees are at the front lines of defense. They must be trained and reminded that bad links can be just as dangerous as anything else on the web.

Unknown Emails

Scammers and phishers know what they’re doing when they try to trick people into giving up information. Sometimes an email is an obvious scam—a prince in Nairobi is asking for monetary donations or something equally ridiculous. Other emails can be a bit trickier though.

Email scammers are getting smarter and better at making the email address look legitimate. Often they will attach a file that they want downloaded disguised as a form or important information. However, once the file is downloaded the company’s security, data, contacts, and even financial information can be at risk.

Employees should exercise extreme caution when downloading any file, whether they think they recognize it or not. In general, it is smarter to keep computers as clean as possible and storing only work-related materials.

Logging In

When employees are asked to log in to sites they are not familiar with using their company login information, plenty of information is automatically given up to the intruding site. From there it is possible that they will be asked to download files, give up more information, or the site will simply have the password and username on hand for whatever they wish to do.

Logging in to an untrustworthy site is an easy albeit foolish mistake to make. It is important to make employees aware of the risks at hand. Companies can still protect themselves with encryption software and training to help employees spot these scamming sites.

Sharing Information

Additionally, it is key that employees recognize the importance of keeping the company’s data safe and secure. This means that not only should they do what they can to keep it safe inside, they won’t let it be leaked outside as well.

Information can be leaked via blogs, emails, or anything else. Employees should keep passwords secret and frequently change them. Passwords should never be repeated on multiple sites.

Enforce Change

Keeping employees up on security procedures is a process. Employees won’t change their behavior overnight nor will they decide to care about the company’s security on a whim. It must be made a part of their everyday job expectations to work against cyber threats. Just like any other positive behavior in employees, it should be recognized and reinforced.

In the war against scammers, human error is the bigger problem. According to Comptia, 55% of breaches are due to mistakes made by employees. It can be difficult to spot potential problems because so often fake websites, emails, and links look real. However, the flaws are in the details.

Companies that store important data like electronic medical records, financial records, and other personal information are at a high risk of intrusion. Employees must be trained to diligently watch for signs of a breach in cyber security. So long as they know what to be aware of and what threat they themselves could pose, they can help the company by becoming part of the defense and less of a liability.

For more information on data protection, check out the Practice Studio website.

To learn about storing company information in a secure location, click here.

What’s Preventing your Company from Adopting the Cloud?

Without a doubt, the number of IT professionals utilizing cloud technology is steadily increasing. The cloud provides companies with a secure, convenient virtual location to store their data. Many companies are also using the cloud for disaster recovery and Platform as a Service (PaaS). However, a recent study has revealed some unanticipated hurdles that companies need to overcome in order to adopt cloud computing.

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The study, conducted by TheInfoPro, found that people, process, policy, and organizational issues are the four biggest obstacles to overcome when adopting cloud technology. It’s undeniable that cloud computing is expected to grow exponentially over the next couple years, but the roadblocks mentioned above are impacting the completion of any cloud related projects.

83% of IT professionals reported that they are experiencing difficulty implementing their cloud computing initiatives, which is a 9% increase since the end of 2012. However, IT-related roadblocks have actually decreased by 15%. Of the 83% of respondents that cited difficulties, 68% reported non-IT related obstacles as the problem.

The study also revealed that cloud security was another significant pain point for IT professionals. However, there is a variety of software and hardware tools available to IT members looking for increased protection. Additionally, many cloud vendors are recognizing that security is a concern for IT employees and are taking steps to implement additional protection.

Installing firewalls and obtaining your Internet connection through a reputable provider is two simple ways IT members can help protect the company network. However, when it comes to obstacles that are outside the control of IT employees, the solution isn’t quite as simple. Prior to implementing cloud initiatives, department leaders must be aligned. If every department is doing their part to support the implementation of cloud technology, the transition will be much easier.

To read the study conducted by TheInfoPro, click here.

To learn more about obtaining a secure Internet connection, click here.

Blog author: Vanessa Hartung

8 Tips for Securing Your Wi-Fi

Our previous blog outlined the importance of protecting your computer network by implementing a firewall. Protecting your network or device is even more important for those utilizing Wi-Fi to access their Internet service. The convenience of using Wi-Fi is undeniable, since it allows for company members to connect to the secure wifiInternet anywhere in your office – no wires necessary, but it also provides hackers with an alternative access point. To ensure that your Wi-Fi is secure, we’ve compiled a list of 8 tips for protecting your Wi-Fi network.

  1. Change the name of your network: The network SSID, or name, is actually part of the security for encrypted network. If your company uses a default Wi-Fi network name, it can make it easier for hackers to quickly guess your password.
  2. Use a strong password: Having a strong password can prevent hackers from breaking in to your network. Simple passwords can be cracked in a short amount of time.
  3. Use strong encryption: Enabling Wi-Fi protected access provides stronger encryption.
  4. Hide your SSID: Your company’s SSID, or network name, can be hidden from the list of Wi-Fi networks that are visible to computer and mobile devices in your area. This is a lighter defense tactic that should be supported by the other security tactics we have listed here, but it will help combat casual hackers (such as the ones looking to piggyback on your Internet service).
  5. Employ an authentication strategy: Typically, employees all use the same password to connect to the Wi-Fi, which opens the possibility that they may unintentionally share it with others. Consider utilizing a certificate-based authentication mechanism so that each employee has their own log-on credentials.
  6. Manage the names of networks you’ve connected to: Most devices will remember which Wi-Fi networks you’ve connected to. This may not be a seem like a big problem, but the names of wireless networks may reveal important information, such as the business you work for, hotels you’ve stayed in, or other sensitive information.
  7. Control guest access: If your business needs to provide guests or visitors with Wi-Fi access, you may want to consider establishing a separate network that has restrictions on what your guests can access. This is especially true in companies that only have one Wi-Fi network password for all employees.
  8. Manage wireless access points: Ensure your wireless access points use the right security configuration, particularly the access points located in branch offices. Many companies protect their headquarters’ Wi-Fi, but don’t take the time to properly secure their branch office locations.

Ensuring that your company’s data and network is secure on all fronts is an effective way of preventing hackers from infiltrating your system. As more and more companies move online, their data and information is ripe for the picking for cyber criminals. Your company needs to do all that it can to protect itself, including its Wi-Fi.

To learn about securing your company’s network, read our previous blog by clicking here.

Blog author: Vanessa Hartung

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