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Green Tech—The Future of the Data Center

t2-december-2In the past few years, there has been an incredible surge in data center construction around the world. Companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon are spending huge amounts of capital to build them in places like Singapore, Taiwan, and Tokyo. The reason for this unprecedented growth is the expanding global need for both business and personal connections.

However, the amount of energy used to operate data centers is extreme. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, data centers are “the energy hogs of the computing world,” and a study released in June 2016 found that “US data centers consumed about 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014… representing 2 percent of the country’s total energy consumption… equivalent to the amount consumed by about 6.4 million average American homes that year.”

This type of energy consumption places huge drains on global infrastructures. Therefore, a push to develop energy-efficient data centers is at the forefront of IT concerns.

The Definition of a Green Data Center

Green data centers are those that are designed for maximum performance and efficiency, using a minimal amount of resources. Basically, that means that all of the hardware (the mechanical, electrical, and computing equipment) is arranged and operated in a way that reduces the environmental impact of the data center. There are a number of energy-saving strategies used to reduce consumption in data centers, including:

  • Low emission building materials
  • Water reuse and recycling systems (much water is required for cooling purposes in these industrial-scale facilities)
  • Alternative energy technologies (new cooling systems, photovoltaics, and innovative heating units)

Reducing energy consumption at the data center does more than help our environment; it offers OPEX reductions for the owners.

Current Data Center Condition

Over the last decade, there has been an incredible surge in the need for industrial facilities housing large amounts of server and other hardware equipment. Designed specifically for the needs of electronics, these structures require massive amounts of environmental and security controls. However, their proximity to users does determine certain latency issues. Therefore, the abundance of affordable smart devices and increasing ranges of connectivity, combined with a plethora of new “as-a-service” offerings, has generated high demand for more data centers around the world.

The fact that cloud connectivity presents a number of cost-saving and performance improvement strategies for enterprises has also contributed to data center expansion, and even the number of providers who are “born in the cloud.” According to Gartner, IT is projected to shell out nearly $1 trillion over the next five years transitioning to cloud computing services. That type of infrastructure will depend on more data centers for support.

Green Futures

Data center development has increased, and likewise the energy required for operation. The good news is that the global commitment for developing more green facilities is strong. By investing in conservation and reuse equipment, providers will be able to transfer the savings on to the end user. In addition, although the initial capital expenditure is higher than traditional construction, a green data center delivers measurable ROI and long-term reductions in operating costs.

Understanding VoIP Issues and How to Solve Them

t2-december-1Although Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offers superior quality and service compared to legacy private branch exchange (PBX) systems, situations can still occur that frustrate businesses and customers. Having reliable, clear call service is necessary to maintain a professional image. Dropped or choppy communications generates a bad impression and has the power to reduce revenues.

Fortunately, by knowing the reasons for poor VoIP service, companies can solve those problems swiftly. Following are the most common causes of call quality difficulties, and solutions for eliminating them.

#1. Internet Service Provider (ISP)

Often, dropped calls and persistent sound quality issues are related to the business’s ISP. Many SMBs make the switch to VoIP in order to reduce costs, but fail to calculate the exact impact it will have on their total bandwidth consumption. Other issues include the speed or hardware used. Companies that are still using cable connections rather than fiber-optic service can suffer. Ookla offers a free speed test that can be used to determine current capacity.

Another ISP problem results from having two different providers deliver VoIP and network connectivity. Since call issues can usually be traced back to packet priority, voice transmissions are basically vying for precedence over all other types of data transmissions. So if someone in the office starts a download, call quality suffers.

Solution: Switching to a comprehensive provider that offers hosted phone service in a unified business communication service provides companies with effective packet routing.

#2. Call Interference

Crackly sounds, buzzing, fading in and out, and other disruptions make it difficult for people to communicate. This issue is generally referred to as “jitter,” which is essentially a delay in the reception of voice packets. Although the packets are transmitted in the correct order, evenly spaced, and in a continual stream, they aren’t received in the right order. Causes of jitter include network congestion, unsuitable routing, or faulty configuration.

Solution: Moving to a single provider can resolve these problems; or, companies can increase their bandwidth, place calls above all other traffic (voice receives priority), or overcome the issues by resolving hardware incompatibilities.

#3. Echoes and Delays

When the call sounds like it has been placed inside a cave, the echo heard is the result of latency issues. Voice transmission delays that are longer than 50ms can be discerned by users, and make communications extremely frustrating. This type of propagation delay is irksome, but latency is also a result of improper prioritization.

Solution: Purchasing new hardware, arranging for policy-based network management, and instituting packet prioritization can be accomplished either in-house or by contracting with a service provider.

#4. Dropped Calls and Inconsistent Quality

Companies that suffer from fluctuating VoIP quality and frequent dropped calls present an unprofessional appearance. Although quality problems can be addressed using increased bandwidth, sometimes the issues are a result of inadequate switches, routers, or service.

Solution: Choosing a provider that offers active monitoring and troubleshooting is a good start. However, companies can also check equipment configuration and look at options for simplifying their networks.

As more and more businesses move from legacy PBX to VoIP, the need for

superior service becomes clear. Contracting with a single provider offers network performance solutions that solve many call problems for the modern enterprise.

How Modern Technology Has Affected U.S. Politics

TelecomWhile this election has many people concerned and eagerly anticipating its end, there are certain notable technological advances that have had a positive effect on politics in the U.S. Here are some of the ways in which telecom technology has improved the political process.

Today’s Advances Allow Anyone to Stay Informed
Back in the early 1900s, the only way to make long-distance contact with anyone was via an expensive phone call. If people wanted to learn about what was going on across the nation, they had to be wealthy. Thanks to the availability and affordability of the internet and telecom a century later, people can get immediate access to all of the latest news — political or otherwise.

ARPANET Wasn’t the True Origin of the Internet
Contrary to what many believe, the invention of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) in the 1960s wasn’t the actual precursor to the modern-day internet. It was actually the invention of the transatlantic TV cable that initiated the development of what we would later come to know as the internet.

Fiber Optics Paved the Way for Telecom
Apart from the innovations taking place throughout the early-to-mid 20th century, another major influence on today’s internet and telecommunications was the development of fiber optics. Many people associate fiber optics with colorful displays and gifts, but these cables are also capable of holding a lot of information that makes them invaluable in today’s technological advances.

Prior to fiber optic cables, trunk cables were commonplace, and took up a lot more physical space than today’s fiber. Today, hair-thin fiber optic cables can carry the same amount of information as about 300 trunk cable bundles, each with roughly the diameter of a baseball.

Online Voting May Not Be Far Away
The prospect of voting online sounds like an instant security risk, prompting many to mildly panic at the thought of a more easily rigged election thanks to hackers and other threats. On the other hand, shopping online also made many people skeptical when it rose to popularity in the late ’90s and 2000s (when people were stockpiling supplies to prepare for Y2K), but most people today won’t give a one-click Amazon buy a second thought.

Many states already offer online voter registration, and with this development online voting isn’t that much of a stretch. While today’s security capabilities may not be good enough to effectively handle online voting, that future isn’t too distant. While that might not be here yet, today’s technology has already made it easier than ever for voters to gain knowledge about political nominees, including their stances on issues, policies, and even their life stories.

There’s no question that technological developments over the years have revolutionized politics in the U.S., and these changes will only continue as telecom and internet capabilities increase.

How to Determine if Cloud or On-site Video Conferencing Is Ideal

Video ConferencingPrior to purchasing video conferencing services, businesses should consider the differences between cloud and on-premises services to determine which type of service is ideal for them. As video conferencing continues to evolve and become increasingly streamlined over time, costs have decreased and these services have become more accessible to the average user.

There are two main ways for businesses to utilize video conferencing. The first is to keep video conferencing operations on-site with everything located within the workspace, while the second is to outsource it to a third party provider that deploys it as Software as a Service (SaaS) via cloud storage.

What Is Included in Video Conferencing Solutions?

Both cloud-based and on-site video conferencing services include many of the same components, but there are some differences between their capabilities.

  • Recording and Streaming – Both on-premises and cloud-based video conference calls can record and stream conferences, but while on-site services keep data within their own network, cloud services store data on third-party servers. Service level agreements (SLAs) can help businesses determine how data is stored and in what locations. Business owners also need to consider the total cost of ownership as it pertains to data storage and network traffic.
  • Multipoint Conferencing/Bridging – The great advantage of multipoint conferencing, or bridging, is the ability to include a large number of sites on a single call. The number of available users will vary from vendor to vendor, but typical on-site multipoint conferencing will allow anywhere from 12 to 120 users on one call, while cloud services often allow 25 to 50 users, with little to no call limits for the latter.
  • Firewall Configuration – One of the limitations of on-premises video conferencing is the need to setup firewalls prior to making calls beyond the business’s network. Configuring a firewall can be complex, requiring users to take multiple factors into account. Cloud-based services can help companies avoid this issue entirely, allowing them to connect nearly anywhere with internet connectivity.
  • Centralized Network Management – Another advantage of cloud-based services is streamlined network management, with the ability to update software and address books and manage problems with the network through an automated process.

When On-Site Video Conferencing Is Appropriate

On-premises video conferencing was a much more popular choice for organizations when it was the only method available. Today, companies utilizing this type of conferencing the most are large organizations that place security as a top priority, such as government agencies or businesses that handle large amounts of confidential client information.

However, on-site video conferencing also requires a lot of resources that many businesses simply don’t have, particularly smaller companies with minimally staffed IT departments. Unless the business has the ability to handle all of the details surrounding on-premises conferencing, this method isn’t ideal.
When to Choose Cloud-Based Video Conferencing

Cloud technology is constantly evolving, and cloud-based services are becoming less expensive over time. They are highly scalable to meet the needs of small to large businesses, with fixed costs available to maximize predictability of expenses. These services also include plenty of automation to reduce the need for a large and consistently attentive IT team.

When choosing between on-site and cloud-based video conferencing services, businesses should consider their unique requirements.

The Importance of Wireless WAN Connections for Businesses

shutterstock_328634297Wireless internet connectivity continues to be an important asset for businesses, including wide-area network (WAN) connections. According to Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), 96% of distributed companies rely on wireless for WAN connections in certain remote locations.

Even if businesses aren’t necessarily using wireless for all of their remote sites, it still stands that companies depend on this technology for parts of their operations. The continuously developing wireless technology in today’s IT industry keeps it relevant, with public Wi-Fi and LTE/4G among the most commonly used wireless technologies available for a variety of applications.
Benefits of Using Wireless Technology for Enterprises

WAN has used wireless technology for a long time, but in the past it served mostly as backup connections — which is how many businesses are still using it today. In the event of an outage that occurs in their normal wired WAN link, companies can use wireless 3G or 4G radio instead, helping avoid downtime.
Which Industries Use Wireless Technology the Most?

Some of the industries that rely on wireless technology for WAN connections include banking, insurance, and manufacturing. According to the same EMA study, banking and insurance enterprises use 3G and satellite connections more than others. A 3G connection would make sense in these environments because of the low cost for connecting many single-transaction devices at one time, such as ATMs.

At the same time, manufacturers experiencing dramatic growth may need to connect with an increasing number of remote sites in a timely fashion, and 4G/LTE connections offer an effective temporary connection until they can install wired WAN connections.
Increased Security with Wireless

Wireless technology isn’t only crucial for temporary connectivity. EMA also found that many companies turn to wireless for improved security, better performance, and expanded bandwidth. Only 18% of businesses used it simply because of a lack of a wired connection.

LTE/4G also allows for better security, with top-level encryption over multiple layers of security, making it an ideal form of wireless to install around the world.

EMA predicts that wireless technology will only continue to grow in popularity, and businesses will be able to see the benefits when turning to this technology to support a WAN connection.

Are Wi-Fi Speeds at Their Peak?

shutterstock_328634297Since its inception, Wi-Fi has become an integral part of daily life. If people experience issues when trying to establish a connection, many immediately place the blame on Wi-Fi — but the fact is that this technology is quickly becoming more capable than older connection methods.

While many may be impressed by the speed of today’s Wi-Fi, it is still called into question whether Wi-Fi speeds are truly reaching their full potential. There are several factors that affect Wi-Fi speeds.
Failure to Reach Theoretical ThroughputSince the introduction of Wi-Fi to the public along with the IEEE’s 802.11 standards, maximum data rates for this service have surpassed traditional home internet connections. According to Akamai’s State of the Internet report, in 2016 the average connection has reached 15.3mbps — which is still nowhere near the theoretical max.

This isn’t a new realization, however. Hardware almost never approaches theoretical maximum throughput because of several factors, including interference, multiple clients, and many other factors that affect the data transfer rate. Speed is also largely different in Wi-Fi connections compared to traditional wired connections.

Unlike wired connections, wireless connection speeds don’t just involve the rate of data transfer between handsets and access points. In addition to this rate, Wi-Fi speeds account for availability and duty cycles. Higher data rates result in frequencies that aren’t as heavily used while allowing more devices to connect. On the other hand, faster rates also compound the problem of density.
Solving the Problem of DensityAccording to York College IT director Joel Coehoorn, there are three main issues that render those theoretical maximums unachievable:

  • Maximum speeds pertain to products with unrealistic configurations that no user would actually set.
  • Many people don’t understand that access points must be able to support users operating at the lowest data rate on the network.
  • The more people using the connection, the more that bandwidth has to divide among them, lowering each individual’s speed with every added user.

These limitations make it difficult for wireless connections to meet the maximums, even if the technology is significantly better than other, older types of connections.
Technology Continues to EvolveWireless internet connectivity has made plenty of progress over the years, despite a few setbacks. Clients might see higher theoretical maximums (such as with Wave 2 standards that can achieve a throughput of up to 3.47Gbps), but this only means that the connection on the user end will be faster than what it used to be.

Millennials and Unified Communications: What’s the Connection?

shutterstock_328634297The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that Millennials are likely to comprise 50% of the national workforce by 2020, and as much as 75% by 2025. Businesses are beginning to recognize that these individuals are valuable in many ways, including the effective adoption of unified communications (UC) technologies.

UC uses tools such as instant messaging, email, and video chat in a single platform that allows employees to more easily communicate with each other from nearly any location. The main influence behind the increase in UC adoption is the Millennial generation.
How Millennials Are Changing the Landscape

Millennials have benefited from instant communication technology that allows them to easily connect with individuals from any location at any time. Many Millennials are used to this technology out of the workplace, so it’s natural for them to want to utilize that same innovation on the job. This means that if employers want to appeal to the Millennial generation, implementing UC systems is a necessity.

A study published by Bentley University found that 77% of Millennials think that more flexible work hours would result in greater productivity, with 40% relating the same belief regarding remote and virtual work. Also according to the study, many stated that they would be willing to sacrifice pay and promotions in exchange for increased flexibility. The nine-to-five system is becoming obsolete as a result.
Pros and Cons of Unified Communications

There are many reasons for businesses to implement UC. It allows organizations to employ people from nearly anywhere in the world, and retain a dynamic work schedule that helps maintain a consistent workflow. Businesses that operate without any kind of UC system face the risk of falling behind the competition and deterring Millennials—an increasing majority of the workforce.

On the other hand, UC doesn’t come without its risks. Ransomware and hacking attacks are some of the many threats that businesses face, but they can more easily avoid these issues with an effective security system that includes a reliable backup plan.

Ultimately, utilizing UC in business operations can prove invaluable to a business, encouraging Millennials to remain productive and become a part of the company’s success. Without a UC system, companies close themselves off to this lucrative generation.

How Businesses Benefit from Fast Data Analytics

shutterstock_328634297As the Internet of Things (IoT) expands in popularity, people are using more devices with interconnectivity. This includes using smartphones and tablets to control home security systems, appliances, fitness tracking devices, televisions, and many other systems to maximize convenience. Because of this interconnectivity, IoT has given businesses access to better raw data that helps them understand their customer base and the performance of their products.

Fast data analytics can allow many companies across a wide variety of industries to develop better processes for customer service, marketing, and other aspects of their business.

Following are some examples of how certain businesses can utilize fast data analytics to their benefit.
Financial Companies Can Closely Monitor Business Transactions

Many financial firms handle millions of transactions with customers on a daily basis, which means it can be difficult to effectively detect delays or breaks at any given moment.

Fast data analytics has allowed financial companies to more easily monitor business transactions, from specific processes to complete transactions. Firms can use automated algorithms to make sure that every moment of every transaction receives the same level of attention through monitoring software. These algorithms can determine if flows have any issues that need to be addressed, allowing for quicker responses.
Insurance Firms Can Experience Faster Processing of Claims

Similar to financial firms, insurance companies often deal with millions of claims every day. In some cases, insurance companies might work with monitoring systems that are outdated, causing them to potentially miss certain issues and spend more time and resources identifying and solving them.

A faster data monitoring service can help insurance companies detect delays in claims processing, bringing issues to the attention of IT professionals who can address them faster.
Securities Firms Can Meet Industry Compliance Requirements

2010 saw the introduction of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which is a U.S. federal law that was intended to regulate financial institutions and help avert crises in the industry. To avoid legal troubles, securities companies must remain in compliance with this Act.

Dodd-Frank compliant businesses will have the ability to report SWAP trades within minutes, which is made possible by fast data analytics. This technology provides securities firms with the real-time monitoring they need to say within Dodd-Frank regulations.

These are only a few of the many instances where fast data analytics can help businesses in both customer experience and accountability. Fast data analytics implementation helps companies make positive change.

The Best Ways to Keep Track of Broadband Usage

shutterstock_328634297Regardless of whether or not a broadband user has to worry about a data cap, bandwidth management is crucial for smooth operations. Broadband clients should make sure that they don’t run into problems by overusing bandwidth, which is often caused when too many devices run on a single network at a time.

If all devices on a network run simultaneously, some of the problems users might experience include poor-quality Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls and laggy video streaming, among other network issues. These problems are potentially exacerbated if businesses go over their data cap, resulting in more expenses and throttling of a connection.

Here are some of the ways that broadband clients can make sure they stay within their allotted bandwidth and get the most from their ISP’s services.

Check the Broadband Internet Connection Speed

The speed of an Internet connection has the biggest effect on streaming, particularly through services such as Amazon Video, Spotify, and Netflix. One way to make sure the speed is what it should be is to use a third-party website such as Speedtest.net, which can accurately measure Internet connection speeds. The best way to get an accurate reading is to use a device connected through cable modems or DSL instead of the router, leaving all other devices disconnected.

One thing to keep in mind is that speeds can change depending on the time of day. It’s also a good idea to test different devices on a connection to determine any variations on devices that might be experiencing performance issues.

Determine How Much Bandwidth Is Needed

The bandwidth an ISP provides in a plan is distributed among all devices used on a single network. This isn’t always easy to monitor because of the various demands of each device, some of which are more vulnerable to lag than others, including media streaming devices and VoIP phones.

The approximate ideal speed for general usage devices is 2.0Mbps, while video streaming and VoIP devices will benefit more from speeds of 5.0Mbps or higher. Depending on the number and types of devices used, clients should calculate the appropriate required bandwidth needed to run all of their devices with equal efficiency.

Monitor Usage to Find Any Bandwidth Issues

Broadband clients that experience any broadband performance issues or have reached a data cap can track all devices to determine which ones are using up the most bandwidth. There are many programs to help monitor bandwidth that are free to use on nearly any device connected to the Internet.

Distribute Bandwidth via the Router’s QoS

If a broadband client has a router with a quality of service (QoS) feature, it may be disabled without anyone realizing it. QoS is an effective way for routers to distribute bandwidth among all of the devices on a network to help make sure each performs well without using too much bandwidth. Clients can log in to their routers and determine if QoS features are enabled, and tweak their settings for maximum efficiency.

Increase Speeds Through Individual Devices

Another way to increase speeds and get the most out of available bandwidth is to connect devices to routers using an ethernet cable when possible. The reason for this is that if a device is connected to the router, it can help more evenly distribute bandwidth to other devices, requiring less time.

By taking these steps, broadband clients can get what they’re paying for with minimal frustration due to lag and other performance issues.

How to Keep DevOps Efficient in Distributed Network Environments

shutterstock_328634297DevOps needs to be efficient and adaptable when in a data-centric distributed network environment, which involves the determination of best practices for DevOps through developers and testers. Businesses should make sure that a data-centric production environment can successfully adopt a distributed network environment, and that is accomplished through successful development.


Ensuring that DevOps Works with a Distributed Network Environment

Businesses should follow three steps to make sure that DevOps is working with the agility needed for distributed network environments:

  • Containerize applications
  • Implement DevOps tools to form a continuous lifecycle
  • Utilize sandboxes in DevOps

Containerizing applications allows for more seamless transitions between production and non-production environments, and between on-site and cloud technologies. DevOps tools are ideal for effective automation of steps between programming, testing, and deployment. Finally, sandboxes help businesses learn where they should develop applications in the environment to keep development, testing, and production smooth.

While containerization and using DevOps tools are independently relevant, sandboxes are inherently necessary for data-centric environments.

The Importance of Sandboxes for DevOps

Sandboxes, or Uber Containers, are infrastructure environments that are self-contained while enabling configuration to look identical to the final target deployment environment. DevOps can create and run sandboxes anywhere. Developers and testers can both utilize a sandbox that looks like the internal IT environment. The main advantage of this is the ability to run tests on applications in multiple environments without leaving any impact on the actual production infrastructure.

Sandboxes give developers and testers plenty of freedom to work in an environment with all of the tools they need, while having all of the protections necessary to keep operations within those sandboxes closed off to unwanted parties. Ideal sandbox solutions allow for outside triggering through the use of a DevOps tool. Sandboxes are designed to give users all of the control they need, making them crucial in data-centric distributed network environments.

Use Sandboxes for Applications in Different Environments

The greatest benefit of sandboxes is having the ability to recreate large-scale data-centric and IoT environments. Through a system of containers, DevOps tools that can effectively manage processes all the way through to development and production, and sandboxes that can test applications throughout the development cycle, DevOps will be as efficient as it needs to be for all environments.