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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.

 

Finding the Right Provider for a Successful Data Center Migration

shutterstock_328634297There are several steps that businesses should consider when migrating to new data centers. Following are ways to ensure that the right colocation provider is chosen prior to migrating to a new facility.

Learn How the Provider Got Started

A data center colocation provider should have a solid understanding of the industry. Reliable providers that know what they’re doing will have a long record of operating colocation data centers and will be able to demonstrate an extensive knowledge of the industry. A good provider will not have gone through the mergers and acquisitions that other less reliable providers may have experienced.

Providers should also own their own facilities rather than leasing from others, as they may charge customers more to help pay off the facility owner’s costs for additional space.

Make Sure Providers Offer Sufficient Customer Service

Dependable colocation providers usually offer on-site customer service with localized experts. They should also be able to provide a complete track record that proves the effectiveness of their response. Providers with unskilled employees and a history of too much acquisition aren’t as likely to give customers what they need.

Pick a Provider with Consistent Facility Relocation Strategies

If a provider purchases or leases another facility, it may decide to move out of a previous one, which can be inconvenient for customers that benefit from existing local facilities. To avoid this, it’s best to choose a provider that owns its own facilities and puts the needs of customers over relocation needs.

Avoid Providers that Deal with Third Parties

Another important aspect to consider is the use of third parties for multiple capabilities. For example, a provider may partner with another company for network connectivity. If that partnership falls through, customers will need to turn to a different provider for network connectivity. To avoid this headache, it’s ideal to select a provider that offers both network connectivity and facility resources in a bundle on its own, helping to guarantee that dissolved partnerships won’t negatively affect customers.

Check for Vulnerability to Outages and Other Risks

Another element that can devastate data centers is the tendency to experience outages. Customers can suffer from severe loss of revenue if outages are frequent and last long enough. To prevent this issue, make sure providers experience minimal outages by looking at their history. A good provider will also remain transparent about any history of security breaches, fires, and other aspects of their company such as its environmental footprint. Providers with few issues are likely to help customers benefit from effective procedures and innovative systems.

With these elements in mind, businesses can better determine which data center colocation provider is right for them.

How VoIP Systems Can Make Businesses More Productive

shutterstock_328634297As businesses contend with large numbers of calls and massive amounts of data, they continue to search for a solution that makes it easy to meet business and customer service goals while saving time. Enter Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which keeps communications systems efficient and cost-effective.

VoIP uses a broadband Internet connection to handle phone calls, video, and other content. This system makes customer service more effective because of centralized data storage. Following are some of the many benefits that companies can experience with VoIP.

Fewer Expenses on Customer Communications

Many companies communicate with customers primarily through the phone, which can incur high costs when using traditional phone systems. This is especially difficult for businesses that work with international customers. VoIP systems make it easy for companies to communicate with customers located anywhere while reducing concerns over cost.

Unified and Streamlined Operations

Using a VoIP system, companies can more easily keep track of customer calls and service requests, ensuring that customers are never overlooked and avoiding communication delays. Regardless of whether a customer calls, faxes, or sends an email, a VoIP system will keep employees are aware of attempted communications at all times.

Reduced Stress Among Employees

If employees experience stress, they become less productive, have trouble focusing on the tasks they need to complete, and are more likely to make mistakes. VoIP can help alleviate stress by automatically transferring calls to workers who aren’t already occupied. Certain networks can even utilize automated interactive voice systems that prevent employees from having to constantly redirect calls and put customers on hold.
Improved Overall Customer Service

It can be easy for customers to get frustrated if they don’t get what they need when they need it. VoIP sends customers to the right department the first time based on their individual needs. Both customers and employees waste less time on calls this way, and management of calls improves.

Make Telecom Easier for Both Employees and Customers

VoIP technology gives employees the tools they need while allowing customers to contact representatives to address any questions or concerns with ease. Customers will walk away satisfied, and employees will be able to better manage their time and communicate with customers effectively, allowing them to do their job more efficiently.

These are some of the many reasons VoIP systems are beneficial for businesses on both the employee and customer end. Ultimately, this technology makes customer and employee communications easier than ever.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Colocation and Cloud Services

shutterstock_328634297When it comes to storage options, colocation and cloud services both offer tremendous cost savings for budget-minded businesses in need of an affordable and effective data storage solution. However, there are a number of pros and cons for businesses to consider as they determine which solution offers the best fit.

Consider Talent and Equipment

Businesses that already have considerable IT talent may consider the choice between colocation and cloud hosting from a cost/benefit point of view. Businesses with the skill set and budget to purchase and maintain their own equipment may see colocation as a better fit for their needs. The cost of leasing shared data center space may be more reasonable than building and maintaining in-house server space, especially when power and cooling costs are factored in.

On the other hand, businesses with a limited IT talent pool may find colocation to be a tremendous burden on staff and a drain on resources. In cases like this, cloud hosting may prove to be a more attractive option.

Room for Growth

As long as a business has the equipment budget and IT talent, colocation can offer an extremely scalable option for quick growth. However, some businesses may find it more financially advantageous to purchase additional storage in smaller increments from a cloud hosting provider.

Although the majority of cloud providers are flexible enough to accommodate fast growth among businesses, others may assess additional fees and penalties for clients who scale up heavily.

Compliance Requirements

Businesses that are required to comply with HIPAA, SOX, and other regulatory requirements should consider the risks of non-compliance when choosing between colocation and cloud hosting.

Colocation places the burden of compliance on internal IT staff, whereas most cloud providers are experienced with handling compliance issues. Colocation can also expose businesses to compliance-related liabilities, which could reach up to millions of dollars in penalties and lost business in the wake of a failed audit.

Assistance and Support Options

Support options for colocation and cloud hosting services can vary among providers. Some offer genuine 24/7/365 service, while others offer support that’s strictly limited to business hours. It’s crucial for businesses to consider their support needs before committing to a particular provider.

Some colocation providers offer “a la carte” services that provide on-demand assistance with installation, maintenance, and upgrade tasks. These services can be advantageous during periods when internal IT staff is unable to attend to those tasks.

For businesses interested in colocation, on-demand support services can be affordable for intermittent periods. However, heavy reliance on on-demand support could result in costs that exceed that of a hosted cloud.

Uptime Requirements

When it comes to near-100% uptime, self-managed hosting options may not offer the best choice unless the client has the IT experience to enforce data availability. Cloud hosting providers, on the other hand, can offer uptime guarantees that ensure continuous access to critical data. Businesses should make sure that their chosen provider has an established track record of meeting or exceeding their stated uptime guarantees prior to finalizing a service level agreement (SLA).

In the face of tight budgets, businesses are under pressure to keep their IT infrastructure intact using existing resources. These and the above mentioned issues may factor into a company’s choice between colocation and cloud hosting.

Making the Right Choices in the Cloud

shutterstock_328634297While it may be true that cloud services are not the perfect solution for all business computing needs, almost every business has at least some applications for which cloud is, indeed, the best solution. Premises-based solutions will continue to become less prevalent as time goes on. The focus of cloud services on scalability, efficiency, and flexibility is the primary driver of the move away from premises-based computing.

The biggest problem with traditional solutions is that in order to maintain capacity for peak loads, it’s necessary to maintain a great deal more computing resources than are needed the rest of the time. Overspending becomes a necessity. There is also the onerous process required to upgrade server capacity or other infrastructure.

Cloud solves these problems admirably by placing the onus for hardware purchasing and maintenance on someone else’s shoulders. There are three ways in which cloud services can be deployed, each serving a slightly different set of needs.

SaaS

Software as a Service (SaaS) involves the hosting of individual business applications in the cloud, to be accessed remotely by end users. The business has no control over the environment in which the application ‘lives’ under this model.

PaaS

Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides all the infrastructure, management, development, and deployment tools a business needs to create and maintain their own software applications.

IaaS

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) consists of hardware and other components (networking, storage, servers, and software) and gives businesses more control over the system than SaaS.

One of the most difficult aspects of moving to the cloud is not deciding what type of service a business needs, but rather what parts of the business can best utilize the cloud in the first place.

What Not to Move

Business critical applications should certainly not be among the first to transition to a new environment. Nor should any applications where performance is touchy, or that require intensive number crunching. Any system with a high level of complexity and tight integration with multiple apps should also probably wait until the organization has more cloud experience.

What Should be Moved

Non-critical systems are a good first step, including departmental applications where a smaller number of people will be affected by growing pains. Email servers and other well-established and easy to maintain apps are also likely candidates.

Other Considerations

Before making the jump into the cloud, it’s important to consider a few other details:

  • What are the company’s requirements for a service level agreement (SLA)?
  • Is a service provider able to provide the required level of security with the type of cloud model that fits the business’s other needs?
  • Do any of the apps that will be hosted in the cloud have special requirements?

The cloud isn’t more difficult to understand than on-site resources; it’s the same, only different. The differences can, however, complicate individual situations and turn wrong decisions into costly mistakes. Contact us for help simplifying the complicated.

 

Data Storage Is Becoming Cheaper, but More Complex

There’s good news for companies considering outsourcing their data storage: It’s getting cheaper.

Storage outsourcing is a popular choice for many organizations and businesses as data generation increases almost exponentially. Companies are particularly interested in outsourced emergency backup and disaster recovery options. In the past, high technology costs for storage rendered outsourced options prohibitively expensive; but that is changing as costs are now driven more by management skills and tools rather than the price of technology.

Lower Costs

The decrease in technology costs is a result of several factors, including:

— A shift toward disk storage rather than more expensive tape or off-site options

— Lower media costs for solid-state drives

— More efficient management tools

— Open standards and common application program interfaces (APIs) that allow for more flexible capacity and integration of cloud options

— Options that store unstructured data

Management Complexity

The shift toward more efficient but increasingly complex storage options is creating some additional costs related to the skills and training required to manage these options. Other complicating factors include various compliance demands, security considerations, the need for frequent retrieval, and life cycle management.

One often overlooked issue with storage is that at any given time, many unstructured files should be archived because they are rarely needed. Tape storage options are ideal for archiving, while disk storage is better for files that will be accessed more frequently.

Companies frequently find that their storage performance needs fluctuate, necessitating implementation of management tools that can automate the management process. Emerging unified storage products offer simple tools that allow one-stop management of Storage Area Networks (SAN) and Network Attached Storage (NAS). Software-defined storage is also a growing trend, allowing companies to virtualize storage.

Formulate a Strategy

In order to make the best use of the available options, including outsourced storage, it is crucial to make a storage plan. The following items should be considered when formulating a strategy:

— Preferred storage tools, including well-established options and emerging technologies

–Performance, availability, and capacity requirements

–Tiering based on usage patterns

–What files can be stored on lower performing and less accessible but more cost-efficient media like tape

–How much control should remain in house and what can be outsourced

A successful storage strategy, therefore, will first examine how much and what type of data is generated, how often access is needed, and what internal and outsourced management options are available to meet the company’s needs. Understanding life cycles is crucial to creating the best possible plan.

Emerging cloud options are usually part of an end-to-end management plan for all phases of IT rather than being storage specific. Companies should be aware that moving files to and from the cloud often incurs a fee. Understanding requirements when moving to cloud storage solutions will help avoid unforeseen costs.

The Benefits

New technologies have great potential to create the efficiencies companies are looking for when managing their skyrocketing storage needs. The key to getting the most out of these technologies is understanding the business’s data storage needs and which technology and outsourced options best fit those requirements.

Contact us to explore your data storage needs and the best solutions to meet them.