By Robin Kuepers
For many IT managers, storage has become too complex, hard to manage and expensive. According to IDC, businesses’ storage demands are growing in excess of 50 percent a year while their total available storage capacity is growing at half that rate.
As a result of this, there are a number of trends that are emerging in the storage space to help avoid unnecessary complexity. Automation has long been heralded as a way to simplify IT management and we’re seeing that trend progress as technologies like flash storage and convergence make their stake in the market. So how can IT managers respond to new business demands whilst balancing performance and budget?
Converged solutions offer simplified management, reduced space and costs
According to Forrester, a total of 95 percent of IT leaders and storage admins see value in buying storage from the vendor from which they buy server, networking, system management or IT services. Respondents indicated that a deeper relationship with a smaller number of vendors can build trust, provide technology synergies that ease management, and streamline support relationships, making it easier to manage the big picture. CIOs want to see improved responsiveness from their workloads and their applications. Their priority is how to respond more quickly to their business needs. There has been an obvious shift to buying compute resources driven by an accelerated time to deploy to help address that need.
These desires have led to the birth of converged infrastructures that provide the ability to consolidate servers, storage and networking into an easy-to-manage architecture that can help any company – whether they are a large corporate or SMB – reduce the costs of running applications, speed up the deployment of new infrastructures and most importantly simplify management.
One example has come with the advent of converged infrastructures, possible with innovations such as blade arrays. By converging compute, switching and storage resources into a dense, self-contained form factor, blade arrays can offer a range of capabilities from basic disk arrays to highly automated, virtualized systems that can be customised to address specific applications and environments. These systems can help organisations reduce operating costs through more-efficient use of switching resources, simplified cabling and consolidated management with chassis backplanes. Benefits also include reduced cost of running applications, faster infrastructure deployments, simplicity and speed of management, and improved time-to-value for application and cloud deployments.
It is important however to bear in mind that bundled solutions are not necessarily comprehensive ones. Although convergence and pre-integration can help ensure infrastructure performance, reliability and quality, not all solutions are created or managed equally. Working with a trusted IT partner to deploy a solution that is right for a specific business need or workload is therefore important and critical to success.
The flash revolution
Automated tiering has long been a hit with businesses from a storage standpoint. With this in place, customers are able to manage data when and where they need it, and in a cost-effective way. Before automated tiering, businesses would buy storage that was capable of more performance than they could consume to give them confidence that storage systems would perform as needed. This approach had obvious economic flaws.
As traditional server and storage lines blur, there’s an opportunity to apply automated tiering to server-side flash cache as part of a broader storage infrastructure with flash and various spinning disk types. Flash and other solid-state storage have been gathering momentum quickly as demand for faster response times increases and costs decrease. By taking the innovative approach of tiering, businesses are able to add new capabilities without compromising their existing infrastructure. This solution means that they can have the performance of flash but the safety of disk.
While flash is growing in adoption, the best value is found in tiering with optimisation of every application and every volume to best meet the combination of price and performance. The ability for a storage array to automatically tier across multiple SSD drive types is changing the way that CIOs and businesses are able to manage how data is stored and comes with three big advantages.
Firstly, the balance of multi-level cell (MLC) and single-level cell (SLC) offers customers greater overall cost for performance. Secondly, overall flash reliability is increased when an array uses the more vulnerable MLC flash tier for just reads. Lastly, the capacity of the more expensive SLC tier can be kept to a minimum by being just large enough to handle inbound write traffic. Flash storage comes in various formats and is also being deployed in both all-flash and hybrid – a mix of flash and HDD – models and inside servers (i.e. PCIe cards). As a result, businesses are able to get flash performance when it’s needed, and do so at a price that’s comparable to an all-disk solution.
As the key barrier to flash adoption has been cost, some customers previously have been unsure how to justify cost for the great performance. Therefore, vendors must provide innovative solutions and proper education to help customers make the most of flash in their storage environments.
Compression and deduplication
Compression and deduplication are perfect examples of automated tools that allow for storage provisioning and data distribution to happen autonomously, reducing the need for additional physical IT resources and also freeing existing technical staff to focus on other tasks.
It’s no secret that the amount of data being processed and managed is on the rise, growing at an unprecedented rate for businesses of all sizes. As such, storage capacity can quickly become an issue of concern and an added expense.
Plainly and simply, compression and deduplication are space savers and help to vastly simplify the task of juggling storage resource. Through compression, data shrinks to a state where it can be easily stored for archival purposes, and it “re-hydrates”, or returns to its original larger form, on demand. Through deduplication, only the unique, critical data – as opposed to the pieces of data that are repeatedly found in other files – are stored, reducing the amount of storage capacity used. For example, when storing old email files, deduplication can identify identical attachments that might be repeated several times, and only store one of them while pointing or linking to that single stored attachment at repeat occurrences.
As the data deluge continues to create new challenges, the technology which helps businesses to solve problems while increasing efficiency and saving money is evolving.
Today’s businesses need to look at the big picture and ask themselves if they’re taking advantage of offerings that can ease data headaches and save money in the long-run.
Better managing and maximizing storage is a big first step and Dell is helping businesses of all sizes by redefining the economics of Enterprise Storage.
Optimising and Securing Device Management in a Corporate Environment
By Nadav Avni, Marketing Director at Radix Technologies
The proliferation of digital devices used in every organisation has only grown in the past few years. Digital devices provide greater flexibility and mobility for companies, but they also create more of a burden on IT teams and administrators to manage it all. Is there a device management solution powerful enough to support your corporate needs?
What Is Mobile Device Management (MDM)?
Mobile devices have more capabilities than ever before – and they’re accessing more sensitive and property data, too. In fact, 42% of enterprises now consider themselves mobile-first. As more employees moved to remote work, it underscored the need for greater security. At the same time, it made device management more difficult for IT teams.
Mobile Device Management (MDM) allows the remote management of every device in an organisation’s fleet from a centralised platform that’s accessible from anywhere. It gives complete control of devices and provides a way to manage settings, policies, and security in one place.
The Importance of MDM
Nearly three-quarters (74%) of CFOs said they expect to keep some employees working from home and shift others to remote work permanently. The need to manage devices remotely isn’t going away even when the pandemic is over. Even when employees are working on-site, they still use mobile devices.
Smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other single-use devices all need management. Workers may be in different locations than IT administrators. MDM allows efficient remote management of every device in the fleet regardless of the administrators’ and employees’ location.
Some of the core functions of mobile device management include:
- Managing setting and policies
- Monitoring app usage and performance
- Updating equipment, software, and applications
- Monitoring health of equipment
- Monitoring equipment location, status, and activity
- Remote device control for diagnosis and troubleshooting
- Encryption of email and files
- Segregation for work and personal device use, creating separate and secured environments for work data.
More than Security
Most MDM solutions focus mainly on Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) and the security layer. A fully-featured MDM/EMM system adds another layer that provides comprehensive device management. This gives IT administrators the ability to manage nearly every type of device running on every major operating system from one platform.
Flexible solutions can be installed as an on-premises solution or on the cloud for reduced latency, redundancy, and end-to-end security with encryption. When you’re running a mobile device management platform in the cloud, the service provider automatically applies updates and patches. Hence, it’s one more thing you won’t need to worry about. It also makes it easier for administrators to access the platform remotely.
Mobile devices increase the possibility of data breaches or leaks. Besides the possibility of cyber-attacks, a staggering number of laptops and smartphones are lost or stolen. On average, 70 million devices are lost or stolen annually, with less than 10% of ever being recovered. This is an exceptionally big problem for managing compliance in regulated industries, such as healthcare, financial, and other businesses.
A robust MDM/EMM software provides end-to-end security and encryption to protect data. Devices can be tracked with geofence and anti-theft filters. If a device leaves an authorised area, it triggers a warning note to administrators, who can remotely lock the device or wipe the data. MDM/EMM apps with advanced security features also create snapshots on the fly even while devices are running to make restoring or recovery from virus attacks or system crashes easier.
Besides automated data audits, these functions help organisations comply with even the most stringent compliance regulations, including GDPR, the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulations. It also acts as an essential element in complying with HIPAA, SOX, FISMA, PCI DSS, and other regulations.
More Efficient Deployment
Devices can be deployed in batches with preset configuration, settings, and corporate policies. By automating enrollment tasks, the devices can be up and running in your environment without user intervention. It all happens in the background the first time a device is fired up and connected to a network.
Besides the platform’s native and priority enrollment modules, devices can also be deployed using a range of platforms. This provides an extremely friendly out of the box experience (OOBE) for employees without tying up IT teams for hours to configure new devices.
Tools for All Stakeholders
Modern MDM/EMM tools also provide sophisticated reporting tools to all stakeholders in the organisation. IT teams can manage the entire device fleet holistically or drill down to any individual device. Managers can look at adoption and usage rates. CFOs can look at the ROI. Each automated report can be customised to show what each group of stakeholders needs to make data-driven business decisions.
Tools for OEMs and Vendors
APIs are usually available for solution developers. That means the platform can be embedded in device firmware and integrated at the factory level for OEMs. System-level integration is also possible, so mobile device management software can be pre-installed and ready to go upon device delivery.
Managing Use and Content
Not every employee needs every functionality on every device. MDM software allows you to apply single-app or multi-app kiosk mode. This creates an encapsulated environment with access to the functionality and apps you determine.
It creates a consistent look-and-feel for devices and control device elements, such as locking down external ports or preventing unauthorised interaction of non-company installed apps. You can limit external internet use or enable/disable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections.
Device Management Solution
One of the biggest barriers to continued remote work is the lack of technology and infrastructure to allow remote employees to work productively. Therefore, implementing a modular and flexible MDM/EMM solution is key to successfully and efficiently managing your devices. Look for one that not only accomplishes the points listed above but one that also allows customisation for just about any use case. Take control of your entire mobile device fleet and gain the ability to finally manage nearly every aspect with ease.
2021: A year of digital enablement
By Peter O’Halloran, Vice President, Global Digital Commerce, Fiserv
In 2021, digital innovation will continue to accelerate, allowing businesses to shift to new ways of operating and adapt to changing consumer behaviour and expectations. We will continue to see an increase in digital commerce and alternative payment methods, and more intertwined physical and digital experiences. Here are my five predictions for the year ahead.
- Digital commerce will continue to rise
This year, businesses will be focused on ramping up existing avenues of growth and generating new ones, leaning into experiences and incorporating lessons learned during the pandemic. To stay ahead of the competition, drive sales, and continually engage with customers, we’ll see businesses send out special offers on a more regular basis, integrate loyalty and gift schemes, as well as offer additional value-added services, such as click-and-collect services that allow people to pick up online orders in store, free shipping and better options on returns.
- Physical and digital environments will blend
A growing consideration for businesses is how to optimise and connect digital and physical experiences. There has been an exponential rise in click-and-collect services, virtual queuing and appointment systems. According to 2019 research from Barclaycard, a third of retailers (34%) saw in-store sales increase after offering click-and-collect services. And by digitalising certain parts of the customer experience, businesses from restaurants to salons can operate more safely in their physical locations. Apps that allow customers to order and pay for food in advance, or book time slots for in-person services, are some examples of how businesses will continue to connect the physical and digital environments as they navigate the current landscape.
- Alternative payment methods will proliferate
Consumer payment habits have shifted significantly since the start of the pandemic. The recent Expectations & Experiences report from Fiserv found that a large number of consumers have increased their use of mobile payment apps and person-to-person (P2P) payments, and that they expect those changes to last. We will also likely see an increase in the adoption of proximity payments, such as mobile payments, NFC payments and QR codes.
In addition, the rise of digital payments could also accelerate the adoption of local or regional payment methods to better engage with customers. There are a number of methods that have emerged and already gained popularity, such as Klarna across Europe, Paytm in India and Brazil’s Boleto voucher system.
- Commerce-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) will grow
As consumers continue to expect new payment forms and digital experiences, businesses will continue to adopt more innovative capabilities. There is a growing usage trend for IoT in commerce, such as smartphone-based or voice-enabled capabilities. From grocery, fashion to other day-to-day activities such as paying for petrol, IoT devices can enable businesses to harness customer data to gain further insight into their behaviour and provide personalised offers and services. The new year will see commerce-enabled IoT increase, as well as further digital innovations to help grow revenue streams and enhance customer experience.
- Security will continue to be a priority
As more activity moves online, security is more vital than ever. 2020 saw a proliferation of COVID-19 related scams and fraud, such as phishing emails on relief funds or health information. These trends will likely continue, evolving to latch on to the concern of the moment, and we will see businesses, payment providers and financial institutions increasing their investment in the appropriate fraud solutions to protect both their organisation and customers.
Regulatory requirements will also continue to bolster security and fraud management. In Europe, regulations such as Strong Customer Authentication (SCA), which is part of the EU Revised Direction on Payment Services (PSD2), help ensure that payments are secured with multi-factor authentication, providing additional security and assurance for consumers.
A digitally-enabled future
Many businesses have successfully adapted to a new way of operating. As we go into the new year and continue to navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic, businesses will be able to rely on those learnings to adjust quickly to changes that come their way.
Viewpoint: Autonomous Cloud Security
By Scott Dodds, CEO Ultima
Moving to the cloud securely remains a significant challenge of flexible working
While the end may be in sight for full-scale remote working, most companies are looking to continue with flexible working in some form or other. The benefits that both employers and employees have reaped in terms of cost reductions and flexibility are unlikely to be given up quickly. But in a recent survey of customers, Ultima has found that many challenges still exist for companies if they are to embrace flexible working successfully in the long-term.
The pandemic has forced many companies to innovate at an unprecedented rate, and digital transformation has moved on in a year to a place it would have taken five or more years to do. But many businesses are still struggling with the new normal. They have become more susceptible to cyberattacks, and poor IT infrastructure has resulted in poor employee experience causing productivity and profits to fall.
In a recent survey of over 200 prospective customers, Ultima asked about the challenges they were facing due to current requirements for remote working. Nearly half (41%) cited security concerns as an issue and 17% application access.
IT infrastructure is a cause for concern too. While many companies have embraced the advantages of cloud computing during the lockdown, over a third (37.5%) of respondents, don’t believe they have the capability to move to the cloud. There were a variety of reasons why the respondents don’t think they have the capability, with 16% saying it was due to legacy applications and another 16% saying it was due to budget constraints or challenges. A further 12% per cent blamed lack of in-house technical expertise and another 10% on investment being made in on-premise infrastructure.
The pandemic has created exponential growth in companies requiring cloud services, but their IT staff don’t have all the technical skills to effectively and safely move them to the cloud. This leaves companies open to security vulnerabilities as well as meaning they are not optimising their cloud environment.
While many businesses have risen to the challenges of remote working, infrastructure and security remain an issue. But automated cloud services with in-built security solutions can solve these problems. They can be bought on a pay-as-you-go basis, addressing large CAPEX outlay issues and allowing companies to overcome legacy application issues and provide security that protects both employee and company from outside attack.
Lack of capability and capacity solved
For those companies who’ve still not made the leap to the cloud, automated cloud migration services exist that can overcome the financial and skills shortage barriers to entry. Managed Service Partners (MSPs) can provide technical expertise and technical solutions to make this possible. The results of moving to the cloud can be spectacular too: from an average 30% reduction in expenditure and up to a 750% increase in productivity. They also have no upfront costs.
Using Microsoft Azure’s open and flexible cloud computing platform, for example, combined with automated migration, you no longer need to look after and buy hardware, or sort out power and cooling. Your IT infrastructure and security can be run on a pay-as-you-go basis. And if you need increased capacity, automation means you can extend your on-premises data centres and infrastructure to Azure within a few hours, providing the extra capacity required for critical systems and applications.
Poor security solved
We know that traditional security solutions don’t work well in the cloud. When customers move to the cloud, they try and take their traditional security solutions with them. But as the cloud works in a very different way to on-premises, this leaves companies open to vulnerabilities. You need a made for purpose solution, based on cloud security best practice.
With the latest automation technology security and monitoring solutions are automatically applied to existing and new workloads. It scans the collected data and includes proactive monitoring around security events that will let you know exactly what’s happened in clear-to-understand alerts, and where action should be taken if needed, covering critical areas such as anti-malware. IT staff can view in real-time their security and compliance reporting. Soon we will be able to scan a customer’s environment for security-related bad practice or incidents and make recommendations on how to fix them and even give them a score as to how they are doing.
At Ultima, we’ve also found that on moving to the cloud customers have poor visibility of what is going on in their environment. We know about 25% of companies don’t even realise they have high severity patches missing. This is down to a skills shortage and a lack of time – as patches are often done manually.
With automated cloud services, patching happens automatically on repeat and even scales as your infrastructure grows. If a patch is due and fails for whatever reason the system will automatically create an alert. This information will go to the third line technical team, and they will investigate it themselves, whether that’s your MSP or your own IT staff. The time savings to the IT department are huge – often 100’s of hours a year – enabling them to focus on other projects and have peace of mind about security.
Traditionally, you would do a true-up every month or quarter of your IT environments to bring new things, including security issues, to the management. But when you are in the cloud, you can spin things up so fast, that you will have a gap if you are only doing a true-up every month or quarter. With an automated service, you can automatically onboard things, so you don’t have to wait for the true-up process, which means you have a more proactive security service and less vulnerability. We’ve found that customers who are using automated cloud services have a 66% reduction in security incidents.
Lack of visibility of critical data solved
With ever increasing cloud resources, it can be hard to get visibility into your cloud infrastructure. The technology exists now to automatically scan and configure your cloud resources with centralised logging and telemetry capabilities. As your environment grows, this process repeats itself automatically as it scans and configures itself when new resources are added. This means that all logging information is available, and you can also see on one dashboard insights into your security posture. Usually, it’s hard to see what’s happening from a security perspective – what data is coming in and going out, top destinations, any malicious activity detected in the last 24 hours, etc. Automated services give customers a dashboard that centralises all the information to see what is happening in a simplified format and how your infrastructure is performing at a high level.
These new autonomous cloud services enable companies to free up 100’s of hours of IT staff time and reduce security incidents. Moving to the cloud has previously been a struggle for some companies as costs escalated for support, maintenance and security. New technology has changed that and is ensuring security and infrastructure are no longer barriers to successful cloud deployments and productive, flexible working.
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