Server virtualization is something every organization should consider. Virtualization is an environment where many ‘virtual computers’ are running on a single server, frequently in the cloud. But why should you consider it for your IT infrastructure? Following are seven reasons your organization should invest in server virtualization.

Cost Savings

The number of servers required is reduced, so savings from hardware purchases is realized. This consolidation, in turn, reduces the footprint of your data center, minimizing need for power, cooling, and equipment. This also is a benefit to the environment, helping your organization ‘Go Green.’

Easier Administration

Servers running on a single machine reduces the amount of time administrators have to spend configuring multiple servers, mainly due to a common interface. It’s also possible to run multiple operating systems on the same machine. Providing security for a single machine running multiple servers is also much easier. And because creating replicas of your virtual servers is easy, testing security updates becomes easier and safer, before unleashing them on the ‘real’ environment.

Efficient Use of Hardware

Servers running virtual machines realize as much as 80% utilization of resources instead of the 15% typical of standalone servers. Running multiple machines on a single server makes greater use of the available CPUs, RAM and other overhead. While a server capable of virtualization may be more expensive, the hardware it replaces gives a higher ROI. And once you maximize these resources, increasing CPUs, drives and RAM is a snap.

Ability to Port Legacy Systems

Let’s face it. Every IT environment has a few legacy systems running on older hardware. Since they still work, and you can’t buy new hardware to run them on, most IT managers just leave them be and hope for the best. In a virtual environment, the underlying OS and applications are encapsulated, so you can port these legacy systems to new hardware and extend their life.

Isolate Applications and Improve Software Efficiency

In a typical environment, there is one application per server. In addition to being less efficient from a hardware perspective, it’s also not the most effective use of your software resources. With server virtualization, you still reap the benefits of application isolation without the waste of unused resources. In addition, as deploying software in a virtual environment becomes more second nature, you can begin deploying along functional lines instead of a traditional server/application approach.

Easier Disaster Recovery and Better Business Continuity

Disaster recovery in a virtual environment becomes easier because taking a ‘snapshot’ of your environment is a built-in benefit of server virtualization. Moving this snapshot from one machine to another, either because of a disaster, or simply to upgrade hardware is trivial. Also, you can improve business continuity by hosting your virtual servers in the cloud.

Move Your Data Center to the Cloud

This leads straight into the best reason for server virtualization; the ease at which you can move your environment to the cloud. This increases each of the previous benefits. Your infrastructure and data center foot-print is minimized. Administration becomes easier using an integrated interface. The ability to park your servers in a co-hosted environment increases the efficiency of your hardware investment. And because your servers are in the cloud, in a secure environment with redundant systems monitored 24/7, you can be assured of business continuity.

Migrating to the Cloud

There are a variety of options when it comes to cloud hosting and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Consult with an IT Professional, like Element IT Solutions to chose which option is right for you.

Technology has taken us to places we never imagined we could go, like the local coffee shop or book store. You no longer have to be in your home, sitting at a desk and staring at a dial up screen in order to access the internet. With a simple click of a button, you could be surfing the web on any computer, tablet or smartphone at work, in school, at your favorite café or while hanging out in Starbucks. It’s convenient, it’s free, but it also could be extremely dangerous.

While public Wi-Fi is almost everywhere and it seems almost everyone is using it, it is inherently unsecure. Anyone using it ought to do so with the premise that everything you do is visible to a third-party stranger with access to that hot spot.

The Danger in Hotspots

The game of hacking is a BIG business. In fact, the chances of you being hacked far exceeds the chances of your home being burglarized. On average, 556 million people are victims of cybercrime a year. That’s over 10.5 million victims a day and nearly 18 victims per second. Over 232.4 identities have been exposed thus far and over 600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised every day.

Users who connect to “free” Wi-Fi networks are at great risk of experiencing a channeling attack. Channeling is a common practice used by hackers and identity thieves to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks, with the objective of stealing user names, passwords, and other sensitive data transmitted by the user. The man-in-the-middle attack tricks a user into thinking that he or she is communicating with another user and vice versa.  This causes network traffic between the two computers to flow through the attacker’s system, which enables the attacker to inspect all the data that is sent between the victims, including user names, passwords, credit card numbers, and any other information of interest.

But it must take an extremely tech savvy person to execute something so complex, right? Wrong. The practice is actually disturbingly simple to carry out, with hacker websites readily available. These websites even provide instructions on how to perform such fraud. Hackers can easily trap passwords and other information without any of the user’s knowledge.

To make matters worse, the SSID’s (network names) of wireless networks you’ve joined before are saved on your system. Your computer will automatically log on to any network with that saved name. So if a hacker offers a name familiar to you, he’s just created a clear path to fraud.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

Although hackers seem to be multiplying by the day, there are ways you can take precaution and still enjoy free hotspots.

First, make sure you always use a secure network that encrypts all of your data. This will make sure that your data is safe and scrambled as it travels. Meaning, if a hacker were to intercept your message, they would see nothing but scrambled letters.

In order to do this, when you’re going wireless on an unknown network, make sure it says “https” in the address bar of your web browser. This “s” on the end of the “http” indicates SSL or secure socket layer, which means that your data is encrypted between your computer and the website you’re surfing. This is an extra layer of security that will help keep your data safe. Encryption normally helps protect your network traffic from prying eyes; however, when you connect to an open Wi-Fi network like one at a coffee shop or airport, the network is generally unencrypted.

Also, some people might just use hotspots to just surf the web, utilize social media, and not do any shopping, banking, or anything that uses their financial information. While avoiding shopping and banking on a free Wi-Fi network is smart, it still doesn’t make you completely safe. Some experts even advise against checking Facebook or email accounts because too much information can be exposed to hackers that allows them to use programs that guess passwords, gain access to information and steal a person’s identity.

Protect Your Data

Wi-Fi has enabled us to use the internet almost every place we go. And while this opens up the doors to so many exciting opportunities, it could also close the doors to personal security. To prevent a major disaster from occurring, it’s important to backup your data. Consult with an IT Professional that can provide backup and data protection services designed for laptops, distributed servers and much, much more.

Whether you need to grow your IT infrastructure, are facing an increase in business, or are in startup mode, outsourcing all or part of your IT makes good business sense. Outsourcing to a managed services company can help your business grow by focusing your revenue and maximizing your expenditures. Following are five ways that managed IT will improve the efficiency of your business.

Control IT Costs

It may be counterintuitive to try and control IT costs by spending money on outsourcing, but the key term is control. To function efficiently in today’s business environment, you need to be able to keep up with demand at peak times and run operations 24/7. To do this in-house means a massive investment in equipment and personnel. By outsourcing your IT during high demand periods and/or and letting managed IT services handle your call center or data operation nights and weekends, you can maintain your current, lean IT staff and infrastructure, while still meeting the demands of your clients.

Maintain an Experienced Team

Technology is constantly changing and your team needs to keep up with the latest skills and expertise. But training is expensive, not to mention the downtime required to send your personnel for training and certification. For instance, to get advanced certification in Cisco routers can cost over $10,000 and take a year to complete. By hiring a managed services company to handle specialized needs, you are able to keep abreast of the latest technology and employ a team of experienced and knowledgeable IT personnel without the burden of training.

Focus on Your Core Business

Your business requires technology to get the job done, but technology is not your core business. Any time or money you spend managing technology is taken away from the focus you need to run and develop your business. Managed IT services puts the focus on technology into the hands of trained experts and allows you and your employees to concentrate on your core competencies.

Reduce Risk

Many business owners feel that keeping their IT in house means tighter control, but it also means greater risk. Think about the loss of revenue involved in a power outage or an interruption in telephone or internet. Weigh the intangible cost of losing your company’s reputation in the event of a security breach or loss of your client’s data. By outsourcing all or part of your IT, you are distributing your operation to multiple locations, minimizing this risk. In addition, a managed operations center is run 24/7 with multiple redundancies in power, communication and data backup.

Compliance and Security

If you thought training was expensive, wait until you look at security compliance and certification. Because of the recent, highly-publicized data breaches, clients are more security conscience than ever. More RFPs are asking for PCI and other specialized security standards. Compliance with these standards is a three-step process. First, you need to understand the scope and specific needs. This is a daunting task. A single document from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) covering a single standard is almost 500 pages of highly esoteric language. Second, you need to spend the money required to comply with these standards. Finally, after spending the time to understand the requirements and the revenue to implement them, you still need to pay someone to inspect all of this and issue certificates of compliance. Outsource your data warehousing and utilize Software as a Service (SaaS) resources and you can check yes to those RFP questions without the huge expense.

With mobile devices and virtual workplaces on the rise, more and more businesses are seeing the value of storing their data in the cloud. Reduced costs, mobility and data accessibility are all attractive benefits of cloud computing but with this type of convenience, comes a concern for security. With all the recent news about hacking, many wonder how to keep their data safe in the cloud.

Making the decision to move your content to the cloud can be tough. Afterall, the most valuable asset you have is your data. When security questions arise, it’s important to realize that the security of your data begins with your company procedures and employees. Here are a few tips on how you can protect your data in the cloud.

Securing Your Data From the Inside – Out

Password Policies: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Imagine your business’s data security relying on an employee using their birthday for a password? Bad idea.

Password policies are the first defense for your data. These protocols should be strong and inviolable. No one likes cryptic passwords and having it change them often, but there is a reason for these strategies. These procedures are important, but they take time, expertise and planning to implement and maintain.

Permission Granted: At a higher level are access policies and permissions. It would be simple to give everyone the same access to all data, but is that the best policy? A hierarchical system of data access is not only crucial to protecting your data, but critical in identifying and closing any breach and weakness. Planning, implementing and maintaining this strategy is a time consuming process, but necessary for your data’s security.

Use Protection: Most businesses utilize virus protection on their computers. But is that enough? An advantage to storing data in the cloud is its accessibility from different locations and platforms. Computers at your company may be protected, but what about employees who access data from their tablet after downloading an app from Facebook? Or who gets into the company’s intranet on vacation in the Caribbean? Virus protection policies are as important as access and passwords. The protection of your data in the cloud needs to be bulletproof and that is more complex than protecting local computers on your network.

Encryption: Encryption is a term that many hear and few understand. It’s easy to use terms such as SSL and 128-bit encryption, but what does that mean, and more importantly, how is it implemented? When accessing your data from the cloud, it is passing through dozens of networks, backbones and routers, all of which are susceptible to hacking. Your data needs to be protected not only at both ends, but while in transit. Encryption ensures that if the data is intercepted, it won’t be usable to the hacker, but encryption is a highly skilled specialty.

Conduct an Audit: Another factor in having your data and applications in the cloud is the need to monitor and audit access to that data. Who is reading it? If there is a breach, where and how did it occur? A complete audit trail of your data’s access is crucial in protecting it, and in apprehending someone if a breach does occur.

Is Your Data at Risk?

Even though your data resides in the cloud, the security of that data begins with your employees, computers and networks. Securing this environment and protecting it with access methods, firewalls, and password policies can be a complicated and time consuming process. However, the risk of losing of jeopardizing the integrity of that data can have devastating affects. Speak to an IT Professional, like Element IT Solutions to discuss the best options for your data security.