December 6, 2013
Cloud & virtualization
When listening to tech experts speak, or reading tech blogs, it's not uncommon to see or hear mention of 'the cloud'. This is normally followed closely by the word 'virtualization;, which has led to many believing that the two terms are synonymous, when they are actually quite different. Because of this, there is often confusion among business owners.
What is virtualization?
At its most basic, virtualization is the creation of a virtual version of something. This virtual version is housed in a physical environment, usually a server or computer. It allows one device (server) to run multiple computing environments at the same time.
Some examples of virtualization include:
One of the biggest benefits companies see from virtualizing is maximization of the use of resources, such as networks, computers, and servers; along with providing increased flexibility.
- Condensing four servers in an office down to one which runs all four.
- Using one server to host software that 10 computers can access.
- Installing Windows 7 on a Macbook.
What is the cloud?
The cloud, on the other hand, is more of an umbrella term to cover any service that is delivered over the Internet. There are numerous cloud services, most of which can fit one of three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service.
Some examples of cloud computing include:
The cloud carries most of the same benefits as virtualization, but can also further streamline the management of systems. Most cloud systems can be managed in a browser and can reduce the total cost of ownership for organizations.
- Using software like Google Apps or Microsoft Office Web Apps.
- Accessing your email through the Web.
- Storing files on a cloud-storage provider like DropBox.
Do the two overlap?
Where much of the confusion about the two terms stems from is the fact that there is actually quite a bit of overlap between the two concepts. Without the ability to virtualize servers, the cloud would not be able to operate.
Think about it this way: A cloud storage provider uses servers in a data center to host their storage. Without virtualization, the provider would essentially need one server per client or per group of clients. With many popular storage providers having millions of users, they would need to have an obscene amount of servers. So what they do is virtualize multiple servers and house them in one server. In other words, virtualization allows the cloud to function.
It's important to realize that the cloud is still reliant on servers, just as virtualization is. The main difference is that when companies virtualize, they usually host the servers on-site. When companies go 'to the cloud', they usually connect via the Internet to servers that are hosted off-site (outside of the organization).
Which is better for small businesses?
The main reason many companies virtualize their systems is so that they can reduce the number of servers and the physical space required to house each server. This in turn can reduce overheads. Virtualization also enables server resources to be better utilized, because when you host only one function e.g., email on a server, the hardware resources used are likely to be only a fraction of the total resources available. This results in increased efficiency and likely reduced costs.
Most companies tend to think of the cloud as a system - it provides end-users a service that they can use e.g., a word processor and document management system you access via your browser. Essentially, the cloud gives many small businesses access to enterprise level applications at a fraction of the cost - they don't have to develop, host and maintain these applications, yet see all the usability and benefits.
Because virtualization is usually local, while the cloud is seen to be more of a service, there is no real answer as to which is better - it really depends on the individual organization. If your business already has servers and systems which deliver capabilities like email, document sharing, telephony, etc. in place, then virtualization may be better employed, largely because it can help reduce your overhead and increase resource efficiency.
On the other hand, if you are a new company, or are looking to introduce a new system like document storage or production, a cloud service might well be a valuable option to look into.
Regardless of what you think would be best for your company, why not get in touch with us? Our experts can work with you to help you find the solution that best fits your company. Give us a call today.
December 5, 2013
Should businesses look into patterns?
Established small and medium business owners often have to deal with obstacles along the way, such as their sales and profits levelling off, or their companies not growing as fast as they had in the past. These are common issues that many businesses face. While it can be tough to break through this period of stabilization, there is one tactic that could help: Analyzing your previous data to spot patterns that can help shed light on how your business is doing.
In order to move your business forward and grow, you should analyze and try to interpret the data in your organization. This includes everything from previous financial statements, year-on-year sales figures and numbers, and even KPIs or estimated Vs actual figures. By looking into this data, you will eventually begin to find patterns which can be useful in not only helping you figure out the current state of your company, but in identifying where it is going.
Why should you analyze data for patterns?
Most experts agree that there are four reasons businesses should be analyzing their data:
Essentially, when you track and analyze your data you should be able to spot potentially important patterns that can allow you to make better decisions, quicker, and usually with more accuracy. It is the analysis of patterns that also makes up an important part of Business Intelligence.
- You can better evaluate past performance.
- You can assess current status.
- You can more accurately predict future potential.
- You can make better decisions that will maximize profits and resources.
What types of patterns should you look for?
Many small to medium businesses generate a wide variety of data, and it can be a challenge to narrow down what data types and patterns to look for. To start with, many businesses focus on three main patterns:
- Industry comparisons - By looking at the financial information from other companies in your industry, you can detect overall industry performance and identify any anomalies. For example, if some companies have increased sales and profits, while others are static or decreasing, the more successful businesses may be doing something that you can also adopt in order to improve your sales.
- Actual vs planned performance - By looking at your actual and planned sales you can see how the company is doing e.g., were sales lower than expected? If yes, you can begin to look into why. When compared year-over-year you should be able to see patterns emerging that help you resolve issues or take advantage of new opportunities.
- Trend analysis - This is comparing current and past performance with the aim of finding out where or how your business has changed. Some examples of patterns are how sales are trending, how profits are doing, and cash flow. From here, you can determine how differences have occurred and what corrections are needed.
How do you analyze data and identify patterns?
Many businesses rely on spreadsheet software, such as Excel, to store, manipulate, and visualize data, to ultimately spot patterns. But this requires a fair amount of effort to establish and maintain, and as the spreadsheets grow, operations can slow down.
One option many businesses explore is utilizing Business Intelligence software, which allows businesses to easily track data and identify patterns, among other uses. There are a wide variety of programs, so if you are looking to begin tracking data and analyzing patterns, try contacting us today to see what solutions we have for you.
6 tips to get Wi-Fi working on iPad
The Apple iPad is among the most popular tech devices for business and personal users alike. Many users prefer the iPad because of the fact that it is rugged and easy to use, while also having apps for virtually everything. Like all tech however, there will come a time when you may run into problems and your device doesn't work properly. One of the more common issues is when your iPad is not able to connect to a Wi-Fi network.
Here are six troubleshooting tips that you can try if your iPad isn't connecting to Wi-Fi networks. Before testing these out it is a good idea to test if your Internet is or isn't working. What most people do is open a Web browser and try to load a website, like google.com or apple.com/store. If you get an error message, or the page doesn't load, then try the different tips below.
First: Check if your iPad can see Wi-Fi networks
Try moving next to where the router is and then tap on the Settings app. From here tap on Wi-Fi (it is located in the leftmost list, near the top). Look to see if the network you want to connect to is listed under Choose a network… If it shows up, try tapping on it and entering the password if required.
If your iPad doesn't 'see' the network, try turning Wi-Fi off and on again by sliding the button beside Wi-Fi at the top from On (green) to Off (grey). Wait a few seconds then turn it on again. If you still can't connect, try restarting your iPad.
Second: Try restarting the router
If your iPad is picking up the network but not connecting to it, there may be a problem with the router. The first thing you should do is to turn the router off for at least 30 seconds, then turn it on again. Believe it or not, this solves the vast majority of Internet problems.
Once the router has restarted, try connecting to the network again, or if you have connected to this before, the iPad should try to connect automatically.
Third: Check if your password is correct
Another common problem users run into is that they have entered the password for the Wi-Fi network incorrectly. Oftentimes the password is missing a letter or number, or someone has changed the password and not let other users know.
Go back into the Settings app and tap Wi-Fi. Try tapping the 'i' icon and selecting Forget this Network. Restart your iPad then go back into the Wi-Fi settings. You should see the network pop back up under Choose a network… within a few seconds. Tap on the network name and enter the password again. If you are sure the password is correct, try asking other people who connect to the network, or the administrator, if the password has been changed.
Fourth: Try other devices
If you have other devices like a phone or laptop, try connecting these to the network and seeing if it is possible to connect to the Internet. By doing this, you will be able to see whether the problem lies with the network, router or the iPad itself. Should the other devices be able to connect and access the Internet, it's highly likely that the problem lies with the iPad.
However, before you jump to conclusions, check to see if other people are connected. Some routers can be configured to only allow a set number of devices to connect at the same time. Another common connection problem is when someone is using a high amount of bandwidth - e.g., downloading torrents. This can cause other devices connected to experience incredibly slow Internet speeds - slow enough that loading websites may time out, causing the browser to display an error message.
Try asking someone to disconnect from the network for a few minutes to see if your iPad can get online.
Fifth: Reset your Network Settings
Are the previous options not working? Try resetting your network settings to the default settings, as if the iPad was brand new. Don't worry, your whole iPad won't be reset, just the settings related to network connections i.e., Wi-Fi and LTE/3G.
You can reset your Network Settings by:
Once you have followed these steps try opening your Web browser again and loading a website.
- Tapping on the Settings app from the main screen of your iPad.
- Selecting General followed by Reset.
- Tapping on Reset Network Settings.
- Hitting Wi-Fi and selecting the network you want to enter.
- Entering the password again.
Sixth: Contact us, or Apple Support
Finally, if the other options don't work, try contacting Apple Support to see if they can help. Of course, you can also get in touch with us so we can help get you connected.