Google Cloud gets new Citrix features

August 5th, 2017

More businesses are moving their operations to the cloud, but sadly some applications are getting left behind. Today, customers want to access their desktop software as easily as they can access their G Suite apps from any device. Luckily, Google listened to their customers and developed new features with Citrix.

Workspace Service Organizations often struggle to manage multiple apps, especially if some are running on a cloud environment while others are running locally. This means devices and applications are disjointed, making processes slow and inefficient.

With Citrix Workspace integrated with Google Cloud, businesses can unify all their web-based, mobile, desktop, and Google apps into one hub to easily manage access permissions, security updates, and workflows across applications and devices. Essentially, this feature enables businesses to better manage their hybrid IT environments.

ShareFile Along with Workspace Service, Citrix also announced that they will be bringing their ShareFile feature to G Suite. ShareFile uses advanced encryption to protect data in transit and at rest. When used as a plugin for Gmail, employees can send emails and file attachments securely.

Additionally, ShareFile has a “follow-me data” feature that allows seamless access to local drives, network drives, and Google Drive. When enabled on G Suite, users can run, edit, and save documents to their virtual apps and desktop software while on the road.

NetScaler Another feature that will soon be released for Google Cloud is Citrix’s NetScaler. NetScaler is a system that uses load balancing to optimize the performance of apps and services. In other words, it makes sure that applications are getting sufficient computing resources (e.g., processing power, RAM, storage space). If used properly, applications can run up to five times faster and experience little to no downtime.

By combining NetScaler and Google Cloud, developers can take advantage of Google’s vast computing resources to build powerful applications and run them in the cloud easily.

Considering how these features allow employees to access and manage their desktop infrastructure online, it’s clear that both Citrix and Google want more businesses moving to the cloud. Only time will tell whether these features will actually ease the transition for business owners who are on the fence about the cloud.

If you want to know more about the cloud and virtualization technologies, call us today. We’ll make sure you have all the information you need before investing in cutting-edge solutions.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 21st, 2017

It’s nearly impossible to discuss virtualization without bringing up Amazon Web Services (AWS). It was one of the first big names in user-friendly virtualization services and it’s only gotten better over the years. With its latest release, AWS is providing customers with some serious computing power.

What are AWS virtual desktops?

If you have employees who need occasional access to lightning-fast workstations, hardware costs add up quickly. One way to tackle this problem is by providing users with low-end hardware that connects to a cloud service provider that delivers virtual desktops. These full-fledged desktops can be accessed over the internet and are far more cost efficient.

For quite some time, AWS’s “Standard” package has offered 24-hour access to virtual desktops with dual CPUs, 4+ GB of RAM and 130 GB of data storage for $43 per month. As long as you have a computer with an internet connection and are able to pay the subscription fee, you can run programs on an AWS virtual desktop that greatly exceeds your local machine’s capacity.

The WorkSpaces Power bundle

In June 2017, AWS introduced a new virtual desktop service for businesses that need a bit more capacity. The WorkSpaces Power bundle grants users access to machines with the power of four CPUs, with 16+ GB of RAM and 275 GB of storage.

Obviously, anything that requires such high-end hardware is going to be pretty technical work, but with the help of an experienced IT provider, you too can profit from the Big Data movement. AWS is advertising the Power bundle to developers, but it’s also great for businesses that want profitable insights from their huge databases.

The Power bundle virtual desktops have tremendous capacity, and that does come at a higher cost. The WorkSpaces Power bundle costs $78 per month for unlimited usage, or if you need it for only a couple days, $19 per month plus 68 cents per hour.

Faster data access for Standard and Power bundles

Regardless of whether you need the Standard or Power bundle, all AWS virtual desktops benefit from excellent data access speeds. The servers that host AWS cloud storage and AWS virtual desktops are in the same physical location, which means you don’t need to worry about lag when connecting the two.

Even if you’re “just a small-scale eCommerce site,” or a single-location office, every business can benefit from more affordable computing power. To find out what virtualization can do for your organization, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 5th, 2017

The relationship between computer hardware and software can be frustrating. Both require the other to function properly, but both also require individual attention. Virtualization makes this relationship far more flexible, and we’ve got a rundown on a few of the best examples.

More technology uptime

Virtualization vendors use lots of fancy names for the features of their technology, but behind all the technobabble are a number of revolutionary concepts. Take “fault tolerance” for example. When you use virtualization to pool multiple servers in such a way that they can be used as a single supercomputer, you can drastically increase uptime. If one of those servers goes down, the others continue working uninterrupted.

Another example of this is “live migrations,” which is just a fancy way of saying that employee computers can be worked on by technicians while users are still using them. Say you’ve built a bare-bones workstation (as a virtual machine on the server), but you need to upgrade its storage capacity. Virtualization solutions of today can do that without the need to disconnect the user and restart their computer.

Better disaster recovery

Data backups are much simpler in a virtualized environment. In a traditional system, you could create an “image” backup of your server -- complete with operating system, applications and system settings. But it could be restored to a computer only with the exact same hardware specifications.

With virtualization, images of your servers and workstations are much more uniform and can be restored to a wider array of computer hardware setups. This is far more convenient and much faster to restore compared to more traditional backups.

More secure applications

In an effort to increase security, IT technicians usually advocate isolating software and applications from each other. If malware is able to find a way into your system through a software security gap, you want to do everything in your power to keep it from spreading.

Virtualization can put your applications into quarantined spaces that are allowed to use only minimum system resources and storage, reducing the opportunities they have to wreak havoc on other components of the system.

Longer technology lifespans

The same features that quarantine applications can also create customized virtual spaces for old software. If your business needs a piece of software that won’t work on modern operating systems, virtualization allows you to build a small-scale machine with everything the program needs to run. In that virtual space, the application will be more secure, use fewer resources, and remain quarantined from new programs.

In addition to software, virtualization also encourages longer life spans of old hardware components. With virtualization, the hardware an employee uses is little more than a window to the powerful virtual machine on the server. Employee computers need only the hardware required to run the virtualization window, and the majority of the processing takes place on the server. Hardware requirements are much lower for employees and equipment can be used for several years.

Easier cloud migrations

There are several ways virtualization and cloud technology overlap. Both help users separate processing power from local hardware and software, delivering computing power over a local network or the internet. Because of these similarities, migrating to the cloud from a virtualized environment is a much simpler task.

There is no debate about the benefits of this technology. The only thing standing between your business and more affordable, efficient computing is an IT provider that can manage it for you. For unlimited technology support, virtualization or otherwise, on a flat monthly fee -- get in touch with us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 17th, 2017

Business owners barely had time to acquaint themselves with virtualization before the next trend stormed onto the scene. Although container and virtualization applications both allow users to divvy up software and hardware more efficiently, containers have many advantages over virtualized machines. There are a number of misunderstandings though, and it’s time to set the record straight.

Containers are made up of the bare minimum hardware and software requirements to allow a specific program to run. For example, if you want to give employees access to a single Mac-based server application, but everything else you run is in Windows, it would be a waste to build a new machine for just that program. Containers allow you to partition just the right amount of hardware power and software overhead to run that Mac program on your Windows server.

Misconception #1: There is only one container vendor

Traditional virtualization technology -- which creates entire virtual computers rather than single-application containers -- has had two decades for vendors to enter the market and improve their offerings. Containers, however, didn’t break into the mainstream until a few years ago.

Fortunately, there are still more than enough container vendors. Docker dominates the industry and headlines, but there are at least a dozen other programs to choose from.

Misconception #2: Containers require virtualization

In the early days, containers could only be created and managed in the Linux operating system. This meant complicated and sometimes unreliable improvisation was required to benefit from container technology on Windows and Mac servers.

First, you would need to virtualize a full-fledged Linux install on your Windows or Mac server, and then install container management inside of Linux. Nowadays, container management software can run on Windows and MacOS without the confusing multi-layer systems.

Misconception #3: You can’t create and manage containers in bulk

Separate programs, known as Orchestrators, allow you to scale up your use of containers. If you need to partition more hardware power so that more users can use a container, or if you need to create several identical containers, orchestrators make that possible.

Misconception #4: Containers are faster than virtual machines

Obviously, virtualizing an entire operating system and the hardware necessary to run it requires more management and processing requirements. A lot of people tend to think this means containers are faster than virtualized machines. In reality, containers are just more efficient.

Accessing a container is as simple as opening it and using the application. A virtualized machine, however, needs to be booted up, a user needs to log in to the operating system, and then you can rummage through folders to open an application. Most of the time containers are faster, but there are instances when that's not true.

Virtualization and containers are complicated technologies. For now, just remember that 1) Virtualization and containers are separate technologies, each with pros and cons; and 2) you have plenty of software options to manage containers (sometimes in bulk). For anything more specific than that, give us a call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 1st, 2017

Server and desktop virtualization have been improving computing efficiency and data security for years. But with all the talk about mobile BYOD policies and corporate data protection on smartphones, the National Security Agency (NSA) believes virtualization is the key to true security. Here’s what you need to know:

US government approved

The NSA maintains a program named Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSFC) that tests and approves hardware to assist government entities that are optimizing security. For example, if a public sector network administrator is deciding which mobile devices to purchase for office staff, CSFC has information about which devices are approved for various government roles.

Offices in the intelligence community usually require virtualization hardware and software as a minimum for laptops and tablets. But until now, no smartphones that included the technology have passed the tests. However, a recently released model of the HTC A9 phone includes mobile virtualization functionality that got the green light.

What is mobile virtualization?

Virtualization is an immensely complicated field of technology, but when it comes to mobile devices the process is a little simpler. Like any mobile device management plan, the goal of mobile virtualization is to separate personal data from business data entirely. Current solutions are forced to organize and secure data that is stored in a single drive.

Essentially, current phones have one operating system, which contains a number of folders that can be locked down for business and personal access. But the underlying software running the whole phone still connects everything. So if an employee downloaded malware hidden in a mobile game, it would be possible to spread through the entire system, regardless of how secure individual folders are.

With mobile virtualization however, administrators can separate the operating system from the hardware. This would allow you to partition a phone’s storage into two drives for two operating system installations. Within the business partition, you could forbid users from downloading any apps other than those approved by your business. If employees install something malicious on their personal partition, it has no way of affecting your business data because the two virtualized operating systems have no way of interacting with each other.

Although it’s still in its infancy, the prospect of technology that can essentially combine the software from two devices onto a single smartphone’s hardware is very exciting for the security community. To start preparing your organization for the switch to mobile virtualization, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 18th, 2017

Virtualization is a great way to save money and increase the efficiency of your existing IT hardware, but how exactly do you implement a virtualization solution? There are several vendors that provide software solutions, but there’s one almost everyone has already worked with: Microsoft. In its latest operating system release there are a few ways to virtualize your office.

A brief history of Windows Server

The Windows Server operating system has been around for decades. As an advanced option for onsite servers, this operating system grants access to high-level access management settings, DNS customizations, and network configuration management. In fact, it’s such a complicated solution that Microsoft offers certification courses for each version of the operating system.

The most recent iteration of this operating system is Windows Server 2016 (WS16). Released on October 12th, 2016, Microsoft’s latest server software included countless improvements to its networking and user management features. Where it really shines however, is in the ways it handles virtualized computing.

Virtualization in Windows Server 2016

As with just about anything in the virtualization world, containers dominate the WS16 conversation. Containers use software to aggregate the bare minimum requirements that one application needs to run -- hardware, software and operating system -- and deliver that package across a network to computers that lack one or more of those requirements. For example, if you want to run a Mac application that requires a huge amount of processing power on a bare-bones Windows workstation, you can create a container with the necessary components on your server and let the workstation access it remotely.

WS16 users have access to two types of container deployments: Hyper-V and Windows Server containers. To the average business owner, the differences between these two options is minute, but what is important is Microsoft’s commitment to compatibility. If virtualization is important to you, choosing WS16 is a great way to ensure that you’ll be ready for whatever develops among the disparate providers.

Another great virtualization feature in WS16 is software-defined storage (SDS). It’s a complicated solution, but it essentially allows you to create hard drive partitions outside of the confines of hardware limitations. You can create a single drive by pooling storage space from three different servers, or you can create several separate drives for virtualized workstations to access.

Obviously, managing a server is no easy task -- regardless of whether or not you implement a virtualized infrastructure. That complexity comes with some compatibility issues; if your business relies on old software, it may not have been updated to run with WS16. For everything from creating a transition plan to managing your virtualized framework, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 29th, 2017

Virtualization comes with several benefits for small- and medium-sized businesses. One of the most important is cybersecurity, but even within that subset are several strategies for protecting your organization. One of such strategy is referred to as sandboxing, and it’s worth learning about.

What is sandboxing?

Sandboxing is one of the rare concepts in virtualization that the average person can usually grasp in just a couple short sentences. Essentially, sandboxing is the practice of tricking an application or program into thinking it is running on a regular computer, and observing how it performs. This is especially useful for testing whether unknown applications are hiding malware.

Obviously, it gets far more complicated once you delve into the details of how you implement a sandboxing technique, but the short answer is that it almost always involves virtualized computers. The program you want to test thinks it’s been opened on a full-fledged workstation of server and can act normally, but it’s actually inside of a tightly controlled virtual space that forbids it from copying itself or deleting files outside of what is included in the sandbox.

An effective way to quarantine

Virtualization is no simple task, but the benefits of sandboxing definitely make the effort worth it. For example, virtualized workstations can essentially be created and destroyed with the flip of a switch. That means:
  1. You aren’t required to manage permanent resources to utilize a sandbox. Turn it on when you need it, and when you’re done the resources necessary to run it are reset and returned to your server’s available capacity.
  2. When malware is exposed inside a sandbox, removing it is as simple as destroying the virtual machine. Compare that to running a physical workstation dedicated solely to sandboxing. Formatting and reinstalling the machine would take several hours.
  3. Variables such as which operating system the sandbox runs, which permissions quarantined applications are granted, and minimum testing times can be employed and altered in extremely short periods of time.
This strategy has been around for nearly two decades, and some cybersecurity experts have spent their entire careers working toward the perfect virtual sandbox.

Containers: the next step in this evolution

Recently, the virtualization industry has been almost totally consumed by the topic of “containers.” Instead of creating entire virtual workstations to run suspicious applications in, containers are virtual spaces with exactly enough hardware and software resources to run whatever the container was designed to do.

Think of the metaphor literally: Older sandboxes came in a uniform size, which was almost always significantly larger than whatever you were placing into them. Containers let you design the size and shape of the sandbox based on your exact specifications.

Quarantined virtual spaces fit nicely into the sandbox metaphor, but actually implementing them is impossible without trained help. Whether you’re looking for enhanced security protocols or increased efficiency with your hardware resources, our virtualization services can help. Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 14th, 2017

2017April13Virtualization_AEvery now and then, we need to reset the conversation about virtualization and review how it works in its most basic form. With so many advances, it can be hard to keep up if you’re not a regular reader. This article not only defines virtualization and its benefits, it also includes a real-world workstation for you to experiment with!

What is virtualization?

The simplest definition is this: It’s the act of creating a virtual (rather than physical) version of something, including hardware platforms, storage devices, and computer network resources. But that doesn’t do much for those outside of the IT industry.

We could paint a colorful analogy to try to better explain it, or we could let you paint with your very own virtualized demo. Follow these steps so you can see how virtualization works:

  1. Visit this website.
  2. Wait while your virtualized 1991 Macintosh boots up.
  3. Double-click the ‘Kid Pix’ desktop icon.
  4. Write “This is virtualization” on the blank canvas.
  5. Click (and hold) File, and select Save As.
  6. Click the Save button in the new window.
  7. Quit ‘Kid Pix’.
Voilà! Your picture was saved to that old-school Mac's virtual hard drive. That’s because everything -- from the operating system to the processor -- is running on a server located somewhere else on the internet. And it’s not just some remote desktop viewing trick, this ’90s-era Mac and its hardware have been created by software installed on a server that is concurrently processing a million other tasks.

It’s a fun demonstration, but modern-day virtualization can accomplish much more.

Divide up hardware resources

The dated nature of that machine actually helps us better illustrate the biggest benefit of virtualization. The software that lets us create virtual machines also allows us to define exactly how much hardware each workstation gets.

For example, this Mac has only 3.8 MB of hard drive space, but if your virtualization server has 10,000 GB of space, you can create 100 virtual desktops with 100 GB of storage space. It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but that’s essentially how it works with storage hardware, CPUs, RAM, and other hardware.

Reduce on-site costs

The bulk of your workstation and server hardware is usually hosted off-site, which means lower utility bills, computer equipment requirements, and maintenance overhead. Instead of patching and upgrading each workstation’s software and hardware individually, virtualization allows you to apply changes to all your machines at once.

Disaster recovery

If your virtualization server is hosted off-site, what happens when natural disasters, power outages, theft, or vandalism strikes your office? Or, as a simpler example, where did you store your Kid Pix masterpiece? Certainly not on the machine you’re reading this blog from.

Virtualization allows you to keep mission-critical data stored safely away from the office so your team can get back to work as soon as your IT provider gets them access to the server again. And with a single point of management (i.e., your off-site server), that can take place in virtually no time at all.

Ending your dependence on individual machines and their hardware is just one of the many ways to utilize the power of virtualization. You can define network hardware and configurations with software, run applications on any operating system, and so much more. To find out which solution is best for your business, call us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 29th, 2017

2017March28Virtualization_AAzure and XenDesktop may not be household names, but the newest partnership between Microsoft’s cloud platform and Citrix’s virtualization client are making big waves in the industry. Announced at Citrix’s annual partner Summit, the newest thing in virtualization is a win for everyone.

For those who don’t know, Azure is Microsoft’s build-it-yourself cloud platform. With more than 600 services, Azure is all about giving network administrators access to Microsoft data centers to pick and choose how your cloud is structured.

Citrix is one of the largest virtualization software providers on the market. And its most famous product, XenDesktop, was one of the very first software solutions to allow multiple users to access Windows from a networked desktop with a different operating system already installed.

Now compatible with Windows 10

With the recent release of XenDesktop Essentials for Microsoft Azure, these two solutions are becoming one. Administrators can now build fully-stocked Windows 10 desktops stored in Azure, and employees can access them from any machine with Citrix’s lightweight client installed.

The whole setup costs only $12 per user, per month, and comes with a host of administration settings for managing and monitoring your virtualized desktops and how users access them.

A better way to work

It’s like Azure is a moving truck, XenDesktop is the box holding all your stuff in the back of the truck, and your company applications and settings are what’s inside the box. With the right configuration, the whole box can be delivered to employee desktops anywhere in the world.

As long as employees are accessing virtual desktops from verified devices running MacOS, iOS, Android, or even an older version of Windows, they can work as if they are sitting right in front of the Windows 10 install located within your company’s cloud.

Virtualization is a wonderful solution for cutting costs and increasing efficiencies. Unfortunately, even with two of the most user-friendly vendors in their respective industries, virtualizing Windows 10 desktops is still a monumental task. For 24/7 access to support and expert advice, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 11th, 2017

2017March10Virtualization_AIf knowing is half the battle, virtualization is one for the ages. With more than a decade of history, it’s a tough topic that business owners would be hard-pressed to ignore. Over the years, the terminology has changed and capabilities have gotten even more confusing. If you’ve ever heard anyone use software-defined networking and network virtualization interchangeably, it’s time we set the record straight.

Software-defined networking (SDN)

Managing storage, infrastructures, and networks with high-level software is something IT technicians have been doing for a long time. It’s a subset of virtualization and it is one of the oldest strategies for optimizing and securing your IT hardware.

Despite its popularity, SDN does have one major drawback -- it needs hardware to do its job. SDN allows you to control network switches, routers, and other peripherals from a centralized software platform, but you can’t create virtual segments of your network without the hardware that would normally be required outside of an SDN environment.

Network virtualization

Evolving beyond SDN was inevitable. Whenever a technology can’t do it all, you can bet someone is working hard to fix that. Network virtualization uses advanced software solutions to allow administrators to manage physical hardware and to create virtual replicas of hardware that are indistinguishable to servers and workstations.

Network virtualization simplifies the field of network design. You can reduce spending on expensive hardware, reconfigure network segments on the fly, and connect physically separate networks as if they were in the same room.

A virtualized network may sound like an exciting technology that doesn’t have much use at small- or medium-sized business, but that’s exactly the beauty of hiring a managed services provider! We provide enterprise technology and advice as part of your monthly service fee. Call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.