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26 Feb 2021
"Remote Hands" vs "Smart Hands" Services: What's the Difference?
The COVID-19 pandemic forcing alternative remote work arrangements made companies realize the importance of reliable data center infrastructure. Most of this infrastructure is managed in colocation facilities, many of which are either not allowing customers or vendors in outside of emergencies or severely restricting access to prevent having the virus brought inside their facilities. However, data center providers have long since offered services for clients who may not be close to their physical infrastructure.What are Remote Hands Services?Remote hands servicesinclude tasks such as securing cabling, checking port numbers, observing or reporting indicators on equipment, rudimentary observation of the environment, and server reboots. These tasks are accomplished remotely without the client having to be present at the colocation facility. These services are usually offered as part of the agreement with the chosen colocation facility.Why are Remote Hands Services Vital?IT managers usually consider remote hands services when they are leasing space from far away from their physical location. This allows them to manage their data center without having to send technical staff to the colocation facility.Remote hands services also allow you to handle IT operations that go down in the middle of the night or during holidays. Support issues tend to happen when we least expect them. Remote Hands services can be deployed round the clock, even when no one from your IT department is available.Remote Hands ServicesTypically, Remote Hands services differ for every colocation facility. To give you an idea, here are some of the tasks that remote hands services traditionally cover:Moving or securing network cablesNetwork router and switch configurationServer refreshes and rebootsHardware and software replacement or installationPower cyclingInventory management and labelingHandling shipping and receiving requestsReporting on equipment performanceAuditsWhat are Smart Hands Services?Smart Hands services include more complex tasks that need someone physically present in the colocation facility to deal with it. Some examples include setting up a firewall, managing data center equipment, media and supply management, complex cable configurations, equipment testing, and general troubleshooting.Due to the additional expertise required, smart services typically arent included in the colocation providers fees. Instead, Smart Hands services get billed by the hour. It is essential that organizations coordinate with colocation providers to clarify the services that are not covered.Why are Smart Hands Services Vital?There will always come a time when there are too many things on your IT departments plate. Its not ideal for any growing company to have an IT team that manually handles all operations within the datacenter. That would require maintaining a larger IT staff as well as providing comprehensive training, two things that significantly reduce your profit margin.Freeing your IT department from having to deal with infrastructure issues allows them to focus more on value-adding projects. Smart Hands Services strengthen the data infrastructure of companies without compromising their productivity. They offer immediate responses to various data center problems to reduce liability issues and potential data breaches.Smart Hands ServicesTypically, Smart Hands services differ for every colocation facility. To give you an idea, here are some of the tasks that smart hands services usually cover:Configuration of the firewallComplex cable configurationsPlacement device managementTest devices and fix errorsRack and stacking servicesShipping and receivingAutomated maintenanceSetting up and Maintaining BackupsPack and unpackInventoryDetect and respond to threatsMoving equipmentOperating system and server installationPower cycleOn-site and off-site technical support and troubleshootingRemote server restartsCloud cross-connectRemote Hands VS. Smart HandsAs previously mentioned, different colocation facilities offer different services. They may offer most, if not all, of the data center support services mentioned above. In terms of services, remote hands and smart hands differ significantly from one another.Remote Hands services often include initial support services of colocation providers. These involve remote IT support usually kept at a minimum. Simple tasks like cycling a servers power, checking the status of an indicator light, and reporting the status back to the customer are performed depending on the organizations needs.In contrast, smart hands services offer IT services beyond what is initially provided by colocation facilities. Smart Hands service covers complex tasks like receiving hardware shipments or performing hardware deployment at an added cost. Organizations can also deploy a technician to the data center to repair equipment such as hard drives and power supply units.
24 Feb 2021
Getting to Know: Volico Data Centers
I had the pleasure of Interviewing Gadi Hus, DOO at Volico, about the company and its history, product offerings, and future industry trends.[Bart] Tell me a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you got started in the industry?As Director of Operations (DOO), Im responsible for leading the development and execution of the Companys long-term, short-term strategies, and plans. My leadership role also entails being ultimately responsible for all day-to-day management decisions executed by the senior-level teams across all facets of the organization. These management decisions facilitate direct communication with Structural, Electrical, Mechanical, Physical Security Engineers and Contractors regarding all aspects of the Data Center Infrastructure, Preventative Maintenance, and ongoing improvement projects.My background is forged from an entirely different industry. My educational background stems from a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program from the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine. Precursory to the University of Miami, I conducted research on subterranean termites through the University of Florida and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture.) With that said, I have enjoyed working with computers intrinsically from the young age of 6-7 years old. Starting with a Commodore 64 and Assembling my first 80286 SX PC shortly after, I grew more fascinated with the industry. The world of connecting and ultimately hosting a 6-Line BBS system at home forever forged my passion for the internet to come. In high school, I found myself working graveyard shifts at an up and coming datacenter facility. With high ambitions, Two close friends and I decided that we will start a Shared Web-hosting Company as a hobby. We wanted to offer superior website design and SEO along the way. VOLICO was born. With the clientele growing, my ability to juggle time and space between Medical School and this hobby, a decision was made to pursue the VOLICO route full-time and see where it takes me. 20+ years later, VOLICO is still strong and kicking. We plan on making 2021 the best year yet, with some amazing announcements coming soon.[Bart] What is the back story behind Volico? How did it get started?Formed by a group of experienced senior network engineers in 2000, Volico has grown to become one of the most reliable colocation hosting providers nationwide. Built from the ground up, Volico has earned a reputation for attention to detail with a commitment to the latest data center technologies and innovations.With a vision of delivering a fully integrated trusted hosting environment, Volicos certified staff and high-profile product partners can provide enterprises with cost-effective and dependable hosting services. Whether as a primary service provider or business continuity/disaster recovery partner, discover how Volico can help you support your business today for tomorrow.The Volico Network Operations Center is manned 24/7/365 with knowledgeable, certified, and experienced network technicians that actively monitor infrastructure, connectivity, and application layer responsiveness. Any event immediately triggers a response from the on-duty personnel in accordance with Volicos SLA. Lastly. We also provide technical support and engineering offloading for customers that need to concentrate on their day to day instead of worrying about their infrastructure.[Bart] You provide colocation services but its not traditional colo ping, power, pipe. How is your colocation offering different than the competition?While there are many differentiators that set Volico aside, thinking outside the box has to be the zenith of them all. Working one on one with clients to understand their business model, pains, gains, and deficiencies allow Volico to offer custom-tailored support services beyond the traditional Rack and Stack. We can support clients from an IAAS basis, application-level, and even down to the KERNEL level execution layer. Volico offers IAAS via dedicated bare-metal services allowing us to stock server hardware in case clients need an emergency hard disk replacement, memory upgrade, or an entire cluster of servers. Most data centers today will only flip a switch for a reboot and do not have the level of support we provide that makes all the difference in the world to businesses.[Bart] We were talking before the interview about managed services. I thought it was really interesting. Can you elaborate? Hard drive swap, private cloud, dedicated serversMany data center providers offer managed services, but these services are often outsourced to third parties. Volico is different because we hire and train our own staff for customer support and managed services. Clients are able to pick up the phone; call in; and speak directly to their support team that is intimately familiar with their infrastructure.Volico sets itself apart from traditional colocation and cloud facilities, by offering suites of Data Center Managed Services to help customers to manage their equipment and applications. Whether you need Smart Hands to troubleshoot a failed disk array remotely or need advanced services such as Active Directory, VPNs, Managed Backup Solutions, or just need to speak to one of our engineers, we have your business covered.By choosing our Managed Services, youll be taking advantage of our years of experience in the field, complete with a 24x7x365 on-site personalized support that will always be available to assist you.[Bart] Where are you seeing the most demand right now in terms of data center markets and your facilities specifically?This is a really open-ended question today. Due to COVID-19, we are seeing a trend of more data, faster data, and more security. We have seen Law firms increase bandwidth commits. We have seen enterprise clients migrate more infrastructure from their offices to facilitate work from home. We have seen clients looking to save money by migrating away from public cloud environments that nickel and dime the clients at every possible way. Managed Backups has seen a wide growth lately with the rise of crypto-lock attacks. The list goes on.[Bart] What are you seeing in terms of demand for services? Is it more colocation or private cloud, dedicated servers, bare metal?This is also a really open ended question. The demand for services are directly proportional to the clients level of application complexity. Some clients are good with a bare metal server running a Linux, Unix, or Windows OS. Some clients have recently been interested with Apples new M1 ARM based CPU chips. One of the main things we elaborate to clients about the differences with colocation, dedicated servers, private clouds, and public clouds is the directly proportional cost increase due to the complexity of the services and the inverse relationship of offsetting delegation and accountability.[Bart] Tell me a little more about your colocation facilities? What sets them apart? Is it location, connectivity, tier rating?Volico opened its first owned data center facility in 2006 out of a simple necessity. While we understand that Murphys law is inevitable, we also understand that one can make great efforts to minimize any and all risk factors. Volico prides itself on engineering a facility that minimizes risks without compromise. We can talk about how our Electrical, Cooling, and Network services are all built around a 2N+X. We can talk about our unique AI-based optimized network architecture that spans the entire South Florida market, Atlanta, and Chicago. We can talk about our Tier4 rating. At the end of the day, what sets us apart is simple. Humans. The Volico Team is what sets us apart.[Bart] What are your customers collocating these days? What is the main driver for purchasing colocation space? Disaster recovery, private cloud, complianceClients are colocating servers, storage, hyperconverged, firewalls, switches, routers, etc. You name it, we have most probably seen it. Different clients have different driving factors as to why they are using data center services. We enjoy working with the full spectrum of clients and their hosting needs. Big or small.[Bart] Whats in store for the future of Volico? New product launches, data center expansion, new facilities?Volico is currently in expansion mode. We have completed a new white space corridor at our flagship location in Fort Lauderdale. Furthermore, we are working with engineers of all the gametes to continue and increase our resiliency via new technologies and automation. We are also in the midst of launching our new API based public cloud platform allowing for clients to directly integrate their CI (continuous integration) platform to command and control every aspect of their IAAS with Volico ranging from Colocation, Cloud, or a hybrid of the two.[Bart] Where do you see the data center industry going in the future? Where will demand come from? Is it future tech like Ai/ML, IoT and streaming? Would love to get your thoughts on it allThe future is now. While a cliche, Volico prides itself on innovation in the marketplace. We also pride ourselves in continuously updating and upgrading our infrastructure allowing us to provide clients with cutting-edge services. We have custom engineered and built embedded IOT devices throughout the facility allowing for granular prediction based tracking and alerting. If you would like to know more; schedule a tour, and you can see where your infrastructure is now compared to where it could be in the future with us.[Bart] Is there anything else you want to mention? Whats on your mind?We are trying to raise awareness with our partners about complacency. Meaning, many MSPs and IT departments become complacent with their day to day routines never thinking once that it can ALL be turned upside down in a split moment due to an oversight. With this in mind, we work hard to partner with our clients to allow them to concentrate on their Day to Day so things do not fall through the cracks. We also understand that when these scenarios happen; the client immediately goes into panic mode. This has been a forefront for some of our recent migratory clients that were hosted in the Hyper-Scale Public cloud datacenters. Unfortunately, while they present instant point and click deployments, they are expensive, quirky, and have little to no one to talk to when it comes to support.
11 Feb 2021
A Comprehensive Checklist for a Successful Data Center Migration
Change is inevitable. It doesnt matter the business or industry. Enterprises embark on transitions that require them to transfer a massive volume of data at a given time. Specific changes, including mergers, acquisition of new employees, or projects, require speed, agility, and unparalleled performance. No matter the magnitude, it is imperative that data migration disrupts daily operations as little as possible.To ensure this, its essential that you have a well thought out data center migration plan. Restructuring the conventional data center can help businesses address their shortcomings and deliver accordingly. As a company grows over time, it is integral to prioritize minimizing risks of outages and failure to comply with all business needs. With that in mind, here is the checklist that you need to make data center migration a success.Preparing for the Data Center MigrationAs with any venture in life, it is always best to come prepared. Coming up with a sound plan allows businesses to track their progress and manage their expectations. Before the data center migration, enterprises should have everything planned. They should be able to grasp the idea of the things that are involved in the move. It would be best to prepare an inventory of all of the data center migration activities that are necessary in order to get a full picture of whats needed. Most businesses prioritize the IT equipment that provides the most value to the organization. To help with your decision, make sure that you get answers to the following questions right up front:Is this application relevant to the existing and future projects of the organization?If yes, what are the configurations that come along with these items for them to function efficiently?How much downtime can be caused by having this special equipment in transit?What are the steps taken to minimize the operational distractions caused by data center migration?It is important to note that every application and piece of equipment in the data center has a different purpose and use. For this reason, it is imperative to have everything labeled and segregated accordingly. After documenting all of the things within the data center to be migrated, you can take the next steps. Youll want to list all the factors that can help your business determine the relevance of specific applications and equipment in the data center. These factors include identifying the following:Application OwnersPossible dates for upgrades and changesAllowable DowntimeServer, network, storage, and operating system requirementsPower specificationsConnectivity (cabling) diagramsRack layoutBesides the physical aspect of any data center, it is integral that you evaluate other factors before the migration. Prioritizing the workforce, business objectives, and risk assessments can help you accelerate the migration process. To help you create a sound data center migration plan, make sure to consider the following questions as well:Is your workforce large enough to support the data center migration?What role does this transition play going forward with your business goals?What are the risks of facilitating data center migration, and how would you mitigate them?Formulating a Detailed Plan of the ProcessPreparing a detailed plan of the process is imperative to data center migration. This plan allows you to prepare your strategy and backup plan throughout the process. Although the method used depends on your companys resources and needs, the key to a sound plan is a full understanding of your environment. Assemble a trusted team that can contribute to making data center migration seamless and successful. Consulting with an expert regarding your data center migration solution is highly suggested to spot check yourself and ensure that youve left no stone unturned in the planning process. This also ensures that youre partnering with the ideal provider for your datacenter needs.Data Center Migration StepsData Center migrations can get overwhelming, especially with a large volume of data involved. It is integral that organizations prepare adequately, from the equipment for the move, the schedule, and the transit items. Consider the following practices that can help you succeed in the end.Start with a Sound PlanAny project would go smoothly with a sound plan. Whether you plan on consolidating data, move equipment, or haul office supplies to a new office, make sure that everything gets prepared beforehand. The first thing that you need to do is to guarantee a seamless equipment migration. Otherwise, a single piece of equipment that breaks while in transit can compromise crucial business data. Ensure that you are in contact with a reputable service provider that provides insurance options for valuable transactions. Some companies also have sufficient resources to perform the data migration themselves. Although this can be cost-effective, the organization must ensure that the movers have enough knowledge to handle IT equipment. Now that you have found a reliable mover, you should create a comprehensive plan on how the migration should occur.Depending on your preference, needs, and budget, you can have items transferred all at once or in batches. While getting all your equipment settled right away seems practical, the latter gives you the chance to see how the workplace rolls with limited items at hand. Transferring your stock in batches provides businesses the opportunity to minimize as much downtime as possible.If you plan to move forward to a whole new space, you could use this opportunity to settle existing contracts. Take this opportunity to finally get rid of that deceptive vendor and explore plenty of options that provide a better deal. It is vital to check in with your hardware and software providers to determine if they would be willing to carry out their services despite the distance. More often than not, more complications can arise if service providers are far away.Review the Data Center Environment by Creating a Comprehensive InventoryBefore preparing everything for the move, make sure to document all of the equipment for inventory. Get all machinery pieces logged onto the list before they are unplugged and taken down to the loading dock. Before you pull out the system logs, jot down the active workloads, scheduled backups, and utilize software applications to avoid being behind essential tasks. Creating a comprehensive inventory allows you to discover the items that you need to discard and keep. Check up on items that can have their warranty affected when transferred to a different location.Organizations must inform their customers of the migration that would take place. They should know where the new location is to determine where to go when necessary. Plus, products and services that require licensing need to get settled before proceeding with the operations to the new location.Form a Team to Facilitate the Data Center MigrationThe team involved in data center migration comprises physical movers, digital teams, and managers that oversee the entire process. They will be the ones who will settle the date for when the migration takes place. Ideally, it is imperative to schedule the transfer on days that will not affect pivotal business decisions. For instance, it is integral to set aside this venture during product launches, crucial projects, and peak business seasons. The team should look for the ideal time when the business can still operate as usual. Once the date is all set, they can determine the plans for the data center migration. The migrations should not have a significant impact on the business from the backup plans, installation, and IT equipment testing.They should also organize all of the items needed to move. To keep things organized, make sure that all of the containers are labeled accordingly. You must keep cables and cords near the devices they connect to all the time. Labeling them according to the room they are designated for prevents any confusion during installation. Most data centers divide across different floors, so it is imperative to systematically arrange all of the items.Moreover, the team should establish a trusted security team that can be of assistance throughout the process. This team inspires confidence that the business will get all the equipment and confidential data transmitted safely and soundly. Keeping an eye on security logs can help the unit monitor the migration to ensure that none of the items are compromised. It would also be vital to carry out excessive security parameters to prevent unauthorized access to data.What Comes Next After a Successful Data Migration?Following the successful data center migration, it is imperative to make sure that everything gets tested. Using your inventory for reference, you can check all of the items involved in the process. Make sure that everything is in place and running correctly.You could say that the data center migration is a success if everything works smoothly and nothing went misplaced. Another critical factor that determines the success of the project is whether the items arrived according to schedule. Reviewing this initiatives results can help the team reflect on what went wrong and the things they need to improve.
26 Jan 2021
IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS?
This is a question many businesses are faced with as they consider the migration to cloud services. The main difference between these three solutions are what they offer to end users right out of the box, so to speak. Before even thinking about which solution is the right one for you its beneficial to spend some time understanding what each of them are, what benefits they bring to the table, and when you should consider them for your own business needs.IaaSInfrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a type of cloud computing that provides users with computing resources over the internet. With IaaS solutions, the responsibility of maintaining equipment falls solely on the shoulders of the cloud service provider. In the event there are any technical issues or outages, the end user must contact the provider who then undertakes corrective action spending on the Service Level Agreement. IaaS solutions eliminate the need for users to procure and maintain their own hardware in datacenters. This is ideal for clients looking for a way around the expenses associated with the upkeep of equipment in a datacenter, while still maintaining nearly the same level of control that they would have in a colocation environment.ProsIaaS solutions are typically advertised by providers with one of the following buying options: pay-as-you-go or subscription. With the pay-as-you-go model, you are charged by the provider based on the amount of computing resources that you consume based on a per hour or per day rate. The rate in which you are measured varies by provider. On the flip side, utilizing the subscription model, users are charged a fixed monthly or yearly rate regardless of the amount of resources they end up consuming. Having multiple ways of budgeting out your IaaS needs is an appealing draw of this solutions.ConsIn 2017, several massive companies with millions of users experienced lengthy outages. Netflix, Reddit, Pintrest, Tinder, Dropbox, and thousands of other websites were down for 4 hours. This lead many people to speculate that the entire internet was down. The issue wasnt the entire internet but rather an Amazon Web Service outage which resulted in many big name websites suddenly becoming inaccessible. In that year, AWS accounted for over 49.4% of the total IaaS market share. The reason for their stranglehold on the industry is because they were the first to get IaaS solutions on the market but now there are many other providers which offer similar services. However, this outage highlights one of the concerns with IaaS solutions: while they offer reduced up front costs, on demand scaling, and flexibility, they also come with disadvantages like reduced independence and occasional downtime issues.When To Use ItAnyone looking to avoid spending time and money on purchasing hardware or creating software should consider IaaS. In particular, companies that are experiencing massive growth should look into IaaS solutions as the scalability is seemingly endless and you can change out hardware and software as your clients needs evolve.ExamplesAWSAzureGoogle Compute EngineLinodePaaSPlatform as a Service (PaaS) can be viewed as a toolbox filled with cloud based services which allow developers to create applications. The benefit to building in the cloud versus on-premise in a datacenter is that building in the cloud allows developers to create at a speed unmatched by any on-prem solutions. Since the services are provisioned over the internet, theres no need to worry about setting up and maintaining servers, patching, upgrading, or authenticating. This gives time back to developers, allowing them to focus resources on creating the best user experience possible for their application.ProsPaaS solutions offer a wide array of services including workflow and design tools and rich APIs. This allows developers to build applications with the click of a button and pre-set lines of code as opposed to worrying about infrastructure and operating systems. This ease of use is what draws many companies looking to create and go live with an application quickly. Development tools, servers, and programming environments are all ready for use, via the cloud, without the complexity thats required to create them in house, saving both time and money. With very low start up costs developers are able to create and host applications without a lot of the delay that are typically caused by infrastructure issues. Developers can product high quality results at a much faster clip.ConsWith PaaS solutions is that data residing in third party, vendor controlled cloud services may pose a security risk and your security options may be limited due to specific hosting policies set forth by your vendor. Also, PaaS solutions may not be optimized for the language and framework of your preference.When to Use ItWhen you have multiple developers working on different projects at the same time, PaaS solutions can be beneficial because they are capable of streamlining workflows. PaaS is also especially useful to organizations that need to create customized applications as the speed and flexibility with which you can create is immense. Overall, this cloud service can save time and money by simplifying many of the challenges that come up when youre rapidly developing and hosting applications.ExamplesHerokuOpenShiftForce.comSaaSSoftware as a Service (SaaS) is one of the most widely known and commonly used business solutions in the cloud market. SaaS solutions utilize the internet to deliver applications, which are run entirely by third party vendors, to their end users. The vast majority of applications delivered via SaaS are run completely through the end users web browser, which eliminates the need for downloads or installation of new software for a potential client. This means that any technical issues related to data, servers, or storage are managed by the vendor providing the SaaS solution.ProsThe amount of time and money saved on projects like installing, managing, and upgrading software are one of the main reasons why companies are drawn to SaaS solutions. This allows the technical staff within an organization to focus to focus on other essential tasks. SaaS solutions are managed from a central location so in addition to reducing the costs associated with maninting infrastructure, they also streamline the maintenance and support available for businesses as there is one main point of contact for all technical issues.ConsThere are some potential drawbacks that companies considering SaaS solutions should consider. SasS vendors typically make it very easy to join a service but very difficult to get out of it. Vendor lock-in should be considered at the beginning stages of looking into a SaaS solution so that youre not stuck with a service that doesnt provide what you need. For instance, not every vendor follows standard APIs, protocols, and tools, yet those features could be essential for your business. Its essential to consult with an expert to make sure youre getting what you need out of a potential vendor.When to Use itStartups or smaller companies looking to save money up front would benefit from a SaaS solution. Not having to worry about server issues or software is appealing for many organizations. Also, anyone looking to get a short term project up and running quickly and affordably would benefit from going the SaaS route. Any application that requires both web and mobile access are ideal for SaaS as well.ExamplesDropBoxSalesForceGoToMeetingCisco WebEx