Archive for the ‘Keith Smith’ Category

Organisations live in the past when it comes to IT

July 30, 2010
Press release

A Plan-Net survey reveals that 76% of organisations still run on Windows XP 10 years after its release, and 44% are not planning to change. Also, 87% use Exchange 2003 or previous versions, which do not support virtualisation or 64-bit systems. An upgrade would allow organisations to achieve cost-efficiencies, Plan-Net advises.

Reasons behind the lack of modernisation are reduced budgets due to the recession; wariness towards later versions deemed defective; other projects being given priority; and failure to recognise sufficient reasons for change. However, using an obsolete system can prevent organisations from cost savings and efficiencies made possible by new technologies such as virtualisation, continuous replication and unified communication tools.

Adrian Polley, Technical Services Director at Plan-Net comments: “The unstable economy and reduced finances have made organisations wary of investments deemed inessential. But the challenging climate has also brought people to focus on cost-efficiencies and ‘doing more with less’.”

“Investing in good management of the IT Service Desk can reduce losses caused by inefficiencies and free up resources that can be invested in technical projects such as upgrading to Exchange 2010 and Windows 7. This can allow access to technologies and achieve benefits in a way which is not possible with earlier systems, and which in turn, will help the Service Desk run more smoothly and create other cost savings, thus engaging in a cycle of reciprocal benefits.”

The survey was carried out on 100 IT decision makers working in City-based businesses of over 250 users. For both Windows XP and Exchange 2003, standard support expired last year. Plan-Net experts say upgrades to Windows 7 and Exchange 2010 are advisable.

Keith Smith, Senior Consultant says: “Windows 7 has had positive feedback from early adopters and expert analysts such as Gartner. It is more secure, faster and makes it easier to share resources. As for Exchange 2010, it simplifies high availability, making continuity and resilience much easier, and, also, virtualisation with all the benefits that entails.”

For more information:

Samantha Selvini
Press Assistant, Plan-Net plc
Tel: 020 7632 7990
Email: samantha.selvini@plan-net.co.uk

10 reasons to migrate to Exchange 2010

July 29, 2010

A Plan-Net survey found that 87% of organisations are currently using Exchange 2003 or earlier. There has been a reluctance to adopt the 2007 version, often considered to be the ‘Vista’ of the server platform – faulty and dispensable. But an upgrade to a modern, improved version is now becoming crucial: standard support for the 2003 version ended over a year ago and much technological progress has been made since then. It seems that unconvinced organisations need some good reasons to move from their well-known but obsolete system to the new and improved 2010 version, where business continuity and resilience are easier to obtain and virtualisation can be embraced, with all the benefits that follow.

Here are 10 reasons your organisation should migrate to Exchange 2010:

1- Continuous replication

International research shows that companies lose £10,000/$10,000 an hour to email downtime. This version of Exchange enables continuous replication of data which can minimise disruptions dramatically and spare organisations from such loss. Moreover, Microsoft reckons the costs of deploying Exchange 2010 can be recouped within six months thanks to the improvements in business continuity and

2- Allows Virtualisation

It supports virtualisation, allowing consolidation. Server virtualisation is not only a cost cutter, reducing expenditure related to maintenance, support staff, power, cooling and space. It also improves business continuity – when a virtual machine is down, computers can run on another virtual machine with no downtime.

3- Cost savings on storage

Exchange 2010 has, according to Microsoft, 70% less disk I/O (input/output) than Exchange 2007. For this reason, the firm recommends moving away from SAN storage solutions and adopt less expensive direct attached storage. This translates to real and significant cost savings for most businesses.

4- Larger mailboxes

Coupling the ability to now use larger, slower SATA (or SAS) disks with changes to the underlying mailbox database architecture allows for far larger mailbox sizes than previously to become the norm.

5- Voicemail transcription

Unified Messaging, first introduced with Exchange 2007, offers the concept of the ‘universal inbox’ where email and voice mail are available from a single location and consequently accessed from any of the following clients:

  • Outlook 2007 and later
  • Outlook Web App
  • Outlook Voice Access – access from any phone
  • Windows Mobile 6.5 or later devices

A new feature to Exchange 2010, Voicemail Preview, sees text-transcripts of voicemails being received, saving the time it takes to listen to the message. Upon reception of a voice message, the receiver can glance at the preview and decide whether it is an urgent matter. This and other improvements, such as managing voice and email from a single directory (using AD), offer organisations the opportunity to discard third-party voicemail solutions in favour of Exchange 2010.

6- Helpdesk cost reduction

Exchange 2010 offers potential to reduce helpdesk costs by enabling users to perform common tasks which would normally require a helpdesk call. Role-based Access control (RBAC) allows delegation based on job function which, coupled with the Web-based Exchange Control Panel (ECP), enables users to assume responsibility for Distribution Lists, update personal information held in AD and track messages. This reduces the call volumes placed on the Helpdesk, with obvious financial benefits.

7- High(er) Availability

Exchange 2010 builds upon the continuous replication technologies first introduced in Exchange 2007. The technology is far simpler to deploy than Exchange 2007 as the complexities of a cluster install are taken away from the administrator. It incorporates easily with existing Mailbox servers and offers protection at the database – with Database Availability Groups – rather than the server level. By supporting automatic failover, this feature allows faster recovery times than previously.

8- Native archiving

A large hole in previous Exchange offerings was the lack of a native managed archive solution. This saw either the proliferation of un-managed PSTs or the expense of deploying third-party solutions. With the advent of Exchange 2010 – and in particular the upcoming arrival of SP1 this year – a basic archiving suite is now available out-of-the-box.

9- Can be run on-premise or in the cloud

Exchange 2010 offers organisations the option to run Exchange ‘on-premise’ or in the ‘cloud’. This approach even allows organisations to run some mailboxes in the cloud and some on locally held Exchange resources. This offers companies very competitive rates for mailbox provision from cloud providers for key mailboxes, whilst deciding how much control to relinquish by still hosting most mailboxes on local servers.

10- Easier calendar sharing

With Federation for Exchange 2010, employees can share calendars and distribution lists with external recipients more easily. The application allows them in fact to schedule meetings with partners and customers as if they belonged to the same organisation. Whilst this might not appeal to most organisations, those investing in collaboration technologies will see the value Exchange 2010 offers.

Taking the leap

Due to the uncertain economy many organisations are wary of investing their tight budgets in projects deemed unessential. However, if they follow the ‘more with less’ rule and invest in some good service management for their IT Service Desk, the resulting cost savings will free resources that can be invested in this type of asset. The adoption of Exchange 2010, in turn, will allow more efficient use of IT by end users and help the service desk run more smoothly, thus engaging in a cycle of reciprocal benefits.

Keith Smith, Senior Consultant

This article is featured on Tech Republic:  http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/10things/?p=1681&tag=leftCol;post-1681

Will Tablets rule the future?

June 17, 2010

Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently announced the start of a new, post-PC era, declaring that Tablets such as the iPod might be replacing PCs just like ‘old trucks were replaced by modern cars’. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer reacted by saying that PCs are undergoing many transformations and tablets are just one of the experimental forms we will see, adding that the PC market has still a lot to grow.

As an experiment Keith Smith, Senior Consultant and Adrian Polley, Technical Services Director take the sides of Jobs and Ballmer and discuss the two different viewpoints.

Are Tablets the future? 

It’s a strong possibility.

Keith Smith, Senior Consultant

Nowadays there is an increasing need for light and easily transportable devices, which are at the same time aesthetically pleasing. From this point of view, Tablets tick all the boxes: they offer flexibility and mobility in use as they are not restricted to a keyboard, and because of their shape they can be used in places or positions not conducive to a notebook such as in bed, standing or with one hand. Apart from this, what differentiates Tablets is that they give users the possibility to write directly into the device using their own handwriting, which is something normal laptops do not allow. Users can then share their “ink”, the data which is input and displayed as handwriting, with other tablet and non-tablet users and integrate it with other business applications, for instance Word. There is also the option of using the traditional mouse-keyboard combination, although the elements have to be purchased separately.

After the warm welcome the iPad received, it may prove difficult to go back to portable PCs as we know them. This is especially because the Tablet offers the “touch environment” which makes navigation easier than notebook equivalents of keyboard, mouse and touchpad in certain situations, and offers faster input for creating diagrams or playing games.

The fact that users can use a stylus to input information, which builds on peoples’ traditional use of a pen, makes it even more accessible as for a lot of people it is easier to use than a keyboard.

The functions that characterise Tablets make it ideal for personal use first, which may then leak into the business world when issues such as security will be properly addressed. Although a lot of work still needs to be done, especially to gain credibility in a business environment, Tablets can be seen as the first step to a technology that is minimal, versatile and why not, democratic.

 __________________________________________________

I don’t think so!

Adrian Polley, Technical Services Director

There is a lot of fervour around this ‘innovative’ piece of technology, but contrary to what many seem to believe, Tablets are not so shockingly original, nor can really be considered the anti-PC – there have in fact been PC-based Tablets since 2001. These are generally standard Laptops with a rotating screen that can be used to write on, so that they have the general functionality of a laptop with the convenience of a pen-based device. This device was lauded as the natural successor to the laptop, but even though marketing enthusiasm has increased with both the Windows Vista and then the Windows 7 launches, take up has been relatively small compared to overall laptop sales. The dual functionality made these types of Tablets considerably more expensive than comparable laptops, which could be a reason for their limited success. There is commercial appeal in the iPad because of its ease of portability and accessible price, but these are both possible because it lacks traditional PC or Mac components. This might make it lighter and sexier, but does it meet normal functionality needs?

There is a major issue with Tablets that concerns user input.  In spite of 20 years’ worth of development of voice and handwriting-based input, the vast majority of user input to a computer is still done via the keyboard, which is considered to be fast and accurate. The lack of an equally efficient means of input into a Tablet device relegates it to those tasks which are primarily consumer based, such as viewing and interacting with content that is provided without having to input a lot of information.  This may suit consumer applications, but only a certain class of business applications. Until the input problem is resolved, Tablets will always be an item in the business world that is niche and not mainstream.  As has already been proven with PC-based Tablets, users are generally unwilling to pay the premium required to get the Tablet functions on top of a standard laptop, let alone to lose some of its main functions completely.

Apple’s Tablet may have sold to millions of technology fans, but widespread day-to-day and business adoption is probably not going to become a reality anytime soon.

Disclaimer: this is a role-play exercise and may not represent the writers’ real views on the subject.