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How to secure the hybrid workforce

Following on from my blog ‘The Future is Hybrid’, this blog looks at securing the hybrid workforce. During 2020 many organisations raced to deliver remote working for their workforce, often at the expense of a level of security, that would have previously been unacceptable.  Now that the dust has settled and many organisations have managed their risk in terms of remote working and multiple end point devices, it’s time to look at some of the specific technologies that can enable secure hybrid working as part of an overall hybrid working strategy.

Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.

Decentralised security as a concept

When securing the hybrid workforce, an increasing number of organisations who have already adopted a cloud strategy are now moving toward a decentralised storage strategy that provides multiple user access, whilst offering potentially greater data security and business continuity.  In this instance, data is essentially stored on 80 different nodes, but only 30 are needed to reconstitute that data, making the attack surface much less susceptible to cyber-attack and other related outages. The huge increase in demand for remote working over the last year has accelerated the move towards a decentralised cloud storage strategy in general.  This kind of storage can offer benefits such as reduced cost, improved reliability, improved up-time and of course increased security.

Endpoint security

The realities of hybrid working and working from home, have presented organisations with a whole host of security issues.  Endpoint security is a solution which is deployed on the user’s device (endpoint), which will prevent file-based malware as well as detecting and blocking malicious activity from trusted and untrusted applications.  It can also identify and resolve security incidents and alerts. Responding to the most recent forms of ransomware attacks, the latest generation of endpoint security deals with fileless malware which exploits native processes to initiate the attack.

Citrix Share File is one example of a virtual data room product, which is equipped with a multi-level security system: the data is encrypted (the documents contain dynamic watermarks that prevent unauthorised dissemination) and access is only allowed via a two-step verification.

Access Security – Identify and Access Management (IAM)

Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions administer user identities and control access to an organisation’s resources. It achieves this authentication through a single sign-on, making it user friendly; once the user is signed on, they can only access those areas that they have been given permission to do so via a user profile which is set centrally.  An IAM system can track user activity and can detect any suspicious activity, communication or issues that might otherwise be missed.  When on-boarding new employees, the profile can be quickly and easily set, so that the process is seamless.  Ultimately this kind of access management can assist an organisation to meet industry compliance requirements.

Secure file sharing

Within an organisations the volume of data shared daily is significant and making sure it is kept secure, but easy to access, can be an onerous task.  When considering hybrid working and the potential of multiple devices being used in multiple locations, this task is made even more difficult.  Also, given the collaborative nature of data centric activities, files may need to be made available to users outside of the organisation, adding further layers of risk.

Often, when data needs to be shared quickly, business users often turn to consumer file sharing platforms, which will not meet corporate security and compliance mandates.

To offer an enterprise grade alternative to consumer based and email attachment files sharing options, there are a number of solutions on the market that provide the required level of security and accessibility. Below are just a few examples:

Virtual Data Rooms: providing an organisation with the ability to setup file share and synchronised services for their users easily and securely, offering a real alternative to large file sharing such as FTP.  As the name suggests, a virtual data room is an online database where organisations can store and share confidential information.  Traditionally these have been used to store the most confidential of information.

SharePoint: Probably one of the most recognisable data sharing products, Microsoft’s SharePoint offers a multitude of features combined with an excellent a level of ease of use that many other products find hard to compete with. Often combined with 365, it is sold as a document management and storage system.

Box: Very similar to SharePoint is Box, competing directly with Microsoft. It’s ease of use/setup, cost, and no requirement to use any of its other software set it apart from SharePoint.

Best Practice

Securing the hybrid workforce requires careful consideration of what technology is put in place and I have covered this many times before. However, a major cause of data breach is human error.  The importance of employees understanding what behaviour is appropriate in terms of IT security is imperative, for any organisation, regardless of what technology is put in place to guard. Indeed, overzealous security measures can often take away that responsibility from the employee and impact by making processes a real chore – possibly putting the organisation at further risk by people trying to circumnavigate security for ease of use.  By promoting ongoing awareness and best practice training, an organisation stands the best chance of avoiding data breaches.

Some areas to explore when encouraging a culture of security and best practice include:

Password Hygiene: enforce password changes on a regular basis and consider multi factor authentication; both are ways of adding security to your organisation’s data.

Email security: A massive growth area for phishing attacks in the last year; email best practice is an important part of the organisation’s security strategy. Comprehensive user training in being able to spot the various techniques employed by scammers via email.  For the most sensitive of data, encryption apps should be considered, disguising information from potential hackers.

Endpoint devices: Equipping your workforce with the appropriate tools to do their work should be a key requirement for any organisation, ensuring that they are able to enforce restrictions for website, downloadable content, or applications; adding another layer of security. In addition, centralised software and antivirus updates can be rolled out remotely.  It is key that considerations regarding the type of device and indeed the software upon it, are aiming to facilitate the user to do their job, rather than hinder them.  This pre-empts employees either avoiding the device altogether or installing ‘Shadow IT’ where a better, none approved application is downloaded and used as it serves them better, ultimately putting security at risk.

The work environment: As well as making sure that your workforce has the right tools to do their work when working away from the office, it is important to make sure that they consider regular router password changes and multifactor authentication when logging on.

If, after reading this blog, you feel that it might be the right time to look more closely at how you are securing the hybrid workforce, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable. Pendulum offers support and expertise to help you get the most out of your organisation’s infrastructure.

Please read my blog ‘building resilience in a hybrid workforce’, where I outline best practices around disaster recovery, business continuity and building in resilience into processes.

Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware, and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on securing the hybrid workforce or any other technology related issue, please contact me at mphiri@pendulum-it.com

About Us

Pendulum IT p logo



Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

Driving business continuity and resilience in a hybrid working environment

Driving business continuity and resilience in a hybrid working environment.

With more and more organisations moving to a hybrid workforce model, the need to consider and reframe approaches to business continuity is key. The metrics of business continuity don’t change or become less important, but the approach needs to be more expansive, taking into account that IT must empower a workforce where location, access requirements and remote collaboration demands are more dynamic than ever before.

Business Continuity and Resilience

There is no doubt that a hybrid workforce can enhance an organisation’s business continuity, as it will allow the workforce to work anywhere at any time of day, without the restrictions of an office-based environment. It also makes it easier to recruit talent, where geographic and lifestyle restriction had previously caused limitations. Disruptions are minimised, once the workforce has the equipment and infrastructure to be able to work remotely, allowing them to respond to events immediately.

How best to achieve a robust business continuity strategy in this new hybrid workforce world is a key challenge and will vary from organisation to organisation. However, there are several key elements that will give your organisation the best chance of success. These include:

Strategy: Having a clear and concise business continuity strategy in place is critical to ensuring that when an emergency happens, your workforce isn’t wondering who’s responsible for what, and exactly what their role is in it all. Especially relevant as your workforce are likely to be away from the office and confusion is likely to reign if there isn’t a clear and consistent strategy. This strategy also needs to extend outside the organisation, to throughout its supply chain, making sure key suppliers and indeed clients are also considered and involved. Finally, an annual review is essential to make sure that the strategy is still relevant to the organisation and the market it operates within.

Adaptability: Agility to address the dynamic environment of the new workplace. Changes are inevitable; however, it is not always obvious what these will be, having the agility to move with those changes is key. Keep it simple, so when you adapt, you are not adding complexity and thereby instability.

Connectivity: Through a needs analysis, you must know who needs to be connected and at what level. Connectivity has to be seamless, remember this needs to aid productivity.  This is likely to be one of your biggest challenges alongside data security.

Collaboration: The workforce must have efficient access to all applications, data and tools they need to do their job effectively and collaboratively, at any time, regardless of location.

Security: Threats are more sophisticated, attack surfaces are increasing, and people are likely to be working from home, without proper training in basic cybersecurity hygiene. IT needs to address these challenges, with security built in at every stage; implementing this early on is both vital and cost-effective.

Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.

Reframing your approach

When an organisation decides to adopt a hybrid working model, it needs to consider what is required to enable it to do so.  One of the first things to do is to perform a requirements analysis; organisations need to understand which services are needed by their workforce. The following covers key areas to consider:

Network Capacity: There needs to be sufficient internet bandwidth to handle the increased WAN traffic that occurs when a high volume of employees accesses the network, in particular for voice and video communications. To add to this, firewalls, VPNs and other remote access related technologies will be in greater demand as the workforce starts accessing the network from outside of the corporate headquarters.

Security Monitoring: To guard against the possibility of malicious attacks, robust training of the workforce needs to take place, along with an ongoing awareness programme, to ensure that data security is at the forefront of everybody’s minds.

Identity and Access Management: To further protect the organisation from unwanted infiltration, investing in IAM solutions able to control access to the organisation’s resources, is a must. The advantage of being able to track and detect suspicious activity is invaluable, along with the ability to onboard new employees and create profiles; all are essential for staying operational in a hybrid workforce environment.

WAN Security: Secure remote access will need to be in place for all devices needing to connect to the network. Whether you choose VPN or SD-WAN, either will offer controlled access and additional benefits, depending on which you opt for. It is worth considering a separate private network for remote access, rather than office based, as a security measure to limit possible cyberattacks?  See my colleague Jeff’s blog, “The Future of Work – Post Pandemic”.

Collaborative Tools: Effective collaborative tools become essential with a hybrid workforce; making sure that teams continue to work effectively together using the right tools is imperative. Further detail about collaborative tools is available in my blog, “The Future is Hybrid”.

Remote Working Policy: A remote working policy is essential to managing remote workers. Including how functions can be completed from home, availability of the IT support team, what is expected regarding output when working from home including deadlines and goals, clearly defined channels of communication. These policies should also include cybersecurity, define roles and responsibilities of all staff addressing, as a minimum, email encryption, remote access, password creation and security, social media practices and device usage.

Revisit Your Disaster Recovery and Backup Plans

When considering the suitability of your existing disaster recovery plan, tactically, one of the first actions to take when you’re making ready to support a remote workforce, is to evaluate the solutions that already in place. Things to consider:

  • What technology tools are already in-place?
  • Are you making best use of their full capabilities?
  • Are there features or services that you need that aren’t available?

Identifying what you have to work with, and where the gaps that you need to fill are, allows you develop a roadmap for a way forward. Solutions across the business resiliency range should be considered, from backing up data on remote mobile devices, to the ability to quickly deploy disaster recovery tools if there’s a catastrophic event. Surveying what you have and what you need in terms of backups, disaster recovery, and disaster prevention, can help you evaluate your remote readiness and develop an implementation, technology, and services strategy that you can roll out quickly.

Cloud-Based Backup Across Endpoints

The integrity of your business data is critical and the cornerstone of successful operations. Backups are imperative, and not just for your applications and central data centres. Workers, especially those working remotely, may be saving files to their local computer that are crucial to the business. Are your employees working remotely on company equipment or has ‘working from home’ accelerated a bring your own device (BYOD) program? Each of these scenarios introduces unique challenges.

Cloud-based backup solutions can regularly (as in hourly, or daily) send data from laptops and mobile devices to the cloud. Should a device failure or other issue occur, you’ll have the latest information to work from. Another consideration may be using a file sharing solution; having all files saved to a centralised set of folders. Your team can then access the information they need (provided they have the right credentials) from any connected device, eliminating delays while you troubleshoot specific devices.

Address Network and Power Contingencies

If your employees are using their existing broadband connection and VPN to connect to your data centre and applications, it’s important to think about what you’ll do if that connection is taken offline. Consider what will happen if a storm damages cables and it takes a couple business days to get back online. Connecting via a local business, such as a coffee shop that offers free Wi-Fi is one option, but it can introduce unnecessary security risks (not to mention health risks in our current climate). Consider looking at investing in a failover connection or a simple solution such as mobile hotspot (which can be an individual device, or an add-on feature to your team’s smartphone plans).

It’s also helpful to think about what your employees should do if they lose power. Many offices have generators or other contingency plans, but home offices are often at the mercy of the power company to get back online. Increasingly, organisations are looking at portable solutions such as an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) or a power block. These can offer several hours of reliable power to business-essential devices if the grid goes down.

Consider Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

The reality for many organisations is that their busy IT teams are already trying to manage an unprecedented volume of digital needs, from increased digital delivery for customers, to the challenges that naturally arise when employees work remotely. Now may be the right time to consider Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) to strengthen your remote backup and resiliency capabilities. With a managed services solution, experienced disaster recovery IT specialists will work with you to determine your specific needs, configure solutions, and ensure that your backups and other related software are running smoothly across the network. If a disaster occurs, such as a breach or a natural event, key applications may be taken off-line, or critical data jeopardised.

DRaaS provides the technology and services needed to shift your disaster recovery and business continuity efforts into a larger resiliency planning conversation. This can provide the natural jumping off point for how to optimize for new situations, such as a high volume of remote workers.

If your organisation is considering making the move toward a permanent hybrid working model, having a partner who can help guide you through your plans for business continuity and disaster recovery, will be invaluable for making the right decisions. Pendulum offer support and expertise to help you get the most out of your organisation’s infrastructure, wherever that may be.

Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working solutions or any other area please contact me at mphiri@pendulum-it.com

About Us

Pendulum IT p logo



Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

Emerging from the pandemic stronger – How to thrive not just survive

Emerging from the pandemic stronger. How to thrive not just survive.

Even though we are not yet out of the grip of the COVID-19 crisis, it is already clear who the winners in business are. Broadly speaking, those organisations with built in flexibility, that were able to innovate, take opportunity where threat existed and utilise their infrastructure to do it, have done well; achieving in months what would normally take years. A lot of this success could be put down to those organisations having effective business continuity strategies.

About the Author

Senior Account Manager, Jeffrey Magara helps Global Enterprise & SME clients to deliver consolidating, cost saving IT solutions and projects.

According to a McKinsey Global Survey in 2020 of executives, these companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations, by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios, has accelerated by a shocking seven years.

Obviously, there were some industry sectors that were better placed than others, especially those involved in e-commerce, who had the capacity and power to access stocks. Moving away from the headline winners though, there are organisations that have managed, through their digital infrastructure, to survive the drastic measures of lockdowns, which saw their workplaces deserted and a paradigm shift to remote working. Based on research carried out by McKinsey, companies that are involved in manufacture have changed the least, regardless of whether they are in B2C or B2B. The companies that have embraced and developed their digital portfolio have been in healthcare, pharma, financial services and professional services.

Scalable organisations, that invested and accelerated digital technologies, such as cloud, have shown a remarkable turn of speed against predicted time. The following graph from McKinsey demonstrates not only the impressive speed of adoption, but the key areas that have been invested in:

McKinsey & Company graph showing how companies perceived their reaction to the Covid-19 crisis.

Embracing cloud technology

The term ‘scalability’ offered by cloud computing is often banded about, but what are the real-term benefits of having this resource in-place? To put it in very basic terms, it has meant that those enterprises who had adopted a cloud infrastructure, were able to respond to the increased demand swiftly, meaning the difference between coping with the demand and their website being shut down because it was unable to handle the un-precented volume.

The benefits of cloud infrastructure have allowed enterprises to order more stock quickly and pack it and despatch it more swiftly. Having that ability to increase capacity and speed, when needed, could be the difference between thriving or … not!

It also allows enterprises to experiment with new products/services, shortening ‘time to market’ to days and enabling versatility to switch on and switch off when needed. According to a Centrify survey carried out in Autumn 2020, 51% of business leaders stated that the shift to cloud computing has saved them from collapse during the pandemic. Given this success, 60% also said that they are planning to substantially increase their cloud infrastructure as we move hopefully out of the pandemic.

Remote working has been one the biggest successes during the pandemic and probably caught the most media attention, justifiably. Customer service departments that switched to remote working were able to do so and deal with increases in demand from customer calls, as well as still being able to process industry compliant payments. Remote working of this type has also allowed enterprises to offer an increase in customer service, sometimes moving to a 7-days-a-week model, which wasn’t previously viable. Due to the relatively low-cost entry points, remote access has allowed even small companies to collaborate and remain operational, despite being geographically distant; still having access to critical software and shared collaborative tools. I am sure, if remote working strategies weren’t in organisations business continuity planning before, they certainly will be now.

Using data to drive decision making

Being a data driven organisation can bring many benefits, including effective and improved decision making, proactive responses to customer needs and the imperative ability to stay ahead of the competition with innovative ideas and methods. Nothing new there, I hear you say, however, the sheer time and cost of collecting these insights into your business can be crippling, not to mention very time consuming. Alongside this, the sheer volume of data from varying sources, some incomplete, means data may only be used to back up an opinion for decision making, rather than as a main driving force for change. We haven’t mentioned the cultural barriers, where data isn’t accessed and acted upon consistently.

Cloud services are playing a crucial part in making data-based decisions a reality, and one which is bringing great advantage to those enterprises that leverage it. They allow accessibility and response to immediate business demands for data and analytics. What’s more, they provide a level of skills not often present within the enterprises, to be able to keep pace with big data analytics innovation at a much lower cost.

For enterprises wishing to get started in analytics, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) route may be a good place to start, offering scalability for multiple users, ongoing software updates, and maintenance. This can be extended to add further value by taking on Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), to build custom applications. With PaaS, the provider is able to deliver a solution stack integrated set of software, providing an enterprise’s developers with tools to build an application.
The power of this data analysis cannot be underestimated, with enterprises who have adopted this approach able to constantly analyses data from many customer touch points and roll out a campaign in real time, based upon that data.

Key benefits of SaaS Analytics:
• No requirement to have inhouse expertise and capacity
• The ability to rapidly scale storage and compute requirements
• Significant cost reductions compared with inhouse solutions

Ensuring resilience with well thought out and tested Business Continuity (BC) and Disaster Recovery (DR) plans

The possibility of organisations being subject to cyberattacks that can cripple a business or permanently destroy its IT systems, are very much a reality these days. Despite the many advantages of cloud infrastructure, digital transformation and hyper-convergence creates unintended gateways to risks, vulnerabilities, attacks and failures. As part of an enterprise’s Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plans, a cyber resilience strategy is essential, that can support a business to withstand disruptive cyber incidents. Such plans often include ways to defend against those risks, protect critical applications and data, and recover from breach or failure in a controlled, measurable way.

Today, many enterprises struggle to evolve their resiliency strategies quickly enough to tackle today’s hybrid IT environments and changing business demands. The reality of our always-on 24-7 world, is that enterprises can often gain competitive advantage, or lose market share, depending on how their IT resources serve their core business needs.

Business Continuity Management Services are one possible solution for enterprises to protect their business, by identifying and addressing resiliency synchronisation between business processes, applications and IT infrastructure. This kind of service can provide flexible business continuity and disaster recovery, consulting to address a company’s needs – including assessments, planning and design, implementation, testing and full business continuity management.

With the growth of cyberattacks, enterprises are moving from a traditional/manual recovery approach to an automated and software-defined resiliency approach. This method uses advanced technologies and best practices to help assess risks, prioritise and protect business-critical applications and data. These services can also help business rapidly recover IT during and after a cyberattack.

An alternative path could be to opt for cloud-based backup services; Disaster-Recover-as-a-Services (DRaaS), to provide continuous replication of critical applications, infrastructure, and data and systems for rapid recovery after an IT outage.
There are also virtual server options, to protect critical servers in real-time. This enables rapid recovery of applications to keep businesses operational during periods of maintenance or unexpected downtime.

Along the lines of the above solutions, the answer is with resiliency orchestration; a cloud-based approach that uses disaster recovery automation and a suite of business continuity management tools, designed specifically for hybrid-IT environments. This approach helps protect business process dependencies across applications, data and infrastructure components. It increases the availability of business applications, so that companies can access necessary high-level or in-depth intelligence regarding Recovery Point Objective (RPO), Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and the overall health of IT continuity, from a centralised dashboard.

Being robust is about ensuring you have pared down and consolidated unnecessary systems and spend
It’s not uncommon for an enterprise to be working with multiple vendors, but is it best use of that limited resource, money? Having multiple IT vendors can stretch your enterprise’s spend, and indeed your employees, too thin. Consolidating your list of partners with a wide range of capabilities, could help get better performance out of your processes. A common scenario is where an enterprise may have say Microsoft licenses from one vendor, IT managed services from another and data centre hardware from a third. The complexity and time taken to manage these multiple resources can seriously affect your ability to manage the very resources they are providing.

By paring down your vendor list can bring many benefits to your enterprise, these may include:

• Improved buying power: dealing with a smaller number of vendors increases your spend with them, making you a more valuable proposition and increasing room for negotiation.

• Scalable: ideally you need a vendor who can grow with you; that has the capacity to take you further, rather than reaching a limit where you are left wanting more and having to look outside.

• Better relationships: concentrating your business with a few key vendors will improve their understanding of your organisation and its needs. This closer relationship will pay dividends and encourage more of a committed partnership, rather than them just being another supplier.

• Vendor quality visibility: Having fewer vendors will allow you to make sure that those relationships really are of good quality, if not, they will become very apparent, and you’ll know it’s time to look elsewhere.

An additional consideration is the level of support you receive from the vendor, and indeed the timeliness of their responses. Also, the frequency and quality of product updates/improvements, and finally a very clear sign of who you are dealing with is staff turnover…

Automating where possible, for less ‘Key Man Dependency’
Automation of some processes will have a positive impact on your efficiency, accuracy and the redeployment of resources, from low level repetitive tasks to more strategic work. However, many enterprises are reluctant to use such technology because of the risks around Key Man Dependency; should an enterprise employ someone with the skills to put in-place these automations, there is considerable risk that that person may leave, along with the knowledge of how it works and how to maintain it. To combat this, some enterprises outsource this function to mitigate the risk, providing of course that this outsource company employ a team of developers and cross trains them, to ensure that knowledge is shared across a number of individuals.

Use of off the shelf solutions that have a wider knowledge base
Custom built software certainly has its place for enterprises and sometimes can be the only way you get something that meets all of your requirements. However, there are inherent issues; cost of purchase/maintaining non-standard software, possibly tying you to one vendor, not to mention the possibility of Key Man Dependency, mentioned earlier. The use of off-the-shelf software can offer many benefits to your enterprise, reducing risks associated with custom software. Some of the benefits include:

• Minimum installation time, providing it is compatible with your current systems
• Relatively low upfront cost, possibility of volume discount
• A ready-made support community
• Try before you buy and other user reviews
• Future compatibility and reduced chance of obsolescence

A number of headline areas need to be considered when looking to reduce risk and increase robustness around software. The following should give a good start in assessing whether off the shelf software is right for your enterprise.

Pricing model
Does the subscription and licensing approach suit your organisation. Is there a possibility that this licensing might limit how you do business now or in the future as you grow in size and geographical reach? What product features can you do without, to gain lower licensing fees?

Functionality
Does the software offer the functionality that you need now, or possibly in the future, and is there built-in flexibility of the package as you grow? Consider the level of complexity and how your users will adapt to it.

Process Flow
How will this software work with your current processes? – and is it likely to require changes? If it does require changes, what cost is there likely to be and is it worth the investment?

Platform and Technology Support
Will this software be supported on your enterprise’s platform? Check the level of data security, including authentication and access control, and check it fits with your enterprise’s level of sensitivity.

SaaS hosting or on-Prem
Consider whether your enterprise is better suited to allow cloud hosted SaaS or will it need to be hosted on-Prem? Look into the level of network changes that would need to be carried out to allow users to access it. System resilience and backup frequency also need to be considered. Does the software provide APIs to enable data integration with other systems? If so, what exactly does this cover, and do they use the most up to date standards?

User Experience
Last, but certainly not least: what level of training and support is offered?
The lack of adoption could negate any advantages gained by ‘off the shelf’ software, if your users don’t like it, can’t use it, or avoid using it.

Moving away from Proprietary Systems
Having an IT platform that is flexible and able to work with your customers and vendors alike (including cloud providers), will put your enterprise in a much better position, providing agility and robustness. Regardless of where you are with your cloud migration programme, if indeed you have taken that path, avoiding propriety systems wherever possible is a very wise strategy.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it will be the need to be flexible and agile and that applies as much for IT systems, as for the way people are having to work. Some organisations’ journeys during lockdown periods will no doubt have been made a lot more painful, as they discovered their incompatibilities with other systems.

If your enterprise is looking to improve its business agility and flexibility, having an IT partner who can help guide you through will be an invaluable asset. Pendulum offers support and expertise, to help you get the most out of your organisation’s infrastructure.

Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working solutions or any other area please contact me at jmagara@pendulum-it.com

I hope that you have found this blog useful. If, after reading this blog, you feel that it might be the right time to look further into the way your organisation’s IT Team supports the workforce of today, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable to making the right decisions. Pendulum offers support and expertise to help you get the most out of your organisation’s infrastructure.

About Us

Pendulum IT p logo



Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

The Future of Remote Work – Post Pandemic

The future of remote work, post pandmic.

The Future of Remote Work – Post Pandemic

There’s no doubt that the events of 2020, due to COVID-19, have had an impact on the entire world, not just in people’s personal lives; we have seen fundamental changes in the way we work and indeed, in some instances, what work we do. Some of those changes that happened during 2020, relate to remote working, where, due to the pandemic, traditional office-based roles were forced out of the office and into the home. There was already a trend, the technology and indeed the desire for organisations to utilise cloud flexibility and remote working, but what would usually take years to implement, in 2020 it took literally months. It was more about survival rather than gaining a competitive edge.

About the Author

Senior Account Manager, Jeffrey Magara helps Global Enterprise & SME clients to deliver consolidating, cost saving IT solutions and projects.

It seems as though, now we’re moving out of the pandemic, that some office-based jobs are likely not to return to pre pandemic levels. Currently, computer-based office work accounts for approximately one third of potential remote working opportunities and it is clear that the shift is here to stay. A survey carried out by McKinsey of 278 executives in August 2020, found that on average, they planned to reduce office space by 30%.

As much as the trend to move to remote working has been driven by necessity, there are some clear advantages of adopting a remote working strategy. Much has been said about the cost of office space and considerable savings that can be made by reducing it. This is particularly true today as technology has removed many of the barriers with data centres in the cloud, virtual workspaces and ‘as-a-service’ solutions. Another potential outcome is the availability of talent your organisation may be able to entertain, as geographic barriers are removed. Couple this with the draw of the latest software solutions, especially for workers that fall into the millennial bracket. The following paragraphs look further into current options to help your organisation along the road to remote working.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

Originally coined by VMWare, the term VDI has been around for some time now. Fundamentally, VDI hosts a desktop workstation on a central server, granting remote access through a secure network portal. This allows laptops, mobile and thin devices to experience a virtual desktop. VDI is traditionally hosted by an inhouse server and favoured by companies who feel that their data is too sensitive to send out to a third party to manage. It requires specialist staff to maintain it however and it can be costly, as you have the infrastructure as well as the software to look after. From a user experience perspective latency can be managed quite well. However, VDI suffers from traditional in-house datacentre issues and when things go wrong with either hardware or software, it can become very costly to put right. Compliance is another area where VDI might fall down; making sure version control licence issues etc are maintained can be a problematic to administer.

Desktop as a service (DaaS)

Moving right up to current cloud trends, DaaS is an organisations’ virtual desktop infrastructure and is hosted in the cloud, by a third-party provider. The complete hardware, as well as software, is administered by the provider. This kind of service provides the advantages of cloud infrastructure, removing the headaches of hardware failures, software problems and regular maintenance. It is mainly offered on a subscription basis and invoiced per user, offering an organisation maximum flexibility and agility when acquiring the latest software solutions. As stated earlier, it increases an organisation’s attractiveness to a larger talent pool, no longer precluded by geography, which cannot be underestimated.

Being relatively new to the party, the DaaS business is still struggling with some teething troubles. To date, many providers only offer conventional programmes that come along with standard Windows software, so other more specialist programmes will need to be provided and configured by the organisations’ in-house IT team. This may leave some wondering if the cost is worth it, certainly in the beginning when the administrative task load is likely to be high. There are DaaS providers, who offer comprehensive business-ready solutions from the cloud, however they are rare. Overall ongoing costs of DaaS require a lot of attention when considering this kind of virtual desktop, as the initial figures can be deceptive and might only offer the most basic service. Finally, as many software vendors are working on suitable licensing offers, the cost can be quite high for DaaS solutions.
What DaaS is ideal for organisations that require agile and flexible computer demand, certain organisations will find this kind of service a real benefit, in higher education, for example, where students can be offered a work environment without the need for any hardware setup. Similarly, those that employ temporary workers, gaining the advantage of zero cost setup. Who it may not favour however, is the average desktop user, where VDI may be a better fit at a lower cost.

Collaboration Tools

Online collaboration tools have been a valuable productivity resource for some time now. However, with the onset of Covid-19, they really came into their own and we have seen a huge take-up from organisations and individuals alike, trying to survive whilst working in relative isolation.

Much more than video conferencing, collaboration apps offer co-workers, wherever they may be in the world, the visibility of the work being done and how their input is affecting the overall output, along with the assets they may need to do it with. It probably wouldn’t be too much to say, if you can imagine a tool to help, it probably exists.

Some of the most competitive collaboration tools are project management related, where projects and resources can be managed in one place. These tools range from the old favourites such as GanttPro, to relatively new to market, LiquidPlanner. As you would expect, they all come at a cost and bring various restrictions in terms of minimum users and licence durations, but the value to the organisation will far outweigh the subscription costs and initial training.

Some examples of the more popular collaborative tools include:

Business communication
Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Fuze, Lifesize Video Conferencing, and Skype.

Project & task management
LiquidPlanner, GanttPro, Trello, Airtable, Asana, Basecamp, Wrike, and Monday.

When looking to adopt a collaboration tool you should bear a few things in mind:
• Try and choose a tool that does the majority of tasks, rather than switching amongst a number of tools. This should help gain and keep people committed to using it, providing of course that it does those things well.

• It probably goes without saying, but being intuitive to use is key, and again will help keep your team onboard. Demo-ing before committing is worth the time spent.

• Levels of privacy maybe something you need to consider, where certain areas will only be available to certain members of the team. Again, this will really help the uptake of the tool, avoiding off-tool conversations.

One caveat that needs to be stressed, is that no tool will be effective without the buy-in of the key players in the team. Without this it is likely, especially with learning curves, that people will resort to old ways ‘passing-on through sending emails’.

Connecting it all up

As the cloud becomes the preferred option of organisations for applications management, finding a high performance, secure and agile wide area network (WAN) solution, becomes paramount. Two network solutions that will offer users secure access are Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Software-defined-wide-area-network (SD-WAN).

VPN

VPN, being the most established technology of the two, is an internet-based network allowing users to turn a public connection to a private one. When connected to the VPN it offers protection against surveillance or tracking. The users’ data is transferred to its intended destination by a network of servers that the VPN maintains, rather than the users’ internet service provider. The VPN encrypts the data, preventing it from being read by any unauthorised access.

SD-WAN

SD-WAN , on the other hand, connects organisations utilising a number of transport media, such as broadband internet, LTE, 4G or MPLS. Its technology is able to separate different types of data traffic based on security, authority and quality of service. As this technology doesn’t use a traditional router, instead using the cloud exclusively, giving flexibility and bandwidth capabilities.

Which is best for your organisation, depends on business needs; both offer unique benefits. The key difference between the two is the software defining technology of SD-WAN.
In terms of cost, VPN comes out as being the most affordable, some of which is through its simplicity, making it great to low site count organisations. However, as the question of maintenance comes up, VPN requires more of it and indeed the expertise to facilitate it, and this will increase in complexity should more sites be added to the organisations WAN.

In overall performance, SD-WAN takes the prize, VPN suffers greater latency, due to distance between sites and increases in demand effecting overall performance. Whereas SD-WAN offers dynamic path selection quality of service and application aware routing. As for latency, being cloud based technology SD-WAN suffers no latency due to geographic distances. Reliability is good for both options, however the failover security features of SD-WAN excel, automatically fixing outage problems by transferring connection to another network.

To conclude, SD-WAN is the clear winner, however, not all organisations are the same so it’s worth looking at your specific requirements, in terms of geographic distance, site count and level of data security, not to mention budget.

If, after reading this blog, you feel that it might be the right time to look further into your organisations remote networking options, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable to making the right decisions. Pendulum offer support and expertise to help you get the most out of your organisation’s infrastructure.

Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working solutions or any other area please contact me at jmagara@pendulum-it.com

I hope that you have found this blog useful. If, after reading this blog, you feel that it might be the right time to look further into the way your organisation’s IT Team supports the hybrid workforce, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable to making the right decisions. Pendulum offers support and expertise to help you get the most out of your organisation’s infrastructure.

My next blog will be following on the theme of how to secure the hybrid workforce, discussing specific cybersecurity technologies that can enable secure remote/hybrid working.

About Us

Pendulum IT p logo



Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

The future of work is hybrid – but how do IT Teams best support hybrid working?

What does the hybrid workforce need from a technology perspective?

Events in 2020 have probably changed the way we work forever, forcing organisations to embrace technological change at pace, often without the usual timeliness, due diligence etc that would normally be applied. There’s been a revolution, forced by necessity, but hopefully it has allowed many to take a long-term view on how they do business for the future, realising the many benefits afforded by a digital strategy that embraces cloud technology. Also, business has had to assess how that impacts attitudes to employees; how they work and most importantly where they work from.

A lot has been written about how business has adapted and changed in the face of drastic restrictions; the growth in hybrid versions of previous business models, that embraces digital cloud infrastructure. Most businesses acknowledge that it is unlikely that we will ever fully return to a pre pandemic way of working.

The future, we feel, is indeed hybrid. I would like to take the opportunity, over a series of blogs, to look at what this might look like in terms of the technology and equally significantly, the workforce. How do IT Teams best support hybrid working? It is important to remember that the technology is only part of the shift to hybrid working, the workforce itself also needs to adapt and change, looking at the cultural shift which is, and will be, significant for some time to come.

Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.

Cloud Technology

Making the move away from a traditional on-prem data centre infrastructure is one of the most significant decisions for an organisation to make.  The benefits the move to the cloud brings are numerous; leaving behind heavy capital expenditure, large, hard to recruit teams of skilled workforce as well as managing the pending obsolescence of expensive kit.

The following benefits evidence why more and more enterprises are making the move to cloud infrastructure, either wholly or, as a hybrid version.  These include:

Flexible and Scalable – Cloud infrastructure is able to scale on demand, allowing the enterprise to be agile in both times of high and low demand. Storage options can be easily configured, including a hybrid version, making use of existing on-prem services depending on security and regulatory requirements. The current three leading cloud service providers offer a high availability of storage, removing the issue of investing in more on-prem physical storage.  

Enterprises are able to easily determine their own level of control with a wide range of as-a-service options, starting with Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) which provides users with access to computing resources such as storage, networking and servers on demand. This service also offers the benefit of virtualisation of administrative tasks, freeing up resources for other work.

Continuing on with the as-a-service model, enterprises are able to stack services, including Platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Enterprises can test, develop and host applications, PaaS enables a focus on development without the worry of underlying infrastructure provision.  Importantly, it also facilitates collaborative work including remote and hybrid working teams.

Staying with remote working, Software-as-a-service and Desktop-as-a-Service are both tools adopted by IT Teams to support a hybrid working environment. They are no longer bound by their own network infrastructure, have minimal setup and can avoid platform compatibility issues.

Storage

Cloud storage reduces an enterprise’s expenditure by providing data storage on remote servers, where it is maintained, managed, backed-up and accessed remotely.  Importantly, it also allows that data to be accessed remotely, providing the permissions are all in place.

Decentralised IT (Multi Cloud Strategy)

Many organisations, in addition to moving to cloud based infrastructure, are moving further away from a single on-prem data centre and decentralising by using a number of cloud providers rather than relying on one.  This multi cloud strategy allows the enterprise to choose the provider for its strengths rather than accepting its weaknesses. Greater flexibility and agility are achieved by spreading risk, taking advantage of a specific cloud provider’s strengths and competitive pricing.

Connectivity

As enterprises move to a hybrid working model, IT Teams are finding that a high performance, secure and agile wide area network (WAN) solution is paramount. Two network solutions that will offer users secure access are Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Software-defined-wide-area-network (SD-WAN).

A VPN, being the most established technology of the two, is an internet-based network, which allows users to turn a public connection to a private one. When connected to the VPN, it offers protection against surveillance or tracking.  The user’s data is transferred to its intended destination by a network of servers that the VPN maintains, rather than the user’s internet service provider.  The VPN encrypts the data, preventing it from being read by any unauthorised access.

SD-WAN, on the other hand, connects organisations via a number of transport media, such as broadband internet, LTE, 4G or MPLS. Its technology is able to separate different types of data traffic, based on security, authority and quality of service.  This technology doesn’t use a traditional router, instead using the cloud exclusively, giving flexibility and bandwidth capabilities.

Which is best for your organisation, depends on business needs; both offer unique benefits.  The key difference between the two is the software defining technology of SD-WAN.

In terms of cost, a VPN comes out as being the most affordable, in part through its simplicity, making it great for low site count organisations.  However, as the question of maintenance comes up, a VPN requires more of it, and indeed the expertise to facilitate it, and this will increase in complexity should more sites be added to the organisations WAN.

In overall performance, SD-WAN takes the prize, VPNs suffer greater latency, due to distance between sites, with increases in demand effecting overall performance.  Whereas SD-WAN offers dynamic path selection quality of service and application aware routing. As for latency, being cloud based, SD-WAN suffers no latency due to geographic distances. Reliability is good for both options, however, the failover security features of SD-WAN excel, automatically fixing outage problems by transferring connection to another network.

Access – Digital Workspaces or Remote Access Solutions

A significant challenge to enterprises that have already gone down the remote working route is in achieving an excellent user experience and productivity rates, whilst maintaining infrastructure visibility and security. 

With the workforce no longer under one roof, so to speak, coupled with a multitude of devices being used to access data, it can quickly become an onerous task and one which is fraught with security issues and a real lack of visibility. Creating a digital workspace, is necessary – a connected workplace solution, which provides a familiar work environment that pretty much works any device. This also allows users to access their work applications and data via a single entry point rather than multiple sign-ins.

Citrix Workspace ONE is one such solution, providing a unified digital workspace for all employees, regardless of their location or platform.  Combined with a secure internet connection, this kind of solution will achieve a much-improved workforce experience, higher productivity, increased IT visibility and a high level of security.

What is a Digital Workspace?

Putting it simply, a digital workspace allows an organisation’s employees access to apps and real-time data on any device, from any location, regardless of whether that information is stored in a traditional data centre, or on the cloud. Digital workspaces are integrated technology frameworks, designed to deliver and manage app, data and desktop functions. But digital workspaces are much more than remote access solutions, they are value-added, providing:

• A level of collaboration, where teams connect much easier and faster, sharing data and files more than previously done, regardless of their physical location.
• Security has also benefitted massively through digital workspace and zero-trust security, where an organisation shouldn’t trust anything inside or outside of its parameters and instead must verify everything before granting access.
• Resilient business operations, where risk is spread, allowing organisations to operate in the most challenging of situations and no longer conforming to traditional business hours.
• Integration with other technologies. The connections can be seamless allowing employees to connect through their chosen platforms, to all parts of the network, without the need for multiple logins etc.
• Cost reduction. With remote working being the norm, there is less need for commercial square footage and utility costs can be reduced significantly.

Collaboration

A growing number of organisations have embraced on-line, collaborative tools for some time now, being a valuable productivity tool. With last year’s challenges they really came into their own and we have seen a huge take-up from organisations and individuals alike, trying to survive whilst working in relative isolation.

Much more than video conferencing, collaborative apps offer co-workers, wherever they may be in the world, the visibility of the work being done and how their input is affecting the overall output, along with the assets they may need to do it with. It probably wouldn’t be too much to say, if you can imagine a tool to help, it probably exists.

Project management collaborative tools have the greatest market share, where projects and resources can be managed in one place. These tools range from the old favourites such as GanttPro, to relatively new to market, LiquidPlanner. Finding the right one for your organisation will prove to be invaluable and necessary when moving over to hybrid working.

When considering the right collaborative tool for your organisation, it needs to be stressed that no tool will be effective without the buy-in of the key players in the team. Without this it is likely, especially with learning curves, that people will resort to old ways ‘passing-on through sending emails’.

Hybrid Culture

Definition:

hybrid workforce is a team of employees that have a flexible work structure. In other words, some team members work remotely while others work from a central workspace such as an office.

According to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in September 2020, 40% of employers said that they expect more than half their workforce to work regularly from home after the pandemic and restrictions have ended. This potentially represents a significant shift in how organisations retain their current workforce and how they onboard new talent in the future.

It’s certain, when considering a hybrid workforce strategy alongside your digital cloud infrastructure, it’s not going to be the case of just sending a proportion your workforce home with a laptop. Based on the research so far, a percentage of businesses are looking for a mixture of both homeworking and office time. Indeed, the term ‘hybrid working’ comes from this desire to have the option of both home and office environments, rather than one of the other. This will present quite a challenge for organisations trying to balance those two things, whilst achieving the obvious cost benefits of remote working.
A significant culture shift will need to happen within those organisations that choose to go down the hybrid working road, establishing new ways of working and associated practices and policies.

Organisations who choose not to adopt hybrid working, and return to the old ways of working risk the possibility of high staff turnover and difficulty in recruiting talent; losing out to much more flexible organisations who do offer hybrid working.


If your organisation is competing for the best talent, then in the future you may be left with no alternative but to adopt a properly supported hybrid working policy. There’s no doubt that employees have enjoyed the obvious benefits of flexible working in the last 12 months, and will now be offered a real alternative to commuting and working in an office five days a week.

Making the move to Hybrid Working

Suggested key steps towards ensuring your hybrid working policy is properly supported by the IT Team:

  • Agree an overall strategic position on hybrid working for the organisation.
  • Define how hybrid working will look in your organisation including the possibility of different forms depending on job roles and teams. 
  • Carry out a full engagement programme within your organisation, as well as the provision of training and development to support successful hybrid working. 
  • Put in place a clear and comprehensive communication plan to share the strategy the organisation has in terms of its approach regarding hybrid working, including how employees can request a move to hybrid working.
  • Plan for and respond to the organisational implications of hybrid working on matters such as technology, employee wellbeing, inclusion and facilities. 
  • Support effective team building and cohesion in hybrid teams.

I hope that you have found this blog useful. If, after reading this blog, you feel that it might be the right time to look further into the way your organisation’s IT Team supports the hybrid workforce, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable to making the right decisions. Pendulum offers support and expertise to help you get the most out of your organisation’s infrastructure.

My next blog will be following on the theme of how to secure the hybrid workforce, discussing specific cybersecurity technologies that can enable secure remote/hybrid working.

About Us

Pendulum IT p logo



Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

Why public cloud hyperscalers are instrumental to resilient enterprise operations

As enterprises increasingly adopt cloud-based infrastructure, they need to ensure that they are resilient and robust enough to meet current and future demands. This resilience is required in areas such as network robustness, the ability to handle varying levels of demand, meet an ever-increasing expectation of user experience, cope with outage quickly and seamlessly, not to mention defending organisations from the increasing complexity of cyberattacks.

To meet these wide-ranging demands and provide a high level of resilience, many enterprises are looking towards using public cloud hyperscalers.

About the Author

Senior Account Manager, Jeffrey Magara helps Global Enterprise & SME clients to deliver consolidating, cost saving IT solutions and projects.

Public Cloud Hyperscalers

Having any level of cloud-based infrastructure for your enterprise will more than likely mean that you will already be working with a hyperscaler.

Essentially, hyperscalers provide cloud, networking, and internet services at scale, by offering enterprises access to infrastructure, via an IaaS model. A list of hyperscalers in the market today will include companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft etc. They dominate cloud services and are continuing to grow, as the demand for their services increases exponentially.

These powerful hyperscalers offer services through huge data centres that accommodate fluctuating and high demand. Indeed, their infrastructure is built on thousands of physical servers and millions of virtual machines. The end result, and advantage to their customers, is data centre resources that are easily accessible, cost effective, reliable, and scalable.

What’s more, today’s hyperscalers provide a level of performance way above traditional inhouse data centres. They also have a very clear view on the future, investing huge amounts of money, offering a level of reassurance to their customers beyond the dreams of an enterprises IT department. Microsoft alone have recently announced their investment of nearly $20bn, to build the infrastructure necessary to support its Azure cloud service. This should not only reassure Azure customers, but those of competing hyperscalers, as they are sure to be working on their own future proof projects.

With minimal level of commitment, many of today’s largest enterprises are already customers of all of the hyperscalers, allowing them to pick and choose services that best fit their business and, at the same time, avoid vendor lock-in.

Innovative Hyperscalers

Hyperscaler companies are working hard to offer their customers more reasons why cloud is the route to take. Some of the latest services offered demonstrate this and allow enterprises the opportunity to become agile and resilient without huge investment. Innovations of late include:

  • Serverless Computing
    Allowing users to write and deploy code without worrying about the required infrastructure. Key benefits include: pay for only what you need, extend and scale to full-stack apps, automatic and instant scaling with usage increase.
  • Artificial Intelligence as a service (AIaas)
    Ready-made AI services in the cloud on a pay as you go basis.
  • Containers (CaaS)
    Allows faster app deployment, optimising resource utilisation, again available on a pay as you go basis.
  • Distributed Cloud
    Expands the traditional datacentre-based cloud model to a system of cloud infrastructure components that are geographically distributed, benefiting performance, redundancy and regulations.
  • Edge Computing
    Brings computer closer to the end user, minimising long distance communication between client and server, reducing latency.
  • Cloud Portability
    Cloud portability tools that help you adopt multi-cloud strategies. Benefits include: no single vendor lock-in, easily switching clouds and inter-Cloud redundancy.

Coping with Legacy Infrastructure

One of the many challenges faced by hyperscalers and their customers, in particular, is how to integrate enterprise’ existing legacy systems with the cloud. This indeed will be a key challenge, as it will open up many enterprises who are either resisting the move to cloud, and or struggling with how they utilise their existing legacy system and indeed its applications. Aware that this is a barrier for many would-be customers, hyperscalers are investing in viable solutions.

Strategic Multi-Cloud Agility

As mentioned earlier, many larger enterprises have adopted a multi-cloud strategy in order to build up their IT resilience and continuous protection. This multi-cloud strategic approach benefits both resilience planning and overall service offering, making it highly beneficial.

Having the ability to store your data in different physical locations and different providers should ensure that you always have access to it, no matter what the circumstance is. This does of course rely on all providers to integrate with one another, allowing you to move data in the event of a problem, but having the flexibility to add and scale services in real-time.

Risk Management

Cloud deployments offer a myriad of benefits, and indeed mitigate many of the traditional data centre risks, however, cloud use does come with its own set of challenges. Further complexity and volatility is added. By their nature the public cloud involves large transactional volumes, open architecture and multiple vendors, all of which contain risk.  Also, as mentioned earlier, there is the challenge of how to synchronise with an enterprise’s legacy systems.

To combat these challenges and ensure business resilience, enterprises need to create a comprehensive strategy to cover everything including, provisioning and day to day management of potential multi-cloud environments. Having a clear view of what the enterprise’s critical applications are, will help make sure resources are focussed on protecting them.

Selecting the Right Hyperscaler

When looking to choose the right hyperscaler for your enterprise, due to the very nature of what they offer and how they integrate into the very core of your enterprise, you should be looking for a partner rather than a supplier. Afterall, this should be a vital strategic move for the enterprise.
Some key areas to think about when selecting your hyperscale partner are:

  • Consider your existing architecture, technologies and operating systems when selecting a provider.
  • What are the specific needs of our enterprise in terms of cloud infrastructure? There will be some cloud hyperscalers who better suit particular industries
  • Consider using more than one cloud hyperscaler. As mentioned earlier, many enterprises have strategically spread their risk by using more than one.
  • Do you utilise the provider’s platform services or build and maintain your own?
  • Opportunities to co innovate; Hyperscalers are sometimes willing to partner with customers to build new services, in niche fields.

What is very clear, for enterprises to make the most from cloud computing, they need to understand what it is they wish to achieve, identify their critical applications and have the backing of the board.  Many organisations have suffered from an experimental mindset, stalling the project, as no clear direction has been set. Others struggle to make a clear business case.  With the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, it has been a wakeup call for many enterprises, of the importance of systems resilience, agility and scalability.

To gain the advantages of the cloud, there needs to be a high level of commitment to migrate and scale the majority of the enterprise’ workloads, this is where the true business value is.

If your enterprise is looking to take greater advantage of cloud-based infrastructure, or indeed make the first moves towards the cloud, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable to making the right decisions. Pendulum offers design services for Google Cloud Platform, AWS and Microsoft Azure, along with support and expertise, to help you get the most out of your organisation’s cloud infrastructure.

About Us

Pendulum IT p logo



Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

How to ensure cybersecurity is still a board level concern

How to ensure cybersecurity is a board level concern

In 2021, cybersecurity has to be a visual, prioritised part of every business strategy.
Cybercrime has become industrialised on a scale not seen before and shows no sign of flattening out. Current enterprise spend is around $54bn* globally in 2021 (*source Statista March 2021). In a 2020 report McAfee estimated global cybercrime losses to exceed $1 trillion. Discreet malware cases alone in the last 10 years have increased from $99.71m in 2012 to $1214.76m* in 2021 (up until 6th May) (*source AV-Test 2021).

About the Author

Senior Account Manager, Jeffrey Magara helps Global Enterprise & SME clients to deliver consolidating, cost saving IT solutions and projects.

Most common cybersecurity threats

The sophistication of the cyber threats and their intensity are escalating, amid the swelling levels of remote working and dependence on digital devices. The most damaging forms of cybercrime to enterprises include:

Social engineering
Including phishing emails, scareware and quid pro quo.

Ransomware
The third most popular type of malware used, Ransomware is employed in 22% of instances. In 2020 hackers demanded $1.14 million from The University of California after accessing COVID-19 research and stole 10tb of data from Canon.

DDoS attacks
DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) can have a devastating effect on businesses with a high reliance on on-line traffic digital services. DDoS attacks have become an increasingly popular threat. Alarmingly there is an increase in DDoS for hire services, which are relatively cheap to engage.

Third party software
It only takes one compromised enterprise applications within the ecosystem to open the gateway for hackers to other domains.

Cloud computing vulnerabilities
Criminals scan cloud services searching for those that have no password, exploiting unpatched systems and performing severe attacks to access the user accounts. These breaches can result in ransomware, theft of data or coordinated DDoS attacks.

Threats are increasing

The unprecedented number of recent infiltrations demonstrates that cybersecurity risk is as significant as other critical strategic, operational, financial and compliance risks under a board’s scope.
Just as boards are charged with overseeing a company’s financial systems and controls, they have a duty to oversee a company’s management of cybersecurity. This includes oversight of appropriate risk mitigation strategies, systems, processes and controls.

Without effective oversight and accountability, an organisation’s cybersecurity governance systems, policies and procedures are rendered meaningless, leaving the enterprise vulnerable to attack.

How do you quantify cybersecurity risk?

The more an enterprise is dependent on digital devices and services, such as remote working and the cloud in general, the greater the associated risk is, as most threats appear from outside of the organisation than from within.
To quantify where your risks lie and what you stand to lose, auditing your current security capabilities is a good place to start. List your current security capabilities, the programs you have in place and what they are expected to do. By considering the most common forms of cyber threat (mentioned earlier) – how does your current programme address each high-risk scenario you may face?

Understanding your vulnerabilities

Having a very good understanding of your susceptible assets will help you create a vulnerability management plan. The plan most likely will include scans of all appropriate assets. This process should help you understand what specific action you may need to take and might include managing patches and updates. The vulnerability management plan can also feed into your business continuity and DR plans to strengthen your resilience. A thorough audit will pay dividends and is likely to uncover areas of ‘dark data’ within the enterprise, as well as quantifying cybersecurity risk.

How much should you spend on cybersecurity?

Your board will inevitably want to know how much budget to allocate to cybersecurity defences. Some believe 10% of IT budget should be spent on security measures, but this is misleading and an underspend could put your enterprise at risk. Another metric employed by some organisations is a percentage of revenue. This might add more gravity to the potential risk. We recommend spending in-line with the level of exposure and associated risk to cybercrime your enterprise has. Also, to look at it purely on IT budget spend, would severely miss the point. The approach to cyber security should be enterprise-wide rather than fitting into one specific domain.

Are regulatory compliance and cybersecurity the same thing?

In short, no they are not the same thing, but both have the same objective ‘managing risk’. Both are responsible for designing, establishing and enforcing controls to protect organisations, but they come from different camps.

Cybersecurity is responsible for securing the enterprise’s information assets from damage and theft and is in its nature very technical. Compliance focuses on ensuring policies, regulations and laws are adhered to and enforced. Its role is based in auditing, interviewing, reporting and communicating.
Confusingly, these two terms are often spoken of in the same breath and can become conflated. Both are however, managing risk to the enterprise. It is important that your board of directors understand the differences.

What are the new approaches to cybersecurity?

It is key to keep the board updated on the latest technologies so they might evaluate the options in an educated way. A threefold demand in cloud services has in part changed the cybersecurity landscape, with new approaches that include:

  • Zero Trust architectures
  • Real-time threat intelligence
  • Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR)
  • Advanced endpoint protections
  • Identity and Access Management (IAM)

In addition, enterprises are rapidly moving their operations to the cloud, replacing static and inherently insecure legacy systems, for dynamic, agile, integrated cloud and network systems, that are by nature inherently secure, due to their design.

At present some of these new approaches, may be out of reach for SME’s; however, as adoption gathers pace for larger organisations, the cost will fall, making them more accessible.

Cyber defences should match your organisations

Something worth highlighting to the board, is that whatever decisions/approaches your enterprise takes, in terms of cybersecurity, they will need to be tailored specifically to your organisation; ‘one size’ does not fit all.  To make it more specific to the enterprise, a ‘risk based’ approach is coming to the fore. By adopting a ‘risk based’ approach, your enterprise is committing to a systematic method, that identifies, evaluates and prioritises the threats you’re facing.  This approach allows your enterprise to tailor cybersecurity to your organisational needs and operational vulnerabilities.

Building a business case for cybersecurity spend

Show Business Value. Unless your enterprise has already suffered at the hands of cyber criminals, you will need to actively demonstrate the value of investment in cybersecurity to the board. We believe it should be a key board meeting agenda item on an on-going basis. The justification for spend should not only demonstrate losses avoided, evidenced (hopefully) by examples of high profile attacks elsewhere, but also commercial benefits. These include improved customer experience, reduced insurance premiums, lower loss covering capital retained, increased IT productivity and enablement of new digital services, to name a few.

Educate the board. By demonstrating the potential risks to each part of the enterprise, with ineffective or lacking cybersecurity measures, and balancing it with the associated benefits of a cohesive and progressive cyber strategy, will make sure that the board is fully engaged.  This allows the board to understand the risk and allows them to effectively communicate to all employees, how the exposure to potential threats is being managed.

Gain commitment

To gain the commitment of the board to embrace and manage cybersecurity risk, it is more than just getting the right presentation materials and the right metrics. It’s about being a part of an overarching risk management strategy, where cybersecurity can be contextualised, and into which your risk quantification can resonate and give the board some ability to better establish risk tolerances. 

If, after reading this blog, you feel that it might be the right time to look further into your organisations cybersecurity, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable to making the right decisions. Pendulum offers support and cybersecurity expertise to help you get the most out of protecting your organisation from cybercrime.

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Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

How VMware helps you modernise your data centre

More and more companies are adopting a data-driven strategic approach to better serve their customers and consumers. But with this, the ability to swiftly and cost effectively respond to change has become imperative. VMware and Pendulum IT can meet these challenges by allowing businesses to easily modernise the data centre. A modernised data centre can enable systems to be much more versatile and include rapid deploy, test, and iterate applications. Infrastructure that powers applications needs to deliver the efficiency of cloud operating models and applications, running on everything from private/public clouds to edge computing. The user experience must be exceptional, regardless of their location. Traditional hardware-centric data centre models just don’t meet the requirements of today’s business data realities. For businesses faced with these challenges, VMware’s Data Centre Modernisation approach may well be the solution.

Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.

Is cloud the answer?

A growing number of businesses now see cloud as key to successful digital initiatives. But making the transition from a traditional infrastructure can create almost as many challenges as it solves. Organisations typically have a complex mix of compute, storage, and network resources that have evolved over time. A workable path toward a virtualised and software-defined infrastructure isn’t always clear.
To meet these challenges businesses can modernise the data centre with Pendulum IT and VMware. Bringing together previously isolated infrastructure silos, so they can manage them as a single entity, and bringing cloud-like capabilities back to an on-premises environment. By combining these once disparate elements into a holistic, software-defined, and integrated platform, a wide range of benefits are realised, including:

Reducing complexity
By creating a hyperconverged infrastructure where compute, storage, and network components work seamlessly together within the core data centre, as well as in the public cloud and at the edge.
Controlling costs
Through unified management tools and operational model across the entire infrastructure, and eliminating the need to rip-and-replace infrastructure elements as the business needs evolve.
Increasing agility
Faster business service delivery by meeting the accelerating demand for new containerised apps and cloud capabilities.
Being cloud-ready
By gaining the flexibility to match cloud service delivery and consumption demands, as business needs change, new innovations emerge, and organisations consider adopting public cloud and edge environments in the future.

Benefits of VMware Data Centre Modernisation

By employing VMware’s platform, fundamental benefits can be achieved, namely:

Eliminate silos
Leverage existing investments for use in new cloud environments, while eliminating extra infrastructure silos.
Modernise for cloud
Support future evolution with a consistent software stack on-premise, that can expand into the public cloud and edge.
Run apps consistently
Traditional and cloud- native applications on infrastructure that delivers a consistent operating model.
Leverage existing investments
Eliminate the risk of rip-and-replace, by leveraging the same management tools and consistent operating model throughout modernisation.
Operate efficiently
Reduce TCO with automated performance management, optimised capacity utilisation, proactive planning and reduced mean time to resolution (MTTR).
Market-leading solution
Use best-in-class software defined infrastructure stack with integrated management from a market leader in every component of the stack.

Consistent Infrastructure to be Cloud-Ready

The job of modernising the data centre requires the tight orchestration of a wide range of services, including compute, storage, networking, security and cloud management. The more consistent the underlying infrastructure, the more seamlessly these services work together to deliver the benefits of cloud deployment. VMware’s software solutions provide an answer, consolidating infrastructure and streamlining operations.

Infrastructure Consolidation

VMware Cloud Foundation delivers a pre-integrated solution to modernise the data centre and build the foundation for cloud services in public clouds and edge environments. In contrast to a heterogeneous environment, that requires extensive modifications and complex integrations, this unified cloud infrastructure combines the resources and services for hybrid cloud as a single, integrated solution from an industry-leading provider. The components include the following:

  • vSphere
    The industry standard in server virtualisation software, at the heart of a software-defined data centre, purpose-built to help you run, manage, connect, and secure your applications in a common operating environment across clouds.
  • vSAN
    Enterprise-class software-defined storage virtualisation that allows you to manage compute and storage as a single platform and joins all storage devices in a shared data pool that scales to meet your changing needs.
  • NSX
    A complete networking and security virtualisation platform, offering the flexibility and automation inherent in a software-only solution.
  • vRealize Suite
    A management platform for the modernised data centre that enables developers to quickly release, troubleshoot, and optimise the performance of highly distributed microservice-based cloud applications in real time. At the same time, IT can continuously automate and optimise capacity and performance of infrastructure based on changing business needs. They can become more agile, and achieve greater control and efficiency in the data centre for both traditional and cloud-native applications.

This enhanced holistic approach reduces the cost, complexity, and risk of running applications and business-critical workloads in the data centre. This approach also retains the flexibility to migrate to the public cloud and edge environments in the future.

Streamline Operations

Establishing consistency in the ongoing operations of the data centre can help you centralise management on a global footprint. By doing this performance can be continuously optimised, scale to accommodate changing workload needs, and control costs.

To find out more about how your business can benefit from modernising your data centre and discuss in detail how VMware’s Data Centre Modernisation suite might be the ideal solution for your business, please contact the team at Pendulum IT.

About Us

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Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

When is Hyper Converged Infrastructure right for my business?

Hyperconverged infrastructure represented by converging lines.

What is Hyperconverged Infrastructure?

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is the fundamental IT element in a software defined data centre (SDDC), removing the complications of traditional data centre infrastructure. HCI integrates all functions of the data centre natively, including compute, storage, and networking in a virtualised platform. This virtualised platform is then operated and monitored through a cohesive management console. Adding further value to this virtualisation, automation and orchestration tools allow you to extend the capabilities and benefits of both the SDDC and the public cloud, delivering a complete hybrid cloud infrastructure that addresses current and future application and infrastructure needs. But is hyperconverged infrastructure right for your business?

Based on the above it would come as no surprise that the HCI market is growing fast. By 2023, Gartner predicts that 70% of enterprises will be running some form of hyperconverged infrastructure, up from less than 30% back in 2019.


Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.


Key benefits of HCI in the SDDC include:

Straightforward
Removes the complexity of managing different hardware components and infrastructure silos found in traditional data centre environments.

Cost efficient
Minimises capital expenditure on hardware as well as cost and storage efficiency. Easily scalable to fit in with demand fluctuations.

• Agile
Tackle dynamic business needs proactively with wide range of deployment choices with no vendor lock-in, on-demand scalability, and support for traditional and modern applications.

So, is HCI right for you?

HCI has become increasingly popular for general purpose workloads. These are those functions that every organisation has to have; they can include infrastructure servers (DNS, DHCP, Active Directory, print servers, and so on), file servers, application servers, database servers, and anything else that the company needs to operate.

HCI aims to provide business with greater operational efficiency and reduced costs, in an increasingly data-driven business environment where more technology and computing power are demanded. So, for those that recognise the above demands being part of their business, the question will most probably be ‘when and how’ rather than ‘if’ to move to HCI.
To make that decision and transition easier, both traditional and HCI can co-exist and it is likely that some will make the decision to run specific applications on-premises whilst others transfer to the SDDC, with the decision to go for a full-stack option made at a later date.

To manage the businesses portfolio of applications across on-premises and cloud will require careful consideration, the following should be on your ‘key questions’ list:

• What are the requirements of the application?
• How will the application be managed and scaled?
• What is the business value of the application?
• What kind of environment does the application need to maximize its business impact?
• Can the application be migrated to a public cloud, and is the cost of rebuilding or refactoring the application for the cloud warranted?

Is there an alternative to HCI?

Moving away from traditional on-premise data centres, an alternative to HCI could be Converged Infrastructure (CI). CI, in contrast to HCI, is hardware based, converging storage and processes, whereas HCI is software based.

Converged Infrastructure comes as a pre-packaged bundle of systems, which includes: servers, storage, networking and management software. These systems are usually bought from one vendor, instead of buying the hardware and software components separately from different suppliers. CI systems are typically pre-configured and pre-tested, making them easier and faster to deploy.

The Pros and Cons of Converged Infrastructure

CI systems are, more often than not, bought from a single vendor and come with the following advantages:

• Improved compatibility: Minimising or even eliminating hardware and software compatibility issues.
• Cost effective: Converged infrastructure saves money on data centre provisioning, deployment and management.,
• Simplification: CI rationalises data centre management as it eliminates the need for IT to have expertise in products from multiple vendors.

The downsides to converged infrastructure include:

• Vendor reliance: Converged infrastructure can lock you into a single vendor, which could result in reduced features and functionality, and limited customisation options.
• Increased complexity: Adding further components to a converged architecture after installation can be complicated and expensive.
• Multiple tools: Currently many converged systems still require separate management tools for compute, networking and storage even if they come from the same manufacturer.

To converge or to hyperconverge?

Establishing a move away from traditional on-premise data centres is a given, but is converged or hyperconverged infrastructure right for your business? Which one is right will depend on a number of factors; the following should give you an idea by comparing converged with hyperconverged.

Put simply Converged Infrastructure is hardware-based and specialises in packaged hardware and software from a single vendor, Hyperconverged Infrastructure compresses compute and storage resources into highly virtualised, industry-standard x86 servers, with unified management.

Converged architecture; servers, storage, networking and management remain independent of each other, taking advantage of existing hardware. This flexibility will allow individual components to be used for specific and separate purposes, plus servers and storage can be scaled independently.

Hyperconverged infrastructure components are software-defined, offering more flexibility than converged infrastructure. Virtualised compute and storage resources also make HCI easier and faster to scale, compared to converged infrastructure. Hyperconverged infrastructure allows you to easily scale up by adding or replacing drives in existing servers, or scale-out by adding nodes to a cluster. This often means that even if you only need additional storage, the new node will also come with compute. Nodes can be added one at a time for incremental growth, whereas storage arrays often require a new controller or shelf of drives, which is a much larger single spend.

Hyperconverged infrastructure shown as converging arrows.

By using either converged or hyperconverged systems, you will be able to reduce the data centre footprint, simplify management and increase infrastructure efficiency. Companies often choose one versus the other, based on variables like the size and desired amount of control over the environment, cost, existing infrastructure and future IT goals and vision.

If, after reading this blog, you feel that converged or hyperconverged infrastructure might be right for your business, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable to making the right infrastructure decisions. Pendulum offers support and infrastructure expertise to help you get the most out of migrating your data centre.

About Us

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Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

Controlling your AWS costs

Pendulum IT helps you control your AWS costs

Cloud is the way forward 

Cloud and a virtualised data centre are compelling for so many reasons, however, reducing infrastructure costs is one of the most significant considerations, and one that would certainly win your board members over. That said, experience suggests, alongside the substantial cost reductions that can arise from using cloud services, there comes the potential for costs to spiral if left unchecked. This is particularly true when we look at over-provisioning.


Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.


But don’t over-provision

Many organisations lose control of their cloud costs when deploying non-production instances, say for use in development, staging and testing. As you get further into the complexity of the AWS environment it becomes harder to easily identify where you are paying for unnecessary services and what can be optimised. Reserved instances are one area where it becomes a little trickier to identify when buying more will be cost effective, or indeed removing those that are redundant. Recognising that migrating your old instances, for example, may not be the best strategy; taking a new approach to carefully proportion services in this new environment could provide significant savings.

Get a clear picture of where your spend is going

Determining where most of the AWS spend is going to is a good starting point. Having this overview of charges, or rather services, you can then focus on elements that are producing the most charges. Then identifying those that can be scaled down and those that justify their spend – just bear in mind this is a moving feast. Depending on the service, there are many AWS tools that will allow you to manage services effectively, as well as set budgets. In addition, there are some third-party tools that will help you learn and analyse usage patterns and make amendments. However, as you might expect, it isn’t always as simple as that, especially when you consider pricing fluctuations. Buying in advance based on expected use may catch you out when/if AWS discount that service in the future, resulting in you paying more for something you’re not actually using.
Being armed with a good understanding of the AWS services used and their relative costs will allow you to start rationalising your overall service plan. As mentioned earlier AWS provides tools to do this; from understanding where you might be exceeding your AWS Free Tier allowances, to the AWS Cost Explorer where you are able to drill down from high-level usage to a granular level.

Next steps
By having an understanding of where your resource needs are at their highest and where unnecessary costs lay using the filters on the AWS Cost Explorer, you will be able to make service level changes. The following are some of the areas you will be able to concentrate on:

  • Identify Amazon EC2 instances with low-utilisation and reduce cost by stopping or right-sizing
  • Identify Amazon EBS volumes with low-utilisation and reduce cost by snapshotting then deleting them
  • Analyse Amazon S3 usage and reduce cost by leveraging lower cost storage tiers
  • Identify Amazon RDS, Amazon Redshift instances with low utilisation and reduce cost by stopping (RDS) and pausing (Redshift)
  • Identify Amazon RDS, Amazon Redshift instances with low utilisation and reduce cost by stopping (RDS) and pausing (Redshift)
  • Review networking and reduce costs by deleting idle load balancers
  • Review networking and reduce costs by deleting idle load balancers
  • Review and modify EC2 AutoScaling Groups configuration
  • Use Reserved Instances (RI) to reduce RDS, Redshift, ElastiCache and Elasticsearch costs
  • Use Compute Savings Plans to reduce EC2, Fargate and Lambda costs
  • Cloud Usage Policies

Usage policies provide the guidelines under which companies operate in the cloud. As well as safeguarding the integrity and privacy of company-owned information, cloud policies can also be used for performance management, financial management, network security and ultimately cost optimisation.

Performance management policies allow the organisation to specify performance thresholds for Virtual Machines and storage volumes so you can monitor for under-utilised and over-utilised assets. Under-utilised Virtual Machines and storage volumes should be downgraded for cost efficiency, while over-utilised assets should be upgraded to avoid performance issues.

To make sure that your cloud policies are effective, it is essential to have total visibility over your cloud environment, so that you fully understand what assets your company has deployed in the cloud and how they are being used. Applications such as VMware’s CloudHealth gives total visibility and the tools to analyse costs, usage, performance, and security, to help you to make informed choices when applying cloud policies. CloudHealth then automates governance of your cloud policies to provide continuous monitoring – alerting you to events that require your attention, or that may require you to revisit your policies as your presence in the cloud evolves and grows.

Through AWS’s Management Console you are able to specifically apply identity based policies, which can be set by group or indeed individual level.

Discounts
The two most obvious ways of gaining discounts for your AWS service are by consolidating your business accounts to hit volume targets, or by buying Reserved Instances way in advance. The benefits of both routes are negated if you are a smaller business or if your usage concentrates in none-production resources.

Even for those organisations who do qualify for volume discount, it may well be worthwhile consulting with your cloud services partner, who should have a very good view of where discounts/cost reductions can be gained.

Finally, the automation of switching off non-production resources when not in use will result in immediate savings and is a policy that will ensure overall costs are kept to a minimum.

Partnering
There’s certainly a lot to consider when looking at how you can control your overall AWS costs, and hopefully this blog has given you some insight into some of the areas where cost efficiencies can be made. As with business in general, usage and requirements will fluctuate. Some users will not ensure that services they don’t need are downgraded or switched off. This can be a daunting prospect to businesses wanting to make sure that their cloud service is the best it can be for now and in the future, without paying the earth.

One way of making sure that costs are controlled is by having an effective cloud services partner. A cloud services partner who is an approved vendor for your cloud service and provides a skilled technical team, will help optimise your cloud infrastructure, software or storage through their expertise.

When selecting a cloud services partner, you need to consider that they have a wide knowledge of different services offered by the vendor and can advise you on best practices, as well as provide you with migration support and architectural planning; all of which are scalable. With your partner in place, you can better focus on your core business, while they optimise your cloud for you.

Pendulum IT helps you control your AWS costs - moving graph

About Us

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Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

Key Components of a Software-Defined Data Centre

Data centre image for SDDC

What does the software-defined data centre (SDDC) really look like? 

The future appears to be virtualised and software defined, or at least in data centre world. The move to cloud-based virtual machines replacing traditional hardware-based data centres, has allowed many organisations to be flexible and agile, giving them a much needed competitive edge.


Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.


What does software-defined mean?

Software-defined refers to the ability to control some or all of the functions of a system using software, rather than relying purely on physical hardware infrastructure. There are significant benefits for organisations that use SDDCs, including lower costs, higher quality products and services, and less risk.  In SDDCs, all elements of the infrastructure; networking, storage, CPU and security, are virtualised using virtual machines (VMs) and delivered as a service. SDDC is focussed on integrators and data centre builders, rather than toward tenants.

SDDC is a radical movement away from traditional data centres; organisational data, applications, networks, and infrastructure are centrally housed and accessed. Traditional data centres are the hub for IT operations and physical infrastructure equipment, including servers, storage devices, network equipment, and security devices. By contrast, a SDDC is an ‘IT as a service’ that provides an organisation’s software, infrastructure, or platform needs. SDDCs can be housed on-premises, at a managed service provider, and in private, public or hosted clouds.

SDDCs use a virtualised environment to deliver the functions of a traditional data centre. They can be managed from any location using web browser and API interfaces.  Like server virtualisation solutions, such as VMware’s Hypervisor, SDDCs abstract, pool, and virtualise all data centre services and resources.  This helps organisations reduce costs by minimising the need for large capital expenditure, increases scalability and improves overall business agility.

Remote management via APIs and web browser interfaces are some of the advantages of SDDCs, along with the automation of many tasks, which will ultimately reduce IT resource usage and provide automated deployment and management of core functions.

What are the benefits of a software-defined data centre?

The core features of SDDCs are broken down into 4 key areas, these are:

Removing network resource limitations. In a traditional hardware-defined data centre, the business is confined to running applications and services that conform to the limitations of the available network resources. The SDDC changes that and allows developers to tailor to business need, rather than developing based on what works on the available hardware that you may have.

Data centre management simplification. SDDCs also greatly simplify data centre management. By virtualising routers and switches to servers and storage, it makes it much easier to deliver, deploy, monitor, and maintain. The network and all its component resources become nothing more than software abstractions that can all be managed from a single interface.

Greater flexibility and reliability. Increased delivery of network resources is achieved along with automation because everything is software-defined. The software is capable of creating and mapping server, storage, and networking resources, which provides much greater agility, flexibility, and reliability.

Automatic scaling A properly implemented SDDC can detect and adapt to spikes in demand, scaling automatically, when necessary, to accommodate surges in traffic and optimize performance.

Key Features of SDDC

Components of an SDDC - virtualisation of compute, network, storage and management

Key Features of SDDCs include:

  • Compute virtualisation: operating systems, CPUs, memory, and software—reside on cloud servers as a virtual machine. This allows users to create software implementations of computers that can be turned on or turned off as needed, decreasing provisioning time.
  • Network virtualisation: removes the need to provide network infrastructure, which is supplied by virtual machines instead. Network infrastructure needs such as telecomms, firewalls, subnets, routing, admin, DNS, etc. are configured inside your cloud SDDC on the vendor’s abstracted hardware.
  • Storage virtualisation: storage is provided from the SDDC vendor’s storage pool. The client can choose storage types, based on their needs and costs. Storage to a virtual machine can be quickly added, when needed.
  • Management and automation software: reducing the need for IT workforce; SDDCs use management and automation software, keeping business critical functions working around the clock. APIs or web browser access delivers remote management and automation via a software platform accessible from any suitable location.

VMware’s software-defined data centre story

Mobile cloud is here to stay and virtualisation of many hardware based functions comes along with it. This presents its own challenges, despite its radical efficiency benefits.  In addressing these challenges, IT functions need to virtualise the entire data centre so that all infrastructure services become as inexpensive and easy to deliver and manage as virtual machines.

The software-defined data centre appears to be the ideal architecture for private, public, and hybrid clouds. Pioneered by VMware and recognised by the industry and analysts alike, SDDC extends the virtualisation concepts you may know— abstraction, pooling and automation — to all data centre resources and services.

VMware’s solution is built on a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) architecture of natively integrated compute, network and storage virtualisation technologies, with self-driving operations and management. 

According to IDC, VMware leads the HCI market, with just over 42% market share in 2020 and continues to grow two times faster than its closest competitor. With most of its customers in production worldwide, the richest ecosystem in the industry, and the broadest set of deployment options on the market, VMware provides an enterprise-proven, full HCI stack that puts businesses on the path to hybrid cloud.

Going forward

Creating a SDDC platform requires a great deal of commitment from the organisation. It should not be underestimated, the shift both in skill sets and culture, an organisation will have to make to achieve a full service SDDC. Cloud SDDC migration requires less traditional IT operations skills focused on maintaining the infrastructure, and instead needs skills focused on application delivery speed, product quality, and automation.

Cloud SDDCs reduce IT infrastructure and operations silos and increase the need for Development Operations (DevOps) skills, including container and microservices management needed to run production workloads at scale. Should you decide that SDDCs are for you, having a partner to help guide you through this migration, such as Pendulum IT, can help provide full project and lifecycle management, as you make that transition to a software designed data centre.

About Us

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Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

Which Public Cloud Vendor’s IaaS is right for my Business?

Public cloud service, used by the enterprise sector is growing exponentially, with an expected overall spend of $304.9 billion in 2021 Gartner November 2020. There is no doubt that the Covid crisis has accelerated the move to cloud based services during 2020, however, projections for the next few years are showing that many enterprise strategies will remain and increase their reliance on such cloud infrastructures, rather than the traditional in-house server.

Man thinking about this cloud IaaS options

The benefits to cloud based services for enterprises are many; including no capital expenditure, it’s flexibility in upscaling/downscaling to fit in with fluctuating business demand and, as we have seen over the course of 2020, the flexibility over remote access. Security is also a key factor in making the decision to move cloud-ways, as the threat is indiscriminate and costly to maintain defences and continuity.

Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.

The public cloud market is broken into 6 main areas:

Cloud Business Process Services (BPaaS) ‘business process as a service’

Cloud Application Infrastructure Services (PaaS) ‘platform as a service’

Cloud Application Services (SaaS) ‘software as a service’

Cloud Management and Security Services

Cloud System Infrastructure Services (IaaS) ‘infrastructure as a service’

Desktop as a Service (DaaS)

The type of cloud services we will focus on in this blog are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This particular segment of the market is expected to reach $65m in 2021 and $82m in 2022 Gartner Nov 2020.

As with any emerging market, there is an increase in cloud service providers, making it a moving feast in terms of service provision.  Currently there are 3 cloud providers who own around 59% of the IaaS market Canalys Feb 2021.  Coming in at no.1 is Amazon’s AWS, followed by Microsoft and then Google.  Another provider hot on their heels is Alibaba Cloud.  What sets these providers apart from other competitors in the market, is their completeness of service and flexibility.  However, it is important to remember that one solution does not fit all.  As with other IT solution providers, some cloud services are more suited to specific industries than others, so it is important to understand strengths and weaknesses and what suits your infrastructure needs.

Breaking it down by provider

AWS cloud logo

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a cloud service provider that uses Amazon’s own infrastructure and experience. Rather than being a division of the company, like Microsoft’s Azure, AWS is a subsidiary company of Amazon. All the storage and computing resources come from a distributed network of data centres, spread across the globe, to facilitate less latency and a better experience for end-users.

AWS is the hosting service provider of choice for a lot of global enterprises and well-known companies, including Netflix, Facebook, and the BBC; which will no doubt give many other enterprises the confidence to use the same.

Although AWS is a force to be reckoned with there are signs of it slowing against its competitors: Microsoft, Google and Alibaba, who are growing at a much faster rate.  Plus, there is also an indicator suggesting that many companies prefer to spread their risk when it comes to cloud services and choose more than one provider.

One of the oldest in the market with over 12 years of experience, AWS offers a number of features and benefits that make up their Infrastructure-as-a-service platform. Responding to market pressures and their competitors, AWS have recently changed to on-demand billing for services used, making them a much more attractive option as IT business leaders look for more cost effective solutions.

AWS Features

There are 4 main services to its clients.

  • Storage and content delivery
  • Compute services
  • Database
  • Networking

Tried and tested Amazon products like active directory and AWS CloudHSM’s key storage, allow AWS customers to generate and use their own encryption keys via the AWS Cloud.

Benefits of AWS

A partnership with AWS will allow customers access to the following benefits:

  • Broadest range of cloud service offerings for enterprise businesses over competitors
  • Increased business agility
  • Customisable EC2 compute engine
  • A number of EC2 integrations, like Elastic Beanstalk for container service and Lambda
  • Services a number of high-profile, blue chip customers
  • Geared toward open source developers
  • Supports commonly used development languages
  • Can be deployed anywhere

Cons

  • Depending on the comfort level of enterprise businesses with AWS services, a steep learning curve may exist
  • Enterprise level support must be purchased
  • AWS was late to get on the on-demand billing for services bandwagon
  • AWS doesn’t have a strong hybrid cloud strategy for those businesses that want to keep sensitive data in a private cloud
  • The wide catalogue of offerings can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate for some users
Microsoft Azure cloud logo

Microsoft Azure

Despite Azure’s launch being sometime after AWS in 2011, it is considered to be hot on AWS’s heels, vying for top spot in the market.  Microsoft Azure has quickly built a leading reputation.

Azure Features

  • Build websites in the cloud, using common programming languages 
  • Integrations include Windows Server and Linux Virtual Machine
  • Migration assistance
  • SQL database support
  • Focal point is Virtual Machine capabilities supported by tools that include Cloud Services and Resource Manager
  • Machine learning

Benefits of Azure

  • Quick to deploy, operate, and scale
  • Increases business agility
  • Has the bandwidth to take your business global
  • Visual Studio development environment built in
  • Supports integration
  • Supported by secure login with Azure Single Sign-On
  • Microsoft is no stranger to industry compliance standards
  • Deploy anywhere

Cons

  • Outages have occurred causing experts at Gartner to suggest a good disaster recovery plan for Azure users
  • Functions seem limited when compared against AWS
  • Set up to support Windows; if you want to run something else Azure may not be the best option
  • Requires enterprise management from customers

As mentioned above, the occurrence of outages isn’t limited to Microsoft Azure. However, Microsoft has gone a long way to inspire confidence and trust in enterprise businesses, fulfilling its reputation for high quality service.

Microsoft’s culture and position as a long-time leader in technology means Azure, by design, caters to the needs of various industries and their unique specifications.

Google cloud platform GCP logo

Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

An industry trailblazer in web based services and internet, Google dominates in the deployment of web-based services. Does it offer something different from the top 2?  It’s innovation and open source background would suggest Google Cloud Platform (GCP) might have an edge.

GCP Features

Google’s cloud suite of tools includes:

  • Google App Engine to build apps within the cloud
  • Supports common coding languages
  • Open source cloud environment
  • Offers robust data analysis
  • Google Cloud Bigtable no SQL database supported
  • Emphasis on big data tool suites
  • Allows users to create single-purpose functions that decrease the need for management
  • CloudKMS offers security via encryption
  • Cloud storage is a RESTful service for storing and retrieving data
  • Migration assistance

Benefits of GCP

Google Cloud offers the following benefits to customers:

  • Quick deployment and access to updates and functionality
  • Increased business agility
  • Continuous improvement allows Google to update the cloud without disruption to users
  • Primed to facilitate collaboration
  • Ownership of data
  • Scalable
  • Deploy anywhere

Cons

  • Supporting large, enterprise projects has not been a focus for Google, unlike companies such as Microsoft
  • Outages have made some wonder if the product is reliable
  • Range of functions lacks innovation
  • Google is a forward-thinking company with a lot to offer enterprise businesses. However, they have their hands in so many small project innovations, which means limited options for larger companies.

Reassuringly Google Cloud’s policy for users to extract their own data in Google apps should they decide to move providers in the future may well help potential users make a decision. This is not the case with other providers, where it can become very expensive to extract data, should you choose to move providers.

Industry Specific Cloud

Optimised and customised ‘Industry-specific Cloud’

In recognition of the differing needs of businesses when it comes to infrastructure, industry-specific clouds have been tailored to fit the typical requirements and specific needs that customers will experience in daily operations inside a vertical market, where a general cloud offering does not.

These tailored clouds are engineered to be delivered with specific performance optimisations, but also with customised functions that are tuned to specific operational, legal, regulatory, commercial considerations found in a customer’s specialised market.

Among mainstream providers, investment is increasing in industry specific cloud, as growth in the market for general-purpose cloud computing has lessened, prompting public cloud vendors to address industry-specific needs in order to maintain growth.

Industry specific cloud solutions from the ‘leading three’ public cloud providers act as a bridge to their fully matured cloud solutions for businesses requiring additional options or features. 

Summing up

Today, the clear market leader in functionality depth and breadth is AWS. This is partly because they have the maturity in the market and the experience to deliver, but competitors like Microsoft and Google aren’t too far behind.

In particular, Microsoft continues to gain headway on AWS. This is especially true because they are a trusted name in enterprise computing with a reliable model for those that already use Microsoft products or languages across the enterprise organisation. Google also has a lot to offer in terms of innovation and might be a good fit for those in the open-source cloud community, that focus on smaller projects.

The public cloud market is still developing, and the last twelve months has certainly given it a boost – and indeed an indicator as to where enterprise infrastructure provision is going.

The main 3 competitors in the market offer solid provision and that is borne out by their client lists and their increasing market share.  What is also apparent are the risks of getting tied in with the wrong provider, especially if you require a greater level of support or your business no longer fits the service provision you’ve signed up to and you wish to extract yourself. 

Reassuringly, it appears that industry specific cloud is well on its ascendency, making the choice of provider a little easier.  However, when it comes to cloud technology, it’s one thing to choose your provider and another actually making it happen. We would advise businesses considering the move to cloud to have a third party who understands your business needs and can map those needs to your technical environment. With AWS and the larger providers, even if you get someone on the phone, they will likely not know your environment or your business. This causes delays in fixing any issues you have and more often than not will lead to business consequences. 

Pendulum IT works with leading public cloud providers including AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and is well positioned to help customers plan, migrate, optimise and manage their cloud infrastructure over the full lifecycle of IT projects and business requirements.

About Us

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Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com