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The Warning Signs Your Network Needs Replaced

atlanticstormIf you think lightning can’t strike twice, think again. It can strike twice, thrice or even quarce. (Is that really a protologism?) A well known ferry operator on the West Of Scotland has the blown out network equipment to prove it. The coastal ferry terminals of Scotland are long standing facilities. Surprising to some, in the winter in Scotland, the seemingly constant procession of Atlantic storms frequently bring intense atmospheric instability with them as the UK’s TORnado and storm Research Organisation (TORRO for short) can testify. Lightning frequently is a major problem for many businesses in this area and it can have a devastating effect on their sensitive IT infrastructure. As Doug Rask, an IT manager in the area put it, “We would take an occasional lightning strike and the equipment would be fine initially, but after some days or weeks, they’d start falling over, and we’d have to analyse the problem and quickly get things replaced.” Lightning strikes are admittedly a bit of an extreme example, well concede, but they do qualify the problem of the constant environmental stresses and strains that your static sensitive network hardware has to face almost constantly.

When systems begin to show signs of this wear and tear, it can manifest itself in the shape of chronic network niggles such as poor throughput or frequent hangs, crashes and outages. The hardware may simply be coming to the end of its natural life, or perhaps the user enterprise has simply grown beyond the maximum capabilities of the network, says Pete Macsorley, IT manager at Corpach Pumps. Other factors that can cause an agency to consider a network refresh could be the deployment of new applications such as anti virus systems or phased migration and collaborative services. Usually the real world reason for a network overhaul is not just a single warning sign but a combination of multiple elements of the above.

CONSISTENT EQUIPMENT FAILURE

When lightning strikes a building, the earthing systems should and almost always will protect the systems but every now and again a strike of ferocious magnitude can overwhelm these safety systems to the point that damage is caused to the network  and IT equipment. “When we get strikes on our sites, it typically doesn’t kill of our systems there and then. It does however initiate a collapsing system which culminates in the eventual hard failure of equipment. This can take 3-6 months,” said Mark Forrest, IT engineer for a well known salmon farming company.

At some time in the next 6 months, the kit would begin to play up. Users would notice a badly performing network, intermittent hangs and patchy access to servers, forcing Forrest to carry out systematic fault finding and replace the failing kit. “Atmospherics and particularly lightning places a cost burden of 3 to 4 switches per hit” says Marks boss, Joe McGarry.

AGEING HARDWARE

headerAgeing or end-of-life networking gear can compel organisations to replace their systems, especially when the initial warranty expires and/or support organisations place a premium on their support due to the increased likelihood of call out and expensive engineering time. “Sometimes this cost uplift is so great that there is no option left but to replace new for old and enjoy the more relaxed maintenance landscape that ensues,” says Dan McDougall, CTO at a major food manufacturing company.

“Networks are there for one reason, to serve the business. Unless they’re failing too frequently, the main reason we would decide to upgrade the network is the cost of their support,” McDougall says. “Sometimes the kit on your business network is just so old that the cost of the warranty dwarfs the cost of new for old.”

For example, the salmon farming company mentioned previously recently needed to move their regional offices in Oban. It made perfect sense to look at equipping the new premises with a new network and servers because most of the kit at the old office was 5-9 years old and EOL (End Of Life), Forrest says “I was sure I didn’t want to be moving any of my old equipment that had been through the lightning hits more than once. I wanted new for old.”

They had also decided to move some services to the cloud such as their voice network services and had enhanced the resolution with which they remotely monitored the underwater salmon pens. They purchased 2 Cisco UCS servers, three new routers, eight switches and upgraded their WIFI network using Cisco Meraki, Furthermore in addition to moving to hosted voice, they improved the storage of their IP video inputs from the farm cages as well as a new access and building control system which also used the network. This network upgrade brought with it gigabit networking to the desktop and has markedly increased the performance and efficiency of the business unit.

For example, in the past, bandwidth contention had sometimes resulted in the live video from the pens squeezing out the traffic for the very control systems which were used to enable the application of feed to the pens. The upgraded network, using 802.1q VLAN trunking was able to segment the traffic and ensure that the requirements of each business process were safeguarded. Bandwidth contention had become a thing of the past. Finally and perhaps ironically, they also installed a new earthing system and new earthing cable, which should protect the new locations sensitive electronic equipment more effectively from future lightning strikes.

CREATING BANDWIDTH

Sometimes, the introduction of new applications on the network necessitates a network upgrade. For example, VoIP (hosted or owned) or realtime video services can place very specific demands on a network and if it isn’t up to the job, a refresh can prove inevitable,

An increased rollout of virtualisation and thin client technology can also drive cost savings in terms of network user hardware which may be partially offset by the costs of the new network to support it.

CONTINUOUS PHASED APPROACH

tick-tock-google-searchSome agencies adopt what is best described as a continuous phased approach to keeping the network at the cutting edge. This can prove to be a useful mitigation to the sometimes problematic expense of replacing the whole network every few years as well as enabling financial planners to smooth the requirement for capital across many financial years. It’s a cost-effective way of keeping the network stable and up to date.

DB Refrigeration in Ayr, for example, has gradually upgraded most of its 15 wiring-closet switches since 2012 and will replace a few more this year, says IT manager, Connor Piacentini.

This autumn however, it was the core routers turn to be replaced. The IT department upgraded its Gigabit Ethernet Cisco Catalyst 6509 core switch to a 6509-E which could support 10 Gigabit Ethernet. “It was 8 years old, so we knew we had to upgrade it finally,” Piacentini says.

SHARED SERVICES

Consolidation by agencies of the use of their expensive network resources seems to be a popular way to save costs these days. For example in the Public Sector, many regional councils share some of the higher end networked resources making the burden on each organisation smaller. This can however mean that the new network  must be far more capable than any of the incumbents.

Police Scotland, following its recent merger has to build regional backup emergency operations facilities, so if disaster strikes and one goes down, another can take over. The investment requires new network equipment to build the WAN. It is speculated at this time that they are also negotiating with infrastructure providers to build a proprietary fibre ring.

Upgrade Advice

1. Plan for future needs. When deciding how much bandwidth you need and what equipment to buy, don’t assess for your current needs. Spec it out for five years from now. A good rule of thumb is to plan for a 50 percent increase in bandwidth usage and a 30 percent increase in the number of employees.

2. Pair a network upgrade with a larger technology project. It’s often easier to prove return on investment and get a network upgrade funded if it’s tied to a bigger project. When IT administrators propose a private-cloud deployment, for example, they can argue that a network upgrade is critical for good cloud performance.

3. Purchase maintenance contracts only on the most critical equipment, such as main routers and switches. Purchasing contracts on all equipment can be cost-prohibitive. It can be cheaper to purchase one backup wiring closet switch and use that if a switch fails instead of purchasing contracts for each switch.

The Importance of CCTV Security Systems in Business.

cctv1Security is fundamentally important across all walks of life to ensure the overall safety and possessions of all individuals are comprehensively protected. Commercial and residential properties are constructed to provide homeowners and companies with adequate protection against adverse weather conditions. Both buildings are also fit for purpose and provide the flexibility in which to create a stately household and professional business environment. This can be achieved via the integration of interior design features such as furniture and décor, in addition to any portable appliances and machinery to carry out daily tasks.

Throughout commercial properties such as office buildings and retail outlets, all companies require careful consideration of integrated security solutions. Although security guards provide an element of protection on the ground floor, their eyes are ears are not extensive enough to provide an over watch of the entire premises. This is where cameras within CCTV security systems play a crucial role within the daily running of a business.

Establishing an overview via placements of cameras within key areas within an office environment or retail store is an integral part of CCTV security systems. Although such systems are installed to protect against potential theft or criminal activity, they can play an important role within the productivity levels of employees. While certain individuals may feel their statutory rights are being undermined within a ‘Big Brother’ environment, it is done so to ensure the activities and conduct of all employees is maintained on a daily basis.

Cameras can be either situated within the middle of a room or in the corners. Although their placements affects the images and security angle each camera can pick up, the sheer presence of cameras can act as a deterrent to any criminal. Knowing their actions is likely to be detected by one from a multitude of cameras which can clearly depict their face and appearance can decrease the rate of theft and crime.

The presence of CCTV as integrated security solutions can also be important for the work ethic and efficiency of employees. As their safety and wellbeing can be placed under threat by an individual who carries out violence or a criminal act, it is vital to integrate adequate protection. In doing so, it can play a fundamental role in catching any perpetrators who steal or damage valuable products or machinery, and put employees at risk.

It is crucial to take security seriously in this day and age. It is not just businesses and commercial properties that need good security but it is our homes too. With crime increasing and burglaries very common place, it is very important to consider the available security options and choose one that is the best fit for you.

One of the most popular and cost effective ways of providing security in the home and place of work is with cctv cameras and equipment. CCTV cameras can act as a very successful deterrent to thieves and burglars, certainly making them think twice at the very least. The technology behind security equipment these days is incredibly advanced, and it is even possible to hook the cameras up to an ordinary television or computer to watch the footage.

The following are some of the concerns both home and business have and Top 10 Reasons of Why Install CCTV.

  1. Prevent CrimeIf you’re worried about crime, cameras can not only catch criminals in the act, but the very presence of CCTV systems can make a would-be criminal think twice about any wrong-doing. Think about it, if you planned rob or vandalize a store or office, would you want to do it if you knew you were being recorded?
  2. Prevent Employee TheftIf you suspects one of your employees of wrong-doing but don’t know where to begin to try to get to the bottom of things, a camera can be a very helpful tool. This is especially true if you own an establishment where cash is exchanged. Cameras posted near cash registers or other places where employees are often stationed, not only can show you if an employee is stealing, but may even deter an employee from committing a crime if they know you’re watching.
  3. Be a useful piece of evidenceIf a crime is committed in or around your business and the person accused of committing the crime was caught on camera, you’ve got an extra piece of evidence for a court case. Jurors and judges can watch footage or view photos from your security cameras and establish that the person on trial did indeed commit the crime. Not only will you be preventing the same person from causing you more trouble in the future, you’ll be helping out your entire community.
  4. Help law enforcement solve crimeWhen someone commits a crime and is caught on camera, police and other law enforcement officials can use the footage to release video or photos to the public via various media outlets. Having a picture of the suspect can make a world of difference when it comes to making an arrest and getting dangerous criminal off the street.
  5. Keep an eye on children and elderly folksWith a CCTV system at home, you can monitor the safety of your children and elderly folks while you are away. Besides, you can keep an eye on your maid and make sure nothing out of the ordinary is going on.
  6. Keep an eye on thingsIf you can’t be at the office all the time but like to know what’s going on, a security camera can help do just that. You can keep an eye on things from your home computer with a few quick clicks of your mouse and make sure your business is running smoothly and nothing out of the ordinary is going on.
  7. Protecting your staffCCTV can protect your staff physically against violence from customers. At the same time, it can also protect them against false accusations – perhaps coming from colleagues or even from client and customers.
  8. Encourage good behaviourHaving a CCTV camera inside offices may help in creating discipline among the employees. For bosses, who want their presence felt so that efficiency at work is optimized, a camera hovering the employees will give the same effect.
  9. Monitoring high-risk areaCameras may be placed in high-risk areas inside a factory. Such areas may include those in which fires can possibly break out. A camera in place there will lessen potential damages because emergency measures can be made immediately. Cameras may also be placed in areas where accidents can happen. This is important so that life-saving measures can be employed promptly.
  10. Increase customer’s confidenceBanks and shops equipped with CCTV cameras give the customers a sense of security and safety. The customers feel secure and this enhances the customers’ confidence.

Environmentals

479817It’s not uncommon for small businesses to begin operation by stacking server hardware and network appliances on a desk or shelf. Though such a deployment is inexpensive, the pile of equipment invariably expands into an unmanageable mess with the growth of the company. Exposed equipment is also completely open to physical tampering and is a ticking time bomb for accidents such as coffee spills, dust or even workers tripping over wires.

However, rack-mount equipment is designed specifically to properly house this type of hardware. While these tend to be pricier than their non-rack mount equivalents, it’s arguable that being easier to manage far exceeds the cost premium. In addition, shelves and drawers designed for mounting onto the server rack are widely available; these let racks work with non-rack mount appliances as necessary.

Setting up a server rack is more than just twisting a few screws to secure the equipment into place. Proper cable management can’t be overstated, as just about every piece of equipment in the rack is linked with Ethernet cables. Intra-cabinet wiring aside, it makes sense to terminate cable runs for Ethernet LAN points for desktop computers, IP cameras and other network appliances at the rack.

Finally, don’t skimp on labeling and documenting your setup, even for relatively simple deployments. What may be obvious to the employer setting it up could be missed by a new IT staffer or a vendor contracted to work on certain aspects of the system. Time savings aside, proper labeling reduces the likelihood of catastrophic mistakes such as a mission-critical system getting unplugged or restarted without adequate warning.

The simplest way to properly label your infrastructure? Purchase a label printer from a hardware shop. Servers and network appliances should be labeled with unique descriptive names and their IP addresses. Ditto for other equipment such as keyboard, video and mouse switches, NAS appliances, routers, data backup devices and redundant hardware.

Detailed notes describing important procedures relating to your on-premises hardware should be printed out and attached to the server cabinet with tape or refrigerator magnets. These notes should contain important operating instructions relating to networking, data backup or shutting down (or starting up) the equipment in the event of a power outage.

HOW CAN WE HELP YOUR BUSINESS?

help-desk-solutionsRustyice’s strength is that it will tailor the service it provides to suit you and your business needs, rather than have a ‘one solution fits all’ mind-set.

Each customer is different. If needed, we can essentially become your internal IT Department, taking full responsibility for administration.  Or if you already have IT Staff, we can provide an external, independent and professional ‘fall back’ situation in times of need or emergency.

Just look at the list of benefits our customers receive as standard:

  • A Bespoke Package That Fits Your Needs
  • Direct Access to Engineers
  • Remote Live Equipment Monitoring
  • Unlimited Support Calls/Remote Access & Site Visits
  • Detailed Site Audit/Documentation & Security
  • Free Help & Advice
  • Free Project Management
  • Free Loan Equipment
  • Free Holiday Cover for IT Staff
  • Detailed Call Logging
  • Discount Installation Charges for New Equipment Purchased
  • 24/7 Cover Available
  • Quarterly Courtesy Visit & Health Check
  • Low Staff Turnover
  • Excellent Client Retention & References

We have a dedicated team of professionals and monitoring systems ‘in house’, which often enable us to see a problem developing, and respond swiftly before you incur difficulties. Of course, you can still call or email us, and your request will go straight to an engineer who will respond swiftly and professionally.

If you need a site visit, do not worry, these are included (unlimited) as standard for our premium support customers.

call-recording-1024x1024Our Call Logging and Proactive Monitoring systems at Rustyice have been developed in house and are a source of pride to the team and the envy of many of our competitors. They have been designed to facilitate a rapid response to problems and queries raised either by you the customer, or triggered by our in-house analysis.

We’d be delighted to visit you and demonstrate these systems, or alternatively welcome you to our office facility in Kilmarnock where you can see our systems in action over a cup of coffee. See what our customers think about our service and response!

Call us now on 01563 701075 or use our online form.