02 Jul

Rise of the Secure Internet Gateway

Security used to be focused on keeping everything contained within a physical structure to protect an organization’s network perimeter – critical infrastructure, servers, applications, data and people. Today, 49% of the workforce has gone mobile and nearly 70% are conducting business via SaaS applications.  Organizations are struggling to protect their network in this new working standard. According to our partners at Cisco, most organizations rely heavily on virtual private network (VPN) usage, but 82 percent of mobile workers admit that they don’t always use the organizations VPN.

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28 Feb
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11 Mar

To Cloud or Not to Cloud

So I’d have to say that I’ve not been a big fan of cloud-managed infrastructure because of the concern over really “owning” something and the recurring charges that occur to keep the product functioning. Certainly, I’ve seen the advantages Telcion has realized by moving to a “cloud” service for our customer management over ten years ago… and we have also realized the benefits of migrating off a premises-based Exchange server to Office 365 several years ago.   But “cloud services” for your switches, wireless access points and firewall seemed unneeded.  Why do I need to pay for a service to manage my infrastructure?

However, after recently installing a Cisco Meraki Wireless system at my home office, I can see the benefits.  First is the ease of installation.  I setup my first wireless system at home by basically setting up two Linksys Wireless Access Point at both ends of my home.  It was a bit painful to setup as I had to first access the AP by changing the IP address of my laptop to match the IP addressing of the default IP address on the Linksys AP, set the IP address of the AP to the correct subnet, then start over to access the APs again. Then I had access two different management screens (2 APs), setup SSIDs, manage channels that don’t conflict with each other and occasionally perform firmware updates.

For the Cisco Meraki wireless system I installed recently, it was just too easy. I plugged the Access Point into my existing POE switch.  I created an account at Meraki and clicked on “setup new network”.  I then added the serial # of the Access Point I had just plugged in.  The Dashboard recognized the AP, which I could then manage easily.  I changed the IP address, setup an SSID, setup a password and had it functioning in less than 10 minutes.  Wow! (Remember, I’m an account manager, not an engineer.)

And then a bigger “wow” resulted when I saw the other features of the dashboard – my second point – ease of management. I can see the clients that are connected to the APs.  I can also see a heatmap after placing the APs on the imbedded Google map showing the coverage for my house.  I can view the RF spectrum being used by each AP – as well as utilize “air marshal” to show rogue APs and potential conflicts.  I’m sure these are tools that many are used to having in larger deployments but I have them without having to buy an expensive Wireless LAN controller.

To go back to my original concern, there is a cost to all technology solutions spread out in upfront costs, management tools and maintenance.  The Cisco Meraki subscription costs are very reasonably priced considering that you get hardware replacement, upgrades and the management all built into one price.

If you would like to discuss Cisco Meraki Cloud services and demo unit, please contact us at sales@telcion.com.

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09 Feb

Putting Your Servers In the Cloud

More and more I am having conversations with our clients about what kind of services they can put into the cloud.   The easy answers are things like CRM and email.  These are well-established services that work very well in the cloud and really do provide some relief.   No servers, no licensing, less IT admin… all good outcomes.

Now we are starting to have the more difficult conversations.   What about Windows servers?   What about our voice system?   What about file sharing?  Do we need to be concerned about security?  So let’s dig into this a bit and see what the options are.

First of all, any of these services requires a fast internet connection.  Once you get beyond the basic apps like email, you need to have a fast and very reliable connection.  Something like 20-50megs and fiber-based.   This is pretty available now these days for around $1000/month.   If you aren’t willing to make that investment, then I wouldn’t suggest considering cloud for your servers just yet.   You need this kind of infrastructure because you want fast access and you want low latency, especially for your voice and video apps.

Let’s tackle the first question:  is it feasible to put your Windows Server that is running a specialized application for your industry into the cloud?  Absolutely.   But this is where things get interesting.   Generally, we find it to be more expensive when you move your servers out to the cloud.   You are essentially renting hardware located somewhere else.   Renting is rarely cheaper than buying, in most cases, over a longer period of time.   If you figure costs over a 3-5 year period, you will find you are paying a premium for renting.   Is this bad?  Not necessarily.   It all depends on what your priorities are.

Telcion offers cloud-based services like this, and the main pain point our clients emphasize is not the cost but the convenience.   They no longer have to maintain server hardware.   There is no annual support or maintenance contracts.   There are no licenses to maintain.   There are no software upgrades to complete.    This frees up their IT admin folks to focus on business problems, or more importantly, how the business can make money using IT.

The same scenario works for your voice system.   We can put your phone system applications in the cloud, on our servers.   But it won’t be less expensive.  It will just be more convenient.   You have to decide whether it’s worth the convenience or not.   In many cases, it’s well worth it.  It all depends on how you want your internal IT resources deployed and what you want your IT Admin folks to be focused on.

As always, contact me if you want to dive deeper into what this might look like for your organization.

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