How does that help my Business?

“How does that help my business?” is probably the question I hear most frequently. Small business owners and executives would listen to me talk about technology and the various services we provide and often make a comment like: “That all sounds great, but what does that actually do for me? How does it help my business?” Others would say: “That sounds spectacular, but it seems like an overkill for my small business operation.” All valid points.

I thought I owe it to our current and future Clients to put it all in perspective.

With the invention of the Internet and constantly evolving information technology, the ball game has changed dramatically. We used to write all data and confidential business information on paper, locked it all in a file cabinet, which was locked in an office, which was located in a building that was also locked. We installed a burglar and fire alarm systems and we were done. There were technically four layers of security including a “catch-all” burglar alarm system that was protecting our confidential data, intellectual property, and assets.

Fast-forward to today. All information and data is in digital format. We use software applications instead of pen and pencil to manipulate the data. Those applications run on desktop and server computers. The files and folders are now stored in a “file cabinet” called Server, which is locked in an office (or dedicated computer room), which is located in a building that is also locked. And we probably also have a burglar and fire alarm systems in place, just like in the olden days.

The most significant difference? Your file cabinet, the Server (or servers, depending on the size of the operation), is on a computer network which is connected to the Global network called the Internet. Your file cabinet is now accessible from anywhere in the World and, if not properly protected, is just a matter of time before someone figures out a way to access the data and information that was so hard to access before the invention of the Internet. All of a sudden the vital business information that was so secure before the digital age is now available to those with some time and malicious intent on their hands, regardless of where they reside on planet Earth. In many cases the four layers of security I spoke about have been reduced to one – your server’s administrative password!

Our core mission as an Information Technology Services Provider is to protect your confidential business information from those who should not have access to it and to ensure that your business related data and software applications are available to you and your employees when you need them, wherever you need them. All the technologies and services we talk about are the tools we need to accomplish our mission. It’s as simple as that.

Best regards,
Konstantin

Productivity – Part 2

In Part 1 of the productivity series we discussed how computer outages and down time affect employees’ productivity. Today, I’d like to touch upon a slightly more controversial subject – work habits. Work habits may be hard to change, but we can certainly guide our employees and help them improve their work habits for productivity’s sake.

We all know Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. But what about Cyber Monday, the first workday after the Thanksgiving holiday? Why is it called Cyber Monday? Because of all the internet shopping that takes place that day. According to CNN Money, Cyber Monday sales were up 30% in 2012 compared to 2011. Which brings me to my point. If our employees are taking advantage of Cyber Monday, who’s doing their job? That’s just part of the issue. There are other, much more troublesome activities that some individuals engage in while at their work computers. Such activities at the very minimum expose computers to computer viruses and malware and at worse, bring lawsuits. I have seen employees listen to their favorite radio station on their PC at work. What’s the problem with that, you ask? Well, if the internet connection is not that fast to begin with, and we have couple of employees streaming audio or video to their work computer,  chances are the Internet connection with slow down to a crawl and we will not be able to conduct business-related activities such as receiving or sending business-related email, accessing web sites in timely manner, etc.

So how do we help our employees be more productive and use the company-provided equipment for its intended purposes? Technology to the rescue. We may implement Content Filtering. Content filtering is a function performed by a device that resides between the Internet router and the internal network. It can be configured to allow or prevent certain types of Internet activities (e.g. access to shopping sites, access to adult content sites, access to malicious sites, access to video streaming sites, etc.). With content filtering in place we can significantly reduce the risk of infecting the company’s computers with viruses as well as improve the performance of both computer and human resources.

Couple of the IT vendors providing content filtering solutions are WatchGuard and Barracuda Networks.

VMware ESXi 5 VM reset stuck at 95%

Hi folks,
Ivailo here to talk about a problem I had few days ago. While I was working on a customer’s server running a VM on ESXi 5.0, the VM froze so I had to forcibly reset it. When I did so, the reset task got stuck at 95%. I did some digging and found few threads talking about the same issue but they were all for ESXi 4. I had to do some additional research and modify the commands in order to make them work on ESXi 5. Bellow are the steps that resolved my problem:

  1. With vSphere Client, connect to the host or the VC server that controls the host.
  2. Click on the host and go to the Configuration tab.
  3. Click on Security Profile.
  4. Click on Properties in the Services table.
  5. Start ESXi Shell and SSH services.
  6. Open a SSH session to the host.
  7. Execute /sbin/services.sh restart. This will restart all agents. The vSphere Client or the vCenter server will lose connection to the host. Reconnect! The VM may show as (invalid).
  8. Find the PID of the process by typing ps|grep “<VMName>”. The second number before the name of the VM is the PID.
  9. Kill the process by typing kill -9 <PID>.
  10. Go to /vmfs/volumes/<DataStoreName>/<VMName>.
  11. Delete the swap file by typing rm –r <SwappFileName.vswp>
  12. In vSphere Client right click the VM and select Remove From Inventory.
  13. Browse the data store, open the VM folder, right click on the .vmx file and select Add to Inventory.
  14. Power On the VM.

Hope this helps.

Ivailo Mitkov

Productivity – Part 1

Whether we are running a small or a large business, for most of us one of the biggest operating expense is employee salaries and compensation. I am sure no one will argue the fact that the higher the employee productivity, the better for the business. This is even more true in today’s economic climate, where operating expenses are going up, but revenue seems to trend in the opposite direction. Depending on the type of operation, couple of ways to keep our company profitable is to improve employee productivity and introduce automation.

While there are many factors affecting employee productivity, in this article we will focus on how personal computers affect our operation. And for this specific example, personal computers include both Desktop and Mobile PCs as well as Servers hosting our data and software applications.

The question is what happens when our business is heavily dependent on computers and computer networks (is there one that isn’t) in the event of an outage? The productivity of our employees who are directly affected drops to nearly 0%. The impact may be compounded by the fact that while our computer systems are down, not only are our employees unproductive, but we may be losing revenue because we are not taking new orders, not ringing transactions at the cash register, not creating new insurance policies, not selling real estate, fill in the blank that applies to your operation. Now factor in the cost for repairing the problem and we have one expensive outage on our hands. There is actually a formula that I will share with you in one of the next articles on how to calculate the cost of computer down time. It is an eye opener and it helps put things in perspective when discussing IT-related operating expenses.

So if we are in agreement that computer-related outages directly affect our employees’ productivity and revenue the question is how do we avoid prolonged outages? The answer is preventative measures.

Don’t wait until it is too late to put preventative measures in place. I know, we are all too busy managing other areas of our business. I know, we don’t have the in-house IT resources to address the issue. I know, we have been thinking about it and will get to it soon. But don’t wait too long. Some damages are irreversible without preventative measures in place. Our computer and network environment may seem placid on the surface, but it is a living, breathing thing that requires attention and just like the human body, without preventative measures in place illness is much more expensive to treat in advanced stages.

Read part 2.

Hello World!

 
Greetings Folks!
This blog has been a long time coming. There are so many topics I have been dying to share with the World, but for one reason or another never found time to develop a medium to convey them to you. Well, the wait is over.
I hope you find our blog informative and entertaining. Stop by often to find out what is going on in the computer world or other subjects (as the mood strikes).

Regards,
Konstantin Kostadinov
Owner / Chief Systems Architect
Konko Technologies