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FutureLine is a range of cloud based solutions which includes FutureLine VoIP which is a new way to manage telephony. FutureLine VoIP is a range of Cisco phone systems that grows and changes with your business. You can Rent, Lease or Buy FutureLine VoIP solutions.

 

 

 

 

 

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Cloud Computing demands proactive network management

  
  

A couple of items concerning the need for proactive network management when Cloud Computing solutions are deployed caught my attention this week.

The first was that Cisco was offering it's U.S. partners a cloud based solution called OnPlus

http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps11792/index.html

to enable it's Partners to " efficiently deliver managed network services "  ( N.B. This Cisco service is not available in the U.K. yet ).

The second was the news that Google has persuaded Spanish Bank BBVA to use it's cloud services

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16486796

and

" BBVA's data would not reside on dedicated servers - a solution known as private cloud - but would sit distributed across the public cloud of Google's data centres. Both Mr Marotte and Ms Herranz stressed this would meet the demands of banking regulators and data protection officials, and be as secure as any solution on the bank's premises.

A bigger worry will be whether BBVA's computer network will be able to cope with the sharp rise in network traffic that cloud-computing solutions demand.

A pilot with 7,000 staff had not seen any issues, but the bank would closely monitor for any increases in network load. "Our biggest worry is around video conferencing," said Ms Herranz.

Network issues were blamed on serious performance problems when several years ago Google apps were introduced by the city of Los Angeles. "

So, BBVA's biggest worry was the sharp rise in network traffic that cloud computing solutions demand.

 

 

 

This is why we at FutureLine and Poundbury Systems built a Network Operations Centre
( N.O.C.) with network analysis, monitoring and management capability YEARS AGO.

In fact the technical expert here at Poundbury and FutureLine, Mike Jenkins, was building Managed Data Networks in the 1990's ( sorry to out your age here Mike !! ).

We have always been leaders in promoting " convergence " ( let's describe it as running voice, video and data over an IP - data - network ) but we have also always been realistic about the effect of adding e.g. voice and video applications onto a data network and ( probably to our cost in some cases ) we have always pointed this out to our prospective clients and customers.

This is one of those cases where there is no free lunch !!

The people at BBVA were quite right to cite this as their biggest worry. Adding voice and video onto a data network is DEFINATELY going to create issues.

The best thing to do to avoid the worst possible scenario ( a complete  network outage or loss of one or more of the services ) is to plan ahead, to test ( as BBVA have done ) and to monitor on an ongoing basis.

Cisco knows that most of it's partners can build data networks; they probably have some analysis and network management knowledge and capabilities BUT if they are to ensure that Cisco based cloud computing solutions work they are going to need more knowledge and capability.

Again, Cisco is doing the right thing by providing a service like OnPlus and promoting it to it's partner base.

I often say that nothing much has changed in the last 10 years ( might have to start saying 15-20 years soon !! ) and the only thing that is really changing here is that people are demanding more and more from the humble data network. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloud Computing in all colours of the rainbow available

  
  

Following the recent announcement by Microsoft and HP that they have signed a 4 year agreement to supply Cloud Computing in any combination of colours and flavours available there must be a solution to almost everything ??

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/12/09/microsoft_hp_cloud_pact/

 

Yes, you need to know your private networks from your hybrid and your public networks and you need to understand that information that goes over the Internet is not as secure as information that goes over private networks but most of all you need to understand what you as a business want from your Information Technology and Communications.

The old way ( on your premises based technology ) may be the best for you but that can only be determined by an understanding of your business needs and your risk tolerance.

Backing up data across the cloud may be the way to go but as this research shows

http://dennisnet.msgfocus.com/q/11wRSoAYhs4WFUgw/wv

backing up across the cloud may just mean swapping one set of risks for another.

It is interesting to note that big I.T. companies like H.P. and Microsoft ( even if they are referred to as " a slightly dyamic duo " ;-) are fully supporting the Cloud Computing concept and judging by all the radio and T.V. advertising that Microsoft are doing more and more people are going to be asking questions about Cloud Computing. 

 

 

 

Where there's metal there's money!

  
  

My son learned an early lesson about the value of metal thanks to one of his friends. We had loaded up a skip with different items of rubbish and included in that were some old radiators from the house. One of my sons friends asked him if he could have the radiators out of the skip and he said yes. Later he recieved a text from his friend saying that he had received around £120 from the scrap metal dealer for these radiators. My son was livid and I think annoyed with himself for not realising the value of this metal.

 

 

He now collects metal parts from his various car projects religiously - car bodies, engine parts etc - and every now and then takes them to the scrap dealer. He has also learned that the price of metal fluctuates up and down. A trailer load of metal scrap is not always worth the same amount. I don't think I have told him about the correlation between metal prices and the state of the global economy yet but I should do. The one to watch ( I am told ) is the copper price.

 

 

which have more than tripled since 1980 and apart from a crash in 2008 - 2009 is now trading at record highs. ( You will probably be aware that gold, silver and platinum prices have done a similar thing ).

So, a lot of people know that metal is worth money but we tend not to know exactly how much or what things are made of.

We, generally speaking, think of I.T. , audio, video and other electronic and electrical equipment - computers, displays ( v.d.u.'s ), amps as becoming unusable after a time ( they don't run the latest software etc ) and having little scrap value ( which is why we take them to the tip ).

This is sort of true but as this article says

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/02/recycling_your_high_tech_gear/

 

the devil is in the detail. In summary lots of something e.g. computers is worth more but as they put less of the valuable stuff ( metal ) into them in the first place they tend to be worth less at the end. Having said that it was a surprise to know that the use of tin solder has actually pushed the price up ( and the reliability of things down ).

So, unless your I.T. systems are very old ( when they used to put lots of metal in them ) they will not be worth much ( metal scrap value ).

The article also talks about the value of scrapped car parts e.g. the platinum in catalytic converters - but there is also money in recycling car parts.

Hidden within the detail of the rationale behind LKQ's recent acquisition of Euro Car Parts

http://www.motortrader.com/latest-news/euro-car-parts-acquired-225m/

 

is the fact that LKQ is a massive recycler of used car parts in the U.S. ( You are probably vaguely aware of the fact that there are now some huge vehicle scrap yards in the U.K. and around the world who are scrapping and recycling car parts ) and intends to bring this knowledge to ECP ( who had already started using recycled - used - car parts ) so that ECP can sell original, aftermarket ( copy ) AND recycled car parts to it's customers e.g. those that are repairing damaged vehicles which are the subject of insurance claims.

Oh yes, where there is metal there is definately money !!! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

FutureLine Moon Datacentre Opening Soon !!

  
  

As everyone knows the chances are that one day we will go the way of the dinosaurs when an asteroid slams into the Earth and creates perpetual darkness.

 

 

Here at FutureLine we think it would be nice for some of the family snaps to survive just in case there is someone else in one of the Billions of universes that might be interested.

Although we know Richard Branson we have not yet secured our tickets on the Virgin Galactic " Last flight out " so we might actually have to live with ( or die for ) Armageddon.

So, the FutureLine Moon Datacentre is mainly for us but we though we would give you guys the chance to get some storage space there aswell.

More impetus was generated for this project when one of the readers of our recent " What the heck is Cloud Computing ? " blog post let us know that she carries around her data on a hard drive which she keeps in her B.A.B. ( Big Ass Bag ). This is because she might need that information when she is out on the road and she doesn't want to leave it at home but neither does she trust one of those  Earthbound " Cloud Storage Datacentres ".

She was sort of interested when she first heard about the idea of " storing her data in the cloud " as this seemed like a good half way house between Earth and the Moon but when she discovered that " In the Cloud " did not mean somewhere in a nicely moving Cumulo Nimbus she went off the idea.

 

The thing is that there are no " totally safe storage places ". I mean a hard drive carried around in a B.A.B. might seem like a cool solution but it does not really avoid some fairly typical loss scenario's like: Losing it in when you go shopping; Having it snatched; Reversing over it in the car of the dog's thinking it's a big biscuit.

Even a hard drive left at home could be subject to a " catastrophic disk failure " or an Act of God that could take the whole house out.

Of course lots of people get paranoid about storing personal or business data " in the terrestrial cloud " i.e. in an Earthbound data centre.

There isn't really a perfect solution. Most people have multiple devices that they use - P.C.'s , laptops, iPads, phones etc etc and you really want to be able to get any of your data on any device, anywhere. This is Nirvana.

Storing it in a place like a terrestrial data centre looks like the best solution except that if you can't make a connection to that datacentre ( by landline, wireless, satellite or whatever ) then you can't get access to the information stored in that datacentre. In thyat case you are going to have to survive on whatever data you have loaded on the device that you have or you are going to have to resort to the Disc in the B.A.B. approach.

The good news is that it is easier and easier to make an Internet connection from virtually anywhere and therefore you are more and more likely to be able to get access to cloud based data from anywhere with pretty well any device - especially as Moores Law has more effect on these devices ( your mobile phone and PDA or iPad get more and more capable ).

A number of companies are pioneering in resolving this issue e.g. Apple ( iCloud ), Amazon and Google.

If you would like to get some storage space in our Moon Datacentre please contact us via one of the usual methods. 

 

 

What the heck is Cloud Computing ?

  
  

There is quite a lot of talk about Cloud Computing but one thing that we have noticed ( especially amongst our friends on various social networks ) is that very few people outside of IT geeks actually know what it is.

 

WARNING: THIS IS NOT FOR IT AND CLOUD GEEKS !!

 

Here at FutureLine ( the Cloud Computing part of Poundbury Systems ) we don't much like
" jargon " and do our best to talk to people in plain English as far as possible.  So here goes with our explanation of Cloud Computing and hopefully it will be pretty easy to understand.

Back in the old days  B.I. ( Before the Internet ! ) but A.P. ( After the PC ) you usually had your main computer ( your server computer ) on your premises and it ran whatever business software you used. If you were trying to access a server computer from another location
( say a branch office or home ) you used the phone lines to connect to it.

 

 

Server Computer

 

 

Along comes the Internet ( and Internet communications lines ) and then you could communicate with a  server computer over the Internet. 

 

 

So, then you get to the basic choice that you have today. Do you have your server computer and software off-site ( say in someone's data centre - a place where lots of server computers are housed ) OR do you have it on-site ( on your premises ).

 

 

Some servers and software have pretty well always been off-site but we don't really think much about it. For example your web ( site ) server is likely to be off-site as is your email server. Occasionally people have them on-site.

Servers and software that you are more likely to have on-site include Operating System software ( Windows ) and Microsoft Small Business Server and business applications like Microsoft Office.

So, Cloud Computing is basically about locating servers and software off-site as opposed to on-site.

When you are using servers and software on-site you expect the speed ( or performance ) of them to be excellent. You don't have to go and make a cup of tea after you type a few things. You have a very good " response time ".

When you locate servers and software off site all sorts of things can affect the speed/performance/response time. Some of these are :

  • The " size of your Internet connections ( Is it a big "pipe" like a leased line connection or is it a simple broadband connection ? )

  • The amount and type of " traffic " that you will be sending down that pipe and getting back - is it just data or pictures, voice and video ?

  • The type of connection. ( There are different ways of sending information down an Internet pipe )

  • The performance of the server and the way that it is connected to the Internet.

There are a number of quite well known " Cloud based applications " ( Software running on servers that are not based on your premises ) These include:

- Salesforce.com ( Customer Relations Software ). This is probably the world's most well known " Cloud based application " )

 



- Google Apps ( General Office Software ). Competes with Microsoft's Office.

 

 

 

Huddle ( Collaboration Software )

 

 

Hosted Telephony ( Like FutureLine Voip )

 

Here's a list of some more cloud based applications

http://www.knowledgetree.com/blog/2011/03/5/10-cloud-based-apps-give-mid-sized-companies-competitive-edge

 

 

Another area that you think about when deciding to go for " off-site" versus " on-site " is reliability, Resilience and Fault Tolerance.

Typically using servers and software on-site is pretty reliable - you don't lose the connection between the PC and your on site server very often. You or someone else might unplug a cable or switch off a power switch that causes loss of connection but it is rare.

Creating reliability, resilience and fault tolerance for a server located off-site is more of an issue. If there is a failure in part of the network then you may not be able to " route around it ".

 

 

One of the main reasons for the rise in the use of " Cloud Computing " is that of reduced costs. There is a lot to this subject that we will not go into here. Typically if you have an on-site server with software running on it you pay a " license fee " which can run into 10's or 100's of thousands of pounds.

Cloud Computing software is paid for on a " pay as you go " and " pay per user " basis. This makes it considerably lower cost.

 

The decision as to whether to go for an off-site ( Cloud based ) solution or an on-site ( on premises ) solution depends on your particular circumstances. At Poundbury andf FutureLine we provide either option.

 

 

Life in Dorset without broadband or blackberry!

  
  

Our last blog was about the failure of much of BT's Broadband network and now we have Blackberry Crackberry's cracking up after the loss of email service. Actually this is not just in Dorset it is nationwide in the case of BT Broadband and European wide or further in the case of the Blackberry.

 

http://btbroadbandandhowtosurviveit.blogspot.com/

This could not have come at a worse time for Research in Motion ( R.I.M. ) who is struggling to fend off calls for management to resign and for the company to be broken up.

The failures in both the Broadband network and the Blackberry network sound sort of similar ( although neither have given exact details ).

http://www.cfoworld.co.uk/news/risk/3310247/blackberry-outage-due-to-rim-switch-failure/

http://news.softpedia.com/news/BlackBerry-Network-Outage-Hits-Day-3-10-12-2011-227041.shtml

Personally I have managed without my blackberry ( which is delivering email in fits and starts but is obviously not a well phone ! ) because I have been based in the office or at home for these few days. Had I been out and about then I might not be quite so sanguine.

So, now that we have had major outages on both broadband and mobile networks within a couple of weeks of one another what are we thinking ??

One thought is that networks are not as resilient and fault tolerant as we and the providers thought ! If it can fail it will fail so we had better assume that it will again and consider what the cost of failure is and how we can make ourselves more resilient. ( Since we cannot actually do anything about these providers networks ).

We actually went through pretty well all the network options in our previous blog:

http://www.futureline.net.uk/FutureLine-Small-Business-Blog/bid/45512/Your-business-stopped-when-B-T-broadband-went-down

So, maybe it really is time to sit down and consider the cost and implications of being disconnected.

If you want to have a chat about this please feel free to call us.

 

 

 

Your business stopped when B.T. broadband went down ??

  
  

Yesterday's news that a failure ( power ? ) in one of B.T.'s Internet network exchanges in Birmingham took out many people's broadband connections for anything ranging from an hour to the rest of the day raised some thought and discussion here.

Speaking to Mike Jenkins ( co-founder and Technical Director here at Poundbury Systems and Futureline ) about this there are a few points that might help people avoid the same thing happening again.

Some broad background might be in order:

There is a very long and quite complicated story that could be told about the history of the cables that enter your building and the way that they support Internet connection.

Probably what you need to know is that most of the cables are copper wires and that they probably originally supported telephones alone. ( Another type of cable was run into some houses by the " cable companies " when they existed - co-axial cables - and some people and larger businesses have fibre optic cable running into their building ). Also most of the cable in place is still owned by B.T. ( openreach ). This is from BT openreach's About page:

 

 

" We’re the proud guardians of a critical national asset, the local access network; the infrastructure that delivers the data, broadband and voice services to each home and business throughout the UK, sometimes referred to as the ‘first mile’.

We were created to give communications providers equal access to the wires and fibres that connect us all, and to maintain and improve this infrastructure, which underpins the entire UK communication industry.

We supply Communications Providers with products and services that are linked to the network. We also work on their behalf to ensure that the tens of millions of people across the UK have reliable local access. This makes untold millions of calls, online use and sharing of information possible.

If the unthinkable happened and our infrastructure wasn’t available, the nation would grind to a shuddering halt.

That’s why we take our guardianship so seriously."

Pretty well all Internet Service Providers ( ISP's )  use B.T.'s cable to provide you with an Internet Service. In theory BT openreach have to provide equally good service to BT Wholesale ( who supply other Internet Service Providers ) and B.T. Retail ( who supply customer's directly ).

BT Group ( the overall holding company ) consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, Openreach, BT Retail and BT Wholesale.

Yesterday's broadband outage seemed principally to affect BT Retail's customers. This seems to mean that a part of the Openreach network that supports BT Retail had a problem.

 

What are the different ways that you can access the Internet??

There are many potential ways but only some of these might be practical options for you:

- The " landline " network described above

- A local " wi-fi " network ( which will probably connect with the landline network fairly quickly )

- A broadband wireless network ( does not exist everywhere ) which will also connect with the landline network

- The " mobile " network

- The " satellite " network

all of these networks have to connect with landline networks and " the Internet " at some point.

Let us put to one side the ( but not forget totally ) " wi-fi " networks, broadband wireless and satellite.

With regard to the " landline " network - although the different providers are using the same ( Openreach ) infrastructure  ( the cable into your house ) they may be using different routes back to the Internet from there. So, one option to achieve non-stop Internet access is to have multiple broadband connections with multiple providers.

 

 

Providers are also providing " Ethernet in the First Mile ( EFM ) " connectivity over the existing  Openreach network. It appears that the EFM network was also unaffected by yesterday's outage. So, it would be an option to have a broadband and an EFM connection.

This leaves the " mobile " network. Quite clearly some broadband users who were affected by the outage were using their mobiles to get access to email, Twitter and other Internet services.  It makes sense to get a 3G usb stick for emergencies.

How do you decide what is the best option for you ?

The key to deciding on your best option is understanding how important Internet access is to you. We tend not to appreciate just how much we rely on the Internet these days. We also don't put a value against the loss of connectivity and hence we can't decide how much to spend on a solution.

The two things that maintained my Internet connectivity yesterday were:

1. The fact that I had multiple broadbands ( they were in fact all with BT but clearly there was something different about the connectivity " back in the network " because one worked and one did not. ) 

2. My " mobile " network connection via my Blackberry.

So, technically the solutions are available - but at a cost. It is up to you to consider what the cost to you of not being connected is. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

5 Big issues for Business and IT Departments

  
  

According to Dion Hinchcliffe, writing for ZDNet, the issues for Business and IT Departments are Mobile, Social, Cloud, Consumerisation and " Big Data ". 

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hinchcliffe/the-big-five-it-trends-of-the-next-half-decade-mobile-social-cloud-consumerization-and-big-data/1811

These are subjects that are very much on our minds for ourselves and our customers.

1.Mobile

More and more the mobile phone is people's main way of accessing email and social business. Whilst young people do have mobile's, ipads, laptops and desktops it seems likely that if pushed they would opt for their mobiles first. Some young house mates don't bother with landlines and operate with mobiles alone. Bigger business and older people also rely heavily on their mobiles for access to email, business applications and social business.

 

 

2. Social

All businesses are trying to work out how to utilise and integrate social business into the rest of their operations. In an earlier blog today we talked about B.T.'s network outage. How does B.T. provide support to it's customers ? It tries to encourage the use of it's website and various answers to frequently answered questions ( FAQ's ); It ( somewhat reluctantly ? ) provides a phone in facility; it also provides a Twitter page and YouTube videos. It's a similar story with marketing; we know that B.T. does a lot of advertising on TV, radio, press and magazines. People are driven to the website where they can research themselves, ask for online quotations and phone in if required. ( No online chat or social networks that seem to be regularly used for sales ). There is not much integration or co-ordination here - but B.T. would not be alone in this.

 

 

3. Cloud

As pointed out in the article on the one hand we have cloud based systems achieving very high levels of reliability - potentially more reliable than " traditional " systems and on the other we have stories of outages of cloud based systems from the likes of for example Amazon and Microsoft. Is there really anything new here - private solutions, well engineered, are likely to be more reliable than public solutions but well engineered public/hybrid clouds can also be very reliable. Great consideration of the risks involved in public based systems is required.

 

 

4. Consumerisation

Ease of adoption and ease of use of applications is driving mobile, social business and cloud computing. This is the thing that is going to put more and more pressure on on hard to adopt and use " enterprise " applications.

 

 

 

5. Big Data

The "wider" and " overall " view is increasingly required to get a real understanding on what is going on. For example we need to bring together lots of data to see if our Internet Marketing efforts are working e.g. Where our visitors are coming from - Google search, referrals, blogs, social networking; what they do when they visit or call; what the conversion ratio's are; what works and what doesn't.

 

 

 

 

 

When BT Internet goes down - use Twitter !!

  
  

The confirmation that there was a problem with BT's broadband service today appeared on Twitter with messages like this:

" Power cut at Birmingham exchange pulls plug on BT Broadband across UK "

and ended with: 

" BT Broadband goes live just as someone there answers the bloody 'phone after 2 hours. I can put the radio back on now."

Which all goes to prove that there is the " Internet " and the " Mobile Internet ". 

As this report from the BBC describes

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15154020

"Best thing was the BT helpline advising customers to logon to BT.com if they can't get through on the phone - not easy logging in without internet!"

Greg Gillies, director of IT support company Pond Group, added: "We were unable, along with the rest of the country, to get hold of BT for confirmation and had to rely on Twitter for unconfirmed updates."

In response, BT has said they have received a "large number of calls" and was doing its best to answer queries using social media and other methods.

"We have been doing our very best to keep customers informed," the spokesperson added.

"BT apologises for any inconvenience caused."

None of this sounds good enough really - does it ??

Firstly, why did the outage of one exchange in Birmingham cause such wide disruption? ( I have 3 B.T. broadband connections into my location and of the two that I use regularly one was down and the other up ? I actually thought it was the wind that had disrupted one of them.)

The network is obviously not as resilient and fault tolerant as we are led to believe.

Secondly, why can't B.T.'s Help Centre cope with the phone calls that arose ? ( No surprise to me because they can't cope with " normal " call rates.)

Thirdly, when are B.T. going to realise that there is such a thing as social media? 

One of the most frustrating things for I.T. support companies like Pond Group is that they don't have a " hotline " into B.T. either. They might have slightly different " portals " into B.T. but they are basically the same - a website and a phone number.

Just checking through Twitter,  @BTCare Enniskillen, UK ( BT Care's Twitter page ) seem to have been aware of the problem around 1p.m. and it seems to have been resolved by about 2p.m. ( could have been much less time to be fair ). I have used @BTCare Enniskillen, UK before and to be fair they have always tried their best to sort things out.

Again, according to Twitter, the problem appears to have been a power outage in the B.T.
" supernode " exchange. 

The solutions appear to be:

 

- Improved fault tolerance and resilience required ( especially in the B.T. " Supernode " exchanges )

- The ability to cope with increased call capacity

- Greater utilisation of social networks to help people

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile phone geeks are paying Google and Microsoft !!

  
  

Recently there has been lots of press coverage of the " mobile wars " - Apple versus Blackberry versus Android based phones. According to some Apple and Android are winning this war and Research in Motion is suffering.

Recently this post 

http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=168075

by Thomas Power of Ecademy featured an interview with Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Google ( well worth watching ) and they emphasised how important mobile, Android and the upcoming acquisition of Motorola was ( although they could not say much about that impending acquisition ).

In this article here

 http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/28/samsung_motorola_patent_licensing/

 

it becomes clear that Microsoft is also benefitting from Android sales and in fact Motorola is the only major Android based phone manufacturer that has still to complete a royalty agreement with Microsoft.

Arguably Android is the ( open source ) platform of choice for geeks and techies and Google and particularly Microsoft are the last people they want to be supporting.

http://androidnews.me/2011/07/10-best-android-phones-2011-android-device-androidtapp-com-expert-recommendations/

 

However, Microsoft's tentacles are everywhere - one more squeeze and they will achieve
" control " of the Android market with Google. This will ensure yet another revenue stream for Microsoft. 

If you are a Microsoft hating geek or techie I don't know where you are going to buy a mobile phone in the future !!

 

 

 

 

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