Virtual computing

Businesses are struggling with the need to use virtual computing
Businesses are struggling with the need to use virtual computing

There is a huge trend towards virtual and cloud computing in the IT world, though there is also a “because we can” rather that a “because we should” attitude within some IT companies, resulting in businesses ending up with IT systems wholly unsuitable for their requirements.

I have two examples for you, lets call them company A and Company B, both are recent customers of ours with radically different IT experiences prior to us.

Company A

This is a marketing and print company employing around 15 people. Their client base is large multinationals.

Their needs are simple:
Emails and file sharing, security and accessibility for Macs and PCs. They also have a need to run a specialist application on a Linux based computer.

Company B

This is a furniture retailer, employing 6 people. Their client base is varied, but they usually target businesses with 5-10 employees.

Their needs are:
Consolidated data storage, remote accessibility and granulated permissions for who can get access to what.


Company A

Previously to Rochester & Associates Ltd getting involved, the incumbent IT company were commissioned to install an IT system encompassing their requirements.

These should have pointed them towards a simple Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) running their network, email services and coordinating the shared data.

Given that they are a marketing company and using large files for their artwork, flexible file storage would have pointed towards some form of network storage (such as a NAS) or a large file storage array (a few large hard drives in a ‘RAID’ configuration).

Finally, a base level PC installed to run the Linux operating system configured on to the network to run the custom application, or a virtual PC installed on to the server to the same end.

This would provide a scalable solution to their requirements and allow simple maintenance going forward.

The old IT company however, decided that the best approach would be to run both the SBS server and the Linux PC in a virtual environment, running on VMware (software that creates a virtual environment – i.e. not Microsoft Windows)

I strongly suspect that the old IT company recently got hold of the virtualisation software and thought “I wonder where can we use this?”.
This means that there is a huge level of sophistication introduced, to no advantage. The client would only really gain here, if they needed to add servers at a later date, as it is much cheaper to simply add a virtual machine rather than buy a new server box. As there is no requirement for that why use this configuration?

The client had a failure on the drive the other day, and I ended up working in to the night to fix it – a job that should have taken around 30 – 60 minutes to fix, took much longer as we needed to gain access to a virtual machine on a server that didn’t boot properly.

A pointless example of “because we can”.

Company B

These guys are expanding. Their IT requirements have gone beyond that of their existing ‘mate’ doing it.

Currently they were looking to use Microsoft Office 365, dropbox and a 3rd party CRM for their client relationships.

Unfortunately they were using a hosted Exchange service which appears to be little understood by their previous support engineer. During the move to the Office 365 system, all the users lost emails dating before the change because they were not exported and backed up. 😳

Also, they were unable to secure the documents required because the share service used only allowed one level of access – everything.

We put them on to our virtual desktop system – thus allowing them the flexibility to tailor the file permissions and share things as required. This is also accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection, on both PC and Apple computers, iPads etc.

The service comes with a full Microsoft Exchange system too, so sharing calendars and tasks etc was a doddle.

Exporting their emails from Office 365 straight back in to Outlook was also simple. By ensuring that there was a little overlap from one system to another, we also made sure that in the event of a failure transferring the data, we could simply go back to the old system and get it again.

The client also has 1 email only account on the same server, this means that the remote worker using this, is able to act as a PA for any of the users with a full desktop by sharing mailboxes and calendars.

Happy client, without the capital expenditure of a full ‘server based’ solution – all configured within 4 days of ‘pushing the button’ 😎

That’s the “because we should” bit! 🙂