Wednesday, December 30, 2009

KVM Switches for SMBs: A Buyer’s Guide

Thanks to Paul Mah at IT Business Edge, who eloquently explains what to look for when investing in a KVM switch.

What criteria made the list?

1.You should decide whether you want an
IP KVM switch or not.

Advantage: The freedom to work from anywhere.

Possible deterrents: Increased potential for security breach; higher price.

2. You should determine your ideal number of concurrent users.

Paul Mah posits:

“However, I would advocate support for at least one remote and one concurrent local user in instances where more than a dozen servers are connected via a KVM.”

This is a logical recommendation, given the number of servers being accessed. Minicom’s
Smart 232 IP, for example, enables one local and two remote users access and control of up to 32 servers, as well as the capability for two remote users to operate serial sessions for controlling serial devices such as routers, managed network switches or PDUs.

3. Do you want
CAT 5 cabling, which reduce cable clutter and are relatively inexpensive, or shorter, pricier cables (Duh!)?

4. If you are thinking about expanding the number of servers your SMB has, make sure you get a KVM switch which supports cascading. The author points out, “Note that the connectors for these KVMs are typically proprietary and support cascading only with the same models or devices within the same product family.”

Still have questions? Check out our
KVM library or contact us.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Year That Will Be: Data Centers in 2010

It’s always fun to see what industry experts are willing to commit to in print about the upcoming year, and then see what does and does not come to fruition. Matt Stansberry, on, puts it out there with “The top data center 2010 trends.” Mostly the usual suspects (dip into the cloud, keep a close on energy use), but some new trends as well, such as a direct correlation between the rise in popularity of hot-aisle/cold-aisle containment and the death of the raised floor.

There has also been a recent spate of “How-to” advice for 2010.

Take a look at the slideshow
Seven Ways to Make Your Security Budget Pay Off in 2010. Nice visual presentation which reinforces the messages on the slides.

Slide 4 talks about single-sign on as an important security measure – read about how
Minicom has implemented single-sign on in our remote access management products with great results.

Who could not use some direction about
How to Improve Your IT Planning in 2010? Despite the vagueness of the title, this article offers practical and specific suggestions.

Facebook, Google and Amazon: Data Center Developments

Check out these developments in the data center world:

Facebook now has 30,000 servers

Google’s Belgian data center spurns chillers in favor of free cooling

Amazon Web Services’ December outage

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Finally, Some Optimism in the Tech Sphere

Some light breaking through the clouds of all the dire predictions for 2010. It is not unbridled, unrestrained optimism, but there is encouraging news for the future of IT. In an article by Marc Ferranti in, the following news brings hope:

“Global IT spending will increase by 3.2 percent in 2010, attaining the 2008 spending level of about US$1.5 trillion, IDC said Thursday [December 3rd]. The research company said it based its prediction on a fairly conservative forecast -- an increase of 2.6 percent -- for global GDP growth... ‘High tech should lead us out of the Great Recession in 2010,’ said Frank Gens, chief analyst at IDC, on a conference call Thursday. The main themes for IT in 2010 will be recovery and transformation, he said. “

The article continues on a less upbeat note, with warnings not to get too comfortable, but the potential for good news is there.

eWeek’s article,
Technology Hiring Expected to Increase in 2010, echoes this generally positive sentiment. In the words of Frank Scavo, president of Computer Economics:

"Based on our 20 years of tracking IT budgets, all signs point to a recovery year. IT executives are prepared to make midyear adjustments, up or down, based on the strength of the recovery, but right now it appears we see a year of stabilization in IT spending and staffing."

TechNewsWorld seconds that emotion in
Pragmatism, Persistence Fuel 2010 IT Budget and Hiring Trends, which strikes the same note of cautious hope.

What is the feeling out in the field? More of the same, or light at the end of the tunnel?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dramatic Data Center Crashes - The Best of 2009

Everyone was a-twitter about these show-stopping outages, news of which circulated like wildfire on social media sites. Funny how the very proliferation of social media is both the cause and the instrument of publication for some crashes. A flurry of tweets about the fall of Gmail in February, for example, would not have been possible during the August 6th three hour downtime on Twitter.

Michael Jackson’s influence remained strong posthumous, as the Web strained under the weight of his June 25th death. Storm clouds made a brief appearance, as the loss of data for T-Mobile Sidekick cast a shadow on much hyped cloud computing.

Interesting information about different ways of handling the sheer volume of Twitter.

Will 2010 boast outages as colorful as this year’s? Watch this space…

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Product: Smart 108 IP - For Small Scale IT Environments

The ability to access servers around the clock, from any location, is an essential element of IT infrastructure today. IT managers have to be able to troubleshoot and maintain their servers even if they are not physically in the server room. The Smart 108 IP is a high end remote access solution designed for small scale IT environments, with excellent price performance. Using the Smart 108 IP, one local user or one remote user can access up to 8 mixed platform (PS/2 & USB) servers at a time. The combination of convenient local access and secure remote access means that businesses can make sure their servers are available 24/7, and that downtime is kept to a minimum. Because the Smart 108 IP is operating system independent, allowing access to servers at the BIOS level, administrators can access, control and manage servers even in the event of system failure.

“We keep seeing companies with branch offices, and companies that need to keep their options open in the event of growth. The Smart 108 IP fulfills the demands of businesses in disparate locations, and businesses that need a solution that can accommodate expansion. We are also happy to have an attractive package for Managed Service Providers who want to offer their customers the flexibility of small scale local and remote access without the price tag associated with unnecessary ports,” explains Benny Hayumi, KVM Product Manager.

The Smart 108/116 IP can be managed by Minicom’s remote management solutions, AccessIT and II. The Smart 108 IP is the latest addition to Minicom’s highly successful Smart line of digital KVM switches: Smart 116 IP, SmartRack 116 IP, Smart 216 IP and Smart 232 IP.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Year That Was: Data Centers in 2009

Check out The top 10 data center stories of 2009.

Lots on environmental monitoring – ASHRAE’s raise of recommended inlet air temperature for servers made the list, as did the growing popularity of hot-aisle/cold aisle containment. Some business deals like Oracle’s acquisition of Sun, and some related economic news such as reduced budgets for data centers. Chock full of links so you can find out more about whatever catches your fancy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Recipe For Data Center Success Over the Holidays

Brick and mortar storeowners may be hearing their voices echo, but online traffic remains steady as people shop and spend, with sales up 14% from last year’s Cyber Monday (full story from here).

According to the article:

“The trend highlights the importance of keeping the data centers powering e-commerce sites and online traffic running smoothly, says Dan Blum, principal analyst for the Burton Group.
‘Availability is crucial,’ he says. ‘Without availability, you are going to lose traffic; you are going to lose business.’ "

Good point, as every crash translates directly into lost business opportunities. The article goes on to mention a number of ways businesses can prepare for the holiday onslaught. Surprisingly,
remote access did not make an appearance – given that it is a fast way to access servers at the BIOS level from any place at any time, you would think it would be offered as one way of keeping data centers up and running 24/7.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More Gloom and Doom From Gartner on Upcoming Data Center Challenges

OK OK we get it – there are tough times ahead for IT leaders. Statistics like the projected 650 percent growth in enterprise data over the next five years do cause one to pause (full article here).

The ten key issues that David Cappuccio, Gartner analyst, identified as necessary for IT managers to examine are:

The data deluge
Energy and green IT
Complex resource tracking
Consumerization of IT and social software
Unified communications
Mobile and wireless
System density
Mashups and portals
Cloud computing

Why does social networking get such a bad rap? The article states:

“Social networks are coming into the enterprise whether CIOs want them to or not, Cappuccio said. Twitter use grew an amazing 1,382 percent in 2008 and the majority of new users were between the ages of 39 and 51, he said.

‘It is a growing phenomenon which we can't shut down,’ he said. Employees and customers are using wikis, blogs, Facebook and Twitter and ‘it's affecting you now whether you know it or not.’ Businesses need to examine Web-based social software platforms because they are transforming interactions with both customers and employees, he said.”

Seems more negative than the situation warrants – how can you explain the concern about social networking, a potentially positive development?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Minicom Celebrates the Opening of Shanghai Office

Minicom is proud to announce the opening of our Minicom China office in Shanghai. The Shanghai office joins Minicom’s global network of offices in North America, Europe and APAC. The office will be headed by Kingsun Kwok, based in Shanghai, with other representatives located in Beijing and in Guangzhou.

Minicom has had a lot of success in China to date, with projects in industries such as government, banks, telecomm, electrical, and finance. Established OEM customers are already using Minicom’s solutions. Looking forward, Minicom hopes to invest considerably in additional sales and marketing activities.

Read the rest of the Official Press Release>> "Minicom Celebrates the Opening of Shanghai Office"

Take a look, we also updated our Minicom China Website!

Green Energy = Big Business

Undiluted capitalism, without any environmental claims.

This post on
Energy & Capital: Practical Investment Analysis in the New Energy Economy confirms conventional wisdom that energy use is on the rise, then proceeds to make a case for cutting data center costs.

The logic is as follows:

“Intel executives have said publicly that 2010 will be the year that lifetime electricity costs (about 4 years) for a single server outweigh the sticker price of the hardware. That'd be like buying a $25,000 car that used more than $6,000 per year in gas.

You'd be in the market for a more efficient car, right?

That's exactly what internet executives are thinking. At the recent Emerging Technologies conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one executive was quoted saying that ‘profits will deteriorate dramatically if data center costs don't get contained.’ "

The author, Nick Hodge, equates smart grid development with profits for investors, without any whiff of idealism.

Is his theory correct? Are energy efficient innovations going to line the pockets of those who get there first?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

IT quizzes for midmarket CIOs

Thought you had put school behind you forever? Not so fast.

If you embrace the challenge of testing your IT knowledge, these quizzes are for you.

Have no fear – results will not be published online, making you the laughingstock of the industry. Use these quizzes as an indication of your areas of expertise and of where you could use some help.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

How to Improve IT Efficiency Without Breaking the Bank

A survey on IT efficiency, conducted by London School of Economics and Dell, took a lean mean approach to achieving IT efficiency, with a focus on making better use of current systems rather than replacing them with new ones.

No mention was made of any green initiatives in this article.

Worth reading to see what all the findings are.

Would you also say that providing better products and services to employees and customers is one of the main business goals driving your IT strategy, which was true for close to 40 percent of those surveyed?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Helsinki’s Unusual Data Center Heating Solution

Not the usual environmental offering - a green solution that works on all levels, according to the article on CNET:

“Excess heat from hundreds of computer servers to be located in the bedrock beneath Uspenski Cathedral, one of Helsinki's most popular tourist sites, will be captured and channeled into the district heating network, a system of water-heated pipes used to warm homes in the Finnish capital.”

In addition to heating homes, the data center will use 50% less energy than a standard data center.

Lower energy bills sweeten the pot as well.

Yet another benefit is the security the cathedral will be getting as a result of having people in the basement.

Watch this space – it will be great to see this project in action.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Bleak View from Gartner on Energy Expenditures for Data Center

Data Center Journal discusses Gartner’s view of energy costs for data centers continuing to rise rather than decrease in 2010.

Do not lose hope – there are some essential questions you can ask in order to meet the challenges of rising costs. For example:

“Do you have any pragmatic tips for helping me to cut my data center costs?

R: Gartner has several suggestions:

- Rationalize the Hardware. This involves taking out those systems that are underutilized or old, or where the workload can be run on more efficient hardware. Gartner clients have reported that rationalization and consolidation programs have resulted in 5 per cent to 20 per cent fewer servers being deployed.

- Consolidate Data-Center Sites. Consolidating multiple sites into a smaller number of larger sites will often result in financial savings.

- Manage Energy and Facilities Costs. Tools and techniques for managing the energy cost curve include: raising the temperature of the data center to around 24 degrees Celsius, which reduces the level of cooling required; using outside air as an alternative to air conditioning where possible; using hot aisle/cold aisle configurations, blanking and economizers; and using server based energy management software tools to run workloads in the most energy efficient way.

- Manage the People Costs. People costs still form the single largest cost element for most data centers, sometimes as much as 40 per cent of overall costs.

- Sweat the Assets. Delaying the procurement of new assets is a necessary step for all data center managers, especially as a server's useful life often exceeds its amortized life.”

Good to at least have the realistic heads-up on what the upcoming year holds, without illusions.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Challenge of Getting Rid of Old IT Hardware Responsibly

TechNewsWorld’s article looks at the answers of 206 participants from Aberdeen's "Responsible Disposal of IT Assets" study (November 2009).

The study showed that while protecting data and complying with environmental legislation are primary concerns, many companies do not have a procedure in place for getting rid of old hardware, so it is not done properly.

Check out what respondents had to say; it’s interesting to see the disparity between what people believe and what actually gets done.

For example, even though three of the top four pressures driving current investments revolve around environmental concerns, according to the article:

“Just 20 percent of all respondents identified enforcement of compliance with environmental regulations as a leading strategy, and just 10 percent currently determine business practices based on green guidelines.”

What explanation do you think is plausible for this disparity?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Top 10 free Windows tools for IT pros

What could be bad? This list of the Top 10 free Windows tools for IT pros provides clear, comprehensive descriptions of each tool. Given the price tag of the items, well worth the read.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Vendor Lock-in: Have They Caught You?

Art Wittmann, in his blog on InformationWeek, writes about the recent move towards vendor lock-in as a result of adopting complete packages from big companies.

What is interesting about his analysis is that he frames in the context of the much-hyped cloud computing, noting:

“If this trend toward use of proprietary systems is true, then what does that say about the other hyped trend of the past few years, cloud computing? Private clouds would seem to be anathema to this trend, unless you allow for single-vendor private clouds, which misses the point of cloud computing.

Stressed out IT shops are more willing to at least consider "solutions" concocted by vendors. While these systems may require fewer servers and may be more responsive to business needs, they'll amount to something closer to island computing than cloud computing, with implementations taking place application by application--and that sounds suspiciously like where we're at today.”

Is your company leaning towards integrating solutions from one vendor, or still shopping around?

Minicom’s answer to avoiding vendor lock-in is a
Real Needs approach, which is designed to help companies migrate from analog KVM switches to digital KVM switches without having to replace their existing system.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2010

As far as Top 10 lists go, it is worth listening to what Gartner has to say:

“Gartner senior analyst and mobile guru, Nick Jones, presented the strategic technologies, and defined them as the ones which will impact CIOs within the mainstream enterprise between the next 12 to 36 months.

‘Strategic technologies will drive significant change, disruption, modifications to your strategy,’ Jones said, urging all CIOs to explicitly address them in their strategy, plans and IT architecture.”

Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2010 include:

*Cloud computing
* Advanced analytics
* Client computing
* IT for Green
* Reshaping the data centre.
* Social software and social computing
* User activity monitoring (security)
* Flash memory
* Virtualization for availability
* Mobile applications

Check out the article for more about each strategic technology.

Jones did mention that cost is still a factor when thinking about green decisions, which answers a question from an earlier post.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Pros and Cons of a Lights-Out Data Center

This article on ServerWatch by Kenneth Hess poses the question, “Is It Lights-Out for Your Data Center?”

Hess explains this new data center trend in the following terms:

“The question is how many IT, facilities and security people does it really take to operate a data center? Should you always go with the bare minimum? Many newer data centers operate with the following premise: Security staff is a primary requirement, and IT staff is dispensable.

Does this surprise you? It shouldn't. The trend is to do everything remotely that you can do remotely. Cabling, racking and provisioning are still hands-on tasks, but the staff members who perform those functions are often contracted on an as-needed basis. The few remaining hands-on activities occur less frequently these days through the magic of virtualization and the ability to perform remote power-off and -on tasks.”

Hess goes on to explore the upside (financial savings) and downside (no hands-on staff) of a lights-out data center. On the whole, he comes down on the side of a lights-out data center as an option worth exploring.

remote access solutions can be a valuable component of lights-out data center, as administrators can access, control and monitor their IT infrastructure from any location.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Video: Shooting and Blowing up a Computer Server

Promotional video: A company that wants to show that they can back-up and keep the information on your server even when it gets destroyed to the degree shown here.

Pretty funny to see grown men shooting an inanimate object with such concentration and intensity – as if the server is going anywhere…

Sunday, November 22, 2009

11 Rules for IT Delivery Success

Kudos to the author, Thomas Hoffman, for not rounding up or down, but sticking to the number eleven.

His short, concise list of 11 Rules for IT Delivery Success are somewhat general. However, if applied consistently and thoroughly, these rules can be good guidelines for what needs to happen when new systems are introduced or old systems are upgraded.

The somewhat general nature of the rules can also be explained by the following bit of background:

“Because developers, operations staffers and engineers all work in different groups, ‘you need to have a way to establish parameters that everybody can work off of and understand what their expectations are,’ says Martin Gomberg [Senior Vice President and CIO, A&E Television Networks]. ‘We use this as a lens to measure every critical component.’ "

How close is this list to the one hanging on your wall?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Industry Leaders Form The Data Center Alliance

The Data Center Alliance was formed with Minicom, Wright Line, ServerTechnology, Uptime Devices, and Digi International to fill the information gap in the marketplace by providing a centralized, comprehensive source for building successful IT infrastructures.

The mission of the DCA is to serve as a central repository of data center/server room products and services and to provide IT decision makers with a clear understanding of the different solutions available for their IT infrastructures.

Because each organization has unique IT challenges, whether they are with physical space, power consumption, remote access, or budget, there is no generic solution that adequately meets the requirements of every CIO. Mixed IT environments demand specialized solutions in order to optimize resources.

The Data Center Alliance brings together the best in class IT infrastructure manufacturers into one place where IT decision makers can find the data they need to make smart decisions about their growing data center needs. For companies looking to improve productivity in the fields of power, KVM, network management, remote access, environmental monitoring and air flow, the Data Center Alliance is the answer.

“The Data Center Alliance helps companies find what they need quickly and easily. In today’s complex IT environment, customers welcome simplicity. The program lets companies see all the puzzle pieces in one place. The value of the program is having quality offerings from all aspects of the IT infrastructure in one convenient location,” explains David Zucker, Minicom’s Director of KVM Business Development.

In addition to the value they bring to their customers, members of the Data Center Alliance benefit from joint marketing efforts such as webinars, podcasts, trade shows, and cross promotion via social media marketing. Members also enjoy increased exposure to the right channels through lead generation and heightened brand awareness. By capitalizing on mutual interests, the program opens doors for new business opportunities and market penetration.

“The alliance is the next step in bringing Digi closer to other data center solution providers,” said Brian O’Rourke, principal product line manager, Digi International. “We are integrating each other’s products and working together to provide ‘best of class’ solutions for customers. We provide industry leading console management solutions, and we are pleased to partner with other organizations to help customers better manage their data centers.”

“Wright Line is pleased to continue its long-standing relationship with Minicom and looks forward to participating in the Data Center Alliance. The Alliance serves as yet another vehicle toward additional co-marketing and collaboration initiatives. We’re excited to lend our assistance to projects where our innovative airflow management solutions, including our patented Heat Containment System™, can assist IT professionals in their quest to make their data centers more efficient and reliable,” stated Pete Rumsey, Wright Line’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

“This Alliance helps to bring best of breed product solutions together, ensuring compatibility within the marketplace,” notes Calvin Nicholson, Director of Product Marketing for Server

Technology. “We are proud to be part of this new effort to provide infrastructure monitoring, management and control solutions that increase data center efficiency.”

To learn more about the Data Center Alliance, visit

Green Data Centers: Good for Pocketbook, Good for Planet, or Both?

Green IT has taken off, with many products and services dedicated to saving energy in data centers.

Some green initiatives are strictly ideological, with an eye towards doing what is best for the environment without addressing the financial cost.

In Europe, a group of global IT firms are pooling their knowledge to create a green guide to all aspects of the data center (full article here). No mention is made in the article about where these environmentally-friendly practices fall on the spectrum in terms of price tag (more than standard, less than standard, same as standard).
Some green strategies only focus on how to save money, without a particular emphasis on the environment, although the two are obviously linked. The story How to Green Your Data Center without a Forklift, by Wayne Rash, makes the following case:

“Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to cut your energy consumption for maximum impact and with minimal attention and effort. Even better, some of the most effective areas of energy savings don’t involve expensive new servers and upgraded cooling.”

The green IT company Viridity approached the issue from both perspectives, making the case that green IT is better for wallets and the environments. According to this article on eWeek:

“Viridity officials say their software will be able to reduce operational costs of data centers by as much as 40 percent and extend the life of data centers by several years.
Major tech players—including IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell—are rolling out their own green data center services, aiming to help businesses reduce energy consumption and cut costs.”
This argument is obviously the most compelling, as it speaks to the moral ground as well as bottom line savings.

Is it true? In your experience, does going green for your IT needs make sense financially, or does it necessarily come with a higher price tag?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Remote Access as Part of Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plan

This article on, 9 steps to business continuity strategy: Remote access solutions, more, looks at remote access readiness for companies as part of a business continuity strategy. Through a series of questions, companies can determine where they fall on the spectrum in terms of remote access readiness.

One key question:

“How well can you manage your data centers remotely?

A properly designed and executed data center can be 99% lights out, Berger said. However, few organizations make full use of remote management, often because of the culture or the pace of change. Rapidly changing organizations may feel they need to take a hands-on approach to their data centers. But as companies move toward virtualized environments, change is effected through software and thus can be handled remotely.”

Don’t let a hurricane or other natural disasters interrupt your business. Minicom’s
AccessIT is a remote access solution that you can use even when it is sunny outside for accessing, controlling and monitoring your IT infrastructure.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Swine Flu = Increased Demand for Secure Remote Access

The H1N1 pandemic is having a direct effect on IT infrastructure decisions.
According to InfoWorld:

“The H1N1 pandemic is pushing companies to upgrade their secure remote access capabilities in order to enable more employees to work out of their homes and other remote locations in an emergency.

Vendors of remote access technologies are reporting an unexpected increase in demand for their products over the past several months as a result of H1N1-related concerns.”

It makes sense, as offices may close if the number of sick employees is too high, or if healthy parents of sick children want to work from home.

Don’t get caught without a plan. The RSA on-demand authentication system described in the article is fine for emergencies, but does not sound ideal, long term.

Minicom has a number of secure remote access solutions, including
AccessIT, that can help your company get ready in the unfortunate event that swine flu rears its ugly head.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Quick Tips and Checklists for Common IT Tasks

TechRepublic was kind enough to consolidate their quick tips and checklists for common admin tasks.

Some topics include:

10-point cleaning checklist for keeping equipment health
Office relocation check list
Windows laptop specifications check list
The TechRepublic Spyware Removal Checklist potential for security breaches
10 cool things you can do with a USB flash drive

Are these checklists useful for you?

What other kind of checklist would you like to see?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Prognosis Poor for Enterprise Infections

This article on CIO Today, Security Report Finds Enterprise Infections Up 100 Percent, paints a bleak picture of the current state of enterprise security. With an almost 100 percent rise in enterprise worm infections in the first six months of 2009 from the previous half year, companies need to be proactive in order to escape the clutches of worms like Conficker and Taterf.

According to the article:

“Microsoft outlined four key security best practices: Understand the Microsoft security-update process and terminology, make sure all third-party applications are being updated regularly by the vendor, make sure a customer's development team is using a software security assurance process, and, finally, put policies in place to help secure all file shares and regulate the use of removable media.”

Which of these four best practices have you found it most difficult to implement (assuming you have implemented them)?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Five Strategies for Building Your 2010 Data Center

In light of data center design being listed as one of Gartner’s Top 10 Technologies to Consider for 2010, it seemed appropriate to mention this article on Data Center Journal about Five Strategies for Building Your 2010 Data Center.

No news flashes here, but a nice succinct recap of five strategies that you probably use already:

1. Assess your assets
2. Try to leverage what you already have
3. Prioritize projects that will improve efficiencies and help save you money in the long run
4. Consider outsourcing certain mission-critical applications to realize additional cost savings
5. Don’t trade long-term risk for short-term savings

What would add or subtract from this list?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Slideshow: Gartner’s Top 10 Technologies to Consider for 2010

Hard to resist the allure of the Top 10 lists that are cropping up daily as the end of the year approaches. This slideshow, which lists Gartner’s Top 10 Technologies to Consider for 2010, features all the favorites you would expect (i.e. cloud computing and mobile applications), with some dark horses thrown in for good measure.

For example, the approach to data center design is interesting. Instead of figuring out data center needs for the next 20 years and building, they advocate a modular approach, only looking five years ahead and doing additional building as necessary.

Not sure why data center design on the list – it isn’t really a technology but it is affected by technology.

There are also some reruns from years past (social computing) and some technologies with a specific twist (virtualization for ability).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ideas for 40% Energy Savings in Your Data Center

eWeek’s article on How to Achieve 40 Percent Energy Savings in Your Data Center has an alluring angle that makes sense, given the state of the world economy today:

“Instead of focusing on the exotic technologies used by newly constructed, ultra-efficient data centers such as those used by Google, this article will deal primarily with the best ways to improve the efficiency of the many middle-aged and older facilities that still constitute the majority in use by enterprises, universities and government agencies. Since most real-world facilities have finite budgets and cannot afford downtime, we'll pay special attention to upgrades that offer fast payback periods and pose a minimum of disruption to normal operations.”

It delivers. The strategies outlined here are long on time but do not require major expenditures at the outset, with an eye towards practical implementation.

One particularly valuable gem which should be intuitive but still helps to hear:

“Don't believe vendors' marketing hype; analyze their claimed benefits within the context of your own data center's needs and ‘personality.’ "

This way, even if you have chosen to go with a certain product, you can get an accurate assessment of how their offering integrates with your set-up.

Energy is getting tons of airtime these days. A new company called Viridity is the newest player in the growing market of companies who specialize in how to help data centers save energy (
full story here). Their approach is pragmatic rather than idealistic, and speaks to pocketbooks vs. consciences:

“While Viridity is striking a mildly green pose—the company logo features a little green leaf sprouting from the ‘V’—Rowan [the company’s founder and chief technology officer] thinks it’s the high cost of electricity, rather than concern about carbon emissions or climate change, that will ultimately send customers his way.
‘“You can put a business case around everyone of these decisions,’ he says. ‘Why overtly talk about how it’s the right thing for the planet, when there’s a business case around it? You will get more done with less cost and less power.’ ”

On a related note,
click here to read about the EPA’s energy saving initiatives.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Tech Pros Seek Certification

According to an article in InformationWeek, IT professionals are looking for certification in a number of areas:

“While security-related certifications topped the list of credentials IT pros are seeking, a few new areas of IT specialties also popped up among respondents' five-year career plans--including green IT (7%), healthcare IT (5%), mobile (5%), and software-as-a-service (2%) certifications.”

Healthcare seems to be the hot new niche as the result of a big fat check from the government for IT healthcare initiatives.

Are you jumping on the healthcare bandwagon, or is your eye on a tried-and-true security certificate? How much value do you feel certificates bring to the table?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

InnoTech Conference & Expo - Ricardo Mendes Reporting

Watch this KOKH FOX 25 :: Morning News Clip from Oklahoma morning show where the 4th annual InnoTech conference just took place.

Minicom's own Ricardo Mendes was at Innotech and had this to say about it:

We shared the booth with Wright Line and Eaton.

The representatives from each company were: Terri Marroquin; Sr. Account Manager from Wright line John McIlwain; Account Sales Manager from Eaton Ricardo Mendes; Sales Rep from Minicom Advanced Systems
We were showing our management platform AccessIT and II where we shared a booth with Wright Line and Eaton.

It was a great local show. The attendees were from local business, local government and federal government.
A new social network for Oklahoma's Tech Community was launched last year, membership is growing so if you are in the area - be sure to sign up!

Hot Topic: Data Center Security

According to this article on, the majority of data centers do not have adequate defenses in place in the event of a cyber-attack. A study by AFCOM, the world's largest data center industry association, found that:

“Sixty-one percent of survey respondents said they see cyber-terrorism as a threat they need to deal with, but only a little over one-third of data center managers actually have included it in their disaster recovery plans, AFCOM said. Only 25 percent have addressed cyber-terrorism in their policies and procedures manuals, and only 60 percent have a written policies and procedures manual, AFCOM said. Only about 20 percent provide any cyber-terrorism employee training. On the other hand, 82 percent report that they perform background security checks on all potential new employees—another solid defense against cyber-terrorists, AFCOM said.”

There is an obvious gap between the perceived need for a deterrent for cyber-terrorism and what actually is actually done to prevent attacks.

Laziness? Lack of time? Lack of money? Don’t really believe it is necessary?

How do you explain this gap?

Channel Insider’s slideshow, Top Reasons SMB Security Still Sags, seems to provide some answers to this conundrum.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

10 Common Network Security Design Flaws

Brian Posey’s article on TechRepublic highlights 10 common network security design flaws. The list has clear headings, with practical advice on how to fix these flaws.

Read more about each one to get the full story, but here is the short list:
1. Set it and forget it
2. Opening more firewall ports than necessary
3. Pulling double duty
4. Ignoring network workstations
5. Failing to use SSL encryption where it counts
6. Using self-signed certificates
7. Excessive security logging
8. Randomly grouping virtual servers
9. Placing member servers in the DMZ
10. Depending on users to install updates

You don’t need to do a public mea culpa, but take a look at your network – is your company at risk as a result of any of these practices, or are these flaws so basic that only a novice would find them on his or her network?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Green Homeland Security Data Center

Congress requires Homeland Security's data center to go green

Homeland Security has a nice fat budget for expansion and upgrades for its data center, but it is conditional.

According to the article on nextgov:
The fiscal 2010
Homeland Security appropriations bill requires the department to spend $38.5 million to upgrade the power capabilities at the National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage, known as Data Center One and based at NASA's Stennis Space Center, near the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. Homeland Security cannot spend the remaining $45 million on building out the data center, which will provide information processing for the entire department, until DHS officials can make certain the data center has enough power and uses green technologies to reduce demand.

Will green considerations help maximize the budget, or does it mean getting less bang per buck?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Creating a CIO Profile

Two interesting pieces on the ideal CIO:

One man’s take on
Tomorrow’s CIO and the Implications for SMBs

It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s CIO Superman!?

The first piece talks about the importance of having a CIO who is receptive to technology innovations, particularly those he identifies as the “Big Four”:

Cloud computing
Software As a Service (SAAS)
Open source
Web application hybrids (aka mash-ups)

The author argues, “Each of these innovations is or will be disruptive to your business, much like the Internet itself. However unlike the Internet, which was relative easy to understand and to envision its role in the future of your business, The Big Four are more arcane conceptually, more complicated technically and more difficult to envision. Consequently, businesses with the new brand of technology leadership are pursuing these approaches, whereas those that don’t are not.”

He also claims that these innovations are technology’s “certain future” which SMBs cannot afford to ignore.

A persuasive argument, especially convincing since the author acknowledges that he usually does not necessarily recommend new technologies for SMBs.

Is a CIO who does not embrace these innovations by definition “Yesterday’s CIO?” Does a reluctance to adopt these innovations necessarily mean a company will get left behind?

The second piece talks about the difficulties of finding a CIO with ideal qualifications, which include:

Leadership abilities
Hands-on technology background
Experience in leading large change programs
Experience in running successful IT infrastructure operations
Management experience in a non-IT function
Innovative thinking that can solve relevant industry and business issues

The ability to understand how projects and operations impact corporate financials
The fact that talent with these credentials is hard to find seems to indicate that if a CIO is of a certain caliber, he or she does not need to follow any proscribed mandate. A strong CIO can pick and choose which, if any, new technologies are appropriate for their company.

Monday, November 02, 2009

CASE STUDY: Ohio's Area Agency on Aging District 7

We recently installed AccessIT in the Area Agency on Aging District 7 in Ohio. Here's what Charlie Maillet, IT engineering and operations specialist for the Agency had to say about it:

“Minicom’s KVM IP solution is very appealing because I can manage my whole network from my desk,” stated Charlie Maillet.“They offered the most cost effective solution with the best technology to simplify management of our network.”

The Challenge:
Due to budget cuts, Ohio's Area Agency on Aging District 7 (AAA7) was challenged to do more with less. Rather than cut programs that keep seniors in their homes longer, the organization looked to improve their operations by enhancing IT efficiency and implemented a KVM IP solution from Minicom that would save money, enable remote access and provide a more efficient method to manage their distributed network.

The Solution:
Using AccessIT™, AAA7 system administrators gain centralized remote access and power control that enhances IT efficiency & productivity, improving their ability to serve the community’s population

The Products Used in this installation were: AccessIT, Smart 116 IP, & IP Control

Learn more about remote server access, watch this short webcast now: Achieving Remote Server KVM Access to your data center

Red Flag: No Money = Server Failure, According to Gartner

Read Gartner’s doom and gloom predictions about how not replacing servers could result in increased server failure over the next two years.

According to the article:
“In round numbers, the scheduled replacement of some three million servers worldwide, or about 3% of all servers, has been delayed, Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's global head of research, said today at the research firm's Symposium/ITxpo 2009 conference here. He added that the number of delayed replacements should reach 10% of all servers by 2010.”

The general tone of the article is that even though this past year was the worst in terms of IT budgets, things will not stabilize for a few more years.

If your servers are nearing the end of their run, will you make noise to get what you need, or will you accept that shrinking budgets mean less than optimal data center equipment?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Slideshow: Industry Graveyard 2009

2009 is not over, but these products, companies and events are.

Network World’s slideshow has spooky images of all that has passed to the other side in the last year such Goodbye SOA, Circuit City, GeoCities Web hosting service, and domain tasting.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Turning Up the Heat on Data Centers

Keeping data centers at the right temperature is a continual challenge. The Data Center Journal’s article “Chill Pill for Hot Data” talks about a system which claims to have gotten the balance just right. How did they do it? According to the article:

“The research team merely wrote software to connect the gap between management systems that otherwise run separately for IT and facilities management. Traditionally speaking, companies have otherwise kept both these realms separate. And now the team has connected up these systems resulting in huge savings.”

Definitely intriguing, especially the bit about big savings, with the projection that most data centers will see ROI within a year.

Does the article’s claim that at least 90% of data centers maintain a temperature that is five degrees cooler than necessary ring true, in your experience?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Luxury of Organization

It is inspiration, well written, and logical: How to Keep Networked Applications Humming During Organizational Change outlines exactly what you need to do to get a complete picture of your network application’s status.

In the ideal world, IT managers would have the time and resources to implement every one of these steps during organizational change.

In real life – not so realistic. The systematic steps presented here would be a luxury to implement during calm periods. The chances of being able to follow this checklist during turbulent times are slim to none, unless you work for a company with time, money, and resources to burn.

Can you use this as a “cheat sheet” and extrapolate the bare bones for your needs? Do these ambitious plans cause you to become overwhelmed to the point where they have no value at all?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cool Pictures of Sophisticated Data Center Technology

This slideshow about secrets of successful data centers is worth seeing for the pictures alone.

Who wouldn’t want to check out pictures of a data center on fire (slide 5) or the beauty of stacked blade servers (slide 15)?

Monday, October 26, 2009

PTS Data Center Solutions, Peter Sacco Interview

Recently I had a chance to Interview Peter Sacco, President of PTS Data Center Solutions, Inc. Founded in 1998, PTS is a data center consulting, engineering, & construction firm as well as turnkey solutions provider. They offer a broad range of project experience in designing data centers, computer rooms, and technical spaces. PTS employs industry best practices in integrating proven, ‘best-of-breed’, critical infrastructure technologies that result in always available, scalable, redundant, fault-tolerant, manageable, and maintainable mission critical environments.

Please share a little about PTS for our readers that are not familiar with you yet:

[Peter Sacco] From our corporate headquarters in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, and our office in Orange County, California,
PTS works to fulfill our mission of creating satisfied customers by emphasizing pre-design & planning services to provide the optimal solution to meet our clients’ needs and result in an early & accurate alignment between scope, schedule, and budget.

How does PTS differentiate itself from other data center solution providers?

[Peter Sacco] We have an expert staff of industry leading consulting and engineering professionals, a high ROI from fast turnaround, decreased number of vendors, and superior quality of workmanship. We make use of best practices & proven technologies to deliver our solutions in a predictable manner. We’ve also made strategic alliances with best-in-class technology firms.

What services does PTS offer?

[Peter Sacco] PTS is uniquely qualified to provide a turnkey solution for projects from conception through implementation. Our services include:
1. Planning & Feasibility Consulting(Surveying, Planning, Site Assessments, Financial Analysis, Conceptual Design, and Project Cost Estimating)
2. Facility & Support Infrastructure Design & Engineering(Architectural, Electrical, Mechanical, Plumbing, Fire Protection, Structural, Controls, Security, Structured Cabling, Design Documents, Written Specifications, Forensic Analysis)
3. Construction & Project Management(Design/Build or Bid & Specification)
4. IT Infrastructure Design & Implementation(LAN/WAN, Network Security, Servers & Storage Systems, Wireless, A/V, Surveillance)
5. Monitoring(IT & Support Infrastructure Solutions)
6. Maintenance (Support Infrastructure Start-up, Preventative Maintenance, and Unscheduled Services)

What is your target market?

[Peter Sacco] IT personnel of medium business (>500 people), although we do a fair amount of large enterprise work as well, and on occasion work for small companies.

What is the most challenging project you worked on?

[Peter Sacco] Every project has its own unique set of challenges, but that is what allows PTS to shine. While it is important to have the right staff with the right skill sets, just as important was finding staff that shares the same culture of problem solving, acting with a sense of urgency, and client satisfaction is what clients come to appreciate about PTS most of all.

How is your company planning for the future?

[Peter Sacco] PTS has just in the last year expanded its horizons on three (3) fronts; (1) data center education and training, (2) new product development, and (3) IT services and solutions
1. We recently launched PTS’ Data Center Education Series (DCES) and are offering module-based, instructor lead, training in data center specific topics, such as Fundamentals of Power, Fundamentals of Cooling, Fundamentals of Data Cabling, and more in partnership with Global Knowledge Training (
2. At the start of 2009, PTS embarked on the development of its first product, software to track the maintaining of data center and computer room environments. We expect to go into beta testing in a few days with our Data Center Maintenance Management Software (DCMMS). We feel DCMMS will fill the empty gap in Data Center Management not presently being filled by other software service the space.
3. In October 2009, we expanded our IT services and solutions offerings by formally launching PTS Information Technology Solutions Group (ITSG).

On a more personal note, you are obviously a very busy person, what do you like to do most when you aren’t at work?

[Peter Sacco] My passion is football. I am very active in the community I live, Franklin Lakes, NJ (also where PTS HQ is!). I have been coaching junior football for over 15 years and don’t see stopping anytime soon.

Thank you Peter for taking the time out of your busy schedule!

If you want to find out more information about PTS, they are very active online:


Net Neutrality: What is it All About?

Great article on which explains:

• What net neutrality is
• What the FCC has agreed to do
• Who is for net neutrality
• Who is against net neutrality
• How net neutrality affects businesses
• How net neutrality affects carriers
• How net neutrality affects residential Internet users
• Which services would probably be affected the most

What do you think: Do we need net neutrality in order to stop Internet providers from charging high fees, or will net neutrality result in higher flat rates for services or paying by the byte for Internet traffic, as the Internet providers claim?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Synexx National Conference - Saul Mishaan Meets Resellers

Saul Mishaan, President of Minicom North America went to the Synnex 2009 National Conference earlier this month.

The Synnex National Conference is an expo promoting Synnex partners to their attending resellers. About 260 resellers were at the event this year. Saul represented Minicom with a presence in the Digital Signage Booth. He mostly met with resellers during the 3 hour event. The experience with Digital Signage ranged from extreme novice to well versed. Saul found it interesting that quite a few of the resellers he spoke to in the booth were more experienced and successful in KVM than Digital Signage.

It just goes to show you that Digital Signage’s roots are very much still attached to KVM – which is how Minicom got started. Are you surprised?

Thanks for the update Saul!

KVM Switches Enjoy Surge in Popularity in India

The number of KVM switches being used in India has grown significantly in recent times, due in large part to the government’s establishment of 27 new data centers, and the mandate that financial institutes have to have business continuity and disaster recovery solutions, as discussed in an article on

Points mentioned in the article that are encouraging for companies like Minicom that sell KVM switches (among other things):

· Globally the market for KVM switches will exceed $1 billion by 2011, increasing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of approximately 9.1 percent (2006-2011).

· Research indicates that the trend toward IP KVM solutions will continue, accounting for over half of all KVM revenues by 2011

· With the changing trends and advancements in the technology, the customer base of KVM switches is likely to increase.

I would like to draw your attention to the conclusion of the article:

“Opportunities for SPs

Solution providers who are providing solutions in the data center domain have the opportunity to avail the benefits of KVM switches as they can offer the complete solution to the customers.
‘When a solution provider is selling racks, equipments for remote management and data center solutions, it makes sense for him to drive the KVM switches as well. This way, he can offer the complete solutions to the customers at one go and this would increase his profitability also,’ said Motwani from Raritan.
This kind of unified selling is something that other vendors have also been propounding for quite some time. Most of the data center specialists have already embraced this concept and offer KVM switches as part of the total solution they give to their clients.
But with the potential in the KVM industry, especially keeping in mind that this is one market that is expected to grow in the years to come, there is still space for the entry of more solution providers in this segment.”

There is a glaring omission here, which is the mention of Minicom’s Remote Access Management solutions.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Extra Server, anyone?

Unused Servers Cost Businesses $25B Annually: Study

The numbers here sounds pretty serious. One in six servers - about 4.7 million worldwide - is sitting idle, according to a global survey of IT managers.

Take a peek at your server room – does this sound right to you? Is this consistent with your experience?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

65,000 Time Warner Cable Customers Exposed to Remote Access Hack


65,000 Time Warner Cable customers have been exposed to a remote access hack, as reported by Blogger David Chen was helping a friend with the setting on his cable modem when he inadvertently realized there was a problem.

What does this kind of vulnerability mean? According to Chen:

“ ‘From within your own network, an intruder can eavesdrop on sensitive data being sent over the internet and even worse, they can manipulate the DNS address to point trusted sites to malicious servers to perform man-in-the-middle attacks,’ Chen wrote on his blog. ‘Someone skilled enough can possibly even modify and install a new firmware onto the router, which can then automatically scan and infect other routers automatically.’ "

The article does not mention any cases where users who were exposed had anyone tamper with their settings, which means that the threat was only that. While a serious potential problem, it is reassuring that either a)no hacker discovered the vulnerability b)no hacker cared enough to do anything about it if they did.

Ideally, any paid service should mandate the use off the highest level of encrypted remote access possible. If you want remote access solutions for your data center that you can trust, for example, there is no reason to worry with Minicom’s AccessIT. With SSL and high grade 256-bit AES encryption, you can sleep easily at night after watching cable TV.

Virtual Servers, Real Problems?

This article identifies the five biggest challenges of server virtualization as:

1. Network connections

2. Network storage

3. Sizing storage capacity

4. Back-up challenges

5. Application support

As companies dip their toes into the untested waters of virtualization, new issues arise as a result of the change to IT Infrastructures. Do articles like the one above, which outline challenges and provide solutions, make you eager to embrace new technologies like virtualization, or do they scare you off?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Virtual Web Event: Dealing With Data Centers In Tough Times

There are so many free online resources for small and medium businesses to learn from. I came across the next virtual event by InformationWeek and bMighty that looks like it will be very informative:

bMighty and InformationWeek SMB present the latest in our ongoing series of
Virtual Events: Data Centers For Growing Companies -- dedicated to helping small and midsize companies deal with data centers in tough times.

This virtual event is here to help with InformationWeek and bMighty editors, industry experts, and real IT folks sharing a unique mix of battle-tested best practices, experience-earned tips from the trenches, and new ideas and innovations to help you do more with less.
Taking place on Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Register here

Service Providers Using Skype

Two recent articles by Jon Arnold, Principal, J Arnold & Associates on cover some good points on how Skype can be used by Service Providers.

Take a look at both articles:

Why Skype Is Good News for Service Providers (Part 1)

Why Skype is Good News for Service Providers, Part 2

We use Skype to communicate to our offices around the world as well as customers. Our technical support have also used Skype to conduct an online IP product demo – so we know how useful this free service can be.

How does your company use Skype?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Emarson on The Cutting Edge

Our official representative in India, Emarson IT Solutions recently spoke at "The Cutting Edge", an IT Seminar organized by the Indian Army.

Here is the
press release from Silicon India regarding the event:

New Delhi: Emarson IT Solutions, a digital signage provider is exploring opportunities of providing digital signage for the Indian Army. Prateek Jaswant, CEO and Co-founder of Emarson said, "This is a time where every industry is adapting new technologies, so should the Indian Army and I feel proud that we could service our army officials."

Jaswant was speaking at an IT seminar called 'The Cutting Edge' organized by the Indian Army at Mamun, near Pathankot. The seminar which is taking place on 12th and 13th October will see the participation of a large number of senior officers from Corps of Signals as well as officers from all the arms and services.

The seminar is aimed at providing a platform for deliberate and structured user-industry interaction to explore viable technologies for designing robust communications and IT solutions for the Indian Army.During his session with the army officials Jaswant introduced them to digital signage and digital keyboard, video and mouse (KVM) switches technology. He explained them on how to choose, fix or maintain servers with KVM switches from a single station at any given time.

Also, in regard to digital signage he explained that it is a dynamic media as opposed to static billboards and posters and how it has emerged as a powerful tool for instructing, informing and disseminating information to the masses. Apart from Emarson, other companies such as Barco, Ericsson, Softel Solutions, HCL Infosystems and Cisco also addressed various aspects in the IT segment.

About Emarson:
Emarson IT Solutions is a 12 year old company with expertise in enterprise network integration, security, storage, KVM and digital signage solutions. They have project centers in Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida with a history of prestigious networks installed throughout India.


Related Material:
Press Release:
Emarson named official representatives in India
Case Study:
Finance Ministry of Tibet – DX System Installation
ABC’s of Remote Management (27 minutes)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Webinar Invitation: Technology Tips for High-Performance Environments

Wright Line and Minicom Advanced Systems will be co-hosting a free webinar on quick and easy-to-implement technology ideas that drive team collaboration, increase overall department productivity and maximize space within 911/Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs).

The webinar will take place online on Wednesday, October 14 at 2:00 PM EDT.

Learn about:
* Local versus remote management of technology platforms - identifying the opportunities to centralize IT operations with the use of KVM technology and scalable network and server rack configurations

* Proper space planning that can help to mitigate risks when installing IT/network equipment at the workstation level instead of storing all equipment in a centralized data center

* How to provide call-takers, dispatchers and supervisors with simultaneous access to all CAD, radio and phone servers in the call center and how supervisors can effectively "take-over" an operator's computer - without software

* How to increase IT staff efficiency while enabling call-takers and dispatchers to be less distracted by tech concerns

* How to provide effective monitor mounting capabilities and techniques, supply keyboard, video and mouse consolidation opportunities and address technology airflow management requirements

Speakers will be Minicom's David Zucker, Director of Business Development, and Wright Line's Brad Lynch, Business Unit Leader, Technical Environments.

About Wright Line
Wright Line, a global leader in the design and manufacture of consoles, enclosures, office and other specialty workspace solutions for technology-intensive environments, has been serving the data center, government office, call center, analytical and electronic laboratory and high-tech manufacturing environments for 75 years. The company is headquartered in Worcester, MA and can be contacted by email at info(at)wrightline(dot)com or by phone, 800.225.7348.

The webinar will take place online on Wednesday, October 14 at 2:00 PM EDT.

Related Material: