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.