Thursday, March 01, 2012

(Only) KVM over IP to the Rescue!

The Problem: Server down, Blue Screen of Death, Server Crash, Frozen OS, Hanging Application, No Access, Business Downtime...

Way out: IP KVM, Remote KVM Access, BIOS Level Access, Hard Reboot, Reboot Process Monitoring, Server Up Again, Business Continuity, No Lost Transactions!

And to the point – there are two server down-time scenarios that every IT admin has nightmares about, and that ONLY a reliable KVM over IP solution in place, ready to go, can solve in real time: 
  • OS Crash 
  • Network Downtime
In the first case, a hanging OS means this server is not operational! Any app or software that relies on the operating system as a platform to run is just not available. Only a remote KVM connection (KVM over IP) gives you a graphical view of the entire reboot process (including the BIOS stage) and allows you to interfere along the way. While other solutions, such as a combination of software and hardware (IPMI), could provide similar functionality, it is missing one important feature - the graphical view.

In the second scenario, the server is not to be blamed but rather the network connection is down (for any number of reasons). In this situation, you need a back door emergency entrance to that server to make sure all is ok until the network guys will get the situation resolved. Again only a KVM over IP device, through its own network connection, will get you right away to that cut off server.

A lot of the time we confuse between software based remote access and hardware based remote KVM access. It’s true that there are many different remote access tools out there these days, almost every infrastructure vendor offers his own tool, and all are excellent software apps that deliver on their promise day after day.. Except for that one, unavoidable, time where something goes wrong in the server environment and the OS is not responding or cannot be reached.

But server environments don’t necessarily have to be mega data centers or colo facilities. Any small to medium business that does not want to experience down time view itself as a mission critical setup, where the seconds of down time tick away and only some sort of powerful KVM over IP technology in place can stop those seconds from turning into long minutes or hours of night mare.

So, it’s important once in a while to get back to the basics and remind ourselves that KVM over IP is one tool you never want to be missing in the IT manager’s toolbox.

Monday, February 20, 2012

There is remote access and there is remote KVM access

Savvy IT managers are coming to rely on in-band remote access software apps like RDP, VNC, SSH, and Telnet for the day to day maintenance of their servers and devices. These and other software tools increase productivity, reducing downtime and are reliable, low-cost or free.

But while an in-band remote access solution may be the tool of choice for everyday use, combining remote access software with out-of-band remote KVM over IP access gives you the best of both worlds.

Beyond just running your applications, you need to be able to control critical equipment with a single click, troubleshoot OS and below the-OS BIOS-level issues, turn power off and on, and switch between various servers while working on others all from a single remote location whether or not you have the dreaded “blue screen of death” staring you in the face.

The limitation of in-band-only remote access solutions is that the OS on the target server must be healthy, up and running. If we take RDP, for example, you can’t view, let alone fix, a Windows server that has crashed.

To go beyond the limits of in-band software, hardware devices are required. Combining in-band remote access software with IP KVM switches, give you remote access and power control over your servers - also when things go wrong. And it is the ability to combine the two that makes the difference between a true remote management solution and a more simplistic remote management capability that works only in uptime situations crystal clear.

All too often, the advantages of an out-of-band remote access solution are either brushed aside or considered an add-on that can be addressed “at a later time.” Unfortunately for some IT administrators, the realization of why an out-of-band solution, such as IP KVM is a necessity, not a luxury, comes at their expense in the midst of a computing nightmare.

When you’re faced with downed systems and are in a somewhat helpless state, having a remote KVM over IP access solution that can give you the ability to access, troubleshoot or diagnose a problem and remediate that problem remotely over the Internet, can be the difference between an ordinary workday and one that leaves you anxiously scrambling for answers and wasting precious time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The most popular IP KVM switch?

This micro blog post is about us, Minicom, and we’d like to share some exciting news.

As a KVM over IP vendor, and like any other vendor, our goal and aspiration is one – to satisfy our customers, i.e. the IT admins of the world. So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised (putting it mildly) we were to find out that a leading on-line tech magazine in Germany ranked one of our products as runner up in a list of the 10 most popular IP KVM products, nationwide.

What can be more rewarding than the market saying its word! First place went to Raritan’s one port device, the KX 101 and second place went to Minicom’s 32 port IP KVM switch, the Smart 232 IP.

A closer look shows that our product is the top IP KVM switch on this prestigious list (!), making it the favorite multi-user KVM over IP switch among German IT pros.

The full list (in German) can be found at TechChannel.
More information about the Smart 232IP KVM Switch, can be found HERE

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

When IP KVM becomes POWERful!

There are just certain things in the data center you don't want to hear – and a mission critical server that “locks-up” or fails is one of them. For when this happens, every second of down time counts - and so does the cost! A complete server shutdown is likely a total interruption of business, and the race begins to quickly return a server to operational status without having to waste precious time. Yes, you’re right…This is exactly why you have invested in manageable smart or switched PDUs for your server racks.

As the data center grows smarter, remote power control offers IT pros ways to minimize downtime and shorten remediation time. With a single click of the mouse, you now have the tool to remotely power cycle the crashed server - but it doesn’t necessarily stop here. With full integration between your KVM over IP system and your PDUs in your data center, you will now be able to execute critical power commands during a remote KVM over IP session, while “at the server”.

Today, the right IP KVM solution with an integrated PDU control option offers you some very tangible benefits that you need in order to meet the growing demand of maximum business continuity and server up-time.

First and foremost it allows you to monitor the entire boot process in real-time, from the second you sent the power command. Then it lets you cut response time dramatically by preventing the juggling between the KVM session and the power management application. Third, it can prevent hazardous mistakes of power cycling the wrong server(!), if initial setup was not done properly. Finally the ideal KVM over IP solution should also give you the freedom of choice to obtain the specific brand of PDU that you prefer, thus avoiding any type of vendor lock-in.

So next time you're looking for a powerful KVM over IP switch, remember to check out all your options beforehen!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Cloud computing: the paradise of KVM over IP

As cloud computing becomes more and more accepted and is expanding from the public domain to the private or internal IT environments, the natural question arises “so what does this move mean to KVM over IP technology?”

At first sight one can argue that the answer is “nothing” - the need of an IT admin to control his servers remotely (over IP) from the BIOS level, has been around for over ten years, since networks became the main means of communication between man and machine. In recent years software based remote access applications like RDP and VNC have pushed IP KVM to being the spare wheel of the data center truck. You forget it’s there until the flat tire or server crash – then you better have it handy and full of air and ready to go, otherwise you’re into some deep trouble… Or as we earlier described it, KVM over IP can be viewed as the IT manager’s life insurance.

Servers in a cloud environment are no different than any other server out there. The IT infrastructure is the same, they require the same “looking after” by the IT staff and thus need some kind of IP KVM  technology hooked up to them to be ready when the OS crashes and RDP/VNC are not functional.

At second sight there might be something more. This might refer more to private or internal cloud setups, in which applications provided by the servers to the entire organization go beyond the standard shared e-mail or ERP applications, and include other “local” applications like Windows office for example.

Now, wouldn’t you say that this puts a little more responsibility on those servers NOT to be downed? Because now, every second of down-time directly influences the productivity of multiple workers across the entire organization, who suddenly cannot finish the next presentation, or report or price analysis. We are all accustomed to not receiving emails once in awhile, and while the IT guys work like crazy to get the server up again we continue with our daily tasks, sometimes we even see this as a blessing…   but when it comes to our daily work outside of emails, this is already a whole new ball game that we will do anything to avoid.

So this little extra reliance on servers in the cloud means to IT one thing – double check and make sure that the spare KVM over IP wheel of yours is intact.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Escaping the pitfalls of remote data center management

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) continues to be a hot topic for data center managers in 2012 and while it’s important to keep up with new tech developments, it’s equally important to once in a while stop, and make sure that your basic management needs are really covered.

When dealing with IT infrastructure in a data center, remote access methods have become a key part of the IT manager’s tool box. But managing these tools is a sizable job in itself. In every IT environment there are a variety of remote access tools that have been purchased departmentally or have come into the data center or network closet as a result of the preferences of different technical teams, who've chosen – and don’t want to relinquish – these tools to accomplish specific tasks. All of this brings significant complexity to the overall data center management process. 

Data centers are highly dynamic and complex environments. They are multi-disciplinary, multi-vendor and multi-user to name just a few. New equipment is added at an astounding rate, in some cases to geographically disparate locations. All of this has to be accessed and managed in a remote, efficient and secure manner that doesn’t leave you relying on the glue on the back of a post-it note to be able to find critical information in the event of an IT emergency. 

A few weeks ago, we described how a DCIM system is compromised if you cannot manage the access to your data center infrastructure. When you’re faced with downed systems and are in a somewhat helpless state, having a readily available solution that enables you to diagnose, access, troubleshoot and fix a problem remotely over the LAN or Internet can be the difference between an ordinary workday and one that leaves you anxiously scrambling for answers and wasting precious time.

In our upcoming live webinar ‘The Secret Behind A Bulletproof DCIM Strategy’ on Tuesday, January 24th @ 2pm EST, we discuss more about remote data center management and how Remote Access Management is a critical piece of DCIM, used daily by IT admins to run, maintain and fix their data center's IT infrastructure. Register Now!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Data center security - a look at the other side of the firewall

In today’s cyber world nobody in his right mind, business or individual, operates without a firewall. But – did you know that around 80 percent of all security threats to organizations come from the inside? Astonishingly enough most companies focus their security resources on preventing external hackers from causing them harm, and no matter how successful firewalls and various intrusions detection/preventing systems are, they are not of much help when the attack/intrusion comes from within the organization, behind the firewall doors…

While people, or workers from within your organization can actually do far more damage to your business than any hacker, this threat is often over looked, not given enough attention or forgotten all together. A recent global study with more than 5.500 IT personnel reveals that increased threats to sensitive and confidential data are caused due to a lack of control and oversight of privileged users.

Think about it for a moment, do you (or anyone else inside your organization) really know how many of your employees, IT personnel, external contractors - or even former IT staff – have access to your critical systems and data? Or, for that sake, do you know how many of your company’s IP addresses, passwords and user names are currently floating around inside your IT department on various spreadsheets and post-it notes?

One security layer that could easily be implemented to protect against such threats is an application that manages remote access inside, as much as outside, of the organization’s data center. This would provide you with a simple way to administer IP addresses, user profiles and user rights while avoiding password sharing with external service providers. Think of it as a firewall behind the firewall - it will allow you to centrally manage and control who has access to what, and with what level of permissions, while it at the same time you can see which privileged users entered which target, from which IP address, through which access method. This will also ensure you that the right access, to the right equipment is given ONLY to the right people inside your organization. 

To learn more on how easily you can protect your internal passwords and increase the security to your own IT infrastructure, watch this video!