Windows Server 2012 In Your Small Business – Part 5

Standard

Not only can Hyper-V be more easily leveraged in small businesses now, but Windows Server 2012 also introduces additional storage flexibility, allowing the use of cheaper storage in more ways, and adding new features to your existing storage solutions.

SMB 3

The server message block (SMB) protocol is ancient in technology terms. However it’s a ubiquitous protocol that serves an important purpose, and it does it well (like FTP). But new features continue to be added, making it a more powerful protocol than ever before. Let’s highlight how it can help serve your small business.

SMB Directory Leasing introduces a longer living directory cache. This means fewer round-trips from the user’s device to the server because metadata is maintained in the directory cache for a longer period of time. You can look forward to shorter application response times here, especially if you’re in a branch office.

SMB Encryption introduces end-to-end encryption, providing greater protection for SMB data being transferred over unsecured networks, like your ISP’s. No additional cost for encryption appliances or WAN optimization devices required.

SMB Scale Out is good for the growing small business. It lets you create file shares that provide direct, simultaneous access to data across your entire file server cluster. This reduces bandwidth, load balances across the nodes in the file server cluster, and increases bandwidth as additional cluster nodes are added.

Storage Spaces

The idea behind Storage Spaces isn’t new, but it’s a new feature for Windows Server 2012, and it’s built-in. It’s what you would call storage virtualization, and essentially it allows you to create a storage pool out of the local HDDs ins, or connected to, your servers. And this storage pool grows or shrinks as you add/remote disks from the pool, so it’s like a storage cloud in the sense that it’s elastic.

That’s all of the information I want to share today about improvements to storage in Windows Server 2012. There’s three parts left to the series, so please keep checking back to find out other ways Windows Server 2012 can benefit your small business.

Be Open to Changing Your Mind

Standard

I just came across a blog entry from Jason Fried, co-founder of 37 Signals (developers of online services Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire). Apparently Jeff Bezos came to visit, and shared quite the observation about people who are “right a lot.” When I read Mr. Bezos’ observation, I couldn’t help but agree enthusiastically. I’ve blogged about this issue before under a slightly different light, but the result is the same.

In business and politics, you have to be flexible. If the past of business and politics has taught us anything, it’s that a firm ideology yields poor (sometimes mixed) results. Believing the same thing today as you did yesterday, despite evidence to the contrary, will only lead to the worst kind of failure. Failing and learning is fine under normal circumstances, but when you’re dealing with the coffers, lives, and repercussions on a national scale, you must be paying attention to what others are saying about an issue.

Looking at the same issue in a different light inevitably leads to observations you simply hadn’t made before. Whether you’re deciding whether to launch a new product, or making changes to the criminal code, chances are there are people (and research) outside your bubble that will help you make a better decision. Unfortunately, especially in politics, this willingness to take in other people’s opinions and research, from all sides of the spectrum, is sorely lacking.

So please, do yourself, and those around you, a favour. If you’re a business leader, or a politician, listen to the opinions and view the research. You don’t have to take the advice/recommendations, but you may just hear or read something that makes a world of difference.

Ford St. Thomas Plant May Have a Buyer

Standard

In case you missed it, yesterday the London Free Press revealed that there is a London-led business group hoping to buy the old Ford St. Thomas Assembly plant, spend $700 million redeveloping it, and then leasing  it out to various users/companies. The initial $700M would be a boon to any local companies that are selected to assist in the redevelopment, and of course turning the plant into usable space once more, potentially housing up to 2,000 employees, would be terrific for the London area.

I, for one, have a few hopes for this plant. Hopefully whatever is done there is done in the most environmentally way possible. The redevelopment is going to cost a tonne of money anyway, so spending some of that money to help reduce long-term energy usage, reduce energy waste, and perhaps even introduce some self-reliability (some solar panels) would be nice. I don’t personally have any skin in the game, but hopefully the business group is thinking of these sorts of things.

Good luck with the purchase and redevelopment, folks!

Windows Server 2012 In Your Small Business – Part 4

Standard

Today I’m going to highlight a few features that all revolve around Hyper-V. They are:

– Live Migration
– VM Import
– Hyper-V Replica

Live Migration

If you’ve been working in virtualized environments for any period of time, you’ll likely agree the migrating a VM from one host to another used to be a tedious task to undertake. Typically the VM would have to be shut down, all of the associated files moved, make sure the hypervisor manager reflects the move, and then started up again. If it was a big VM (filesize), and you weren’t running 10GbE yet, well then it took even longer.

While being able to perform live migrations isn’t new, the approach Windows Server 2008 R2 took required a fairly beefy infrastructure. With Server 2012, Live Migration is now possible if the VM is stored on a shared folder on your network, or without using any shared storage whatsoever. I won’t bore you with the process Hyper-V uses to move a VM without using shared storage, but if you’re like me, feel free to look it up in Microsoft’s “Introducing Windows Server 2012” book. The implementation is very, very smart.

Anyway, the improvements to Live Migration are a huge improvement for small businesses that can’t afford (or don’t need) a storage area network (SAN), or have two standalone Hyper-V hosts.

VM Import

During the VM import process, Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012 now checks for possible configuration problems, and resolves them automatically if it can. A big time and headache saver. You also don’t need to export a VM from the original host either; you can simply copy the files over to the new host, and then start the import process. Another time saver.

Hyper-V Replica

It’s not likely your small business can afford a full-blown VM backup and restore solution, or an entire set of servers solely for business continuity purposes. Hyper-V Replica can help solve this issue, by providing you with the ability to replicate VMs across a WAN (or Internet connection) periodically, and asynchronously. It doesn’t require shared storage, and it works in clustered and nonclustered environments.

I see small businesses using this to replicate their mission-critical VMs to a hosting provider, ensuring those services are still available in case something happens to the on-premise servers. You can obtain Windows Server 2012 VMs from a hosting provider for under $150 per month, and that’s a small price to pay to make sure your business can keep running in case of a disaster.

Thanks for reading! That’s all the information I wanted to share with you today. We are half way through the series, so keep checking back for more ways Windows Server 2012 can benefit your small business.

Hyde Park Was a Quaint Village

Standard

I recently read a story in the London Free Press about how the citizens and businesses of Hyde Park are disappointed about the “progress” taking place in Hyde Park. And Monday night the city planner’s recommendations were ignored by the planning committee, obliterating the fact that Hyde Park was once a quaint village. My bus used to go through it everyday when I was in high school, and I got that village vibe then.

Councillor Matt Brown, who represents Hyde Park, knows what used to be, and what was supposed to happen. Beyond the massive plaza at the corner of Hyde Park Rd and Fanshawe Park Rd W (Walmart, HomeSense, Canadian Tire, Future Shop, etc.), I felt the space between Sarnia Rd and Seagull Rd was being used reasonably well. A nice mix of housing types have been built including townhouses, a high-rise condo building, and of course single detached homes. That’s all been well and good, fully introducing the concept of being able to live in the same neighbourhood your entire life.

Unfortunately, the rest of the land that was previously set aside for additional residential use has now been re-zoned for commercial use at the behest of Kenmore Homes.

A lot of people like to say, “Well, we need jobs!” Yes, you’re right, we do. But unless this commercial space is mostly turned into offices, these are not going to be the well-paying jobs that most people need and want. Another retail location is simply another barely-more-than-minimum-wage (if that) job that barely keeps the employee above the poverty line. Strong nations and communities are not built on a strong retail sector.

And while Joe Swan may have recently driven through the area and not felt that “quaint village that they talk about,” that’s because he’s about 10 years too late. It did feel like a quaint village at one point, and many things could have been done to keep that feeling. Instead it’s starting to feel like the corner of Dundas St E and Clarke Rd, where residential and commercial collide in the most heinous way possible.