July 2019 – Summertime Sync-Up

July 2019 – Summertime Sync-Up


Summer may have a reputation as a "kick back and relax" season, but it's been anything but that here at Castema. I thought I'd do a rundown of some of the more interesting technology news and projects we're digging into these past few months. If you'd like me to explore any of these in more detail in a future post, please let me know.

Core business servers transitioned to Microsoft Azure

There are three servers in our infrastructure that, if they were down, it's safe to say our business would grind to a halt. One runs our PSA (Professional Services Automation) platform, ConnectWise Manage, which is how work gets done here; tickets are created, worked and closed, time is tracked, and invoices are created and sent. Second is the RMM (Remote Management and Monitoring) server, hosting the Kaseya software that monitors status, sends alerts, kicks off scripts, manages backups, and lets us remotely access every PC, Mac, and server that we manage for our clients. Third is the SQL server holding the databases that both of the first two servers run on.

After some pretty extensive testing, we made the decision to move these key servers into Microsoft Azure a few weeks ago. As with many new technologies, we use these experiences as learning opportunities, and to help us figure out the real-world pros and cons so we can help guide our clients in how they use technology in their businesses.

Surprise! All your private information is on the web!

Not really, but that's what it seemed like when we fielded a few panicked calls from worried clients last month. Turns out, Microsoft Search had a new feature released. The idea is to help unify searching across Office 365, Windows and the Web, so no matter where you search from, the relevant data will be found. So if a coworker shares a document from their OneDrive, and you're in Word, you don't have to remember where it was shared from, you can just search for the document right in Word and it will show up. Turns out the same thing is true if you're signed into your Office 365 account and you use Microsoft's Bing search engine. It won't only show Internet sites that match the search terms, but you may see some of your own documents, presentations, and spreadsheets with relevant content also mixed in the search results. That can be a little disconcerting if you're not expecting it, but rest assured, other people can't see those documents. Other people in your company won't see them either, unless they have permissions to the files. Crisis averted!

Managed Backup Service - Major Upgrade

We take a justified pride in our backup service. Since we introduced it more than 11 years ago, it has saved many companies from all manner of disasters, from accidental deletions, to server crashes, to ransomware before we even knew what ransomware was. (No, we didn't pay the ransom, and we don't recommend you do either. Have a good backup and disaster recovery plan and you'll be fine.)

Now we have nearly completed rolling out an upgrade to the backup software which will allow us to enhance the basic structure with some important new features. One of the most exciting is storage of your server images not only in disk storage on-premises but also replicating them to the cloud for extra redundancy. The upgrade also promises additional flexibility for retention periods, and recovery flexibility in HyperV and Azure.

An Oldie but Goodie - Remote Desktop

Okay, I know it's not exactly new technology, but it amazes me how relevant Remote Desktop (and its younger cousin Virtual Desktop) still is today. Despite the ubiquity of cloud with its work anywhere, files always available, use any device, themes, it's often the RD or VDI infrastructure that provides the best experience, most supportable, manageable, compliant, secure, and consistent interface. And thin clients are still an effective way to take advantage of this infrastructure, though they've come a long way since their roots as the modern equivalent of mainframe terminals. I think Windows Virtual Desktop in Azure may end up making VDI even more popular, once it's ready for prime time. The more things change, the more they stay the same, as they say.

That's it for now. Hope you are having a great summer, and keeping cool through the hot weather. Talk to you next month!