Tuesday, 28 July 2015

In the afterlife of Windows 2003 ...

How Westcoast's Professional Services can Fast Track your customer's Windows 2003 Server Migration

As you all probably know, on the 14th of July Microsoft ended support for its 12-year-old operating system, Windows Server 2003. In our previous blog post, we outlined a whole host of risks associated with staying put (read it again here) so it should come as no surprise to you that migration is no longer an option, but a necessity.

At the beginning of Q1 2015, more than 60% of businesses were still running Windows Server 2003, and with the level of migration not picking up pace this remains a major concern and a major opportunity for IT service providers....

Thursday, 23 July 2015

WPC 2015 Recap

So, another Microsoft World Partner Conference (WPC) comes to a close. As usual it was a big mix of keynotes, breakout sessions, partner meetings and evening party/networking. This was a quiet year for big announcements, but Windows 10 and their CSP programme definitely took centre stage for Microsoft’s focus. The most value for me is very much the evening networking where you get to speak to peers in the industry and listen to their challenges and successes within their own businesses. When you say the word ‘party’ people instantly think of too much drink and revelry but typically these are all very well behaved and actually a lot gets done then, or maybe that was just us!...

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

How Safe is Your Business Critical Server?

So Windows Server 2003 End of Support has come and gone, and perhaps you’re wondering why you haven’t heard a media storm around a company that’s been hit hard due to not upgrading.
I think we all knew that lack of an upgrade plan wouldn’t cause huge disruptions straight away, but that’s not to say that those who have hung onto Windows Server 2003 are in the clear. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. The last round of patches from Microsoft didn’t include Windows Server 2003 – so the situation for anyone holding on to this platform is much darker than they perhaps realise.

Server migration isn’t done in a week. In fact, it can take five months to fully complete a server and workload migration project, and even that’s optimistic depending on the size of your business. Organisations that haven’t yet started the upgrade process aren’t running late; they’re far past that point. The longer that businesses go without upgrading, the greater the security risk. On top of that, they’re taking the chance that Visa and MasterCard won’t do business with them due to Windows Server 2003 no longer being PCI compliant, which is bad news for anyone accepting card payments online.

Obviously, we’re talking bad-case scenarios here, but operating with an out of date infrastructure means that organisations are under threat. Every day on Windows Server 2003 is another day that issues can strike.

It’s not unusual for cyber attacks to target unsupported software, and really it makes perfect sense. If a global organisation is running outdated software, virus authors will naturally target it for a chance of fame. The grim reality is that by refusing to upgrade, an organisation is putting more than some data at risk; they’re actively threatening their own future. History is littered with organisations who have lost customer data – and as a result lost their customers too. It’s harsh reading, but it’s definitely worth thinking about.

To move onto happier things, End of Support has done a lot of good for businesses when customers have upgraded. The necessity of having to do something has allowed businesses to have a complete rethink of how they deal with their data, leading to some interesting choices. The most interesting is perhaps the rise of businesses using Cloud solutions. Gone are the times when migration meant a choice of which physical servers to keep in your basement. With the rise of Microsoft Azure and Office 365, organisations have been willing to not only try the cloud, but also consider both options as a valid choice when migrating from Windows Server 2003.

The main messaging to take from Windows Server 2003 EOS is that it’s never truly too late to upgrade. Mark Buckley, Senior Partner Sales Executive for Distribution at Microsoft, had this to say on the subject: ‘Support has now ended for Windows Server 2003, but it’s not too late to migrate. If your server goes down, how long is it until your business starts to lose money? Don’t wait for something to go wrong, and don’t learn the hard way.’

One thing is clear:  if businesses haven’t upgraded yet, it’s not too late. But the longer it’s left, the greater the risk is.

Watch our Windows Server 2003 EOS Video 

If you want to find out more about migration opportunities, contact your account manager or email: sales@westcoast.co.uk 

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Microsoft WPC - We’ve Made It!

So after all the hype and build up, we are finally here in Orlando and what a first couple of days it's been! For all the ladies out there (and some men), I hope you brought your hair straighteners because the humidity is causing havoc with the frizz!

Sunday started with a great session with Peter Davidson and the CSP tier-2 partners. We had some great discussions around the strategy for FY16 and all the great things we will soon be offering through CSP. Make sure you come and talk to us in the UK lounge so we can tell you more about what's to come.

It was great to meet lots of the UK partners at the welcome drinks on Sunday evening. I hope you all had fun and that you're putting your Westcoast WPC Survival Kits to good use after such a fun night!

I'm really looking forward to listening to some more inspiring keynotes and speeches as the week progresses. Despite us Brits showing considerably less emotion than our American cousins, I personally find it really hard to not get caught up with all the enthusiasm which you will see and feel when you come to talk to us about CSP, and how partnering with Westcoast will help you grow your cloud services business.

If you see us, don't forget to get a selfie with us for the chance to win a Surface Pro 3 by tweeting your pic and capturing the essence of WPC 2015 to @MSPartnersUK using #WPCUK.

Join us on our Westcoast @ WPC LinkedIn Group for the latest information and a chance to win £250 of vouchers. I look forward to seeing you throughout the week and at the big party tonight!

By Nicola Boswell – Cloud Product Manager at Westcoast Limited 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Case Study: HP StoreEver MSL6480 Tape Library safeguards business critical content

Tape may be one of the most 'old school' storage technologies, but that doesn't mean it can't play nice with the newest kids on the block.  But don't take my word for it.  This week, HP published a new tape testimonial from a very interesting and exciting source.  Because when it comes to video production and multimedia, it doesn't get much more cutting-edge than the advanced 4K digital film making projects created by Brain Farm Digital Cinema.

You might think that when it came to completing their digital workflow, the last solution a state-of-the-art video company would turn to is tape, specifically the HP StoreEver MSL6480 tape library. 

But as Brain Farm's post production supervisor, Danny Holland, says:

"Estimates indicate that our storage cost per terabyte is 86 percent lower with the HP StoreEver MSL6480 solution compared to an equivalent SAN disk array. The lower total cost of ownership of the MSL6480 tape library delivers affordable storage technology, providing us with a competitive edge in the digital media market."

So HP StoreEver tape is not just a means of storing data.  It is a key enabler that makes Brain Farm a more successful company.  In this blog, I want to take a closer look at why this is the case.

Brain Farm Digital Cinema is at the forefront of video production and its recent National Geographic "Great Migrations" documentary series won the company a prestigious Emmy award for cinematography.  The team has a reputation for creating breathtaking images in locations where few dare to go, especially in the fields of action sports and aerial photography.

Brain Farm often shoots several films simultaneously at 4K resolution with multiple cameras, each creating an uncompressed storage requirement of about 200 GB per minute. Moreover, a single project frequently involves a 100-day filming season, generating many petabytes of content.

The challenges faced by Brain Farm can be summarised:
  • storing massive output volumes.
  • inefficient labor-intensive stand-alone tape drive backup and archiving processes.
  • an inappropriate disaster recovery capability to safeguard clients’ valuable assets.
  • insufficient scalability to support growth.

 HP'sMSL6480 tape library meets these challenges directly:
  • Each unit offers up to 560 slots, storing up to 3.5 PB in a single rack, with 81 TB density per 1U of rack space
  • It can easily be expanded with extra drives, slots and cartridges, including future generations of LTO Ultrium for even higher capacities.
  • The automated process is 10X faster than the old workflow and 86% cheaper than using a SAN disk array for this purpose.
  • HP StoreOpen for Automation, HP’s LTFS solution for MSL6480, makes sharing and accessing data simple.
  • HP TapeAssure Advanced software makes the MSL6480 easy to manage from any location.

In the words of Danny Holland:
"The nature of the digital cinema business makes scalability extremely important. The HP StoreEver MSL6480 Tape Library design allows us to easily add extra drives, media slots and expansion modules as required, delivering a non-disruptive scalability model that’ll generate significant savings over the years.”

So next time anyone scoffs that tape is dead or for companies that haven't yet embraced innovation in storage, invite them to learn about Brain Farm Digital Cinema.  I think it's a great endorsement that such a successful and pioneering company sees a clear role for tape in its digital workflow.  Such companies do not use technology out of sentiment.  It's because they feel the core benefits of tape are the best solution for their cutting-edge needs!

Andrew Dodd
Worldwide Marketing Communications Manager
HP Storage Media

Friday, 3 July 2015

Businesses may be at risk from not migrating away from Windows Server 2003, says HP's Angela Cross

A significant percentage of businesses are putting their futures at risk and not migrating away from Windows Server 2003 as they think Microsoft aren’t serious about ending support on the 14th July, says HP’s UK manager for servers. 

Angela Cross, HP’s server country manager for UK & Ireland, believes that an estimated 1 in 3 organisations have not migrated to Window Server 2012, despite the dangers surrounding security and compliance of retaining the soon-to-be obsolete operating system. "Customers are waiting for Microsoft to announce on the 14th July that support will be extended for another 12 months, but they have been very clear on this for the last six months that this will not happen. HP is concerned that customers are leaving themselves badly exposed."

The reason behind this reluctance to upgrade, suspects Cross, is a combination of Microsoft’s track record in extending the life of PC operating systems and the cost to businesses of migrating away from XP last year, which has stretched budgets. "I think there is probably in excess of at least 30 per cent of the market (in the UK), if not considerably higher, that have done nothing.” said Cross.

Westcoast continues to offer services for HP partners looking to help end users migrate from Windows Server 2003, including a webinar covering best practices on the 21st July and an incentive for purchasers of new Gen9 servers or Windows Server 2012 to win tickets to the forthcoming Rugby World Cup

Highlighting Westcoast’s work in helping resellers to provide migration via the Windows EOS program and Upgrade And Win campaign, Cross added, “I don't think it's for any lack of communication. Some end users have decided not to migrate.”

Microsoft has made several warnings that continued use of Windows Server 2003 will bring risks to the security and compliance of business systems, yet as of January this year it was estimated that over 400,000 servers were still waiting to be updated.  "There are potentially customers that are very exposed to huge vulnerabilities," Angela said. "I think businesses take the view that such servers are probably only doing file and print tasks, they’re not frontline so it’s not critical – but it's still an access route into their network and therefore their business, so they are a weak point in their systems."

It is this sheer number of servers yet to be updated, with end users feeling they lack time or resources to undertake critical migrations, that Cross believes presents an opportunity to the channel. “A customer might have perhaps 20 or 30 servers but understanding the vulnerabilities they may contain is difficult if they don't have a sophisticated IT capability. And that scales all the way up to organisations running tens of thousands of servers. Where do you start?"

"Windows 2003, from an HP perspective, is probably running on at least generation 5 or older, so if you had 10 Gen5 servers, you probably need just one Gen9 server to deliver the same performance today. It isn't a hardware-heavy refresh; it's a consulting and transformation project, which is where partners can work with Westcoast to provide professional migration services to their customers and help them move away from retaining a server operating system that will soon become a risk to their operations”

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

How HP’s Changes To Smart Quote Will Benefit You...

HP partners selling Enterprise Group solutions – servers, storage and networking - have been able to get access to special pricing through an online tool called Smart Quote. Soon there will be an important change being made to the system – will it affect you?

Currently, resellers can request a number of distributors to respond with pricing details, which the reseller would then look through and decide which to select.  From 1st July this will be changing; resellers making future pricing requests in Smart Quote will have to state their preferred distributor, meaning they will receive pricing information from one distributor instead of several.

So, if you’re a HP Partner, how will this benefit you?

The idea of having several distributors providing you with pricing may sound like good business  - keen pricing and fast response - but it can in fact be quite the opposite. Multiple companies competing for the same business can tend to focus on the larger opportunities, meaning lesser deals you place in Smart Quote don’t get such a quick response. Additionally, with so many responses and people following up with additional questions, you can easily be delayed in getting pricing over to their customer, which goes against the whole point of trying to provide a fast service to your customers in the first place. 

Let’s compare this with you stating Westcoast as your preferred distributor within the new version of Smart Quote.

By streamlining Smart Quote to stating Westcoast as your preferred distributor partner, you will be receiving a much simpler service.  Instead of getting multiple quotes and loads of incoming calls and emails asking for more details, you will get a single quote - making responding to requests faster and helping to ensure the pricing that you get is even better value
While we’re on the subject of speed, Westcoast is renowned for delivering pricing fast. There’s a good reason why we turn round pricing requests so swiftly; your customers often need pricing quickly, so the quicker we give a reply, the faster you can deliver a great value quote to your customer.

This simpler service for you also includes other areas such as;

Pre-sales; our industry-leading pre-sales teams can provide technical advice to help you give an expert service to your customers, guiding them on the best solution for their business – and thus winning more clients.

50-plus EG certified Account Managers and a dedicated BDM who will visit and work with you to help develop your business plan to grow your HP revenues.

Access to Solutions Lab and operational demonstration and education centre complete with HP EG demonstration  that’s yours to use – completely free of charge. 

Free marketing material - We even help you promote HP EG solutions with a range of rebrandable materials through GYM+.

So as you can see, by ensuring you state Westcoast as your preferred distributor when using Smart Quote, you’ll be building a loyal customer base who look to you as their IT expert, trusting your advice and loving your service. 

To find out more about the changes in Smart Quote and how Westcoast can help you Click Here