LightEdge Completes SSAE 16 Colocation and Managed Services Examination

SSAE

LightEdge Solutions is pleased to announce that it has successfully completed its annual data center process examination for the review period spanning December 1, 2012 to November 30, 2013. The SSAE-16 SOC 1 Type II independent examination and the subsequent reporting document was completed by BrightLine CPAs & Associates, Inc. and verifies that LightEdge Solutions’ data centers are being managed in accordance with the service provider controls and processes.

SSAE No. 16, also known as the Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization, regards internal controls on the services provided by an organization offering valuable information customers need in order to assess and address any risks associated with the outsourced services they’re receivingThe SAS-70 audit standard was surpassed by the SSAE No. 16 in mid-2011. These improvements ensure that US companies are able to compete on an international level by matching reporting regulations worldwide. Completing the SSAE No. 16 helps to ensure that customers can trust the honesty and integrity of their service provider.

“I am pleased that year after year we have been able to perform an audit against our controls and systems that showed no exceptions,” said Travis Thompson, chief security officer for LightEdge Solutions. “As we expand our data center presence, the SSAE-16 examination is an excellent way to demonstrate to our current and future customers that they can feel secure that our processes have been validated by a trusted third party.”

These exams are conducted by an independent, licensed CPA firm to ensure the highest levels of quality and accuracy for our clients. LightEdge has completed control and process examinations since 2008, and we will continue to make it a priority due to the amount of high-sensitivity data many of our customers in the banking, healthcare and legal services industries handle on a daily basis, just to name a few.

For additional details please contact LightEdge Sales at 877-771-3343, e-mail info@lightedge.com or visit www.lightedge.com.

Data Centers Eye Altoona

LightEdge was featured in a Des Moines Register article on Thursday, December 4th discussing the growing trend for companies to construct their data centers in Altoona, IA. This newfound attention has been sparked by companies like Google, Microsoft and Enseva moving their high tech data warehouses to the area. The open land, central location and access to fiber optics & power were a few attractive benefits credited for driving this movement. There is also an interview with our CEO, Jim Masterson, about what appealed to the company when building our data center there in 2006, a move that is considered the “first of its kind” by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Please visit http://dmreg.co/SxFDpX to read the full article and browse some images that provide a glimpse inside the LightEdge Data Center.

LightEdge Solutions Achieves Silver Certification from Cisco

DES MOINES, IA – October 16, 2012 – LightEdge Solutions announced today it has achieved Silver Certification from Cisco®.  To earn Silver Certification, LightEdge had to meet rigorous standards for networking competency, service, support and customer satisfaction set forth by Cisco.

“Achieving Cisco Silver Reseller Certification is yet another validation of our accomplishments as LightEdge continues to redefine itself from a managed services provider to a complete Information Technology business partner,” said Jim Masterson, chairman and CEO of LightEdge Solutions.  “Through our collaboration with Cisco and the use of Cisco routing, switching and compute platforms, LightEdge is uniquely positioned to implement and deliver high availability IT services for our customers though managed platforms within our data center, dedicated on-premise customer-owned platforms or a hybrid of the two for the highest level of reliability and elastic scalability.”

“Cisco is committed to providing tools, training and programs to help drive partner growth, differentiation and profitability,” said Surinder Brar, senior director of worldwide channels at Cisco.  “With specializations in Advanced Unified Computing, Advanced Unified Communications, Telepresence Express and Advanced Data Center Architecture, LightEdge has made an investment in delivering the integrated and customized technology solutions today’s customers demand.”

As a Cisco Silver Certified Partner, LightEdge has met requirements for attaining a broad range of expertise.  To achieve Cisco Silver Certification LightEdge was required to achieve either two from the following four Cisco advanced specializations:  Unified Communications, Routing and Switching, Security, and Wireless LAN, or the Cisco Express Unified Communications Specialization and one of the following advanced specializations:  Routing and Switching, Security, and Wireless LAN.  In addition, LightEdge was required to integrate Cisco Lifecycle Services into their offerings and maintain high levels of customer satisfaction based on independently audited customer satisfaction surveys.

The Cisco Resale Channel Program provides partners with the training required to build sales, technical and Cisco Lifecycle Services skills, and then validates their skills through a third-party audit.  Cisco resale partner certifications—Gold, Silver, Premier and Select—represent an increasing breadth of skills across key technologies and a partner’s ability to deliver integrated networking solutions.  Cisco resale partner specializations—Master, Advanced and Express—reflect an increasing depth of sales, technical and service expertise in particular technologies.

About LightEdge Solutions

LightEdge Solutions is a customer-centric cloud computing and consulting company devoted to solving the IT issues of businesses nationwide. By utilizing our economies of scale, connections with world-class vendors and our own internal passion for engineering, LightEdge allows its customers to “plug in” to enterprise-grade IT solutions that maximize uptime and performance, yet fit into their budget. For more information, visit www.lightedge.com.

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Yes or No to BYO: What’s the best approach for your business?

By Todd Wirth, LightEdge Engineer

The invitation list to the “Bring Your Own” party is expanding.  Before you RSVP, however, consider the impact…and the potential impact on your voice communications.

Most people have access to high speed Internet connections via cable, DSL, WiFi, or cellular data plans.  SmartPhone and Tablet use is growing and the costs are coming down.  Businesses are accommodating these trends with complex “Bring Your Own Device” and “Bring Your Own Bandwidth” policies.

Because of these trends, many users are now working over the Internet and on their own devices from various locations including home, libraries, airports, and hotels.  As a business owner, it makes financial sense to leverage these resources.  As much as possible, you can enhance your employee experience by allowing access to your company’s systems from whatever device they choose.

There are few obstacles accessing email over BYO networks or on BYO devices, but can corporate voice services be accessed as easily in a BYO environment?

Voice-over-IP is flexible enough to work over any high speed network including the Internet.  Technology is not the obstacle.  Much like the early days of cellular phones, VoIP over the public Internet should probably be avoided for critical calls to make sure that communication is reliable and high quality.

Voice services over ill-prepared data networks are sensitive to connection properties such as latency, jitter, and packet loss.  The best communications solution is to have a dedicated connection to provide all of your data needs including VoIP.  This allows network controls to traffic flow and quality of service.  With a well-managed connection you can have excellent quality.

There are situations, however, where installing dedicated connections does not make business sense.  For example, there is no need to add a WAN connection to a small remote office in a complex that receives high speed Internet as a utility.  Another instance would be when working from a hotel room. In these cases, the Internet can be used to provide a simple and consistent business presentation.  Tolerance is the key as quality will vary.

Simple communication needs:

  1. One number to be called regardless of where the employee is working.
  2. One number to show on calling line identification on outbound calls.
  3. Easy (and if possible fun) solutions.
  4. “Good” quality calls*

*It is important to note again that Voice communication in the BYO world is a cautionary tale.  Voice streams must be real-time to deliver the expected conversation experience.  Any network anomalies will affect conversations. 

The Public Internet is wrought with anomalies.  The best way to use the public Internet in voice solutions is to:

  1. Know the connectivity.
  2. Have alternatives.
  3. Be flexible

When setting up VoIP on public Internet, you should get to know the connection. Test the speeds. Assess the viability of voice communication over the network throughout several timeframes.  As part of a BYO installation, LightEdge uses professional assessment tools to make sure that VoIP will work.

On good networks the best alternative is use an Internet Proxy to register your communication device (IP phone, soft phone, etc.).   Utilizing the best technology including low bandwidth codecs and encryption will provide safe good quality communications.

On networks with quality issues, there are several VoIP alternatives that utilize public telephone or cellular networks.  VoIP Anywhere features can be used with or without Smartphone apps for signaling but use a telephone network for voice quality.   This a great alternative to using expensive hotel phones, for example, when the in-room Internet is less than stellar.

Flexibility in communications over the Internet is important.  Realizing that you have different methods that can provide high quality, secure and inexpensive communications can make BYO a real party.

LightEdge Hires David Flagel as part of Consulting Department Expansion

New hire is a networking and security expert with Cisco CCDE, Cisco CCIE and CISSP®-ISSAP® Certifications

Des Moines, IA, September 5, 2012 – LightEdge is pleased to announce that the company has hired David Flagel as a Consulting Network Architect as part of a recent expansion of the company’s IT Consulting Department.  David’s wealth of experience, skillsets and certifications will help to expand the scope and capabilities of the LightEdge consulting team to better service customers.

David’s background includes high-level networking and security positions with Wells Fargo, Wellmark, AT&T and Cisco. His networking credentials include Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE), Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) and Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (CISSP®-ISSAP®).  Most recently David has utilized his talents in IT consulting focused positions with BMC Software and EMC Corporation.

“The consulting team is excited to have someone of David’s caliber join the company,” said Chad Gustafson, director of consulting. “David’s background will certainly elevate the networking and security capabilities for the team and raise the bar for the consulting department as a whole.”

In addition to his technical knowledgebase, David is also certified in Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).  Simply put, ITIL is an industry model for managing IT services and operations based on widely accepted and dynamically changing best practices.  LightEdge Solutions has strategically migrated support and operational practices to ITIL-based standards over the past two years to better support its customer base.

For more information about LightEdge Consulting Services, see http://www.lightedge.com/productsservices/consulting/microsoft-solutions.html

About LightEdge Solutions

LightEdge Solutions is a customer-centric cloud computing and consulting company devoted to solving the IT issues of businesses nationwide. By utilizing our economies of scale, connections with world-class vendors and our own internal passion for engineering, LightEdge allows its customers to “plug in” to enterprise-grade IT solutions that maximize uptime and performance, yet fit into their budget. For more information, visit www.lightedge.com.

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What is Hybrid Storage?

By Matt Breitbach, LightEdge Engineer

What is hybrid storage and why should you be interested in it?  Traditional spinning disk-based storage arrays require large numbers of disks to generate high performance and low latency.  This tends to result in significantly more storage being purchased than is actually needed, just so you can satisfy the performance requirement.

Hybrid storage is the merging of RAM, Solid State Drives, and traditional hard drives to deliver better performance from storage arrays while keeping costs down.  Newer Solid State Drive (SSD) storage arrays perform significantly better than tradition spinning disk based storage systems, but lack the capacity that hard drive based systems can offer without significant budget modifications.

Hybrid storage systems work by keeping the bulk of your data on spinning hard drives and then storing the most frequently used data on the SSD for higher performance.  Typically the “working set” of data is less than several hundred gigabytes.  This means that the storage system can watch for the most actively accessed and most recently accessed bits of data, and keep those bits of data instantly available on the Solid State Drives.  When additional requests for that data come in, those requests are serviced from RAM or SSD, at a significantly higher performance level than if the data was coming from traditional spinning disk.  We still get the ability to store data that is less frequently accessed on the same storage system and write that data out to spinning disk, reducing the need for expensive SSD and RAM.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on hybrid storage arrays, and the knowledge that is out there could fill, well, a large hybrid storage array.  If you have any questions about hybrid storage, or would like to talk to someone about moving to a hybrid storage array, please contact our team at info@lightedge.com.

Should you backup data or entire VM?

By Matt Breitbach, LightEdge Engineer

With the rise of virtualization, there is a persistent question that comes up when people evaluate backup platforms. That question is: should I back up my data (documents, emails, databases) or my entire VM?  This is a great question from many perspectives. Below are some tips to help you decide what the correct backup strategy should be for your use case.

Today, we run virtual machines for all types of workloads.  Some of those are webservers, some are fileservers, and some are SQL servers.  Each one of these systems is going to have different requirements for RTO (Recovery Time Objective) and RPO (Recovery Point Objective).  These requirements will strongly influence the backup strategy that you choose.

Backing up an entire VM can be resource intensive, but companies like Veeam, Quest, and EMC have come up with solutions that allow you to take full system state backups of your VM’s on a daily or hourly basis (depending upon the activity of the system).  This lends itself very well to disaster recovery situations where if a system crashes, you can be up and running with a recent backup in a matter of minutes, in some cases.  It simplifies restoration to the point that in 5 clicks of a mouse, you can have a fully functional copy of your VM up and running from your most recent backup.  This is great news for your webservers, fileservers, and SQL servers that need to be online at all times.

There can be drawbacks to full VM backups. Granular restoration of filesystem objects can be a bit more painful.  There are no simply interfaces inside your VM to say “hey, I want to grab the backup of this file and restore it to its original location”.  File level recovery can be done, but it involves invoking a management interface on the backup server, mapping network drives, and then copying the backup file over the network to the VM that needs the restore.  Self-service is nearly impossible in that situation.

Backing up files using traditional backup software typically allows you greater access to granular file restores since there is an agent running inside the VM.  For a fileserver or webserver, you can simply open the backup agent, select the file that you want to restore, and restore it.  The backup agent handles all of the background tasks for you without forcing you to interact with the backup server.

Many times the correct answer for your backup needs is to use a combination of both technologies.  Full VM backup for disaster recovery purposes (ie. “Oops. I just crashed the registry on my server.”)  and file level backups for individual file restores.  The first step in assuring recovery from a disaster, however, is having a qualified person look at your infrastructure and your RTO / RPO requirements. For more information about backup and recovery solutions at LightEdge, feel free to contact sales@lightedge.com.

Questions to ask before moving to the cloud

By Matt Patterson, LightEdge Engineer

Everyone is talking about Cloud these days? Are you in the cloud? Is your infrastructure cloud ready? What the heck is the cloud? You may already be using the cloud and just don’t know it.

With all the talk of the cloud of what it is and what it isn’t, there’s a general agreement that at some point, you’re going to have a conversation about moving your infrastructure out of your four walls and what that really means to your organization. Whether you’ve taken the leap already or are planning to in the near future, it makes sense to fully understand certain considerations that help lead to a successful platform.

Questions to ask

When evaluating a shared cloud provider, you should be asking some of these questions (and many more pertaining to your particular needs) to make sure that you are prepared for various scenarios that can develop. Even the well known names have the occasional issues. It’s best to, at a minimum, consider what your plan is for different situations to make sure you are making the best decisions for your company.

  • Access to the VM. Do you have a remote console access? Do you need to VPN in to then RDP or SSH? What level of security is offered by default to your VM?
  • Backups! Even though your workloads are now virtualized instead of running on a physical server, you still need to be able to both successfully back up the data and successfully recover in a timely fashion. Test your backups and make sure that you can recover the necessary data to be up and running within your recovery window.
  • Access to support. One of the tricks to use when checking out cloud providers is to see how fast they will respond to a phone or email inquiry. When you call their support number, are you in a long queue before you get a real person? If you leave a voice mail, do you get a return call that day? How about email? What’s the response time? Do they have an online chat that you can use? How comfortable are you with the response you received before you have an actual issue?
  • Brick and Mortar. For the truly tech savvy folks out there, you want to know that the physical facility that your virtual bits are going into can stand up to the various outage-causing issues that may come its way. Not everyone is going to be able to take a data center tour based on your geographic location. But hopefully you can find information about the facility on a web site or with a quick chat with someone from sales. Mother Nature has a habit of taking out the biggest of the power grids. Is the data center prepared to run for a while without power? What happens when the generators run out of fuel? Is the facility on multiple power grids?
  • If you are a high end site that can’t handle much downtime, then you’ve probably made the investment to have your workloads in multiple data centers. One thing you’ll want to make clear – If datacenter A goes down, is there any limitation either of your application or the data center itself that relies on the other data center. You should be fully separated and able to run active/active if you truly want to mitigate downtime. This is often an area that can haunt a company who has put a lot of hard work (and money) into making their environment as redundant as possible.

Is this a fully comprehensive list of everything you need to ask your cloud provider? No, but it does give you a good starting point. Physical servers and cloud servers…they’re not that different. Ask the right questions and be comfortable with your level of risk.

Happy computing!

Cloud: Are you there…and just don’t realize it?

Everyone is talking cloud today. That can lead to a lot of in-depth discussions about where a company sits in their ability to take advantage of the cloud, security concerns, management and control, and the list goes on. What a lot of companies don’t consider as they hold these conversations, is that they’re probably already taking advantage of “the cloud” and don’t realize it.

How can you not realize that you’re using cloud services? They’re those services that you’ve used for a while, they work, and as such, they feel like they’re a natural part of a department’s daily system and work processes. Need some examples? How do you handle payroll? Do you have a server in-house that you manage, host the application, and maintain yourself or do you use an outsourced service for payroll management that you access via a web interface? What do you use for your customer relationship management (CRM) system? Do you have that in-house or do you utilize an online service such as salesforce.com, as do an increasing number of businesses? These are the areas where companies have already moved into the cloud, but because they’ve been doing it that way for years, they don’t consider that as a hosted service. It is.

So, if you’re contemplating the concept of cloud and can’t figure out if it’s right for you…do a quick, informal inventory of all the departments in your company. Look at the different applications that you’re already using that you don’t host yourself. We’re willing to bet you can find at least one. Then, ask why the decision was made to go that way in the first place? What problem or pain did it alleviate? What issues have you had to deal with and how were they resolved? Finally – how can you solve other problems you’re currently facing with in-house systems, applications, infrastructure in the same way?

The cloud may be the buzz and can be confusing with all the offerings and opinions that are emerging. Make it simple on yourself and consider the cloud in a new way. We’re willing to guess that you’re already there…you just don’t realize it.

LightEdge Exhibits at Iowa Association of Business and Industry

Showing off our new booth with the “Plug In to Enterprise IT” tag line at the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Annual Meeting.  If you are at this meeting, stop by the booth (middle of the main hallway) and drop off a business card to win a Kindle Fire.

 

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