For some small business, IT procurement can be a challenge. Budgets are tight and figuring out hardware requirements could be daunting. How is it possible to ensure that you get the most out of your computing so your life-cycle isn’t shorter than it needs to be AND you satisfy your employees within reason? One simple key is to address the usage pattern of your employees.

What is the benefit of looking at it this way? 
My eureka story covers this best. I took my car for a routine service and was surprised when the mechanic said I needed new brake pads. They were changed not too long ago and the math wasn’t working out in my head. Skeptical, I ignored his comment. If it wasn’t for the insurance requirements of his company he would have pulled me under the car to see how bad it was for myself. After he told me how many millimeters I had left before I would hear screeching I grudgingly had them changed. Later that week (still doubting my decision) I noticed something while a certain family member was driving the car (Identity withheld to protect my life).  This unidentified individual habitually stopped hard at red lights. AH HA! That was the usage pattern that led to the breaks needing changing earlier than my projected life-cycle. Unfortunately for me I had to fork out the money and reacted to the usage pattern after the fact. It doesn’t need to be that way for IT Procurement. 
For most users they would like a computer to function like their mind. They want to multitask on several different things and they want to do it quickly. Even with most up-to-date system, there is a threshold where it will seem unresponsive because of the multitasking being imposed by the user. So if someone has, say Adobe Photoshop CS3, open with 15 different images, is checking email, listing to a Pandora stream and browsing the web, the usage pattern can change. The goal is to help users understand how they need to think a little differently to maximize their computing productivity. When that message is properly conveyed, the life-cycle will be extended. The trick is to convey that message without inflicting pain.
To avoid any toe to toe confrontations, a simple yet proactive approach can be taken, here are a few options:
  • Every so often, provide employees with reminders and tips on good computing. These can be gathered from the same companies who provide your hardware and software. Sometimes these companies send monthly emails and webinars on useful computing topics. Recycle those in summary to employees in an official company message.
  • Provide a checklist of monthly maintenance tasks to perform (folder organization, file clean up, desktop cleanup, etc)
  • Establish a system to share tips and tricks among employees (wiki page, whiteboard sessions). 
(Reader Beware – Oncoming Rant)

With a snowy afternoon and a hot cup of tea I decided to make good use of my time and start a document I’ve put on hold for long enough. In an attempt to open my eyes to more than the Microsoft Office Suite, I started learning/using Pages (Part of the iWork ’08). 

The initial keystrokes were hard enough just to get the thoughts flowing. I was able to get out of the mental rut and put down a few good paragraphs. Unexpectedly Pages crashed. No issue there, it should just restore my document…Right? 

Lets pause there for a moment to note a few things:
1. In the time that I’ve started this blog the automatic autosave in blogger.com has protected my work every minute, autosaving some 15 times.

2. TextEdit, a very basic word processing program has an autosave feature backing up SQL code I was messing with.
3. Time Machine on my MacBook Pro has backed up my system 12 times since the start of today.
In our world of computing backups, redundancy and autosaving, being able to recover has become common-law! So it was in disbelief that I re-opened my Pages file to find that NOTHING was recovered. There wasn’t even an indication that it tried! Thats right…no autosave in Pages!
I won’t drag on with any more rhetoric on the subject. This isn’t a bash on Pages. Just a rant that the simple programmable things in life should never be forgotten. Autosave is one of them!
Command – S

What is JeOS?

Before we begin lets ask ourselves a few questions.

When you just need to listen to music on the radio, do you turn on your Blue-Ray player, TV, and your karaoke machine as well?

When you just need to boil some water on the stove, do you turn your oven on as well and perhaps the 3 other burners along with it?

Right about now you are probably thinking of course not! I agree because of obvious reasons, why would we turn on the other unnecessary devices if we just need the one or two?

JeOS is the abbreviation of “Just Enough Operating System?” or “Just Enough OS”.

Right about now there are hundred of thousands of Windows Servers and few Linux/Unix that in essence have the karaoke machine or the oven on when it just needs to play some classical music.

If I need to setup a print server, why do I need Outlook Express, Windows Media Player, Pinball and a whack load of other not needed services installed by default drinking up precious space and resources that can be needed just spooling print jobs?

JeOS is a stripped down OS that has only the applications and services needed for the function(s) that server was meant for! FANTASTIC!

What does this mean? More space, more available resources, and more reliability for the server to do what it was intended for.

Tailoring your OS allows more available connections for processes required to the specific application or service you want to run. It becomes more reliable, secure, easier to manage and performs better then an all purpose OS.

For some Linux/UNIX experts this is not new to them as they have been customizing there servers for each task it was intended to perform. For the rest of us not so crafty in that area of OS building or have limited time on packaging and compiling there own, this is a perfect solution to getting that goal accomplished.

Almost all Linux and Unix Distributions have already created there own JeOS version.

Perhaps Microsoft can follow along with this fast growing common sense way of changing the way our OS serves the tasks we want it to do in the small-enterprise level business.

“If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it!”

All too often we encounter small business clients who feel their IT infrastructure is operating just fine. When asked, “how is your IT infrastructure working”, they roll their eyes to the sky and think back to their personal computing issues over the past week. The answer is often, “things are okay…I guess”.
Then it happens…
“My computer crashed!” 
“Are you able to get e-mail?”
“I can’t print, can you print?”
“Why is the internet so slow?”
“My home computer is faster than this.”
With almost inborn instinct the victims hit the power button and pray for normalcy. If the situation is not resolved with a reset and the frustration level is high enough, a call for support is made. Since these issues typically happen sporadically they are often swept under the mental rug.
But lets examine this with business basics – Time Is Money! If we chalk down the lost time of the underrated comments above into dollars, the loss would be startling. This is where a small business owner with limited IT support needs insight into their infrastructure with simple “Key Metrics”.
Key Metric 1: “How many times a week, month or quarter have I experienced an outage, failure or issue?”
Key Metric 2: “How long was each outage, failure or issue?”
Key Metric 3: “How much did this on average cost me in dollars and cents?
The metrics are no more complicated than 5th grade math class, but pack the same power as E=mc
If the financial loss because of the issues approaches 40% (for arguments sake) of the cost of the hardware, software, or service being used its time to take action. Setting aside a little effort measuring IT outages (among other things) can save a bundle. A small business owner can use the information to target potential system failure, plan for hardware upgrades and more important have peace of mind.

Most IT professionals have used some kind of virtualization software on there personal computers because they see the benefit of having a single point and click access to there secondary O/S. This is very convenient. The hardware available today is more powerful and flexable then before. Having 2-8 cores on a single processor with GB-TB’s or memory is the norm these days and purchasing another server to do the same tasks you did on 4 single pizza boxes, blades or towers with a single core almost can be a waste of resources on money.

Let us see how in various ways virtualization can be a benefit to the IT field.

- Development / Labs
- Consolidation
- Resources
- Single Point Management
- Disaster Recovery

Development / Labs:

Almost all medium to large sized businesses serious about there company’s infrastructure have a complete hardware mirror of there production environment for there testing and development needs. Replicating your exact production environment equipment and software does mitigate future migration for software and hardware upgrades or changes, but comes at a cost. Some companies abandon that idea for that reason, only to rely and risky live or scheduled times to make changes to there current production environment.

A Virtual lab can lessen the pain for both the IT staff responsible for the changes, and gives the same peace of mind when new projects need to be implemented as you do with a real replication of your environment. With a virtual lab you cut the needed servers in half or more depending on the hardware available and what you plan on using them for.

Consolidation

Almost every company has a few common services they require i.e. print server, active directory or user authentication server, licensing server or a backup server to name a few. These are services that can be shared on a few single hosts. Instead of having 4 dedicated servers for each service, you now have 2 or maybe 1 doing all these tasks at once!

Some may ask, wait a second here wouldn’t that be pushing it?

Yesterday we had single core dual socket possibly quad socket boards were the choice for your high end processing needs.

Today for the same price you paid for that high end server you get up to eight sockets with quad core processors! That is the equivalent of 6 additional servers in one. What does that mean? Less power consumption, more room for growth, maximized server resources and less required cables when running up to 6 servers or more (virtual appliances) on a single server vs. 6 dedicated servers!


Resource Savings

How much does it cost to keep the power flowing to all your servers 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year?

For every server that is removed from the data center, approximately 12.5 tones of CO2 emissions are saved industry estimate. To offset the 12.5 tones of CO2 you would need to plant 55 Native trees each year if you plan on keeping that server. If you have 1000 servers, 12,500 tones of CO2… you need to plant 55,000 trees a year to offset it. If you virtualized 1000 servers over 3 years you don’t need to plant 55,000 trees.

Single Point Management

Every IT professional has some type of tool for managing there hardware whether web based or application based. There are also hundreds of them out there that do the job quite well. Do you want to juggle between the various types of management software or just a single one?

Vmware has a standard console that manages all your virtual appliances with a single click. From here you can reboot, modify or add system requirements as necessary without interfering with the other appliances.

Disaster Recovery

All virtual appliances are fully customizable to suit your requirements. Each initial appliance you create can be a single dynamic large file or multiple spanned files that can be backed up or run on any vmware server for rapid deployment and recovery. In the event of a server failure or major disaster most likely the “Dell beefy R2-D2 series” you purchased 5 years ago is discontinued, you will be forced to re-build from scratch on a new server. This can be costly and time consuming. Instead you install your vmware server in 10 minutes or less just copy you’re backed up appliance and your back in business. No need to install Microsoft Windows Server, drivers, updates which can take up to most of the day!

Conclusion

There are many benefits and case studies on using vmware on your servers. Just search in google.ca. I myself have and is enough for me to start finding areas to consolidate our servers for the future. This solution is a must to investigate into and see how it can benefit your environment. The savings are huge not only on the company’s pocket but the environment as well!