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The Value of Customer Support

IT is an arena for problem solvers and innovators. As much as every IT administrator may be looked at as an all-knowing demigod of technology, we know that many of those super powers come from sources like web research and tech support hotlines. Good technical customer support from vendors can be the greatest asset an IT administrator has for dealing with any problem, great or small.

From initial implementation to disaster recovery, good support can be the difference in you being a hero or a villain in the eyes of your bosses. Having help only a phone call away can save you both time and money when it comes to finishing your projects on time and within budget. Without good support, you are subject to delays, finger-pointing, increased project costs, and it may even put your own job in jeopardy.

At Scale Computing, we think support is as valuable and as important as our products, maybe even more valuable. Even though we design our products for simplicity, scalability, and high availability to make them easy to use for anyone, we believe you should get the best support when you do need it. We have a #bestever philosophy of making each interaction with our support team the best ever for each customer.

I could go on and on about why our support is the best about why we have a Net Promoter Score of 87 for our support. Instead, I am going to let some of our customer quotes from our TechValidate surveys speak for themselves.

These are just a few of the great quotes we have gotten from our customers. This kind of feedback is why we keep working hard  to provide that #bestever support our customers have come to expect from Scale Computing.

WannaCry, Petya, What’s Next? Are You at Risk?

Recent ransomware attacks called WannaCry and Petya have been making headlines. They are demonstrating just how vulnerable many computer systems are to attack. Tens of thousands of systems have been affected by these ransomware attacks and they should be making you consider how vulnerable your systems are.

The type of ransomware attack used by WannaCry and Petya encrypt data, making it unreadable, and then demand payment to decrypt the data. They both attacked a vulnerability exposed in Windows operating systems that were not updated to a sufficiently recent patch level. While your systems may not have these specific vulnerabilities, it is impossible to prepare for every new or existing vulnerability that may be the target of the next attack. In addition to making your systems less vulnerable to attack, it’s a pretty good idea to have a plan for how to deal with a successful attack on your systems.

Who is most vulnerable?

In this particular case, Windows users. Windows servers and more importantly Windows Hyper-V servers were vulnerable. A Hyper-V server being hit by ransomware can cripple a small business and do serious damage to larger businesses. Small businesses really take the brunt of these attacks because even one server or one virtual host can represent nearly the entire business IT infrastructure.

What are the options?

Worst Case: Total Data Loss

You lose your data and start over. If you didn’t have a good backup or no backup at all, you may have just lost your data. No one wants to be in this situation. It could literally be the end of a business trying to recover from this type of total loss.

Recover from Backup

You may have a good backup of your data and you can recover it. Great. When was the backup taken? Last night? What is the cost of the lost data since then?  How long does it take to recover onto a clean system?  What is the cost of the lost productivity while recovering? These costs can be high.

Recover from a VM Snapshot

If the machine that was affected was a virtual machine running Windows, you may have been taking regularly scheduled snapshots of the VM and you can revert to a snapshot of the entire VM from before the ransomware infected the system. The recovery time here is very short and the amount of data loss depends on how often you are taking snapshots. This is probably the best case scenario, unless the hypervisor was Hyper-V and it also got hit by the ransomware. Then you are in bad shape.

Pay the Ransom?

For Petya, which demanded $300 in bitcoin, a few actually paid the ransom before the contact email was shut down, closing off that option for the rest of the victims. Even those who do pay have no guarantee of getting their data back according to Forbes.com. Even if you were guaranteed to get your data back, it is not a good option, no matter how much economic sense it makes, because it rewards the perpetrators.

What can you do?

If you are a small business, you might be using Hyper-V because it is a popular choice for virtualization at a low cost. You might also not have the budget to employ a full-time IT staffer to make sure your systems are up to date against the latest threats. Still, being prepared for attacks like ransomware may be easier and more cost-effective than you might think.

Consider HC3 hyperconverged infrastructure from Scale Computing. Our virtualization platform combines server and storage hardware with virtualization into an easy-to-use appliance. With HC3, you can rest more easily knowing that with our snapshot technology and other security features, you can easily restore VMs from ransomware and other virus attacks quickly and easily.

HC3 is not out of your budget. Our appliances are comparable in price to traditional server hardware and you can start with just a single appliance if that is all you need. Our solution is cheaper than traditional virtualization architectures that require external storage like SAN or NAS and are easier to deploy and manage.  If you are concerned about how these ransomware attacks and other security threats seem to becoming a way of life, check out what HC3 can do to help protect your business.

Manufacturing Runs on HC3

Manufacturing is at the heart of any economy. The industrial revolution continues to roll forward with continued innovation and automation. The role of IT in manufacturing is increasing in every aspect of manufacturing from design to shipping. Manufacturers require reliable, powerful IT infrastructure systems to implement and maintain efficient manufacturing operations.

Scale Computing’s HC3 hyperconverged infrastructure solution is ideal for manufacturing companies that need powerful IT infrastructure without complexity. Complexity equals cost in IT and the added cost of complexity from traditional IT solutions drives up manufacturing costs. HC3 makes IT infrastructure simple, scalable, highly available, and affordable. In order for manufacturers to remain competitive in modern global markets, they need modern IT infrastructure solutions like HC3.

KIB Electronics is just one manufacturer that has chosen HC3 for IT infrastructure.

Many other manufacturers have chosen HC3 and have also chosen to share their success stories. You can see those stories by clicking on the manufacturers below.

Penlon

Midwest Acoust-A-Fiber

Cascade Lumber Company

Poster Display

Hydradyne

Whether it is industry specific applications like ERP and CAD, or general IT applications like messaging, finance, CRM, and office tools, HC3 is a flexible, scalable, and easy-to-use platform that supports them all. HC3 is modern infrastructure for modern manufacturing.

 

IT Refresh and My Microwave Oven

This past weekend I replaced my over-the-range microwave oven. While the process of replacing it was pretty unremarkable, it was the process that led me to replace it and the result that were interesting. It got me thinking about the process by which IT groups ultimately choose to refresh infrastructure and solutions.

Let me explain what happened with my old microwave oven.

Event #1 – About 3 years ago or so, the front handle of the microwave broke off. I’m not sure how it happened, my sister and two of my nieces were living with me at the time, but it broke off pretty completely. No big deal. It was not hard to grab the door from underneath and open it and push it closed. It was a minor inconvenience. I wasn’t interested in replacing it.

Event #2 – Around 6 months to a year after the handle broke, the sensor or mechanism on the door that determined whether the door was closed started failing intermittently. When you closed the door, the microwave might or might not start. You might have to open and shut the door multiple times before it started. Annoying. Did the broken door handle and the way we were now opening the door contribute to this fault? Unknown. It was annoying but the microwave still worked. Another level of inconvenience but I was willing to live with it.

Event #3 – Add 6 more months and the carousel failed. It started failing on and off but finally failed completely. Again, the microwave still “worked” in that it emitted microwaves and heated food but now the food needed to be rotated every 15 seconds or so to prevent hotspots. Of course, the fact that I had to open and close the door to rotate the food only made the problem of the failing door sensor more acute. It was becoming pretty inconvenient to use. But it still worked.

That should have been the last straw, right? Nope. Of course, I thought about replacing it. It was somewhere on my to-do list, but by then I had been slowly acclimating myself to the inconvenience and finding workarounds. Workarounds included things like using the conventional oven more and eating out more often. More leftovers were left to spoil in the fridge. I was modifying my behavior to adjust to the inadequacies of the microwave.

Event #4 – My sister and nieces had moved out a year ago or so, and now my girlfriend had moved in. She didn’t demand I replace the microwave or anything. There was no nagging. There was no pressure. But I wanted to replace it because I wanted her to have a reliable microwave oven. So, I finally replaced it.

My old microwave, “Old Unreliable,” pictured above, was a Frigidaire microwave. I am not knocking Frigidaire in any way. It served me well for many years before this journey to replacement. I have many other Frigidaire appliances I’m still using today.

Why did I wait so long? It was not terribly expensive to replace nor difficult. With “Old Unreliable”, I was costing myself time and money by letting good leftovers go to waste and being predisposed to eating at restaurants because I was inconvenienced by the microwave. I haven’t tried to calculate it but I am sure I racked up restaurant bills over the course of avoiding the old microwave that exceeded the cost of the new microwave, by a lot. All those tasty leftovers gone to waste…

I believe this overall scenario happens pretty regularly in IT. Admins and users have to deal with solutions that are inconvenient to use, prone to failure, and that incur secondary costs in excess management and maintenance.

IT Admins are expected to be able to engineer some workarounds when needed, but the more workarounds needed, the more expertise and knowledge needed, which can become costly. Consider also that constantly working around clunky implementations does not usually lead to efficient productivity or innovation. As with my microwave journey, there is a point where it starts costing more to keep the existing solution rather than investing in a new solution. Those costs are sometimes subtle and grow over time, and like a frog in a pot of water, we don’t always notice when things are heating up.

How much could be gained in productivity, cost saving, and user satisfaction by investing in a new solution?  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” can only take you so far, and does not foster innovation and growth. Rather than becoming comfortable with an inadequate solution and workarounds, consider what improvements could be made with newer technology.

The Price Is Right

The Price Is Right is of the longest running game show on television and one of the most beloved. I grew up watching it hosted by Bob Barker and it is still going today, hosted by Drew Carey. The show features a variety of challenges for players but most of them involve guessing at the retail price of various products ranging from groceries all the way up to vehicles and vacation packages. The concept of guessing at prices reminded me of shopping for IT solutions.

I’m sure most of you know what I am talking about. You start researching various hardware and software solutions but you quickly find that the price is not readily available. You have to contact the vendor for pricing. Why? Often they can’t even give you a ballpark estimate. Why? The answer is simple, but awful. They want to charge you the highest price possible and the only way to do that is withhold pricing until they have sufficiently worked you over with a double whammy of sales and marketing.

IT is a cost center. We all accept this. Organizations don’t want to spend any more on IT than is necessary, but it is necessary, at least to a point. These vendors want to artificially build up that need for more and more before they hit you with a price because they want you to spend more.

Personally, I hate this practice of withholding pricing. I want to have an idea of what a solution costs up front when I am researching. I don’t need a sales guy smooth talking me to soften the blow of the price. I’m an adult. I know how money works. This practice is all too common in IT solution sales. That’s why I love Scale Computing. We are different.

Did you see what I did there? Pricing for our HC3 systems. Not all the pricing. We have a lot of configuration options and it would be a feat of engineering to try to show everything. Base pricing to give you a starting point. Pricing that includes 1 year of maintenance and support. Why are we different? Well, we just think our pricing is fair to begin with. We don’t want you to have to guess. Don’t guess. Those are per node prices and we gave you a couple examples to get you started. We just want you to get a great solution at a great price.

Can you afford it? We will work with you to get you exact pricing on the configuration you need and nothing more. We can do an assessment of what you need and show you some of the costs of integration, management, maintenance, and support that come with or without our HC3 solution. If the numbers don’t add up, that’s fine. We won’t sell you a solution that you can’t afford, don’t want, or won’t work for you. We think you will want it and probably can afford it. In fact, you might find out that you can’t afford NOT to have it.

By the way, that pricing is available in our HC3 Sales Brochure right on our website. For more information on some of the tertiary costs of IT ownership, check out this white paper, “How HC3 Lowers the Total Cost of Infrastructure”.

Virtualization Made Easy

Twenty years ago, everything in IT was hard. Installing a server was hard. Setting up a database was hard. Networking machines was hard. Companies that wanted computers to do pretty much anything beyond basic printing needed a lot of expertise, time and effort and, let’s be realistic, even printing wasn’t all that easy in a lot of cases.

Today, many things are different. Networking is very easy. Installing a server is very easy. Setting up a database, easy. The basics are really not that hard.

Your virtualization should be easy today, too. We are really past the point where virtualization should be a challenge for small businesses to set up and use. Businesses spending time and resources trying to learn details about their hypervisors, examining different storage systems, talking to many vendors, researching tools and software becomes a very expensive exercise that ultimately is highly error prone due to a lack of experience and resources since most companies will only do this once to make a single, long term decisions. The cost of making the purchasing decision might be extremely high.

But we don’t need things to be like this today. Oh sure, in a very large company where extremely special needs these decisions make sense. In a company like that, we would expect that there is a team of virtualization and storage experts who research and work with many different products and vendors full time and are not making one time decisions, but instead doing so frequently. For them, this approach makes sense as it allows them to fine tune their purchasing decisions for different use cases.

For the rest of us in the smaller business market, whether a very small company of just a few people to even relatively large ones with many larger servers and hundreds or maybe thousands of employees, there really is no value to such a complicated purchasing process. The cost of that decision making it high, and the risks of making mistakes are high.

This is where hyperconvergence comes in. Hyperconvergence has the potential to take many elements that are often challenging to the non-enterprise IT market such as hypervisor selection, storage design, high availability and so forth and rolls them into a single, supported entity with the big, hard decisions already having not just made, but already implemented.

Hyperconvergence removes the guesswork and the expensive decision-making from IT and instead makes it simple and fast. Even additional management tools, like backups, are often prequalified and tested so that a smaller, vendor assured list is common.

Not only does choosing and implementing a business architecture become vastly simpler, but long term support does as well. Instead of many vendors and internal design decisions, a single vendor with standard designs means that you know who to call for support and they understand your system and how to support it.

The assumption that everything will be hard no longer needs to be true, even if it is hard for some IT pros to believe. Hyperconvergence applies the concept of ease-of-use to the core infrastructure components of your network.

City Government Runs on HC3

City governments face unique unique IT challenges, supporting a number of departments ranging from emergency services to parks and recreation. With limited budgets, these organizations look at technology to reduce the costs of the services they provide. Hyperconverged infrastructure is a great fit for city governments because it not only can be implemented at a low cost, but the cost savings continues through reduced operational and management costs.

But don’t just take it from us. These three videos let our customers speak for themselves about HC3 hyperconverged infrastructure.

City of St. Cloud

City of West Allis

City of Noblesville

HC3 is a great choice for any IT organization looking to modernize for simplicity, scalability, availability, and disaster recovery. Our customer’s success is our success at Scale Computing.  We want to help you be successful too. Let us know how we can help.

TSANet Member Spotlight

This week we were pleased to have our Scale Computing Support Team featured in the TSANet Member Spotlight! We don’t really talk about our own support team enough and how awesome they are here at Scale Computing, maybe because if we did, they are so awesome that we’d be talking about them all the time. So, it is nice when someone like TSANet takes the time to highlight how great they really are.

So, rather than try to tell you in my own words, let me give you the link to the Spotlight feature and a couple snippets below. Click the image below for the link.

TSANet interviewed Blake Rodier, Technical Support Manager, Dave Demlow, Vice President of Product Management and Support, and Lynanne Gibel, Director of Support and Professional Services at Scale Computing.

“Our support renewal rate is around 93%. That says something about the support organization. We consider ourselves as a part of the product. A lot of our customers want to come back because of the support they receive and I consider that a huge acknowledgement for our team,” said Lynanne.

 

May the 4th Be With You, Always!

On May 4th, we celebrate the culturally iconic Star Wars universe. While the story of Star Wars takes place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the technology is futuristic even by our present standards, 40 years after the first movie premiered. Star Wars has captured the imaginations of billions of people over the years who have dreamed of living in such a technology-rich world of droids, lightsabers, speeder bikes, and more.

Perhaps the most important technology featured in Star Wars is faster than light (FTL) travel. The ability to travel through hyperspace not only allowed for the galactic empire to exist but also made for exciting chase scenes and iconic special effects.

While we don’t seem to be close to developing FTL travel today, the technology to go faster in everything we do is all around us. At Scale Computing, not only are we a bunch of Star Wars geeks, we are innovators working to make your IT infrastructure faster. That is nowhere more apparent than in our storage architecture.  

While our competitors are still using storage architectures based on SAN and NAS technologies that have been around over 20 years. We knew there was a better way and faster way to deliver storage. Instead of virtualizing technologies that were never built for virtualization in the first place, we are starting from the ground up, ditching multiple layers of storage controllers, file systems, and protocols that are causing inefficiencies in data centers around the world.

You see, many virtualization solutions start with a SAN or NAS technology onto which another virtual storage layer is applied, mimicking SAN, often referred to as vSAN. Then finally, the actual file system for the virtual machine is added. These technologies deploy a variety of both physical controllers and virtual storage appliances (VSAs) to make it all work.  Not with Scale Computing.

The HC3 virtualization platform doesn’t use any extra storage controllers or VSAs, no extra file systems, and no extra protocols. The only file system in play with HC3 is the one used by the guest OS installed in the virtual machine you create for your applications. This makes our storage extremely efficient and that was even before we decided to add solid state flash drives into the architecture. Our architecture has allowed us to implement flash a little differently than the competition and we have a sense of humor about it too.

Other storage technologies desperately needed flash storage as a cache to overcome the inefficiencies they had already built into their architectures. With HC3, we didn’t need a flash storage cache so we just implemented flash as a storage tier to actually store your data. Then, where your data is stored, you get to control how much flash you use on a per virtual disk basis as illustrated above. Again, there are no controllers or VSAs needed for our tiered flash storage or all flash storage architecture.

Non-volatile memory  express (NVMe) technologies like 3D XPoint are designed for speeds 1000x faster than NAND (the current primary flash architecture). In order to achieve these 1000x speeds, NVMe must bypass traditional storage controllers and protocols that would only serve as a bottleneck because they were never designed for the speeds capable with this new flash storage. So these existing storage architectures designed around old SAN and NAS technologies are going to have to change completely for NVMe. HC3 doesn’t have all of these old controllers, VSAs, or protocols to shed to implement NVMe.

Speed matters. Architecture matters. The future matters and your systems need to be ready for the future. Don’t go with an architecture that is going to need to scrapped when you need NVMe speeds in a couple years. Future proof your data center with technology designed to eliminate complexity and inefficiency: HC3.

5 Reasons to Refresh IT Infrastructure

Nothing lasts forever, especially IT infrastructure technology. In the ever-evolving world of IT hardware and software, change is inevitable. Right now, organizations all over the world are seeing the signs they need to refresh, whether they know it or not. End of Life or End of Support are obvious reasons, but what other reasons are being realized or possibly ignored?

#1 – Performance becomes a pain.

IT is an engine that drives business. Over time, increased load and decreased efficiency take their toll on the performance of the IT engine. Performance issues can be dealt with in a number of ways such seeking out and fixing specific hardware performance bottlenecks to improving processes for greater efficiency. As with an automobile, there is a breaking point where the cost of fixing the problems outweighs the cost of repair. Performance issues can be notoriously hard to diagnose without expertise. For that reason, the pain of performance issues often demands IT infrastructure refresh.

#2 – Datacenters need consolidation.

For a variety of reasons, sometimes datacenters need consolidation. The needs may include acquisition, restructuring, or relocating but it may not make sense to consolidate what exists. Often different sites and even different departments use different infrastructure technologies for no particular reason. While it is possible to coexist a number of different SAN/NAS devices and hypervisor architectures, it adds a load of complexity to the combined datacenter. This is a classic opportunity for infrastructure refresh to eliminate complexity

#3 – Capacity is limited.

When you bought your SAN you had space for extra shelves for growth but you filled that faster than expected. Capacity planning isn’t an exact science, not even close. You could add another storage device and cobble the two together but there might be a better way in scale-out architecture.  Software-defined scale-out storage built into hyperconverged infrastructure solutions offers very easy and cost-effective scaling, on-demand. Refreshing with hyperconvergence is not only going to help scale storage effectively but also scale RAM and CPU as needed, in a much simpler solution.

#4 – Alice doesn’t work here anymore.

Remember Alice? She was the out-sourced IT consultant who designed and built the current infrastructure with her own unique set of expertise? Well, her fees for continuing to fix and manage the solution whenever there was an issue was just too expensive. No one else can quite figure out how anything is supposed to work because she expertly put together some older gear that isn’t even supported any more. It works for now, thanks to Alice, but if something goes wrong, then what? It could be time to start over and refresh the IT infrastructure with something newer that staff IT administrators can deal with.

#5 – Costs are examined.

IT is a cost center. The challenge is to get the most benefit from that cost. Older technologies like SANs, whether physical or virtual, are costly and were never designed for virtualization in the first place. Hypervisors and management solutions like VMware vSphere come at a high cost in ongoing software licensing fees. There is the cost of integrating all of the storage, servers, virtualization and management software, not to mention backup/DR. Then finally the cost of expertise to manage and maintain these systems. The costs of this traditional virtualization architecture can be overwhelming. Avoiding these high costs is a primary reason IT professionals are looking at technologies like cloud and hyperconvergence to simplify IT.

Whatever the reason for an IT infrastructure refresh, it is an opportunity to lower costs, increase productivity, and plan for future growth. This is why so many are considering hyperconverged infrastructures like HC3 from Scale Computing. It dramatically simplifies IT infrastructure, lowers costs, and allows seamless scaling for future growth. While some workloads may be destined for the cloud, the HC3 virtualization platform provides a simple, secure, and highly available solution for all of your on-prem datacenter needs. If it is time to refresh, take a look at everything HC3 provides and all the complexity it eliminates.