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Posts by: Lee Jolly

Meraki and Webex Calling – or how to avoid startup growing pains

 

As IT consultants in the Bay Area, we see a lot of startups.  Small businesses with bold ideas filled with hard working people focused on achieving a specific goal.  Usually in their infancy, these businesses focus all their time and money on the goal they are trying to achieve and usually don’t have the dedicated staff needed to support enterprise IT solutions.  The employees are extremely sharp and very tech savvy, able to quickly piece together solutions to fit their needs that actually work pretty well.  Ran out of ports on a switch?  Order an inexpensive PoE switch and start daisy chaining them!  More ports = problem solved.  Same goes for wireless, if you have a dead spot, just get another AP.  If you want video in a conference room, get some 3rd party camera to work with Google Hangouts. 

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When every company is a technology company, a consultative sales approach brings big benefits

Having worked in Information Technology departments since the mid 90’s, I’ve seen a lot of change.  As you might expect from technology, things move fast, as technology continues to improve at a rapid pace.  But the biggest change I’ve seen is the feeling that most businesses have towards IT and IT spending.  As a systems administrator in the 90’s I remember feeling as if companies never saw the true value of their IT departments, to the point where they were even described as ‘cost centers’.  It felt like pulling teeth trying to secure a budget from the business for things that I felt were critical, such as proper backups with low recovery point objectives, and highly available networks that can withstand a failure without a big fire drill of scrambling engineers while hundreds of employees sit idly waiting for you to fix it.

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Infrastructure Management Best Practices

From a high level, managing your IT infrastructure can be boiled down to 5 basic steps:

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Cisco Device Upgrades

Upgrading Cisco software (IOS, IOS-XE, ASA code, etc.) can be a little daunting sometimes.  For the most part, installations are straight forward, but there is usually a fair amount at stake.  Ideally, your environment should be designed with high-availability in mind, allowing you to perform maintenance (and endure unplanned outages) without business impact.  But that isn’t always financially possible, especially for remote sites and smaller branch offices.  This makes things especially difficult for the engineers tasked with performing this maintenance remotely.  Losing access to a device and watching your continuous ping not receive replies for 5, 10, 15 minutes or even longer sometimes is always taxing!  That said, they almost always come back, usually just shortly after real panic starts to set in.  While we can’t be 100% sure everything is going to work every time (we didn’t write the code or design the hardware), if we do our due diligence we can increase our chances of success. 

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Cisco Umbrella Deployment Options

If you don’t have Cisco Umbrella (Formerly OpenDNS) in your environment yet, you should really take a look at it. I’ve had to support on-premise solutions for URL filtering in the past and in my opinion, there are no good ones. No matter the vendor, administration tasks are more complicated than they should be, and they always add a little complexity and more points of failure in the environment. I’ve seen it several times where the security/URL filtering appliance was only in-line when running on the primary ISP connection. Or a company will have redundant ISPs but ALL traffic goes through a single appliance, creating a single point of failure. I’ve even seen an appliance set to ‘fail-open’ that should pass traffic even if the device were dead, but failed to do so when needed. This article is more about the deployment of Cisco Umbrella in our environment, so I won’t go on with all the numerous other benefits of Umbrella, suffice it to say that I am a believer in the product, and it was an enormous improvement over our previous solution.

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Fireside Chat: Data Protection

In this Fireside Chat CEO, Sean Barr, sits down with Network Engineer, Lee Jolly, to discuss Data Protection and the cloud data management solutions Rubrik offers to customers. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this Fireside Chat.  

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Rubrik Data Protection

In my recent Fireside Chat on the subject of Data Protection, I had a lot of good things to say about Rubrik as a Data Protection/Data Management platform. In this post, I’d like to walk through some scenarios you might come across in your environment and how Rubrik makes handling those scenarios very easy.

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Backup Solution for the Hybrid Datacenter

As someone who loves the latest and greatest technology, I’ve always felt that backup software didn’t advance at the same pace as other technologies. Just a few short years ago I was peeling off barcode labels and applying them to tapes, followed by documenting these barcodes on an Excel spreadsheet and entering them one at a time on a terribly designed website for an off-site tape storage vendor so we can schedule the pick-up. It was dull and tedious…the kind of job you wish you could automate, or at least go into auto-pilot and let your mind wander! But that was not possible, because although the chances of me actually needing these tapes again was almost zero, if I DID need it, I wanted to be 100% sure it was right.

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In a layered security approach, Cisco Umbrella might become your favorite layer!

As threats become more sophisticated, organizations are responding by introducing layers of security that go beyond just securing your internet edge and deploying anti-virus on the desktops. A big challenge with this approach is managing the often disparate systems that make up these layers. Cisco has made huge strides to correct this with their software releases this year, but in reality, it still requires a trained team to monitor and manage these solutions. Leaner IT teams are desperately looking for an easy to manage tool with nice reporting that catches the vast majority of issues. After deploying and managing Cisco Umbrella (formerly OpenDNS) for customers and for LookingPoint internally, I really believe this is the tool that will get the most use and provide the highest overall value for your security dollar.

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