Top 3 Priorities for K-12 Network Managers: Discussions at FETC

I had a lot of conversations with IT Directors, network administrators and other IT staff at FETC this past week in Orlando.  As we talked about their top priorities and challenges, there were three topics that kept coming up over and over again.

First: I don’t know what is connected to my network.

School networks have grown very quickly over the last several years and very few people could identify how many devices were on their networks. This means that valuable equipment could be lost or forgotten. One attendee told us that his boss wanted him to map the network by hand. He laughed off the idea as both time consuming and impossible to maintain accuracy in the long run.

Having a complete network diagram means you know everything connected to your network. This takes only around thirty minutes to an hour to complete and gives you deep discovery into layer 2 and layer 3.

Second: The best sessions have been around wireless issues.

Not that I am surprised, but people are very focused on making sure their wireless networks are up to snuff with all the new technology that is being so rapidly purchased. The requirement around more reliable wireless performance is real and it is not going away.

Bandwidth comes at a premium in K-12
Bandwidth comes at a premium in K-12

It is critical that schools understand their networks and how much bandwidth is flowing through it. Bandwidth monitoring is a critical component of managing a modern day school network because virtually every single activity done in a classroom today has a wireless component and where there is wireless networks; there are bandwidth hogs. Classrooms today need to use proactive bandwidth monitoring to ensure that instruction takes priority over recreation.

Third: I wear many hats.

I must have heard the sentence “I wear many hats” in 9 out of 10 conversations. The lines between teachers and IT department seem to blurring as the consumerization of IT floods the classrooms. Between schools getting 1:1 learning started, BYOD policies in place, and nearly every school purchasing technology for instructional purposes, teachers are being looked upon as first tier support for their own classrooms.

But is, does this make the IT Department’s jobs easier or harder? If teachers are doing support without the tools to quickly find and fix the source of a slowdown, doesn’t that simply create duplicate work while valuable instructional time is wasted?

There was also a welcoming for resources and expertise to help them make their job easier. To support this, we prepared  a K-12 Resource Center specifically for K-12 IT directors/managers and network administrators  that shows how network monitoring can in fact keep kids learning and teachers teaching.


2015 Trendwatch: Internet of Things and SDN

With 2015 just a few days away, folks at companies like ours are reflecting upon the past year while predicting and planning for the New Year ahead. Our recent “Happy Holidays?” survey, polled 206 IT professionals in the U.S. and asked about their 2015 resolutions. Forty-three percent of all respondents resolve to increase IT security measures. The same number of respondents pledge to solve network and IT problems faster while a much smaller percentage (14 percent, to be accurate) seek to find their network’s wireless bandwidth hoarders.

Looking outside our own walls, I’ve recently read through Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015 and here’s my take on a few of them:

Gartner Top 2015 Strategic Technology Trends (Source: Gartner)
Gartner Top 2015 Strategic Technology Trends (Source: Gartner)
  • Internet of Things (IoT): While Internet of Things-inspired usage models will open up new go-to-market opportunities, these opportunities will first require technology bets. Secondly, we also believe that proprietary competing systems for communication, data aggregation, workflow integration will proliferate – however, in order to scale well a person will need not to have picked Betamax. Additionally beyond this, Gartner’s larger point remains very important: it is time to embrace paradigm shifts and adopt new business models wherever they may come from.
  • Software-Defined Applications and Infrastructure: Many hardware constraints are giving way to configurable flexibility and elasticity, just we saw with virtualization. However, the “you can do anything” mentality has to be constrained by “so what should you be doing?” It is a classic design problem: the same components can be used properly or improperly. This is the start of an adventure, missing rules of thumb, mature standardization and, yes, knowledge that we will have a few years from now. For IT to step into this future requires: an investment in the smartest people, openness to the new, training and commitment to prudent risk training within the usual cost constraints. Speed will also be integral to gain competitive advantage – everyone is in this race.

Speaking of the Internet of Things, wearable technology and other portable Internet-enabled devices will put more and more strain on network resources including wireless bandwidth. Our Flow Monitor tool can help IT pros understand wired and wireless bandwidth consumption and network traffic. If you like, give it a try for free for 30 days.

As we head into 2015, what will the New Year have in store for IT? Only time will tell!

How the Grinch Stole Wi-Fi

There is nothing like the excitement of Christmas morning, and if history is any indicator, on Thursday morning Wi-Fi is going to slow to a crawl all over the U.S. and beyond.

There is a phenomenon that takes place every holiday season, sometimes referred to as the “Christmas effect,” when Internet traffic slows to a crawl due to the overwhelming number of devices coming online. Even Christmas lights have been known to have an adverse effect on Wi-Fi.

When coupled with the amount of web traffic generated by those trying to register new items online or reach the help desk, the Internet is literally “blowing up” around Christmas.

HowtheGrinchStoleChristmas

Gadgets Become Wi-Fi Network Hoarders

Some quick research into last year’s top selling Christmas gifts confirm that electronic devices continue to rule the present domain and that the assault on bandwidth is only really beginning. Top sellers from last year include: 1) Microsoft’s Xbox One, 2) Sony’s PS4, 3) Apple’s iPad. All three of these devices can be described as technology marvels capable of providing one-stop entertainment. They can also be looked at through the lens of being bandwidth hoarding machines that when used in tandem have the ability to dramatically slow Internet service.

The focus on electronics is again full steam ahead for 2014. New tablets, smartphones, laptops and gaming systems are only a few of the items that have service providers more than a bit worried. If that weren’t enough, 2014 has also seen a rise in wearable technologies that have been having an impact on corporate and home networks alike. Ipswitch recently completed its second annual “Happy Holidays?” survey that asked IT professionals what hot gift items were most likely to negatively impact the Internet and network performance. Not surprisingly, the top vote getters were: smartphones at 35 percent, wearable technology with 26 percent, laptops at 23 percent and tablets with 16 percent.

Christmas survey
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The Grinch Who Stole Wi-Fi

With the big day rapidly approaching organizations will be under the gun to ensure that they can handle the level of traffic to their site and field the flood of inquiries from their many new customers. Christmas represents by far the largest spike in one day traffic to the help desk. Portions of websites and bandwidth will be at a premium as customers are anxious to use their new devices and will have limited patience for slow connections and downed sites.

This is expected to be another banner year for both retailers and the electronics industry. So while all of the recipients of these hi-tech gadgets will be pleased to learn that the Grinch has spared Christmas, they may be simultaneously saddened to learn he chose to steal the Wi-Fi instead.

Check out our on-demand webinar “7 Habits of Highly Effective Network Monitoring” to learn how to simplify root cause identification, and create an up-to-date, complete picture of your company’s wired and wireless networks, servers, and applications — and keep the grinches away from your network.

 

How the Network Stole Christmas

Yesterday we announced the results of our second annual “Happy Holidays?” survey where more than 200 IT pros shared compelling data on the impact that network issues have on their ability to enjoy the holidays. To the surprise of no one, IT pros are bearing the brunt of the burden in keeping organizations operational during the holiday season.

Christmas survey
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Some of the key findings from the survey revealed that:

  • Forty-nine percent of all respondents noted they are either on-call or working this holiday season
  • Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) will be thinking about work even when they’re not in the office!
  • Who tops the IT naughty list? 24 percent of respondents said the executive suite, 20 percent thought that fellow employees should hold that distinction while 12 percent answered vendors
  • Of note, 32 percent of all survey respondents believed all three groups of people should top the network naughty list.
  • Issues they are likely to deal with over the holidays include user problems with network access as noted by 57 percent of respondents. Forgotten passwords and poor application performance tied for second with 18 percent each.
  • Of all the new gadgets likely to be gifted this Christmas, IT ranked them in this order of potential network impact: smartphones 35 percent, wearable technology, 26 percent, laptops 23 percent, and tablets at 16 percent.

Check out our on-demand webinar “7 Habits of Highly Effective Network Monitoring” to learn how to simplify root cause identification, and create an up-to-date, complete picture of your company’s wired and wireless networks, servers, and applications — and keep the grinches away from your network.

 

2015 Predictions: The Impact of the Internet of Things on the Network

internet of thingsIt’s that time of year again – when industry experts gather their predictions for the year to come. More than most industries, IT is constantly changing. With the rapid introduction of new technologies and trends, like the onslaught of the Internet of Things (IoT), IT professionals look to these expert predictions as a guide for what to expect in the New Year.

At IDC’s FutureScape: Worldwide Internet of Things 2015 Predictions web conference, the analyst firm revealed their Internet of Things predictions for 2015, specifically calling serious attention to the impact on the network over the next two to five years. The question is – will IDC be right?

Six Internet of Things Predictions from IDC That IT Professionals Should be Aware of as we Brace for 2015

  • Internet of Things and security. Within two years, 90% of all IT networks will have an IoT-based security breach, although many will be considered “inconveniences.” Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) will be forced to adopt new IoT policies.
  • Internet of Things at the edge. By 2018, 40% of IoT-created data will be stored, processed, analyzed, and acted upon close to, or at the edge, of the network.
  • Internet of Things and network capacity. Within three years, 50% of IT networks will transition from having excess capacity to handle the additional IoT devices to being network constrained with nearly 10% of sites being overwhelmed.
  • Internet of Things and non-traditional infrastructure. By 2017, 90% of datacenter and enterprise systems management will rapidly adopt new business models to manage non-traditional infrastructure and BYOD device categories.
  • Internet of Things and wearables. Within five years, 40% of wearables will have evolved into a viable consumer mass market alternative to smartphones.
  • Internet of Things and millennials. By 2018, 16% of the population will be Millennials and will be accelerating IoT adoption due to their reality of living in a connected world.

Based on IDC’s predictions it looks like the Internet of Things is going to impact everything ranging from security to storage. Additionally, considering the increase in connected devices and added data associated with those devices, it’s not surprising that IDC also highlighted the potential impact Internet of Things devices can have on the network. Over the last few years, the Internet of Things has shaped a lofty dialogue within the IT community and it doesn’t seem like it will end any time soon.

So what’s our key takeaway from all of these predictions? IT professionals shouldn’t take chances; and instead, need to take the necessary steps to plan for the issues that the Internet of Things will – almost definitely – bring to the network.

As to the question of whether IDC will be right or wrong, only time will tell, but we have a funny feeling they may be on to something.

10 Hidden BYOD Costs – and the Fixes

As your BYOD fans among your user base bring the Internet of Things onto your wireless network you need to deliver the availability and performance your users expect from the wired network. Our white paper entitled “10 Hidden BYOD Costs – and the Fixes” will help you learn how to deal with increasing network density, bandwidth consumption and security risks.

Give Thanks to your SysAdmin

With the holiday’s right around the corner, it is time for self-reflection and to focus on the people that are really important in your life – like your SysAdmin (aka your Systems Administrator). As one of the most important people you encounter during your work day, SysAdmins ensure that the network remains online and available so that you can access critical applications and be productive in your job function. It’s not an easy job and the general lack of appreciation this group feels only adds to the strain.  thanksgiving give thanks prints

We recently conducted a survey that revealed IT professionals are working harder than ever, but are still feeling underappreciated. Overall they are suffering from a general lack of respect within their organization. More than 250 SysAdmins in the U.S. took our survey and results revealed that SysAdmins aren’t looking for grand gestures – they just want to be recognized.

As we prepare to give thanks this holiday season, here are some reasons to be thankful for your SysAdmin:

  • One out of every two SysAdmins (50 percent) spends between 40-60 percent of their time reacting to network or user problems, an increase of more than 10 percent from last year. While we are spending time creating these problems, we should also be spending the time to thank the people that fix them.
  • Close to one in six (17 percent) indicated they spend a massive 60-80 percent of their time dealing with frustrations on their networks as a result of poor network behavior.
  • 34 percent would like x-ray vision to figure out the source of a problem on a network, but if that isn’t possible, half of them would just be happy with users taking a step back from online streaming.
  • Just over a third (36 percent) would like users to reboot their machines before asking for help. This is one small step for the common user and one giant step for the SysAdmin.
  • More than a third (36 percent) of SysAdmins simply want recognition for having a tough job, practically doubling from last year’s survey.

While some may think SysAdmins are knights in shining armor with a steal sword, it’s time their Halloween costumes come off and we realize they are just regular people who would like to hear a simple “thank you” or “I couldn’t get my job done without you.”This year when you are thinking about who you should be thankful for, make sure your SysAdmin is at the top of your nice list – and your bad IT habits on the naughty network list.

These IT pros work hard to arm their colleagues with the technology and support that is needed to do their jobs. Offer them some relief, invite them over for Thanksgiving desert and make sure you are the one saying a humble “thank you.

WinShock: Windows Secure Channel Vulnerability Update

Microsoft announced in their security bulletin for November that a vulnerability in SChannel could allow remote code execution, nicknamed WinShock (CVE-2014-6321). The Microsoft Secure Channel (Schannel) is the security package that implements SSL/TLS in all supported versions of Windows server and client operating systems. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if an attacker sends specially crafted packets to a Windows server. It has an overall CVSS severity rating of HIGH with a exploitability rating of 1.  

Winshock

Ipswitch immediately assessed all of its products as soon as we became aware of the vulnerability. Many Ipswitch products rely on Microsoft Windows Schannel security provider for secure communications. To protect against this vulnerability, it is recommended that all customers apply the November 2014 patches to all Windows servers and clients running Ipswitch products. The November patches also include other critical security fixes, including another remote code execution vulnerability (MS14-064), so please install all of the updates.

Please find specific instructions in this Ipswitch Knowledgebase article. As always it’s recommended that you test updates and carefully monitor the production system after making any changes.

If you have additional questions, please contact your Ipswitch account manager or preferred reseller.

 

We’re Providing Free Microsoft APM Tools for IT Teams

Yesterday we announced that we are providing systems administrators and IT teams with free tools to monitor application availability and performance for Microsoft™ Active Directory, Exchange, IIS and SQL Server applications. Systems administrators thrive in an open source world. These free tools are powerful, yet designed to be as easy to download and use as apps from the Apple or Google app store.  free

The four free application performance monitoring (APM) tools will pinpoint problems stemming from Microsoft IIS, Active Directory, SQL and Exchange.  Sysadmins can use these tools to help solve the problem they are currently having with these popular applications.

Ipswitch Free Tools that monitor availability and performance in Microsoft environments include:

Simple Solutions for Complex IT Problems

For organizations that need more robust monitoring solutions, Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold™ network and server availability monitoring software empowers IT teams in to improve the performance and availability of their complex IT infrastructure. Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold allows IT teams to gain the visibility and intelligence they need to solve problems on their networks, applications, and servers before end users experience problems.

Two Steps to Ensuring a More Successful Transition to the Cloud

The evaluations are complete and the decision has been made, a move to the cloud is in the best interest of your organization. Transferring workloads to the cloud in order to free up or discard costly on-premise resources for the fast deployment and flexibility of an elastic environment has overwhelming appeal, but now what? Despite the many advantages of a cloud environment there are still pitfalls that need to be navigated in order to ensure a positive engagement and user experience. To that end, I would offer two pieces of advice to colleagues looking to transform their organization from a strictly on-premise environment to a cloud user.  dddd

First, pick the right provider. While this may seem like an obvious and simplistic statement, I can’t begin to stress how important this is and caution how many cloud transfers have met their untimely demise due to a less than adequate partner. When evaluating service providers there are certain non-negotiable items you must account for. Chief among them are security, reliability and responsiveness. Like it or not, there is an element of control you are ceding in this relationship and top-notch support and trust are paramount. You want a secure, integrated, centrally managed and easy-to-use environment with service level agreements (SLAs) that commit to minimum standards of availability and performance, especially at peak demand. Timely responses to change requests, backup needs and security patches are also key considerations.

Second, choose the right workloads. The cloud can be a powerful and efficient tool for your business, but it does not mean that every application is best suited to reside in a cloud environment. When developing your integration strategy keep in mind that low to medium security workloads, those without stringent latency requirements, and where the workload is elastic with variable traffic will work well.  Some workloads need data to be frequently pulled in-house for use by other systems and are perhaps best left in-house.  High-security and compliance monitoring needs are also more suited for on-premise use.  Keep integration requirements in mind as some workloads that are tied to proprietary hardware are also not good candidates for public clouds but may be fine for a private or hybrid environment.

The cloud can transform your organization if you manage it correctly, but it takes due diligence on your part to ensure that the move goes as planned. By doing your research ahead of time and developing a list of key considerations for your business, you can ensure that the process will be both smooth and successful.

 

 

Guest Blog (EMA): What Makes Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold Different

In July of this year, Enterprise Management Associates published a landscape review entitled EMA Enterprise Network Availability Monitoring Systems (ENAMS) Radar Report 2014.  A blog post written by my colleague Jim Frey on the EMA site reviews the scope and objectives of the report.  The study covered Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold version 16, along with sixteen other ENAMS from fifteen other vendors. Picture1

In EMA’s view, Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold is a well-known, established product with a history that spans more than two decades and that has been especially popular among the small-medium enterprises. Over the past several years, Ipswitch has substantially enhanced the WhatsUp Gold solution suite to address an expanded range of network management functions including flow monitoring, configuration, mapping, and IP address management. And while Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold remains at its core a network management solution, the broader suite now covers other managed domains as well, including virtual servers, VoIP, logs, and application monitoring.

Some of the areas where Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold stood out among its peers within our study included:

  • Single pane of glass – This is especially critical in small/medium enterprise environments where less is more. Network managers need one “go to” screen that provides information on the current state of the network and alerts them to problems before they reach critical mass. Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold has been designed to do this by bringing together a broad range of management information into intuitive, informative consoles and dashboards.
  • Customizable dashboards –The expansion of Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold to support monitoring of other IT domains makes it an ideal cross team monitoring platform – a point validated by our conversations with current Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold users during the course of our study. When a product is being used for cross platform monitoring, it becomes necessary to be able to create custom views for various teams, such as server administrators or VoIP managers versus network operators. Within Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold, dashboards can be easily defined and adjusted to meet the individual needs of technical and non-technical personnel. WhatsUp Gold users called this out specifically as being a capability that they found to be highly valuable.
  • Cost advantage – EMA analysis indicated that Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold product licensing and maintenance costs are very competitive, particularly as smaller managed environments grow. The simplicity of the Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold licensing model contributes favorably towards keeping costs scalable.

While the ENAMS market sector must be considered mature, that does not mean the technology is any less relevant today than it was ten or twenty years ago. If anything, the criticality of the network as part of the core business infrastructure has made network health an imperative across organizations of all sizes.

Small/medium enterprises are growing at a much faster rate than their large enterprise counterparts, and need solid, cost-effective choices for network management that fit between “free” open source tools at one end of the spectrum complex and costly full blown enterprise solutions at the other end. Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold has been designed specifically for this purpose.

— Guest blog by Tracy Corbo, Principal Research Analyst, Enterprise Management Associates