Posted: Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
During last month’s Supertsorm Sandy, New York datacentres, like so much of the city’s infrastructure, felt the havoc wreaking power of the storm’s brutal force. Datacentres are built with natural disasters in mind and the storm gave DC providers an unwelcome opportunity to put their backup systems to the test; the success these companies had at dealing with such forces of nature was mixed.
Major providers such as AT&T stood confidently secure in the knowledge that their $600m investment; including 320 technology mobile trailers and fuel tankers, were ready to be positioned where needed. Further preparations to increase their wireless capacity were enacted to see through the full strength of the storm. Some datacentres also deployed generators in the areas expected to be hit by superstorm Sandy and placed employees in the considerably safer eastern region, on standby or in hotels close to the datacentre, to ensure fast response when necessary.
Others fared less well, seemingly waiting to execute the recovery plans mid-storm and switching to back up power in the middle of the event. Datacentres, positioned within the regional and local FEMA flood zone maps, were reduced to watching their backup systems fail; as flooding crippled the diesel pumps based in high risk areas such as basements and prevented fuel from being pumped to the generators.
In the next few months experts will ascertain the long standing impact of the storm on datacentre systems and no doubt ways in which to improve resilience will be initiated. These facilities are highly controlled and designed to cope with disasters – but for many the storm effectively broke through their cocooned environment; one datacentre even experienced temperatures rising above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The loss of connectivity across New York had a significant impact on organisations’ internet access and web presence; Huffington Post, Gawker, Gizmodo and BuzzFeed all went down during the storm when their web hosting company’s infrastructure was flooded.
In many ways Sandy illustrated just how much we have come to rely on the internet. Record numbers of Americans turned to online video to view news updates and eye witness accounts, and social media was abuzz with the latest news on the storm and the resulting crisis. For those without access though – individuals and organisations; an essential service, a utility if you like, was lost. Of course the storm also illustrated that as important as connectivity is to us, like much of the infrastructure we rely on it is still fallible in the face of these types of disasters.
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Posted: Thursday, May 10th, 2012
Fluidata Olympic Countdown: 78 Days to go
Cyber war – a topic of much public discussion over recent months and now we hear a potential threat to the upcoming Olympics.
The Olympics provides an ideal target for foreign intelligence agencies to make high profile disruptions during a time when the global focus is upon London. Minister Francis Maude has highlighted this threat from cyberspace as a ‘genuine menace’ which will possibly create disorder during what was hoped to be a smoothly run games. He bases this claim on 12 million hacking attempts which took place in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, fear not, behind the scenes the government have been fully aware of this potential risk, with Maude assuring that a highly trained team of professionals will be guarding computer networks throughout the vulnerable weeks ahead. Due preparations have been made.
What seems to be the key is remaining ahead of the threat by constantly investing in the latest security solutions, as according to Maude “what works one day is unlikely to work a matter of months or even weeks later”. In order to facilitate such quick responses the government have set aside a budget of £650m to deal with cyber attacks. Whilst it remains to be seen how the government will cope, they seem to be confident that everything within their power has been done to ensure a successful and incident-free Olympics.
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Posted: Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
Dr Peter Cochrane, BT’s former Chief Technology Officer (CTO), last week claimed that the battery backup’s in the new BT fibre cabinets could be a target to for thieves “Once the local bandits have recognised that there is a car battery in the bottom, you can bet you’re your bottom dollar that a crowbar will be out and the battery will keep disappearing”.
The kind of public statement that you suspect can’t of pleased BT, yes there might not be too many local bandits tuning in to the Lords Select Committee Inquiry, but any that were might well be adding these cabinets to their list of criminal ventures for the week ahead. Perhaps more importantly though, it raised serious questions about the resiliency of the FTTC service BT provides.
Rest assured though, BT tells us that these cabinets are alarmed, and that if the power supply were removed, the cabinet wouldn’t be affected.
Fingers crossed that this is the case, as we have witnessed numerous instances of telecoms based theft over the past few years, theft which has left customers without critical services. Two years ago Fluidata experienced a high number of clients in Luton losing service on DSL based connections, when travellers stole copper out of the ground, while there has been similar incidents reported in Swansea, Kent and Lancashire over the last few months. Theft of DSLAM’s from exchanges has also compromised telecom services over the years, as has datacentre break-in’s – most recently in King Cross, where criminals poising as policeman were able to break in, tie up staff, and steal computer equipment.
Measures are always taken to mitigate against these instances, be it improved security or new improved burglar alarms, but it’s not always possible to protect against every act of criminality or sabotage.
So next time you experience loss of service, while you might assume it’s some kind of system glitch or cable cut it might just as easily be the actions of a petty bandit.
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Posted: Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
According to reports yesterday over 5% (275,000) BT customers lost connectivity due to a power failure at a major BT exchange in the Birmingham area. Connections started to drop 13:00 and most residential customers began to see their services logging back on 15:00 onwards.
However surprisingly it was business connections with higher SLAs and uptime assurances that had to wait even longer for services to return to normal. Reports from the BBC indicate that they did not see their connectivity restore for a “slightly longer period”. Whilst we do not know what constitutes as ‘slightly longer’ we do know that even two hours in the business world is two hours too long with no internet service. The fact that it happened as well during the day when most businesses would notice and less consumers would probably didn’t help matters.
While an SLA is a demonstration of an ISPs confidence in their network it will mean little, as some BT customers found out, in times of outages where it takes time to restore services. The problem is any compensation is going to be insignificant to the frustration and potential lost business. Much better to actually invest in a technology that is delivered over two networks so you aren’t just relying on one, such as our PureFluid or ADVANCE products which always use multiple carriers to ensure maximum uptime.
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Posted: Thursday, August 25th, 2011
Two weeks ago, with the skyline of London and other cities across the UK slowly filling with the black smoke of burning cars and buildings, many were speculating about how much damage the riots would cause – both economically and socially. We often think about the immediate effects of the damage, i.e. loss of destroyed or looted stock, reduction in trading hours, but it seems that some of our retail clients and SME’s were also considering the cost of losing corporate data in such an event.
The riots illustrated that without warning one could encounter disruption to their current office environment. A loss of one’s premises is a serious enough matter, yet if the right measures are put in place to ensure that data is stored and backed up in an offsite location, the risk of losing everything that keeps your business going is greatly reduced. Cloud technology allows business to store information off-site in a high security data centre. With a multi-layered approach including security personnel, CCTV, motion detection and key fob access, data centres are a safe place for your data and can be accessed quickly and easily by employees through any form of internet access.
As part of our ‘tried and tested’ methodology, every member of staff in the company runs desktops hosted in the datacentres with information being shared between multiple physical locations simultaneously. This means that the backup is actually the version we use day to day, making the switch to another location easier and less of a disruption to staff. So in the actual offices we don’t have any servers and the desktops just run a client to access the user desktops. Therefore should we suffer an issue (riots or not!) with the office our disaster recovery plan can be quickly executed.
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Posted: Friday, June 10th, 2011
In the business world, network redundancy has been high on the agenda post 9/11. We’re in an age where businesses are increasingly reliant upon technology to underpin their day to day operation; prolonged network failures are more costly than ever before.
One common indicator of a connection’s reliability and resilience is the SLA, and in particular – the uptime guarantee. SLA’s are a useful guide to how robust a service is, they provide a reflection of a company’s confidence in the service they deliver and should provide assurance that the connection supplied is of a certain grade, and augmented by fixed response and fix times and round the clock support.
However an SLA’s uptime promises can sometimes blind organisations into assuming that they’ve mitigated against all points of failure and failing to look into their network topology. Consider this; if businesses were to quantify the cost of having business critical systems suffer an outage, are these costs compensated by the SLA on offer?
Five years ago, Fluidata brought an innovative aggregation platform to market called PureFluid. This bonds multiple circuits and/or technologies (ADSL/ADSL2+/SDSL/ 3G) from multiple providers, all lines deliver over the same IP subnets allowing for seamless failover in the event of a fault on one of the circuits or networks.
For this solution Fluidata provide an SLA of 99.99% in terms of service uptime and network availability. We believe, that perhaps with the exception of diverse fibre digs, we’d be hard pushed to provide a more resilient service and as such a higher SLA. After all no connectivity service is infallible.
Yet 100% SLA’s do exist in the industry, providing promises that are hard to keep. Typically when you investigate the design of these solutions, the points of failure and Terms and Conditions’ that back them up are not sufficient. All I am saying is beware the semantics and drill down to what’s actually deliverable and why.
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Posted: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
We all know that social media is rapidly changing the way we live, work and play. In business, its power to interact with clients and prospects in a live, dynamic and more “off the cuff” manner is being embraced by everyone from the vibrant tech start up’s in Hoxton to your more traditional accountancy and legal firms.
Social Media is fast replacing traditional means of corporate communication. At the launch of Facebook’s new messaging service last December, Mark Zuckerberg predicted email would “go the way of the letter because it was too slow and too formal” and there is no short of commentators on the web hailing the ‘beginning of the end of email’. Whether these obituaries are premature or not, we’re certainly witnessing a change in the way we communicate as a business, even with the use of email itself – as Mimecast shed light on last month -when revealing that 85% of 25 year olds and under sent work related emails from personal accounts.
Indivisible from one another, how we work and how we communicate is subject to increasing flexibility, we’re both breaking free from the confines of our offices to work from wherever, whenever and shedding the formalised structures and templates letters and emails have shackled us with in the past. But this freedom comes with its caveats, and for our clients in IT positions it’s likely to cause some security headaches.
The threats posed by home and mobile users contaminating company networks with the latest malicious viruses, is well documented, as are the ways to protect yourself i.e. using secure private networks or setting up VPN gateways. However, if users are sending company data from personal emails accounts then those measures are undermined and sensitive corporate information is compromised. Add social media sites into the mix-many of which are a fertile breeding ground for malware, spam and other such menace and network security can start to look vulnerable.
How to protect oneself is as much about having a sensible policy and educating staff as it is about technology. What company information is being made public on these sites? Might it compromise an organisations intellectual property, reputation or offer a bread crumbed trail into an organisations network? What devices are people sending information from (these days could be anything from a home PC to a tablet or a smart phone) and how well protected are they?
If you can’t answer these sort of questions unequivocally – it might be time to review your security policy.
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Posted: Thursday, July 29th, 2010
We live in the digital age. IT, and the internet in particular, is now as important as steam to the industrial revolution, as the guillotine to the French revolution, as stone to the Stone Age, as ice to the… well you see where I’m going, and I could go on, but in short, it’s fundamental to the way we live. And to the way we work.
Embracing new technology is smart. It makes sense to, say, invest in video conferencing and reduce employees time spent travelling between offices, or enable your clients to download your latest digital software. But what if it goes wrong? Often companies pay thousands to benefit from these systems, and if they like them soon make them integral to the day-to-day running of their businesses. However despite a reliance (possibly an over reliance) on IT and internet-based applications, the levels of care and precaution exercised over them are often equivalent to the protection 18th century seaman afforded to their genital regions.
It’s easier to see why in some respects. We all love purchasing new shiny gadgets, performance maximising applications, time saving systems. But things like firewalls, backup connectivity lines, email security systems… well there about as riveting as a UK Gold re-run of Family Fortunes. “Buy this thing, never really use it and see no tangible benefits from in case you have a disaster.” It’s no easy sell, it’s insurance and insurance is just not sexy.
Now you never want to scare people into buying anything. But with all these spybots and botnets, Trojan horses and dancing pigs, malwares and other malevolent sounding digital saboteurs circulating your network, doesn’t investment in a robust network security system make sense? If all your critical data is in your server room might it not be wise to ensure business continuity by backing up your data or hosting some of your servers in a secure data centre? And what about the internet? Most of us can’t do without Facebook for a day or two but what are the financial ramifications if ,like in Luton recently, copper is stolen out of the ground, your business is potentially without internet for 2 weeks?
Clearly not investing in a business continuity policy can have perilous consequences. So If you haven’t already, start giving some thought to DR, backups, resilient solutions and all the rest of it. Yes these things require further investment, but the cost of them pales in comparison to the cost of losing your critical systems for a period of time. In short, strap up, protect yourself – you’ll be grateful you did.
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Posted: Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
Cloud computing is the current ‘buzzword’ in the industry, exciting in premise, but still in its infancy and awash with ambiguities.
For some years we’ve been successfully delivering Layer-2 private wide area networks to our customers using our PWAN technology, and could see the progression from this to cloud-based environments. Our imminent office move has given us the opportunity to put these ideas into practice.
I am writing this article at my desk in the office. The actual machine is virtual (ie not installed on my local PC), residing in one of our datacentres. And that is not all – so is everything my virtual PC talks to such as Exchange, SQL and our intranet.
By using the PWAN technology, moving the firewall into the cloud was the first step so that our offices (just opened another outside of London) could communicate on private IP to the datacentres without a VPN (Layer 2). This then meant that office servers could be moved and accessed from the datacentre. IP addressing, Active Directory, DNS etc all now reside in the datacentre and serve our local networks through the PWAN. We then went through the process of virtualising the desktops to VMware’s excellent ESX product, so that each desktop is still independent to the other and accessed via the Remote Desktop application.
We’re left with the latest Windows 7 software on our existing PCs, with the flexibility to hot desk to any PC in either of our offices, or anywhere in the world via a VPN to the PWAN. And because the majority of traffic is only mouse clicks, keyboard strokes and screen refreshes, our usage of the network has actually dropped.
We will continue to adapt the virtual network, but with the flexibility of our new hosted environment there is an infinite amount of customisation possible. I am sure more businesses will follow our lead when they realise how easily it can be implemented.
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Posted: Sunday, May 9th, 2010
This week has seen the launch of our new network operations centre (NOC) in Hemel Hempstead. Located in our Centro datacentre this new team will be taking over all 24/7 support duties, seeing Fluidata move away from the existing out of hours on-call setup to a permanently manned helpdesk.
This change has been driven in part by the surge in collocation at the state of the art Centro facility. An important part of the support we provide with collocation is having our own trained and experienced engineers on site at all times, ready and able to assist with any emergencies our customers may have.
The new team is currently undergoing our intensive training course and they are expected to take to the phones at the start of May. The new NOC also benefits from a live 24/7 video linkup with the London support team, with the two offices being combined into a single support family through high definition video conferencing.
We intend and hope that the transition process will be go unnoticed by our customers, as the Centro NOC steadily takes over more day-to-day support and technical responsibilities. Growth of the support staff base will then be focused on Centro, so that our ability to deliver experienced 24/7 and UK based support will continue to set the standard in the industry.
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