All posts by Chris Chesley

Using the Cloud for Disaster Recovery

Here’s a short video I did discussing how we’ve helped clients use the cloud as a disaster recovery site. This can be a less expensive option that allows for test fail over while guaranteeing resources. If you have any questions or would like to talk about disaster recovery in the cloud in more detail, please reach out!

Using the Cloud for Disaster Recovery

Or click to watch on YouTube


By Chris Chesley, Solutions Architect


Moving to Hyper-converged from a Traditional Virtualized Infrastructure

Many organizations are moving away from traditional virtualized infrastructures to some sort of a hyper-converged option. One reason is to escape the hamster wheel of renewals. Many companies don’t have enough budget to get refreshed servers, storage, and switches every 3-5 years, so they end up splitting it up over that time span. This means every year they are spending a lot of money to upgrade individual items. It’s certainly not the most cost effective way of operating. If you move to a hyper-converged option, it consolidates all of your hardware, storage, servers and in some cases networking into one set of hardware. This makes refreshes much easier. It’s something you can plan for and is often times more cost effective. Watch the video below for more hyper-converged info!

Moving to a hyper-converged model


Or watch the video here.


Are you interested in learning if hyper-converged options are a good fit for your business? Reach out!


By Chris Chesley, Solutions Architect


Is the Cloud Right for You?

I recently presented a session entitled, “Is the Cloud Right for You?” with Randy Weis and wanted to provide a recap of the things I covered in the presentation. In this video, I discuss some of the advantages of cloud including the access to enterprise class hardware that you might not normally be able to afford, load balancers, multiple data centers, redundancy, automation and more. I also cover some of the risks associated with the cloud. Enjoy, and as always, reach out with any questions!


Download eBook: The Evolution of the Corporate IT Department


By Chris Chesley, Solutions Architect

Is the Cloud Right for You?

I recently presented a session entitled, “Is the Cloud Right for You?” with Randy Weis and wanted to provide a recap of the things I covered in the presentation. In this video, I discuss some of the advantages of cloud including the access to enterprise class hardware that you might not normally be able to afford, load balancers, multiple data centers, redundancy, automation and more. I also cover some of the risks associated with the cloud. Enjoy, and as always, reach out with any questions!

Download eBook: The Evolution of the Corporate IT Department

By Chris Chesley, Solutions Architect

4 Ways SMBs Can Take Advantage of the Cloud

While cloud adoption among SMBs continues to rise, there are still plenty of SMB customers I speak with who are reluctant to take advantage of what the cloud has to offer. Below are four examples of how cloud adoption can help SMBs excel.

Access to Enterprise Class Features

The cloud gives SMBs access to enterprise class features that many couldn’t normally take advantage of. Geo-location and load balancing are both great examples. If an SMB puts its website up on Microsoft Azure, a click of a button can put 3 copies locally and also put 3 copies in 3 different geographical locations automatically. This way if something happened at one of the locations, all of the is data already at another data center ready to spin up. Doing this without utilizing the cloud would be extremely costly and quite unrealistic for the budgets of most SMB organizations.

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

DRaaS is a cost effective insurance policy for SMBs. Instead of having to buy and maintain separate servers, SAN, storage, network, firewall, rack space, etc. I can take my backups and load them up to the cloud (Azure, vCloud Air, Cirrity, etc.). This gives me a way to have infrastructure fail over in the event of a disaster. SMBs that go this route can pay less per month to have this available than it would be buy on-prem equipment. Buying the equipment may mean that you aren’t using all of it as well.

Desktops in the Cloud

Another way SMBs can use the cloud is to host desktops. Doing this means you don’t have to buy or maintain desktops and allows for greater scalability. There are plenty of companies where users change a lot so internal IT is tasked with adding or removing users on a fairly regular basis. This means they have desktops that they need to build out manually. By hosting your desktops in the cloud, you can automatically spin up or down when needed. This not only provides cost savings, but will also save your IT department a significant amount of time.

Application Scalability

If you are running, say, Microsoft Azure, you can set Azure to utilization between 25-75% of CPU. When utilization gets above 75%, Azure is going to automatically turn up more servers and load balance them. If utilization dips below 25%, it will decommission servers. This allows for automatic scaling based on user activity. Doing this traditionally is much more expensive and in many cases not possible for SMB’s.

The bottom line is SMBs should take a closer look at cloud options that can increase efficiencies and drive down costs. If you would like to talk about this in more detail, please reach out. I’d love to have a conversation!

The corporate IT department is evolving. Has yours kept pace?

By Chris Chesley, Solutions Architect

vCloud Air: Helping a customer move to a hybrid cloud environment

As you most likely know, vCloud Air is VMware’s offering in the hybrid/public cloud space. In my opinion, it’s a great offering. It allows you to take existing virtual machines and migrate those up to the cloud so that you can manage everything with your existing virtual center. It’s also a very good option to do disaster recovery.

I worked on a project recently where the client wanted to know what they needed to do with their infrastructure. They were looking for solid options to build a foundation for their business, whether it was on-prem, a cloud-based offering, or a hybrid approach.

In this project, we ended up taking their VMs and physical servers and put a brand new host on site running VMware that’s running a domain controller and a file server. We put the rest of the production servers and test dev environment in vCloud Air. Additionally, this helped them address their disaster recovery needs. It gave them a place where they could take their systems without a lot of upfront money and have a place where they could recover their VMs in case of the event of a disaster.


Are you interested in learning more about vCloud Air? Reach out!


By Chris Chesley, Solutions Architect

Emerging Technologies Across the Storage Landscape

There has been an influx of emerging technologies across the storage landscape. Many vendors are using the exact same hardware but are figuring out ways to do a lot of smarter things with the software. In this post, I’ll cover a handful of vendors who are doing a great job innovating at the software layer to improve storage technology and performance.


Nimble was founded by the same people who did Data Domain and does data compression. Their success led to EMC buying them in June 2009. The company is known for its massively popular backup targets. They’re the one of the first ones to compress and duplicate the data as it was being stored to greatly reduce the amount of data that needed to be stored. Essentially, Nimble takes commodity solid state drives and slow 7,200 RPM spinning disks and turns it into an extremely fast, well-performing hybrid SAN, while delivering excellent compression ratios and the best support team in the business. Very simply, they’re doing smarter things with the same technology everyone else is using. It’s highly scalable and well designed. For example, you can change your controllers on the array during business hours with no interruptions, as opposed to having to wait until off hours as companies have been forced to do traditionally.


What’s interesting about DataGravity is that they have taken an entirely different approach to traditional storage. They make arrays that perform on par with just about everyone else’s, yet their secret sauce is taking unstructured, uncategorized data and categorizing it at the time it’s being written. Why is this important? A lot of companies have to keep track of Social Security Numbers, Credit Card Numbers, etc. Traditionally, you have to buy expensive software to do this. DataGravity does it at the time the Data is written. You don’t need to invest in any additional software. That sounds too good to be true, right? Every modern SAN has two storage controllers. Most are active passive or they are both on. DataGravity has one controller looking at these traditional things while the other storage controller looks at data, categorizes it and looks at data management functions. This eliminates the need for expensive compliance related software and data protection management.

Who should take advantage?

Any company that has to deal with regulatory compliance (Healthcare, Finance, etc.).


Simplivity offers hyper-converged infrastructure similar to Nuatanix, EVO Rails, and Dell Vertex. The piece that makes them unique is their dedication to reduce IO. They take all data and compress/duplicate at ingestion once and forever. This means that if I write a data block and the data is already on the storage system, there is zero IO; I don’t have to rewrite it. Furthermore, I can migrate virtual machines from one data center to another. It’s easy to migrate a 5 gig virtual machine and write less than a 100 mgs across the WAN. Also, when I clone a machine, there is no IO. IO is something companies can’t address during work hours because it takes up way too many resources and would bring them to their knees. You can’t do it without impacting the business. When you have Simplivity, there is no need for a third party backup vendor. Redundant data spreads through notes and only writes redundant blocks. It’s easy to have petabytes of backups living on terabytes of storage.

Who should take advantage?

We have a client who is currently in Massachusetts that is looking to move to a Colocation Facility in Florida. For this use case, Simplivity is a quick and easy way to migrate that data geographically without huge impacts on bandwidth, WAN costs, etc.

Pure Storage

If you’re looking for ridiculously fast storage, Pure Storage could be the solution for you. They use the same flash technology as everyone else, but they read and write to it differently so it’s much more efficient, optimized, and it matches the flash technology. Typically, vendors have been writing to flash drivers in the same way that they were treating spinning disk.

Who should take advantage?

If your organization has applications that require tremendously fast storage, this could be a good fit for you. One example would be if you have extremely demanding Oracle SAP or SQL applications.


VMware brings a lot of great benefits to the table with EVO: Rail. EVO: Rail is basically VMware SAN with prebuilt hardware that can very quickly and easily be deployed. It’s a scalable, software-defined data center building block that provides compute, networking, storage and management. Furthermore, it’s highly resilient.

Who should take advantage?

This is a good fit for organizations that have branch offices where there is a need for smaller VMware environments at multiple locations. It’s a quick, inexpensive way to manage them centrally from a virtual center.


Be sure to keep your eyes out for HP who is making innovations in flash storage. More on that soon.

Have you used any of these solutions? How have your experiences been? If you would like to talk more about this, send us an email at

What To Move To the Cloud: A More Mature Model for SMBs

what to move to the cloudMany SMBs struggle with deciding if and what to move to the cloud. Whether it’s security concerns, cost, or lack of expertise, it’s oftentimes difficult to map the best possible solution. Here are 8 applications and services to consider when your organization is looking to move to the Cloud and reduce their server footprint.


What to move to the cloud

1. Email

Obviously in this day and age email is a requirement in virtually every business. A lot of businesses continue to run Exchange locally. If you are thinking about moving portions of your business out to the cloud, email is a good place to start. Why should you move to the cloud? Simple, it’s pretty easy to do and at this point it’s been well documented that mail runs very well up in the cloud. It takes a special skill set to run Exchange beyond just adding and managing users. If something goes wrong and you have an issue, it can often times be very complicated to fix. It can also be pretty complicated to install. A lot of companies do not have access to high quality Exchange skills. Moving to the cloud solves those issues.  Having Exchange in the Cloud also gets your company off of the 3-5 year refresh cycle for the hardware to run Exchange as well as the upfront cost of the software.

Quick Tip – Most Cloud e-mail providers offer Anti-Spam/Anti-virus functionality as part of their offering. You can also take advantage of Cloud based AS/AV providers like MacAfee’s MXLogic.

2. File Shares

Small to medium sized businesses have to deal with sharing files securely and easily among its users. Typically, that’s a file server running locally in your office or at multiple offices. This can present a challenge of making sure everyone has the correct access and that there is enough storage available. Why should you move to the cloud? There are easy alternatives in the cloud to avoid dealing with those challenges. Such alternatives include Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive or using a file server in Microsoft Azure. In most cases you can use Active Directory to be the central repository of rights to manage passwords and permissions in one place.

Quick Tip – OneDrive is included with most Office 365 subscriptions. You can use Active Directory authentication to provide access through that.

3. Instant Messaging/Online Meetings

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Instant messaging can oftentimes be a quicker and more efficient form of communication than email. There are many platforms out there that can be used including Microsoft Lync, Skype and Cisco Jabber. A lot of these can be used for online meetings as well including screen sharing. Your users are looking for these tools and there are corporate options. With a corporate tool like Lync or Jabber, you can be in control. You can make sure conversations get logged, are secure and can be tracked. Microsoft Lync is included in Office 365.

Quick Tip – If you have the option, you might as well take advantage of it!

4. Active Directory

It is still a best practice to keep an Active Directory domain controller locally at each physical location to speed the login and authentication process even when some or most of the applications are services are based in the Cloud. This still leaves most companies with an issue if their site or sites are down for any reason.  Microsoft now has provided the ability to run a domain controller in their Cloud with Azure Active Directory to provide that redundancy that many SMBs do not currently have.

Quick Tip – Azure Active Directory is pre-integrated with Salesforce, Office 365 and many other applications. Additionally, you can setup and use multi-factor authentication if needed.

5. Web servers

Web servers are another very easy workload to move to the cloud whether it’s Rackspace, Amazon, Azure, VMware etc. The information is not highly confidential so there is a much lower risk than putting extremely sensitive data up there. By moving your servers to the cloud, you can avoid all the traffic from your website going to the local connection; it can all go to the cloud instead.

Quick Tip – most cloud providers offer SQL server back-ends as part of their offerings. This makes it easy to tie in the web server to a backend database. Make sure you ask your provider about this.

6. Back Up 

A lot of companies are looking for alternate locations to store back up files. It’s easy to back up locally on disk or tape and then move offsite. It’s often cheaper to store in the cloud and it helps eliminate the headache of rotating tapes.

Quick Tip – account for bandwidth needs when you start moving backups to the cloud. This can be a major factor.

7. Disaster Recovery

Now that you have your backups offsite, it’s possible to have capacity to run virtual machines or servers up in the cloud in the event of a disaster. Instead of moving data to another location you can pay to run your important apps in the cloud in case of disaster. It’s usually going to cost you less to do this.

Quick Tip – Make sure you look at your bandwidth closely when backing up to the Cloud. Measure how much data you need to backup, and then calculate the bandwidth that you will need.  Most enterprise class backup applications allow you to throttle the backups so they do not impact business.

8. Applications

A lot of common applications that SMBs use are offered as a cloud service. For example, Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. These companies make and host the product so that you don’t have to onsite. You can take advantage of the application for a fraction of the cost and headache.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to move different portions of your environment to the cloud. For the most part, it’s less expensive and easier than you may think. If I was starting a business today, the only thing I would have running locally would be an AD controller or file server. The business can be faster and leaner without the IT infrastructure overhead that one needed to run a business ten years ago.

Looking for more tips? Download this whitepaper written by our CTO Chris Ward “8 Point Checklist for a Successful Data Center Move


By Chris Chesley, Solutions Architect

Moving Email to the Cloud Part 2

By Chris Chesley, Solutions Architect

My last blog post was part 1 of moving your Email to the Cloud with Office 365.  Here’s the next installment in the series in which I will be covering the 3 methods of authenticating your users for Office 365.  This is a very important consideration and will have a large impact on your end users and their day to day activities.

The first method of authenticating your users into Office 365 is to do so directly.  This has no ties to your Active Directory.  The benefits here are that your users get mail, messages and SharePoint access regardless of your site’s online status.  The downside is that your users may have a different password than they use to get into their desktop/laptops and this can get very messy if you have a large number of users.

The second way of authenticating your users is full Active Directory integration.  I will refer to this as the “Single Sign On” method.  In this method, your Active Directory is the authoritative source of authentication for your users.  Users log into their desktop/laptop and can access all of the Office 365 applications without typing their password again, which is convenient. You DO need a few servers running locally to make this happen.  You need an Active Directory Federation Server (ADFS) and an Azure Active Directory Sync Sever. Both of these services are needed to sync your AD and user information to Office 365. The con of this method is that you need a redundant AD setup because if it’s down your users are not going to be able to access mail or anything else in the cloud.  You can do this by hosting a Domain Controller, and the other 2 systems I mentioned, in a cloud or at one of your other locations, if you have one.

The third option is what I will refer to as “Single Password.”  In this setup, you install an Azure Active Directory Sync server in your environment but do not need an ADFS server.  The Sync tool will hash your user’s passwords and send them to Office 365.  When a user tries to access any of the Office 365 services, they are asked to type in their password.  The password is then hashed and compared to the stored hash and they are let in if they match.  This does require the users to type their password again, but it allows them to use their existing Active Directory password and anytime this password changes, it is synced to the cloud.

The choice of which method you use has a big impact on your users as well as how you manage them.  Knowing these choices and choosing one that meets your business goals will set you on the path of successfully moving your services to the cloud.


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Moving Email to the Cloud, Part 1

By Chris Chesley, Solutions Architect

Many of our clients are choosing to not manage Exchange day to day and not to upgrade it every 3-5 years.  They do this by choosing to have Microsoft host their mail in Office 365.  Is this right for your business?  How do you tie this into your existing infrastructure and still have access to email regardless of the status of your onsite services?

The different plans for Microsoft Office 365 can be confusing. Regardless of what plan you get, the Exchange Online choices boil down to two options.  Exchange Plan 1 offers you 50GB mailboxes per user, ActiveSync, Outlook Web Access, Calendar and all of the other features you are currently getting with an on premises Exchange implementation.  Additionally you also get antivirus and antispam protection.  All of this for 4 dollars a month per user.

Exchange Plan 2 offers the exact same features as plan 1, with the additions of unlimited archiving, legal hod capabilities, compliance support tools and advanced voice support.  This plan is 8 dollars a user per month.

All of the other Office 365 plans that include Exchange are either plan 1 or plan 2.  For example, the E3 plan (Enterprise plan 3) includes Exchange plan 2, SharePoint Plan 2, Lync Plan 2 and Office Professional Plus for 5 devices per user.  You can take any plan and break it down to the component part and fully understand what you’re getting.

If you are looking to move email to the cloud and are currently using Exchange, who better to host your Exchange than Microsoft?  Office 365 is an even better choice if you are using, or plan on using, SharePoint or Lync.  All of these technologies are available in the current plans or individually through Office 365.

I’ve helped many clients make this transition so if you have any questions or if there’s any confusion around the Office 365 plans feel free to reach out.

My next blog will be on the 3 different authentication methods in Office 365.