The future is virtual.
Not in the nightmarish way of movies like The Matrix, but in the way that everyone, especially businesses, will or should be storing data and running software within 5 years.
Amos Swan is Managing Director of Acronyms Ltd, an IT company based in Plymouth which specialises in providing and supporting IT based business systems.
He says: “Businesses that don’t start using virtualisation to handle their data storage and computing requirements within the next five years are going to find themselves at a significant disadvantage in terms of storage capacity, access speed, security and proofing against equipment failure.”
“This could mean using a mix of building based servers and virtual or cloud storage, feeding into dumb desktop work stations. Whatever the mix of sources, it is a complex environment that needs powerful, flexible software to handle it and this year there has been a significant development in that area.”
That development is the recent launch of Microsoft Server 2012. More than an upgrade, it seems that the massive company has listened very carefully to the IT community regarding issues that needed to be addressed in previous versions and requirements for the future.
Chief amongst these is in the field of virtualisation, with Server 2012 offering more features and functionality than the current market leader, VMware. Server 2012 will also compete very well on price.
Mr Swan says: “One of the most significant features is Replica for Hyper-V. Put simply this vastly improves options for disaster recovery, in this case data loss, with a very flexible system of saving replicated or mirrored data in a compressed form from a primary to a replica server.”
Other improvements include the new Resilient File System (ReFS) which replaces the now long in the tooth NTFS and FAT standards and brings benefits in terms of expanded storage capacity and less need for constant defragmentation. Dynamic Access Control, another new feature, speeds up access to information for all certified users, beefs up security and also improves security and auditing of data for compliance purposes.
Mr Swan adds: “The slumbering Microsoft giant has woken up in 2012 with some impressive products, especially for business where it has always been the market leader.
“Windows Server 2012 is an excellent solution for business users especially those looking to overhaul their old server or standalone PC systems, and together with the Windows 8 operating system which also launches this year and the very well designed Surface tablet computer they are going to take the lead in many areas.”
Acronyms Ltd prides itself on supplying practical and cost-effective software and hardware installations to business and education sectors, and in explaining options and potential pitfalls in plain English.
A Plymouth IT support company is hailing Microsoft’s new tablet computer, the Surface, as being the best for business and education use.
Acronyms Ltd, based at Tamar Science Park, will supply the device to its customers after the release date on October 26th 2012.
Acronyms Ltd Managing Director Amos Swan says: “The Surface represents a very well thought through and designed evolution of the tablet computer, and incorporates several features which will make it more flexible, easier to use and more practical than the iPad or other tablets.”
“Chief amongst these is that it has been designed by Microsoft to work with the Windows 8 operating system, which will be released at the same time. Software such as the Microsoft Office package is almost ubiquitous in the business environment, so work done on the Surface will transfer seamlessly between it and PCs back in the workplace, with none of the problems of compatibility encountered when trying to copy work from Mac or Android operating systems.”
The Surface supports Flash so all websites and programmes which use it will present correctly on screen
The Surface has some innovative physical design features. The tablet comes with a cover which incorporates a full QWERTY keyboard which is easier to use when typing and doesn’t take up half the screen like virtual keyboards. Users can swap between keyboard and 10.6" touch screen operation instantly. Covers for other tablets, such as the Smart Cover for iPad 2, don’t incorporate keypads and are only available at extra cost.
The back of the Surface has a kickstand which props the screen at a comfortable viewing angle, and the rear camera is angled so that when the stand is used it views the environment from a level position opening up possibilities for interactive conferencing in the classroom or boardroom.
Also in the box is a stylus which works with Digital Ink technology to make writing or drawing on the screen easy and accurate.
The Surface will come with different amounts of built in data storage capacity, up to 128GB, but it also has a range of expansion options including USB 3 ports on the pro version and Micro SD card compatibility (capable of up to 2Tb). There is a video output to run larger screens too.
Mr. Swan continues: "The Surface has finally bridged the gap between the portability of a tablet and the practicality of a laptop, as easy to carry and use as the former and as flexible and powerful as the latter."It will also be attractively priced. In this case aggressive pricing by Microsoft reflects a desire to penetrate the market, not because of skimping on quality or features. We think The Surface will be a huge hit with leisure users and especially with businesses and educators."
Plymouth based IT company Acronyms has issued an urgent warning about a new and brazen scam which could open up computers to attack.
The warning follows a rise in scam emails being received by businesses across Devon, particularly those purporting to be from banks.
MD Amos Swan explained: “We are all aware, or certainly should be, that if you receive an email from your bank telling you that there is a problem with your account this is almost certainly a scam. It certainly will be if your name is not used but you are referred to as “Dear Customer”, likewise with similar emails that purport to be from PayPal or courier companies.”
But he said there is an alarming trend toward a more insidious and considerably more convincing fraud technique with businesses and private individuals being telephoned to inform them that they have a problem with their PC.
Callers state they are from Microsoft or represent another leading IT manufacturer such as Hewlett Packard, Dell or IBM and ask users to check their PC settings.
They will tell you there is a problem and attempt to navigate you to a site from which they can take control of your machine remotely which can leave users vulnerable as they can disable security systems, removing anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware software. They could also install software directly onto machines. This software could log your account details for banks, credit card transactions and business sensitive details, such as passwords, amongst other threats,” said Mr Swan.
“Please be aware that Microsoft and most other manufacturers will not contact you directly or even know that you have a problem with your PC. Unfortunately these types of scams are becoming more frequent, so if someone calls you and you are not expecting them to, ask them to confirm who they are and that the call is legitimate. If they cannot, or if you have any suspicions, just end the call.”
Amos Swan, Managing Director of Plymouth-based Acronyms IT, has some good news for small businesses that are considering installing Microsoft business operating systems.
He says: “Previous Microsoft releases of this type of software have had faults which have resulted in expensive computer downtime while the problem is fixed and, in some extreme cases, loss of important data. Naturally this has made both system administrators and users somewhat wary of purchasing or using them. ”
However, the newly released Windows Small Business Server 2011 (SBS 2011), which comes in three different versions, bundles together several component applications which are all now tried and tested.
The use of servers which aren’t physically located in the business premises, and applications which are not stored on the user’s computer, is increasingly prevalent, and is often these days referred to as “Cloud” computing. Typically Cloud computing providers deliver common business applications online that are accessed from the internet, while the software and data being used are stored on remote servers.
SBS 2011 is designed for companies, with up to 75 users, which need enterprise class server technologies for communications and collaboration, while SBS 2011 Premium adds powerful data management and analysis tools. These systems can either be located on site or in a Cloud environment.
“Installing theses Microsoft packages will be painless,” says Mr Swan. “Acronyms IT recommends them as they are specifically designed for small businesses and provide a solid, reliable business operating system.”
However, he adds a note of caution: “One of the main problems we encounter, other than software faults, is unsuitable broadband connectivity. With the rise of Cloud computing too many businesses are entrusting their important data transfer and communications to domestic standard broadband. Unfortunately for some customers, due to their location the speed of their connection is not fast enough at this time to make Cloud computing viable, but with the planned infrastructure changes in the South West, we are not far off this type of technology becoming the norm .”
Acronyms IT is based at Tamar Science Park, Derriford, and has been providing plain-English IT assistance since 2003.
Photo: the Acronyms IT team, with Amos Swan seated far right.
TWO Tamar Science Park companies have been working closely together – an example of the business support available at the park.
Technology specialist Acronyms Ltd and its neighbouring marketing firm Formedia have a reciprocal arrangement.
Acronyms Ltd provides office IT support for Formedia and in return receives advice and copy-writing expertise for its sales and information publications.
Formedia's managing director Jonathan Mills said: "As well as providing PR services for the park itself, new companies moving onto the site receive an initial burst of PR from Formedia as part of their support package.
"TSP provides a fully supported business environment. On a formal and informal basis it provides opportunities for businesses to meet, swap ideas and interact."
Acronyms Ltd recently supplied a new IT system for Plymouth solicitors Woollcombe Yonge.
Amos Swan, managing director of Acronyms, said the work included creating increased data storage and processing power, and freeing up desk space using smaller monitors.
"We've introduced a real step-change into Woollcombe Yonge's office IT set up," he said.
Meanwhile, Formedia has rebranded and built a new website for Woollcombe Yonge, and continues to provide public relations.
Tracey Baker, managing partner of Woollcombe Yonge, said: "It's a good example of how TSP clients interact with established businesses and bring benefits to Plymouth and the wider area."
THE Tamar Science Park says its technologically advanced data centre is becoming a major boost in attracting inquiries from firms wishing to move in or expand.
The 'flagship' centre is one of only two ICT co-location facilities of its kind in the South West.
Its associated ICT services are also being credited with playing a key role in securing the contract to manage the new Innovation Centre in Pool, Cornwall, submitted in conjunction with the University of Plymouth.
Located within the TSP's Phase 4 development, the data centre is a purpose-built 90sqm ICT co-location environment, hosting 30 racks.
The science park team worked with designers to ensure it would meet clients' needs. ICT operations manager Jonathan Harris (right) said: "We were involved in every step of the design and development and have specifically positioned the facility to attract inward investment from the ICT and related technology sectors.
"It was essential we could meet expectations of start-ups, developing businesses and those already established with advanced ICT requirements, within a leading technology incubation facility. The network infrastructure, mechanical and electrical plant, security and environmental controls, position the data centre as a professional co-location facility."
Amos Swan, a director of computer services company Acronyms, said: "The data centre was an important factor when deciding whether to move to the park. It meant we can increase our offering and provide high-level outsourced IT packages."
TSP client Email Protection Agency (EPA) has moved from Phase 2 into Phase 4 of the park. Daniel Tribe, a customer service engineer, said: "We recently expanded the team and needed to increase office space.
"Moving to Phase 4 seemed the obvious option, allowing us to work next to the data centre. It's one of the top facilities in the region and well monitored by the IT team on the park."
Mr Harris founded, and currently chairs, the UK Science Park Association ICT Forum, which shares best practice in ICT delivery within knowledge-based sector parks and business incubation facilities. The group is developing a best-practice framework to help shape ICT services.
TSP is also represented on the Digital Plymouth project, to stimulate investment in Next Generation Access infrastructure, leading to higher-speed telecommunications networks.
MOVING IN: Amos Swan and Dave Smith of Acronyms pictured at Tamar Science Park
IT SUPPORT specialists Acronyms Ltd has moved to Plymouth's Tamar Science Park to help grow the business and enable them to meet client demand.
Acronyms Ltd was launched by directors Amos Swan and Dave Smith in 2003 and was previously located at the City Business Park, in Stoke.
The firm has continued to grow, and now has a nationwide portfolio of clients and local businesses such as Drake Circus mall and Stratton Creber Commercial.
Mr Swan said "We are thrilled to have moved to Tamar Science Park. We now have our data centre on site which means we will be able to provide clients with a faster, more efficient service.
"City Business Park has proven to be a fantastic springboard for us. It gave Acronyms instant credibility and proved to be a great environment in which to grow over the past seven years.
"Now however we feel the time is right to move up to the next level.
"Tamar Science Park is the beginning of a new chapter for Acronyms; it will enable us to continue developing the range of IT services that we will be able to offer our clients."
Tamar Science Park's deputy chief executive Nina Sarlaka said: "Acronyms is a quality home-grown Plymouth company with a good track record and ambition to grow further.
"I am delighted to welcome the team to Tamar Science Park and look forward to our dedicated IT and specialist business support services assisting their growth in the future."
TECHNICAL SUPPORT: General manager of Drake Circus Mike Jones (centre) with Acronyms directors Dave Smith and Amos Swan
IT CONSULTANT Acronyms Ltd has won a contract to provide specialist technical support to Drake Circus mall.
The shopping centre is only the latest high-profile client from the South of England to be secured by the company.
Acronyms was launched by directors Amos Swan and Dave Smith in 2003 and currently employs seven technical staff at the City Business Park. As well as providing IT support services, Acronyms is also a specialised Microsoft partner.
Mr Swan said: "We have significant expansion plans in the pipeline for 2010 and the award of a contract such as this gives us great confidence for the future."
Mike Jones, general manager at Drake Circus, said: "The team from Acronyms really listened to our IT needs and we're delighted with the solutions they have presented. An efficient and effective IT system is vital to the operation of a busy shopping centre."