Welcome Thomas Baker

We are proud to introduce the newest edition to our B.I.T.S. team, Mr. Thomas Baker.  Thomas joined our team in June of 2016 and brings a range of new skills to the team.  He has a background in Web Technologies and has helped to expand our service offerings to include Web Site Design and Hosting.  Thomas holds a Sales and Technical Support Certification for cPanel, the #1 Web Hosting Control Panel in use today.  Thomas is a recent graduate from WVU Tech in Montgomery, and holds a B. S. in Information Systems and a minor in Business Administration.  As part of his senior graduation requirements Thomas and his partner developed a Sandwich Ordering System for the Bear’s Den, an on-campus sandwich shop.  The system provides a website that can be accessed from a mobile device or computer and allows you to place an order for a sandwich and provide a pickup time.  The order prints out at the Bear’s Den where the staff can queue the sandwich order up and have it ready to purchase when you arrive.  The Sandwich Ordering System is still in use by the Bear’s Den, even after Thomas and his partner have graduated.  The project was so well-received that it has been featured in the WVU Tech Alumni Magazine, BearTracks, which can be viewed here:  http://www.wvutech.edu/magazine.

In addition to working at Jacobs & Company B.I.T.S. and graduating from WVU Tech, Thomas started his own Web Hosting business – AMG Network Hosting – as a hobby in 2009, while still in high school.  AMGNH hosts sites and cloud services for over 300 customers from around the world through partnerships with accredited datacenters.  In addition to starting this company, Thomas has four additional volunteer employees who give their time to AMGNH.  Thomas also partners with Harrison County Business Education programs to provide Website Hosting to all of their Web Site Publication Classes – at no cost.

Originally from the Clarksburg/Bridgeport area, Thomas lived off-campus in Montgomery while attending school.  He and his girlfriend Jasmine recently moved from Montgomery to Charleston and are enjoying living on Charleston’s East End.  They have a family of pets who are also enjoying their new home in Charleston.  These pets include cats, dogs, hamsters, and lizards.  Thomas also recently became a Notary and when asked why he replies, “Because it was something I wanted to do so I went out and did it.”

Apple Worldwide Developer Conference

The months of May and June seem to be conference season for nearly all of the major players in the world of technology. Cisco, Microsoft, and Apple are among some of the most notable companies who have recently had conferences for their communities of partners and developer. This past month, Apple had their week-long developer conference. The keynote for this conference always gives us a taste of the new things Apple has on the horizon — things like a new version of iOS for iPhones, iPods, and iPads that will be available in the fall. This usually kicks off a flurry of anticipation about the updated hardware for many of these devices that, like clockwork, can be expected to go along with the software release in the fall.

Apple announced iOS 7 during their keynote speech. iOS 7 has a new set of flat looking icons and makes use of layers to give you a feeling of depth. These layers use the sensors in the phone to create in certain circumstances a 3D effect in the user interface. As you tilt the device, the items seem to float above their background. The new operating system promises a host of new features, but Apple only highlighted a few during the presentation. A new Control Center for quicker access to common functions and settings, improvements to multitasking, and updates to apps like Safari, Pictures, Camera, and Music are a few of the new features they did highlight. You can get a lot more info about these features and others at http://www.apple.com/ios/ios7/. I will also be writing about some of the features as I learn more about them, like new parental controls in Safari and enterprise single sign on.

Mac OSX Mavericks, a new desktop operating system for the Mac desktops and laptops, was also announced with a host of new features like tagging, and multi-monitor support being extended to apple TV. The MacBook Air received a host of hardware upgrades, including a faster processor and faster hard drive storage. The theme of the day for hardware updates was certainly “faster.” We also got a video sneak peek at new Mac Pro desktops. The “tower” is a shiny black cylinder filled with lots of super-fast components. Faster flash based hard drives, faster RAM, a faster more efficient CPU, and 2 blazing fast graphics processors. It’s so fast it’s blowing my hair back as I tell you about it. Finally, Apple also talked about updates to their Airport wireless access points. The new access points support the new 802.11ac standard. The previous standard you may have seen on the boxes at your local BestBuy was N. This new standard standard is capable of 3x the speeds of N. One of the new Airports introduced also includes Time Capsule, which is Apple’s backup software, and up to 3TB of storage. For reference, that’s just over 6x the storage of a 500GB hard drive.

Summer is full of conferences and release events. Keep your eye out for lots more from Apple, Microsoft, and other companies over the next few months.

Virtual Machine Disaster Recovery

One of the single greatest features of virtual machines is how easy it is to use for disaster recovery. If you can imagine that an entire server is nothing more than a file on a hard drive, you can easily see how easy it could be to backup and restore a virtual machine. Backup can be as simple as turning off the virtual machine, copying it to another hard drive, then turning the virtual machine back on. That’s it. No magic, no smoke and mirrors, just copy it and go just like a Word or Excel file. If you need to restore it, just copy it back, find the file with the Hypervisor software, and start it right up!

Ok, so maybe it isn’t quite that easy, because depending on how much data is packed into that file it could still take hours to make the copy of the file. What if you can’t afford to turn the server off to back it up, what then? Well, making a copy of the drive is not the only way to back up your virtual server. Backing up the server is also not the only way to recover from a disaster when you are talking about virtual machines. Virtual machines can be moved between physical servers over a network with no downtime. They can also be replicated on a regular basis to another location, and those copies of the virtual server be brought online quickly in the event of a major disaster at your office. You can force a virtual server or group of servers to move to another machine while you take a physical server down for maintenance like upgrading the memory or doing an update to the hypervisor without turning the virtual servers off and interrupting service, then move them back when you finish.

Another feature of virtual machines that helps reduce the risk of a disaster is the snapshot feature. A snapshot is a picture of everything on the virtual machine as it was when the snapshot was taken that can then be rolled back to if a problem comes up. An example would be you are installing a new version of your accounting software, you reboot the server, and before Windows loads it crashes every time you try to restart. Don’t worry. All is not lost, because you took a snapshot just before you started installing the software. Just choose the last snapshot you took in the hypervisor and roll back to it. Now it is like it never happened. If you have already experienced a bad software installation, you might consider making a copy of your virtual server and testing the installation on a copy inside a hypervisor on your laptop disconnected from your network to see if there are going to be any problems, before you do the installation live. For that matter, you could just copy the virtual machine files you tested the installation to back to your live environment and not have to go through the process of installing the software again. In this way, you have completely avoided any risk of a disaster caused by the software installation.

As much as I want you to be excited about how easy and how powerful virtual machines can be in a disaster recovery plan, it is important to note that every network is different and has different needs. The more complicated your data and applications, the more complex the disaster recovery plan will be. The plan may require all your files to still be backed up daily using standard backup software from within the guest server, or SQL databases require special scripts to be run to prepare data for backup prior to the virtual machine being backed up. There are dozens of variables that could complicate the backup and recovery process implemented for a virtual machine, and that is why it is important to work with your IT staff or a knowledgeable consultant you trust to develop and test your backup plan.

Virtualization – The Hypervisor

Last month I talked about virtual machines and virtualization in general. This month I am going to go into more detail about the hypervisor. A hypervisor is the core of a server virtualization solution. A hypervisor is a very small program or operating system that runs on your server and allows your server to run multiple virtual servers at the same time.

Once the hypervisor is installed on your server, you can begin building and running virtual servers. As each virtual server is turned on, the hypervisor provides a set of resources to each virtual server based on the settings the virtual server was created with — a digital mirage of sorts, telling the virtual server you have X amount of memory and X amount of hard drive space. Once a virtual server is turned on, the hypervisor continues to monitor the virtual server and can be configured to make sure all of its needs are met by the physical hardware, allocating the needed amount of physical resources to the virtual server as they are needed and releasing them when no longer in use.

The hypervisor can be controlled remotely using management software designed to make monitoring, moving, and backing up virtual machines easy and intuitive. This management software can tell the hypervisor to pause or shut down a machine. It can tell the hypervisor to begin moving a virtual machine from one server to another or to begin backing up.

VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix all have hypervisors capable of running virtual Windows servers, as well as Linux and other server operating systems. Each hypervisor provides the same basic functionality, allowing you to create virtual servers and run them. What you might not know is that free versions of these hypervisors are available to download. Your company could begin virtualizing its servers today for free. It is important to mention that Microsoft has a number of licensing requirements that should be followed when virtualizing their operating systems. These licensing requirements are different for each edition of the operating system. Before you put any virtual Windows Servers into production, make sure you are in compliance with the license requirements.


The world of science fiction has created an endless number of wonders that spark the imagination. The iconic television series “Star Trek” featured prominently for years a virtual technology called a holodeck, where virtual constructs of anything you could imagine were created and could interact with the physical world then be saved for later use. This is, of course, pure Sci-Fi fantasy; however, imagine taking your computer or server and making it virtual and then running it inside a window on another physical computer at the same time. Take that a step further and imagine running 100 separate computers on just a handful of physical computer towers with the ability to access each one remotely. Over the next few issues, we are going to discuss computer and server virtualization technology and how it can impact the way you operate your business, as well as dip into a few of the technical aspects of some of the uses for this technology.

A virtual machine is really just a program that impersonates the characteristics of physical computer components to an instance of an operating system that is running in a virtual space, like the holodeck, in a computer’s memory. This virtual can have almost any operating system installed on it from Windows 95 to Linux to even Mac OSx in some cases. These virtual computers can be desktops or servers and can be run on desktops or servers. The virtual machine or VM can be paused, saved, and moved from one computer to another and un-paused and continue being used where it left off. This functionality is because all the information about the VM and what it is doing is nothing more than a file, like a word document.

That’s all really cool, but how does it solve problems for a business? Let’s look at an example for a desktop user. Your computer is 10 years old, runs Windows XP, and you have not upgraded because the software that manages your inventory only works on Windows XP. A virtual machine running Windows XP with your inventory software can be created and run inside virtualization software on your shiny new Windows 8 computer or Mac, and both your inventory software and Windows XP don’t know the difference. You can take this virtual machine and run it almost anywhere. You can back it up just by making a copy of the file. So, you can, in seconds, recover if something goes wrong with the live virtual machine. Just open the old file!

Now let’s have a look at servers. Yes, we can virtualize them, too. As a matter of fact, you could virtualize a server and run it on your desktop or laptop, but that isn’t what makes server virtualization great. Lots of offices have servers that are one trick ponies, that is to say they sit there and run one application or a database, because that is the only way the software developer would support it. The hardware on these servers never comes close to its maximum usage, so there is a lot of wasted computing potential. Imagine if you had 3, 4, or 5 servers on the same hardware sharing that computing potential and not fighting for it. This ability to run multiple servers on a single physical server is a pretty big deal, and a big savings, but what else can server virtualization do? Let’s buy 2 servers and put 3 virtual servers on each one, and hook them up on a network. Let’s say a virtual server on server one is using a lot of memory and processor time. The 3 virtual servers on server two are not using a lot of memory or processor time. We can move our problem virtual server over to server two, and some or all of our existing servers on server two over to server one, and suddenly our resource hungry virtual server has all the resources it needs to get its job done. That is known as load balancing, and can be done automatically using virtual machine management software. Since all these virtual servers are just files and we can just move them around, can we use them to make our disaster recovery more efficient? The answer is a resounding yes! A snapshot can be taken of a virtual server at any point and stored with the other virtual machine files. You can use this snapshot to roll back any changes made by an update or software installation that may have not gone as expected, disaster averted. A full backup of the virtual machine and the data accessed by the machine can be backed up and stored off site. If your building burns down overnight, just bring up the virtual machines on another server off site and you are up and running in no time. Need it to be up and running even faster? Backup and virtualization technologies are available that will allow you to fail-over to a hot site somewhere else in the world as soon as your local servers go down with the potential of having only a few minutes of downtime and lost data.

Virtualization technology is amazing and flexible and can support businesses in a number of ways. It isn’t a magic pill though. There are a few stumbling blocks on the road. Proper planning, purchasing the right software to meet business goals, licensing and license management for operating systems running on the virtual machines, backup, and storage all have to be addressed when moving to a virtualized environment. Depending on requirements and goals, the up-front cost can also be a barrier to adopting virtualization technology. Over the next few issues, we will discuss virtualization in more detail, how it fits in with The Cloud, and what you need to make it all work.

Windows 8 Is Here

Windows 8 is here…are you ready for it? Most likely the answer is no, and that’s ok. Windows 8 is different, but it is still the same. Confused? Don’t be. When you turn on Windows 8 you are greeted with a new desktop called the start screen. It is bright and colorful with little boxes that display pictures and information. These boxes are called tiles and they are how you will launch nearly all of your applications. It is nearly all of your applications because some older applications have not joined Microsoft’s Metro User Interface revolution yet. That’s ok, because Microsoft left a little of what we know and love about our trusty old desktops and start menus in Windows 8 for just that purpose. Even some of Microsoft’s own tools have yet to get the face-lift; the control panel still uses the old style interface.

Back to the start screen. Did I mention it was colorful? It is also designed for touch. Windows 8 is very touch-oriented, supporting a wide range of touch gestures like pinch to zoom. On the Start screen, you can pinch and zoom out to show more tiles, so you don’t have to swipe across page after page of tiles to find the app you are looking for. The tiles are great. Live tiles feed you information like current weather, recent status updates or tweets from friends, and last email message received. Swipe from the sides and get additional menus for features like search or settings to change background images or screen resolution. Just touch the menu item – known as a charm – or tile you want and launch the application.

If all this talk about touching, swiping, and pinching has you thinking you have to run out and get a computer with a touch screen, think again. Your mouse will do just fine helping you navigate Windows 8. Moving the mouse to the edges or corners will fly out the menus, just like your finger swiping. Microsoft calls this action: using your mouse to explore the sides and corners. Clicking a tile is just like clicking an icon on your desktop in the good old days, or yesterday.

New Metro style apps will take on the same characteristics for navigation as the operating system, hiding toolbars and menus off screen awaiting your swipe to bring them into existence or our mouse pointer to sniff them out like a bloodhound. What about my older apps that don’t use the Metro Interface? Don’t worry… remember that little bit of old school Windows Microsoft left sprinkled around Windows 8? When you launch a classic style application, you will be transported to a familiar looking desktop with your Application running nicely and looking just like it did in Windows 7.

With all these changes to the way you operate, why don’t we change the way you install software. Microsoft has joined the app store trend and now, right from Windows 8, you connect to the app store, choose the app you want, and it downloads and installs. When the installation completes, just like on a smart phone or tablet, your new application is ready to go.

Windows 8 is very versatile and able to run on desktops and laptops as well as tablets. Yes, Windows 8 is available on tablets. Windows 8 RT runs on tablets just like the iPad and the various Android tablets. The only downfall is that Windows 8 RT will only run apps designed for the RT version of Windows 8. Take heart, Microsoft has a new tablet of its own design, Microsoft Surface Pro, scheduled for release in the first part of 2013 that runs Windows 8 Pro and should be capable of running any Windows 8 application on the market. It will also be able to join a Windows Server network like a regular workstation. The Surface Pro will be like a tablet and workstation in one.

This is only the briefest review of the new features and changes Windows 8 has to offer. Windows 8 looks to be a fresh exciting update to the Windows family. While Microsoft claims your existing software running on Windows 7 will run on Windows 8, be sure you test it out and check with the developer to make sure it is supported and has been tested with Windows 8 before you start replacing your desktops. Jacobs and Company B.I.T.S. will be evaluating Windows 8, soon and testing it with many of today’s common apps like QuickBooks and Adobe Acrobat as well as with some industry specific apps like practice management solutions and tax accounting software. As we work more with Windows 8 we will be sharing more news and reviews of the new Operating System in our newsletter and blog.

Business Continuity

Continuity is defined as uninterrupted duration or continuation. Business Continuity is when regular operation continues uninterrupted by changes such as employees leaving or, as it relates to the technology you depend on, minimal downtime in a disaster. A Business Continuity plan is a plan of action detailing how your business will not only recover from a disaster like loss of data, but how it will continue operations during a disaster like the storms that tore through the eastern United States in July causing extended power outages and damaging buildings.

Every business should have some sort of Continuity Plan in place for when disaster strikes. Backups are not enough. Ask yourself the following questions: Does your business rely on technology? How long can your business systems operate without power? How much work can be done if the Internet connection is down? If a fire destroyed your building taking all of your computers, servers, and data with it how long would it take your business to become functional again? What can be done to manage these risks to your business?

Asking the questions and answering them is only the first step. As stated before, a Business Continuity Plan is a plan of action, and action must be taken to manage these risks to your business. Regularly performing tasks like backing up your data, testing backups, adding redundancy to your systems like a backup internet connection or a generator, testing to make sure redundant systems kick in when needed are all part of what makes a successful Business Continuity Plan. I hope you are beginning to see a pattern emerge. Ask questions, put a plan into action, test the plan, and repeat.

Regular testing and review are extremely important to ensuring that the steps you have taken to protect your business are there when you need them. An annual test might consist of turning on your generator to make sure it runs or pulling the plug on your internet modem to make sure the backup takes over, allowing access to the internet. Your annual review should not only ask are the measures that are in place today working properly, but what other measures can be taken in the event of a disaster. An example might be that in your first review you realize that you don’t have any measures in place if the entire building where lost to a natural disaster. A new measure such as implementing a cloud service to allow employees to access applications and data from home or a temporary location should be put into action and become part of your annual test and review.

Disaster recovery and business continuity go hand-in-hand. Disaster recovery using backups is not enough. By implementing a solid Business Continuity plan, testing it, and reviewing it you may just be able to weather the next disaster better than your competitors and come out on top.