29 Jan

Discover the three most important differences between WordPress, Drupal and Joomla

Today, there are thousands of free, open source website builder options available for non-techies. Although these Content Management Systems make creating new websites easier, they do have their strengths and weaknesses. Before choosing one you should ask yourself, what will your website be used for? What does it need in order to achieve your company’s overall strategy? Will your website serve as a primary source for blogging, press releases, or product and services advertisement? Or will it also function as a source of revenue?

If you’re having trouble deciding which platform is best for your needs, you can take heart in knowing that the three biggest: WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla do what most people are looking to accomplish. However, there are some differences. Let’s take a look at their pros and cons and see how they stack up against each other.

WordPress’s ease of use can’t be beat
WordPress LogoWhether you’re a novice or seasoned developer, WordPress is by far the easiest to use, especially with the amount of free support out there from avid users. Released in 2003, it has been used on millions of sites and seen by millions daily. WordPress is also the most popular for blogging and smaller websites, but can do much more due to its plethora of plugins (more than 26,000), which presents both a great benefit and a challenge. These plugins allow you to do practically anything on your website. Unfortunately, not all the plugins are very good. Some may even slow down or crash your website. If you decide to choose WordPress, it’d probably be best to consider uploading the least number of plugins you need to ensure your site runs smoothly.

Drupal’s great for securing personal and financial data
Drupal LogoReleased in 2001, Drupal was designed to do almost anything from blogging to e-commerce. It can handle hundreds of pages of content without difficulty or slowing down your overall website. What makes Drupal a great choice for business are due to its strong version controls and access control list (ACL) capabilities, which make it very secure for your online buyers who have to input their financial information. Although Drupal is among the safest for content protection, it’s also more difficult to learn.

Joomla handles lots of data and media with ease
Joomla LogoIf you have a lot of data and media to manage, whether its PDF format, articles, videos or soundtracks, Joomla may be your best choice. Released in 2005, this software has the best interface for handling large quantities of information among the three open source website builders. However, it isn’t as user-friendly as WordPress or has the high security protocols as Drupal.  Downloaded over 50 million times, Joomla’s extensions aren’t as plentiful as WordPress, but there are over 7,700 free and commercial extensions available from the official Joomla! Extension Directory.

Which is best depends on what’s best for you
If you’ve been tasked with building a website for your company consider WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla as three great open source website builder options. All three are free to download. Plus, they’re pre-designed to produce the most search-engine friendly sites.

Need further guidance?
If you’d like further guidance on how to build a website or need assistance on which content management system is best for your company, the friendly experts at Advance Micro Solutions would be happy to discuss your web presence situation and challenges. Please call or email our experts for a free consultation.

26 Jan

July 15th is Closer Than You Think

Windows Server 2003 End of Life CampaignWhat does the date July 15th, 2015 mean to you? If you’re one of the reportedly millions of servers across the globe currently running live applications on Windows Server 2003, that is the date that Microsoft will cease supporting your server OS. That means:

  • No security updates
  • No hot fixes
  • No applications support
  • Nobody at Microsoft to talk to
  • Armies of hackers just waiting ‘til after July 15, 2015 to raid Windows Server 2003 systems
  • Armies of regulatory compliance monitors ready to swoop down on offenders

For those suffering from FOM (Fear of Migrating), there is plentiful practical advice. First, it’s generally agreed that current WS2003 users acquaint themselves with the key features of the new OS. These include improvements to server management, automatic de-duplicating, licensing, storage, and much more. When you consider the time that’s elapsed since WS2003 was released and today, coupled with the technological advances of the past ten years, plain old logic would suggest that migrating is in order.

Nonetheless,  many MS2003 users are happy where they are. “While it’s a common occurrence to see support for older products retired by software vendors, it’s annoying if either the old stuff is still running perfectly well or if the upgrade option is financially onerous, will significantly disrupt the business or offers little in the way of real added benefit.” – Forrester

No matter how happy you are with Windows Server 2003 or how dismayed you are by Microsoft’s impending abandonment, staying put on MS2003 is risky business. You could upgrade the server, but you should expect functionality errors with your applications that need to be resolved in a “live” environment. If you’re running WS2003 on equally old hardware, the Band-Aid approach is a ticking time bomb.

The smart thing to do? Migrate and upgrade.

Microsoft officials warned Windows Server 2003 holdouts recently, “With the average Windows Server taking over 200 days to migrate, now it is the time to act and start planning for your migration. With the Architectural changes in 32-bit to 64-bit technology – everything changes in Windows Server 2012.” In other words, you’re either on the bus or off the bus.

Need help? Advance Micro Solutions has been performing Windows Server migrations from 2003 to 2012 since it’s release in November of 2013 and can help in any number of capacities. We’ve got a team of experts that can help assess your situation make the transition as painless as possible. We also have many migrations under way. To ensure your place in the migration queue, contact Advance Micro Solutions today.

21 Jan

Insurance Industry Challenges and IT Solutions

Family InsuranceThe challenges facing the insurance industry and Canadian brokerages can be daunting. The manner in which insurers address many of these challenges depends to a large degree on the ability of the firm’s IT infrastructure to scale, adapt, and otherwise adjust to the changing landscape.

Earlier this year, insurance firm Stikeman Elliot listed what they viewed as the top ten challenges facing Canadian insurance brokers. While all of these developments have an impact on a firm’s IT strategy, some being impactful than others. Here are some that have a direct impact on the IT department.

  1. The 2014 ORSA (Own Risk and Solvency Assessment) Guideline came into effect at the beginning of the year, burdening IT with unforeseen data management demands. Firms with old, inflexible data storage systems may have struggled to comply by the March deadline.
  2. Compliance with new regulations almost always has an impact on data management. Intelligent tiering of technologies for backup and recovery and more powerful analytics is critical for compliance.
  3. Capital requirements are forcing firms to look for cost savings, much of which can be found in the data center. Technologies and solutions, such as virtualization and cloud, can reduce physical data center footprints by requiring fewer servers and related appliances, less office space, lower energy consumption, and fewer management hours.
  4. Mitigating security threats, especially in mobile environments like insurance sales, can be expensive and time-consuming. The OSFI (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions) cyber security self-assessment guidance lists many preparatory measures that require additional IT focus and expense.
  5. Emerging technologies will continue to reshape Property and Casualty personal lines business. The potential of telematics will become clearer, big data will get bigger, and internet-based distribution will continue to gain market share.

 

One local insurance firm with 6 branches and 40 employees addressed these challenges by turning to Advance Micro Solutions, whose team of experts implemented a solution that continues to help control costs and increase flexibility, reliability, and efficiency.

 

The solutions consisted of:

  • x3550 M4 server with 32G memory,
  • 2 x 900G hard drives with Raid 1 mirroring
  • Windows 2008 R2 server standard
  • Microsoft remote desktop service

 

The insurance firm received a scalable global solution with a highly secure and internally controlled data center that their existing IT staff could monitor, update, and operate remotely. There was no new need for additional internal employees to support the server since everything was set up and customized by Advance Micro Solutions based on the insurance firm’s specifications.

If you are looking for ways to control IT costs in a dynamic, highly regulated industry like insurance, reach out to the experts at Advance Micro Solutions for a free technology consultation.

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC BY 3.0
06 Jan

How an International Valve Manufacturer Gained Remote IT Capabilities With an In-House Server Solution

ValveInternational manufacturers have a lot to worry about. Production regulations are different country to country, which requires constant awareness of. Once products get into a country, the business needs to monitor and keep the items flowing through the many avenues of distribution. Product cost must be minimized, but should be balanced with the business needs and marketplace competition. And these are just a few of the larger struggles facing these corporations.

Sometimes when one is so wrapped up in the big problems, it helps to take a giant step back and look at the business like a large tree with large branches. If the structure of the tree is nourished and the roots are given attention and can grow strong, then the tree’s chances of longevity are increased. In an organization, we can view the roots and structure as the internal components that keep the business running smoothly and optimized.

Nurture the roots and build that strong foundation

Let’s explore what happened when a world class manufacturer of valves, with offices in Taiwan, China, United States, and Canada decided to take a giant step back and figure out one way to strengthen their roots, starting with the way they handled email.
But why start with email? Have you heard the claim by the consulting firm Ponemon Institute that the cost per square foot of data center outages now ranges from $45 to $95. Or, a minimum cost of $74,223 to a maximum of $1,734,433 per organization The valve manufacturer wanted to start at the very roots that held their company together: their communication through email.

The challenge was chosen: In-house vs. hosted 

What would be the most cost-effective way to handle email communications to ensure optimal performance and control? Would it be through paying a third party company to build, host, and maintain servers that this business could use for a higher annual fee? Or would it pay a higher upfront cost to hire a company to build out an in-house server solution that the valve company would own and control?

After much research, this international valve manufacturer decided to make an investment for an in-house solution, which included the following:

  1. There is less of a risk of downtime with an in-house exchange server solution because the organization has control over the physical equipment and can potentially bring the server back online faster by having their own IT fix the issue immediately.
  2. An in-house exchange server is more secure and offers better privacy then a hosted solution.
  3. An in-house exchange server solution offers more control for the core IT team of the business.
  4. There is more functionality and custom integration options with an in-house solution since the organization can have the system build for their needs and to integrate with their internal systems out of the box.

The valve manufacturer reached out to Advance Micro Solutions to offer an in-house solution that would service the many locations of the business. Through several rounds of consultation, it was decided that Advance Micro Solutions would build an exchange server in Vancouver, BC to host all of the company’s global email accounts.

The solution and the equipment used to build it

With three pieces of IBM hardware, IBM x3530 M4 server with 64G memory, 4 x 1 TB hard drives, and one additional gigabit Ethernet dual-port server adapter, Advance Micro Solutions was able to build out an in-house exchange server solution that could be remotely managed and updated by the valve manufacturer’s already established IT staff in Taiwan.

The outcome

The valve manufacturer received a scalable global solution with a highly secure and internally controlled exchange server that their existing IT staff could monitor, update, and operate remotely. There was no new need for additional internal employees to support the server since everything was set up and customized by Advance Micro Solutions based on the valve manufacturer’s specifications.

The manufacturer gained peace of mind knowing that if they needed any future support or help with the newly implemented system, Advance Micro Solutions would be there to assist.

If you are asking yourself if having a hosted or in-house server solution is right for you and want to start with a consultation about your needs, reach out to the experts at Advance Micro Solutions.

10 Nov

Asian Manufacturing Trends Good for SMBs

Asian RegionIf you’re wondering when global manufacturing is going to shift its center of gravity to someplace in the world besides Asia, don’t hold your breath. While manufacturing can and does take place in other parts of the world and there are constant shifts in the product focus of any given geography, Asia is still the world’s factory. And China remains the dominant force.

Costs Rise, Growth Slows
Since the 2007-2008 recession, growth in the region has slowed somewhat, but it is far from stagnant. Industry Week believes growth has slowed from 5 percent CAGR prior to the recession to 1.5 to 2 percent CAGR looking forward from now through 2017. A variety of factors are keeping the lid on growth, which include:

  • Rising labor wages
  • Government efforts to update infrastruc­ture
  • Expiration of certain tax ben­efits
  • Efforts to impose stricter environmental regulations

What these all add up to are higher costs for OEMs and distributors. The dramatic increase in wages, coupled with rapid economic growth in coastal China, has pushed some manufacturers to look beyond the developed coastal regions around Shanghai. The increased cost of logistics for inland manufacturers is becoming more manageable as the infrastructure improves.

Asia as a Consumer
Ever since Asian countries became the world’s primary source of low cost manufacturing, we’ve seen images of poverty-stricken laborers in dangerous conditions working for peanuts. While this is often still the case in some industries of Southeast Asia, other industries (particularly the electronics manufacturing industry in China) have become the source of economic boom and a dramatic rise in the standard of living.

As a result, according to Industry Week, “Major markets such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India are becoming significant consumers of industrial, commercial and consumer goods. Designing supply chains to consider both existing Western consumption and significant Asian consumption adds new dimensions of complexity to the decision-making process.” The flip side of which is opportunity.

Good News for SMBs
The industrialization and urbanization of the areas that surround the Asian manufacturing hubs has created an opportunity for Western companies to both manufacture and sell goods in Asia. Many OEMs have found that the barriers to smaller production – those generally under $5M – have been removed.

From a logistical perspective, the vast improvements in systems, processes, technology, and communications have made it much easier to do business in Asia. In addition, specialized brokers are helping smaller OEMs manage outsourced manufacturing and suppliers on the other side of the world.

Also, SMBs can now look at Asia as both a supplier and consumer, so it’s easier to justify a local presence that can both oversee manufacturing and sell into the local market at the same time. Eventually when local demand catches up with supply, the “world’s factory” may see some competition from countries that have been slower to modernize.
If you’re interested in learning more about manufacturing technology or market conditions, the Pacific Rim experts at Advance Micro Solutions are glad to speak with you. We can be reached here. (CTA)

07 Nov

The Ink Dries on Lenovo Acquisition of IBM x86 Servers

Lenovo Canada IBM System x3500 M4 7383EJU

Lenovo Canada IBM System x3500 M4 7383EJU

If you’ve been following Lenovo’s $2.1 billion acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business out of one eye the past several months, you may be surprised to learn that it wasn’t a done deal until very recently – Oct. 1, to be exact. Now that the regulators have all signed off and the ink is dry, the herculean effort of moving more than 7,500 IBMers – the entire X86 salesforce, the R&D facilities, and the manufacturing infrastructure – over to Lenovo has begun. And while this acquisition alters the IT industry playing field, existing IBM x86 SMB customers shouldn’t notice much difference.

An Acquisition Déjà Vu
If you’re the proud owner of an IBM System x product, there are a plethora of articles and blog posts that say you have nothing to worry about. Many insist that the transition is expected to be as seamless and transparent to the customer as the IBM ThinkPad acquisition in 2005. According to The Register: “Lenovo purchasing System x isn’t all that different than when they bought up IBM’s PC operations. The two markets have a lot in common.”
The acquisition puts Lenovo on the battlefield with global server powerhouses and channel giants Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Cisco. According to PC World, Lenovo still has much ecosystem development work to do with software companies like Microsoft, Oracle and VMware. One could also argue that those relationships will all be part of the package, as they were with the ThinkPad acquisition.

What’s In, What’s Out
Insofar as the acquired offerings are concerned, nothing has changed since the deal was originally proposed back in January. Boxes that will now bear the Lenovo logo include:

  • System x racks and towers
  • x86 BladeCenter
  • x86 Flex System blade servers and integrated systems
  • Associated software, switching, and maintenance operations

Lenovo will get licenses to IBM’s GPFS (General Parallel File System), SmartCloud Entry package, System x management software, and the Platform Computing suite. Lenovo can OEM and resell these products (plus IBM’s Storwize and tape tech) or use them as components in their own solution bundles.

An SMB Dream Come True
This is all great news for SMBs, who can expect to see the price for the Lenovo x86 product line be commensurate with competing products from Dell, HP, Cisco, and other hardware vendors. According to The Register: “When it comes to x86 servers, IBM receives high marks for their x86 technology, performance, and reliability – but lower scores when it came to pricing and ease of doing business.” Those low scores should improve now that Lenovo is in charge.

Lenovo is also known for its commitment to the business partner channel, which has helped them become the world’s number one PC maker. After this week, Lenovo is now the third largest commodity x86 server maker behind HP and Dell. According to CRN: “IBM’s x86 business has always been the IBM red-headed step child compared to its mainframe business and software. At Lenovo it will be a flagship brand… the x86 team has a sense of renewed vigor. The x86 team is really pumped. They are getting a lot of attention and the budget they need to really make a difference in the market.”
To see how your company can take advantage of new Lenovo System X product line, reach out to an expert at Advance Micro Solutions today.