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Managed Service Providers and HIPAA Misconceptions

HIPAA is health insurance portability accountability act that checks how covered entities or healthcare providers maintain health sensitive information that is saved in their systems. Regulations are terrifying for service providers, as they are unaware of key factors. What are the responsibilities of service provider while giving service to healthcare department? When audit team finds compliance issues, who is liable to pay the fines? In this article, some of the misconceptions against HIPAA and MSPs are dispelled to bring to light the reality.

Complicated HIPAA Requirements
It is often assumed that requirements are tricky and cannot be understood easily. In fact, requirements are clear-cut and anybody can access them at government website, It is good to learn more about HIPAA by using online services; however, it is better to work under guidance of HIPAA specialized third party. Basically, they support you and discuss various HIPAA aspects to make you HIPAA compliant. Web portal with tools, checklist, and online repository is provided with many other applicable documents. There are many third parties that offer their services to resell and in the process allow you to increase your profit.

Advanced Healthcare Needs
Healthcare practices have requirements which are similar to other businesses. In reality, healthcare department differs from other kinds of businesses in two ways only. First, there is no any tolerance for downtime, as lives can be lost. Secondly, they demand latest security system for getting information, as they keep record of highly sensitive information of patients. If these two factors are put aside, healthcare department works like any other business. When mandate of HIPAA is properly understood, MSPs will get to know that the requirements are not complicated at all.

No Rewards
It is one of the misconceptions that IT providers do not get reward for their services in healthcare industry. In fact, HIPAA compliant service providers get many benefits. It is a profitable system and gives more opportunities to IT providers, who are able to manage HIPAA compliance.

When managed service providers have close contact with their clients, they understand what the clients’ technology demands and develop more confidence to work efficiently. MSPs get benefits as clients have confidence in their service and provide them more opportunities to get new services.

As an MSP, have you ever considered listing the benefits you will be offered in the healthcare industry if you provide HIPAA compliant solution? In your area, how many service providers are specializing in HIPAA compliance?

In healthcare industry, there are a lot of misapprehensions against HIPAA. Reality is far from misconceptions, as it is profitable path where more opportunities and more references are waiting for you. In-depth understanding of HIPAA requirements will make service provider as HIPAA compliance champions. If you become an expert and manage HIPAA, you will have dominating position and more opportunities coming your way than other MSPs.

Key Points to Convince Clients for Software and Hardware Upgrades

Microsoft declared that Windows Server 2003 will get to an end on 14th July 2015. Expected date is over now, but Server 2003 is working perfectly and the challenge created by this software in different IT rooms is related to the challenge MSPs have to face while persuading customers to upgrade technology. It is necessary that old hardware and software should be improved on timely basis. Here are some selling points, which can help service providers convince clients to upgrade their technology:

Security is a Challenge
Due to security reasons, Server 2003 was conferring as time bomb. Microsoft has introduced no patches for 2003 Server, therefore, system will no longer be protected from Trojans, viruses, and data breaches. Though Server 2003 is still able to work, the use of unsupported software keeps all important data at risk. Remember that it is better to spend small amount on software and hardware upgrade than to suffer a serious data breach.

Easy to Avoid Failure
Generally, all moving parts of machines are prone to malfunctioning. In other words, whatever is connected to network is open to failure. Hard drives are the most vulnerable part of the hardware. It is the reason why most companies change hard drives and fundamental components to reduce the chances of failure. When hardware is upgraded at a suitable time, it minimizes annoyance for clients and service providers.

Productivity of Upgraded Technology
Though old components can work, they can create problems. Selection of new tools means you can get additional power to boost up. When graphics, memory, and video cards will be upgraded, the end result will be received in the form of highly responsive system, where users are able to carry on multi-tasks without any issue. In addition, software upgrades give access to latest tools and features so that IT users can work more professionally. For MSPs, productivity is crucial factor and basic selling point that compels clients to use upgraded technology.

Competitive Role of Companies
In business world, computers are excessively used and considered as moral fiber of production. Computers improve company’s reputation when these are used for server management, networking, and desktop virtualization. To flourish your business, it is necessary to have an updated IT based environment, with no threats of viruses, and data breaches. Moreover, upgraded system supports a business to dominate in competitive market.

How to Plan for System Upgrade?
Many clients do not show any interest to switch over to latest technology. When their attention is focused on issues, such as compliance standards, productivity level, and data breaches, they understand the importance of hardware and software transition. It is the responsibility of service providers to make the system upgrade process hassle-free for clients by planning smooth migration. MSPs must have the list of systems that need to be upgraded, and determine the perfect time for transition. There must be a well laid plan to check what will be upgraded, when to upgrade, and what amount of budget to allocate in order to perform these upgrades. If your transition plan is revised after four years, it will keep software and hardware up to date.

Four-Tier System to Define Data Centre Standards

Data centre is a cluster of computer servers that are used for storage and distribution of data. It gives security, connectivity, and centralized storage options. Data centre is best for businesses that need a lot of networking tools and access to more than one server at a time. All data centres do not provide same features. Standards of data centres are described through Four-Tier system. This classification method was developed in 1995 by Uptime Institute to differentiate facilities through design features, like redundancy, building features, and definite uptime. This classification approach helps potential tenants to select facilities that can accomplish their demands, compliance, and operational requirements. Uptime Institute states that 500 services are certified in 66 countries with specific standards. In this article, we have described worldwide standards for data centres that are shared across all tiers.

Tier I
Bare minimum is offered by data centre Tier I in the form of infrastructure adjustments. It has single electrical path for cooling and powering equipment. Failure of one component means to face downtime. Facilities of Tier 1 provide minimum 99.671% uptime which means downtime of 29 hours on annual basis. It is suitable for small business, however, it is not ideal for an enterprise that demands no interruption during its operations.

Tier II
Just like Tier 1, data centre Tier II has one pathway for cooling and power allocation. Facilities are provided with backup generators as well as cooling systems to work in case of power outage. It has uptime 99.741%, which means, a downtime of 7 hours per annum. As compared to Tier I, it is more dependable system.

Tier III
In data centre Tier III, redundancy is highlighted more than all other factors. It is developed on infrastructure N+1. At Tier III, data centres are well equipped with tools required to work on regular basis. Moreover, it has safe backup of all components. As compared to first two data centres, Tier III has uptime 99.982%. It is perfect for large scale companies, as downtime is just 1.6 hours per annum, that means negligible disruption while maintenance is performed.

Tier IV
It has a completely redundant environment that has potential to work even if some fault occurs. Tier IV has infrastructure N+2 that means to have backup generators, UPS systems and two additional cooling systems. For this data centre, estimated uptime is minimum 99.995 percent. Its downtime ratio is just 0.8 hours in a year. Tier IV offers less disruption than Tier III data centre. Usually such facilities are selected by tech giants, state-run governments, and large scale companies that need maximum accessibility.

Irrespective of uptime or downtime ratio, companies do not always require round the clock availability to achieve their goals. Four systems are compared and Tier IV seems an ideal, bulletproof, and completely redundant system, whereas Tier I is reasonably priced option. Companies must consider their IT requirements, and budget while selecting data centre to get consistent solution by paying low operational cost.

Things to Consider While Re-purposing Workstations

You might be interested to re-purpose your workstations from time to time to get more RAM, up to date CPU, and more storage capacity. Is it logical to replace a few years old workstation even if it is working without hardware problems? Most of customers do not know exactly when they should re-purpose workstation. Here are some guidelines to check what type of computers can be used in a company and how to boost up performance.

In order to perform particular jobs, servers are usually configured with various components. NAS requires enough space for storage, whereas database server requires more RAM. These are tailored to perform particular tasks, therefore, it is complicated to re-purpose workstations.

If you have changed old SQL database server and selected new model for high performance, old database server can be used for finance or marketing department by making some minor changes. Storage and RAM are the two upgrades that are based on simple procedure, but can improve performance level.

Less valuable upgrades are related to RAID card and CPU. A few servers may have system for CPU upgrade; however, most of them need new motherboards, which means to upgrade PSU and RAM as well. If you need to boost up performance, instead of upgrading the motherboard, buy new system to meet your needs.

It is simple to install new RAID card; however, old servers do not offer sufficient cooling to keep this hot-running RAID cool. It is important to match RAID card with hard drives to get required performance. Many customers prefer to re-purpose server without changing hardware. They get required results by using software (like FreeNAS).

Just like servers, workstations need to configure to carry on various tasks. Case capacity of workstations gives great benefit when these are selected for re-purposing. Unlike rack server, it is much easier to improve performance of components in tower case. Increasing storage capacity through controller cards is much faster.

If you are interested to have more storage (for mechanical drives), make certain that there is enough cool air through the case. Usually heat is unnoticed as it is difficult to measure, but it damages computer hardware more frequently. Sensors are used in a lot of workstation boards to check level of heat.

Nowadays, laptops are used as preferable system to work in most departments. Laptops do not offer re-purposing like desktops due to various reasons. First of all, laptops cannot work just like desktop computers. These are good to be used for designing PowerPoint slides, web browsing and email. You might be able to upgrade the laptop’s RAM and hard drive, otherwise, laptops are not easy to upgrade.

It is good to evaluate risks as well as benefits associated with re-purposing of computers. If your company has replaced old systems and you need to use them in other departments to save some money, keep in mind that IT experts will need time to arrange old these systems to work. Conversely, a new system can start working as soon as it is deployed. In addition, warranty is a compelling factor which leads to buying new systems, as laptops need frequent repair services.

Characteristics of Advanced Data Archiving Software

Data archiving is a specific process to transfer data to a storage device for future use. Unlike backups, data archives do not contain copies of actual data. Before selecting archiving software, there are many useful features to consider. Data archives are based on older, but important data that can be retained for compliance. Searchability is bare-bone feature that helps in providing useful solution for data archiving. To get significant search functionality, data archiving software have particular attributes:

In order to carry on searches, granularity plays an important role. It is an indispensable capability which is necessary to perform e-discovery process. As bulk of data is examined at this stage to get important information, software must have competence to carry on searches on following basis:

Data Sources: Through search, access end results from which file server, such as Microsoft SharePoint, financial apps
Data Type: Microsoft Office document, PDF, email and many other files
Important Data: Files such as social security numbers, bank account number and credit card numbers
Author of Document: Search by author of file

Storage Optimization
Another significant feature, other than granularity, is known as Storage Optimization. When this feature is selected, it helps in reducing the amount of data, as well as access data in seamless way. Storage Optimization feature gives benefits in form of reducing operating costs and capital. It helps in improving information governance, access to data for analysis and reporting and lower risk.

It seems absurd to find a lot of copies of same data in search results. To cope with this situation, deduplication engine (available in archiving software) is used that works all the way to avoid such situations. Through compliance, effective policies are developed for keeping data in archives for a specific time period. Archiving is best for certain type of data that is required to be backed up, but will not be accessed frequently.

Third most important feature of archiving software is flexibility to support maximum data platforms and popular applications. Some software offer facility to archive data from social networking sites like organization content on Twitter or Facebook.

Additionally, wide range of sources, writing capabilities and data targets should be handled properly for extraction. An organization cannot afford to follow limited tracks, such as tape archives, when unlimited and affordable archival alternatives are offered to them. Wide-ranging media is supported to extract archived data. Furthermore, extracted data can be written to DVD, tape, Blu-ray and many other mediums.

In a nutshell, best software for data archiving require more features, such as automation and compliance regulation to assist users in managing data. Once you confirm what type of data is important for future use and how long you need to store that data in the archives, organization can get maximum benefit from archiving software.

Virtualization Storage Performance and RAID Levels

RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is based on virtualization technology to store data. In RAID system, many drives are used to make one logical unit. There is a variety of RAID levels and each of them is optimized for particular condition. As a matter of fact, RAID levels are not standardized through industry groups, and therefore, companies often have distinctive numbers and accomplishments.

Commonly used RAID levels are:


Software to carry on RAID functionality is usually positioned on controller card. In Mac OS X and Windows Server 2012, there are software for RAID functionality.

RAID Level 0

In this level, data is divided into blocks. If multiples disks are used, RAID 0 provides greater I/O performance. This level gives satisfactory performance in write and read operations. Storage virtualization is easy to implement. The drawback of RAID 0 is the inability for fault-tolerance. In case, one of the drives get failed, available data in RAID 0 will be lost. Consequently, it cannot be used for critical systems. It is perfect for non-critical data storage where the basic aim is to write or read data at highest speed; such as video editing station. For critical system, it is better to use cloud backup technology so that important data remain backed up to the cloud.

RAID Level 5

It is known as secure level and needs three or more drives. Across the drives, data blocks are banded. With the help of parity data, the computer calculates the other blocks of data even if data does not exist any longer. In other words, RAID 5 has the capability to survive. If one drive fails and replaced, data can be accessed easily. RAID 5 offers fast transactions of read data; however transactions of write data is a bit slower.

Drawback of RAID 5 is that failure of one drive influences on others as well. When one drive fails, data restoring process needs one day or more depending on the controller speed and load. When another disk fails during data restoring process, it is impossible to retrieve the lost data.

RAID Level 6

It is similar to RAID 5 however two drives are used for data parity. Consequently, RAID 6 needs minimum 4 drives and bears the loss of two drives at the same time. It is true that failure of two drives simultaneously is rare. RAID 6 has fast transaction of read data. The drawback of this level is slow speed of write data just because of parity. When read operation is selected, it reads the data from drive-1 parity and then drive-2 parity. Similarly, write operation means to write parity one and then write parity two; which is time consuming.

RAID Level 10

It is known as uncomplicated level for calculation. It has mirror sets and each of them writes data two times to develop mirroring. As a result, write performance gets slow. RAID 10 is an easy and fast process for rebuilding data to new drive from existing mirrors. In this level of virtualization, maximum storage capacity is utilized for mirroring and makes it expensive method.


It is the basic needs of enterprises to keep their important data secure. Though there are various performance levels of RAID, but each level has some drawbacks. In RAID array, all drives have same age factor so failure of one drive can lead to other. To keep data safe from natural disasters, drive failure and/or hacking, the best option is a cloud backup service.

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