IT Consulting Services – Benefits

IT Consulting services are one of the fastest growing IT services. IT consulting has now become a ‘sought after’ service, due to the following reasons. In-house teams are either hard-pressed for time to attend to complex IT issues or do not have the necessary expertise. Similarly companies are particular about availing the services of an external consultant, who can add value. On certain occasions, companies have benefited by improving their service offerings, with the services of an IT consultant.

Consulting firms offer IT strategy consultancy, IT services outsourcing and Project Management services, apart from mainstream IT consultancy services. Some of the firms offer services on highly specialized areas like Program management. Therefore, it is important for IT firms to asses if they need the services of a generalist or a specialist. In the last five years, not many IT firms have signed mega deals. Volumes do not make an impact anymore as many IT firms choose vendors on the basis of specialist edge. Even some of the Request for Proposals’ (RFP’s) specifies that only pure-play consultants should apply to the proposals. Therefore, there is a huge increase in the demand for specialist IT consulting companies. There are still a percentage of IT firms that prefer to avail the services of a generalist, though such deals are gradually decreasing.

Surveys have repeatedly indicated the importance of IT consultancy services. IT consulting spends have seen a manifold increase. There is also an emphasis to spend less on IT consulting and get optimal benefits. IT firms have also increased the expectations from consultants. Companies also expect IT consultants to provide staffing services. IT consultants have better access to resources with specialist skills and also employ them in highly scalable models. Since these resources are not contractors, but employees of the consultants working in the client’s office, the IT firms do not have to comply with contractor obligations. Therefore, they avail the services of cost-effective resources.

It is not a compulsion to outsource operations to a supplier and also avail the services of their IT consultants. However, there are competitive advantages in outsourcing operations to a supplier and engaging the services of their IT consultants. Co-sourcing mode of engagement is preferable to a traditional outsourcing model and an IT firm can employ the resources of the supplier to work along with their employees. This helps them to retain business control and also get specialist skills on demand.

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Consultant – A defenition, and a bit more

My first post under this subject should have been this one but it was not so, I’m posting the definition of Consultant now. I believe it is important you understand this definition so that you can better understand the content of my posts on consultancy.

A consultant (from Latin: consultare “to discuss”) is a professional who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area such as security (electronic or physical), management, accountancy, law (tax law, in particular), human resources, marketing (and public relations), finance, engineering, or any of many other specialized fields.

A consultant is usually an expert or a professional in a specific field and has a wide knowledge of the subject matter. The role of consultant outside the medical sphere (where the term is used specifically for a grade of doctor) can fall under one of two general categories:

■ Internal Consultant – someone who operates within an organisation but is available to be consulted on areas of specialism by other departments or individuals (acting as clients); or
■ External Consultant – someone who is employed externally (either by a firm or some other agency) whose expertise is provided on a temporary basis, usually for a fee. As such this type of consultant generally engages with multiple and changing clients.

The overall impact of a consultant is that clients have access to deeper levels of expertise than would be feasible for them to retain in-house, and may purchase only as much service from the outside consultant as desired.

‘Consultant’ is also the term used to denote the most senior medical position in the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland (e.g., a consultant surgeon).

Qualifications

There is no such thing as a single qualification to be a consultant other than those laid down in relation to medical personnel who have attained this level.

Internationally the accreditation of Management Consultants is overseen by higher education training and accreditation organizations —

Consulting guru, Peter Block, defines a consultant as “someone who has influence over an individual, group, or organization, but who has no direct authority to implement changes.” He contrasts this with a surrogate manager who is a person who “acts on behalf of, or in place of, a manager.” The key difference is that a consultant never makes decisions for the individual or group, whereas a surrogate manager does make decisions.

The Institute for Independent Business (IIB) with — globally, July, 2012 — 5,889 mature executives, stringently accredited as Associates since the IIB was established in 1984 as the Institute for Independent British Business (http://www.iib.ws) The IIB’s twelve month pe-accreditation Consultancy Business Development Diploma — CBDDip.— is now awarded by the International Independent Business University (http://www.iibu.org) as a pre-requisite for its unique MBA (Consultancy) — NB, that’s Master of Business Arts, not Administration. And the prestigious Oxford Brookes University even recognizes the CBDDip as 20 of 80 credits in its MBA (Global)!!

Institute accredited Associates are bound by a Code of Ethics that requires the consultant to only provide “practical advice that works” — by “Analysing as a Generalist and Solving as a Specialist” — using the skills and experience of a sub-contracted fellow Associate, thus at all times providing the client with the best available advice and support.

Life as a Consultant
Life as a Consultant (Photo credit: Ikhlasul Amal)

The International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI) has around 50 member institutes covering the globe. The award of Certified Management Consultant (CMC) status is its internationally recognised accreditation that is not specific to the technical content of the consultant’s practice. For instance this could be held equally by a Human Resources (HR) expert or a Chemical Engineer operating as management consultants in their field(s) of expertise.

Chartered Institute of Management Consultants (CIMC) is a not-for-profit professional body chartered federally under Letters Patent granted by the Government of Canada. CIMC is also chartered under the Laws of the State of Delaware, USA. CIMC is also registered with the National Certification Commission, USA. The CIMC award Chartered Management Consultant Ch.MC designation as a global management credential.

Common types

In the business, and as of recently the private sphere, the most commonly found consultants are:

  • Strategy Consultants working on the development of and improvements to organisational strategy alongside Senior Management in many industries.
  • Human Resources or HR Consultants who provide expertise around employment practice and people management.
  • Internet Consultants who are specialists in business use of the internet and keep them self up to date with new and changed capabilities offered by the web. Ideally internet consultants also have practical experience and expertise in management skills such as strategic planning, change, projects, processes, training, team-working and customer satisfaction.
  • Process Consultants who are specialists in the design or improvement of operational processes and can be specific to the industry or sector.
  • Public Relations or PR Consultants dealing specifically with Public Relations matters external to the client organisation and often engaged on a semi-permanent basis by larger organisations to provide input and guidance.
  • Performance Consultants who focus on the execution of an intuitive or overall performance of their client.
  • Information Technology Consultants in many disciplines such as Computer Hardware, Software Engineering or Networks.
  • Marketing Consultants who are generally called upon to advise around areas of product development and related marketing matters.
  • Interim Managers as mentioned above may be independent consultants who act as interim executives with decision-making power under corporate policies or statutes. They may sit on specially constituted boards or committees.
  • Pay per question consultants The professions vary greatly from appliance repair consultants to medical specialty consultants. Clients post a question to a website that provides a venue for consultants, that are verified as an expert in their profession or trade, and customers to interact in a Q&A session. A value is chosen, and a deposit made by the customer to have their question answered by an expert in a specific trade or profession. The expert provides the information to the customer, and is then paid a percentage of the deposited amount. The website retains the remainder of the fee for use of the venue. Although still a new method of getting information from professionals on a one to one basis it is growing in popularity. For an average fee of $30.00 people can ask specific questions to professionals such as Lawyers, Doctors, Mechanics, Electricians, Veterinarians, Appliance Servicemen, Teachers, Engineers, and almost any type of trade or profession there is.

References

  1. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/consultant
  2. Pieter P. Tordoir (1995). The professional knowledge economy: the management and integration services in business organizations. p.140.
  3. http://www.icmci.org/
  4. Consultant. (2012, November 12).  In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:10, November 12, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Consultant&oldid=522605872

To Be, Or Not To Be: An Independent Consultant

I’ve been in the Web Development field for over 16 years and during this time I have worked as a consultant and as a fulltime employee. If you ask me which I prefer I would say I prefer being a fulltime employee but not for the reasons you might think. As a Consultant I experienced working for consulting firms and as an independent consultant. Both options are viable ones which I would recommend to any developer seeking to make a move away from the fulltime employee scene. Both offer great pay opportunities and a level of independence that is refreshing and rewarding. They also ask for a higher level of commitment when you consider how your level of responsibility is increased when you become a consultant.

IT consultant
IT consultant (Photo credit: Todor036)

How could this higher commitment level impact you? Consider this, as a consultant you will no longer have tuition reimbursement available to you unless you are lucky enough to be hired by a consulting firm that offers it. Most likely you will be hired by a consulting firm that only offers this benefit to fulltime employees, not short-term consultants like you. Add to this that you will have to keep up with new trends in the field of your choice if you want to stay competitive. As a consultant you are only as good as your level of experience which can be limited to the type of work you are contracted to do. Unless you make a commitment to keep your skills up-to-date you will not remain competitive. The consultant market is full of opportunities but most of them are for short-term contracts and as a consultant you won’t have the luxury of choice, at least not at the beginning. You will have to be focused and committed to your choice if you want to succeed.

If you are looking into becoming a consultant you must consider more than just your experience and what pay you could expect, you need to consider the fact that what you have taken for granted as a fulltime employee will be your responsibility. It will be on you to secure many of the benefits your HR department offered. It will be on you to track your expenses in order to deduct them come tax time. It will be on you to market yourself in order to secure new contracts and keep earning money.

At first glance, choosing to become a consultant seems like a no-brainer but I’m here to tell you it is a very serious decision which will impact your life considerably. Make an informed decision, do your homework and research all aspects of consulting before committing to becoming one.

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Website Accessibility and Usability

Usability is one of the most pressing issues in the field of website development nowadays. The usability of a website is tested against its simplicity which makes it easy for people to navigate the site as fast as possible, therefore making access to information easier.

Accessibility is a concept that is intertwined with the concept of usability. It refers to creating the website content available to all people.

Context

The issue has caught the attention of different sectors of society.  Why? Because 1 out of 5 people in America possess some kind of disability and this figure translates to around 30 million Americans. The figure is still increasing, with the coming of age of senior citizens. During the past decade alone, a dramatic increase of 25% was seen.

Why the Internet?

One might ask, “Why is the Internet a central focus in this issue of usability?” The Internet has transformed the lives of people during the past decade. People have been able to do things that they were not able to do before, this includes the people with disabilities. People who are impaired don’t have as much opportunities compared to people who are well and able. The Internet has provided them avenues for communication, information gathering, social interaction, engaging in cultural activities and it provides them with employment opportunities. However, statistics have shown that the potential of the Internet to provide these certain opportunities is still not maximized because the people with disabilities are hindered by usability issues from using it to the fullest.

Stakeholders

The issue of usability is not only watched by institutions which are related to giving support to people with disabilities, most of the sectors of society are closely watching its progress. Institutions which are involved in governance, education, media, public services and even the business sectors are observers in the game.

Benefits

The benefits of improving accessibility of websites will not only benefit the people who have impairments but will affect the whole web community. Businesses, services, information campaigners, everyone will benefit.

Many people are calling for developing websites using a universal design approach. This is a way of developing web content which would accommodate the widest range of users. Some features of this said scheme are: provision of interoperability of applications; access for the disabled; localization and customization.

Recommendations for Improving Accessibility

Listed below are some of the key recommendations from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 which was developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative of W3C on how to improve the accessibility of the contents of a website.

1. Provide alternatives to audio-visual content

Not all people will be able to use different kinds of content. These people may be disabled or may have a lower version of Internet browsers. Movies, sound clips, animations and other contents should be translated into text alternatives so as to provide information to the broadest range of viewers.

2. Developers shouldn’t rely on color alone

Many people are impaired in color differentiation. Developers shouldn’t rely too much on the use of colors to relay information in the websites. Charts that are color-coded should be modified and the background and foreground colors of the websites should have enough contrast to enable people with color differentiation impairment to easily navigate the site.

3. Clarification of the use of natural language

Content developers usually mark up the changes in natural language in their websites. They should be able to identify the dominant language that is used in the site so as to avoid confusion.

4. Control of content changes that are time-sensitive

This issue particularly involves people who have visual or cognitive impairments and those who are not able to read texts that are moving quickly. Movement is seen as an over-all enhancer to the look of the site, but it may pose some problems to people with cognitive impairments.

5. Accessibility of user interfaces that are embedded

Objects that posses their own interfaces should be made accessible, and alternative solutions must be provided if this is not possible.

6. Provision of orientation and context information

The provision of information on how the objects are organized is important to provide people with guidance on how to access information.

There are other ways of improving a website’s over-all accessibility to make it more usable. Developers should take into consideration the different people who are going to view their websites and make them focal points in the designing process.

7 Surefire Ways To Increase Your Traffic Starting Yesterday

Internet. Business. Profit. To fully integrate all of these words into a successful merging you will need another word. Traffic. Every article you will find about making your site or company successful would always include the importance of generating traffic.

So, we all know that in the core of it all, traffic is the most essential thing to a successful internet based business company. Aside from ensuring that you have a great product to sell, and you have your company’s internal organization well taken core of, it would be time to get to the nitty-gritty of things, generating traffic.

If you already have a site and you want think that you’re not getting the traffic that you’re supposed to be getting, then its time to reconsider. If you are contending in these very competitive business, you should always be a step ahead of your competition, increasing your traffic flow should have been done starting yesterday.

Timing is essential, that’s an old adage known to everyone. But with generating traffic, you should always be on your toes and be a day ahead of everyone. Never think of today and tomorrow as a starting point for making your site traffic laden, it should always have been yesterday.

To help you out in generating more traffic for your site, here are some seven surefire ways to increase your traffic starting from yesterday.

1) Invest in good advertising with search engines

Google’s AdWords and Yahoo’s Overture provide great advertising schemes that are very truly popular and assures great traffic. Although with this surefire way to increase your traffic would cost some money. While some would shy away from spending money to increase traffic, it is imperative in this case to do so because AdWords and Overture is the top surefire way to increase your traffic.

You could see for yourself the success this search engine advertising methods have reaped rewards for so many companies. Lots of site feature these advertising system and many have signed on to reap the benefits. Do not be left behind. Every penny is worth it with using Google and Yahoo’s advertising.

2) Exchange or Trade Links with other sites

With exchanging links with other sites, both of you will benefit from the efforts both of you do to enhance your site’s traffic. When one site features another sites link, they could provide one another with the traffic one site generates. The efforts are doubly beneficial because it would seem like both of you are working to generate more traffic. The more links traded with more sites the more traffic could be expected.

3) Use Viral Marketing

Viral marketing allows you to spread the word about your company and product without any costs or if ever low costs only. This is a marketing method that can be quite sneaky; you can attach your company’s name, product or link to a certain media such as a funny video, entertaining game, an interesting article or a gossip or buzz. With this method, people get infected with the creativity and entertainment of the medium that they will pass it on to many people.

4) Search and use proper keywords or keyword phrases for your site’s content

Search engines look for certain keywords that they would show in their results page. In doing so, having the right keyword and keyword phrase is a high requirement in ranking in high in search engine results. You could write your own content or you could hire someone to do it for you.

5) Write Articles that can lead traffic to your site

Submit articles to sites that would contain the same subject that your site deals in. If you sell car parts write press releases and articles about cars and car parts. Attach your sites description and services at the end of the article as well as the link.

6) Join forums and form online communities

Capture a market and show your expertise and credibility. When you found a good foundation for your site, people will trust you and your site and will pass on to many people their trust. Traffic will certainly increase because they know that you can provide what they need.

7) Lastly, Offer newsletters.

If many people know what you are about and your existence is shared with many others, you will find a loyal traffic that can provide you with more traffic by recommendation. If you arouse the curiosity of your customers they would be pushed to help you with your traffic.

Website Design That Can Improve Its Usability

Internet users encounter a website’s usability before they even have decided to use it and more so before they make up their minds on probable purchases. A fact is, the World Wide Web is the supreme setting for empowerment, where the one who is clicking the mouse controls everything.

Search engine marketing is important as generally visitors utilize search engines in order to discover your website. However once they reach your site, they should be able to use your site with ease and understand its content.
Research shows that of 43 million internet websites, only 42 percent are found to be usable.

Evidently, a major measure of website success is its effectiveness in converting leads into buyers.  However, recent studies show that 50 percent of website sales are wasted due to the fact that visitors can not locate the content that they need; this leads to reduced web productivity, increased visitor frustration, wasted visitor time as well as loss of visitor’s repeat visits, in turn, loss of website money.

Studies done by usability experts estimates that by improving your visitors’ web encounter, it increases your buyers by about 40 percent and also increases the overall amount of orders by 10 percent.

A fact is, internet users do not like to wait, more so learning how to go about using a hard to navigate home page. Individuals need to easily understand how a certain website functions immediately after they have scanned the page.

Here are guidelines to improve your website’s usability:

Simple and clear web navigation design

•    It must be situated in the exact same location on each page and in exact same format, so that your visitors will not get frustrated and confused if links disappear and appear unpredictably.

•    Use suitable text in your links. Your visitors must know where links will take them, through reading the text provided in your link.

•    Employ the use of CSS to give emphasis on text links.

•    Include always text links. Keep in mind that each page must have “text links” which links to all important parts of the website.

•    Include a “site logo” linking to your home page. Generally site logos are located at the topmost “left-hand” corner of the page, where most visitors have the tendency to go even before searching for the homepage link which usually is located in your navigation system.

•    Place a website search box to help your visitors locate quickly the information that they need.

Have a simple, authentic and clear content.

An attractive web design no doubt attracts visitors yet good content is what keeps your visitors on your site and inspires them to visit again.

•    When you write your content, while it is important to think of search engines and keywords, also think of your visitors and present the content in a manner that is easily understandable and to solve their problems.

•    Create an attractive heading and each paragraph should offer appealing statements all the time.

•    Create a page content that is easy to scan and emphasize your most important points with colors, bold letters or header tags.

Support your brand

A great brand strengthens your visitors’ impression or idea of your website. A site that is branded strongly imprints in your visitor’s mind your products each time they go “shopping”.

•    Keep typefaces and colors consistent. Pick fonts and colors carefully and consistently use them throughout the website.

•    Keep your page layout constant. Employ the use of a “website template” in order to carry out a consistent page structure.

•    Make a helpful custom page error that can help visitors should they click on “a broken link” or enter an incorrect URL.

Provide visitor feedback

Forms are essential to your e-commerce site’s success, as without it, you can not have your shopping cart. And any site generally needs a form for visitor feedback.

•    Keep them short and easily accessible, clearly noting what is required in order to submit it successfully.

•    Supply your complete contact details including your fax number, business telephone number, postal address and your email address.

Test your website prior to launching

•    Test to determine if your website loads successfully in all “browsers”.

•    Test all your links and be sure that they are working properly.

•    Look for and be sure that your website is free from errors.

•    Search for grammatical errors and misspelled words and correct them if any.

•    Test your website load times.

Web usability puts designing and planning primarily for your website visitors your top priority.  Website that measure up to the expectations of its visitors will have comfortable visitors that will visit your site again and again and recommend it to friends.

How to Make a Website More Appealing to International Users

More and more people around the world are using the Internet, and the numbers are increasing everyday. The Internet has become the primary source of information for many, and because of that, web sites have to constantly improve the content and image of their web pages in order to keep users interested in accessing their sites.

What are the measures that should be implemented by web designers in order to make their sites more appealing to users around the world? Here is a list of issues that can be encountered in web design and the necessary action to be considered:

1. Availability of basic features
First, the design of a web site should be compatible to any browser. It should be able to pass HTML and CSS validation tests. Second, web sites should be able to cater to disabled users. This won’t be a problem as long as designers adhere to web standards. Third, the process of navigating a web site should be simple enough for all users. No user likes to encounter a new site, and then he or she has to figure out how to navigate around it. Fourth, status bars should be available. It shows the destination of links as the cursor is being moved. The status of the current page is also displayed as it loads.

2. Appearance of the pages
There are four elements that make up the appearance of a web site. They are the fonts, color, graphics, and writing.

Fonts are not just a matter of personal preference of the user and the designer. The primary importance of font choice is that it affects how fast the users can read the information being presented. Arial fonts are usually recommended over the Times New Roman and the Verdana.

When applying color, it is important that there is enough contrast between background and foreground in order for the content to be readable. To achieve maximum contrast, black text against a white background should be used. Link colors should be established at standard settings.

When it comes to graphics, bear in mind that some pages get too overloaded because of the use of too much images. As much as possible, use graphics only to support the content being presented to users. A lot of people actually have the tendency to shut off the images when browsing for information.

Web designers should remember the distinction between writing for the web and writing for print. Web content should be short and straight to the point.

3. Site performance
There are three factors that determine the overall performance of a web site. These are speed, tables, and connections.

Since everyone is hankering for more bandwidth, the best that designers can do is to avoid the usage of design that will take up too much bandwidth, because not every user has access to fast Internet connections.

To avoid making the site appear like it takes forever to download, avoid loading putting a whole page inside a table. Instead, divide the page into several tables.

Web designers should not cloud a page with too much items for the simple reason that each item requires a separate browser for the whole page to be downloaded.

4. The occurrence of bugs
Of course, no one wants to have bugs in his system. To avoid this, body text should be set up with relative font sizes. One has to consider that there are users out there who have poor eyesight, and they would like to adjust the font sizes through their individual settings in order to read the text more clearly. The relative value recommended for this would be:

font-size: -1

or

font-size: 100%

In case of URLs, it should be simple and short, containing no punctuation or spaces. Users should be able to copy a URL and paste it into an email message without it being wrapped in multiple lines. To avoid dead links, redirects should be established, in order to avoid the breaking of bookmarks and links.

Web designers should make sure that navigation features will be present at all times, whatever the size of the window the user is using. Browser windows should be maximized when applying design, because not every user will be surfing the Internet in a maximized window.

Facebook Marketing: Creating the Perfect Ads for Your Business

In the world of internet marketing, pay per click ads is by far the most used types of advertising among internet marketers. It encourages people to advertise for you and it’s also one of the best types of ads available that produces a lot of targeted traffic.

Today, Facebook now offers Facebook Ads. This particular feature offered by this very popular social networking website is a pay-per-click advertisement made available for Facebook users. When you are going to use this feature offered by Facebook Ads, you might want to know how to create an appealing one in order to get someone to click on it.

The idea of a great Facebook Ads advertisement is that you need to create something catchy and flashy that it will be able to grab people’s attention. You have to remember that no one wants to click on advertising in the internet unless it truly catches their attention.

Also, you need to remember that when people log on at Facebook, they will just be interested in checking out what’s new or what’s happening with their network of friends. They will be interested in socializing with other people. Besides, that’s what Facebook is designed for.

Now, when it comes to creating an advertisement in Facebook Ads, your job is to take away people’s fixed intention when they visit Facebook and make them spend a little time to take a look at your advertisement and click on it.

Creating a good pay-per-click advertising on Facebook Ads is easy. You just need a bit of creativity. For example: If you are trying to sell your iPhone or any kind of electronic devices that people would definitely love to have, you might want to try advertising “Want an iPhone at a cheap price?”.

For this kind of example, you might want to consider specifying your target customers to be people in college or people between the ages of 18 to 25. You have to remember that kids today are crazy about cheap and cool electronic gadgets.

You can also upload a photo of the iPhone. This will add to the effect and will surely attract more potential buyers. You have to remember that you more likely will be able to catch people’s attention on a visual advertising rather on text advertising.

Your selling point should also be strong. Don’t just tell people to check out what you have to offer, you need to give them a reason why they should check out what you have to offer. You need to get in to your target customer’s mind and find out what they need and what they really want. Try putting yourself in their shoes and you will be able to find out how you can attract their attention.

These are just some of the tips that you should know about Facebook Ads marketing. By keeping these tips in mind and by applying it in your Facebook Ads advertisement, you can be sure that you will be able to successfully sell what you have to offer.

Through ads like these, people will surely want to buy stuff from you. So, the next time you plan on marketing on Facebook Ads, you might want to keep these tips in mind. For sure, you will see that it will be able to help you out a lot.

Top 5 Challenges for Virtual Server Data Protection

Data Protection and the Drive to Virtualization

The benefits of server virtualization are compelling and are driving the transition to large-scale virtual server deployments. From cost savings recognized through server consolidation or business flexibility and agility inherent in the emergent private and public cloud architectures, virtualization technologies are rapidly
becoming a cornerstone of the modern data center.

However, the lure of virtual server deployments is having unintended consequences for data storage and data protection. The consolidation of physical servers and networking is resulting in a massively converged IT
infrastructure where already limited resources are being made even more scarce. Typical server consolidation ratios of 10 to 1 mean there are a fraction of the resources there once were for even routine IT management tasks like backup and recovery. In addition to fewer resources, massive data growth coupled with the expanding number of virtual machines is leading to an ever larger and more consolidated amount of data that must be managed and protected. The benefits of virtual servers in terms of cost savings, application flexibility and uptime are now driving customers to deploy more critical applications within a virtual machine context. These critical applications come with the most demanding SLAs for application uptime, granular recovery points, and rapid recovery times.

With this shift to virtualized data centers and round the clock operations, there is a need to rethink the traditional data protection techniques. Data protection and data recovery must have minimal front end impact and cannot exclusively rely on the legacy methods of streaming copying data from the production to the
backend. A modern, effective solution minimizes the load on production systems, reduces administrative effort, enhances data protection and recovery, eases the transition to a virtualized data center, and will enable cloud-based options when they are desired.

The Challenges of Virtual Server Data Protection

1 Exploding Backup Windows
High server consolidation and high virtual machine (VM) density concentrates data ownership to a small number of physical servers with most resources dedicated for production workloads. There are few resources, if any, left for traditional management tasks, such as backup, which moves data over a network during a fixed window. In this new world of consolidated and virtualized environments, storage and backup teams are being asked to protect large and growing data stores with a fraction of the compute, network and storage resources and to do so in less time.

As server resources continue to consolidate and virtual environments become more concentrated, the amount of data owned by virtual machines is skyrocketing. This massive growth in the amount of data to be owned, managed and protected by the virtual environment is compounding what is already an untenable situation when using a traditional streaming backup approach. Cases are emerging where a successful backup of multi-terabyte data stores using a traditional streamed backup approach is exceeding a 24-hour window,
far in excess of what the modern data center requires.

Every virtual machine is essentially a set of large files (VMDKs in a VMware context). These large files are stored on LUNs known as Datastores. Datastores can be configured on iSCSI or Fiber Channel block storage volumes or on NFS volumes. Traditional data protection techniques such as VMware’s vStorage API for Data Protection (VADP), or VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) rely on an external agent to protect VMDK files associated with virtual servers. Typical steps are as follows:

  • Queisce virtual servers to get a consistent set of VM image files.
  • Use the VADP enabled agent to read the VM image files from the Datastores.
  • Copy the image files to a backup disk target.
  • Release the Virtual Servers for normal operations.

While VADP brings much efficiency to this process, it is still a streaming method that moves the image files from the datastore to backup disk for protection. For environments with ever shrinking backup windows, there is simply not enough time or bandwidth to move all the VM data. Even if the infrastructure is available to copy all this data, it places a tremendous burden on the datastores as the data is read.

2 Unprotected Virtual Machine Data
The ease of deploying new VMs leads to a virtual machine sprawl, making it tedious and time-consuming for administrators to keep track of new virtual machines and to ensure correct data protection and retention policies are applied to them. There is a major risk that important virtual machines may be created and never backed-up. Today, many administrators spend a significant part of their day tracking down new VMs and manually applying data protection policies. In the modern data center with hundreds or even thousands of virtual machines, this manual approach to ensuring VM protection policies is simply an unacceptable solution.

3 Lack of Application Integration
As more and more mission critical applications—like SQL, Exchange and Oracle—are virtualized, it is necessary to provide the same level of protection and recovery capabilities for these applications as they had in a purely physical server setting, while staying within the constraints imposed by a highly consolidated, virtualized environment. The modern data center now demands data protection solutions that deliver a level of application and virtualization platform awareness in order to provide concerted backup and restore capabilities that will ensure maximum uptime of these critical applications.

4 Inadequate Recovery Points
With high data growth and change rate, relying on last night’s backup for recovery is no longer sufficient. In addition, as organizations deploy more critical applications within a virtual server context, they are demanding Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) of hours. In other words, it is necessary to be able to recover to a few hours ago, not to last night’s backup, in order to minimize data loss and the impact to the organization as a result of any disruption. Creating frequent recovery points without impacting production activity is a huge challenge.

5 Lack of Restore Granularity
In order to further accelerate restores, organizations require an integrated approach to restoring data granularity at the volume, file or application object level. The ability to restore an individual e-mail or file from within a virtual machine datastore is critical for ensuring application uptime and for meeting availability and uptime SLAs. Traditional approaches which require remounting an entire virtual machine datastore (such as a VMDK) and searching through the contents to find a single user e-mail is simply too time-consuming and resource intensive to be a workable solution. Newer approaches are currently being introduced that enable file and object level restoration, however, they may require a second pass in order to generate that granular catalog. This unnecessarily adds additional processing time and consequent risk into the data protection process. A solution is needed that delivers granular restore options down to the file or object level and does so from  a single pass backup operation.

What you should know about a Computer Programming Career

Computer programming is one of the most important and exciting careers today.  It is also a field that offers plenty of job opportunities for graduates.  It’s one of the best fields of endeavor for people who love technology and are willing to try out new things.  If you’re considering pursuing a computer programming career, here are some things that you should know:

What is computer programming?
Computer programming is basically the process of writing codes to create a computer program.  A programming language is used to write this code, also known as the source code.  Computer programming is actually an umbrella term that encompasses all types of programming involving the use of computers.  The design and method utilized to write a source code will depend on the type of computer language used for the job.  Some of the most common computer languages include BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN, C++, Java, Visual Basic, Python and PHP.

The job of computer programming also includes testing the source code, debugging it to check for flaws and weaknesses and maintaining it to ensure optimum performance.

Creating the code
The soul of computer programming is the creation of the source code, which can either be brand new or something created to modify or improve upon an already existing code.  The object of the source code is to build a program that will perform a particular series of tasks based on a specific set of commands.  This is called customization.

The end result of writing the source code is a computer program.  In software engineering, computer programming is an important initial phase.

What does a computer programmer do?
The main job of a computer programmer is to write the codes that serve as the foundation of software programs.  He is also tasked to test, troubleshoot, debug and maintain the program to ensure its quality and reliability.

Generally, the tasks that a computer programmer must perform are assigned by another person, usually the system analyst.  The computer programmer’s job is then to write the program, test it, modify it if necessary and ensure that it passes compatibility and quality standards.  If errors are found, it is the computer programmer’s job to ensure that they are corrected.

The job of a computer programmer usually requires hours upon hours spent in front of a computer to design and write a computer program.  Depending on the type of program being written, its purpose and the complexity of the commands required in order for a computer to execute the series of steps involved, writing a program can take several months to several years to complete.

The length of time it often takes for a program to be completed often necessitates having a single program broken down into a smaller series of steps.  These steps will then be assigned as tasks to a group of programmers who will work on them independently.  The final step is to put the end results and produce one coherent and useful computer program.

Computer programming is a very dynamic field and involves plenty of imagination and discipline.  Although there are set standards for the tasks involved, the profession itself does not require certification tests from government agencies.  There are also no state and federal licenses to obtain.

How much does a computer programming job pay?
That will depend on the experience and level of expertise of the programmer.  Most entry-level programmers earn a minimum of about $33,000 a year while mid-level programmers earn approximately $50,000 a year.  For senior level programmers and those who have several years of experience behind them, their typical take-home pay averages at about $65,000 a year.  Consultants, some managers and those who have advanced well in their computer programming career are often paid more.