LATEST ARTICLES

Did the exploitation of a known Citrix ADC vulnerability cause the death of a hospital patient?

Earlier this year, we posted an article alerting people to a Citrix ADC vulnerability, that if exploited could allow an unauthenticated attacker to perform arbitrary code execution. In other words, your system could be hacked.

Sadly, a 78-year-old woman may have died as a consequence of a ransomware attack that took advantage of the self-same vulnerability (CVE-2019-19781).

The patient in question was en route to the University Hospital of Düsseldorf (UKD) when hackers disabled its IT systems. As a result she had to be transferred to another hospital some 35 km away.

In an AP News article published a few weeks after the tragic incident occurred, Germany’s senior public prosecutor was quoted as saying that she may have died due to the delay in emergency care.

Cybersecurity experts were immediately drafted in order to determine if there is a definitive link between the ransomware attack and the patient’s death, with the hospital also expected to be investigated.

Some reports suggest that the attack was misdirected and was originally intended for the nearby Heinrich Heine University. After law enforcement contacted the hackers and informed them that they had encrypted a hospital by mistake, the people behind the attack withdrew their ransom demand and provided the decryption key.

This in no way exonerates the actions of the criminal perpetrators and prosecutors have officially launched a negligent homicide case, stating that the hackers could be held responsible for the death.

Although there has been a huge rise in ransomware attacks during the global lockdown, this disturbing incident marks the very first recorded casualty of unscrupulous hackers targeting critical healthcare IT infrastructure.

It also highlights the extreme consequences that can occur if organisations fail to maintain the highest level of vigilance when it comes to safeguarding the security of their IT systems.

Failure to patch vulnerabilities opens a gateway to ransomware attacks.

Despite ransomware gangs stating early on in the pandemic that they wouldn’t deliberately target medical facilities, a series of attacks resulted in Interpol issuing warnings to all hospitals about the dangers of ransomware.

The fact is that failing to address vulnerabilities and weak credentials have provided threat actors with the opportunity to access the internal networks of many thousands of organisations across the world.

Cybersecurity agencies have become increasingly aware of incidents where Citrix systems were compromised before the security updates were made available and installed.

As a result, hackers still have access to many organisations’ systems and networks even after the security gap has been filled, leading to attacks many months after the vulnerability was first identified.

How to ensure your system hasn’t been compromised by the Citrix CVE-2019-19781 vulnerability.

To help identify compromised systems associated with CVE-2019-19781, FireEye and Citrix worked closely together to release a tool that searches for indicators of compromise (IoC) associated with attacker activity. (This tool is freely accessible in both the Citrix and FireEye GitHub repositories.)

The free tool will allow you to run it locally on your Citrix instances and receive a rapid assessment of any potential indications of compromise in the system based on known attacks and exploits.

In addition to applying the previously released mitigation steps and installing the permanent updates, Citrix and Firefox strongly recommend that all Citrix customers run this tool immediately. This will increase your overall level of awareness of potential compromise and help you to take the appropriate steps to protect your organisation.

Note: If you do detect any suspected exploitation, you should report it to the NCSC via the website.

Worried about the security of your organisation’s IT systems? Don’t worry, help is at hand.  

If for any reason you are concerned about the implications of this Citrix vulnerability, or the wider implications of security breaches that could leave your organisation at the mercy of hackers, don’t hesitate to contact us.

For immediate help and advice contact Peter Grayson by calling 0161 537 4980 or sending an email to peter.grayson@quadris.co.uk

How Managed Services can help your IT staff avoid burnout.

The move to remote working caused by the pandemic caught virtually every organisation completely by surprise and struggling to cope with this unprecedented situation. 

Not surprisingly the IT department bore the brunt of the fallout. As well as maintaining the smooth running of the organisation’s everyday operations, it also had to take on additional responsibilities associated with equipping colleagues with the means carry out their roles away from the office. 

For many IT staff involved in the pivot to remote working, there was a lot of adrenalin and purpose. But after the workforces had been equipped to work remotely, the question was “now what?” 

And to rub salt into the wound, a lot of IT professionals put a great deal of work into ensuring their organisation could continue to function, only to have half the team put on furlough. The result being that a much smaller percentage of that group were left carrying an even larger burden. 

Stress, burnout and redundancy. 

The fallout from the pandemic on IT professionals was borne out by a recent survey conducted by tech recruiters Harvey Nash, which reported that over a third of respondents stated that their mental health deteriorated as a direct result of the crisis. 

Many of those who expressed concern about their mental health, said that is the first time in their lives that they have experienced that worry. The two key reasons cited by respondents were not being able to switch off from work and the fear of losing their job. 

Some enlightened organisations provided their employees with resources to help them manage their mental health and wellbeing such as mindfulness and mediation apps, and even access to trained mental health professionals. 

But the reality is that many IT departments are still playing catch up and their staff are finding it increasingly difficult to cope. 

Skills shortage. 

Despite a surge in redundancies, there has been a significant increase in job ads for IT professionals. 

The reason for this is that as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic we’ve seen two years of digital transformation happening in the space of a few months. 

Organisations, both large and small, are now realising that digital skills are crucial to all parts of their business. The problem is that they are receiving a huge amount of applications from people who simply don’t have the necessary skills. 

The UK already had a serious skill shortage when it comes to IT, and the latest data from the Open University shows half of all employers are struggling to attract talent with the right skills. 

Quadris Managed Services to the rescue. 

We have been demonstrating our expertise in delivering future-focused solutions for over a decade.  
 
A large part of this has been empowering distributed workforces to communicate and collaborate, securely and efficiently. So, when the lockdown forced clients to work from home, so we were already in the driving seat when they suddenly had to enable their employees to work from home. 
 
In fact, one of our clients that operates in a highly regulated sector came to us for help when they needed to enable their entire workforce to work from home. It took us just 4 days. (Click here for the full story).  
 
It’s just one example of our deep understanding of the ever-changing nature of technology, and how we can overcome challenges quickly and efficiently. 

Our Managed Services comprise 4 key areas.  

Quadris Managed Services deliver a comprehensive range of future-focused services that cover every major aspect of IT and communications management. 
 
These have been categorised into 4 services offerings: Managed Service DeskManaged Digital WorkspaceManaged Cloud and Infrastructureand Managed Security Service 
 
In addition to offering round-the-clock support and expert advice, we also provide a single point of accountability that relieves the stress of trying to coordinate multiple vendors across different products and services. 
 
Which is why enterprises of all sizes and sectors can rely on Quadris Managed Services
 
Let Quadris take care of your IT services so that you can focus on your business; safe in the knowledge that your systems are always up-to-date, and any problems that arise are dealt with quickly and efficiently. 

To find out more about Quadris Managed Services and how they can take the pressure off your IT department, contact Peter Grayson on 0161 537 4980 or email peter.grayson@quadris.co.uk 

7 steps that will ensure your new distributed workforce stays connected, productive, and secure.

While there has been a great deal of talk about the new normal in a post-COVID-19 world, no-one can say for sure exactly what that may entail. 

Having said that, as a direct result of the lockdown and the ensuing social distancing, all the signs are that the ‘old’ normal that was built on and ultimately dependent upon centralisation is no longer fit for purpose. 

The fact is that the change, disruption, and uncertainty that has followed in the wake of the pandemic has put centralisation under the spotlight and made many people realise that it’s an extremely fragile model.

The permanent move to more resilient decentralised working models is driven as much by the desire of employees to have more autonomy, as it is by organisations who wish to capitalise on the potential cost savings. This is borne out by a recent survey, in which 50 of the biggest UK employers stated that they have no plans to return all staff to the office full-time. 

As a result, the rise of the digital workspace that delivers the ability for employees to work from any location is set to become an integral part of every organisations’ working practices and operations. 

The question remains, how do you go about ensuring that your organisation is ready, willing, and able to operate a digital workspace that can meet the growing and ever-changing needs of your distributed workforce? 

  1. Start by talking to all stakeholders. 

It doesn’t matter if you have your entire payroll working remotely or just a small percentage, you still face the same challenges – it’s only the scale of the problem that changes.  

As a result, directors, employees, customers should all be involved in the consultation process about how best to empower a distributed workforce.  

An all-inclusive process also offers up the prospect of valuable feedback and by including everyone in the decision-making process any changes to existing working practices are more likely to succeed. 

  1. Ensure that everyone is properly equipped and can do their job safely. 

The requirements of individuals may differ greatly depending on their role and responsibilities, as a result there should be no blanket solution as to the what equipment should be provided to remote workers. 

The specifications of any and all equipment must be tailored to meet the individual needs of each employee. For example, while many people will be happy to work on a laptop people who are required to work on financial spreadsheets will require a large screen monitor. 

Of course, there is far more to meeting the needs of employees than just a monitor. There are docking stations, ergonomic keyboards, laptop risers and a wide range of additional peripherals that can greatly improve working practices. 

Most importantly, as an employer you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers, so you need to ensure that you are complying fully with existing legislation

  1. Collaboration and communication. 

One of the biggest challenges for any decentralised workforce is replicating the ability to collaborate effectively even when people are located across different geographical locations. 

People need to be able to chat, message, call, hold videoconferences, share files and content, work collectively on projects – everything that would normally be carried out in the conventional office environment. 

There are numerous solutions with perhaps the most widespread and notable example being Microsoft Teams – the hub for teamwork in Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365). This chat-based workspace offers a truly flexible environment that makes everything visible, integrated, and accessible. It’s a messaging application where everyone can access conversations, meetings, and documents, and a hub where people can collaborate securely and in real time. 

Regardless of what type of work you do, a digital hub will allow you to customise its functionality to meet the specific needs of your organisation and quickly become an indispensable business tool. 

  1. Consistent connectivity.

While you have to admire the ingenuity and speed at which many organisations dealt with the challenges presented by the need for remote working, one area that caused considerable problems was internet access. 

This was especially noticeable in the drive to implement VoIP and videoconferencing, an essential element in the absence of face-to-face meetings and events. While the internet held up quite admirably in the face of the vastly increased traffic, users experienced the frustration of choppy video and audio, missed words and calls being dropped in the middle of a conversation. 

The cause can be attributed directly to poor internet access and the resultant network latency/delay, packet loss and inconsistency, and network congestion due to bandwidth overuse. Unfortunately, the speed and reliability of internet connections is often dependent on where people live – making the ability to communicate and collaborate with colleagues subject to a postcode lottery. 

Thankfully there are solutions to the problem of poor internet access such as improving users’ home broadband by augmenting it using future-focused software defined solutions

  1. Security, security, security.

One of the biggest problems confronting every organisation is that remote working has led to the disappearance of the physical perimeter and fundamentally altered the threat landscape. 

The push to keep employees connected has led to a rapid increase in the use of enterprise applications such as Office 365 and Salesforce. And while they greatly helped organisations and their employees to maintain a semblance of normality, the use of personal devices, unsecured internet access, and a lack of support for remote workers has resulted in a catalogue of potential security issues. 

In a recent survey 95% of security professionals stated that they are facing added IT security challenges: the provision of secure remote access for employees, the need for remote access scalable solutions, and employees using untested software, tools and services. 

The move to a decentralised workforce means that enterprises now need to focus on a multi-dimensional security model that takes into account data loss prevention, information barriers, retention policies, in order to keep any sensitive data safe against unauthorised access. 

Any future-facing model should ensure that: everyone receives regular security updates; software packages are deployed centrally; anti-virus software is always switched on and up to date; all software and applications are regularly updated; OS and software security patches are regularly implemented in order to address vulnerabilities and fix bugs; internet browsers are protected and secured; and central security policies are applied to devices to protect users from compromised USB devices. 

  1. Training and management.

From the first day of induction, to ongoing assessments, to training people on how to use the new tools necessary for remote working – every organisation is now facing a whole new set of issues when it comes to training and managing a decentralised workforce. 

When it comes to training and ongoing management, videoconferencing and team collaboration applications are now a fundamental part of keeping the whole workforce informed and connected.  

Daily or weekly management meetings should still take place in order to plan out the forthcoming operations and help coordinate the overseeing of business units, applications, or deal with specific organisational issues. 

Beyond day-to-day management, leaders must train their staff on how to address worker problems, provide advice on home office setups, while all the time keeping projects on schedule. 

At the end of the day, given that teams are now more likely to be dispersed across different geographical areas, videoconferencing and team collaboration applications are set to become essential business tools. With this in mind, it’s no longer just a matter of providing employees with access, to make the very most of collaboration hubs such as Microsoft 365 requires very specialised professional training. 

  1. Provide 24/7/365 support wherever people are located.

The days of getting someone from the IT department to drop by your desk to help solve an issue are all but over. The centralised support that employees have previously relied upon now needs to transform into a support service that is just as at home in the office, as it is in the home. 

The problem is that the majority of IT personnel are accustomed to being on site and as a result, must now be trained on remote troubleshooting to ensure the same high standards of support can be delivered to remote workers. 

Furthermore, IT personnel who aren’t involved with end-user support also need the tools and guidance to remotely manage systems and applications that they were previously managing locally. 

The fact remains that without the proper equipment, the right tools, and sufficient personnel to deal with the issues that come with remote working, the problems will keep mounting. No matter how big your organisation or what sector it operates in, end point management and end user management will become two of the most critical points of focus across the entire organisation. 

The problem is that many organisations simply don’t have the skills and resources to deliver the service that the future demands. As a result, the solution often lies in outsourcing IT support to a dedicated service provider or service desk. 

How Quadris Managed Digital Workspace can support you every step of the way.

All the signs point toward the majority of forward-thinking organisations will increasingly move away from the centralised model of old and toward the decentralised model we have seen emerging over the last 6 months in the wake of the pandemic. 

The pandemic has caused monumental shifts in the way that organisations operate and it’s a brave (or reckless) organisation that isn’t making contingencies for the possibility that this won’t be the last pandemic we encounter. 

The fact is that work will no longer be a place, but an organised set of tasks and activities that can be securely carried out using any device and tailored to deliver a personalised and relevant employee experience. Digital workplaces are set to become the backbone of modern business and analysts estimate the market will expand to a staggering £30 billion by 2025. 

Our Managed Digital Workspace will free you up from the vast majority of work involved in supplying, maintaining, and supporting computer equipment, phones, and peripherals.  

As a direct result, this comprehensive solution greatly simplifies your IT management, reduces internal costs, and most importantly leaves you with more time to concentrate on higher value work. 

To find out more about Quadris Managed Digital Workspace and how it can benefit your organisation, contact Peter Grayson on 0161 537 4980 or email peter.grayson@quadris.co.uk 

Remotely training ForViva’s staff on how to collaborate remotely with Microsoft Teams.

A forward-thinking social organisation that challenges inequalities and delivers positive, lasting change, ForViva invests in projects that prevent homelessness, improve health & wellbeing, and create job opportunities.

The entire ForViva Group is united behind one shared vision: Improved lives. From the boardroom to the community centre its values of passion, openness, respect, and trust shine through.

High ideals indeed, and to be applauded. But when the coronavirus pandemic forced the lockdown, it presented a situation that could have seriously impeded ForViva’s ability to maintain its collective approach.

Addressing the challenge of staying connected and collaborating effectively while working remotely.

To ensure that all key staff could collaborate and continue to serve the many communities that rely on ForViva, and its subsidiaries; ForHousing and Liberty, it was looking to roll out Microsoft Teams to dozens of roles across the Group.

All well and good, and under normal circumstances we would have been happy to hold a group training session, but with social distancing in place it was agreed that the training had to take place remotely.

The irony of remotely training people on how to work remotely wasn’t lost on everyone involved. It also presented an extra layer of difficulty as we had to organise no less than 50 one-to-one sessions. But undeterred and with the assistance of ForViva’s management, we scheduled 6-7 individual trainings to take place every day over the period of a few weeks.

In order to facilitate these trainings, we first had to call in two of our senior technical engineers to undertake the initial implementation; configuring ForViva’s networks so that Teams was installed on a new VDI image and the Citrix platform was fully optimised.

We also had to migrate everyone’s individual profiles to FSlogix profiles using group policy to enable the optimisation of profiles on VDI environments. Finally, because we were moving ForViva onto a new desktop, we also upgraded their Microsoft Office applications to Microsoft365 (formerly Office365).

With the setup complete, we then methodically called each person in turn via the newly installed Teams and the training commenced.

The trainings in action.

While the logistics of conducting multiple one-to-one meetings were quite challenging, it also presented us with an opportunity to conduct individual sessions that could be tailored to the abilities of each person, and a great way of ensuring that every single user was set up correctly from all available devices.

Generally, we started by talking the user through the installation process on the devices they wished to use, before connecting them for the training session about Teams – via Teams! 

This was followed by a brief introduction to the many features that Teams has to offer, then an explanation of how it can help to make working lives easier, especially under the current circumstances with so many people working remotely.

We then covered the basics, such as how to install, access and navigate around the app. From here we dived down into its many features, explaining how to chat to colleagues, use the instant messaging function, make an audio or video call, share screens, and transfer files. In addition, we made clear the difference between communicating person-to-person and group communications via the different internal teams.

To add to the flexibility and functionality of this increasingly popular collaboration tool, we also explained how to download and access the mobile app. And to complete the picture, we demonstrated how Teams integrates with Microsoft365 and provides direct access to the inclusive Microsoft Office online apps (WordExcel, and PowerPoint to name just a few).

“Quadris’ training helped our staff understand how to make the most of Microsoft Teams and smooth our transition to remote working.

Mark Sullivan, Group ICT Director at ForViva

Our support didn’t end with the training.

Even after the training sessions were completed, we held subsequent catch up sessions whenever required and helped to troubleshoot any problems that people encountered.

With the basics well and truly under their belt, the intuitive design of Teams meant that all the newly enrolled users could quickly pick up its many different facets, with support from Quadris available should anyone require further assistance.

Want to know how to make the most of Microsoft Teams?

To find out more about Microsoft Teams and how it can enable your workforce to communicate and collaborate more effectively, whether in the office or from home call 0161 537 4980 or email james.simpson@quadris.co.uk

New Microsoft Teams features – coming soon to a screen near you.

The phenomenal success of the Zoom app during the lockdown caught everyone by surprise.

The truth is that Zoom’s rise was years in the making. It’s just that when vast swathes of the world’s workforce were sent home, people needed a videoconferencing platform that was ready to do the job.

Zoom proceeded to deliver the ease of access and functionality that made it an instant success, much to the embarrassment of the established tech giants such as WebEx, GoToMeeting, Google and Microsoft.

Of course, it’s a little unfair to lump Microsoft Teams in with dedicated videoconferencing apps such as Zoom, as it offers far more than just the ability to make video calls. Teams is an enterprise level communication and collaboration platform that combines workplace messaging, file storage and application integration.

Even so, with 300m people using Zoom every day, Microsoft knew that they had to respond and update Teams in order to improve its functionality and overall appeal. As a result, the technology giant has spent the lockdown months researching how its customers use its tools, while also working with experts in virtual reality, AI and productivity to help further its understanding of the future of work.

The new features that will help you to get even more out of Microsoft Teams.

At the end of the day, it’s all about enabling people to collaborate, stay connected, and discover new ways to be productive – no matter where they are working.

The new features have been designed to make virtual interactions far more natural, engaging and human. As a result, users should feel more connected and inclusive, while reducing meeting fatigue and saving time.

The new features are quite extensive, so we have highlighted the most important and relevant in this post, for a full run down direct from Microsoft click here.

  1. Together mode.

A new meeting experience that uses AI segmentation technology to digitally position people into a single shared background, so that participants feel like they are all sitting in the same room.

The idea behind this addition is to help you to focus on people’s faces and body language in order to make it easier to pick up on the non-verbal cues that are so essential to human interaction.

Aimed at meetings where there may be many people speaking, Together mode makes it easier to see exactly who is talking and also uses some AI to make participants ‘look toward’ the active speaker. The auditorium view should be available to everyone by August, while different room types such as a coffee shop will follow shortly after.

2. Dynamic view. 

Designed to provide you with greater control over how you view participants and share content during meetings. Dynamic view uses AI to deliver a range of new features, such as the ability to display shared content and specific individuals side-by-side, as well as personalising the view to suit your personal preferences.

Building on previous enhancements, it includes a large gallery view where you can see up to 49 people simultaneously, together with virtual breakout rooms which enables organisers to divide participants into smaller groups when required. Dynamic view will be rolled out in August.

  1. Video filters. 

The use of filters in social media apps has become increasingly popular, so Microsoft have introduced them into Teams.

Now you can look your best by using the filters to adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of the camera in order to customise your appearance to your desired outcome.

  1. Live reactions. 

It can be difficult to gauge audience reactions especially when there are a large number of people and you don’t want to interrupt the flow of the meeting. With Live reactions, participants will be able to use emojis to make their feelings known.

In addition, Live reactions is a shared feature with PowerPoint Live Presentations, enabling audience members to give instant feedback to the presenter. Microsoft is also bringing PowerPoint Live Presentations to Teams in the near future, further enhancing audience engagement right from Teams itself.

  1. Chat bubbles. 

At the moment, users are required to manually open a chat window in order to view the chat screen. But soon any messages sent during a Teams meeting will appear on the screens of all participants, creating a more central, interactive, and inclusive conversation.

  1. Speaker attribution for live captions and transcripts. 

While Teams already provides live captions so that you can follow what is being said in a meeting, soon there will be speaker attribution to captions so that participants will know exactly who is speaking.

Live captions with speaker attribution

Later this year, we will also see live transcripts, providing you with another way to follow what has been said, together with who said it. Furthermore, following a meeting the transcript file is automatically saved in a tab as a part of the meeting.

Live transcription with speaker attribution.

It’s worth noting that remarks made by participants joining from a conference room device will be attributed to the room rather than to the individuals in the room.

7. Reflect messaging extension. 

With employee well-being in mind, the Reflect messaging extension gives managers and organisers a simple way to check on how participants are feeling, either generally or about specific work-related topics.

In a few weeks, you will be able to install the extension from GitHub and make it available to colleagues via the message extension menu. The extension provides suggested check-in questions, or you can add your own custom questions for participants to respond to, creating a poll-like experience that you can either share or keep anonymous.

  1. Interactive meetings for 1,000 participants and view only for up to 20,000! 

Teams meetings are growing to support up to 1,000 participants, where attendees can chat, talk, and use their video cameras for real-time interaction and collaboration.

And should you wish to bring even more people together for a presentation, Teams can now support a view-only experience for as many as 20,000 participants!

Want to know how to make the most of Microsoft Teams and the latest features?

To find out more about Microsoft Teams and how it can enable your workforce to communicate and collaborate more effectively, whether in the office or from home call 0161 537 4980 or email james.simpson@quadris.co.uk

VeloCloud SD-WAN: the quick and effective cure for communication jitters.

Since the lockdown was ordered, the task of empowering millions of people to work from home has been fraught with difficulties and littered with obstacles. 

The rush to equip employees with portable devices caused massive shortages and huge hikes in prices. But even those organisations who were lucky enough to be able to get their hands on enough hardware to keep their business rolling have still faced a mountain of problems. 

One of the most frequently encountered issues has been with regard to collaborating and communicating with colleagues who are often strewn across the country and beyond. The drive to implement VoIP and videoconferencing has resulted in countless stories of choppy video or audio, missed words, blurred video, pixelated images, jumbled audio, calls being dropped in the middle of a conversation and more. 

The cause of all the above can often be attributed directly to poor internet access and the resultant network latency/delay, packet loss and inconsistency, and network congestion due to bandwidth overuse. And unfortunately, the speed and reliability of your internet connection is often dependent on where you live – making your ability to communicate and collaborate with colleagues subject to a postcode lottery. 

But now thanks to VeloCloud SD-WAN there is now a solution that puts an end to the frustration, quickly and effectively. 

The difference that VeloCloud SD-WAN makes with just 2% packet loss is clear to see.

How VeloCloud SD-WAN smooths the path to clear communications. 

Unlike a traditional WAN, the VeloCloud SD-WAN has its roots in Software Defined Networking (SDN), with the underlying principle of abstracting the network hardware and transport characteristics across all applications that use the network. 

It has been designed to be a ‘transport-independent’ product that is easy to implement and that permits the use of any type of physical connection, from multi-protocol label switching (MPLS), to cable, to broadband cellular network technology such as 4G. 

As a result, no matter whether users are located at head office, a branch outlet, or working from home they can all experience seamless communications and connectivity simply by adding a VeloCloud SD-WAN Edge appliance. 

What’s more, this ingenious device can be deployed in just a matter of minutes. You simply plug it in, authenticate and users are up and running without the need for any IT involvement whatsoever. 

Once installed it will immediately optimise network traffic and iron out any jitters, even under situations where packet loss would normally make communicating impossible. 

See how easy it is to deploy a VeloCloud SD-WAN Edge appliance in the short video above. 

Internet connection really poor? Just add a 4G dongle. 

Because VeloCloud SD-WAN allows the use of any type of connection, you can add as a many connections for resiliency and load balancing as you like. 

For example, if a user is located in an area where the internet connection is notoriously unreliable, you can simply add a 4G dongle into the VeloCloud SD-WAN Edge appliance alongside the standard internet connection and it will automatically deliver optimum load balancing.  

During general use it will use both connections sending a portion of the data down one route and a portion down the other. And should one connection fail, it will simply automatically failover onto the other. 

And the beauty of it is no matter whether you put a 4G dongle in the back or any other connectivity, it will still retain that VPN between the user and the data centre or office. 

Far more than just improved video and audio calls for home workers. 

Of course, there’s more to VeloCloud SD-WAN than just improving the quality of audio or video calls, it actually simplifies the implementation of complex remote networks and delivers significant savings to operational costs. 

For example, where organisations are provisioning connectivity, with a traditional WAN the lead time for the connectivity can be several months or even up to a year. But with VeloCloud SD-WAN instead of waiting for MPLS connectivity, you can employ standard circuits which have a significantly reduced lead time. 

Once these are in place, you simply introduce VeloCloud SD-WAN Edge appliances at your head office, branch offices, data centres and home users. From here, this smart solution automatically establishes a Virtual Private Network (VPN) between all the different sites and users; in other words, it creates a mesh that delivers fully optimised connectivity across your organisation. 

Add resiliency to existing MPLS connectivity. 

Another benefit is where you have already invested in MPLS connectivity but want to add some resiliency. Just take your existing traditional connectivity, plug it into the back of a VeloCloud SD-WAN Edge and then add and connect a cheaper secondary option. With both connections in place you automatically have load balancing between the two, and should the main connection go down, it automatically failsover to the other. 

Optimise your SaaS connectivity. 

Another great feature for the enterprise is down to the fact that VeloCloud has provisioned gateways into all the major datacentres across the world, that operate like VeloCloud SD-WAN Edge appliances at that end. 

By optimising traffic at both ends, applications such as SaaS run far better than with traditional connections. When you connect to SaaS applications the entire traffic is optimised, the packets are guaranteed and compressed so you get a lot more data out of the link. 

Find out how VeloCloud SD-WAN can help keep your entire workforce connected. 

VeloCloud SD-WAN is the industry-leading WAN edge services platform for both branch and at home users, delivering simple, reliable, secure, and optimized access to traditional and cloud applications.  

Which is why at Quadris we are actively promoting VeloCloud SD-WAN to many of our clients who rely on efficient, secure, and flexible connectivity for their mission-critical IT services and applications. 

To find out more about the many benefits of VeloCloud SD-WAN, contact Peter Grayson on 0161 537 4980 or email peter.grayson@quadris.co.uk 

How an entire workforce was empowered to work securely from home in under 4 days.

When the Coronavirus crisis hit and the government requested that all non-essential staff should work from home, like many organisations across the nation our client was left with a logistical mountain to climb. 

Under normal circumstances they don’t employ any remote workers whatsoever; but these are extraordinary times, and as such they call for extraordinary measures. 

To add to an already demanding situation, our client operates within the financial services sector and as a result must comply with extremely stringent regulations, so any solution had to offer the very highest level of security. 

Stepping up to the challenge. 

Fortunately, Quadris had already deployed Stratodesk NoTouch endpoint management solution for use on their internal terminals. 

The beauty of this cutting-edge solution is that it allows you to transform any PC, Thin Client, Laptop, or Raspberry Pi device into a safe, secure, and centrally managed endpoint. 

All well and good, but the sudden increase in demand for remote working had led directly to a dire shortage of laptops as thousands of organisations sought to equip their employees with the ability to work from home. 

So, we immediately went on the hunt for a large quantity of laptops and our efforts were soon rewarded when we able to point our client in the direction of 250 refurbished machines that would fit the bill perfectly. 

Usually it would be a huge task to image every laptop, load up the Citrix workspace client, anti-virus software and apply various other lock down policies to make sure the devices were secure, together with everything else that goes with getting a laptop ready and capable of undertaking its allotted task. 

Instead, our client took possession of the laptops and re-imaged every single machine with Stratodesk NoTouch. 

All that was required was to plug a network cable into each laptop and in just a few minutes they were ready to go. In a single stroke, they were made completely secure, lightening fast and simplicity itself to use. 

It took our client just under 4 days to empower a 250-strong workforce to operate securely from home. 

In just a few days, every one of the machines was re-imaged and allocated to a member of staff. 

When they turn on their ‘new’ laptop, all they see is the company’s branded Citrix login page. They simply enter their login details, password and MFA token, and because there is no bloated operating system they are up and running in less than 20 seconds. 

This is because to all intents and purposes all the laptops have become Thin Clients. The beauty of this setup is that there is nothing on the laptop except for the Citrix workspace client, so there’s no way to access any sensitive company data or do anything other than their assigned workload.

It also means that if for any reason one of these laptops is stolen or lost, there is no danger whatsoever of our client’s sensitive data falling into the wrong hands. To anyone other than the allotted user, they are completely useless. 

Furthermore, as there is no ‘full fat’ operating system or additional applications there are no updates to contend with. And to add to their functionality Quadris is able to support every user remotely – no matter where they are located.

Looking to enable your employees to work remotely? 

To find out how we can help empower your workforce to work securely from home, office or anywhere in between, please contact Peter Grayson on 0161 537 4980 or email peter.grayson@quadris.co.uk

Warning! Retrieving your data from the Cloud could send costs rocketing.

One of the key drivers behind the decision to migrate to the cloud has been the promise of lower costs. But as many organisations are fast discovering, not only are these cost savings failing to materialise, in some instances it can lead to costs soaring. 

A case in question is NASA’s recent decision to choose AWS (Amazon Web Services) to handle its Earthdata Cloud, the data repository for the Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) that collates all the information collected from its various missions.

Previously, NASA was storing all its data on-prem across 12 DAACs (Distributed Active Archive Centres). But with no less than 15 missions planned over the next few years (with each expected to produce 100 terabytes of information every single day) NASA was faced with the prospect of their data growing from 30 petabytes to over 250 petabytes by 2025. 

So, after lengthy and supposedly exhaustive consultations, last year NASA chose AWS (Amazon Web Services) to handle its repository for the data collected from all future missions.

Houstonwe have a problem. 

Unfortunately, someone at the Agency forgot to take into account the associated costs (a.k.a. the egress charges) of retrieving the data they feed into AWS. 

These egress charges are the costs incurred when transferring data from the Cloud to another area, which in the case of NASA could simply be a local workstation for one of their engineers or scientists. The vast majority of AWS subscriptions will charge these fees over and above the agreed monthly Cloud subscription, so the more data you retrieve, the bigger the bill. 

At the moment, when users download data from a DAAC, there are no additional costs above the need to maintain the existing infrastructure. But when users download from the Earthdata Cloud, NASA is charged every single time, while still having to maintain the 12 DAACs. 

To add to an already messy situation, ESDIS hasn’t yet determined which data sets will migrate to the Earthdata Cloud, nor has it developed cost models based on operational experience and metrics for usage and egress. Consequently, current cost projections may be far lower than what will be necessary to cover future expenses and Cloud adoption may well become increasingly expensive and difficult to manage.

Should NASA limit the amount of data in order to control costs, the result could be that valuable scientific data becomes less available to users, thereby negating one of the key reasons for migrating to the Cloud in the first place. 

Either way, NASA is facing a bill of astronomical proportions. 

Enter the Inspector General. 

These revelations have caused huge consternation throughout the Agency, and as a result the office of the Inspector General of NASA undertook a full audit of the project. 

It concluded that the people in charge of the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS), which makes available the information from ESDIS, had simply failed to consider the additional costs of the eye-watering egress charges. 

The report also highlighted the fact that the rather embarrassingly named Evolution, Enhancement, and Efficiency (E&E) panel that was chosen to review the DAACs, didn’t even attempt to identify potential cost savings. 

To add to an altogether shambolic situation, the panel also failed to adhere to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST’s) data integrity standards, displaying a complete lack of independence as half of the panel members also worked on ESDIS. 

The report concluded that once 2 key projects are up and running and providing sufficient data, a comprehensive and truly independent analysis should be conducted in order to determine the long-term financial implications of supporting Cloud migration, while also maintaining the existing DAAC footprint. 

Heads stuck in the Cloud? 

Putting the blame to one side, many questions remain. 

Some are asking if NASA should now make a comparative evaluation of the cost of upgrading its DAACs to meet the 250+ petabytes storage requirements versus the migration to AWS with the egress charges fully factored in. 

It may well be too late as NASA are already committed to AWS, but with the very long-term future in mind it’s worth noting that there are many who believe that while the Cloud is great for bursty/on-demand workloads, when it comes to constant load then on-prem is better, safer and usually works out cheaper. 

Down to earth advice and support are available at Quadris. 

Migrating to the Cloud may appear straightforward, but as you can see even organisations such as NASA can make errors of judgement when confronted with new technologies and operating practices. 

For an in-depth discussion about the pros and cons of Cloud migration v On-prem, and the different options available to you, contact Peter Grayson on 0161 537 4980 or email peter.grayson@quadris.co.uk 

Why over half of UK organisations think the public cloud is over-hyped and overpriced.

No one is doubting the lure of the cloud. 

But a recent report by Capita has revealed that the majority of UK organisations are becoming increasingly disillusioned by their decision to move to the cloud. The research which covered 200 decision makers across the IT sector also found that ‘unforeseen factors’ had resulted in their organisation’s cloud migration being behind schedule. 

The main factor behind the push to adopt the cloud was undoubtedly to reduce the cost of storing data on premise. But the reality is that even though many organisations have been planning the move as long ago as 2015, the promised savings simply haven’t materialised. 

According to the survey, less than half of the proposed workloads and applications have successfully migrated, with just 1 out of every 20 respondents stating that they had not encountered any challenges on the road to cloud migration. 

Security issues and lack of internal skills. 

The key obstacles that have resulted in such slow progress and disillusionment were quoted as being security issues and the lack of internal skills. 

In addition, many organisations took a ‘lift and shift’ approach which entailed simply gathering up everything they were storing on-premise and shifting it over to the public cloud. The problem with this approach is that they failed to realise that in the vast majority of instances you need to re-architect the application in order to optimise them for the cloud. 

As the challenges continue to mount up, so has the cost. 

Nearly 60% of organisations admit that moving to the cloud has been far more expensive than anticipated. 

The increasing cost of moving to the public cloud isn’t confined to the UK. Across the world organisations invested $107 billion (£83 billion) on cloud computing last year, an increase of 37% on the previous year and this amount is predicted to spiral over the next 5 years. 

Research by Gartner predicts that over the coming year 80% of organisations will exceed their cloud infrastructure budgets due to their inability to manage cost optimisation. 

Yet infrastructure isn’t the only growing cost when moving to the cloud. The total spend on cloud services themselves are set to hit $500 billion (£388.4 billion) by 2023. 

These escalating costs of moving to the public cloud are clearly coming as quite a shock, not least because cutting costs was one of the prime drivers behind the moving to the cloud in the first instance. 

The way forward. 

If you are considering adopting public cloud services, then it’s worth taking the time to validate your strategy before committing your organisation to what could become a very costly and ultimately frustrating exercise. 

For those organisations who are already way down that path, the main aim at this moment in time should be how to control escalating costs; and at the heart of this should be better planning.  

As a result, you need to understand the characteristics of your different workloads and then focus first on migrating those with characteristics that map well to the benefits of the cloud. These are likely to be applications that have burstable resource demands and/or, are well architected for public cloud services. 

For workloads with relatively stable resource demands and that maybe not be well architected for the public cloud, you are likely to experience better value and control keeping them on a hosted private cloud platform. Equally importantly, it shouldn’t be regarded as a one-off event, the cloud is dynamic, so you need to continually monitor its performance.  

Only 33% of organisations state that their costs have decreased and only 16% are extremely satisfied.  

While many IT decision-makers still firmly believe that its benefits will eventually outweigh its drawbacks, and that the public cloud is the way forward, yet again this belief is undermined by statistics which show that only 33% of organisations state that their costs have decreased since migrating to the cloud and only 16% are extremely satisfied with the move. 

So, it’s fair to say that very few organisations have seen the benefits, let alone the transformational potential of their investment. No wonder that the majority of IT leaders have been left frustrated and underwhelmed by the promises made by the purveyors of cloud technology. CSPs have been quick to jump to its defence, claiming that expectations have been misplaced and the actual purpose of the move is to enable innovation. 

Little consolation for those IT leaders who have taken on the responsibility for migrating to the cloud and have been left to explain to their colleagues and Directors why it has failed to deliver. 

To discuss your IT requirements and the different options available to you, contact Peter Grayson on 0161 537 4980 or email peter.grayson@quadris.co.uk

Update: 02/06/2020. Has the new Citrix HDX optimisation for Microsoft Teams ended the frustration of users working in virtual environments?

Since we first published this post in February, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a huge uptake of Microsoft Teams. So, we decided to review its performance in light of its increased popularity to see if the improvements have lived up to expectations. 

Overall, we can confidently say that its performance is noticeably better than the pre-optimised version running on Citrix, with respect to both sound and vision. 

However, feedback from customers has revealed a couple of issues that should be addressed. 

Firstly, only the main speaker appears in the window. As a result, if you have more than 2 people in a meeting, only the person speaking gets the floor, unlike the fat client version whereby you can see everyone who is on the call at all times. 

Secondly, background effects aren’t yet available. So you don’t have the option of  a blurred background (very useful when you are in lockdown and calling from an improvised office) or being able to pretend that you are on one of the Halo maps (yes geeks really do love that!). 

All in all, it is an improvement, and we fully expect further enhancements in the near future. Watch this space! 

If you have any queries about the new Citrix HDX optimisation, or indeed any issues with Citrix virtual environments or Microsoft 365, don’t hesitate to contact Peter Grayson on 0161 537 4980 or email peter.grayson@quadris.co.uk 

Below is the original post by Jack Firth from 19th February 2020.

Will the new Citrix HDX optimisation for Microsoft Teams finally end the frustration of users working in virtual environments?

Any organisation seeking to improve employee productivity and collaboration will acknowledge the increasing role that Citrix is playing in the modern workplace; providing secure remote access to all employees while also cutting IT costs. 

Furthermore, with more organisations migrating to Office 365, one of its many benefits is the ability to take advantage of the intelligent communication solution presented by Microsoft Teams which is bundled into Office 365. 

As a result, by combining these 2 leading technologies not only can they make your employees more productive, IT teams also benefit from centralised management. With information such as data and chat logs staying in a cloud environment instead of being stored on native devices, it ensures better control over sensitive information. 

But while users of the desktop versions of Microsoft Teams have long enjoyed its full functionality, anyone using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops who has attempted to make a video call via Microsoft Teams will have experienced the frustration that comes with latency, pixilation and poor call quality. 

With more and more organisations implementing Office 365, organisations have long been asking when Citrix would end the frustration and optimise Microsoft Teams for virtual environments. 

What Citrix HDX optimisation for Microsoft Teams could mean for your organisation. 

The answer lies with the roll out of Citrix HDX optimisation; an industry first that promises to optimise the delivery of Microsoft Teams (a minimum of version 1.2.00.31357) for virtual environments. 

According to Citrix, all users will now get a fully native, fully featured Microsoft Teams experience within Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops; with a single point of authentication that also improves reliability and ease of use. 

You can see how Citrix promises to deliver a full native experience of Microsoft Teams within a Win 10 virtual desktop on Azure in the following video:

The key to this huge improvement in functionality lies in the fact that the Citrix Workspace app has a built-in multi-platform HDX Media Engine that ensures optimised device and media handling, with audio, video, and screen sharing offloaded to the user’s device. (You can find the full specification and installation guidelines here.)

What this basically means is that with the new HDX optimisation, instead of it running Microsoft Teams predominantly in the Citrix environment and the external server cluster, it offloads all the traffic onto a device such as the Thin Client on your desk which works in a similar way to BCR (Browser Content Redirection). 

Coming to a virtual environment near you soon. 

Citrix announced that the release of HDX-optimized Microsoft Teams will be available in a matter of weeks. Their engineering teams are currently putting the final touches on the optimisation, but you should expect it with their next Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops release (you will need to move onto that VDA once released, as well as a future release of the Microsoft Teams client.) 

How well it will meet the expectations of the tens of thousands of users working in virtual environments only time will tell, but if the demonstration video is anything to go by then we will see a huge uptake in the use of calls and videoconferencing with Microsoft Teams. 

As a consequence, it may just signal the end of the line for Skype for Business, which itself only recently received a Citrix HDX Realtime Optimization Pack (RTOP) that delivered a native-like experience for Skype for Business in virtual environments. 

At Quadris we will be reviewing the functionality of the new HDX-optimized Microsoft Teams and reporting back on whether or not it lives up to expectations.