For a long time, Wi-Fi basically meant connecting laptops to the network. Now cellular phones, tablets, netbooks, printers, hard drives, and projectors are Wi-Fi enabled. This can drive demand to expand coverage or increase speeds on your network.
Wireless access points (APs) or wireless routers have evolved substantially in the last few years, bringing newer, higher-speed network protocols as well as improved security.
The basic wireless network standard is 802.11, with variations such as a, b, g, and n. Some vendors use multiple channels to allow for a multiplexed connection, theoretically enabling three channels simultaneously to triple the base speed. You’ll see numbers quoted from 22Mbps all the way to 600Mbps or higher. In many cases, though, speed drops dramatically with signal strength, and better coverage can provide more user satisfaction than higher but intermittent speeds.
On Monday, we polled IT and business leaders about how they’re using public and private clouds. The respondents to our pair of suveys who say they are well on the way to a completely virtual data center outnumber those who haven’t started using the cloud at all.
Nearly one-quarter of respondents to each of our two polls--one for IT managers and another for business managers--said they're on the way to a virtualized data center. Only 17 percent of people who took either poll said they're not using the cloud at all. The remainder have some sort of cloud initiative in place, either public or private.
Based on these results, small businesses seem to be buying into the notion of the cloud, but taking extra precautions against data loss. A spring survey by In-Stat shows that even when SMBs are buying cloud storage, they are also buying NAS systems for internal use to back up the online storage.
Outsourcing IT functions such as payroll, website hosting, email, or enterprise resource planning (ERP) has long been normal for businesses of all sizes. But outsourcing critical IT functions including database servers, file servers, document storage, or application development, gives many organizations pause.
Many experienced IT admins point to recent well-publicized outages, data losses, and hacking incidents that have cost companies big in lost productivity, lawsuits or penalties, and even leading to bankruptcy.
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"I've been reading a lot about "cloud computing" over the past few months and am more confused than ever. I'm not sure I understand what it could mean for me or my business, and how does it relate to virtualization? I thought that was part of the cloud."
You’re not alone. The term “cloud computing” has been used to describe a wide variety of services and frameworks recently, which has caused confusion among many in the industry.
One definition of the cloud is a service or services provided by an outside entity, such as an application stack you access from your systems, running on servers and storage maintained by the provider. In this definition, Google provides a cloud service such as Gmail or Google Docs that you might use but not need to maintain.
There are many substantial benefits to moving IT functions to the cloud. Cloud providers can achieve economy of scale that both small and midsize businesses cannot, offering services for much less than what they cost a small business.
A cloud provider’s large data center can have redundancy and higher-speed Internet connections than many businesses couldn't afford to run internally, yielding higher performance for applications. The capability to easily increase or reduce capacity or features can make an organization more agile. The cloud also enables the creation of virtual companies, so you can use contractors for IT functions.
On the downside, cloud provider outages, hacking, or loss of data can cause employees to lose work hours--and lead to large financial losses if customer data is exposed, competitors get hold of proprietary data, or data is permanently lost.
On Monday, we asked readers in two polls about how they use virtualization. There wasn't an overwhelming majority among the responses, but the numbers indicated that virtualization is making inroads.
About a third of self-identified business managers reported that they're running most of their servers on virtual machines, while more than the 26 percent said they aren’t yet really using virtualization at all.
Among IT managers, over a third said they're using server virtualization, and about 85 percent are using at least some form of server or desktop virtualization. This indicates that even in small and midsize businesses--where the expertise to implement virtualization might not be as easy to find as in big corporations--virtualization is on the rise.
Both server virtualization and desktop virtualization use a software core called a hypervisor to run multiple operating systems on the same physical server hardware. Each OS is kept separate, with resources dedicated as needed.
Since you can buy modern servers with multiple CPUs, large amount of memory, lots of storage, and high-bandwidth network connections, each OS can have as much computing power at need as an individual server might provide. The operating systems and applications seldom use all available resources, especially at the same times--so more operating systems and applications can coexist on a single piece of hardware, resulting in better utilization of hardware.