Category Archives: Blog

Why Settle acquire Xpedient Ltd, Network Division

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Why Settle have completed the acquisition of the Network Division of Xpedient Ltd in a six-figure deal supported by Royal Bank of Scotland. The deal makes Why Settle a major supplier of IT Network Services to the professional services sector in Scotland, and brings a further international market, the Middle East, to our existing international work in Australia and Ireland.

All staff have been retained as the company looks to incorporate the skills, services and good practice of both businesses across our enlarged client base. Both companies operate under the highest ethical standards with processes in place to protect customer data at all times, reflected in their strong and lengthy reputations. Xpedient clients will still be able to speak to all the same staff, at the same offices, but will soon meet some new faces.

Paul Brennan, chief executive of Why Settle, said,

“We are delighted to acquire the Network Division of Xpedient Ltd. Xpedient is a well-run and profitable business, with first-class staff, reflected in an outstanding client base. Our greatest challenge as a business is finding the right staff and today we have been able to co-opt some of the finest in our industry.”

Why Settle provides IT Network services. We are an outsourced IT department for many small-to-medium-sized companies and provide second-line and specialist support to some of Scotland’s largest commercial organisations. Established in 1996, the company retains the most skilled IT staff in Scotland, over 70% of the pre-acquisition employees have been with the company in excess of 10 years, building a vast reservoir of experience across some of the most high-dependency computer network environments in the country. We understand our clients’ businesses run on their network and that performance is critical to the success of their operation.

Xpedient Ltd have provided IT Network services since 1997. Focussing on the legal and property sectors they are the go-to company in Scotland for solutions tailored to the demands of lawyers and property professionals. They have outstanding experience in the Microsoft and VMware environments.

Server 2008 Foundation Edition limit frustrates

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We came across a new Window Server 2008 this week running Foundation edition. Windows Server 2008 Foundation is a cut-down version of the server operating system designed to attract small companies into buying their first Windows Server.

If you have 15 users or less (and have no ambition to go beyond this number) and need a simple server for file sharing, resource sharing and security, buying Foundation will save you a couple of hundred pounds. Its’ only available preinstalled on a server, so setup time will be limited and you should be operable quickly.

The client who came to us for help identified with all these issues but then hit performance problems. Foundation has a memory limit of 8 gb, which is fine if all you are doing is file sharing but if you want to run a couple of Terminal Server sessions (as the Foundation sales blurb tells you is possible), you can easily hit that 8 gb limit.

If you hit the limits of Foundation you can buy a Standard edition licence but you will then have hardware issues to look.

Foundation edition addresses a competitive weakness in the Microsoft range – small companies can find the cost of installing a secure network prohibitive – but the drop in licence cost is only a fraction of the ownership cost of a Windows Server, and the limitations have the potential to frustrate.

SQL Server 2012 application migration

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The software team have been working on the new version of Microsoft’s database engine, SQL Server 2012, for a month now and we’ve just agreed to migrate a client application onto it. The migration process is simple enough but the change will coincide with a series of amendments to the application, so it will be several weeks before we go live.

Initial feedback: it’s fast and the migration worked like a dream.

Managed Antivirus a success, for most, if not all

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A year ago we changed our recommended Desktop Security Strategy. Security is a constantly moving issue, strategies that work well in one place or at one time can fail if they are not robustly updated.

Our new ‘Managed Antivirus’ approach, which involved a whole lot more than just antivirus, has reduced incidents and delivered the improvements we hoped for, but we didn’t roll it out everywhere. Network security is not just about making things secure, you have to ensure the network continues to operate at a workable speed.

Security software interrupts other software and analyses it for threats. The performance of this interaction depends on the application, the security software, other active applications, as well as the operating system and even software patches.

A few of our client networks performed poorly with Managed Antivirus so we reverted to previous strategies and established a planned series of patching and testing.

Broadband blues

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The support team have had a bizarre run of client broadband failures to deal with in the last two better chance of avoiding stress from some scenarios, but hosting email in the cloud takes care most common local issues.

On-premises email servers (such as Microsoft Exchange Server) is dependent on electricity, broadband line and the IT infrastructure all to be working to keep email flowing. If your Exchange Server is hosted in the cloud (with Office 365, for example), email will continue to flow to mobile phones or laptops with 3G access even if your servers and internet are down.

Thai floods hit storage, PC and server prices

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Seagate CEO, Steve Luczo, has suggested this year’s floods in Thailand will limit worldwide hard disk supply to 120 million units in the first quarter of 2012, well below the anticipated demand of 180 million units. Production capacity will recover over the course of the next year but there is likely to be 100 million units under-produced throughout 2012. Industry observers reckon it will take the whole of 2013 for manufacturing to catch up with demand.

This means only one thing for and consumers, higher prices for PCs and servers. The fall in the pound compared to the US dollar in 2008, pushed up component and therefore PC prices despite anaemic UK demand. There will be few bargains around for a while.

We’re testing a new desktop security strategy

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Desktop security is a complex topic. Most clients think of it as antivirus (AV) software, but the product they use for AV protection is likely to be doing a whole lot more for them. It’s also likely to reach deeper into the network than the desktop, to the server and perhaps the firewall.

There are several major players in this space, Why Settle partner with a small number, but each claim technical superiority from the edge of the network to the desktop. In practice, most of our clients have a mixture of security solutions, often one at the firewall and something different taking care of their Windows installation.

Clients and service partners, like Why Settle, are reluctant to change security products. Replacing a reliable product for something new is a risk. It’s also likely to be more time consuming, and therefore more expensive, so security solutions are usually only changed when a problem arises.

From the service partners perspective, to recommend a client changes security strategy is a huge undertaking, we don’t do it lightly. Trouble is, threats and platforms change constantly and some providers react quicker than others.

We’re testing a new desktop product at the moment. Wish us luck…….

Remember IBM?

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If you are over 40, there’s a good chance IBM will have been a big part of the computer industry when you first touched a keyboard. My first day in the industry in the 1980s was spent with Compaq, a key player in the PC business before HP consumed them, who spent an inappropriate amount of the day talking about IBM, their major rival.

IBM were top player in not only the PC business, but mainframes and the midrange market (something which looked like a LAN but with dumb terminals instead of PCs). They shifted more ‘tin’ than anyone else, sold more software and were talking a great deal about services.

The next 20 years were rough for ‘Big Blue’, as they liked to be known. Their PC market share slid rapidly until they eventually sold the division to Chinese firm Lenovo. Mainframes stopped selling and the midrange market was eaten, first by ubiquitous forms of multiuser unix and then by PC networks.

It was, therefore, with some considerable surprise that I read this week that IBM’s market capitalisation had edged to within 99.7% of Microsoft’s, a proximity they have not enjoyed for 15 years.

IBM realised their future was not in manufacturing, or even writing software (to an extent), neither of which they were particularly proficient at, they became a services company. Now, if you are a government, health board, bank, army or other such large organisation, there is a good chance IBM is keeping your systems ticking over.

Microsoft have no equivalent service division. Service on their products are carried out by partners (like Why Settle), who work closely with Microsoft to plan and support client environments. This model allows enterprise standard service to reach even the smallest businesses, which is great for the entire business ecosystem, but apparently not so good for Microsoft’s market cap.

Windows Phone 7, where are you?

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Staff at Why Settle have used Windows Mobile phones since the first incarnation of the legendary XDA, bringing both email and internet to the handset for the first time, but change is on the way. Windows handsets penetration at Why Settle dropped below 50% this month for the first time in years and now the paucity of apps for the otherwise-excellent Windows Phone 7 operating system looks like being the clincher for rivals Android and the Apple iPhone.

Both iPhone and Android have their limitations. There is no Blackberry-style iPhone device with a tactile keyboard for those who spend their day sending email. Apple have a curious notion that one size fits all, which should have presented rivals like Microsoft with more of an opportunity than it did. Google’s open source Android devices are available on wide range of styles, but the apps marketplace is dogged by indiscipline. Android apps are just not as plentiful, or as good, as the iPhone equivalent.

Earlier this year Nokia, the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer, announced it would start shipping Windows Phone 7 devices but not before late 2011/early 2012. Nokia’s sheer size and market presence means this is a huge boost for the Windows Phone platform but the impact of this decision will not fully materialise for a year, at least, by which time Windows Phone may have lost even more ground.

When hardened Microsoft advocates like us are ditching Windows phones the world’s biggest software company should be concerned.

DOS to Windows 7, an unlikely upgrade works

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We discovered a fascinating video on a Scottish blogger’s site, ‘Andy’s Tech experiments Blog’. Andy formatted his hard disk with MS-DOS (I’m trying to ignore that there’s a generation of people asking ‘what’s MS-DOS?’). He then installed Windows Version 1 and upgraded through every distinct subsequent version of Windows.

Amazingly DOS applications continued to work in operating systems upto and including Windows 7. Operating system requirements has changed significantly since DOS, which used the FAT16 file system, with its 2GB partition limit. Andy had to convert to FAT32 then to MTFS while varying the partition size but the underlying applications continued to work.

If you’ve been around since the early days of Windows you’ll enjoy a wander through memory lane.