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Managed services solution enables client transformation

A fresh start is sometimes exactly what an enterprise needs to modernize data infrastructure and shift processes to a forward-leaning, digital-ready framework. Such was the case with Unilever Federal Credit Union when it recently decided to relocate its main campus, and embrace a managed services solution.

Unilever FCU is a full-service, single-sponsor, non-profit financial institution that is owned by its members and governed by an elected board of directors. Its Corporate Credit Union is Alloya Corporate FCU. This organization provides a range of credit union services, such as compliance guidance and managed services solutions through a partnership with CBTS.

New data environment included key requirements

To bring its services in-line with today’s digital economy, Unilever FCU had to fulfill a number of requirements for its new data environment:

  1. Deploy its own network infrastructure. To ensure both operational efficiency and meet regulatory requirements.
  2. Upgrade its data resources. To accommodate rapid growth and the development of new products and services.
  3. Implement an in-depth data protection strategy. To support the needs of a modern financial institution.

But since every challenge is an opportunity, Unilever FCU seized on this project to implement a wholesale reimagining of the existing data center infrastructure.

Client operates in heavily regulated environment

A key challenge for any financial institution is meeting the regulatory requirements imposed by both regional and national authorities.

In UFCU’s case, this involved maintaining stringent levels of security and data availability, while also developing new services to provide members greater flexibility for their banking needs. This became increasingly difficult to do with aging infrastructure.

Solution leverages managed services model

In consultation with both Alloya Corporate FCU and CBTS, Unilever FCU decided to switch to a managed services model using a hybrid data center and networking infrastructure solution. In this way, the company benefits from:

  1. A high-availability cloud for all production.
  2. Data protection.
  3. Backup and disaster recovery services.
  4. A full suite of services for remote network monitoring and management.

CBTS has expertise to support complex managed services projects

A project of this magnitude requires a deep understanding of infrastructure needs and the emerging business objectives they will ultimately support. CBTS worked closely with UFCU to first design the environment, and then to define the ongoing responsibilities to maintain a tested and proven data ecosystem.

CBTS provides a cohesive solution

We began by assessing the current environment and establishing a set of success-based business objectives. We then developed new policies to guide the design and deployment of a new secure network.

For production workloads, we established a high-availability, multitenant cloud with managed backup and disaster recovery services across multiple CBTS data centers. This places primary production environments within a fully managed, high-availability CBTS cloud. A secondary offsite offers backup and full data replication for Disaster Recovery applications. This environment is subject to complete documentation and annualized testing.

The solutions allowed CBTS to assume responsibility for managing and monitoring key functions, such as network authentication based on group policies developed in conjunction with Unilever. In addition, our experts guided the client’s IT staff on the proper way to pull reports for auditing purposes to ensure regulatory compliance. CBTS oversees any and all third-party integrations and other support needs for the new environment.

Solution meets client’s needs, helps drive business outcomes

Today, Unilever FCU enjoys a state-of-the-art data ecosystem with redundant, secure and universal Internet-based access. We also provided a letter of attestation proving that UFCU is committed to ensuring full protection against downtime and data loss. We work with both UFCU and Alloya to continuously refine regulatory documentation to address stringent compliance requirements.

And as a fully managed environment, Unilever FCU can now relieve its internal IT staff of the day-to-day burdens of operating a data center to focus on more productive pursuits involving the delivery of outstanding member services.

Next step in application, infrastructure modernization

One of the more interesting aspects of modern cloud computing is the evolution from an extension of existing data center infrastructure to a unique means of supporting next-generation applications and services – a process that requires infrastructure modernization.

The initial use cases for the cloud were to burst standard enterprise workloads when traffic overwhelmed legacy IT infrastructure, and to allow line-of-business managers to quickly launch resources to meet their business objectives. Fast-forward 15 years or so, and the cloud is now the preferred solution for a wide range of critical applications. The applications include e-commerce, social media, and emerging IoT services like autonomous cars and smart cities.

Changing environment drives need for infrastructure modernization

How cloud differs from traditional legacy data centers

Today’s enterprises need to modernize their applications. This comes as the cloud evolves into multi-cloud architectures, each of which may host multiple tenants on the same basic infrastructure. And naturally, the cloud operates differently from the traditional legacy data center. Most cloud providers, for example, employ highly sophisticated load balancing and resource provisioning software. This often produces conflicts for applications designed for the more fixed relationships found in legacy infrastructure. In addition, the sheer scale of the cloud can overwhelm some older apps that were designed to function with relatively limited resources and data sets.

IT infrastructure modernization on virtual layer

Meanwhile, changes are also happening on the virtual layer of IT infrastructure, producing entirely new forms of abstraction that will alter the way applications are coded and provisioned. Container-based solutions like Docker, and related management platforms like Kubernetes, are fundamentally altering the relationship between hardware and software to provide new levels of portability and application integration. This has already led to the creation of microservices, which are tiny slices of code that can be mixed and matched using open APIs to produce entirely new services on the fly. Microservices are starting to infiltrate data environments across the board, from traditional manufacturing and commercial settings to advanced scientific research.

App development, deployment constantly evolving

But the changes affecting applications in the new century go much deeper than their relationships to infrastructure. The ways in which apps are created, deployed, and managed, plus the very roles they play in daily life, are all different, thanks in large part to the digital environment created by the cloud. As virtually everything around us becomes connected to digital infrastructure, streaming live data 24x7x365, the enterprise finds itself having to ditch the old ways of app creation and support. Today, the enterprise needs infrastructure modernization in order to support newer methods of continuous integration and continuous development (CI/CD) found in emerging DevOps models.

Non-stop development and integration

In the modern business climate, new services and features must be rolled out at a steady pace to prevent drawn out development cycles that usually result in disrupted services, poor performance, and unhappy users. We’ve already seen how a simple mobile app can upend long-standing industries like transportation and hospitality. Going forward, we can expect more of the same as connectivity expands to everyday items under the Internet of Things.

In this world, the future belongs to those who can push new services to consumers quicker, and without hampering existing levels of service.

The transition to efficient data ecosystems

All of these developments are starting to coalesce into a highly efficient data ecosystem. DevOps can be kicked into high gear with containers’ ability to move services and microservices from one computing environment to another without any recoding. This was not possible even under the most advanced non-containerized virtual environment. Meanwhile, continuous delivery methodologies are enhanced by cloud-native application development that leverages capabilities like IT orchestration and automated scripting. Thus, infrastructure modernization become mission critical to the enterprise.

The effects on enterprise performance

Forward-leaning organizations are already reporting a 95 percent or better improvement in the amount of time developers spend on enhancing business value rather than wading through the morass of resource provisioning and management. And this is translating to:

  1. Significantly lower development and operational costs.
  2. Revenue enhancements.
  3. The ability to tap into new revenue streams and new market opportunities.

For organizations that are lagging behind with infrastructure modernization, time is of the essence as your competitors may already be ahead of the curve. With 5G connectivity poised to push IoT functionality to an entirely new level in the next decade, the enterprise is under pressure to make the infrastructure modernization to cloud-native, DevOps-style IT sooner rather than later.

CBTS can help with your infrastructure modernization

CBTS stands ready to help implement infrastructure modernization changes quickly, effectively, and without disrupting existing services. Our team of experts has a proven track record in implementing next-generation, cloud-native application and infrastructure delivery so that you can concentrate on improving your time to market, eliminating downtime, and leveraging automation to ease your management burdens.

CBTS, Splunk deliver retailer eCommerce solution

Customer satisfaction is everything in the fast-paced, competitive world of eCommerce. With options galore at the click of a mouse, today’s consumer has little patience for downtime, delays, poor service, and, perhaps worst of all, data breaches.

This is why successful retailers invest heavily in infrastructure, platforms, connectivity, and automation to attract clients and maintain high levels of satisfaction – not just in a broad sense, but on a deeply personal level.

Few organizations can do this on their own, however. Many are turning to specialists like CBTS to craft tailored solutions for their individual markets, business objectives, and legacy data environments.

Performance and security

One leading specialty clothing and accessories retailer with more than 1,000 stores in North America, China, and the U.K., and with clients in more than 80 countries around the world, turned to CBTS for an optimized eCommerce solution that delivers maximum performance and top-flight security.

The challenges were considerable. First, the company could not afford any downtime on its website. While its brick-and-mortar stores are the backbone of business operations, its web presence serves as the public face. Even a few minutes of downtime is enough to erode the trust of clients across the globe, especially during the holidays when the bulk of annual revenue is generated.

The company also had volumes of untouched IT operational data that it wanted to leverage for real-time decision making. As with many organizations, however, much of this data was housed in a silo-based infrastructure, which provided limited visibility to analytics or back-office operations systems.

And, to make matters worse, the high profile of the company’s brand made it a target for those seeking to exploit security vulnerabilities. Not only was it imperative to secure this data, the client needed a way to quickly respond to breaches and minimize potential damage.

Splunk to the rescue

CBTS began by deploying a Splunk-based operational intelligence and enterprise-grade security solution. The immediate goal was to quickly resolve system issues while also strengthening the company’s security posture.

Splunk is a multi-faceted platform that can perform a wide range of tasks; however, it requires high-level fine-tuning to provide optimal performance within an existing business model. CBTS Consulting Services provided on-site assistance with Splunk-certified consultants who have extensive experience integrating the platform into legacy environments in extremely tight timeframes.

Through this partnership, CBTS created a multi-point plan to improve business operations and overall business performance.

  • Simplify business operations: It was clear that business functions had to be simplified. This involved coordinating and correlating data from multiple IT operations in order to identify inefficiencies, streamline processes, and improve profitability.
  • Improve client experience: Equally important was the need to improve the client experience. A first-class eCommerce solution should be optimized to run 24x7x365 with minimal risk of downtime.
  • Minimize security risks: In addition, the effort to minimize security risks centered on ensuring that client data was secure and that the new system would quickly detect potential vulnerabilities to cyberattack.

CBTS engagement drives business outcomes

Today, the retailer has a robust operational intelligence solution that supports its IT staff by continuously monitoring network traffic and correlating data from the entire IT stack to quickly identify and neutralize intruders. This implementation not only finds security problems that other systems tend to overlook, it can also be used to diagnose a wide range of non-security issues that impair performance.

CBTS ultimately helped the retailer address a persistent performance problem that resulted in a 40 percent reduction in server load, which freed up bandwidth to allow Spunk to expand its capabilities.

This is a common experience: The more data sources Splunk is able to track, the more powerful it becomes. This project translated into an immediate ROI for the retailer, since it eliminated the need to purchase additional hardware, while improving eCommerce performance, boosting client satisfaction, protecting the company’s brand, and bringing greater functionality and accuracy when projecting revenue and cash flow.

Read about this optimized eCommerce solution from CBTS.

Reliable WiFi access vital to universities

Public and private universities face mounting pressure to reduce costs while promoting a supportive and secure environment for the exchange of ideas. Increasingly, these institutions compete for students, and campus experience plays a large part in the decision-making process for prospective undergraduates and grad students.

Furthermore, universities have a tremendous responsibility to deliver the services and tools students need for success, while simultaneously benefiting their faculty, staff, administrators, and partners. In our increasingly mobile and connected world, that means quick, easy, and secure access to the university’s WiFi network is imperative.

Meeting today’s university WiFi challenge

For university CIOs and their IT staff, the design and upkeep of campus WiFi networks was once a moderately straightforward undertaking. Today, however, campuses are among the most challenging of all wireless network environments to manage. The expectation of higher education network users is always on, on any device, anywhere on campus, with unparalleled speed and security.

Students demand high-quality, reliable WiFi experiences not only in the classroom but during free time when they’re streaming Spotify, Netflix, or YouTube. More and more, potential and current students – and even business partners – judge the quality of a university by its wireless network, and an underperforming WiFi network can impact the institution’s bottom line.

Designing campus wireless networks for scalability

So, if you’re an IT professional responsible for the performance of your university’s WiFi network, how can you ensure you’re keeping up with or surpassing the competition? Many universities are facing significant investments to upgrade their wireless networks and enhance performance and address security concerns as their networks take on more devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), wearables, and the growth in mobile applications and online assets built to enhance the student learning experience.

These challenges require a holistic design approach, building on current networking assets but allowing for scalability campus-wide, covering classrooms, residence halls, outdoor commons and recreational areas, and administrative offices.

CBTS supports strategic vision for better user experience

Often, universities will bring in an outside partner like CBTS to lead a comprehensive review of the current networking environment. We help them develop a long-term strategy that supports the institution’s strategic vision while addressing issues like device and app overload and security concerns. By creating a wireless technology roadmap, CBTS helps universities focus on providing better student services, from upgrading WiFi in classrooms or residence halls to supporting the demands of power users at the administration and faculty levels, and understanding the concerns of business partners and non-profits contributing to the overall health of the institution.

Our goal is to provide a better user experience continuously across a university’s WiFi network, based on segmentation, optimized for performance and security, managed centrally, and scaling easily as demands on the network increase.

Learn how CBTS partnered with a private university to create a comprehensive plan for upgrading wireless and wired network access in residence halls, setting the stage for campus-wide WiFi connectivity. The WiFi network is designed for growth, while simplifying student log-ins, bringing tighter security that flags unauthorized users, granting temporary access to guests, and reducing overall hardware costs. Lear how CBTS can help support your organization’s networking goals.

 

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Four steps to providing Wi-Fi connectivity

Wi-Fi is an important part of customer service.

Travelers want to respond to work emails while waiting for their flight to board. Sports fans crave the ability to live-stream the Hail Mary pass from the big game at a packed stadium. Diners enjoy reviewing restaurants on Yelp while they’re waiting for the check. Tourists can’t resist posting Instagram pictures from city landmarks.

Fortunately, advances in Wi-Fi technology allow companies, municipalities, and other entities to deliver immersive, unforgettable experiences to people’s mobile devices.

It’s crucial to remember that commercial-grade Wi-Fi networking equipment is mandatory for connecting large groups of people. Residential-quality gear doesn’t have the security, configuration options, and management controls for access points and switches built for business use.

Moreover, you need an experienced technical partner that understands the complexities of broadcasting the Internet over a wide area to masses of people. At CBTS, we’ve implemented advanced Wi-Fi solutions in places like college dormitories, airport terminals, hospitals, and public shopping districts.

These are four fundamental steps we’ve discovered while helping our clients implement high-quality Wi-Fi networks:

1. Prioritize the quantity, quality, and configuration of access points

Wi-Fi access points (APs) use radio waves to broadcast the Internet over a defined area. They must have the capacity to deliver a fast connection to large volumes of users, all of whom might be streaming videos or downloading large files.

When you’re designing a Wi-Fi network, you need to ensure that APs are placed in strategic locations that beam the Internet into areas including rooms, hallways, and stairwells. You need to scout out dead spots and tweak your configuration to shrink or eliminate them.

Interference from other APs is a constant concern. Indeed, if you install too many APs, you can actually degrade people’s download speeds. You can also pick up interference from nearby businesses.

All these challenges underscore the need to partner with trained and certified Wi-Fi experts who know how to set up and manage the most advanced wireless networks.

2. Account for high-capacity users

High-end Wi-Fi equipment can deliver gigabit-level speeds over wireless networks. These technologies allow you to accommodate high-bandwidth users. If visitors to your business give video presentations in a meeting room or project multimedia presentations in an auditorium, they might not need a wired ethernet connection.

Today’s commercial-grade 802.11ac Wi-Fi gear has plenty of bandwidth to accommodate demanding Wi-Fi use cases. Access points can come with ethernet ports allowing you to plug in Internet of Things sensors to glean insights from network traffic and a vast array of data points.

Management software can help you tune your network to exacting specifications. Access points broadcast on 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz frequency bands. 5Ghz bands have higher speed and shorter range, while 2.4Ghz bands have slower speed and higher range. Strategic placement of APs and careful configuration of your Wi-Fi network can make the most of the options from these bands.

3. Make security a priority

Wi-Fi broadcasts have no inherent security. They’re just like using walkie-talkies: Anybody within range of an AP can listen in. These are key ways to enhance Wi-Fi network security:

  • Password-protect your network and encrypt broadcasts.
  • Segregate and isolate users so they have no way to access other areas of your network.
  • Create multiple authorization levels to tightly control who goes where on your Wi-Fi network.
  • Create login screens and unique identifiers that ensure only authorized users access your Wi-Fi.
  • Educate your users about protecting their data while using Wi-Fi.

Wireless technology providers are getting more serious about security all the time. They’re creating more options to thwart hackers without ruining the user experience of everyday online travelers.

4. Partner with an experienced enterprise Wi-Fi developer  

Whether your Wi-Fi-connected customers number in the dozens or the thousands, you need an experienced partner to pair you with the technologies that match your precise needs.

CBTS has deep wireless experience across a breadth of industries and technologies. Joining forces with Aruba Networks, the HPE enterprise wireless experts, we’ve helped a host of clients turbocharge their Wi-Fi offerings. Recent projects:

  • Providing free Wi-Fi in multiple shopping areas throughout Greater Cincinnati.
  • Upgrading APs and improving bandwidth in college dormitories.
  • Giving a local hospital the capacity to connect up to 30 wireless devices in patient rooms.
  • Delivering world-class Wi-Fi access to a hub airport.

For an in-depth account, check out how we gave a Midwest hub airport the capacity to provide Wi-Fi to everybody in the terminals on the busiest travel days. Download the free case study here.

 

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