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IT Infrastructure Defined

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Techopedia Explains

IT infrastructure consists of all components that somehow play a role in overall IT and IT-enabled operations. It can be used for internal business operations or developing customer IT or business solutions.

Typically, a standard IT infrastructure consists of the following components:

  • Hardware: Servers, computers, data centers, switches, hubs and routers, and other equipment
  • Software: Enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), productivity applications and more
  • Network: Network enablement, internet connectivity, firewall and security
  • Meatware: Human users, such as network administrators (NA), developers, designers and end users with access to any IT appliance or service are also part of an IT infrastructure, specifically with the advent of user-centric IT service developmen

Here is a BMC breakdown of the pieces involved

Switching

A network switch is the device that provides connectivity between network devices on a Local Area Network (LAN). A switch contains several ports that physically connect to other network devices – including other switches, routers and servers. Early networks used bridges, in which each device “saw” the traffic of all other devices on the network. Switches allow two devices on the network to talk to each other without having to forward that traffic to all devices on the network.

Routers

Routers move packets between networks. Routing allows devices separated on different LAN’s to talk to each other by determining the next “hop” that will allow the network packet to eventually get to its destination.

If you have ever manually configured your IP address on a workstation, the default gateway value that you keyed in was the IP address of your router.

Firewalls

Firewalls are security devices at the edge of the network. The firewall can be thought of as the guardian or gatekeeper.

A set of rules defines what types of network traffic will be allowed through the firewall and what will be blocked.

In the simplest version of a firewall, rules can be created which allow a specific port and /or protocol for traffic from one device (or a group of devices) to a device or group of devices. For example: if you want to host your own web server and only limit it to only web traffic, you would typically have two firewall rules that look something like this:

Source Destination Port / Protocol Description
any 10.1.1.100 80 / http Web traffic in
any 10.1.1.100 443/ https Secure web traffic in

The source is the originating device. In this case, any means ‘allow any computer to communicate’. Destination is the specific IP address of your internal web server. Port/Protocol defines what type of traffic is allowed from the source to the destination. Most firewall devices allow for a description for each rule that have no effect on the rule itself. It is used only for notes.

Firewall devices can get complicated quickly. There are many different types of firewalls which approach managing traffic in different ways. Detailed firewall capabilities and methods are beyond the scope of this post.

Servers

A network server is simply just another computer but usually larger in terms of resources than what most people think of. A server allows multiple users to access and share its resources. There are several types of servers.

  • Perhaps the most common type of server is a file server. A file server provides end users with a centralized location to store files. When configured correctly, file servers can allow or prevent specific users to access files.
  • Another common type of server is a directory server. A directory server provides a central database of user accounts that can be used by several computers. This allows centralized management of user accounts which are used to access server resources.
  • Perhaps the most common type of server is a web server. Web servers use HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) to provide files to users through a web browser.
  • There are also application servers, database servers, print servers, etc.

Physical plant

The physical plant is all of the network cabling in your office buildings and server room/ datacenter. This all too often neglected part of your infrastructure usually is the weakest link and is the cause of most system outages when not managed properly. There are two main types of cabling in the infrastructure -CAT 5/6/7 and fiber optic. Each type of cabling has several different subtypes depending on the speed and distance required to connect devices.

People

By the strict ITIL definition, people are not considered part of the network infrastructure. However, without competent well-qualified people in charge of running and maintaining your infrastructure, you will artificially limit the capabilities of your organization. In larger organizations, there are specialty positions for each of the areas mentioned in this article. In smaller organizations, you will find that the general systems administrator handles many of the roles.

Server rooms / Data center

The server room, or data center (in large organizations), can be thought of as the central core of your network. It is the location in which you place all of your servers and usually acts as the center of most networks.

Infrastructure Software

This is perhaps the most “gray” of all infrastructure components. However, I consider server operating systems and directory services (like MS Active Directory) to be part of the infrastructure. Without multi-user operating systems, the hardware can’t perform its infrastructure functions.

DAVE LAZOR EXPLAINS WHY A SOPHISTICATED IT INFRASTRUCTURE IS IMPORTANT

Most start-ups and small businesses that aren’t technology-based companies start out with a “DIY” infrastructure that gets the job done – they invest in basic hardware like desktop computers, laptops, a simple phone system and a router for a solid Internet connection. Delivering services and communicating with employees, suppliers and customers is typically accomplished through cloud applications that allow you to share files over the Internet, like Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Apps for Business.

But as the company grows, issues of security, connectivity and overall productivity are increasingly questioned. Computing speed and reliability are important, but what about system disruptions and security breaches? Cyberattacks on small businesses are up 300 percent since 2012 due to weaker online security and their ability to be an entry point to other, perhaps larger businesses’ sensitive data.

Ensuring that your IT infrastructure is reliable and secure is rudimentary. To gain a real competitive advantage, a strategic infrastructure is vital. Smart investments in hardware, software, network services and people to manage it all could be the difference between a profitable company and a failing one. Taking shortcuts to save money is unwise – even something as simple as poor cabling could make a fancy software application unusable.

To tackle the next-generation IT challenges, business leaders need to get involved in the infrastructure conversation, elevating the importance of IT infrastructure and making the right investments for the future.

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5 steps to staffing right

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1. Look at the big picture
Make sure you’re tuned in to your company’s overall business plans. Is your company planning to expand or change any competitive strategies? Even activities that don’t involve your team now may require your support further down the road. When in doubt, ask plenty of questions so you aren’t caught off-guard later.

2. Look at the small picture
What are the priorities for the department or its subgroups? Take a good look at what’s ahead and compare those projects with your personnel resources. Can your team realistically complete everything on the to-do list?

While you may need to ask your staff to work some overtime, this shouldn’t be your long-term plan for handling growing workloads. If people work extra hours with no relief in sight, you not only risk burnout but also the resignations of valued employees. Skilled professionals always have employment options, and they won’t wait around for you to hire appropriately.

3. Be honest about your employees
Next, write down the individual strengths of your team members. Do they have the necessary expertise for upcoming projects? If not, can they be brought up to speed through training in time to address new initiatives?

Recognize, too, that just because you have the right skills in your group, it doesn’t necessarily mean those skills are accessible. For instance, you may have an excellent technical writer on staff, but if that person is already booked with projects for the foreseeable future, he may not be able to help with documentation for a new product.

4. Mix it up correctly
Once you’ve determined your needs, it’s time to figure out the right balance of full-time and temporary staff that you’ll require to tackle them. List initiatives that will increase the need for personnel resources for a short time and those you expect to be long-term.

For example, you might note that your team will be particularly busy over the next three months while preparing for the introduction of a new software application. However, once the application is in place and they are comfortable using it, those demands should decline.

In situations where there are peaks and valleys in the workload, it may be best to consider the use of temporary employees. They can provide the flexibility and extra support needed only during busy times. However, if demands appear consistent throughout the year and you don’t have sufficient staff on hand, that’s a good indicator it’s time to hire full-time employees.

5. Make a list of what’s essential
Before you begin recruiting, establish clear hiring criteria. What skills are critical to performing the job successfully?

Be careful not to blur your “wish” and “must-have” lists. You may prefer to add a person who has an advanced degree, but would you be willing to overlook this requirement for the right experience? If you narrow your expectations too far, you may overlook candidates who are the best fit for your openings. In fact, when hiring conditions are competitive, you may not find anyone who fits all of your dream qualifications.

Staffing appropriately can be critical to giving your company a competitive edge. If you hire too many employees, you’ll cut into profit margins. Assemble the right mix of full-time and temporary staff, and you’ll be in a good position to help with changing business plans and demands. Taking the time now to assess your upcoming needs and get ready will help ensure you’re leading a group that’s well-prepared for whatever may come your way.

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How to go viral in 9 steps

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Content marketing is fast becoming the most effective way to promote your brand and build consumer confidence in your business. However, compiling loads of content on your company’s website is a huge waste of time if no one reads it.

To increase the odds that your next blog post will go viral, take the following steps:

  1. Make your content easy to share. This may sound obvious, but many blogs don’t have easy-to-locate Share buttons. Ensure that yours are visible at the top and/or bottom of your posts to increase the chances that readers will share your content.
  2. Don’t skimp on quality. Business owners are often reluctant to give away valuable information, but understand this: People don’t read or share lousy content. If you want to reach more readers, craft strong, meaningful articles. Proofread your posts to correct any misspellings and grammatical mistakes before you publish them. Make the text look pretty on the page. For example, if you are offering a white paper, it should be well-designed (with headlines, subheads, sophisticated images, bullet points, and so on). “Free” doesn’t mean “cheap,” and your readers should feel like they are gaining something valuable in exchange for their time.
  3. Emphasize the benefits of reading your words. If people don’t click on your links, they won’t read your posts. Give your missives succinct titles that plainly tell people how their lives or jobs will improve if they read your content. Restate that benefit in the first few lines of each article. Negative angles historically perform better, perhaps because readers can empathize with a pain point or fear the outcome of not learning what you have to say. Example: “5 Management Mistakes You Must Avoid.”
  4. Make every word count. Experts debate the ideal length of articles and blogs. Don’t worry about this too much; just ensure that every word you include matters. Provide hard data to support your points, but don’t use a bunch of fluff or filler copy to make pieces longer. Your purpose is to inform or educate your readers. Once you have done so, stop writing.
  5. Make pieces easy to scan. At the very least, break articles into short (three to five sentences) paragraphs. Better yet: Use bulleted or numbered lists, as shown here!
  6. Integrate pictures and videos. People love images, and they are more likely to share and comment on them than any other type of content. Including images also makes it possible for others to share your content on sites like Pinterest. Note that you must own or get copyright permission for any image or video that you post. Haven’t yet tried video marketing? Check out Twitter’s Vine, which makes it relatively easy to get started.
  7. Connect to current events, but take a unique stance on the topic. Simply chiming in on a major event is unlikely to get you noticed, because you’ll be battling the big media outlets for mindshare. Consider taking a firm stance against what the “experts” are saying to get people’s attention. However, don’t turn into a jerk or become offensive while challenging the status quo. Let your emotions shine through, because others can relate to real people with real feelings.
  8. Watch your humor. You never know how people will interpret your jokes, especially when they don’t really know you. Without the benefit of gestures and tone of voice, sarcastic quips or “kidding around” may be read the wrong way. This can quickly turn off your readers.
  9. Market your work. You can’t just publish a post and forget about it. Actively market your free content by posting it across all social media channels — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and so on. Share it with any groups or forums that you belong to, and email it to your contacts and customers. Finally, ask your colleagues and friends to share it with people they know.

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Designing your company logo

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Step 1: Design Brief

Things to know before you start:

  • What does the company do?
  • Who are the company’s typical customers?
  • Who are the company’s business competitors?
  • How is the company positioned in the market compared to its competitors?
  • Does the company have existing design style guides (company colors, typefaces, etc.)?

 

Tips for Creating a Logo Design Brief

  • Formalize the briefing process with your client — if you take it seriously, so will they.
  • Make this step easy for your client by providing a design brief questionnaire or template so they know what information you are looking for, and also to give this process more structure.
  • Create a web page on your site or a document that discusses the basics, and the importance of, design briefs. You can use your guide to design briefs as an educational resource for your clients.
  • At the minimum, strive to cover these fundamental items in your design brief:
    • Target market
    • Message objectives
    • Existing design style guides and parameters (e.g., company colors, typeface, etc.)
    • Budget
    • Schedule, milestones, and deadlines

Step 2: Research

Following an industry design trend could potentially improve the association of a business to that industry. The downside of following design trends, however, is that it often means that the logo design becomes stale when the trend fades out of popularity, which is bad for logo designs that are ideally supposed to be timeless and unique.

Tips for Logo Design Research

  • Use your client’s resources to learn more about their business. Perhaps you can conduct interviews with some of their company’s staff members or request a meeting with their in-house designers.
  • Ask your client for a list of their main competitors during the design brief, and perform online research on these competitors.
  • Use logo design galleries for visual research and inspiration.

Step 3: Build the Design Concepts

This is your time to develop an often elusive good blend of great graphics that also convey the right message for your client. In this step, you are trying to encapsulate the diverse and complex nature of a business into a small and simple design, suitable for use in a multitude of different circumstances (business cards, marketing material, website design, and more).

For each logo design concept you create, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • Will this logo design work for my client?
  • Will this logo resonate with the client’s customers?
  • How does this logo fare against the competition?

Tips for Building Logo Design Concepts

  • Get all of your initial ideas down on paper and sketch out rough drafts, no matter how far out they seem.
  • Spend some time on brainstorming and idea-generation sessions. Read some tips on more productive brainstorming sessions.
  • Make sure your logo design concepts match the parameters of the design brief.
  • Refine the best logo design concepts into something you can show to others.

Eventually you will have something great and you can finalize your design yourself or get our designers to help you

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Introduction To Mobile Applications

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1. Native Applications:

These are applications developed to be used on a particular platform or operating system such as Android, iOS etc. Native apps are usually written in languages that the platform accepts. They are also built using the specific Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for the given operating systems, such as Android Studio for Android Apps and XCode for iOS Apps.

The principal advantage of native apps is that they optimize the user experience. By being designed and developed specifically for that platform, they look and perform better.

Examples of some popular Native Applications are Instagram for Android, VLC media player for Android, WordPress for iOS, and 2048 game for iOS,

Native Apps are usually built using either of the following languages;

  1. Swift or Objective C for iOS applications
  2. Java, Kotlin for Android applications
  3. C# or VB.NET for Windows applications

2. Hybrid Applications:

These are applications developed to be used across multiple platforms i.e can be deployed on both iOS and Android platforms. Hybrid mobile applications are built in a similar manner as websites. Both use a combination of technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. However, instead of targeting a mobile browser, hybrid applications target a WebView hosted inside a native container. This enables them to do things like access hardware capabilities of the mobile device.

Today, most hybrid mobile applications leverage Apache Cordova, a platform that provides a consistent set of JavaScript APIs to access device capabilities through plug-ins, which are built with native code.

Examples of some popular Hybrid Applications are MarketWatch, Untappd, FanReact, and TripCase.

Some popular frameworks for building Hybrid applications include;

3. Progressive Web Applications (PWAs):

A Progressive Web App (PWA) is a web app that uses modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like experience to users without requiring them to install an app from the AppStore/PlayStore. They are usually accessible by a web URL which can always be pinned or saved on your phone’s home screen. PWAs are usually built using HTML, CSS, JavaScript also.

Examples of some popular Progressive Web Applications are AliExpress’s PWA, Financial Times PWA, NASA’s PWA, and the recently just launched PayStack’s PWA.

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