Living The American Dream

CaliforniaI’ve always wanted to try living somewhere else in the world, to get some more life experience. However up until now I’ve not been in the position to be able to do this.

But as one chapter in my life closes another chapter begins. Today I am please to announce that I have accepted a new job at VMware that will see me relocating to California (USA not Norfolk). I will be joining the OneCloud team as a Senior Cloud Architect, an exciting role which will really test me and push me to improve.

I will based in the Bay Area (AKA. Silicon Valley) At VMware’s HQ in Palo Alto. It’s an amazing opportunity and with an average of around 300 days of sunshine a year, I’d be stupid not to take it.

So at the start of May I will be taking to the sky to start living the American dream. For those of you who live in and around that area, if you have any tips that will help me settle into the US lifestyle just that little bit easier, please reach out to me or comment below.

Exciting and challenging times ahead I think you’d agree.

Telling Lies Could Actually Protect You Online

Internet SecurityWhen it comes to online security, I can safely say this is something I have been quite lax with. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. But after reading a few different articles lately about what information is actually out there on the internet, I decided to change my stance somewhat. I’m starting to look a little closer at what I can do to try and protect myself as much as possible.

The Problem With Online Information

The problem we have is that once something is put onto the internet, it’s VERY difficult to remove it. Although the website that originally had the information my not exist anymore, there is a good chance that services such as Google Cached Pages have archived this information so it will continue to be available for years to come. For some data, page caching is great! For your personal data, not so great.

“My Password Is Strong, I’m Happy”

Lets assume we have a lot of personal information available on the internet. “So what?” you may ask. I used to ask the same question. No one knows my passwords, my Pin numbers or have access to my email account so what can they do?

We use passwords to access pretty much our online accounts, ranging from Facebook to online shopping to online banking. I can probably guarantee you that most of you re-use the same password across many of these websites. It’s got to the point where you have so many accounts it would be almost impossible not to. Whilst this is by no means ideal and very insecure, especially if one of the sites you frequent is compromised by hackers, it might just be secure enough for most of us as a good password isn’t easy to hack. However, regardless of the strength of your password, a major the security weakness is the processes that are put in place to check that you are who you say you are when you have ‘forgotten’ your password.

There are many good, secure password managers available that you can use to avoid using the same password over and over. LastPass and KeePass are a couple of good examples.

You’ll Never Forget Your First Pet

The type of checks I am referring to are the ‘Secret answers’ to generic security questions that we often have to fill in when we are signing up for online accounts. For example:

  • What is the name of your first pet?
  • What was your first car?
  • What was the name of your first school?
  • What year were you born in?

I’m sure you all recognise these questions. It’s the continued reliance by many websites on these types of questions that is the weakest link to our online security. Knowing the answers to these ‘simple’ questions will usually get you access to your online account. Someone else knowing the answers to these questions will get them access to your online account.

Social Engineering

Two-Factor AuthenticationOnline security has come on leaps and bounds in the last 5 years. There have been a lot of new technologies introduced to help keep our personal information secure and for the most part they seem to be doing a good job of it. One of the most popular ways to add another layer of security when online is the use of Two-Factor Authentication. If you use a small device that generates numbers to access your online bank accounts, you are already using two-factor authentication. You don’t always need to have a physical device for Two-Factor Authentication, your smartphone can also work in a similar way. Checkout Google 2-step Verification as a good example.

Regardless of technology advances the biggest problem we have around online security,  is You. And the main issue both we and our employers face is Social Engineering.

Social engineering, in the context of information security, refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.

Putting It All Together

Armed with your personal data found publicly on the internet an attacker can often easily answer many of those simple ‘Security’ questions without even speaking to you. Many answers can be found via peoples Facebook profiles. I recently posted a simple article with tips on Increasing your Facebook Privacy that will help reduce the amount of personal data members of the pubic can view from your Facebook profile.

If there isn’t specific information available online that an attacker might need, it can be quite easy for them to Social Engineer a conversation with you to find out the extra information. Quite often these conversation will not take place in person as we are taught from a young age ‘not to talk to strangers’. However, do we follow this advice online? How many of us have had conversations on a Facebook group page with a complete stranger? I would imagine, most of us. This is when it becomes easy for someone who we don’t even know to engage us in a conversation about something as mundane as their dog. As the conversation progesses at some point they may ask if you’ve had pets – before you know it they know the name of your first pet. It’s that easy. Such an innocent conversation about dogs can give them enough information to access one of your online accounts. And many of use wouldn’t even notice what we’d even told them.

So How Can We Protect Ourselves?

Brittany SpearsTo project ourselves, we should lie on our security questions, DO NOT USE REAL ANSWERS. It’s as simple as that and it’s a system I have been using for some time now. Make up a pet’s name that you will only use for online accounts. Websites do not know the name of your first pet. They will not know if you’re lying. Brittany Spears could have been the name of your first pet, the website is not to know that and quite frankly doesn’t care. It’s just a simple word match process.

Do this for every question, even your date of birth. Personally I use something like 01/01/91 as it’s easy to remember, but feel free to chose your own date. Your first car, put in your favourite car that you’ll never be able to afford. That way if someone was to have access to your Facebook photos and find out what your first car was from some old photos, they would always get that security question.

NOTE: For some online account such as bank accounts, the security questions such as ‘date of birth’ will need to actually be your official DOB as it’s legally part of the Banks process.

It’s a simple concept, but one that could help you be just that little bit more secure as more and more of ours life goes online.

vSphere and Hyper-V Visio stencils

Veeam LogoFor those of you who like to make pretty architecture diagrams, this might be for you. Veeam provides a FREE collection of VMware and Hyper-V virtualization Visio stencils that can be used by ESX administrators, system integrators and datacenter managers to create their own diagrams in Microsoft Visio 2003, 2007, 2010 or 2013 as part of your Hyper-V or VMware deployment planning.

You can download those stencils here: http://www.veeam.com/vmware-esx-stencils.html

Fancy A Trip Around The World?

Veeam LogoVeeam is about to get its 100,000th customer and is launching an interactive contest for a chance to win a trip around the world and other prizes (Google Glass, iPad and Microsoft Surface).

To participate, you need to register and predict the location of Veeam’s 100,000th customer on the interactive map. The closer you are to the right spot, the better chance you have to win the trip around the world and other prizes.

Veeam currently have a live pre-registration page. The main contest will start next week.

Join in on the fun!  Guess the location here: http://world.veeam.com/

For more information: http://world.veeam.com/veeam_tc_2014.pdf

TIPS: Increasing your Facebook privacy

The other day after I had spent some time tightening down my Facebook privacy, I posted a little Status update informing everyone of my little accomplishment. Since then, I have been sent quite a few message from friends asking how they can do the same. So instead of repeating myself, I decided to crank out a quick post that can help.

Decide what you want to be available to EVERYONE

The first thing you need to decide is; how much of your Facebook profile can be seen by people who you don’t know. (I class ‘Friend’s of Friend’s’ as people I don’t know). Whilst you may know all of your friends quite well, you have no idea who they decided to brush shoulders with in the past. And I am sure many of us are guilty of adding people as friends who we only met once on drunken night out…

How to check  what can be seen by the EVERYONE

Second thing you’ll need is either a second Facebook account (I have two; one for friends, one for work colleagues). OR a friend who you can sit with whilst you do this. They’ll need to ‘un-friend’ you to be able to see how much of your profile you can see from someone who is not a friend.  Read the rest of this entry »

And I thought “The Cloud” was just a fad…..

Mobile Cloud AppsIt’s true, I actually wrote that in a blog post back in March 2010 called Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane? No, It’s….The Cloud! Until now I’ve not really given it to much thought. Obviously, working at VMware I needed to understand vCloud Director, but that was only really from a functionality/design perspective. However since starting my new role at Canopy I’ve begun to take more notice of “The Cloud” and what it has to offer to both consumers and also to businesses. Whilst working for a Canopy I’ve found it very easy to get immersed into a bubble and end up only paying attention to what the company offers as products/solutions. So much so, I began to lose the bigger picture and stopped thinking about what other cloud products/solutions there were out there, not just for businesses but also to us, as consumers.

It wasn’t until a few days ago when I was sipping cocktails on Sentosa Island when I realised, without really noticing it, I was already a heavy consumer of “The Cloud”. However my consumption wasn’t of solutions like SaaS,PaaS, IaaS etc which I used to class as “typical” cloud offerings. My consumption was, in my eyes more subtle. This maybe because there wasn’t a large initial cost on purchase which I personally associate with the “typical” cloud services. There also wasn’t a massive operational change, which is another invisible cost that I also associate with “Moving to the cloud”.

“New Phone, DM me your numbers!”No Contacts

Let’s look at my mobile (cell) phone (Android). If I want to make a call on my phone, I can search my contacts for the person I want to call. All of the contacts on my phone are automatically sync’ed to my Google account. If I loose my phone, I still have all of my contacts. How many times do you see Facebook posts which read something like ”New Phone, DM me your numbers!” ? This is no longer an issue for me. All of my contacts are sync’ed to “The Cloud”.

Another good example; My friend accidentally drops his phone in his beer (it happens!). The phone is now dead. He turns to me and says, “I’ve just lost all the photo’s of my son’s birthday”. – This something that happens far to often. It doesn’t have to. I have setup a FREE Dropbox account and installed the Dropbox app onto my phone and configured every photo to be sent to my Dropbox account after it is taken. If I lose my phone, my photo’s are still available to me via the Dropbox website.

I’m not going to keep throwing examples at you as I am sure you get the point. But I will give you a quick list of some of the “Cloud” services that I use as a consumer on a regular basis (I have purposely not included Cloud services I use for my job at Canopy).

  • Google Apps (Chrome, Calendar, Contacts, GMail) – Used hourly
  • Spotify (Pro) – Used maybe 12 hours a day
  • Evernote (Pro) – Used this on a hourly basis
  • Dropbox – Used daily
  • Flickr (Pro) – Used daily
  • Netflix – Used daily
  • Feedly – Used daily
  • Sticher – Used weekly
  • Tripit – Used weekly

I am very surprised at the amount of “Cloud” based services I already use without really noticing. I was also surprised that I actually pay for some of these services. In the past I’ve always been reluctant to pay for these services, I’d always make do with the free offerings. However it’s got to the point where I use them so much day-to-day, it is actually beneficial for me to pay for these premium services.

I think my use of Cloud services has stemmed from my use of mobile devices. I have a phone, a couple of tablets, laptops etc. I want my data to be accessible to me regardless of where I am or what device I am on, so I look for services that can allow me to do that. In an ideal world I would like to be able to do my day-to-day work tasks from any device – anywhere, however I don’t really want to use a VDI to allow me to do this.

I think I am nearly there!

Step Back

I invite you all to take  a step back, flick through the app’s you have on your mobile devices, TV’s, computers and take a look at how many Cloud services you are actually using. Did it surprise you as much as it did me?

Cloud computing is clearly not a fad, I actually think it is the future. We will continue to see more and more of our data move off of our devices and be stored in cloud services allowing us to access it whenever and where ever we are in the world. This future excites me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Onwards and Upwards!

Onwards and UpwardsToday I am both delighted and sad to announce that I am leaving VMware. Sad in the respect that over the past 3 years I have made some really great friends and had some amazing experiences and opportunities whilst at VMware.

However I am delighted because I am moving to a company that has a bright future and is looking to be a big player in the Cloud market. I will be taking a Senior Architect role at Canopy Cloud within their Engineering team working closely with the guys in the CTO office.

Here is a little more information on Canopy taken from their website www.canopy-cloud.com

Canopy Cloud

Canopy, an Atos company powered by EMC and VMware technology, is a one-stop-shop that offers cloud services focussed exclusively on bringing the benefits of cloud delivery to large public and multinational private sector organizations.

The Canopy offerings are based on open standards so customers can choose their preferred technology and decide whether to run solutions off- or on-premise to best meet their business needs.

I’m really excited as for the last three years my main focus has been on End User Computing architectures based on products from VMware. Moving forward my primary focus will be Cloud architecture, vCloud Director, vCAC, vCO etc. Not only am I excited to learn new technologies, I also relish the challenge in helping Canopy grow from a small business into a key player in the Cloud services market. Once again it’s going to be a steep learning curve – Bring.It.On!!!

I will continue to blog and tweet. The focus of my posts are likely to change based on the projects I am working on at Canopy.

Simon Long in AmsterdamI’d just like to publicly thank all of my friends/colleagues that have made my past three years so much fun at VMware. I have many fond memories of my time in both PSO and CoE/PSE. Whilst going through my old emails I found this old photo of me which was taken during a 4 month project over in Amsterdam. This was probably the most political / stressful / rewarding project I got to work on during my time at PSO. It’s one of those projects that will stay with me throughout my career. As painful as it was at the time, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of it. It certainly improved me as a consultant.

As my final day at VMware approaches I am beginning to realize how much I will miss it here. However I’ve learnt, emotions and sentiment shouldn’t be used as a reason to stay in a role.

As one chapter ends, another begins.

Veeam Backup & Replication v7

Veeam LogoA few days ago, one of my blog sponsors Veeam released the latest version of their incredibly popular Veeam Backup and Replication software. Veeam Backup and Replication seems to be one of those software packages that has been around forever and with every release comes some great innovation. Version 7 is no different.

Below are some of what I think are highlights of version 7.

Built-in WAN Acceleration
Built-in WAN Acceleration. Caching, variable block length data fingerprinting and TCP/IP protocol optimizations result in up to 50 times faster transfers of Veeam backups across the WAN

Enhanced backup and recovery for vCloud Director
Support for vCloud Director (vCD) enables restore of vApps and VMs directly back to vCD, and even includes support for fast provisioning.

vSphere Web Client plug-in
Monitor your backup infrastructure directly from the vSphere Web Client

Overall Veeam have made massive 80+ innovations and improvements to Backup and Replication in version 7. You can see the full list in the What’s New in v7 article.

My VMworld 2013 San Francisco Sessions

VMworld 2013 San Francisco is now less than two weeks away!! But there is still plenty of time to make sure you schedule in all of your “must see” sessions. To help with the scheduling, VMware has just release their VMworld 2013 app for both iOS and Android. This is a cool app that you can use to create your own schedule, or access a schedule you’ve create via the vmworld.com website. I all also have many other features such as a Venue Map, Hands on Lab information, details of all of the sponsors/exhibitors and much more.

Here is a list of my session, a couple of which are being repeated.

Demystifying VMware Mirage: Tips and Tricks for Success (EUC4815)

Wondering what Mirage really does, how it works, and how to successfully design and implement Mirage for your company or organization? VMware’s Global Professional Services team will present a technical walk-though of a real-world end-to-end design & implementation of VMware Mirage. Hear first-hand how VMware Architects address technical and operational challenges, such as server and storage sizing, networking, and other critical VMware Mirage design elements. The team will show real-world architecture examples and share their lessons learned and best practices enabling you to be successful in deploying VMware Mirage.

Session Times

  • Wednesday 16:00
  • Thursday 12:30 (Repeat)

PCoIP: Sizing For Success (EUC5249)

Baffled by the PCoIP sizing minefield that accompanies an Horizon View deployment? No idea where to start? Join Chuck and Simon as they give an introduction to PCoIP, helping you understand important characteristics of the protocol that need to be considered when sizing for PCoIP. The session will then guide you through the critical steps required to optimize, measure and calculate PCoIP bandwidth requirements tailored to your environment.

Session Times

  • Wednesday 10:00
  • Thursday 14:00 (Repeat)

EUC Experts Panel – Successful Implementations (EUC6045)

Performance issues with virtual desktops? Experiencing issues with virtualized apps? Unsure how to scale your virtual desktop environment? What about Horizon Workspace and Mirage? Where do they fit into your desktop strategy? Come meet EUC Architects from Global Services Engineering as they answer your questions and explain their experience with designing and implementing some of the largest and most complex EUC environments to date. This helps customers realize the full potential of their EUC investment and is responsible for solving some of the thorniest problems and toughest design challenges. The panel includes experts in all of the Horizon Suite products, as well as critical infrastructure support elements for EUC such as Active Directory and anti-virus, storage solutions, networking, load balancing and many others. Come and ask the experts for help with some of the challenges you are facing and let them share their field experience and lessons learned to help you in all your EUC endeavors.

Session Times

  • Tuesday 16:00

vBeers Tweetup – VMworld San Francisco 2013 (Saturday 24th August 2013)

VMworld 2013 vBeersVMworld San Francisco is almost here again folks and it’s time for another vBeers Tweetup!  The last vBeers Tweetup from VMworld SF 2012 was a great time so we couldn’t let this opportunity go by without arranging another one.  The official vBeers tweetup goes from strength to strength and increases in popularity every year that passes, though still has the same great earthy community feel that it did during it’s first one back in 2009.

The VMworld San Francisco vBeers Tweetup will be held on Saturday 24th August, kicking off from 6:00pm.

The vBeers Tweetup is intended as a way to relax, chill-out and catch up with friends, new and old.  If you don’t know anyone attending then that doesn’t matter as your fellow vGeeks are a friendly welcoming bunch who also like to network, talk tech and share vStories.

In true Tweetup tradition this vBeers Tweetup is not sponsored, it is a case of turning up, enjoying yourself and covering the cost of your own drinks and any food.  Vendor sponsored parties start the following day (Sunday).

We’ll also be bringing along some vBeers coasters/beer-mats along with limited edition vBeers stickers.

Like vBeers on Facebook

Join the vBeers Community on Google Plus

Where is this VMworld San Francisco 2013 vBeers Tweetup going to be held?

vBeers VMworld 2013The venue for this VMworld vBeers Tweetup is back for a third time at “The Chieftain” Irish pub and restaurant, which has a great relaxed informal atmosphere with good food and drink.  Good news as they have free Wi-Fi, which will save all of you from overseas from clocking-up massive data bills on your Smart Phones.

As for registering, no need – all you need to do is turn up, though if you’d like to RSVP to give me an idea of numbers please click here.  First come, first served with seating. However most people tend to stand as it make it easier to mingle.

Hope to see you there!

The Details
Venue: The Chieftain
Address: 198 5th Street @ Howard, San Francisco, CA 94103
Date: Saturday 24th August 2013
Time: 6:00PM
Twitter Hashtag:  #vBeers
Map:  Click the map below for more map details

vBeers VMworld 2013 Map

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