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Apr 11, 2024

Firewalls 102: Understanding Basic Filtering and ACL Rules

Paul Painter, Director, Solutions Engineering

To continue our firewall series, we are delving into the fundamentals of basic filtering, a cornerstone of network security. Be sure to check out Part 1 for a deep dive into Network Address Translation (NAT).

Firewalls act as guardians, meticulously examining data packets traveling between your secure internal network and the wild world of the internet. Basic filtering allows authorized traffic to flow freely while blocking unwanted connections.

Demystifying Firewall Rules and ACLs

To control this traffic flow, firewalls leverage Access Control Lists (ACLs), essentially a set of rules dictating which traffic is allowed and which is denied. Each data packet carries information like source and destination IP addresses, along with the designated service (port) it uses. The firewall meticulously compares this information against each ACL rule, one by one. Here’s why the order of these rules is critical.

Breaking Down a Simplified ACL Rule:

  • Source IP: Specifies the sender’s IP address (or a range of addresses).
  • Destination IP: Specifies the recipient’s IP address (or a range of addresses).
  • Service/Port: Defines the type of traffic (e.g., web browsing – port 80, secure browsing – port 443).
  • ALLOW/DENY: Determines whether to permit or block the traffic.
  • Comment: Provides a brief explanation for the rule’s purpose.

The below example shows a basic firewall rule set enabling a web server to communicate securely:

Source IP  Destination IP  Service/Port  ALLOW/DENY  Comment 
ANY  WebServer  Hypertext transfer protocol (http) / 80  ALLOW  Allows anything to use unencrypted web protocol traffic to talk to the web server 
ANY  WebServer  Hypertext transfer protocol secured (https) / 443  ALLOW  Allows anything to use encrypted web protocol traffic to talk to the web server 
ANY  ANY  ANY  DENY  Denies any traffic that isn’t defined above.  AKA “implicit deny” 

 

A misplaced rule can have unintended consequences, highlighting the importance of order. Additionally, the final “deny” rule acts as a safety net, blocking any unrecognized traffic.

Stateful Inspection: A Powerful Tool with Nuances

Beyond ACLs, firewalls utilize stateful inspection to track connection information, ensuring data flows consistently in and out of the same interface. This feature, while powerful, demands careful configuration. We share a real-world scenario highlighting the significance of order in rule application.

Stateful inspection, despite occasional challenges, is a crucial tool to thwart hacking attempts. Our experienced technical staff at HorizonIQ specializes in optimizing rules and order, ensuring your managed firewall operates securely and efficiently.

Empower Your Network Security with HorizonIQ

Partner with HorizonIQ to leverage our managed firewall services and benefit from our dedicated technical support team. Learn best practices and implement a robust security posture for your organization. 

Stay tuned for future articles in this series where we explore firewalls and their functions, helping you make informed network security decisions.

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Paul Painter

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Mar 28, 2024

Firewalls 101: Network Address Translation (NAT)

Paul Painter, Director, Solutions Engineering

As a solutions engineer guiding clients through diverse technologies, I believe the firewall remains a commonly misconstrued element. Its basic functions and the added benefits of advanced features often elude understanding. That’s why we are embarking on a comprehensive series where we delve into the intricate world of firewalls, discussing their fundamental concepts and extensive benefits.

Network Address Translation (NAT) – The Digital Cloak for Your Network

Our first installment explores the crucial role of Network Address Translation (NAT). Unlike a traditional traffic filter, NAT acts as a digital cloak for devices on your private network. It hides their actual IP addresses, preventing direct access from the internet. This protection works by modifying the source or destination IP addresses of data packets traveling through your router or firewall.

Understanding Private IP Addresses

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in RFC1918 defines three private IP address ranges that are non-routable over the public internet:

10.0.0.0  –  10.255.255.255  (10.0.0.0  /8 prefix)

172.16.0.0 – 172.31.255.255  (172.16.0.0  /12 prefix)

192.168.0.0 – 192.168.255.255 (192.168.0.0  /16 prefix)

Using these ranges for server and device numbering ensures their IPs remain inaccessible from the public internet, necessitating the ability to translate private to public IPs.

The NAT Analogy

Think of this in terms of your office phone system. Each desk phone likely has a public number for external calls. But internally, colleagues use extension numbers to reach each other. The phone system acts like a NAT table, managing the connection between public numbers and internal extensions.

How NAT Works with Firewalls

Similarly, firewalls maintain a NAT table that tracks assignments of public IP addresses to private IP addresses on your network. Each device receives a private IP address (often through Static NAT, a fixed table linking public and private addresses).

However, there might be situations where a server on your network needs to initiate outgoing connections, like downloading patch updates, but doesn’t require incoming communication. Firewalls can dynamically track these internal IPs without assigned public addresses. This allows the server to initiate communication while the firewall translates the private IP for the outgoing traffic.

HorizonIQ: Your Partner in Firewall Management

HorizonIQ, equipped with a skilled technical team, offers consultation and maintenance of your NAT table within managed firewalls. Understanding NAT’s nuances is pivotal for fortifying internet security, and HorizonIQ stands ready to provide expert guidance tailored to your needs.

Stay tuned for further installments in this series where we delve deeper into firewalls and their functionalities, empowering you to make informed decisions about your network security. HorizonIQ is committed to helping you understand the technology that safeguards your valuable digital assets.

Navigate your digital journey with HorizonIQ. Explore our comprehensive suite of solutions.

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Paul Painter

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Apr 10, 2018

6 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Data Center Services Provider

INAP

Choosing the right data center services provider for your company is an important decision.

Every business has its own unique needs. But what works for your company may not be the right choice for another. In each instance though, there are six critical attributes you should always look for when selecting a provider.

Experience

Experience is one of the most important qualifications a provider should have. Check for the number of experienced employees on staff, as well as how many years of experience they have within the IT industry and certain platforms. Another thing to keep in mind is whether their experience is general or focused on solutions that fit your exact business needs.

Expertise

In addition to experience, look for a provider with expertise in your specific industry. If your business is in manufacturing, it doesn’t help to have a provider specialized in telecommunications companies. Ask for relevant case studies and try to find successful examples that fit your business in size, scope and budget.

Check for all necessary certifications and expertise in the platforms and software that you’re currently using. If your equipment and software don’t match the certifications of your provider, you should have serious questions to ask during introductory meetings.

[Tweet “If your equipment doesn’t match your provider’s certifications, you have serious questions to ask.”]

Facilities

It’s true you can’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s also true that first impressions matter. You want to work with an IT infrastructure provider with top-notch data centers in locations that are convenient for your business. (Shameless plug: INAP has 56 Tier 3-design data centers in 21 metropolitan markets across the globe.)

Some of the most important things to consider about the facility include:

  • Power density
  • Available footprints and services offered
  • Heating and cooling capacity
  • Data and physical security
  • Fire and natural disaster protection

Reputation

The reputation of your IT provider is important to keep in mind as you progress through your selection process. Ask for references and follow up with them. Making the extra effort to reach out for testimonials early on will reap dividends later.

It’s important to find a vendor with a proven record of success. You should be concerned if your IT provider cannot direct you to successful case studies, happily satisfied customers or a long record of completed projects.

Communication

When something goes wrong, you want an IT provider that is available and easy to reach. Can they easily address concerns? Do they pick up when you call? If your provider is hard to contact during the selection process, imagine what it will be like if your networks are down and your projects are on fire.

Look for clear and effective communicators with high availability. You’ll be trusting your infrastructure with this vendor; you want to make sure you can maintain a working communication with them. Finally, find a provider who can give an honest and unbiased opinion on what they feel is the best service offering for your specific needs.

Cost

Let’s be honest, in the end, it usually comes down to costs. But remember, you get what you pay for.

Ideally, your provider’s rates shouldn’t fall too high or below industry standards. If rates are too high and outside of your price range, it’s okay to walk away. However, be equally wary of a provider promising rates that fall well below market price.

A provider offering rates significantly below market value should be viewed with skepticism. Assess whether they are truly providing the services they are offering. Providers who come in below could be skimping on services or quality. Network and server availability and reliability isn’t something worth bargaining for. Be wary of bottom barrel prices from any IT infrastructure provider!

The INAP Solution

Ultimately, you want to select a provider that you trust to keep your infrastructure secure and available. That’s a crucial assignment, so you want to be supremely confident that they’ll be able to do the job.

INAP has the expertise, experience, world-class service and quality facilities to provide your business with robust and cost-effective infrastructure services and solutions. Whether your business requires colocation, managed hosting, cloud or network services, INAP has the solutions to give your company the competitive advantage.

Contact us today and speak with an INAP specialist about how our data center services can help you meet your business needs.

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Mar 19, 2018

Living on the Edge: The 411 on Edge Data Centers

INAP

Today’s users demand access to high-quality content at faster speeds and reliability than ever before. For businesses to continue to supply always on websites and applications, their physical infrastructure needs to adapt.

The vast majority of the internet’s computing power stems from only a handful of major markets. In the U.S., 60 percent of all colocation comes from the top 20 markets. Data storage is even more centralized with 70 percent of the market being sourced from six major markets.

This centralization is harder to maintain though, as the needs of mobile users grow both in raw numbers as well as geographic area. As demand for content grows outside of the major markets, the underlying infrastructure becomes strained as data is sent from major markets out to other computing centers.

What is an Edge Data Center

One response to changing online needs has been the rise of edge data centers.

Edge computing is a response to a fundamental law of data storage and delivery. Essentially, data is processed more efficiently when the computing power is closer to the thing or person generating it. Thus, as the need for internet services grow, the physical “edge” of the internet also needs to grow to match demand.

A few years ago, NetworkWorld published an article that still accurately lists seven criteria for defining edge data centers. Here are three points that stand out about edge data centers.

1. Location, Location, Location

One of the key qualities of edge data centers is that they should be located near the edge.

For instance, Phoenix-area businesses looking for an infrastructure provider close to home traditionally have relied heavily on Los Angeles for their computing needs. However, as the amount of content being shared online has grown, providers have spent resources to route data from centers in the largest cities to metro areas on the edge, such as Phoenix. (Shameless plug: INAP has data centers in Phoenix and other edge cities.)

2. Majority of Local Traffic

The point of building data centers in these edge cities is to bring your infrastructure closer to the eyes that will be viewing your content. Therefore, edge data centers need to be serving the markets in which they are located.

Using the example above, if the majority of end users for these Phoenix-area businesses are located in Arizona, it makes more sense for these companies to have their servers closer to their customers.

Sure, those end users will likely receive the same quality of content regardless of where the servers are physically located. However, depending on the type of information that’s being sent, that latency might be noticeable. Edge data centers allow businesses to put servers and information closer to the people who will be accessing it – both digitally and physically.

3. All the Bells and Whistles

Just because these sites aren’t necessarily built in the most populated and largest markets doesn’t mean they shouldn’t include the same features and updates as the facilities in the world’s largest metropolitan areas.

The data centers in edge cities should be Tier 3-designed and built with the same power, reliability and redundancy requirements as similar facilities in the world’s largest markets. (Another shameless plug: All of INAP’s data centers are Tier 3-type regardless of market.)

How to Get Your Infrastructure in an Edge Data Center

If you’re looking to increase your content delivery to regions outside of major computing markets, INAP has you covered. We operate in 56 data centers around the world in established and growing technology hubs.

Our facilities are equipped with top-of-the-line technology and solutions to improve your infrastructure, including colocation, managed hosting, cloud and network services. Contact us today and a data center specialist will help you determine the best services and location for your business to ensure your servers and environment are placed close to your end users.

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Feb 21, 2018

The Importance of Redundancies in Your Infrastructure

INAP

In December 2017, an electrical fire knocked out power at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The outage forced the FAA to issue a ground stop for hours in Atlanta, canceling thousands of flights and stranding thousands of passengers at the world’s busiest airport. The power came back on after about 11 hours, but it took days for the airport to return to normal operations.

The outage created a financial ripple effect, impacting the airport, airlines and travelers. Delta Air Lines uses Atlanta as its major hub and reported the outage cost the company up to $50 million.

Just imagine if something like this happened in your data center or to your network.

Why Your Environment Needs Redundancies

This scenario illustrates why it’s so important to have built-in redundancies in your environment.

Redundancies work by placing multiple channels of power or communication within your infrastructure and network. Think of your redundancies as insurance against failures. If you have multiple paths of connection, the loss of a single path would be inconsequential because your connection would be switched to another source.

To be fair, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport did have a redundant power system in place. Unfortunately, the fire was so intense that it damaged the two substations providing power to the airport, including the backup system.

When you consider the financial, technical and PR damage caused by unplanned outages, it’s almost a no-brainer to include redundancies in your footprint.

Physical Redundancies

The first level of systems you need to consider is physical-level redundancies which back up your utilities, such as power and water. Adding these redundant systems will help eliminate single points of failure in your environment.

If there is an unplanned disruption or scheduled maintenance, these secondary components will automatically take control, keeping your servers and applications online. A setup like this is necessary for your critical applications. (Shameless plug: INAP’s Tier 3-type data centers include N+1 concurrently maintainable design.)

Network Redundancies

A network-level redundancy involves the use of both redundant links as well as network equipment, such as routers and switches. The concept is similar to a physical-level redundancy – should your main communication path go down, your servers can use your backup links to maintain availability and keep your business online.

In layman’s terms, consider your network redundancy like directions you’d get from your car’s GPS. If you are driving down the highway and there is an accident, your navigation system will divert you to a route that’s less crowded. It may not be the shortest route in distance, but it ends up being the quickest to your destination.

Of course, your network-level redundancy won’t have unlimited paths from which to choose like your car GPS. It will only work with paths that you’ve already established as your backups.

Facility Redundancies

Even with the best redundancy plans, there are always situations that are out of your control. Whether it be a man-made incident or natural disaster, there are certain instances in which an entire data center (or even city) could go offline. To keep your business up and running should the unthinkable happen, it’s important to consider facility redundancies.

Facility redundancies are very similar to disaster recovery solutions, but rather than having your backup site on standby for failover, you are normally running off servers in both locations. For instance, if you have a footprint in Atlanta and Dallas, you would set up your environment so it is equipped to handle your entire infrastructure should something happen in one of those sites. (Shameless plug #2: INAP has 51 data centers in 21 metropolitan markets around the world that you could utilize for your footprint.)

Implementing Your Redundancies

Implementing redundancies within a network or infrastructure is more than simply duplicating all your connections. Redundancies are necessary for maintaining availability, but when used in excess, they can be a drain on overall speed and performance.

It can be possible for a network to be overbuilt. When implementing redundancies, the key is to create backup paths built for efficiency, speed and availability. This means having a clear design that considers current failing paths and builds redundancies to fit exact pain points.

Remember, every IT network is unique. It’s important to be acquainted with your network’s strengths and weaknesses. Assess where your business’s connections terminate and where your resources are most available.

The best way to ensure you’re doing it right is leaving the strategy and setup to the experts. Our team has experience providing the best possible networking and infrastructure services for some of the most successful businesses in the world. INAP’s concurrently maintainable data centers are designed with built-in redundancies, so your network and servers will remain online even if there’s a disruption. Contact us today to learn about how we can provide a footprint for your infrastructure that’s always online, so you can focus on your core business.

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Feb 14, 2018

10 Things You’ll Love About HorizonIQ Data Centers

INAP

It’s a classic love story.

You meet, and it’s love at first sight. The first few weeks and months are great. Your partner supports your interests and you really enjoy the time you spend with each other.

But after a few months, you begin to notice some imperfections. Perhaps your partner isn’t quite as reliable as you’d like. Or maybe it’s a distance thing. And when you need help the most, your partner isn’t there for you.

So, you begin thinking, maybe this relationship isn’t for you. It’s time for you to break up with your old infrastructure provider.

Why You Should Make HorizonIQ Your Infrastructure Soul Mate

When considering the features you look for in your infrastructure soul mate, you’re probably after reliability, power, scalability, and security, among other things.

HorizonIQ’s data centers check off everything on that list (and more!), making our facilities the perfect match for whatever solutions your business requires.

Here are 10 things you and your company will absolutely love about HorizonIQ’s data centers.

Easy to Access

Our data centers are easily accessible to most major international economic and tech hubs. HorizonIQ has 51 data centers and 90 points of presence in 21 global metropolitan markets – from North America to Europe all the way to Asia and Australia. And most of those markets are linked via HorioznIQ’s reliable backbone, which ensures your business and servers are always connected, regardless of location.

20 kW Per Cabinet

You know that 90s song by Snap! “I’ve Got the Power?” It might as well be the unofficial anthem for HorizonIQ’s power capabilities. Our premium colocation facilities allow you to increase your power at the cabinet level up to 20 kW, all without adding to your existing footprint.

Highly Reliable

What good is a data center if it isn’t available? HorizonIQ’s service has greater than 99.999 percent reliability, meaning your systems are virtually always online. Plus, our concurrently maintainable design means you don’t have to worry about downtime for planned (or unplanned) outages.

24x7x365 Support

Our NOC team is among the best in the business. HorizonIQ data centers have experienced engineers and technical support on-site 24x7x365 who will monitor performance and resolve issues before they impact your business. Plus, our facilities all feature round-the-clock security to ensure no one gets in who isn’t supposed to be there.

Scalability and Flexibility

Your business priorities change, and our data centers make it easy to add to your environment. HorizonIQ’s configuration allows you to increase power, performance, and storage without adding to your footprint or moving equipment.

Wide Range of Services

HorizonIQ data centers have a robust portfolio of colocation, cloud, managed hosting, and network service offerings across our 51 locations. Want to connect your existing infrastructure to the cloud? We’ve got you covered. How about adding to your storage capacity within a managed footprint? You’ve come to the right place. Bottom line: HorioznIQ has the services to meet your unique business needs.

Fully Redundant Design

When the power goes out, you want to make sure your servers stay online. That’s why HorizonIQ’s data centers are built with N+1 redundancy. So, in the unlikely event that something knocks out the power, cooling, or other vital systems, your network and business will keep running.

Diverse carriers in MMR

Our data centers feature anything from a few dozen to a few hundred carriers in our state-of-the-art Meet Me Rooms. Our facilities also offer alternative transit and local options, so you’ll be able to find the connections you need to access your colocation or hosting environment.

Strict Compliance

Data security is a major issue, and HorizonIQ’s data centers meet or exceed all of the domestic and international standards for compliance. Our solutions will ensure your sensitive information is safe and your infrastructure remains HIPAA and PCI-complaint. Plus, HorizonIQ’s data centers are audited annually, and you can utilize these reports for your internal compliance requirements.

We’re Going Green

HorioznIQ realizes the importance of conservation and sustainability. So, we built our data centers to be energy-efficient while at the same time maximizing the performance needed to power your applications. Our eco-friendly data centers have received LEED Gold, Green Globes, and ENERGY STAR certifications.

We’re Ready for a Long-Term Relationship

The thing to love most about HorizonIQ data centers is how they can help your company reach its business goals. Whether you need hosting solutions for your IT infrastructure or are just looking for services to migrate your existing environment, you’ll find all of the solutions your business requires in our top-notch data centers.

Whether you’re ready for a long-term relationship or suffering from a fear of commitment (you know who you are), we invite you to learn more about how HorizonIQ can help your company grow. Contact us today and our data center specialists will help determine the right solutions for your business needs.

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Feb 7, 2018

5 Reasons Your Website is Loading So Slowly

INAP

What’s Wrong with My Site?

One of the most frustrating internet experiences is a website failing to load promptly. The only thing worse is when that slow website is your own.

Kissmetrics reports that 40 percent of users will abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. In addition, nearly half (47 percent) of users expect a web page to load in two seconds or less.

When your site is loading slowly, it’s important to diagnose the right issue. You wouldn’t take random medicine without visiting the doctor in the hopes of getting better. Similarly, you’ll want to narrow down the exact issue affecting your site.

There are a variety of different issues that could be causing your site to load slowly. Here are five common reasons you may be experiencing a slowdown.

1. Unoptimized Images

The first common reason for a slow-loading website is unoptimized images. Every image or file on a website needs to be loaded bit by bit. When images are unnecessarily large, they can be a significant drain on your load speed.

Luckily, the solution for unoptimized images is fast and easily managed. This is especially true for what is referred to as lossless images. These are images that can be shrunk down without any perceived loss of picture quality. Bringing your image file sizes down can boost your site speed and performance.

2. Too Many Plugins

Our second offender for slowness can come from too many plugins or addons that you may use in the backend to build your page. Many sites rely on plugins to improve their functionality. Plugins have their place and can bring necessary features to your site. However, using them excessively can slow down your load times and create a poor experience for your users.

If you suspect your plugins are slowing down your site, remove anything non-essential. Curating your site of unnecessary plugins and addons can bring increased speed and performance. Remember, even the most functional site will be ignored if users can’t load it in time!

3. Code Density

Another issue that could be slowing down your site is overly complicated or dense code. If the underlying developmental infrastructure of your site is dense, the harder it is for browsers to process and load. Thus, the heavier your code, the longer it will take for your users to load.

The solution to dense code may involve a little more expertise but is still manageable. Reducing the HTML markup of your site can bring major improvements and can be accomplished by using HTML tags sparingly and only when necessary.

A few simple fixes include removing HTML comments in scripts and any CDATA blocks in script elements. Another suggestion is to remove or collapse any white space within the code.

4. Shared Servers

If you’re on a shared server, your performance may be impacted by other users on your server. No matter how fast the rest of your site is, being in a queue with other users might drag down your speed.

Solving a server issue is simple and straightforward. If you’re on a shared server, you’ll experience immediate improvements in performance by moving to a dedicated server, which means you’re the only user running off that space (Shameless plug: HorizonIQ offers managed services and bare metal solutions on dedicated servers).

Finding the right service for your needs might take some research on your part, but will bring immediate results in terms of performance and speed.

5. High Traffic

Hold the phone.

Don’t websites want to receive high traffic?

The short answer is “Yes,” but sometimes overwhelming site visits can be too much of a good thing. In this instance, the traffic might be more than your server can handle, causing your site to crash.

When this happens, you may need to look at increasing your bandwidth and improving your underlying infrastructure. If it’s simply a case of outgrowing your previous site build up, you’re going to need to move to a hosting service better suited to the number of visitors that you’re receiving.

A Quick Fix for Your Slow Site

A slow site will drain your users and reduce subscribers. Luckily, a few quick fixes can go a long way towards getting you back up to speed.

HorizonIQ’s data center services can help address the infrastructure problems you might be suffering from crowded servers or bandwidth issues. Our unique solutions allow you the flexibility and scalability to keep your website running at top speed, giving your end users an optimal online experience.

Contact us today to speak with an HorizonIQ representative about how we can help your website move as fast as your business.

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Jan 30, 2018

Two of the Biggest Data Center and Colocation Myths Debunked

INAP

Data Centers Are Here to Stay.

Data centers play an essential role in the storage and management of a company’s data and digital information.

Large corporations may opt to store their digital information within their own data centers on site. However, many organizations rely on other companies to run the data center and will pay for the power and space – this service is known as colocation.

Colocation provides safe, reliable and affordable options that are essential to the growth and operation of many organizations and businesses. But due to the integral role they play, colocation and data centers are often also subjected to industry myths and misconceptions.

Here are two of the most common misunderstandings about data centers and their services.

Myth 1: The Growth of Cloud Computing Will Render Colocation Obsolete

One of the most popular data center myths is that the rapid expansion of cloud computing and services will eventually eliminate the need for data centers and colocation services.

It is true that the cloud has grown astonishingly in the last several years and this growth is sure to continue to rise; however, fear of the cloud’s size and strength is misguided. The cloud has not replaced onsite servers, so it’s unlikely it will replace data centers and the need for colocation.

Many businesses make use of cloud services to facilitate and improve their businesses processes, but very few businesses move all their data to the cloud. In most cases, living completely out of the cloud simply isn’t feasible. Some organizations just feel more comfortable storing sensitive data on-site or in dedicated data centers. While cloud computing is certainly growing, it is not growing monolithically. And as a result, blended infrastructure, with both cloud and colocation environments, are among the most popular setups for businesses.

For example, a business may choose to outsource repeatable business practices, such as emails or internal documents to the cloud, but that same business would choose to keep sensitive information and data housed within a personal server within a data center.

The growth of blended infrastructure solutions means that both colocation and cloud services will continue to have a role in handling the IT infrastructure needs of the future.

Myth 2: Data Centers Can’t Handle New Workloads

A second myth is that current legacy data centers lack the capabilities necessary to handle new IT workloads.

These infrastructure doomsday scenarios generally focus on the assertion that data centers lack the physical space and necessary power to properly handle our modern IT needs.

But once again, the reality is far less dramatic than critics suggest. New technologies and innovations in cooling and power usage allow data centers to be radically more efficient. So, while the amount of data being processed may increase, the amount of power being used stays relatively constant.

It is true that data centers need to adapt to a changing IT landscape; however, this change can be both sustainable and gradual. Rather than focusing on the dramatic, data centers can improve upon existing equipment. Data centers can continue to train and retain good employees, thus keeping performance and efficiency running at an optimal level. While new problems and situations may arise, data centers can still thrive in the current IT environment.

How Can Data Centers Support My Needs?

Data centers continue to play a valuable role in handling IT needs for organizations and businesses. Finding the right data center for your business is often about finding the provider who can give you the services and products you’ll need to keep your business applications running smoothly.

INAP’s data center specialists can assess your organization’s needs and find the right plan that fits your scale, scope and budget. Contact us today to learn more about INAP’s data centers and colocation services.

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Jan 3, 2018

4 Online Gaming Trends You’ll See in 2018

INAP

Game On!

In the world of online gaming, 2017 brought its own surprises, accomplishments and achievements.

From the explosion in eSports participation and viewing to growth in virtual and augmented reality gaming, 2017 set many of the trends that will likely continue to grow in the new year.

Here are four patterns you need to pay attention to in 2018.

1. The Growth of eSports Leagues

The first trend is incredible growth in eSports and eSports leagues.

What was once a pipe dream of gamers has become a multimillion-dollar industry. In fact, industry experts predict that eSports could generate more than one billion dollars by 2020.

Hi-Rez Studios runs one of the more successful eSports leagues and championships for its popular SMITE game. Now in Season 4, the SMITE Pro League includes teams from around the world competing on both PCs and consoles. Every match is streamed live on the internet, and fans have the option of purchasing season passes which grant them access to see every event.

Each season ends with the world championships at the Hi-Rez Expo held annually in Atlanta, which also includes competitions for Paladins and Hand of the Gods. (Shameless plug: INAP is the title sponsor at this year’s event.)

With more eSports leagues and competitions on the way, 2018 will likely see further increases in audiences, revenue and market share.

2. Virtual and Augmented Reality

The next trend is a continued push toward virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology.

While the initial buzz and hype behind VR have begun to subside, several publishers and manufacturers are making significant strides towards bringing the technology to a wider market through increased investment and more content.

And while still small by standards of the wider video game industry, VR technology continues to move into expanded markets and has sales figures to prove it. Oculus’s Gear VR recently shipped over five million units, and the PlayStation VR sold more than a million headsets in less than a year.

While developers continue to experiment with creative ways to implement VR into gaming, it’s more likely we’ll see advancements in AR technology in the next year. There hasn’t been a major AR gaming breakthrough since 2016’s Pokémon Go (Remember when everyone was running around your neighborhood trying to catch digital creatures?), but retailers have discovered unique ways to add AR into the consumer experience. In fact, IKEA has been doing it for years.

Since AR does not require the use of expensive equipment like headsets nor the need for as significant an investment compared to VR, it’s just a matter of time before an AR developer comes up with the next big online or mobile gaming sensation.

3. Diversity and Inclusion

Boys aren’t the only ones playing video games. More than 40 percent of all gamers in the U.S. are female, and this change in audience is being reflected on the screen.

More games are being developed that feature minorities, women and other underrepresented communities. We Are Chicago has earned critical praise for its unique storyline and depiction of an African-American growing up in the city’s South Side. Nintendo Switch’s highly anticipated Seasons of Heaven will tackle unique character viewpoints in a puzzle adventure game based on a protagonist with Asperger syndrome. And writers revealed in an Overwatch comic series that popular character Tracer is gay.

Expect this diversity and inclusion trend to continue in 2018 as an audience eager for roles that no longer play on stereotypes is influencing publishers and developers to craft stories that include more voices and perspectives than ever before.

4. Make Way for Indie Game Developers

Independent game publishers and studios are expected to take a big step in 2018. Independent game makers have been on the rise for the last several years, but their growth has accelerated with new trends and technology sharing to foster a democratization of game development.

One of the top reasons independent game makers can compete with industry giants is due to digital downloads. Independents create and publish games without being forced to make deals necessary to secure shelf space in retail stores. This has leveled the playing field and allowed smaller game makers to sell directly to their consumers and target audiences.

And it appears to be working, as more games are published every year. A 2016 study of all the games on Steam ­– a digital distribution store for online games – revealed nearly 40 percent of available titles on the service were released that year.

Full Speed Ahead in 2018

As the world of online gaming moves into 2018, the industry will move to adapt to its changing circumstances and environment. But some things will remain the same.

At the heart of every online gaming experience is a powerful and robust infrastructure that gives gamers a seamless adventure with no lag. Contact INAP today to learn how our high-performance IT infrastructure solutions and data center services can provide your users an optimal gameplay experience with low latency, even during peak periods.

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Dec 21, 2017

5 Highlights from the Gartner IO Conference 2017

INAP

Insights and Advice from our Experts

INAP was fortunate to be a sponsor at Gartner’s annual IT Infrastructure, Operations Management & Data Center Conference 2017 in Las Vegas.

In addition to exhibiting our high-performance managed hosting and service solutions, our team of experts had the opportunity to attend some of the popular keynotes and sessions throughout the four-day event.

The conference included more than 150 sessions, so naturally we weren’t able to attend every one. We would have liked to, but since time travel is still unreliable at best, our experts picked the sessions they knew would be most relevant to the future of our business and our ever-evolving industry.

And they weren’t disappointed.

Here are five key industry insights and trends our experts brought home with them from the Gartner IO Conference.

1. Make Way for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

You probably already use some form of automation in your business. Chatbots and virtual assistants are increasing in popularity, but are you doing enough to improve the efficiency of your infrastructure?

During their opening keynote address, Gartner’s Milind Govekar and Dave Russell predicted that if you don’t effectively adapt artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into your environment and workloads by 2020, your infrastructure may not be operationally and economically viable.

As a result, they expect an increase in software-centric or programmable infrastructure to support advanced platform thinking and integration with minimal human intervention. If utilized correctly, this technology will enable your environment to process more data faster with less cost.

Stay tuned.

2. Living on the Edge

It was just a few years ago that the internet of things (IoT) took off as the next big advancement in digital technology.

Businesses now need to embrace the edge by blending physical and digital resources to create an experience that provides value and makes a difference.

It’s not about rolling out technology for the sake of doing it. In a session about top trends in 2018 and their impact on infrastructure and operations, Gartner VP David Cappuccio pointed out the necessity of creating an intelligent edge. This focuses on utilizing connected devices that provide a real-time reaction and allow for interaction between things and people to solve a critical business need.

3. Data is More Valuable Than Ever

In a digital world of AI, connected devices and intelligent edges, data is becoming even more important.

Machine learning and automated systems will require additional data to analyze trends and behaviors to make logical decisions to improve efficiency, especially when connected with multiple devices. To manage the influx of digital information, a greater priority will be placed on data storage and backup. (Shameless self-promotion: INAP launched a new managed storage offering during this conference.)

More data also means more opportunities for hackers, and businesses are being forced to take additional steps to combat this risk. In a session about the state of business continuity management, we learned that average disaster recovery budgets were expected to increase in 2017.

4. Cloud Reaches New Heights

One of the overwhelming themes that kept coming up during sessions and keynotes was a focus on the cloud.

You’re probably already familiar with some of the stats that predict massive increases in cloud computing over the next few years. Gartner’s Govekar and Russell doubled down on those forecasts, claiming that by 2021, 80 percent of organizations using DevOps will deploy new services in the public cloud.

It appears we can expect more businesses to transition to a cloud-only model, where before it was just cloud first. The impact remains to be seen.

5. Mind the Skills Gap

With technical innovation and the transition to a more cloud-focused infrastructure, IT teams are being driven to master additional skills.

Some employees may be fast learners, but the reality for most businesses is that they’ll likely experience disruptions due to infrastructure and operational skills gaps.

Rather than being specialists or generalists, IT talent should strive to become versatilists – meaning they are a specialist for a certain discipline, but can easily switch to another role. In the meantime, companies need to consider the experience level of their existing teams when rushing to adapt new technology.

Implementing New Trends

Your business may already be in the process of implementing changes based on these trends. Or perhaps you’re aware that you need to get the ball rolling, but you’re not ready just yet.

Regardless of where you currently sit, you should consider how these trends will impact your industry and business model or you risk being left in your competitors’ dust.

It may seem like a daunting task, but you don’t have to do it alone. Consider a trusted partner who will be there every step of the way to provide guidance, support and the necessary services to help you achieve your business goals. That’s where INAP comes in. Our team of experts will assist you in preparing your organization and infrastructure for the technology of tomorrow. Contact us to learn how we can help you build a better IT infrastructure for today and the future.

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