Welcome to the Sentinel Blog!
We are proud to feature a carefully curated collection of articles and other content related to the most important technology topics of today and beyond. Our posts are composed and edited by Sentinel’s ALWAYS ENGAGED team of solutions architects, engineers, project managers and other subject matter experts.
Dispatches From Dell EMC World 2017
By Bill LaFlamme, Solution Design Team Lead
Having just returned from Dell EMC World 2017 in Las Vegas, I thought it might be a good idea to highlight some of the many announcements made at the conference. This was really the first major event held since Dell and EMC completed their merger, and as a result there were a lot of new things introduced and hints at other exciting developments on the horizon.
Dell EMC announced several new offerings over the four-day event, including:
+New PowerEdge 14G Servers
+Updated VxRail HyperConverged Hardware, Software, and A New Pricing Model
+Software-Defined Storage Updates
+New Storage Array Offerings Across Several Platforms
+New Integrated Data Protection Appliance
+A Few Open Networking Products
+Exciting Flexible Consumption Models
**New PowerEdge 14G Servers**
Dell EMC unveiled the 14th generation PowerEdge server. Suitably titled the 14G, it is designed to be a scalable and secure compute platform with easily integrated automation capabilities.
This server architecture is based on the next-generation Intel Xeon scalable family of processors and uses NVMe-based internal storage to offer increased storage performance and capacity over earlier models. The 14G servers also come with native 25GbE ports, expanded APIs and a new iDRAC management system to provide simpler management and greater security by incorporating hardware-based features such as:
+System Lockdown: A feature to prevent configuration changes.
+SecureBoot: A feature to ensure that the server is using only the expected boot image.
+Signed Firmware: A capability to help customers ensure they’re not loading versions of firmware that have been tampered with.
+System Erase: A feature that quickly and securely erases all data from a server’s non-volatile storage when that server is retired.
**Updated VxRail Hyperconverged Hardware, Software, and A New Pricing Model**
Dell EMC revealed an upgrade to their VxRail hyperconverged platform, which is now known as VxRail 4.5. The VxRail will be based around the new PowerEdge 14G server platform so it will use higher-performing and higher-capacity nodes, allowing for increased virtual machine and workload density within a cluster.
This VxRail software provides support for VMware vSphere 6.5 and vSAN 6.6 while also streamlining the deployment process to greatly reduce the amount of time needed to implement or expand clusters.
A new pricing structure called Cloud Flex for HyperConverged Infrastructure is also being offered by Dell Financial Services (DFS), making the consumption model very similar to that of public cloud. This new program gives customers the ability to purchase an on premise Dell EMC HCI solution with features such as:
+No up-front cost
+Declining monthly payments over time
+No obligation to continue the contract to full term
**Software-Defined Storage Updates**
The majority of the software-defined announcements at Dell EMC World were related to the new PowerEdge 14G, in that the existing software-defined storage (SDS) offerings will be supported on the new hardware as soon as it is available.
The IsilonSD Edge is the software-only version of the Isilon scale-out NAS platform, and the updates allow it to be installed on a single 14G server (versus the 3 physical hosts required by previous versions). The updated IsilonSD Edge also supports VMware vSphere 6.5 and deployments using virtual storage platforms like ScaleIO and VMware vSAN.
The Dell EMC scale-out object storage platform (ECSA) updates include enhanced data protection and management capabilities as well as advanced analytics support. This includes the ECS Dedicated Cloud Service, which uses a dedicated single-tenant offering hosted in a VirtuStream data center to allow customers to use ECS in a hybrid cloud model.
Dell EMC provided hints about the next ScaleIO release and a new software-defined solution code named Project Nautilus. Project Nautilus is designed for analyzing high volumes of streaming Internet of Things (IoT) data prior to storing it on disk. Nautilus will use either Isilon or ECS as its resilient storage tier and is designed to bring customers real-time processing capabilities.
**New Storage Array Offerings Across Several Platforms**
The VMAX 950F is a new, all-Flash VMAX array which improves performance over previous generations and has a 25% smaller footprint.
The next iteration of their XtremIO all-Flash platform, the XtremIO X2, was also announced. The X2 offers up to 80% lower response times, 25% more data reduction, and three times the capacity per X-brick of its predecessor. The X2 X-brick scales from 7TB to 138TB of raw capacity, but is still limited to scaling out to a total of 8 X-bricks.
Four new all-Flash models of the Unity unified storage platform, the 350F, 450F, 550F, and 650F were unveiled. The 650F offers up to 500TB of effective storage capacity across 80 drives in a 3RU form factor. These new models also allow for a larger filesystem.
Dell EMC also revealed the SC5020 hybrid storage array. The SC line is the former Dell Compellent platform. The SC5020 offers 45% more IOPS, twice the maximum capacity (2PB), and three times the bandwidth of the SC4020 it is replacing.
Lastly, they announced the awesome all-Flash version of their Isilon scale-out NAS platform, which was formerly known as Project Nitro.
**New Integrated Data Protection Appliance**
The Integrated Data Protection Appliance (IDPA) was introduced. The IDPA is a pre-integrated, purpose-built solution that combines storage protection, software, search, and analytics into one appliance that can be used to back up data from a wide variety of platforms and applications. IDPA also offers options for cloud tiering and is available in four different models (DP5300, DP5800, DP8300, and DP8800), scaling from 34TB to 1PB of usable capacity.
**A Few Open Networking Products**
One of the surprises at Dell EMC World was the unveiling of new open networking top-of-rack switch models. The S4100-ON is optimized for a high number of 10GbE or 8/16/32Gb Fibre Channel connections, similar to a Cisco switch providing Unified Ports. The switch includes 100GbE uplink ports for inter-rack communication.
The S5100-ON is designed as a top-of-rack switch for deployments using a large number of Dell EMC PowerEdge 14G servers (such as VxRail or ScaleIO deployments). The switch has 25GbE ports, plus 100GbE uplink ports like the S4100-ON.
**Exciting Flexible Consumption Models**
Dell Technologies announced a company-wide adoption of a cloud-like consumption models offered through Dell Financial Services (DFS). The new “pay for what you use” model reduces customers’ up-front capital expenditure.
These new flexible consumption offerings include:
+DFS Flex On Demand is available for all Dell EMC storage solutions, which allows customers to pay for only the capacity they’re actually using.
+DFS Cloud Flex for HCI, which was detailed above.
+PC as a Service (PCaaS) combines hardware, software, and services to provide customers with a predictable cost per seat per month.
+Dell EMC Complete VDI Solutions combine infrastructure, software, services, and optional thin clients to allow customers to either build their own virtual desktop solution or purchase a complete pre-configured end-to-end solution. The VDI Solutions are based on VMware Horizon which are run on VxRail clusters.
Dell Technologies continues to push their message of transforming IT and helping customers realize how the capabilities of a modern infrastructure can help them achieve desired business outcomes. Sentinel is excited about these new developments as we remain Always Leading in our efforts to provide customers with the highest quality and most innovative solutions, products, and services to grow your business. Please contact us to learn more about our offerings or request a quote.
How A Severe Weather Notification System Can Help Protect Your Business
As the summer nears, severe weather plans become a critical component of any organization’s safety strategy. Tornadoes, fires and flooding are just a few of the severe weather elements that businesses can encounter, which is why you need to be ready to provide clear instructions to keep your people safe.
One of the key components of any safety strategy is figuring out what location(s) employees should go to when severe weather approaches. Some situations may require people to gather in a certain area of the building to stay safe, while others may result in a complete evacuation.
The National Weather Service (NWS) recently hosted a Twitter Q&A outlining different safe place strategies. They outlined the challenges and solutions to develop the best plan for making people aware of where they should go during severe weather events. Here are a few of the most relevant questions and responses, with some added tips on how to leverage InformaCast notification system to get critical information into the hands of people who need it.
Q: Why is it important to identify your safe place and practice going there?
Your location is the number one factor in determining your level of danger when extreme weather threatens. Taking action and getting to a safe location can mean the difference between escaping harm, injury or death. InformaCast gives users the ability to craft an emergency notification in anticipation of any severe weather event their organization may encounter. Determine your safe place and include this in your prebuilt notifications. This saves time in the moment since critical information will already have been decided.
Q: Does my safe place change depending on the hazard?
Absolutely. For example, you should seek shelter during a tornado, but evacuate in the event of a hurricane. Find low ground when dealing with a tornado, but high ground during a flash flood or tsunami. Since InformaCast allows users to prebuild messages for any type of scenario, specific information can vary depending on the event. Determine the different places people should go and procedures they should follow, then build a different message for each case.
Q: How much time do I have to get to a safe place?
That depends on the hazard. Tornado warnings require immediate action to reach your safe place. InformaCast makes it easy to quickly send out critical information in the form of an emergency notification. Its Command Center feature simplifies the emergency notification process to minimize the time between learning about an event and spreading that information throughout the organization.
Q: What are the best safe places when a tornado warning is issued?
Underground storm shelters, safe rooms, designated tornado shelters, basements, or at a minimum the lowest level interior room of your building are all good ideas for safe places when creating your emergency notifications. Make sure you are broadcasting to as many devices as possible to ensure everyone hears the message and knows where to go when severe weather approaches.
When users have identified safe places for their people, that information can be combined with InformaCast’s CAP plug-in. This feature gives you the ability to set up automatic alerts to know when severe weather is approaching. By defining a geographical area, users can have mass notifications sent out for severe weather events most likely to occur nearby. Those automatic alerts can then be configured to include details about the proper safe place people should go to.
Sentinel offers InformaCast as a way for businesses to get information into the hands of employees and others who need it quickly. That means making it easier to reach people no matter their location or preferred device, so they are able to receive messages about critical safety details during dangerous weather situations. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about InformaCast.
Kids Take Over Sentinel
Sentinel Technologies joined companies across the country on Thursday, April 27th to celebrate national Take Your Child to Work Day. Kids joined their parents for a fun day at each of our locations, learning about day-to-day work life, touring the facilities, and learning about all the different departments that make up Sentinel’s team.
We kicked off the morning at our Downers Grove headquarters with registration and breakfast in the cafeteria. Everybody snacked on bagels, mini muffins, milk and juice. A good breakfast was essential for the fun-filled day ahead!
Then it was time to explore. Our tour leaders guided two groups out of the lunchroom for a walkthrough of our facility. One tour had a superhero theme, while the other brought Halloween to April with a haunted tour! Each department decorated their doors and played music to help bring the themes to life.
The kids learned how our different teams work together from beginning to end to deliver for our clients. They stopped by our pre-sales team, checked in on customer service, visited the Network Operations Center (NOC), headed to post-sales to meet project management, and then trekked upstairs to meet the engineers. Along the way they got to ring the big bell hanging outside the lobby, pop bubble wrap in the warehouse, and see where the trucks back up to our dock.
The tour helped them with their next mission, a scavenger hunt around the office for eggs to redeem for prize bags filled with candy! Once that was finished, each child spent time at their parent’s desk or workstation to learn about what they do, and how they work with their team.
After a couple of hours, kids under the age of eight were either picked up for the day or headed home with their parents, while the older kids got the chance to dive a little deeper into Sentinel with informational sessions focused on recruiting, administration, and social media. The sessions were both informational and engaging. In the social media session, the kids even made their own hashtag for the day: #TeachTheNextGenOfKids.
They then headed back into the NOC for a closer look at all the innovative components we use there and in our voice lab. The final stop before lunch was in our TelePresence room, where we used our Cisco Collaboration tools to create a video conference between our other offices across the country and check-in with the other kids participating in Take Your Child to Work Day!
It’s hard to say who had more fun, the kids or our employees! Like their social media hashtag said, we were happy to have them in the office and share what we do with the next generation of young innovators. And who knows, they may eventually follow in their parents’ footsteps and become the next generation of Sentinel employees!
The Secrets Behind Sentinel's Security-as-a-Service
By Robert Keblusek, Sentinel Chief Technology Officer
Sentinel’s Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS) contains a number of features and plugins designed to help enhance the protection of your business and critical data. Key (and unique) among them is our CloudSelect Threat Exchange (CTX). What it does is build an additional layer of security integration and automation based around intelligence trends gathered from all of our security customers. It is an incredibly powerful tool that is one of our secret weapons, and it’s included with our SECaaS.
Say that a business uses Cisco AMP for Endpoint as part of its security infrastructure. Upon receiving a security alert through AMP, our investigation discovers that some kind of anomaly is causing the system to register a false positive. Using CTX we are able to quickly and easily put in a directive to ignore that harmless piece, then push it out to all the rest of our security customers so nobody gets those false positives. CTX is always learning. The more customers we have using our Security-as-a-Service, the more visibility we have, the more intelligence we build and can incorporate into CTX.
If you’re looking for a very basic security service, Sentinel offers incident logging and event management. However, when combined with our SecuritySelect IDS (intrusion detection sensor) you receive heightened visibility, multiple points of detection and additional capabilities beyond what most managed security offerings can provide. An IDS is really going to see what’s happening on your network and enable you to make the most informed decisions when it comes to security. It’s even more effective when working in tandem with CTX, because it helps to filter out a lot of repeat and unimportant incidents before they even reach the SECaaS manager. That drastic reduction in reported events is far less taxing on your infrastructure and reduces overall costs.
In addition to the protection that our SECaaS with CTX provides, I would also strongly recommend establishing monthly intelligence meetings with Sentinel. Even if you have your own security team carefully keeping track of logs and monitoring suspicious activity, each meeting with us functions like a mini assessment. Our expert analysts closely examine your SECaaS system, provide an in-depth activity and incident report, then sit down with your team to explain what we’re seeing and offer recommendations on ways to improve your security posture. Often these are environmental changes or optimization of existing investments so that you are getting the most from your cyber protection assets.
A customer recently signed up for security intelligence meetings with us, but expressed concern about how much value they would get out of it. They got a nice write-up, interacted with our team, and quickly began to see the benefits. While this alone isn’t our full Security Operations Center (SOC) service with 24x7x365 monitoring and alerts (which is something we also offer), these meetings do provide important insights you can’t get anywhere else.
If you are interested in learning more about Sentinel’s security offerings, including SECaaS with CTX and monthly intelligence meetings, please contact us. We are able to provide support and have custom plugins for just about any security platform on the market offering you a powerful management tool, detection and response solution along with some of the best technical staff in the industry. When you think of cyber security, think of Sentinel SecuritySelect and ask us how we can help!
Top Trends Friday: Then and Now
Top Trends Friday has become a weekly staple across Sentinel’s social media platforms. We reach out to our elite experts for their insight into the technology industry and related verticals to find the solutions and products making the biggest impact. We then share those trends every Friday afternoon to kick off the weekend.
This week, we wanted to reflect on some of our favorite Top Trends from last year and provide updates to highlight their continued impact today.
After being acquired by Cisco last fall, OpenDNS was renamed Cisco Umbrella and became part of the Cisco Security Ecosystem. Umbrella offers the industry’s first secure internet gateway. Since the acquisition, Sentinel has added Cisco Umbrella to our SecuritySelect portfolio, which delivers a comprehensive approach to business security.
Meraki Wireless has also expanded significantly since last year. In October they announced the MR30H access point, created with the hospitality and retail industries in mind.
They also released the MS350-24X, a multi-gig switch to support the MR53. This new switch offers visibility and control over thousands of ports, as well as built-in multi-site management and zero touch provisioning.
Meraki’s Cloud dashboard received a refresh too, making it more user friendly.
Business Continuity Planning
Business Continuity Planning is one of many services offered by Sentinel’s Strategic Advisory Group. This division of our company has expanded since last spring, and now combines technology advisory and business processes to deliver comprehensive analysis and alignment services to our clients.
Business Continuity Planning continues to be a top priority for organizations and includes a suite of assessments. Some of these include Business Impact Analysis, Disaster Recovery, and Runbook, along with Backup and Retention Planning. Customers can get the discussions started with our free alignment workshops, such as one focused on the NIST Cybersecurity framework.
Technology is constantly advancing. In 12 short months, these 3 solutions have expanded and changed exponentially, yet remained prominent. We rely on our experts to stay on the cutting edge of solutions to provide our clients with most effective and efficient solutions for their organization. Check in with our social media accounts at the end of each work week for our Top Trends Friday to stay ahead of the curve!
A Closer Look at Sentinel's Customer Service
By the Sentinel Customer Service Team
Sentinel was founded in 1982 as a technology maintenance and repair company. While our scope and offerings have expanded with new innovations throughout the industry, our core mission remains the same: to provide the highest quality IT solutions, customer service, and support so businesses can maximize their productivity and growth.
Customer Service is the beating heart of Sentinel’s operations. Our team works closely with customers to ensure that any problems or issues concerning Sentinel solutions within their IT environment are handled quickly and directly no matter when or where they occur. Customers can place service calls 24x7x365 using our online portal or 800 number, where agents are standing by ready to help. Some customers also have dedicated phone numbers, which allows our agents to answer calls with a special greeting written by the customer.
Our highest priority in Customer Service is on providing a quality experience that is fast, reliable and friendly. We understand that when someone calls in because their entire network is down, they want to speak to a real person and not an answering machine or automated system. That is why we invest so much time and effort to train our agents and emphasize the critical values of listening, patience and friendliness.
Of course agents also need to be highly knowledgeable in all aspects of the products and solutions we provide, so they can properly interpret a customer’s issue and escalate it as needed using the correct channels and/or technicians. Keeping up with all the new technologies and systems is one of the most challenging aspects of our jobs, but we pride ourselves on the ability to adapt quickly in an ever-changing industry.
At the end of the day, perhaps the best and most rewarding thing about working in Sentinel’s Customer Service is being part of a great team. The comradery in the Customer Service department is much like that of a family; we not only support our customers, but also each other on a daily basis. That atmosphere of teamwork, trust and professionalism is what enables us to deliver such efficient, dependable and responsive service to our customers when they need it most.
Sentinel Stands for Equal Pay
In the U.S., women earn about 76 cents per dollar earned by men on average, but the causes of the gender pay gap are a bit more complicated. Sentinel is committed to doing our part to close the gender pay gap. We have conducted a pay gap analysis every year since 2003 to ensure women and minorities are equitably paid throughout the organization.
Pay equality is an important issue for all of us, and by taking the Equal Pay Pledge on Glassdoor, we are formally telling our employees, candidates and the world that we are committed to equitable pay practices. The more companies stand up for equal pay, the closer we get to closing the pay gap and making salary equity a reality for all.
Sentinel stands alongside more than 3,000 organizations that have taken the equal pay pledge. We hope you’ll join us in this important conversation and share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn that you #StandForEqualPay with us.
Sentinel Event Calendar Update
Sentinel regularly hosts events for our customers at various locations across the country. It provides us an opportunity to establish a closer and more personal relationship with those in attendance, and lend our unique expertise to highlight new and emerging technologies designed to optimize and protect the way you do business. We have a handful of fun and educational events coming up over the next month, and want to make sure you are aware of them. Please visit the individual event pages to RSVP and learn more!
**Thursday, March 23rd**
Join Sentinel and Cisco at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Las Vegas for a special lunch and learn focused on next generation security. As cyber-attacks continue to grow in frequency and sophistication, it is more important than ever to have a complete defense strategy in place to monitor, protect and remediate against them. Our experts will explain the best ways to defend your business before, during and after an attack, as well as showcase the innovative security provided by Cisco Umbrella. Click here to RSVP.
**Friday, March 24th**
Learn all about the latest data protection strategies and take part in a wild indoor skydiving adventure at this fun event hosted by Sentinel’s Phoenix office. Our partners from Veeam, APC and Nimble will be on hand at iFly Phoenix to discuss the best ways to keep your data safe, your business compliant and your end users productive yet secure. Following the presentation, attendees will have the opportunity to experience the thrill and rush of skydiving without ever having to jump out of a plane. Click here to RSVP.
**Thursday, March 30th**
Hyperconvergence is an innovative solution that unifies a variety of physical and virtual technologies so businesses can more easily adjust their data center resources and promote growth, productivity, and mobility. Sentinel and Cisco are hosting a lunch and learn presentation at our Downers Grove, IL headquarters focused on how hyperconvergence can redefine your data center and enhance your organization. Those in attendance will also be able to participate in an interactive demonstration of Cisco HyperFlex. Click here to RSVP.
**Tuesday, April 4th**
Sentinel’s downtown Chicago office is holding a special lunch and learn with Cisco to discuss the latest innovations in cyber security to keep your business safe. 95% of large companies are targeted by malicious traffic, and 100% of organizations have interacted with web sites that host malware. The better you’re able to defend your enterprise network and infrastructure from attack, the lower the possibility of a breach that results in a significant loss of data, money and reputation. Our experts will explain simple ways to add layers of protection without creating additional complexity. Click here to RSVP.
**Thursday, April 13th**
If you are unable to attend one of Sentinel’s events in person, we are hosting a webinar on the morning of April 13th that is focused on security and our Security Operations Center (SOC). It offers advanced, proactive security protection options for on premise, cloud and distributed business environments. Your security infrastructure is monitored 24x7x365 in combination with security incident and event management as well as intrusion detection. This webinar will be led by Sentinel CTO Robert Keblusek and should last about an hour. Click here to register.
**Friday, April 21st**
Sentinel CTO Robert Keblusek will be at Chinook Tavern in Denver for a very special lunch and learn about next generation security. Learn about the latest methods attackers are utilizing to breach your network and steal critical data, talk about your current challenges, and get advice on ways to keep your business safe. Mr. Keblusek will review Sentinel’s SecuritySelect solutions, with an emphasis on our Security as a Service and Security Operations Center offerings. Following the presentation there will be a roundtable discussion to answer any questions and dive even deeper into the state of business security today. Click here to RSVP.
A Closer Look at Sentinel's Accounting Department
By Gail Bianucci and Kathryn Lipps
The Sentinel Accounting Department processes and manages the transactions for products, solutions and services purchased by our customers. It may seem simple or straightforward in theory, but the reality is a bit more complicated. No two customers or solutions are alike, so our processes are different for each one.
The core of our activities are handled through the Sentinel Transaction System (STS), within which all sales or deals are entered. The STS supports all receivable and payable functions in conjunction with our corporate software system. A typical day for the Accounts Receivable (AR) team begins with a morning email generated by the STS system that displays all newly created sales agreements. Each deal is closely reviewed and verified before it is approved for purchasing with special note indicating the sales type, site location, contractual terms that will determine the invoicing schedule, and any unique or specific instructions requested by the customer. Daily AR tasks also include updating deal shipment status, Project Change Requests (PCRs), and assisting customers with additional invoice information as needed.
Billing for online store orders, equipment/licensing only deals, HANS agreements, and time & materials (T&M) professional services are processed daily, however the majority of invoicing activity culminates during the last week of each month. Recurring services for maintenance, monitoring, cloud, WebEx, consulting, onsite engineering, and projects all invoice during this time, which requires coordination and communication with various departments. For example, when preparing project invoicing, our team utilizes several reports from the EPMO and distribution department to gather information regarding the project status for equipment in staging and professional services, which allows us to generate accurate and timely billing amounts for each project phase.
The Accounts Payable (AP) team manages and processes vendor/supplier invoice approval and settlement, bank statements reconciliation, and inventory tracking. Daily AP tasks include responding to vendor/supplier inquiries, processing payments, and verifying expenses. This team also communicates and coordinates with various departments through reporting tools.
The accounting department supports all ten nationwide Sentinel Technologies locations with diverse customers who have diverse needs. As a result, our responsibilities and processes are constantly evolving, producing a dynamic that is fast-paced and creative. There’s rarely a dull moment!
A Closer Look at Sentinel's Technology Repair Services
By Paul Rybka, Terry Mitchell and Tom Hill, Sentinel Bench Repair Technicians
Everybody with a computer is familiar with that moment of panic when a hard drive crashes or a monitor goes blank. If you work in business, it tends to feel like that always happens at the most inopportune time, like when a deadline is approaching or a project is just about finished. Since nearly every individual today is armed with a computer or mobile device where so much valuable information is stored, the loss of critical data and functions can have a significant impact on our lives.
The very nature of electronics repair, with its extraordinary rate of technological development, creates a constant need for technicians to update and advise customers on computer-related issues. Sentinel’s core strength lies in our team of certified, highly trained and experienced electronics and computer technicians. We are fully prepared to handle maintenance and repair needs for any technology product, as our skills extend to a wide variety of niche areas and continue to expand as innovations and changes occur throughout the industry.
As long as physical electronics such as computers and mobile devices exist, there will always be a need for them to be repaired, serviced or installed. Sentinel understands this better than anybody, since we were founded in 1982 as a maintenance and technology repair company. While our portfolio of offerings has grown exponentially over the years, those original services remain available today to our customers. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about our maintenance and repair services.