Why the Church IT Roundtable Matters

Why does the Church IT Roundtable matter? One word. Relationships.

I arrived out in California yesterday to attend the national church IT roundtable (a once a year meeting of the CITRT group, more information at www.citrt.org) Within a minute of walking into the hotel, I was making face-to-face connections with IT directors from around the country that I have been following on twitter, blogs, etc for a good while. Throughout the evening, there were countless opportunities to connect with folks who share similar experiences, struggles, and desires to serve the kingdom using technology.

Over the next 2 days, we will spend the time sharing information about how to best serve our respective churches. Whenever I attend a CITRT event, I leave better equipped because of the what I learn from other churches. Even more important, I leave with great friends. The kind of friends that I know I can reach out to at anytime with questions, who will be there to help.

CITRT has a great Kingdom mindset. Relationships matter.
Want to find out more? Follow the roundtable live here (live.citrt.org)

The VMware Factor

One of the big takeaways from the EqualLogic sessions this morning was just how many of us are using VMware.  During the tools session, the question was asked, “How many of you are using hyper-v?” Of probably 40 people in the room, not a single person.  No one. Nada. Zilch. 

However, almost everyone in the room was using VMware.  Why does this matter?  Well, for one thing, we all have gotten different answers over time from vendors about what is best for our virtualized environment.  We are all learning the hard way the best practices for deploying iSCSI initiators (VMware says to use their initiator instead of Microsofts, etc), how to do MPIO (right now using the Vsphere MPIO option for round robin seems to be the only solution), etc. 

What is clear is that this is a moving target.  The rules are changing constantly and new tools are coming from VMware and from EqualLogic that we will need to think through.  With anything there will be tradeoffs.  What I would love to see happen is a combined effort from VMware and EqualLogic to prepare a consistent message about best practices.  Certainly documents exist today about best practices, but if they are more than two months old, are they the best resource today?

Hoping that the sessions dedicated to VMware this afternoon will answer some of these questions.  And I’d hate to be running a session in the same timeslot as the VMware ones, because I gotta feeling that the VMware sessions will be standing room only.

Crashplan Pro + Drobo Pro = Warm Fuzzy Feeling

We have just recently implemented Crashplan Pro as a primary backup strategy for our Mac machines.  We will slowly be rolling this out to all of our Mac users, especially laptop users and potentially PC users as well.  A few things that we love about Crashplan Pro.

  • They have a 25% discount for non-profits.  Just ask them.  I love vendors who do this.
  • Crashplan is easy to use from the server perspective and invisible to the end user.
  • It is very flexible and simple while remaining powerful.  They have really hit the sweet spot on this.  You don’t need a PhD to configure it.
  • Users can back up from anywhere across the internet.  That’s right… anywhere.  Meaning my Macbook Pro is still being backed up even when I have it at home.
  • They offer a 30 day trial.  You can run it, fully featured, for 30 days before making a decision.
  • Multiple backup targets.  My Macbook can back up to my local firewire drive AND the crashplan server.  Ok, so I’m paranoid.

Implementation was easy.  We installed the server product on an older server chassis and connected it first to local storage, which was fine but not really enough for all of our users.  Next we purchased a 16 Terabyte Drobo Pro (8 drives x 2TB).  For less than 3k for 16TB, the Drobo Pro is a great backup storage solution.  It’s iSCSI, which makes it a snap for connecting to the Crashplan server, and while I’m not convinced that I would use a Drobo for primary storage of mission critical data, this is a great product for backup data (video archiving, files, etc).  Besides, I trust EqualLogic to handle my primary storage anyway.  We’ll use this same storage (and server) to also store our Veeam backups of our VMware servers.  Now, I should also mention that we have a great offsite backup solution for our critical data.  I highly recommend you look into One Safe Place if you are looking for offsite storage.  I realize that Crashplan offers offsite, but the SQL and Exchange tools that One Safe Place provides are amazing.  I would never recommend that you only backup data onsite, you should always offsite mission critical data in some fashion, but in this case we are talking about the data that resides on individual laptops, not servers.

Licensing for Crashplan is simple.  Once you have purchased your license, you just enter the license key into the server (one time) and your clients will be licensed.  In our case, we purchased 25 licenses.  One of our hurdles to implementing more Mac computers on our campus was backup.  I should also mention that the Crashplan Pro client works for both the PC and the Mac, so users on both platforms can backup to the same server.  Mac users and PC users can use the same client licensing.

There had been lots of discussion around this solution amongst Church IT guys from around the country.  If you are church or business owner looking for a solid backup solution, you should look at Crashplan Pro.

Why I STILL Love Our EqualLogic SAN

IMG_0278As a follow up to the post I wrote several months back (see Why I Love our EqualLogic SAN), I wanted to talk about my experience yesterday with the Dell crew.

I had the great pleasure yesterday to meet with Jeff Sullivan (@sanpenguin) from Dell Tech Center here at Watermark.  We were invited to be part of a case study talking about our choices of technology, specifically around storage and EqualLogic.  Jeff also brought two other individuals with him, Kristin Storer and Stephen Sheppeard to produce and shoot the video.  The greatest asset that Dell has, in my opinon are the people who work there.  Jeff, Kristin, and Stephen were awesome to work with and made our time together a lot of fun and low stress.

We spent most of our time talking through all of the reasons why we love the technology choices that we have made.  As IT leaders, we often don’t take the time to reflect on the good choices we’ve made, but rather get caught up in the day-to-day firefighting and “what’s next.”  Having a camera pointed at you is a great way to make you stop and think, “If I were to do this over again, would I do anything differently?”  Honestly, around our choices with storage, I can say that we made the best choice for our organization.  The bottom line is SIMPLICITY. If you are a small business, a church, or have a limited IT staff… EqualLogic is a great way to go for storage. Even if you are a large organization who has spent millions of dollars in the past on Fibre Channel SAN solutions, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not taking a hard look at iSCSI and EqualLogic.  When we compared our storage needs with everything out there (direct attached, cloud storage, fibre channel, etc) the numbers just put EQL in first place.  And it’s easy.  And we don’t have to go to training to use it, and it works.  Everytime.

Dell is a big company, but they are a great ministry partner for us.  We are certainly a mixed technology shop… we have Dell, Apple, VMWare, Extreme Networks, Aruba, Palo Alto, Juniper and others playing specific roles in our technology stack.  I can honestly say that Dell has been one of the most active in pursuing us, working with us, and engaging us in discussions about how their products work.

Thanks guys for a really fun day talking about technology.

P.S. We also talked a lot about how we use social media.  That being said, you can find Jeff on Twitter at @sanpenguin, myself at @watermarkgeek, and Watermark Community Church on both Facebook and Twitter

New 16tb EqualLogic SAN has arrived.

Christmas in July! Our new storage solution that will augment our existing 8TB EqualLogic array just arrived this morning. Looking forward to setting up replication and having some breathing room. If you are in the market for storage, I highly recommend contacting VR6 systems. They can get you great pricing and they are awesome. Let me know if you’d like contact info. Looking forward to firing this baby up!

Download now or watch on posterous

IMG_0183.MOV (4550 KB)

Posted via email from Scott’s posterous