Where has all the cloud talk gone, long time passing. Where has all the cloud talk gone, long time ago. OK so shoot me. I’m a Peter Paul and Mary (or should I say Pete Seeger) fan.
Funny thing happened on our way to cloud computing proliferation. We stopped hearing about it. Just a year or so ago, “The Cloud” was everywhere. On TV, on Magazine Covers and just about every other BLOG post was about the cloud. Now it’s nowhere to be seen. Does this mean it was just another passing fad or a transient buzz? Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, cloud computing is bigger than ever.
If you look at the big players, Google, Amazon and Microsoft you will see that the growth of cloud is still with us. See informative chart from “eclipse” for some interesting facts.
Managed IT Services
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”
I have been hearing off and on for the last three years about the death of the MSP model for IT support. This is coming from both within and outside the MSP community.
- I have heard “the cloud” will kill the model. (whatever that means?)
- I have heard the model is being commoditized with the entry of Konica Minolta,Staples, Comcast, BestBuy (not so fast-BB just sold their Managed Services division to Ricoh?) and it’s in the wind that Kyocera has just launched a Managed Services division.
- Microsoft with the Office 365 efforts and last but not least “Google Apps”
Does all of this spell doom for the MSP’s.
Of course not or more bluntly “hell no”!
The MSP market has never been so vibrant and I would say it is on the upswing rather than a downswing. I say this for 2 reasons:
1) Personal experience. We are a local MSP and quite frankly more than half of our prospects are not even on a Managed Service model yet and they all get “very interested” when we talk about the model and all of its benefits. We will get into that in a bit.
2) Various Research firms predict significant growth in the next 5 years. MarketsandMarkets expects managed services to grow from 143 billion in 2013 to 256 Billion in 2018. A healthy 80%.
The main benefits of a Managed Service IT support model are proactivity and predictability of services and cost.
How has that changed? Well it hasn’t.
Most IT support at the SMB (Small and Medium sized business) happens at the desktop. The cloud model will hardly change that. We will still have our printer, malware, how-to and other desktop related issues, regardless of whether the infrastructure resources are in the cloud or on premise. I say that from experience. We are also Cloud Service Providers and we still get the same type of calls from our Cloud clients that we do from our Managed Service Clients and for that matter our T&M clients.
As far as the commoditization argument due to the bigger players entering the arena, well I personally welcome it. For 3 reasons.
- It gives validity to the model. And creates an awareness that only the big marketing dollars can.
- If the model was not growing why are the big players entering?
- When it comes to our clients, we own the “last mile” which is the relationship. This is ours to lose.
In summary with all of the new products and work strategies out there such as BYOD, Managed Business Continuity, Managed Security and Print Management ( yes Konica Minolta, Kyocera and Ricoh, we can do that too), there is tremendous opportunity in the next 5 years or so.
For more information on our Managed Services:
For a short presentation the describing the BSU Support model:
To Download Consumer Awareness Guide:
7 Reasons Why Getting Rid Of Windows XP Will Likely Exorcise Hidden Gremlins and Goblins Lurking In Your Computer Network
Yes we know. Halloween has come and gone. We also know that the inherent weaknesses of Microsoft Windows XP are still with many of us. Although many businesses have been getting rid of Windows XP for at least the last 3 years, the fact remains that as of early this year, around 500 million business computers were still running Windows XP. While the witching hour for Windows XP is still a few months away (April 9, 2014), here are 7 of the top reasons running Windows XP should scare any business owner right now:
1) Tons Of Viruses. There is a huge library of viruses aimed at Windows XP and limited antivirus support still available.
2) XP Is OLD (almost 12 years old!). The 1st iPod was released the same year as Windows XP. In a world where the 5th iPhone has been released, no one should be left using an O/S that pre-dates the 1st iPod!
3) Least Secure Operating System (By Far!). ALL other platforms, including Linux, all versions of Mac OS X, Windows 7 and Windows 8 are more secure than XP by a huge margin. Windows Vista is actually a far safer option (scary!).
4) Built For A Simpler Time. XP was created for a simpler world of technology. It was formatted to fit to a screen only 640 pixels wide, and it showcased IE6 as a new product. The internet was a different place when XP was developed. Smartphones were non-existent, laptops were a luxury and tablet computers were science fiction.
5) No More Band-Aids. Only so many band-aid fixes on top of each other can be effective.
6) Support Is Ending. All support of XP will end on April 9, 2014. It’s time to replace your systems now while you can plan ahead.
7) Malware Everywhere. You can continue to use XP, but with more malware than ever. XP is by far the most vulnerable platform to connect to the internet.
When Microsoft introduced Windows 8 there was a universal question of:
"Where's the Start button?"
The disappearance of that signature Windows feature left businesses mystified and ultimately a little miffed. IT professionals found themselves burdened with guiding confused users through the new interface.
The biggest problem users experienced when Windows 8 came out was understanding how to manipulate the user interface on non-touchscreen devices.
As an increasing number of businesses convert to the convenience of mobile touchscreen devices including tablets and smartphones, Windows 8 is ready to take on the business sector.
Here are 11 Reasons why:
Windows 8 was a bold upgrade of Windows 7, referred to as one of the best operating systems ever developed. The banishing of the Start Button was a revolutionary statement that tied into the growing emphasis of touch for multiple uses.
2) Unified Experience
Windows 8 operates on touch screen devices as well as PCs with the standard keyboard and mouse combination. The convergence of PC, tablet and smartphone accessibility provides a simplified and unified experience.
Many businesses encourage employees to bring their own device but it's essential that the device be supported. Business owners are facing the issue of managing a mobile workforce with a variety of devices. With the ability of Windows 8 to function on PCs, tablets, phones and convertible devices with touch and keyboard, it's the obvious option for a standardized OS. This enables businesses to provide their users with the highest level of support.
Hands-on businesses like construction companies need their field staff to have more capabilities at a job site. Windows 8 tablet interface provides users with efficient portability because of its ability to function on multiple devices.
Despite the loss of the Start Button, Windows 8 has that familiar Windows feel. The vast majority of businesses prefer Windows-based devices for upgrades because the OS has a familiar user-interface.
The convenient portability of a mobile workforce comes with the drawback of increased security issues. Employees prefer user-friendly devices but the IT department requires security and management. Windows 8 features intuitive devices that don't compromise on features and mobile management with stronger security features to protect users in the field from potential threats. For Encryption Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise come with BitLocker which is an easy to use and very effective solution.
7) Virtual Smart Card (VSC)
Along with advanced security features, Windows 8 also supports virtual smart cards. Traditional smart cards are physical objects that fit into specific reader devices. They're part of a two-part authentication process that includes the smart card and a pin to access a company's system. Computers equipped with a Trusted Platform Module chip that meets Windows 8 specifications can utilize these virtual smart cards. Virtual smart cards remove the expense of investing in physical readers and the frustration associate with users losing their smart cards.
The ability to create custom Windows Store apps for use on Windows 8 makes the OS highly adaptable to all types of businesses. Custom apps on tablets are a modern and mobile connection for employees and aids in enhancing efficient operations and increasing customer satisfaction.
9) Surface Tablet
The release of the Surface Tablet in conjunction with Windows 8 finally gives businesses a Windows-based tablet. This new hardware secures Microsoft's relationship with businesses.
10) Windows to Go (Very Cool-Click Link Below for short video)
Windows to Go is a fully-functional version of Windows 8 that boots from an external USB stick. This enables the IT department of businesses to support the idea of employees bringing their own devices because it grants them access to the system without risking security.
11) Microsoft Listens
Now is the time to deploy Windows 8 in preparation for the launch of Windows 8.1, which promises to bring back a variety of features that make it more user-friendly.
Traditional Backup vs.
Intelligent Business Continuity
Traditional backup methods such as tape, disk, and NAS devices are no longer sufficient. In fact, SMB owners are finding them unacceptable. Technological innovations have set a new solution standard: Intelligent Business Continuity, going beyond data protection; delivering automated assurance, continuous protection, secured storage, and instant recovery.
See our Datto Intelligent BizCon Solution in this 2 minute video:
Can take weeks to recover data after a disaster occurs
Downtime after a disaster is reduced to hours, minutes, or even seconds
High risk for human error due to heavy manual administration: 60% of on-site disasters are due to human error
Full automation backup process—very little manual management required
Difficult to test if a backup is working properly
Automated screenshots are taken and reported to ensure each backup was successful and can be booted at anytime
Time consuming and expensive to make copies of backups or to store backups in multiple locations
Each backup is saved in multiple locations: local appliance and bi-coastal data centers
Backup speeds are slower
Quick and efficient transferring of files to off-site data centers, even with low bandwidth or busy network environments. Critical data can be prioritized to be transferred off-site first
Physical to virtual conversions can be time consuming and have a high failure rate
Incremental backups can be instantly virtualized, rather than the entire backup chain
No redundant backups in multiple locations, leaving high risk for original backup systems to be destroyed
Eliminates downtime in the event of a disaster by allowing your business to run off the secure cloud
Limited options for encrypting data, may not pass industry regulations (i.e., HIPAA, SOX)
AES 256 and SSL key-based encryption ensures data is safe and meets industry regulations (ie. HIPAA, SOX)
When recovering data, tape failure rates exceed 50%
Minimal risk of corrupted backups or data loss
Potential for theft of loss of media
Off-site backups stored in SSAE 16 data centers
Learn about our Datto Intelligent Business Coltinuity Solution in this 2 minute video:
Social networking burst onto the scene in the 1990s as a way to alert college students of the parties on campus and has evolved into one of the most effective ways to drive customers to companies and LinkedIn is leading the charge in the business sector. Once thought to be a glorified job board, today’s savvy managers understand the critical role LinkedIn plays in both the domestic and global markets. LinkedIn is a powerful customer and business-to-business marketing tool that excels at building industry-specific networks.
Why does it make sense to use LinkedIn for your business? Here are 21 reasons:
Using LinkedIn’s people search permits you to assess a database of literally millions of members and focus your search to specific criteria.
Groups are a way to connect with people in your industry and geographic region.
#3: Generate More Business
More leads, more connections, more business.
#4: Know the Competition
See what your competitors are up to.
#5: Be Seen
Link your profile to be indexed by search engines for greater visibility.
#6: Research and Development
Track demand for your product or service and see what similar companies are offering. Post questions to generate responses that will can help to improve your business.
Connections are the backbone of the LinkedIn platform. Ask connections to introduce you to new customers. Return the favor.
#8: Cheap Ads
Compared to conventional advertising, LinkedIn is relatively inexpensive so take advantage of it and the free ways to advertise your business too.
Word-of-mouth has gone virtual: Recommendations go a long way to building marketplace “cred”.
#10: Target Geographic Areas
The location connection feature allows you to expand your territory and reach more who are interested in doing business.
#11: Be an Expert
Answer questions in your field and link your website. If you provide thoughtful and helpful answers, people will notice.
Update your profile so customers can find you and also link your Twitter and Facebook accounts along with your website.
Even if you are not a savvy social networker, a simple link to your website can increase your SEO a lot.
LinkedIn members actually read the recommendations so be sure to ask your customers to post some.
Along with receiving recommendations, you can gain a lot of goodwill points by giving them.
#16: Brand Exposure
It’s a game of numbers: The more connections you make, more groups you belong to and more questions you answer, the more you increase your brand’s visibility.
#17: Recruit Talent
LinkedIn is the premiere place employers and employees go for job searches. A recent survey found that finding a job through LinkedIn takes fifty percent less time than other methods.
#18: Product/Service Features
Post products and services and link them back to your website. Create a YouTube video to showcase your business and ask customers to write reviews.
If you’ve moved to a different market or changed industries update your LinkedIn profile to make sure your customers (and high school buddies) can always find you.
#20: Integrate Twitter and Facebook
When your company Tweets, your LinkedIn network should know it. Facebook share important status updates or events.
#21: Track the “Buzz” About your Business
Like “Googling” yourself, LinkedIn has a feature that provides a way for you to search your company and see who’s talking about you.
LinkedIn is “In”
Using LinkedIn to its optimum capacity gives you the potential to locate more customers, get more business and have more sales. The “bottom line” is really the bottom line, isn’t it?
MDM for the SMB. A must!
As more workers use mobile devices to complete an ever expanding multitude of job-related processes and tasks, managing them becomes increasingly complex and more necessary. Enter Mobile Device Management or MDM. Mobile device management (MDM) platforms are available for use in firms of all sizes. Their utility lies in administering real time mobility policies throughout the enterprise, assuring expanded employee connectivity for the growing use of mobile devices, such as tablets and deep-utility smartphones. The increasing need for employee connectivity brings with it serious security issues, as well as a need to revise enterprise data-access procedures and assure the SMB's data is protected on all fronts. MDM should be implemented in all businesses including the SMB to provide appropriate administration and protection of these devices, and to maintain an operational/competitive parity with larger firms.
As with larger firms, mobile policy for SMBs focuses on the provisioning of fluid and secure data access from disparate locations. Simple messaging platforms no longer suffice. Increased use of rich media management through adoption of MDM policies and platforms is essential for the SMB to maintain a competitive standing. The question is, How do you secure and manage these mobile devices? The answer of course is mobile Device Management (MDM). MDM will become more important as enterprise applications for mobile encompass most business transactions and related communication. Among these are data input, employee recruitment, record-keeping, customer communications, and financial management. Unique mobile-apps will distinguish a firm from its rivals, generating competitive advantage, the opportunity to expand market share and revenues through flexible, real-time performance; they all require MDM for best-use implementation.
However, specialized apps will require a finer degree of MDM supervision to provide quality business performance, without compromising the SMB's enterprise strategies and objectives.
Maintaining multiple mobile platforms produces scrupulous quality assurance (QA) for measuring real-world performance and infrastructure adaptability. Best-practice MDM establishes the SMB's policies for deploying mobile workflows, as well as those administrative, budgetary and security practices best-suited to the firm, supervising performance and QA, without compromising enterprise needs or breaking the bank.
For SMBs, where the security issues of BYOD -- potential data loss or leakage – are more serious, implementing digital asset management (DAM) is suggested for supervising, chronicling and distributing information to mobile workers. MDM improves monitoring of workers' mobile operating systems and resource-management; network surveillance also improves. Through all these functions are built for enterprise-mobile, the issue of security always requires adroit management.
MDM security for SMBs must conscientiously monitor mobile operations to generate best-practice protection, particularly with the increasing emphasis on Cloud-apps among mobile-users and the firms they work for. Cloud's ease of use, flexibility and speed of operation sometimes mask heightened security issues, chiefly in the form of disrupted transmission or modified content from off-premise sources. Tablets are exceptionally valuable and are becoming as popular as smartphones for corporate mobile; however their encryption/security-apps require consistent monitoring when in use and additional development to improve protection of SMB corporate information. These measures of security remain pressing concerns for the SMB.
There is some agreement among SMB executives that workplace mobility will continue to proliferate and perhaps dominate business operations. Nevertheless, many SMBs remain unfamiliar with MDM, despite the fact most use at least some form of mobile computing for work purposes.
Mobile devices increasingly replace desktop and laptop computers, even in on-premise situations. A large-scale bring-your-own-device (BYOD) conversion -- where employees use their own mobile devices for work purposes -- is well upon us, even where firms may supply their workers with mobility options. Under these circumstances, MDM assumes greater significance; a well-conceived mobile policy — focusing on functions like application/device supervision and wireless provisioning, as well as security — is recommended for all SMBs seeking to remain competitive in the future.
MA Privacy Regulations - "A not so gentle reminder" They still exist!
It’s a little over 3 years since the MA Privacy Regulations 201 CMR 17:00 went into law.
Here are four questions to ask yourself:
1) 1) Are you compliant?
2) 2) Do you have a WISP-Have you reviewed it recently-Can you locate it?
3) 3) Do you execute the yearly and other event driven requirement actions?
4) Do you even remember there is such a law?
We are IT Consultants and I shudder to think about various security holes that we find when doing network and security assessments for potential clients. With tax season just about to end, I wonder how may unencrypted emails were sent out containing PI or Personal Information? * (see end of post for definitions of PI) Beware, the law has more "teeth" than other state laws regarding personal information privacy because it allows for monetary fines. Penalties can be severe as proven in some recent breaches.
Penalties for Mass. Personal Information Law Violation - 201 CMR 17.00
· Up to $50,000 per improper disposal
· Maximum of $5,000 per violation
· Above penalties don't include lost business, dealing with irate customers, mailing out letters, and other associated costs
· Courts can order treble the damages if it's concluded that there was a willful or knowing violation
According to the Chief of Consumer Protection Division, MA Attorney General’s Office, the AG’s Office is looking for warning signals that may indicate noncompliance with the Regulations that would trigger a detailed investigation. Some of the circumstances likely to trigger a detailed investigation include:
- The reporting entity knew of the breach, but failed to notify affected individuals as required by the Notice Law.
- A Written Information Security Plan (WISP) cannot be produced.
- The WISP is inadequate, or had significant gaps because of a lack of due diligence in the risk assessment process.
- The compromised data was stored or maintained in circumstances not compliant with the “reasonable” security required by the Regulations.
- Unfairness or deception around the purpose for which the data was originally collected.
- Collected data that was subsequently used for purposes not disclosed to consumers, or where the collection itself is not disclosed leading to unfairness or deception to Massachusetts residents.
With the proliferation of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) such as Smartphones and Tablets being used in the workplace the risks as well as the ramifications increase exponentially. The possibility of PI (Personal Information) being present on these devices is extremely high. An unencrypted device or one without PIN protection that is lost or stolen that has PI on it calls for immediate notification to the proper agencies and is considered a breach. If however the device was encrypted and PIN protected it would not be considered a breach even if there were thousands of records considered Private Information. In summary Encryption and PIN Protection equals “Safe harbor”
*Personal information, a Massachusetts resident's first name and last name or first initial and last name in combination with any one or more of the following data elements that relate to such resident: (a) Social Security number; (b) driver's license number or state-issued identification card number; or (c) financial account number, or credit or debit card number, with or without any required security code, access code, personal identification number or password, that would permit access to a resident’s financial account; provided, however, that “Personal information” shall not include information that is lawfully obtained from publicly available information, or from federal, state or local government records lawfully made available to the general public.
Inbound Marketing. “Déjà vu all over again?”
I’ve been hearing a lot about “Inbound Marketing” recently. They say it’s new, it’s innovative and it works. I’ll grant you this; It works. But new and innovative? Keep on reading…..
“The best ads ask no one to buy. That is useless. Often they do not quote a price…………
The ads are based entirely on service. They offer wanted information. They cite advantages to users. Perhaps they offer a sample, or to buy the first package, or to send something on approval, so the customer may prove the claims without any cost or risks.
Some of these ads seem altruistic. But they are based on the knowledge of human nature. The writers know how people are led to buy.”
That sounds like some great innovative advice on inbound marketing right? Maybe even from Hubspot themselves - The new golden child of the marketing community. Well ……. maybe not.
It’s actually from the book Scientific Advertising by Claude C Hopkins, written 90 years ago!
Now don’t get me wrong I am not only a great fan of Hubspot but also a client. As a matter of fact, I am writing this BLOG post from Hubspot. But Inbound Marketing? What’s new about that?
Point is that good marketing strategies have been around for a long time. And in my opinion the longer they have been around, the more likely that they work. Using established, proven and measurable techniques is critical in achieving desired results.
In thinking about this subject I couldn’t help but wondering…how did we get from there to here.
So I decided to have a little fun based on the “Six Degrees of Separation” game. Here is how I got from Here to There.
1) 1) Hubspot
2) 2) Robin Robins (Technology Marketing Toolkit)
3) 3) Joe Polish (and of course Dean Jackson. Both most recently of ILoveMarketing.com)
4) 4) The Dans (Kennedy and Sullivan)
5) 5) Gary Halbert
6) 6) Claude C Hopkins
Please do yourself a favor. If you want to get an education on marketing that works, read up on the above list of marketers. The messaging and methodology of each is remarkably similar which to me is comforting. I am sure that you will recognize that not much has changed over the last 100 years except for the medium. But, like all great thinkers and doers the experts on the list utilize proven methods, sometimes modeling each other but always putting their unique spin on their materials targeting their individual clientele.
A Good Backup Strategy Could Save your Business
Ahhh Backup… It’s messy, unreliable, prone to failure and the log file reporting is cryptic (to say the least). The hidden costs for managing a tape or hard disk based backup solution are unbelievably high. But, backup is critical and it is not an overstatement to say that a successfully recovered backup could save your business.
10 Things to think about when evaluating your strategy.
1) It’s not about the Backup. It’s about the RECOVERY.
If you don’t do regular test restores of various files (monthly) and full server recoveries bi-annually there is no real way to know that your backup/recovery strategy will work when you most need it.
2) Needs to be affordable.
One way to control costs is to revisit your procedures annually. Emerging technologies are providing more affordable and effective options. Solutions that were cost prohibitive only a year ago are now very affordable.
3) If you are still using tapes as your primary media. STOP.
Tape Drives are mechanical devices prone to failure. The tapes themselves have a relatively short shelf life (6-12 months) and are affected by environmental conditions like heat, humidity and magnetic interference.
4) Don’t forget offsite components in your planning.
Backup/ recovery plans should be multi-faceted and include local backup for convenient restoring of files and other data in the day to day business environment. Offsite and secure copies of your data should be readily accessible
in the event of a disaster situation or in the event a critical server failure (See virtualization below).
5) Are you backing up everything you need and is it recoverable?
Too often we are called to restore data only to find out that it is not recoverable because backup procedures were not followed; often because of lack of training or expertise. This is especially prevalent with SQL (and other) data base products as well as Exchange and other email systems.
6) Does your backup/recovery plan include a strategy in the event of a down server?
Can business wait for recovery? For some of us, each hour of down time comes at a high cost. In some backup plans, even in the best of circumstances, the company can expect a day down with the solutions they have in place. It may be time to think about solutions such as server virtualization, bare metal recovery capability or an in
-house spare server.
7) Retention Issues
Retention, archiving and data availability must be considered depending on your industry and regulations that govern your long term storage requirements. A
lso, some data you just want to keep longer for reference. Review your overwrite and destruction plans at least annually.
8) Is once a day enough?
Take a good look at your backup schedule. If you are backing up just once a day, is this enough? If you backup overnight and lose a key file at 2PM can you live with a copy from the day before? The capability to do incremental snapshots of your key data during the day is an important part of any backup/recovery strategy.
9) Backed up data needs to be secure (en
Whether you are using tapes, USB drives or NAS sub-systems, the data needs to be encrypted. Not only to comply with various governing bodies, but it’s just plain good business to have your data protected in the event of a stolen or lost tape or other medium. If your backup data contains information which is considered protected (i.e., name and social security number or patient health information) it is imperative to review accessibility from non-authorized users. In addition to HIPPA and Sarbanes Oxley, the MA Privacy regulations will apply to all business with information about a MA resident so careful review of the security of backup media is required.
10) Who is Responsible and a few questions to ask yourself.
Responsibility for the entire backup process should be clear
ly defined. Who is responsible for the actual backup process? Who monitors your backup? If your backup fails, when do you know it and what do you do? Who decides the how recovery will take place? When was the last time you tested your backed up files? Where is the report? Where is the backup media? In a sentence: Having all of this in writing is critical!
Solid disaster recovery and Business Continuity planning is a component of a well-managed business so spend the time to investigate new backup solutions and strategies. You will find that you will spend less IT money on a new approach and get many times the security and functionality.