Hana LaRock – Smeester & Associates – Denver, Colorado USA

All Posts by Hana LaRock

5 Indications You’re On the Verge of an IT Nightmare

The IT team at your company has a very busy job to do, and sometimes, it seems like their work never ends. This is why many companies solicit the help of a CIO, who can work with IT to manage the network and keep an eye on any risk factors. Since there always seems to be a lot of buzz coming from the IT room, it can be difficult for a company leader to determine if there’s a real issue going on, or that’s just a normal day-to-day situation. So, how will you know when the silence or the chatter actually means something?

C-level leaders need to be able to rely on their teams to recognize when the company may be on the verge of an IT nightmare. While it’s not always entirely clear, there are some key signs you can look out for to prepare yourself for what’s coming, and hopefully stop whatever it is in its path.

1) You Seem to Be Left Out of the Conversation

If you used to be copied on all the correspondence going on between your IT team, your CIO, and other employees working with your company, but now your inbox is empty, this could be bad news. While it could just be a glitch in the system (which, isn’t a good thing, either), if your staff has stopped reaching out to you about problems, then the problem may be much bigger.

As a C-level leader, it’s important to be wrapped up in the conversation, even though you may not have time to worry about it. You can’t be responsible for anything if the information isn’t getting to you quickly enough.

2) There’s A Lot of Turnover

All of a sudden, there are people in the office you don’t recognize or vendors on the other end of the phone that you’ve never worked with before. A few employees that you know well have given in their notice and new employees with seemingly less experience have been hired. Hopefully, you’ve been made aware of the changes, but ultimately, too many turnovers can be detrimental to IT. Or, the problems with IT are so severe, that it’s caused people to move onto something different.

There are many reasons why turnovers are indicative of a bigger problem. But, overall, having new employees or contractors join the team constantly, can let a breach inside that much easier. This is especially more likely with the constant onboarding and off boarding of new staff members as it’s difficult to manage so many new network identities.

3) The Alerts Never Stop

Sometimes, there isn’t enough work to do, and other times, it’s like the work never ends. If customers are continuing to call in or email their IT problems and your team can’t keep up, that’s an IT disaster waiting to happen. This doesn’t mean you need to hire more people, but instead, you have to find a solution to these consistent problems that are distracting IT away from what’s critical.

4) There’s a Lack of Innovation

Technology is constantly improving each and every day and IT teams should always be striving to find better solutions to new and old problems. There should be frequent meetings about what IT is currently up to, what new data breaches or Malware cases have been reported, or what changes are being made to streamline processes throughout the company.

At these meetings (or e-mail correspondences) it should be evident that IT and other C-level leaders are constantly searching for new ideas. There should always be new proposals circulating, and if there aren’t, that could mean that there’s a problem somewhere.

5) Auditors are Making Frequent Appearances

If there’s any indication that you’re about to wake up to an IT nightmare, it’s that auditors are showing up at your office, and your compliance check already passed months ago. There’s no reason auditors should be interested in your company unless something is seriously astray. If this is happening, then don’t waste any time; figure out what’s going on, now.

These are just a few indicators that something’s not right in the IT department. If you’re noticing any of these signs, then it’s time to take a closer look at the inner-workings of your company and fix the problems ASAP. If you’re not sure where to start, a CIO can help you rewind, discover the problems, and assign solutions and strategies that will be effective long-term.

Can You Trust Someone to “Vouch” for Your Company?

Can you really have faith in everything that’s on the internet? Of course, not. But, that being said, company leaders need to put an awful lot of trust in their employees, the people they’ve hired to manage their network, and the infrastructure and reliability of the network itself. But, if you’re expected to trust so many different factors revolving around your business, while also being told not to be too careful to trust everything else — like WiFi connections or suspicious emails — then how can you navigate your way around all this?

These days, having someone to vouch for you, or having someone vouch for the people you’ll be working with, is one of the oldest, yet most reliable ways to secure your network and your company. Going off of that, it’s equally important to have extra eyes helping to look out for your company at all times.

If the Dark Web does it, so can you?

If you’re familiar with the Dark Web, “trustworthy” wouldn’t necessarily be the first term you would use to describe it. But, believe it or not, sellers on Tor need to be verified for the authenticity of their products as well as themselves as users before being able to complete a transaction. This is done by having current members introduce new members through a system of vouching. Without this, you can’t get onto the site.

So, if the Dark Web relies on some form of vouching in order to be able to trust their users, then surely large companies should be doing something similar. It’s not enough to just have certain cybersecurity protocols in place — although, those are important as well. If you can incorporate a system of vouching along with placing outside eyes wherever you can, then you’ll be protected in ways that machines can’t protect you.

Apply this system to vendors and employees

Of course, companies find ways to vouch for people, too, similar to how it’s done on the Dark Web. When we hire someone, HR usually asks for references, recommendations, and will maybe even do some snooping around on social media to get to know more about this person. The same goes if you’re working with third-party vendors or onboarding and offboarding part-time employees. You need to know who you’re going to be working with. You can go this route, but you can also ask around to see who else has worked with the people you’re planning to work with. These days, it’s very easy to check a person’s or a company’s reputation online, so you can take advantage of this.

Hire someone to look out for you

If your Facebook account gets hacked and your friends find out because they are getting spam messages from you, it’s likely that one of those friends will notify you of this so that you are aware. In a sense, this is a form of informal (and free) cybersecurity. You’re too busy running things at the company to be concerned with staying on top of security, employees, networks, risks, etc. Therefore, hiring managed services to help you keep an eye on things internally and externally can help ensure that nothing fishy comes up.

Down to checks and balances

This idea of vouching further enforces the notion of checks and balances in a company who cares about its cybersecurity. A managed service provider checks the IT team, the IT team checks HR, the company checks the employees, and vigilant, trustworthy employees can keep their eyes out for the company. While a professional certainly helps handle this process at the expert level, it never hurts to rely on people you trust to keep things in balance.

5 Reasons to Hire a CIO Before Hiring an IT Team

Whether you’re starting a business from scratch or finally making investments to grow your business, one thing you’re probably thinking about is hiring people to help. Any time you can bring people on board to help you with business tasks, it’s evident that you’re thinking about long-term strategies, and that’s great. But, before you start doing what it seems like everyone else is doing to be successful (in this case, hiring an IT team to help with tasks you don’t know how to do), hold off for just a second. While there’s no doubt that an IT team is instrumental in any company these days, it’s actually much more important to hire a CIO before anything else.

Here’s why:

1) You Should Know What Kind of Talent to Look For

It may seem as though all IT experts can be thrown in the same category. They all went to school for computer engineering, they are all smart in their own way, and most importantly, they seem to know a lot more about information technology than you do. But, the thing is, many business leaders don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to this stuff.

Any IT person possesses a unique skill asset which can either make them a great fit for your company or not at all. A CIO can determine what talent is ideal for your company, so you know what kind of skills and abilities you’re looking for in a person, before making any decisions.

2) You Don’t Want to Spend Money Unnecessarily

Do you need one IT person, or do you need a team? Or, can the jobs you need to be taken care of right now be handled by the CIO? Before you start to spend money on resources that you don’t currently need, let your CIO determine exactly what it is and who it is you should be investing your hard-earned money in.

3) Don’t Leave Out the Need for External Vendors

It’s not just an in-house IT team that needs proper vetting before being hired. It’s also – if not, more – the external vendors you might be working with. There’s a whole process of identity management and onboarding and offboarding that needs to happen in order to protect a company from an unintentional (or sometimes, intentional) data breach of any kind. A CIO can determine what strategies should be in place prior to hiring external vendors.

4) Perhaps Your Network Needs a Change

Just as a CIO would help you hire an IT expert that has the appropriate skill set for your network, they can also determine if you’re using the right technology, software, cloud infrastructure, etc. Before making any employment decisions, it’s a good idea to make sure you don’t need to change anything about your network, first. After all, it would be frustrating for an IT person to get familiar with your system, just to have to learn something else.

5) You Need an Unbiased Assessment Before Deploying Resources

Hiring a CIO before hiring an IT team is like going to your general practitioner before seeing a specialist. While it might seem that going to a specialist straight away would make sense time-wise and financially, there may not be anything you need to worry about in the first place. This can be true of your company, too. Don’t jump to any conclusions and don’t spend money on resources you may not need, whether that be an IT person or a certain piece of technology. Instead, hire a CIO and have them assess your network before hiring or deploying any resources.

But, What If I Already Have an IT Team?

If you’ve already hired an IT team, don’t worry. You don’t need to let anybody go. But, you can and should still hire a CIO to help serve as the liaison between you as the company leader and your IT squad. It’s never too late to have an unbiased expert hop on board and take a look at everything. This way, there can be a system of checks and balances to ensure your business is being run as efficiently as possible, while every team member truly feels as though his or her role is vital in the success of the company.

That being said, if possible, reaching out to a knowledgeable CIO should be the first step, not the last. A CIO can help manage your network in a way that nobody else can. And, not just in terms of hiring decisions, but security, backup, disaster recovery, and everything in between.

Why Healthcare Industries Are Seeing More Data Breaches

No company is immune to a data breach. These days, no matter what industry a company falls under, there is always the risk of something happening. If companies aren’t taking the proper measures to manage their networks, a data breach can really set a company back, if not taking it off the market completely. Because of this, more and more companies have realized the importance of investing in an outsourced CIO to help prevent problems from occurring. Why, is it then, that we are seeing continuous data breaches in the healthcare industry, and why are the problems not being solved?

Well, it’s not so simple, and there may be several reasons as to why the healthcare industry is experiencing more data breaches than ever before.

Data Breach Statistics

In order to really understand how data breaches are impacting the healthcare industry, one would need to look at the actual numbers. According to the annual HIMMS Cybersecurity Survey, 75% of the 239 healthcare respondents surveyed reported that their organization experienced a “significant security incident in the past 12 months.” What’s interesting is that 96% of those respondents said that the organizations were able to identify the threat actor. But, as more than half of these respondents reported that their organization has a clearly defined budget that is allocated to cybersecurity and are seemingly on top of their network, it makes people wonder why these data breaches are continuing to happen at such high rates.

Healthcare Industry as a Target

Despite the fact HIPAA laws are in place to protect patients and healthcare employees, it’s been proven that there’s only so much that can be done in order to protect hospitals and doctors’ offices against data breaches. Hackers may have certain inclinations in mind when it comes to installing Ransomware or Malware on a medical facility’s network, and you can’t really blame them. Because a patient’s data is so sensitive, and because almost all records are now kept digitally, these hackers have a lot of leverage when it comes to getting what they want. If hospitals don’t have a way of backing up this information, or they are afraid of it getting into the wrong hands (one of the biggest concerns), they will certainly feel the pressure to pay up.

Of course, as we know, it’s not only hackers that are to blame for data breaches. According to this HIMMS Cybersecurity Survey, 20% of the respondents said the attack came from a negligent insider.

The Problem

So, what’s the deal? If healthcare industries know that they are a target, and they know that healthcare data breaches are one of the main threats we are seeing today among relevant industries, then what’s going wrong? Why can’t something change in order to put a stop to all of this?

Well, according to HealthIT Security, the problem is that there isn’t a standard cybersecurity framework that’s being utilized across the board. When these healthcare industries aren’t on the same page regarding this issue, then it makes sense that more breaches continue to occur.

How to Protect Healthcare Industries

Unfortunately, just talking about what needs to be done isn’t going to help the thousands of healthcare facilities that are experiencing data breaches this year or even this month, especially when many hospitals, insurance companies, and doctor’s offices are still each using their own software and computer systems.

At this moment, healthcare companies should be doing everything in their power to keep their own network secure. While one way to do this is, of course, by implementing a solid network management plan, the absolute best way to go about this is through hiring an outsourced CIO. This will not only help to prevent data breaches coming from the outside, but it can also help stop data breaches that happen internally. Additionally, a CIO can help implement a reliable backup and disaster recovery system to protect the patients’ information as well as protect the medical facility from risk.

 

Should There Be an IT Hierarchy in Companies?

When it comes to managing a company’s network, data issues, or IT concerns, there are a lot of people that work together to make sure everything runs smoothly. One task may finally be complete only after various members from different departments come together. People from HR, IT, as well as C-level leaders may all be assigned various roles in order to implement security standards, backup protocol, or onboard contractors.

But, despite the fact that security and network maintenance is a team effort, who has the ultimate say in what goes on? Who is in charge – the one running the show to make sure everyone else does their job? There’s a lot of conversation surrounding this idea that IT shouldn’t be situated in a hierarchy model. However, others disagree and believe that in order for things to really go well, someone needs to take the lead.

The best option?

Let’s find out.

When Roles Get Confusing

Human resources hires a CIO. A CIO then advises the IT team on what needs to be done in order to create a disaster recovery program or help mitigate security risks. IT understands the task at hand and works with the administration on a devising a new budget regarding the systems they’ll need to implement. HR then tells IT that new, outside contractors are being hired, and therefore, those security protocols are absolutely necessary and need to be implemented sooner than later. But, the CIO and other C-level leaders can’t seem to be convinced about whether or not the budget has room for what the others are proposing.

Does something like this sound familiar?

According to a study conducted by Nintex titled the Definitive Guide to America’s Most Broken Processes, it was found that 62% of respondents said their company has broken processes when it comes to IT. While it might seem like the office has a system to cope with all these roles, responsibilities, and requests, it can be a bit convoluted. And, especially when each role is so different, it’s difficult to determine who should really be answering to whom. Does IT work under HR when they can control HR’s access to the system? Then, does the CHRO answer to the CIO, or does the CIO answer to the CHRO depending on the situation? Experts believe these roles should be interchangeable in order to avoid conflict and miscommunication in business.

But, that still leaves the role of “leader” unfulfilled, which can be hard when a company’s decision on an important matter cannot be agreed upon. Someone, eventually, must have the final say.

The Problems with Teamwork

Let’s say the whole “teamwork” thing is working well for everyone involved. Then, one day, a data breach occurs, or the network shuts down. One of the biggest causes of something like this, specifically the data breach, is human error. If this happens, the blame needs to put somewhere, even if the company leaders will still need to take responsibility for the entire breach.

Going with the idea that “two heads are better than one”, there are certainly a lot of things a team can accomplish versus a single person when it comes to mitigating risks across the company. That being said, there is also an equal number of things that can go wrong- more things that aren’t being handled appropriately, or miscommunications that can occur – when there isn’t a hierarchy in place to check for errors internally.

Put an Outsourced CIO in Charge

Many companies still hire in-house CIOs, which may be good for the moment, but may not make a difference if there’s a crisis. In any situation where it’s difficult to determine who is in charge, it’s necessary that companies consider hiring an outsourced CIO to make appropriate calls in the best interest of the company, and without employees being personally invested in what’s going on.

An outsourced CIO can easily determine what’s at risk for the company and can clear those up through a process in which everyone works together – a process in which they oversee everything, and assign roles to those who can handle it. They can check for consistent gaps in the system, make sure employees are given the appropriate access to the network based on their position at the company, and work with other C-Level leaders to determine whether or not things like a BYOD policy are safe for everyone involved.

Remember, an outsourced CIO doesn’t have any emotional investment in the company. They are completely unbiased and can, therefore, make decisions that other team members may not be in a position to make themselves or don’t feel comfortable making. While it’s understandable that working as a team can be effective, there are times when something just calls for a professional leader’s decision on the matter.

So, for those that say that there shouldn’t be a hierarchy in IT, maybe they should reconsider before jumping to any conclusions.

Are You Confident Enough in Your Organization’s Ability to Mitigate Risks?

Cybersecurity is a huge concern for all businesses. Companies understand that they need to prioritize their security methods in order to ensure they don’t experience major losses due to a potential data breach. Despite major headlines that have repeatedly demonstrated the impact these hacks have on companies, recent studies have found that people are still not as prepared as they need to be in order to mitigate such risks. While these companies may be confident saying that they believe in their organization’s ability to manage cybersecurity internally, according to the data, that doesn’t seem to be working (or entirely true).

Even companies who have the best IT teams and equipment understand the need for an outsourced CIO to handle cybersecurity, as well as other managed services.

Here’s why:

Many Risks are Internal

One reason that companies are unable to mitigate all the risks is because they are simply looking in all the wrong places. Every time we learn of another major breach, it doesn’t take long to discover that it happened due to something internal. Perhaps a firewall wasn’t updated, an employee used their personal unsecured device to access work, or the network infrastructure the company is using isn’t being maintained properly, leaving gaps all over. Companies don’t want to admit that they are a risk to themselves. And, even if a breach came from elsewhere, the fact that a hacker could get in is usually the company’s fault.

To fix this, an outsourced CIO can come in, take a look at your systems from an outsider’s point of view, and do what they need to do to patch it up.

Everybody Needs to be Vetted Before Being Onboarded

If your company hires contractors, partners, or interns to work with you, they will likely be given access to the company’s network. And, the more often you’re onboarding “strangers,” the easier it is for one of these people to let in a breach. Typically, it’s unintentional, but there are times where perhaps an employee who was recently let go seeks to take some kind of revenge on the business.

However, with the right network infrastructure (these days, it’s the cloud), security is placed on identities themselves, provided for new or temporary employees. When this is set-up by a managed service provider, HR and IT follows the process and works together with the outsourced CIO to prevent any leaks from occurring. Of course, proper vetting of the individual is necessary before providing them with company access as well.

Because Your Day to Day Job Doesn’t Involve Monitoring Security Risks

In general, 70% of respondents off the Marsh-Microsoft Worldwide Cyber Perception Survey reported that their IT departments are in charge of making important decisions about the company’s network. A lot of these decisions naturally have to do with the network’s security overall. As a business leader, this definitely isn’t your department, so you’re counting on the individuals over in IT to make the right choices. But, believe it or not, IT shouldn’t really have that kind of say, either. Their job isn’t just calling the shots on security measures.

While cybersecurity is certainly a task that involves a little work from everyone in the company, it takes a little more expertise than that. An outsourced CIO can help assign appropriate roles to each employee to make sure everyone is doing their part. Additionally, companies who have moved over to a cloud infrastructure are likely to face fewer risks, too, as cloud technology manages many risks on its own.

The Costs Alone Aren’t Worth the Risk

According to Business Insurance’s breakdown of the survey, 40% of respondents who reported a data breach in the last 12 months said that the worst-case scenario lost them $50 million or more. Out of that number, only 19% revealed “they are highly confident in their organizations’ ability to mitigate and respond to a cyber attack.” 

With that much money at stake, it doesn’t really seem worth it to take your chances. As a C-level leader, if you’re not totally comfortable in your company’s ability to mitigate such risks, then it’s time to find someone you can trust who can.

Hire a CIO Who Understands the Importance of Cloud Technology

Every day, the technology companies rely on in order to run their business continues to evolve. Nowadays, more and more companies are moving over to the cloud. For companies who aren’t native to the cloud, then moving your entire network to this new infrastructure takes a professional with solid expertise. If your network is already in the cloud, then making sure apps and software are running smoothly while maintaining their security, also takes a knowledgable person. While most companies have IT leaders working internally, many outsource the help of a CIO to take charge of data on the cloud.

So, before you choose any CIO, you want to make sure yours is keeping up with the times.

Cloud Expertise is What’s On the Menu

Many companies today are being convinced that the cloud is the way to go. They are taught about all the benefits when it comes to cost, security, scalability, and managed services. Companies know that if they aren’t at least thinking about moving to an all-cloud environment, then they will start to fall behind. At this rate, the help of an outsourced CIO is not only important, but it’s necessary. And, when you go shopping for one, cloud expertise should be at the top of their list of skills.

It’s time to step forward into the future.

The Cloud Provides Companies With More Flexibility

A CIO who can provide the option of “possibilities” is a great place to start when looking for someone to manage your network. Luckily, a professional who understands the cloud doesn’t need to work too hard, as a cloud infrastructure provides lots of flexibility on its own. The cloud allows users to do what they please with software that fits their company’s needs. For instance, if you’re currently running software on AWS, but you want to transition to another provider (or, you want to use more than one), a cloud environment allows you to do that.

However, an ordinary business leader might not know where to start with all of this. Therefore, reaching out to a CIO who can manage your cloud for you will help you experience all this flexibility worry-free.

Consistent Management of Security

Another reason CIOs should be pushing for the cloud is because of the security it provides. The cloud allows security to be focused on the apps and the different identities accessing the network themselves, unlike traditional firewalls that aren’t quite as reliable. One of the most important roles of an outsourced CIO is to manage your network’s security, which is especially important for businesses that are constantly onboarding and offboarding third parties or have employees who work remotely.

With the support of an expert CIO, the cloud helps keep your network more secure than ever, while ensuring that your business stays compliant with industry standards.

Everyone Has a Role

One reason business leaders may feel hesitant about outsourcing their CIO is because they may feel as though they have the expertise they need already at their office (or their remote office). If they already have an IT team managing their network needs, it may feel a bit like ‘betrayal’ to outsource that kind of thing.  The thing is, as familiar as your IT team may be with the cloud, their role is still a bit different (yet, still important) than that of a CIO. While the CIO may be in charge of choosing the apps or infrastructures best suited for your business, the IT team may be on top of securing those apps, making sure those apps are consistently updated, and assigning new users with identities that follow a strict protocol.

The cloud certainly takes a lot of work off of a human’s hands, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to let anyone go. Everyone still has an important role when it comes to the cloud, it’s just that those roles may shift.

If you’re interested in hiring managed services, that’s great! But, just make sure your CIO has significant experience with the cloud.

 

Concerned About Carillion? Why Your Small Business is Safe

In January 2018, U.K.’s second-largest outsourcing construction company, Carillion, collapsed, leaving many people confused and others significantly out of money. When a company this large has to completely go into liquidation, projects simply cease to continue, and a lot of questions have since been raised. While the media has been discussing the issue of private contracts being combined with public services, companies who outsource services are also concerned, but for different reasons. This is making the general public a little uneasy when it comes to the idea of outsourcing overall.

However, there are lessons to be learned from a company like Carillion. And, especially if you’re a small business, you really don’t need to worry. Just check on these:

Communication is Key

In any business, bad communication can lead to even worse problems. In order to make sure things don’t go wrong, having open communication is imperative. Unfortunately, with Carillion, communication may not have always been as clear as it could have been, and when things started to going downhill, a rescue plan was too late to execute. Of course, this can be inevitable when you’re running such a big operation.

Luckily, as a small business leader, communication between you, your CIO, and your IT team is not only easy, but it’s kind of the whole point of outsourcing to begin with. An unbiased CIO allows there to be a smooth conversation among all parties, ensuring that no one is left out of the loop, and instructions are given to the right people. It also helps to make sure businesses stay compliant, as they should be advised their own role in compliance along with the CIO and IT.

Always Pay Attentions to Contracts and SLAs

If your biggest worry about hiring an outsourced CIO is the legitimacy of the contracts and service level agreements, that’s a valid concern. A contract that’s not treated seriously or that doesn’t clearly outline what it will encompass, can potentially cause a lot of damage. Additionally, contracts should also be flexible; as a client, it’s nice to have the freedom to go back in and make changes as needed — changes that won’t put anyone at a disadvantage. Carillion didn’t really have this option, as they mainly worked with long-term contracts.

An SLA is the single most important thing you can consider before moving forward with outsourcing your CIO. But, as a small business with very specific needs, it’s likely you’ll be in good hands no matter what.

How Busy is Your CIO?

In the case of Carillion, they were managing way too many contracts at once — many of which didn’t pan out. When you’re taking on contracts to build everything from schools to roads to hospitals for the government, it can get a bit too overwhelming to keep everything in order. Any outsourced CIO may be able to relate to this to some degree. After all, a CIO who wants to provide the best support for their clients needs to be available on a regular basis, and know what to do and how to do it.

It goes without saying that if the CIO you’re looking to hire seems too busy with other clients, then a similar situation to Carillion — though, on a smaller scale — may happen. Would it affect you? Not necessarily. But, it’s still important to work with someone who isn’t stretching him or herself too thin.

Outsourcing Your CIO is Still a Great Idea

Though the Carillion situation might be a bit scary when it comes to the thought of outsourcing, unfortunately, they had factors going against them that won’t be the case for small businesses. One of the reasons Carillion had a downfall was because, at the end of the day, they took on more than they could handle. This was one of the rare times where we see the potential negative side of outsourcing. That being said, even though potential customers may have some reservations, the benefits certainly outweigh those concerns by a long shot.

For businesses who don’t have the time to handle their technology needs, outsourcing to an expert CIO can make a world of difference. They do what they need to do to make sure your network runs smoothly, letting you take care of business. Of course, a good CIO will work with your IT team while still keeping you in the loop. Overall, outsourcing your CIO saves you time, money, and the stress.

Still worried? Hopefully, this made you feel a bit better about your outsourcing plan.

It’s Time to Start Giving Your Data the Respect It Deserves

Many of us like to think of data as bits of information floating around in the cloud — after all, what other way is there to envision something that’s more or less invisible to the naked eye? Well, if that’s how you refer to the data in your network, then it’s likely you’re treating it as such, too. The problem with this is that data deserves more respect than it’s getting. When companies make big decisions based on what they consider a ‘single-entity of data,’ they might be missing a lot of worthy information and could end up making a costly choice because of that.

The Deal with Data

There are currently a lot of trends surrounding data, but sometimes it’s not about the data itself — it’s about how you’re managing it. Because data is so fundamental to business operations, it’s time that we start treating data as a valuable asset to the company. Whether you need to imagine data wearing a suit and tie to work every day or that it’s sitting in the conference room at a team meeting, that’s fine. But,  if you don’t, there may as well be big consequences for your company.

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. The problem is, data is just too big. When it comes to gaining real value from interpreting data, it’s impossible to know where to begin. This is why companies are starting to look at data lakes and other solutions to help find what’s valuable, without wasting time on shuffling through data that might not serve a purpose. While data lakes might be out of the question for your business, there is a lot you can do on your own, first.

How to Make Data a True Asset

Just as you would set certain protocols and management tasks as a company leader, data shouldn’t be left out from this. Remember, data in many ways is an enterprise. Therefore, those same protocols and principles you assign to anything else in your company should also be assigned to data. Just as you would measure an employee’s performance, calculate your sales, or monitor your network’s security, you should monetize, measure, and manage your data the same way. This way, you can be sure that the information you gain from this data is truly meaningful, without any part of it being overlooked.

Apply Analytics to Data

How would you really internalize potentially imperative information at your company?

You would analyze it.

So, data needs to be analyzed, too, in the appropriate manner — just as you would apply analytics to any other aspect of your business. If you want real ROI, then it’s absolutely necessary to put data under the microscope. This can be hard when there is just a plethora of data out there, waiting to be sorted. Therefore, data needs to be evaluated while being combined with the analyses done on sales, marketing, and feedback.

If you’re not quite sure how to go about this, keep in mind that there are several lenses with which to look at data. According to James Burke, director at ISG, you can proceed this way:

  • Descriptive analytics: What happened?
  • Diagnostic analytics: Why did something happen?
  • Predictive analytics: What will happen next?
  • Prescriptive analytics: How can we make something happen?

Today, there are many resources companies can utilize to help analyze their data correctly and treat that information as an asset. When done consistently, companies will see positive results.

How Outsourcing a CIO Can Help With This

The right data can tell us about our business. If your company is eager to find strategies to grow, then it’s worth looking at that data to see if it holds any clues. Likewise, companies don’t want to spend money on resources they don’t need, especially if that budget is needed elsewhere. When treated as an asset, data can be very valuable in terms of understanding your business because it can give companies a better visual of what’s really necessary. But, this is difficult for companies to do on their own.

The solution?

Outsourcing your CIO — a professional who knows how to do all of this. They know what to look for, how to analyze it, and how to apply it to future decisions. They know what to take from a large amount of data, putting it under the microscope to find what’s valuable. They know what they are doing and how to help you. Investing in a CIO, then, will save your company a lot of time and money in the long run.

Pay Attention To These Top 5 Security Concerns for 2018

Cybersecurity is hands down becoming one of the most talked about issues today. Companies nowadays have to put their security before anything else they do, and this can be a costly venture if not done correctly. While one aspect of managing security involves hiring an unbiased third party to take care of it, it’s also important to know what you could be doing for yourself and your company to keep everything that matters secure. Each year, the cybersecurity conversation is constantly changing, though, due to the ever-increasing sophistication of data breaches that we typically see.

These are the security issues you want to pay the most attention to as 2017 comes to an end:

1) Machine Learning

It may not be Judgement Day yet, but we might be well on our way to the land of the “Terminators.” Machine learning is happening fast, and next year we will have technology that doesn’t need to be programmed to learn a new task. Sound scary? Well, the implications machine learning can have for people with bad intentions looks good for them, and very bad for everyone else. Hackers out there with such intentions can use machine learning to their advantage.

2) Digital Baggage

Remember all those Facebook photos you posted back in college? Okay, maybe you didn’t grow up during the Facebook age, but if you have children now that are online, it’s something you need to know. That’s because 2018 will be a year where we discuss “Digital Baggage” in terms of cybersecurity. These days, minors can essentially post whatever they want online, and there aren’t too many regulations in place to stop it. While some parents are very cautious with this, most are too busy to pay too much attention. Regardless, anything that you post online can have the potential to hurt you later on. Next year, companies will start looking into this when it comes to hiring new staff or getting rid of employees they already have.

3) Biometrics and Serverless Architectures

Technology is continuing to expand into realms that we have never seen before. Next year, we’re likely to see biometrics — such as face and fingerprint scanning — be incorporated into device verification. We will also start to see more serverless architectures which are apps that can be built without having to host them on a managed server.

What do these two things have in common? Well, whether it’s the ease of use, low-cost, or user-friendly interfaces, biometrics and serverless architectures are pretty attractive. However, while they seem to be some of the most secure methods out there, there are still some inconsistencies and questions being raised. For instance, how secure really is a face scan? And, aren’t serverless apps immune to DoS attacks?

4) Wireless Breaches

We are in an era now where everything is connected. You may have heard it described as the ‘Internet of Things.’ Pretty soon, things like smart homes will be the norm. We will be connected in every aspect of our lives, on every device possible. As we already know, Wi-Fi isn’t always as secure as we want it to be, and the more connected we become, the more we need to pay attention to our security on each of those devices.

5) A Closer Eye on Companies

It seems that no matter how many times big companies make headlines for data breaches, we still continue to see this happening in the news over and over again. Because consumers rarely read privacy regulations (often checking off the “agree to terms” box to get to the next step), companies tend to cut corners and take advantage of this in order to save themselves money. At the same time, companies who do experience data breaches seem to think that ignoring it or covering it up will keep customers on board. Unfortunately, after what we’ve seen with Yahoo!, Uber, and other companies, the more they’ve tried to hide it, the more they’ve made the problem worse.

Next year, you can be sure that there will be more watchful eyes upon companies when it comes to their cybersecurity. And, these watchful eyes won’t just be from auditors, but from the customers themselves. Therefore, the more you make security a priority, the better off you will be.

In 2018, anything involving data, machines, Internet, etc., will certainly have more streamlined processes. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are two sides to everything. What’s easy in one aspect could be a nightmare in other aspects, in this case, security. Get ahead of the game and know what to look out for next year so you’re company is prepared. 

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