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Category Archives for Leveraging the Cloud

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.

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Will You Be Prepared When a Downtime Event Strikes? [CHART]

Did you know that 50% of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have no backup or disaster recovery plan in place? With all the risks that come with severe data loss and extended downtime, it’s surprising that IT decision makers aren’t doing more to safeguard their business.

SMBs should not have to experience downtime if they simply implement a business disaster and recovery solution before downtime occurs, so that they can restore essential data quickly and painlessly, and resume normal business operations. Consider CloudEndure’s 2016 Disaster Recovery Survey.


Here are four things to know about downtime:

  1. Downtime can happen more often than you think. This chart shows that 57 percent of companies have experienced a downtime event within the past three months or earlier! With a reliable backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solution in place, you can mitigate the damage when problems do arise. Make sure your BDR is able to provide a quick recovery and optimal recovery point, with troubleshooting on the issues to prevent them from occurring again.
  2. Not only does downtime happen more frequently than you think, it’s also one of the biggest IT expenses a business can face.
  3. A well-known fact of modern business is that backups fail – and when they do, you are unable to access any file changes or data created after the last successful backup. That can be very problematic for your business, especially if you rely on critical data in your daily operations. Your BDR solution needs to be backed by round-the-clock support. As such, you need regular backups – and verify their viability through backup tests – as frequently as your business or organization demands. As a result, you can focus on growing your business without worrying if you’ll be able to access critical files, or if you’ll have data in its most recent form.
  4. Only 6 percent of businesses have never experienced a downtime event. As a business owner, you don’t necessarily have time to worry about when downtime will strike or the safety of your network – nor should you have to. That’s why you should seek 24x7x365 support for complete peace of mind with a reliable BDR solution. Get business continuity solution to act as your safety net so that if you’re a part of the 94 percent who do experience downtime, you won’t have to worry about it having negative, long-term effects on your business.

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Understanding Cloud Technology

digital-worldCloud technology offers your business many benefits. It allows you to set up what is essentially a virtual office to give you the flexibility of connecting to your business anywhere, any time. With the growing number of web-enabled devices used in today’s business environment (e.g. smartphones, tablets), access to your data is even easier.

  1. What is the Cloud?

The cloud is virtual and therefore does not require any hardware of your own to deliver a service. Cloud technology can deliver that service to you, without having to install anything or have it on a server at your business. This is something that you can access remotely, or via the Internet through your web browser. Offsite, secure third party data centers manage all of your cloud data so that you can access it at your convenience.

  1. You May Already be Using the Cloud

Are you using Gmail? Amazon Music? A Kindle? Dropbox? These are all cloud services that store the data you access. All you have to do is log in to their servers to get what you need. If you use an Apple iPhone or iPad, then you’re familiar with the iCloud service, the cloud technology that allows you to sync and upload your photos and contacts.

  1. Why Use the Cloud?

The cloud is convenient for accessing and backing up data no matter where you go. With it, you can access servers anywhere, rather than just locally from your office. This allows you to perform your job duties at home and on the go! There is no need to carry around (and risk losing) USB drives with sensitive information on them. If you lose that USB drive, then your files are gone forever. If you back them up to the cloud or store them there, however, you can easily retrieve that data.

  1. Why is the Term “Cloud” Used?

There is both a literal and figurative meaning here. Have you ever laid down in the grass, and looked up at the clouds in the sky? Oh, look, an elephant! A boat! Oh nice, a dinosaur! But the person next to you may not see the same shapes. They may see a sandwich, a skyscraper or an airplane in the clouds instead. The possibilities are almost endless, and not everyone has the same vision. Cloud technology is similar, offering a plethora of possibilities to help support and scale your business. Also, clouds are generally always above us. Just head on up, and grab whatever you need on-demand. The sky is always accessible.

So, you can store and access files in the Cloud. You can use cloud-hosted applications, like Gmail and GoogleDocs. Finally, the cloud gives you access to your data anywhere with a network connection. This all sounds great, right? It is, but as with anything on the Internet, these services need to be used responsibly. Is your IT services provider helping to manage this?

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For Slow Windows XP PC’s Update Svchost and Windows

Man Sleeping at His Desk

As Microsoft winds down its support for Windows XP, those who are still using the twelve-year old operating system are attempting to stretch out every last bit of life left in it. One of the problems that many have noticed is that their XP machines have slowed down significantly.

Before we take a look at why and some fixes that are available let’s be sure we are all on the same page as to the future of XP.

From Microsoft’s website we read:

Microsoft has provided support for Windows XP for the past 12 years. But now the time has come for us, along with our hardware and software partners, to invest our resources toward supporting more recent technologies so that we can continue to deliver great new experiences.

As a result, after April 8, 2014, technical assistance for Windows XP will no longer be available, including automatic updates that help protect your PC.

Just so we are clear, no matter what your position is on XP (and if you are still using it you are likely convinced it is a workhorse) there will be no more support as of the beginning of April.

Microsoft has recently announced an extension to this deadline; they will continue to provide updates to their antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP until July 14, 2015. This extension is only intended to help organizations complete their migrations away from XP, but there will be no new Windows updates for the aging operating system.

What to do about the deadline

Regardless of this extension, there are still some things that can be done to impact the performance of your XP machines even today.

XP users have noticed significant slow downs as of late. Upon booting up it slows to a crawl with svchost.exe utilizing anywhere from 50% to 100% of your CPU time. Normal operation of the machine eventually comes back but it requires the patience of Job and today’s business environment doesn’t always allow for this kind of wait time.

What’s the reason for this slowdown? Well, with age in the computer space comes many, many updates. XP keeps getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror and, as a result, Windows Update can be a bit cumbersome to say the least. In short, the algorithm used to identify which patch your machine needs has more work than ever to do. Windows updates are cumulative and as the number of patches has grown over time, the list that Windows is checking against has grown significantly. The result is a much slower experience on an XP machine. Simply put, your XP machine has fallen pretty far down the line of patches, making it more difficult to ensure you’re current with the latest patch updates.

How to improve performance

So what can be done to improve performance? Currently, Microsoft says that fixing this is their “top priority”, but there is no estimated date for their next attempt at resolving this lingering issue. A quick check of the calendar and the rapidly approaching end of support date might be an indication that the words “top priority” might read well, in practice it’s a ‘not so much’. With that in mind you may want to do something yourself. You could install the Continuum agent software to do the patching for you or you can disable the Windows update completely. If you are seeing improved performance as a result of these moves then you know what is causing the slowdown. That said, you are now faced with running machines that have an OS approaching end of support life from the manufacturer. At that point, you may not have a choice but to move ahead and make the necessary adjustments.

This may be the best course of action either way. Michael Goldstein, President and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Florida based Microsoft channel partner, said in an interview that the recent extension by Microsoft has given his customer base a false sense of security and a reason to delay migrating off Windows XP. “I’d be happier if they stuck to their guns with the deadline. In reality, XP users are going to have to move off. Extending antimalware updates only solves a piece of the security puzzle,” says Goldstein. Although Microsoft has extended the deadline, Goldstein suggests that it’s better not to delay your migration off of XP, given that it’s a dying OS.

Of course, we all know that this is part of the plan that Microsoft is using to get people to move to Windows 8.1. No surprise there. What XP users are now faced with is the decision of how the will move forward.

Is this an issue for you? What are your plans moving forward? If you have customers facing this dilemma how can you help them gracefully enter the present computer age?

Your Fiduciary Responsibility to Your Client’s Data

Make the most responsible choice to protect your client’s data, regardless of what they think is the best method. They’re not the experts.

I saw Leonard the other day, and he started the conversation off like he always does; “what are your thoughts about storing data in the cloud, like Google or Dropbox or something?  My clients would have a problem with that so I keep all of their data in house.”

Leonard is a business attorney I’ve known for years, stemming from a board we were both members of.  He thinks he’d be making a big mistake by trusting his data in the hands of an outsourced entity. “If you put it on Google or Dropbox, it’s out there!” he’ll say.  Yes, it is.  But the truth is it’s out there even on your hard drive in your office if that device is connected to a computer that is connected to the Internet – which it most likely is.

Knowing what I know – that Leonard’s extent of data security knowledge goes as far as his ability to plug in his little external hard drive his IT guy gave him – I’d have a huge problem if that is the way he handled my critical information.  I’d trust the engineers at Google and Dropbox or in a data center handling managed services before I’d trust Leonard and his IT guy.

In our conversation, Leonard agreed that outsourced vendors probably do have better security, given the fact that it’s what they do for their lives (whew, a milestone). So when I asked why he still wouldn’t trust a 3rd party, it boiled down to because his clients would have a problem knowing that.  I get it.  His clients still think like he did (oh no, it’s ‘in the cloud’!).  Well, regardless of their perception, isn’t it Leonard’s fiduciary responsibility (watch out for the legal terminology!) to make sure his clients’ information is safe, regardless of what they think?

Pretend Leonard’s clients’ data was compromised (actually much more likely to happen under his in house system).  In the court of law, I wonder how a judge would rule if Leonard admitted to me he chose to store his client’s critical and sensitive information on his external hard drive when he knew about Google and Dropbox and managed services. I’m willing to bet it would go bad for Leonard.

Here are some links to articles discussing how the courts are starting to pay attention to “standards of practice”:

Negligence Liability for Breaches of Data Security

Assessing risk: Data breach litigation in U.S. courts

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