IoT, What You Should Know

Do you know what IoT stands for? IoT is the Internet of Things. It allows organizations and individuals to interconnect their home and business devices through a cloud (Internet) based service. Tech talk has been consistent since the beginning of time with its never ending stream of acronyms. If you’re like me you might find it a bit of a put-on. I guess originally tech speak was intended to make things sound important, technical, and beyond the average person. Today not surprisingly most industries have their own acronyms. 

Back in the mainframe days of the 1980s there were FEPs, Front End Processors; DASD, Direct-Access Storage Devices; and computing power was measured in MIPS, Million Instructions Per Second. Transmission lines were measured in KBPS, kilobits per second and there was no Internet yet. Computing resources and data storage devices were guarded by physical security such as, guards, video surveillance, card readers, as well as key locks. Companies that had multiple geographic locations and could justify the cost had point-to-point transmission lines providing remote access to mainframes and other computing platforms. Many times the remote terminals were kept in secured rooms that only authorized users could access. Security in general was simplified and data breaches far less common and certainly not headline news.

Today we live in a data intensive age where digital transactions build our digital footprint and influence how we are marketed to online. The average home today has greater processing power, data storage and global broadband access than many large corporate entities maintained in the early 1980s. Physical security controls while still important today have been augmented with a large array of technologies to monitor and manage information security at a physical, connectivity, application, and transaction level.

Cloud computing has become a serious alternative to multi-million dollar corporate investments, long timeframes and large support staffs providing pay-as-you-go pricing and the ability to scale globally on a near immediate timeframe. Millions of businesses use some form of cloud computing including startups, government agencies and the largest enterprises.

Amazon’s IoT Core has millions of customers and can connect billions of devices and process trillions of messages globally. Cloud computing is an incredible leap forward in computing technology in terms of its global reach, processing, scalability, and availability. While the technology is mind blowing there are still noteworthy security risks and downsides that are not addressed by simply implementing a cloud based infrastructure.

The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property estimated in April 2018 the annual costs from the loss of intellectual property ranged from $225 billion to $600 billion. These costs are projected to rise to $6 Trillion worldwide by 2021. While there are many ways that thefts occur, including social engineering, technology transfer, hacking, the point is that there are risks regardless of how you run your business and that implementing a cloud based infrastructure is not a cure all.

Whether you are a small or large business securing end-point devices such as office computers, terminals, usernames/passwords, remote access devices, networking infrastructure and properly training employees to be able to identify potential fraudulent activity is critical. End-point devices need to be maintained though ongoing backups, updates and other processes. Finally if you are breached you need to be able to detect malicious activity and eliminate it in the shortest timeframe possible. Many of the largest breaches go on undetected for years leading to serious losses and business consequences.

Network Management Solutions has been helping small to medium sized businesses, along with some large global organizations adapt to the ongoing changes in networking and computing technology since 1996. Contact us for a free, confidential consultation. We can be reached at 908-451-1821.

The Value of Independent Oversight

The other day I was working in my shop. I mistakenly placed an expensive tool in a precarious spot and as circumstance would have it, the tool fell and was damaged. I was of course upset but it was my fault and I own the mistake. I was focused on the task at hand and not paying attention to details. Well, when I checked for a new part to repair the tool and found it was more than half the cost of the original tool, I was even more regretful. It was a hefty price to pay and an expensive lesson learned.

I identified the supplier for the part, a well known company, and begrudgingly placed the order. The quicker I ordered the part the sooner I’d get over the sting of my hurried mistake. Ordering the part was easy and my credit card was charged immediately. I waited for an email to relay the shipping details, one day, three days, one week passed before I finally decided to call the supplier for an update.

Upon calling the supplier the phone was answered within a matter of minutes and the support person pleasant. I was advised that the part had yet to ship because the company warehouse was 6 days behind schedule due to a failed IT upgrade. I was assured however that the order would ship within the next week. I was not happy as the payment was processed the day of the order.

I had never dealt with the company prior. It’s likely if I listed their name you would know the brand and perhaps like me, having dealt with them or not had a positive image of the operation. The reviews I read prior to ordering were largely favorable. My opinion however has changed and I know that’s harsh. The reason is that had I been advised before placing the order I would have had an opportunity to consider a different source, or been an informed, understanding customer that waited for the part through the delay. Instead there was no communications prior, and I had to call for the company for the reason of the long delay.

Does this major tool supplier realize the cost of their failed IT upgrade? A six day delay in processing orders is a big deal. What is the cost in terms of revenue, rebates and apologies to big buyers and future sales, but far beyond that the damage to the brand’s reputation? What other companies that depend on the supplier were unable to meet their customer deadlines?

Often organizations large and small don’t consider all the details of a complex or even routine upgrade. Personnel sometimes don’t speak up due to politics or their input is dismissed. Many times companies don’t measure the business impact of failure and hence there is no back out plan to restore service or communicate status with management and other stakeholders. 

At a minimum when undertaking an upgrade consideration needs to be given to items such as, can the current infrastructure support the new requirements; can the in-house personnel support the project; is there sufficient knowledge and planning by the stakeholders to ensure success; and most importantly what are the potential impacts to the company if the project fails? Critical to every project is a back out plan. Should the project fail, how are negative impacts to the company and its customers minimized? Finally if necessary at what point does the company communicate with their customers and what is the specific messaging?

Of course I don’t have the detailed reasons for the disruption. I do however know one thing as do many of the company’s customers and that is they failed. While failure is not uncommon in the complex information technology world, it is largely due a lack of planning and oversight, and when things go wrong negative impacts are magnified. Perhaps if there had been a back out plan to revert to the prior state no one except the company and maybe it’s vendor would have known. Even planning customer messaging would have minimized impacts to the company’s brand and its customers.

Network Management Solutions has been assisting companies since 1996 to design, implement, monitor and mange IT infrastructure. We have helped companies recover from failed projects, security breaches and outages. Contact NMS for a free, confidential, consultation to understand how we may contribute to your business’s success and its good name.


How To Select A Managed Services Provider

You have a growing business that relies on computer based technology. What do I mean?… well, computers, operating systems, servers, networks, internet connections, cloud infrastructure, and data sharing applications. Yeah it all sounds overwhelming and jargon filled but you need these things to run your business.

You have been getting by with support from an internal resource or two that have a little information technology experience but maintain other full time responsibilities within the business. You might also as well utilize an outside resource at your internet service provider or local computer store.  You know its not efficient, it’s a drain on your internal resources and problems seem to fester.  Its time for a change but what’s next? 

This article is intended to help guide you towards a solution, that will free internal resources from ad-hoc IT tasks and enable your employees to focus on their intended functions, as well help you to have a problem management process and secure technology infrastructure that most effectively supports your business.

Introducing the Managed Services Provider, or maybe you already have one, but it doesn’t seem to be working out. Hopefully these steps will set you on a path towards solving the dilemma and keeping your IT systems and information secure and in top shape.  

  1. Identify your infrastructure. Identify what internal and external infrastructure exists that supports your business. What I’m talking about are computers, servers, network connections and applications. If you’re not quite sure how to gather this information, many Managed Services Providers will assist in the process through an information technology assessment. An information technology assessment should be routine to an MSP and some will credit the cost of the assessment if you decide to sign up for their ongoing services.
  2. Identify your service needs. Decide what elements of the overall internal and external infrastructure need oversight. For example if you host an internal email server, or database server, is this something a third party could take on the management of? Do you require proactive management of network connections, servers, and applications, or do you just wait until they fail and scramble to identify where the problem is? Perhaps our IT problems page, or evaluation checklists can help you come up to speed and refine your approach.
  3. Assemble your business requirements. Now that you have a clear understanding of the components in your infrastructure and service requirements, such as proactive monitoring of critical systems, problem management support, support hours and response times, document these items as they will be critical in moving forward towards a decision on a new Managed Services Provider.  
  4. Interview potential Managed Services Providers. Find out what services each company provides and how they map to your business requirements. Do they have the staff, experience, and hours of coverage to support the business requirements; can they respond in the required timeframes; do they provide ongoing updates on service outages, or operating systems updates and patches?  Is there a standard service level agreement that defines how issues are managed and can it be customized to support your specific requirements?  Identify the cost of services for supporting your current requirements as well as the costs as your business and infrastructure grows.
  5. Select a Managed Services Provider. Establish clear service level agreements defining services provided, operating procedures, response time agreements, as well as key contacts and escalation procedures. Also establish the ongoing reporting provided by the Managed Services Provider and have the reports customized to meet your specific needs.
  6. Review ongoing performance. Review reports provided by your Managed Services Provider and compare them to your service level agreement. Most importantly maintain an open and honest dialogue with your Managed Services Provider. Clear open communications will foster the results you are looking for while strengthening the partnership and mutual respect and trust in the business arrangement.

Network Management Solutions has been providing custom information technology solutions since 1996 for large, mid-sized and small business.  All of our services, including our Managed Service Provider solutions are customized to support our client’s business needs. For more information please call us at 908-232-0100, also reference our online questionnaires and toolbox.

Network Management Solutions  www.nmscorp.com. Please reach out we want to assist you in making your business better.