Double Your Donation Thanks to CompTIA

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If you would like to help the victime of Hurricane Florence, the Computing Technology Industry Association, CompTIA, the worlds largest technology trade association is making it save, easy and impactful to do so.  With so many scams out there, trying to take advantage of tragic situations, it’s so important to only donate to organizations that you are certain will direct your money to those who really need it.

CompTIA will match donations, up to $100,000, so if you’ve been waiting to make a donation, make it count twice.  This is just another reason why I am a proud CompTIA member.

Here are the details:

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Since Hurricane Florence made landfall, we’ve watched the tragedy unfold on a massive scale. From its initial impact to the still-falling rain and overflowing rivers, it’s impossible to ignore the urgent and ongoing need for aid.

But we’ve also seen incredible acts of humanity. Neighbors help neighbors, and organizations of all sizes band together to bring relief. Together, let’s help people get the necessities they need to begin rebuilding.

Please join CompTIA in donating to the Heart to Heart International, a global humanitarian organization based in Lenexa, Kan., that has worked to respond to the needs of disaster victims worldwide since 1992. Heart to Heart has been working with local partners to identify areas of greatest need, providing medical support and aid distribution.

We’ll match your donation up to $100,000. Donate now to double your impact.

Thank you for your support.

Donate Now

 

It’s National Preparedness Month

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Every September, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declare National Preparedness Month.  As we find ourselves watching the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence in the Carolina’s and the aftermath of the frightening natural gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts last week, the timing couldn’t be more poignant.

This years themes focus on making and practicing your disaster plan, learning life saving skills, being sure you have proper insurance and saving for an emergency.  There are a ton of useful resources on the main web site for National Preparedness Month 2018.  I encourage you to check them out.

As you review the multitude of resources available on the site, be sure to scroll down and click through the Web Resources listed under week.  I’ve also included these links below.

Week 1:  September 1-8Make and Practice Your Plan

Web Resources

Week 2:  September 9-15-Learn Life Saving Skills

Web Resources

Week 3:  Sept 16-22-Check Your Coverage

Web Resources

  • Insurance is the first line of defense; check your insurance coverage and review the Document and Insure Property guide.
  • Flood Insurance allows communities and families to recover more quickly and more fully. Visit Floodsmart.gov to learn more about flood insurance and how to protect your home or business.

Week 4: Sept 23-30-Save For an Emergency

Web Resources

 

Onepath Friday Morning Update

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For those following the unfolding events in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts, I MVGasIssuewant to share our update this morning.  We are so thrilled to report that no staff have been injured and no homes damaged.  A few are displaced and staying with family and friends.  We are fully functional, working remotely and collaborating with our teammates throughout the company.  The situation is still quite fluid, but we are hoping things will become more clear throughout the day today.  Thank you for all the messages of concern and support.  I am cataloging them all and will be sharing them with the entire team.  You’re all awesome and make it easy to do what we do for you!


Our Friday moring update:

First and foremost, we want to thank everyone who has reached out to express their concern for the safety of our staff.  We are very pleased to report that no Onepath personnel have been injured by the events unfolding in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts.  Some have been displaced and are safe with family or friends.

While the greatest impact has been just to the south of our North Andover office, we are choosing to keep that office closed for the safety of our staff.  The “All Clear” has not been issued as of 7 AM and officials are asking people to remain out of the general area.

Our teams are fully online and operational and our other Centers of Excellence have been monitoring this situation and assisting as needed.  We are actively making contact with any clients in the effected areas, so we can help get your phones forwarded and assist in any way we can.

Your calls to our office will be answered by a live person and we will be responding to your tickets as normal.

We will update you again later today, once the situation becomes more clear.  Thank you for your concern and support.  Our thoughts and well wishes remain with those impacted by this and by Hurricane Florence.  Please stay safe!

Update on Onepath’s North Andover Office

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For those of you that follow my blog and know that Onepath‘s northeast headquarters is located in North Andover, I wanted to share the following update we just to our clients:

“You may be aware that Onepath’s northeast headquarters is located in North Andover, Massachusetts.  The greater North Andover area, known as the Merrimack Valley is currently experiencing a natural gas emergency resulting in numerous explosions/fires and evacuation orders.

Out of an abundance of caution, we proactively closed the Onepath office in North Andover and evacuated our staff from the area late this afternoon.

Thanks to the power of Onepath, we have Centers of Excellence up and down the east coast ready to help ensure uninterrupted support for all our clients.  While our northeast headquarters office is closed at this time, we remain fully functional thanks to our redundant systems and secure data centers.  Our staff is answering phones live and assisting our clients.

We will send another update when we have reopened our North Andover office.  In the meantime, know that your dedicated team of Onepath professionals from the northeast to the southeast, remain ready to help all of our clients, whether in harms way or not.  For those of our clients impacted by the gas situation in New England or the hurricane in the mid-Atlantic, our thoughts are with you.  Please stay safe!

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your Client Engagement Manager or the Help Desk.”

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This map of impacted areas was released by the Massachusetts State Police.

Hurricane Preparedness

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As the mid and south Atlantic seaboard prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Florence,HurricaneFlorence the rest of us should heed the very real warning that’s taking place in those areas.  Obviously my thoughts and well wishes go to everyone in harms way.  Hopefully, the evacuations began early enough that no one will be left in danger.  The predictions are ominous and while I sit here in New England, presumably safe from this storm, it is an opportunity to take prudent steps to prepare for any storm that may impact us and our businesses throughout the year.

Yesterday, CompTIA posted an excellent blog post about preparing for Hurricane Florence.  Mike Semel, president of Semel Consulting, a long time CompTIA member and colleague, contributed to the post with some excellent advice, including links to basic preparedness supplies you can get quickly with via Amazon Prime.  I encourage you to read the post and be prepared.

CompTIA Blog Post: How to Prepare For, and Survive, Hurricane Florence

Mike also put his checklist and supply recommendations into a downloadable checklist and clickable shopping list.

Download: 2018 Semel-Disaster-Checklist& Amazon Disaster Products Order List

Thanks to CompTIA and Mike for sharing this important information, for the benefit of all.


In case you don’t like to click links, I have copied the post below.  I ordinarily do not copy content from another site, but due to the importance of this information and the fact that CompTIA and Mike are making this publicly available, I am making an exception.

Following is the text of the CompTIA blog post:

Hurricane Florence is set to hit the mid-Atlantic coastline this week, and the latest prediction models show that it will be the size of the entirety of North Carolina when it hits North Carolina. The image to the right was tweeted by meteorologist Eric Holthaus on Sunday – an undeniable visual showing us the enormity of the coming storm. Florence will reportedly be as impactful as Hurricane Fran in 1996, Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and perhaps even Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

The most terrifying element here is the initial impact, but, as with any natural disaster, Florence will leave a lengthy recovery process in its wake. There will likely be flooding, damage caused by felled trees and significant power outages – that last piece potentially the most frustrating given the long-term interruption of everyday life and of course business operations.

“As Hurricane Florence aims towards many CompTIA members, our thoughts and prayers are with them, their families and their co-workers,” said Mike Semel, president and chief compliance officer of Semel Consulting and a 36-year CompTIA premier member. “We hope everyone stays safe and dry.”

In that spirit, Semel has shared with CompTIA some valuable resources to help get set for Florence.

With e-commerce what it is today, hurricane preparedness doesn’t necessarily have to mean raiding stores. Semel found a range of products that will prove essential in the wake of the storm and are available to quickly ship from Amazon Prime. These include:

Further, Semel has assembled this preparedness plan. There’s a lot to consider before a storm hits and, if you’re in the Carolinas, this list will help you fully prepare in advance of Florence.

Family and business communications plan

  • Write down critical cell and landline numbers in case your phone dies.
  • Know where your family members or business colleagues will meet if cell towers and landline phones go out.
  • Designate an out-of-area relative everyone should contact if they can’t reach each other.
  • For your business, complete a contact sheet for all workforce members, including their personal e-mail address, their spouse and partner contact info and an out-of-area contact you can call if you can’t reach your employee.

Water

  • Buy cases of water or fill pots and pitchers with drinking water – one gallon per day per person.
  • Store 10 gallons of clean water for cooking.
  • Use food-grade water containers from camping stores.
  • Replace your water every six months if you’re not using commercially bottled water.
  • Never use water from toilet flush tanks or bowls, radiators, waterbeds or swimming pools and spas.
  • Purchase water purifiers to filter contaminated water.

Food

  • Store non-perishable food you don’t have to cook.
  • Include food needed for special diets.
  • Store non-perishable food for your pets.

Utilities

  • Know how to turn off your power, water and gas services.
  • Keep tools near your shutoffs for quick action.
  • Never turn on your utilities until authorized.
  • Always have a professional turn your gas back on.

 Cash

  • Withdraw $200 to $300 in small bills so you can make cash purchases, as credit cards won’t work if power and communications go down. Automobiles
  • Fill your gas tank when you first hear a warning.
  • Don’t drain your car battery charging cell phones or other devices.
  • Keep an emergency kit in your car in case you are stranded away from home.

Cell phones

  • Register your cell phone to receive calls from your county’s emergency management system.
  • Install weather and disaster preparedness apps and configure for alert notifications.
  • Use text messages as they use less battery and get through when calls can’t.
  • Photograph the contents of your house or business now.
  • Store emergency contact info for family members and employees, including alternate e-mail contacts and phone numbers for their close friends and relatives in case you can’t reach them directly.
  • Charge your phone and keep it charged.
  • Pack your car charger and home charger if you evacuate.
  • Extend your battery by turning off WiFi and other services you aren’t using.
  • Use solar chargers when possible.
  • Learn how to set up your cell phone as a personal Internet hotspot.

Computers

  • Back up critical data onto external hard drives or the cloud
  • If you have to evacuate, take critical equipment with you or seal it in garbage bags and store it in a high spot to protect against water damage.
  • Pack your laptop charger if you evacuate.
  • For businesses, do a test-restore of your backup files to ensure that the backups will work during an emergency and all critical data is backed up.

Generators

  • Use gasoline or propane generators, as communities may turn off natural gas service prior to a disaster.
  • Plan your needs to be sure you can power heating, refrigerators, lights and television for seven days.
  • Store gasoline in safe containers with fuel stabilizer. Replace stored gas every six to 10 months. Generators can use seven to 10 gallons of gasoline per day.
  • Buy a siphon to borrow fuel for your generator from cars and mowers.

Evacuation

  • Have a backpack or overnight bag pre-packed with clothes; energy and meal replacement bars; emergency blankets; sanitation and hygiene items; photocopies of identification and credit cards; special-needs items such as prescription medications, eye glasses, contact lens solution and hearing aid batteries; and items for infants, such as formula, diapers, bottles and pacifiers.
  • Follow instructions to shut off water, gas and electricity before you leave.
  • Know your evacuation routes before you go. Print out directions from your county emergency management website.

Common sense

  • Evacuate if your local government issues an order.
  • Don’t drive through flooded streets.
  • Stay away from downed wires.

Don’t panic

  • Practice your disaster response so everyone knows what to expect.
  • Keep your cool for your own safety and your family’s.

The Importance of Maintaining Current Computers

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The following was published in the September 9, 2018 edition of Fosters and Seacoast Sunday.

Do you have a plan for managing your computer assets? If you don’t, you should. Why? Productivity and employee satisfaction, that’s why.

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Let’s think about this a bit. Your computer takes minutes to start up in the morning. You could practically go for a leisurely walk around the building and come back to your desk before it’s ready for you to actually do some work. Or how about you’re in the middle of an important project and your computer locks up or your software greys out and stops responding? Sound familiar? These are just some of the tell-tale signs of a computer that may have outlived its usefulness.

I see it all the time: Computers in use for years beyond their productive lifetime. To be fair, computers purchased in the last few years may have seemed like they are far more powerful than you would need. But then the companies that make the software you rely on to do your work upgrade their applications to take advantage of the newest computer hardware. That computer that seemed more powerful than you would ever need, is no longer so.

Many laptops, especially thinner, lighter weight laptops are now completely sealed devices. Meaning, they don’t have removable drives of any kind and the batteries are not replaceable. If an internal component fails or the battery stops holding a charge, you may only have one option. Replace the laptop.

This is why it’s important to maintain an accurate and up-to-date inventory of your computer hardware, including purchase date and warranty expiration date. For most out of warranty computers, it just may not make sense to expend any time and expense on trying to repair any hardware issues. You may be best decommissioning what might seem like a good computer and replace it with a new one. Believe it or not, this is often the less expensive route.

What is better is having a planned rotation schedule for your computers, so that you stay ahead of these trouble spots. Instead of waiting for a computer to act up, which will always happen at the worst possible moment, wouldn’t it be better to have a rotation schedule that you can plan and budget for? In my experience, this is always the better plan. Your co-workers will think so too. Most business class computers have slightly better electronic components that are designed to run nearly continuously for the life of the computer. This will often also mean internal cooling capabilities that are better than most consumer products, to help maximize the life of the computer.

Business class computers almost always come standard with a three-year manufacturer warranty, to protect you against any hardware failures. The manufacturer will send one of their employees to your office, or wherever you are located, to replace a failed component, at no cost to you. Most manufacturers also offer upgraded warranties that extend coverage to four or five years, for a slight upcharge at the time of purchase.

Wouldn’t it be better to have a plan that rotates computers as their warranties expire, so you amortize the purchase over three, four or five years? With most standard office computers costing less than $1,000 these days, think about how this works out. This equates to $333 over three years, $250 over four years and only $200 over five years.

When you think of this in those terms, this is not a lot of cost, per person, to ensure maximum uptime, productivity and employee satisfaction. Especially when compared to the cost of downtime, lost productivity and frustrated employees.

As the fourth quarter approaches and we begin to think about our year end planning, there may also be tax advantages through provisions like Section 179. Obviously, you should consult with your tax professional on something like this, but you may have options that make this time of year financially advantageous to establish a clear plan for managing your computers on an ongoing plan. At the very least, it’s worth discussing with your internal IT team or outsourced IT partner.

The End of an Era

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Today, I received notification from the Secretary of State for the State of New Hampshire that the company I founded, Jenaly Technology Group, has been “Administratively Dissolved Name Protection.”  I think this is the final page of a wonderful book that spanned over twenty years.  From making calls from the basement of our first house to secure my first client, to our office on Greenleaf Woods Drive in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  I had the privilege to experience the entrepreneurial journey, with the support of my family, working with great clients, talented staff and meeting people all over the world, some of whom remain close friends to this day.  The journey continues with Onepath and I have no regrets.  Our clients are better served than they have ever been and our staff that has remained, have opportunity limited only by their own drive.  I am proud of what we accomplished and thrilled to be part of a great company in Onepath, in the best industry there is!  To borrow a phrase from a friend and colleague, I find myself grateful, but not satisfied.  Onward…

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A Simple Thought

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Do not follow where the path may lead.  Go where there is no path…and leave a trail.

(Attributed to many, but mostly to Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!

Support Onepath Local and the Starry Night 5K

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One of the great things that comes with being part of a larger organization is a wide range of initiatives that benefit our clients, our team and the communities in which we live and work.  Onepath Local is one of those initiatives.

OnepathLocalLogoOnepath Local is a non-profit, formed within Onepath as a result of the creativity and concern for community among our staff.  Onepath Local is an employee-led 501(c)3 charitable organization harnessing Onepath’s spirit of service & giving.  Founded in 2017, Onepath Local’s mission is to support charities and activities that strengthen local communities and enhance lives through volunteerism, leadership, and financial support.  Powerful stuff!

On September 8th, the New England team is participating in the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation Starry Night 5K along the Charles River in Boston.  This is a cause Onepath supports in both our northeast and southeast regions and we will even have representation from one of our Atlanta based offices here in Boston, as well as our local team.  If you are able and interested in supporting this great cause, please consider visiting my fundraising page and making a donation.  Any amount helps and together, we can help impacted children and their families in a very meaningful way.

Thank you for your consideration!

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New Cybersecurity Law Aims to Help Small Businesses

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The following was published in the most recent Sunday editions of Fosters and Seacoast Sunday.

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This week, the president signed into law the NIST Small Business Cybersecurity Act, S.770. This legislation was originally introduced as the Main Street Cybersecurity Act.

If you are not familiar with NIST, it is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. You can learn about NIST by visiting www.nist.gov. NIST is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and is one of the nation’s oldest physical science labs, having been established in 1901. I encourage you to visit it’s About page at www.nist.gov/about-nist to review the quick video on that page, which gives a great history of the organization. For those who prefer to read, here is a concise summary that describes the mission:

“Today, NIST measurements support the smallest of technologies to the largest and most complex of human-made creations – from nanoscale devices so tiny that tens of thousands can fit on the end of a single human hair up to earthquake-resistant skyscrapers and global communication networks.”

With regard to this new law, I had hoped it would have more teeth that would put actual requirements on small businesses with regard to cybersecurity. Unfortunately, there is not. This law is about mandating that a federal agency, in this case NIST, produce and disseminate educational materials to help small businesses improve their cybersecurity posture. While a good thing and a necessary step, the law lacks a mandate that requires these same businesses to actually comply with the recommendations.

In terms of what the law does provide, here are some of the details:

  • To require the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology to disseminate guidance to help reduce small business cybersecurity risks, and for other purposes.
  • Resources: The term “resources” means guidelines, tools, best practices, standards, methodologies and other ways of providing information.
  • Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this act, the director, in carrying out section 2(e)(1)(A)(viii) of the NIST, as added by subsection (b) of this act, in consultation with the heads of other appropriate federal agencies, shall disseminate clear and concise resources to help small business concerns identify, assess, manage, and reduce their cybersecurity risks.
  • The director shall ensure the resources disseminated pursuant to paragraph (1) – (A) are generally applicable and usable by a wide range of small business concerns; (B) vary with the nature and size of the implementing small business concern, and the nature and sensitivity of the data collected or stored on the information systems or devices of the implementing small business concern; (C) include elements, that promote awareness of simple, basic controls, a workplace cybersecurity culture, and third-party stakeholder relationships, to assist small business concerns in mitigating common cybersecurity risks; (D) include case studies of practical application; (E) are technology-neutral and can be implemented using technologies that are commercial and off-the-shelf; and (F) are based on international standards to the extent possible, and are consistent with the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 (15 U.S.C. 3701 et seq.).

These four points summarize this new law. As I said, this is a step in the right direction, unfortunately it just lacks teeth. Many of the principles are ones that most small businesses already understand, and most IT service firms are providing to their clients now. Certainly, a guiding framework on a national level will help increase awareness and understanding. It astounds me how large the knowledge gap is around this topic to this day. Even simple management of passwords remains a challenge for most small businesses.

As these resources become available over the next year, I will make an effort to point them out to all who will listen. I encourage you to make yourself aware of these resources to help educate your staff on cybersecurity issues, to help you maintain a proper posture that will allow you to continue business as usual, while increasing your level of protection. If you have any knowledge of current events, you understand how important this is.