It Happened This Morning

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From Politico, May 3, 2018

TODAY: NET NEUTRALITY FIELD HEARING — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen this morning will host a Senate Small Business Committee field hearing that examines the effect of the FCC’s net neutrality rollback on small businesses. The panel, which will take place at the University of New Hampshire, will include testimony from business leaders including Zach Luse, CEO of Paragon Digital Marketing, and Lisa Drake, director of sustainability innovation at Stonyfield Farm. “Today, small businesses can reach customers throughout the world at the click of a button. Net neutrality has been a linchpin of that success,” Shaheen will say, according to prepared remarks. Thousands of small businesses have signed onto a letter that calls on Congress to preserve the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules by supporting a measure that aims to undo the agency’s repeal via the Congressional Review Act. We’re tracking.

I testified at this hearing this morning.  I will recap the hearing and post my written testimony later.  Stay tuned…

Sharing My Passions

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I’m a passionate guy and last evening, I got to bring three of my passions together for an evening that capped a great day.

The three passions I enjoyed today are family, UNH hockey and my work with Onepath.

My day started at our new New Hampshire office that we recently acquired.  We transitioned this and three other offices to the Onepath brand and held some advanced training with our new teammates.  It all went really well.

As part of these activities, one of my team members from our Ohio office flew in for a couple of days, another team member from our Rhode Island office was in town and two senior team members from our Atlanta headquarters flew in.

While I was not thrilled that UNH scheduled the annual White Out The Whitt game between UNH and arch-rival Maine on Valentines Day, it did present an opportunity for some team bonding, so I secured some extra tickets to go along with my regular season tickets and we all headed off to the game after we wrapped up at the office.

At the arena, we met up with my oldest daughter, who I’ve been going to games with for at least fifteen years at this point.  While UNH lost in overtime, it was one of the most fun games I’ve been to in years.  It was solid competitive college hockey.  Great to watch and the atmosphere was electric.  Sharing my passions for family and UNH hockey with my teammates from Onepath made for a truly enjoyable evening, despite the final score.

Here are some photos from the day (click the photo’s for captions).

 

IT Themes for 2018 from CompTIA

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The following press release was issued by CompTIA today.  I’m very pleased to have been quoted in the section on “From product sales to service subscriptions.”

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 CompTIA Board of Directors Identifies Six Tech Themes to Watch in 2018

 Downers Grove, Ill., December 21, 2017 – Artificial intelligence (AI) will stake out a larger role; a greater emphasis will be placed on the user experience with technology; and protecting personal data and information will become more critical in 2018, according to the board of directors of CompTIA, the leading technology industry association.

The new year will also see technology companies focused on new government regulations and requirements, led by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); evolving their business models to rely more on the sale of “as a service” subscriptions; and taking new actions to combat cyber threats.

The CompTIA directors at a board meeting earlier this month spent time trading ideas and debating the impact of nearly 20 trends likely to impact the technology industry in 2018. Six themes rose to the top of the consensus list of technology trends to watch.

Artificial intelligence (AI) expands its presence – A recent CompTIA survey found that one in four companies make regular use of AI in areas such as machine learning, virtual assistants, workflow tools, and in the automation of processes and tasks. Another 19 percent of organizations expect to adopt AI in the next year.

More focus on optimizing the customer experience – Options for acquiring technology have expanded, driving providers to find new ways to maintain relationships with current customers and acquire new clients. Optimizing customer experiences with technology is a crucial step in maintaining and building relationships; but it requires a thorough understanding of both user expectations and business objectives.

“The emergence of technologies that enhance the customer experience will be an important tech theme for companies wanting to stay ahead of the competition in 2018,” said Dan Shapero, founder, ClikCloud Digital Marketing. “Companies using artificial intelligence, chat, call center and mobile web to enrich customer experience will reap the benefit of increased customer loyalty, greater efficiency and higher margins in the foreseeable future.”

Protecting personal privacy – The security and personal privacy challenges associated with how consumer information is collected, used, analyzed, and shared will grow in importance as millions of new interconnected devices come online through the expansion of the Internet of Things, smart cities, autonomous vehicles, and other innovations.

Government requirements and regulations – The pace of innovation greatly exceeds the speed at which governments can adopt, alter, expand or eliminate policies and regulations. This can create inherent tensions between technologies entering the market – often at the demand of customers – and governments’ ability to regulate. In 2018 one of the biggest regulatory issues technology companies will face is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the new primary law that will regulate how companies protect European Union citizens’ personal data.

“Government regulation becomes more stringent when it feels the need to do a better job of protecting people than it deems the industry it’s regulating is doing,” said Tracy Pound, managing director, Maximity. “The GDPR is intended to provide consistent enforcement of data protection rules that increase an individuals’ rights to control data held about them; and to ensure that companies holding data can demonstrate accountability for that data and have good governance processes in place. It applies to any company that processes, stores or transmits personal data belonging to EU residents. It will still apply to the UK post Brexit, making it a global issue rather than a European one.

“With industry surveys stating that less than 10 percent of companies are prepared for the GDPR, this is a significant opportunity for tech companies to reinforce being a true trusted business advisor by providing insights and services that help clients navigate the new regulation in order to help them minimize the risk of data breaches and to demonstrate compliance,” Pound continued. “With maximum fines of 4 percent of global turnover or €20 million, tech companies and their clients need to wake up to the volume of preparatory work in documenting systems, educating staff, bringing policies and procedures for processing data up to date and making changes to be ready for the deadline of 25th May 2018. Expecting this to go away and to do nothing is a game of Russian Roulette.”

From product sales to service subscriptions – The “everything-as-a-service” model is not a new phenomenon. But the subscription service model continues to evolve as businesses expand their reliance on the technology ecosystem. In this fast-changing market many companies – traditional technology firms and new market entrants alike – are striving to carve out their niche.

“As the ‘as-a-service’ model of technology acquisition continues to mature, traditional resellers are facing significant changes to their established business models,” said MJ Shoer, director, client engagement, and virtual CIO, Onepath. “While there will always be a need to make capital acquisitions of technology, subscription models are now the norm and some traditional customers are now procuring their technology from multiple sources. This requires that technology solution providers drive value by helping our customers understand and leverage this evolving market trend. We also need to help our customers leverage technology to improve their workflows and business processes to gain a competitive edge.

“Technology solution providers also need to adapt to the changing security landscape,” Shoer added. “While many traditional MSPs are building security practices within their existing business structure, this leads to concerns about the fox watching the hen house. How technology solution providers bring security services to their customers while ensuring the integrity of those services will be paramount to providing the type of services most customers will require, especially with increasing government regulation like GDPR and others.”

Cyber readiness – Video gaming communities, hotels, fast-food restaurants, retailers, healthcare providers, educational institutions, government agencies, and business services providers were just some of the victims of cyber-attacks and data breaches in 2017. Despite improvements on many fronts, threats show no signs of abating. In fact, evidence suggests that things will get worse before they get better, with the attacks growing in both frequency and virulence.

“Going into the new year we expect cybercriminals to stick with the malware that makes them the most money: ransomware,” said Scott Barlow, vice president, Global MSP, Sophos. “In fact, according to recent research by Sophos, 2018 could potentially bring the explosion of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS). These hacking kits, designed to make cybercrime accessible to anyone regardless of skill, will drive global ransomware levels through the roof.”

As the leading trade association for the technology industry association CompTIA provides a vast selection of education and training materials, research and market intelligence, webinars and conferences, business best practices, member communities and advisory councils, and more on a wide range of technology topics. Visit www.comptia.org to learn more.

CompTIA: Building the Foundation for Technology’s Future

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is the world’s leading technology association, with approximately 2,000 member companies, 3,000 academic and training partners, over 100,000 registered users and more than two million IT certifications issued. CompTIA’s unparalleled range of programs foster workforce skills development and generate critical knowledge and insight – building the foundation for technology’s future. Visit CompTIA online, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to learn more.

Contact:

Steven Ostrowski
CompTIA
sostrowski@comptia.org­
630-678-8468

2 Years: What a Ride, In the Blink of an Eye

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On December 1, 2015, my MSP company, Jenaly Technology Group, Inc. was acquired by Internet & Telephone, LLC.  Fast forward to December 1, 2017, two years to the day from that acquisition and Internet & Telephone, LLC is now Onepath, having been acquired in May 2017.

Personally, I have gone from being the President & Virtual CTO of Jenaly to the CTO of Internet & Telephone to the Director, Client Engagement & vCIO at Onepath, here in our New England offices.

What a ride!  It’s been a blast.  People often ask me why I’m still working for the same company, especially after two acquisitions.  It’s really quite simple.  I enjoy it, every day, even the tough ones.  Seriously, I love what I do and I get to work with some of the best and brightest in the business.

2When I decided to sell Jenaly to Internet & Telephone, I was not actively looking to sell the business.  I was however, concerned about keeping the company on the leading edge and being able to provide our clients with the expanded technical capabilities and services that I saw them needing over time.  I was also concerned with being able to provide my staff with career growth opportunities beyond what we were able to provide as a small business.  Internet & Telephone raised the idea of acquiring Jenaly out of the blue.  We had danced around the idea from time to time, as we have known each other for close to 25 years and helped each other grow our businesses.  When the idea surfaced, there were more reasons to pursue it than not.  So the marriage was made.

A mere 17 months later, Internet & Telephone and Onepath came together in May 2017.  The circumstances were different, but the overall themes that brought the companies together was more similar than different.  The breadth and depth of resources and the incredible talent that Onepath brings to the table are formidable.

Most importantly to me, our clients remain some of the best, most loyal clients there are.  Our client attrition through two acquisitions has been minimal.  The benefits we have brought to our clients have been substantial.  Our employees have benefited as well, now part of a larger organization that offers more career advancement opportunities, more benefit options and brings provides more resources to ensure team success.  We continue to help our clients reach their business goals by leveraging technology in ways that set them apart from their competition.  It’s a very fulfilling experience, personally and professionally.

So as you can see, it’s been an interesting journey these past two years.  Regrets?  None.  Opportunities?  Unlimited.  Here’s to the future!

You can read more about my MSP journey here.

Shop Safely This Holiday Season

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The following was published in today’s edition of Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

So Thanksgiving has come and gone, as has Small Business Saturday. Tomorrow is Cyber Monday. The deals keep coming and the enticement to shop online and retail is at its height for the year. So how do you ensure you shop safely? Here are a few recommendations, not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year.

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When shopping retail, your largest risk is at checkout. Whether you are writing a check, using a debit or credit card, it’s important to know your risks and the technologies available to mitigate them. Checks are tough. Some people swear by them, others avoid them at all cost. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a check. Frank Abignale, the FBI security expert of “Catch Me If You Can” movie fame, never writes a check. He believes checks are the easiest transaction to forge and he would know. If you haven’t seen the movie about his story, you may want to watch it. His words carry the weight of experience and some hard lessons learned.

When it comes to debit and credit cards, Abignale recommends never using a debit card as it has direct access to your bank account. Instead, he advocates for using a credit card and paying it off every month. Now there’s the trick, paying it off every month. For many, this is easier said than done, but his point is well taken. Credit cards have consumer protections that safeguard you against fraudulent charges. Debit cards do not. Once the money is pulled from your bank account, it’s very difficult, if not impossible to recover.

Whichever type of card you use, be sure you use the chip feature and don’t swipe the card. Magnetic readers are easy to hack or replace with what’s called a skimmer. A skimmer reads the cards magnetic stripe, sends the payment information to a hacker while still passing the transaction through to the point of sale terminal where you swiped your card. It’s one of the most common forms of debit and credit card theft out there.

Several consumer advocacy and law enforcement agencies have warned of point of sale terminal hacking this holiday season. If a store you shop at has been hacked, even if their credit card machine itself has not been compromised, a hacker may still be able to grab your payment information. Chip technology safeguards against this by using on-chip encryption for your payment card data and each transaction done with the card. If a retailer is not accepting chip, tell them you have to shop elsewhere. There’s no reason not to and their credit card processors are charging them a higher fee for not using the chip.

Where you can, I also recommend using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay

 

 

 

, PayPal and similar payment services. Especially if all you have is a debit card, linking that card to these services will insert a layer of encryption and security to your transactions that the debit card alone cannot. These are more secure ways to pay and will help protect you, online and offline.

When shopping online, there is ample technology available to safeguard you. Be sure you take advantage of it. First and foremost, be sure you are only shopping at websites that have https and not just http. The “s” indicates the site is secured with secure socket layer encryption, or SSL. If a site is not SSL, everything you enter in to your browser is clearly available to anyone who may be intercepting your Internet traffic as it travels from your web browser to the site.

I also recommend not clicking on the millions of ads and links you receive in your email. Sophisticated hackers will impersonate legitimate companies and offers, in an effort to get you to click their link, which would bring you to a fake site, setup to steal your identity and payment data. Instead, just enter the site address in your browser and get to the site this way. Once on the site, search for the deal you are looking for. Chances are, if it’s a legitimate offer, you will be able to find it right from the website’s homepage.

A few other considerations for shopping safely online include using a VPN and privacy mode in your web browser. A Virtual Private Network connection to servers on the Internet masks your online activity for prying eyes. If you connect securely to a company network for work, chances are you may be doing so via a VPN. The same principal holds true for a VPN for Internet access. Think of the Internet as a four lane highway and think of a VPN as a tunnel that gets placed over one of the lanes and that is the lane you travel in. No one can see where you are going and where you enter and exit the highway. This is what a VPN does for your Internet use. Don’t use a free VPN as you get what you pay for. No one is so altruistic that they put this technology out there for free. They are capturing something of value from you. Instead, subscribe to a reputable VPN service if you decide to go this route. It’s well worth the modest cost.

Finally, consider using privacy mode in your web browser. All browsers have this and it does a decent job of masking your online activity, avoiding ad trackers and cookies, technologies that make you wonder how that ad showed up in your browser for something you were thinking of shopping for. When you want to be sure what you do online remains private, privacy mode is the way to go.

I hope I haven’t scared you away from shopping this holiday season. That is not my intent. Instead, I hope I have given you some good ideas to protect your identity and your bank account this holiday season and throughout the year. Happy shopping!

It’s Small Business Saturday

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Hopefully you survived Black Friday.  Now here we are, Small Business Saturday.  I hope you’ll be heading out to support your local small businesses today and throughout the holiday season, along with all year long.

As someone who has spent their career primarily around small businesses, I’m proud to support Small Business Saturday.  Our family is heading out to do our part.  Enjoy the day!

IT Nation is a Wrap #ITN17

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This morning I flew home from IT Nation in Orlando.  I’m exhausted and energized, all at the same time.  IT Nation started as the ConnectWise Partner Conference, a gathering of ConnectWise software partners.  Over the years it has evolved into IT Nation, a gathering of the IT industry, specifically companies like Onepath, the organization I work for, along with the vendors and partners that make up the ecosystem that is the IT Nation.  The event is sponsored by ConnectWise and still has a lot to do with ConnectWise products, which today extend well beyond the core business management software that was the original core of the company.

This year, there were over 3,000 attendees and over 200 educational sessions that ran the gamut from how to use ConnectWise software to improve various business practices, to business education around hiring, team building and more, like M&A valuations and expert panels.

The keynote on the first day was delivered by ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini.  I’ve known Arnie since the earliest days of ConnectWise marketing their software.  I got my first demo from Arnie in the early 2000’s.  He and ConnectWise have grown and matured impressively over the years.  The solution is very robust, with a growing ecosystem of integration partners that makes it easier to run our day to day operations and reach out strategic goals.  Even though I’ve attended all but one IT Nation, since it’s founding back in 2004, I learned a lot this year and have some key action items to bring back to my team.  Four of us from Onepath attended IT Nation this year and we divided and conquered, in terms of the breakouts we attended.

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The keynote on the second day was delivered by my absolute favorite business author, Patrick Lencioni.  He has released a new book called “The Ideal Team Player” and the theme of this years IT Nation event was TEAM, Trust, Empathy, Agility, Modesty.

I absolutely love Patrick Lencioni’s writing.  He writes business fables that are fiction, which makes them both easy and engaging to read.  I’ve read almost all of his books and many years ago, I even bought a copy of his books “Getting Naked” for everyone in my company at the time.  It was and remains transformational.  I’m already digging in to “The Ideal Team Player” and hope to finish it over the next couple of days.  In addition to the expected fable, the book also has concluding section that is quite prescriptive.  I was also thrilled to have the opportunity to spend some time with Patrick and Arnie in a small group setting after his keynote.  Thanks for that opportunity ConnectWise!  It was a LencioniBookbucket list moment.  And thanks to my fellow Onepath teammate Sean, for having Patrick autograph a copy of his book for me, while I was attending the ConnectWise Advisory Council lunch at the same time as the book signing.  It has a special place in my home office waiting for it.

During this years event, ConnectWise introduced what it calls the “Technology Canvas.”  This really resonates with me and its relevance transcended the entire event.  The Technology Canvas just makes sense and in Onepath terms, it accurately represents our Cable to Cloud strategy.  There are fourteen elements of the Technology Canvas; Copy/Printing, Line of Business Applications, Security, Office Applications, Physical Security, Network Infrastructure, Internet of Things, Onsite Computing, Audio/Visual, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Application Development, Disaster Recovery and Business Intelligence.  This “canvas” represents all the areas a company like Onepath helps our clients with, as well as other services.  In the managed IT services space, this is an excellent framework.  As I said, it resonates for me.

technology-canvas.pngIn addition to the keynote and breakout sessions, there is always excellent networking at an event like this.  With this many attendees, the opportunities to connect with colleagues and friends are plenty, as is the sharing of best practices and lessons learned.  Some years, this is where I may extract the best value from the event.  Many breakouts are delivered by peers as opposed to ConnectWise staff, so you get real-world experience and ideas.  Some of the best business building ideas come from networking with peers and staying in touch throughout the year.

It would not be an event hosted by ConnectWise without some fun.  ConnectWise embodies the work hard, play hard philosophy, so we enjoyed a night at Universal Studios as well.

It’s an impressive accomplishment to maintain impact and relevance for an event like this over the last 13 years.  My thanks to ConnectWise for continuing to innovate and raise the bar, year after year.  The Community that has been built around this industry and this company is truly inspirational and the best may yet be to come.

Next comes the real hard work.  It’s too easy to return from an event like this and fall back into an office routine.  The real call to action from an event like this, is not to let that happen.  Myself, I will be reviewing and rewriting my notes from each day and sharing them with key members of our leadership team.  Next, I will be extracting some key points of information to share with my direct reports, as I have some ideas I want their input on, to help refine our messaging and processes even more.  My goal is to have three clear action items to implement over the next 90 days, to close 2017 strong and start 2018 even stronger.  Until next year, thanks IT Nation! #ITN17 out.

iPhone X Brings Man to Tears

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A little iPhone humor for your Wednesday morning, albeit at Apple‘s expense.

A good friend of mine from the UK shared this today and I could not resist sharing it here on my blog.

No doubt many will have strong feelings about the new iPhone X and iPhone 8‘s announced yesterday.  What are your thoughts?  Please let me know, I’d love to hear them.

I’m gathering data for a more complete post about the new iPhone’s which I hope to post over the next couple of days, so stay tuned.

Warning: The linked article contains some profanity, so please don’t click through if this may offend you.

Here’s the link to the article.  For the record, like the subject in this article, I also have a year old iPhone 7.   WowEmoji

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September is National Preparedness Month

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National Preparedness Month 2017 Logo [JPG]One the heels of yesterday’s post about hurricane preparedness, I wanted to also share the following timely information and resources.

Every year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) together with the Department of Homeland Security declared September National Preparedness Month.  This years theme is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”

From the Ready.gov website, National Preparedness Month is defined as follows:

“We should all take action to prepare! We are all able to help first responders in our community by training how to respond during an emergency and what to do when disaster strikes — where we live, work, and visit. The goal of NPM is to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, business, school, and place of worship.”

Each week has a plan and this weeks plan is “Make a Plan for Yourself, Family and Friends.”

Here is a brief, 60 second, video on the topic:

Use the following links to download the latest versions of these helpful planning guides:

For Inidividuals:

Family Communication Plan for Parents and Kids-Ready Kids

Emergency Supply List

“Prepare for Emergencies Now: Information to Get Ready”

“Prepare For Emergencies Now: Information For Pet Owners”

“Prepare For Emergencies Now: Information For Older Americans”

“Prepare For Emergencies Now: Information For People With Disabilities.”

“Commuter Emergency Plan”

For Businesses:

“Prepare For Emergencies Now; Information for Businesses”

Ready Business Poster

Business Continuity Plan

Business Impact Analysis Worksheet

Continuity Resource Worksheet

Emergency Response Plan

Emergency Response Plan Resources

Insurance Discussion Coverage Form

Program Coordinator Committee Worksheet

Risk Assessment Table

Be sure to check back next week for next weeks National Preparedness Month theme.

 

 

 

Be Prepared for Hurricane Season

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bridge-hurricane-121029On the heels of Hurricane Harvey and the impending landfall of the powerful Category 5 Hurricane Irma, it appears we are in for a very active hurricane season.  Is your business prepared should a hurricane strike your location?  What about your family?  It’s important to plan now, before a hurricane is imminent.  As Irma is showing us, the path may be unpredictable and the warning time may not be as long we would like, to properly prepare.

I heard Harvey referred to as a once in a thousand year storm.  Some reports are saying Irma could be even more devastating, making that once in thousand look more like twice in three weeks.  Our weather patterns continue to change and unfortunately, are seeming to become more dangerous.

I have gathered several resources for your reference, to help you be as prepared as possible, should you find yourself in the path of hurricane this season.  While these resources are all focused on hurricane’s, they also lay out prudent steps to take, regardless the threat.  Hurricane’s, windstorms, blizzards, tornado’s…potential damaging weather events goes one.  Take time now to make your plan and be prepared.

  • The first resource comes from my friend and colleague Chuck Poole of PalmTech Computer Solutions in West Palm Beach, FL.  Chuck and his team are potentially right in Irma’s path.  Chuck has published a very informative checklist for his clients, which you may review here.
  • The Ready.gov website of the Department of Homeland Security has a great hurricane resource page at this link.  On the right hand side, you will also find links to all manner of additional threat resources you may need to consider being prepared for.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) together with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains a hurricane preparedness site here.  This site has several links that will take you to valuable information and resources.
  • The American Red Cross publishes an excellent Hurricane Safety Checklist that is primarily geared to families, but is useful for organizations as well.  You may download the checklist from the linked title.
  • Finally, FEMA also runs a program called America’s PrepareAthon! which is a community based campaign to raise awareness and help individuals and organizations be prepared.  This program has published a playbook titled Prepare Your Organization for a Hurricane, which you may download from the linked title.

It’s still too early to know for certain if Irma will hit the United States, though all indications are that it will.  The resources above are all excellent and I recommend you review them all and develop your plan, regardless of Irma’s final path.

As I’m sure you suspect, I have a personal plan in place that absolutely includes safeguarding my digital assets and critical equipment, as well as my family and home, to the extent it is possible to safeguard a home.  Onepath, the company I work for, also maintains robust plans for all manner of situations and assists our clients doing the same.  If your business needs help developing a robust plan, don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more about how Onepath can help you prepare, maintain and recover, should you be impacted.

As my mother always said, “Better to have a plan and not need it than need a plan and not have it.”