Great Fun with a Great Business Partner

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Thank you to our partner, Intermedia and our partner manager, Nancy McDevitt for a great time last evening.  We took several of the Onepath northeast team out on Portsmouth Harbor Cruises the Heritage for a sunset harbor cruise.

The weather could not have been more perfect.  We sailed the back channels of Portsmouth Harbor to New Castle Harbor and out into the Atlantic.  We circled back and came back to port through the mouth of Portsmouth Harbor and back to the dock.

It was a nice celebration of a great business partnership.  It’s really nice when relationships work like this.  We’ve got each others backs and have a genuine interest in working together, as one team, delivering best of class solutions to our mutual clients.

Here are some pictures from the cruise to enjoy (hover on each picture for a description or click on the first one and scroll though the images to read the complete description)…

 

Look Out Slack, Here Comes Teams

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The following was published in the Sunday, July 15 editions of Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

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Several months ago, I wrote about new workplace communication tools, namely Slack. Slack is the market leader in this space, but Microsoft, true to form, is coming on strong with its tool called Teams. At the time I wrote the original article, Slack really owned the market. Fast forward five short months and the scale is swinging toward Teams.

So what is Slack and Teams? These are commonly referred to as workplace collaboration tools. Slack, from their website, says it is “Where work happens. When your team needs to kick off a project, hire a new employee, deploy some code, review a sales contract, finalize next year’s budget, measure an A/B test, plan your next office opening, and more, Slack has you covered.”

The Teams website is “The hub for teamwork in Office 365. Communicate through chat, meetings and calls. Collaborate together with integrated Office 365 apps. Customize your workplace and achieve more. Connect across devices.”

These tools are hubs of information and collaboration. They are places where people communicate in groups or teams, share information, use collaborative applications to drive productivity, host meetings, make voice and video calls and store information. This can be done in small groups of people, between departments, publicly, privately and most importantly securely.

Slack was first to market and Microsoft has followed with Teams. While the tools themselves are becoming more similar than different, Slack had a clear edge with its broad integration with a wealth of other apps that many businesses use. This integration allowed users to collaborate in one place, across multiple apps, projects and discussions. Initially, Teams lacked these same integrations, but that has changed. Teams now has as broad a set of integrations as Slack and because Microsoft includes Teams in all of its business Office 365 subscriptions, it has millions of users, almost overnight.

If you are a Microsoft Office 365 subscriber, you have Teams. If you are not using it yet, you likely will be soon. Skype for Business, Microsoft’s popular business chat, voice and video service is also bundled with Office 365 and had a very large subscriber base from before Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype several years ago. Skype for Business is being merged into Teams so if you are a Skype for Business user, you will eventually become a Teams user. Microsoft is not yet forcing this transition, rather allowing you to continue to use Skype for Business while you explore and plan your eventual transition to Teams.

One of the main benefits users tout for these platforms is the reduction in email volume. Instead of lengthy email exchanges, with people being added and removed from replies and topic being equally added and removed, these platforms organize these conversations into distinct threads. By moving conversations into these collaboration platforms, you remove the immediacy of interruption that is often associated with email. You are able to more finely control your alerting preferences and when and how you want to consume the information. You can share and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and more, while maintaining more control over the original file and keeping the spread of the file living in numerous places.

With support for voice and video calling, these hubs become a single tool for all manner of communication within the business. Extensive search capabilities make finding current or past information far simpler than searching through email and server folders. Rich auditing and tracking as well as discrete permissions management also means you can control the flow of information and restrict access, to keep information secure.

If you have not yet looked into these collaboration tools, you should. Check out Slack at www.slack.com and Teams at www.microsoft.com/teams. You’ll be glad you did.

Roundup of Informative News

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Here’s another roundup of some really informative articles that have been published on the Onepath web site.  I hope you will check them out as there is some truly great content here from some real industry luminaries.  Let me know what you think of these pieces.  We love feedback and knowing what we’ve done well and what you are interested in learning more about.  Enjoy!

The Business Side of Cybersecurity – Keynote Presentation to Georgia Construction Conference
Given by Greg Chevalier

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With all the big companies in the news for data breaches or other cyber security “incidents,” does the average mid-size business really need to worry about cybersecurity?  In his keynote presentation to the 2018 Georgia Construction Conference at the Cobb Energy Centre in Atlanta last week, Greg Chevalier helped a group of finance and operations executives understand the answer is a definitive “yes,” and not just to protect yourself directly, but also indirectly through your trading partners.

Network traffic has grown rapidly; your cybersecurity needs to evolve with it.  Network traffic has grown exponentially over the last 20 years, driven not just by the adoption of smartphones and laptops for personal use, but by the explosive growth of machines on the network.  Not just servers, but firewalls, edge routers, webcams, wireless access points, vending machines and thermostats.  Each of these devices presents something that needs to be either protected or potentially defended.  In the ‘90s, intrusion prevention systems were largely sufficient to deal with the individuals who may be bad actors trying to attack a manageable number of machines using fairly common security frameworks.  But with the rise of so many different machines on the network, the number of security frameworks has grown just as fast.  This means your cybersecurity has to now solve for an exponentially greater number of potential issues than 10 years, or even 5 years ago.  As a business executive, you have to consider when was the last time you made a meaningful update to your IT security infrastructure?  In response, various industry groups and regulatory bodies have developed security regulations such as PCI (payment cards), HIPAA (healthcare), GLBA (banking), FINRA (financial services) as well as industry standards such as ISO 27001/2, SOC Type I/II,III, and NIST CSF to help companies keep their data and their networks secure. [Continue reading…]


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10 Ways to Improve Your Conference Room Meeting Experience
By Michael Lane

The first 10 minutes of a 30 minute meeting all-too-often look like this:

“How do we connect my laptop to the TV?”

“Can someone get Sarah? She knows how to turn on the projector.”

“I think I have the wrong meeting link; here let me find that in my email.”

“While I’m looking, can someone go ahead and dial us in on the speakerphone?”

“There we go. Can everybody hear me? No? Here, I’ll slide over closer to the microphone.”

By the end of the meeting, you may not even realize you’ve run out of time until someone pops their head through the doorway because they’ve booked the room for the next block of time, and now you’re delaying the start of their meeting.

$37 billion dollars is lost annually to poor meetings, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Audiovisual (AV) has changed from a speciality area to a business-critical application. Businesses need to interact with remote workers, remote clients, and remote vendors, so presentation and collaboration technology is increasingly part of how we communicate. AV equipment is therefore becoming as central to running your business as other communications like phone or email. The shift to AV being business-critical in nature has in turn created a demand for reliable, sustainable, and repeatable AV solutions. [Continue reading…]


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Q&A: What Can We Learn from the Atlanta Cyberattack?
By Patrick Kinsella

In light of the recent and ongoing ransomware cyberattack affecting the City of Atlanta’s IT systems, we sat down with Onepath’s Senior VP of Engineering and Technology Patrick Kinsella, to get his perspective on the events of the last week. The ransomware attack began on Thursday, March 22, and affects almost half of the city’s systems, from Municipal Courts to Watershed Management. On Tuesday, March 27, city employees were advised to turn their machines back on. By Friday, a few systems were slowly starting to come back online, but a couple were still not back up.

Q: What is ransomware?

A: It’s the information technology version of someone breaking into your home, locking you out of it, and demanding a ransom to regain entry; all the while you hope your belongings are intact when you’re able to return. In the IT world, the items behind held captive could be personal health information (PHI), or other personally identifiable information (PII), which may actually belong to your business’s customers or stakeholders.

Q: When a ransomware cyberattack happens, what are the first things a business, or in this case a city, usually does to respond?

A: The first thing is, do everything you can to stop the bleeding. You determine what you need to shutdown, and what backups need to be stopped from running to avoid poisoning the last good copy, assuming you’ve been diligent in running backups. In a different incident, for example, Hancock Health shut everything off after being hit with ransomware—computers, backup scripts—within 90 minutes. For the City of Atlanta, they seem to have followed that procedure as well. [Continue reading…]


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Onepath Launches Cybersecurity Self-Assessment Tool
Created by our Web Dev Team

Onepath has created a cybersecurity self-assessment tool to help businesses establish a baseline of their current security level and posture. The questions are around the basics – the blocking and tackling needed to establish an information security foundation. It may be just a start, but it could be that critical first step you take to get your business on a path toward cyber protection. [Take the assessment…]

What’s With All The Privacy Updates?

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Is your Inbox overflowing with messages about updated privacy policies?  From the manufacturer of your computer to the publishers of all the software, apps and websites you use, you are probably receiving an undrecedented amount of privacy updates.

While you probably reflexively delete most of these messages, you may want to play closer attention to them.  Some are informing you that unless you take specific action, you will no longer receive the email messages that you have subscribed to.

So why is this happening now?  GDPR, that’s why.  The General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union goes in to effect in three short days on Friday, May 25, 2018.  This new legislation mandates more transparency when it comes to data privacy and requires that individuals be made aware of what personal data a given company has about them.

Because of this sweeping new legislation, companies are scrambling to let people know that they need to authorize them to retain the private data they hold about you.  They also need you to reconfirm that you give them permission to email you.

Now you know.  These messages are to ensure compliance with the new law.  Even tough this is a law of the EU, it applies to companies outside the EU, so give these messages a quick review before you delete them, just to be sure you want the company who sent it to you, to have personal information about you in their databases.

Here are a couple of examples I’ve received in the last 24 hours, along with links to other blog posts about GDPR:

GDPR and What it Means for U.S. Companies

GDPR Isn’t Just for Europe. What US Companies Need To Know.

It Happens One Month From Today

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!