Irish Environmental Technology

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They say everything is bigger in the United States. Cars, food portions, the list goes on. In many ways, these are true statements.

One thing that has really stood out to me over the last week here in Ireland, is how much bigger and better environmental technology seems to be.  Especially compared to the US. As good as we are, at so many things, we also seem to lag behind many other countries in areas I would expect us to be better.

Here are some examples of prevalent environmental tech across the Emerald Isle.

Automobiles – By and large, they are smaller than in the US. Given how narrow some of the roads are, this is not a bad thing at all. However, more so than their size, it’s their environmental features that stand out. Most vehicles are diesel and diesel is generally less expensive. You find it at every petrol station. What I find most impressive is that the Diesel engine shuts down whenever you stop, saving fuel and emissions. As soon as you take your foot off the brake, the engine starts. It makes a ton of sense.

Hot Water – Hot water systems in many houses and apartments are optimized for utilization. For example, at the apartment we are presently staying in, the hot water system heats overnight so it’s ready for hot showers in the morning. It’s calibrated to deliver two hot showers a day. If there are more than two showers needed, you simply press a “boost” button to deliver enough hot water for one or more additional showers. It’s far more efficient than keeping a water tank continually heated 24×7.

Wind Farms – Many of the power plants I have seen also have wind farms on their grounds. Makes it hard to make the argument that the wind turbines are unsightly when they are standing alongside the large buildings and stacks of a traditional power station. I have also seen a number of free standing wind farms and they don’t look at all out of place or imposing.

Switchable Outlets – Every wall outlet I have seen has a switch adjacent to it.  When you plug something in to an outlet, you have to also switch the outlet on for it to deliver power to what’s plugged in. This helps conserve power by stopping the trickle effect where most devices draw even a small amount of power when plugged in, even if the device itself is off.

Solar – Many buildings have small solar panels on them to help reduce their reliance on the traditional electric grid. This is an area we are doing considerably better with in the US as well.

Food and Agriculture – Ireland has a rich farming history and that history has laid a strong foundation for continued local sourcing for the food supply. What I noticed, almost immediately, is that chicken is quite different from at home. My son loves wings and orders them whenever he can. The wings in Ireland are like they were when I was young, not the enlarged ones we see in the US now. That’s because these are truly free range chickens and there is considerably less fat and less waste because the portions make sense.

Air Quality – Other countries are generally considered to be far more accepting of smoking than the US, but I would contend that is not the case in Ireland. Smoking is clearly prohibited in nearly every building, private and public. Coupled with other initiatives around emissions and other air quality concerns, Ireland is a leader, not a follower.

Water Conservation – Most of the toilets in Ireland have two flush settings.  One that uses less water, for when there is only liquid waste to flush and second setting to use more water, when flushing solid waste.  I have seen this in the US, but very sparingly.  It’s fairly widespread in Ireland and keeps water conservation front and center and for everyone.

Advancing environmental technology is a national priority in Ireland. All aspects of technology seem to be front and center in terms of educational opportunity as well. I have seen numerous advertisements that encourage students to pursue technology education.  Ireland seems to be doing a much better job training their workforce in technologies for today and the future. As an example, I came across this government statement that seems to capture he national call to action: “The Government’s Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) has set out a vision to make Ireland internationally renowned for the excellence of its research and to be a leader in using new knowledge for economic and social progress.”

I’d say that’s not just an impressive vision, it’s a reality taking shape in a small country on an Emerald Isle that has called upon the entire world to embrace green technologies for a better future. Well done Éire!

What a Great Open House

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Today we had the pleasure of welcoming customers, prospects, friends and special guests to our Open House at our new state-of-the-art headquarters office in North Andover at the West Mill on High Street. What a fantastic evening. Everyone was wow’d by the new office. Our NOC wall in our Network Operations Center was a big hit. Had not to be with sixteen seventy inch monitors. Here are some photo’s from the event. Thanks to everyone who stopped in over the course of 3+hours into the evening. 

Yes, we put the Red Sox game on at 7 PM.


The NOC Wall, minus any customer information.


We were packed with guests for well over three hours.


The kitchen was a popular spot, as always.

New Day, New Office, Bright Future

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Today, we opened for business at our new state-of-the-art Network Operations Center in North Andover, MA.  Internet & Telephone‘s Merrimack Valley Network Operations Center (MVNOC) v3.0 is up and running!

It was a great team effort to get this move completed ahead of schedule.  We are now located in the renovated West Mill complex, the former home of the world headquarters for Converse, before they moved to downtown Boston.  That’s why we have the cool Converse sign in our new kitchen.

The office is open concept with all glass interior walls.  Our conference rooms are separated by an overhead glass door that can be lowered to split into two rooms, one large, one small, right next to our server room, which is next to our main entryway.  Downstairs we have an extensive secure lab and storage area with access to multiple loading docks.

Here are some pictures of the new office in action, including the proud project lead for our move, our own co-founder and VP of Sales, Pete Peterson.  Pete is clearly and justifiably proud of his great work conceiving, designing and overseeing the construction of our new headquarters.  Awesome Job Pete!…

There is a bright future ahead for our team and our clients…

Pete

A Proud Pete Peterson Welcomes You to our New Office!

Sales

Sales & Marketing Area

Engineering

Engineering Area

Server Room

Server & Conference Rooms

Bobble Heads

Bobble Head Showcase

NOC

Network Operations Center

FinOps

Finance & Operations Area

 

Kitchen

Chef Doreen is a Happy Lady!

 

Kitchen2

Kitchen Eating Area

Better Email Subjects Improve Efficiency

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If you are like most people, you get tens, if not hundreds of email messages a day.  How do you keep them organized or easily know what to do with them?

One of the strategies we employ at Internet & Telephone, LLC is to use better subject good-bad-subject-line-exampleslines, so recipients immediately know what is required of them in relation to the message they just received.  We are also very deliberate about who to put in the “To” field and who to put in the “Cc” field.

Here are some examples to help you craft your own improved email strategy:

  • When sending an email message, only put the people that need to act on the message in the “To” field.  Put everyone else in the “Cc” field.  Recipients in the “Cc” field should not be expected to reply and are include only for informational purposes.
  • Use more meaningful subjects.  Here are some examples:
    • FYI; Lead the subject line with “FYI” if your message is purely information and you do not expect a response.  For example, “FYI: Revised time for upcoming event.”
    • Response Required; Lead the subject line with “Response Required” when you need a response from recipients in the “To” field.  For example, “Response Required: Sign-Up Times for New Benefit Plan.”
    • Decision Needed; Lead the subject with the line “Decision Needed” when you need a decision from recipients in the “To” field.  For example, “Decision Needed: New Paint Color for Conference Room.”
    • Use Client Names when messages relate to a client.  For example, “Ajax Cleaning: Update on office cleaning contract.”

When appropriate, you might also have more that one of these in the same subject line, for example when you need a decision related to a client.  In that case, you would have “Decision Needed; Ajax Cleaning,” etc.  Hopefully you get the idea.

Simple tricks like this will help you be more efficient with your email and perhaps most importantly, with the messages you send to others.

What does your company do for strategies like this?  Post your comments below and share your email best practices and learn from others.

 

 

Target Reaches Data Breach Settlement

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I’m sure you are aware that Target’s 2013 data breach is among one of the most publicized data breaches in history.  The breach exposed the account information of millions of Target customers.

This breach received a lot of press coverage as it was considered to be the largest breach of its kind, at the time.  It was also unique, in that the hackers compromised a third-party vendor network to execute the breach.  That third-party is widely reported to have been an HVAC contractor for Target.

A small business, the HVAC company lacked sophisticated defenses to not just preventTarget+Settlement a hack, but to be aware that a hack was taking place.  The hackers gained control of the HVAC company’s computers that connected in to the Target network.  The hackers were able to then infiltrate the Target network and install malware that captures customer credit card account information, names, addresses and more.

Target has been the subject of investigations by 47 states and the District of Columbia, resulting from this hack.  In settling these investigations, Target has agreed to pay the states $18.5 million in fines and implement more layers of data security and implement an information security plan, under the guidance of a new executive to be hired to oversee it.

Part of this new information security plan involves implementing encryption for sensitive data, ensuring that credit card and other sensitive customer account information is housed on a separate network dedicated to this purpose and keep its software up to date to protect against known vulnerabilities.

Some of these steps seem very basic, yet one of the nations largest retailers, with ample resources to protect itself, was compromised.  It’s a reminder, if not a wake up call, to businesses of all sizes that they need an information security plan.  Does your business have one?  If not, you should take steps to formulate and implement one as soon as possible.

Cost associated with data breaches continue to rise and this settlement is just the latest example.  Most businesses do not have the financial resources to survive a damaging data breach.  Take the steps to protect your business by creating an information security plan and reviewing it no less than annually.  Be sure that you are carrying an appropriate cyber insurance policy to protect your business and invest in educating your employees on keeping your business safe.

DocuSign Hacked, Exercise Caution

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DocuSignLast week DocuSign, one of the market leaders in online eSignatures and contract execution and management, announced that it had discovered a data breach.  The result?  A targeted phishing campaign using social engineering gathered from the breached data to trick people into executing a document that is not a real DocuSign document.

If you are not familiar with DocuSign, here is an excerpt from their About Us page on their website.  “DocuSign® is changing how business gets done by empowering more than 300,000 companies and 200 million users in 188 countries to sign, send and manage documents anytime, anywhere, on any device, with confidence.”

The phishing attack, which DocuSign acknowledges, targets those who have used DocuSign to sign and execute contracts in the past.  It is doing this using data obtained from the breach.  Through social engineering techniques, users are tricked into activating macro code in an attached Word document that loads malware onto the victims computers.

An important thing to note is that DocuSign never sends attachments and asks the recipient to open the attached file.  That should be an immediate red flag.  If you have used the system, you know that the document you are being asked to sign in the DocuSign system is presented within your web browser over a secure SSL session.  You “sign” the document online and are then presented the option to download a PDF copy of your signed document.  This should be an easy phish to spot, yet people are falling victim to it.

Here is a recommendation that has been put out in collaboration with KnowBe4, our partner in helping to educate our clients about risks like this:

“Hackers have stolen the customer email database of DocuSign, the company that allows companies to electronically sign documents. These criminals are now sending phishing emails that look exactly like the real DocuSign ones, but they try to trick you into opening an attached Word file and click to enable editing.

But if you do that, malware may be installed on your workstation. So if you get emails that look like they come from DocuSign and have an attachment, be very careful. If there is any doubt, pick up the phone and verify before you electronically sign any DocuSign email. Remember: Think Before You Click.”

Simple, but important advice to always verify the source, especially when you are not expecting something that you have received.

DocuSign maintains a good site regarding their security posture at https://trust.docusign.com.  I recommend you keep watch on this site if you are a regular DocuSign user.

 

 

 

Cloud Computing Won the Preakness!

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preakness-stakes-cloud-computing

That’s right, a horse named Cloud Computing won the prestigious Preakness Stakes, the second of the coveted Triple Crown.  Why is this of interest to a technology blogger?  Because it certainly says that Cloud Computing has arrived in the popular vernacular.

My daughters rode horses for over a dozen years, competing in both the English and Western styles, not racing fortunately.  Too dangerous for a father.  It was hard enough watching them compete and occasionally fall.  My girls enjoyed great success in their riding careers, reaching national finals at the collegiate and public school levels.  Each finished in 7th place on the same day at respective national finals.  Over their careers they rode horses named Bond, Dancer, Itchy, Johnny and more, but never one named for a technology.

So, if a horse winning a race as prestigious and well known as the Preakness Stakes is named Cloud Computing, what’s your winning strategy for harnessing the Cloud in your business?  Yes, the pun was intentional.

The Cloud has received a lot of hype over the years, as I have often written about.  Hype aside, every business I work with uses the Cloud, even if they don’t know it.  What’s important is how you use the Cloud and is it optimized to help you reach your business goals.  There are three primary types of Cloud Computing, in addition to the horse type, Private Cloud, Public Cloud and Hybrid Cloud.  Here is a quick, basic summary of what each means:

  • Private Cloud is when you host your own servers in a data center and make them available to users across the Internet or a private connection like a VPN tunnel or a dark connection (one that exists only between your office sites and the data center).
  • Public Cloud is when you leverage a company like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google or one of several other companies that specialize in hosting virtual servers in their data center for you.
  • Hybrid Cloud is a mixture of both private and public and may also integrate servers on-premise in your office.  Often this involves a robust business continuity plan that leverages the geographic diversity of these options to provide high availability, regardless of issues that may be impacting any one of these options.

Cloud Computing is one of the hottest buzzwords in the IT industry and most businesses, across all industries.  Companies are still trying to determine how to best use the Cloud to help them be more competitive and profitable.  Whether this involved moving entire systems to the Cloud or just certain types of services, the goal is to provide a better internal user and customer experience, to help the business achieve its goals.

One of the ongoing risks with Cloud Computing is cost.  There remains a large misperception that Cloud often means lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).  This is not always the case.  In my experience, only the smallest of customers are able to move their entire IT infrastructure to the Cloud and also realize cost savings.  Most businesses may see increased costs when introducing robust Cloud solutions.  This is because Cloud moves expenses from the Balance Sheet to the Profit & Loss, so most businesses see an increase in monthly expense.  This is where the finance team needs to be involved, as this may not necessarily be a bad thing, even though it may first appear to be.

Like any technology, don’t jump to the latest and greatest without a well thought out evaluation of the benefits you expect to realize.  You also want to be sure to employ proper management solutions for your Cloud systems, just as you would if it were on-premise.  Of specific concern with Cloud solutions, especially those in the public Cloud, is managing cost.  Public Cloud price models are one of the most complex in the market today.  You will hear terms like compute cycle, IOPS and more.  These all add to your costs and need to be proactively managed so you don’t get an unpleasant surprise with your next monthly billing statement.

I know of one company that learned they were spending $400,000.00 more annually, than they needed to be.  Don’t let that be you!  There are tools that will help you understand, manage and optimize your configurations and utilization so you are not spending more than you need to be.

Cloud Computing is a winner and businesses are leveraging the Cloud for impressive wins.  Are you?

And just for the record, even Fortune Magazine picked up on this story idea 😉