Don’t Get Fouled Out by March Sadness

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March Madness is here and the brackets were busted up pretty well by the early upsets. With the Sweet 16 set, March Madness is in full swing and so are the hackers who want to take advantage of it.

 

Be on the lookout for phishing email tryingMarch-Madness-sadness to get you to go to fake web sites that are copies of the legitimate ones.  These are sites that cover the brackets and stream the games.  The phishing is all designed to get you to expose your username and password so the hackers can use it to gain access to your network or other sites where you use the same credentials.

 

Be aware of how many of your users are going to March Madness web sites during this time of year.  It’s not uncommon to hear complaints about the network being slow being tied to numerous users streaming games at work.  This is exactly what the hackers are hoping to find, so be cautious.  Only use sites you can guarantee are real.  Be skeptical of apps that you are encouraged to install to follow the madness.  Be sure these are legitimate as well.  Otherwise March Madness will turn into March Sadness in the time it takes to dribble the ball and get fouled.

Miracle On Ice + 38

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Congratulations to Team USA Women’s Hockey for winning gold at the Olympics 38 years to the day from the incredible Miracle On Ice in Lake Placid, NY.

Those that know me, know I am a hockey fan.  Mostly collegiate DI and my University of New Hampshire Wildcats through thick and thin, but I do follow the Boston Bruins as well.  Olympic hockey has a great history and the Miracle On Ice showed it can also be much more than a game.  It can lift a nations spirits at a time when things seem all but lost.  It’s only fitting that the 2018 women’s gold medal win over Canada came on the 38th anniversary of the improbable men’s win over the then Soviet Union in what also turned in to a gold medal run.

Congratulations Ladies!  Well done Team USA!

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Olympic Technology is Going for Gold

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This post was originally published in today’s Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

The Olympics taking place in PyeongChang is a spectacle of technology that is giving us a glimpse into our future. With technological powerhouses like Samsung being one of South Korea’s most well known exports, it’s no wonder technology is taking center stage.

Intel Olympics Drone TechnologyThis awesome display of technology is not without its pitfalls. On the first day of this year’s Olympics, hackers took center stage, breaking into some Olympic technology and causing the office website of the 2018 Winter Games to be taken down overnight. As of now, there does not appear to have been any serious breach, but investigators are still at work and we may not know what has really happened during the Olympic Games until well after the Olympic torch has been extinguished in PyeongChang.

One of the massive challenges for technology at an event like the Olympics is security. It’s even more of a challenge due to the nature of the event. A temporary sporting event that brings the attention of the world on a small part of the host country for a short window of time. Talk about a target of opportunity.

Olympic Games are put on by local organizing committees under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee, the IOC. Technology contracts are awarded to multiple companies by the local organizing committee and are often decentralized, meaning each vendor chosen must secure their own networks. This brings multiple players to the table and multiple vulnerabilities. Intel, Samsung, Visa, Atos, Korea Telecom, Comcast, NBC and more all have extensive technology infrastructures in place at the Olympics. Even clothier Ralph Lauren has introduced technology to Team USA’s uniforms for this year’s Winter Olympics. The jackets Team USA will be wearing include active heating technology to keep the athlete’s warm.

Multiple organizations and government agencies have warned attendees to steer clear of public WiFi and be on alert for all manner of cyber scams. Some have gone so far as to recommend turning off WiFi and Bluetooth while at the Games, to avoid what are known as drive-by attacks, where a hacker may theoretically access your device to steal information and use it as part of a larger attack.

There will be plenty of technological marvels on display, from Intel’s amazing drone light shows to Samsung’s robots. A robot even carried the Olympic Torch for part of the relay leading up to the lighting of the Olympic Flame during the opening ceremonies one week ago. Technology will also be available to the athletes to help them tune their performance and maximize their experience. Suits with smart sensors will provide a level of athletic performance feedback not previously seen. It will be interesting to see if any competitors make changes based on this new information that will be available.

Another first for these Olympics is that all of the technology systems running and broadcasting the games will be Cloud based. You won’t find the temporary data centers that powered past games. This year, critical systems will all be physically away from the games in Cloud data centers. There are some fifty critical applications behind this year’s Olympic experience, all out in the Cloud.

Even with this reliance on the Cloud, there will still be well over three thousand IT workers on the ground in PyeongChang supporting the games. Whether things are based in the Cloud or not, you still need an on-site IT infrastructure to enable everything from accurately capturing race times to broadcasting the events live online and to television viewers worldwide.

For spectators who are in PyeongChang, Intel is providing virtual reality experiences from the athlete’s point of view. Imagine putting on a virtual reality headset and finding yourself hurtling down a slalom course at 70 to 80 mph. You can if you want to.

I mentioned Visa earlier as one of the technology companies on display at the Olympics. Yes, Visa is a financial services company, mostly known for issuing debit and credit cards. In PyeongChang, Visa is showcasing payment technologies of the future. There are contactless payment terminals throughout the venues. Visa provided special rings to the athletes that have embedded payment technology, allowing an athlete to simply wave their hand over a payment terminal to pay for something. Visa even has smart gloves in use so that when you are outside, you won’t have to take your gloves off to pay for something. Just place your hand near a payment terminal and make your payment.

The Olympics are always a great event, showcases known and unknown athletes and great stories of triumph and defeat. Technology is giving us a glimpse into the future as well this year, except the future is now.

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).

 

Yup, the Olympics are Being Hacked

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PyeongChang OlympicsThe good news is that no known damage has been done, but it didn’t take long for bad actors to attempt to disrupt the Olympic Games currently underway in PyeongChang.  In fact, a yet to be identified hacker disrupted some servers during the opening ceremony that ultimately led to the web site for this years games being taken down overnight that first day.

The Olympics are a particularly complicated even to safeguard.  Numerous IT related vendors are working together to manage a very robust IT infrastructure that is temporary.  Everything is done under the auspices of the local Olympic organizing committee, which is also a temporary entity.

Personally, a permanent home for the Olympic Games would go a long way to making cybersecurity less of a concern, but I’m not sure the politics of such a move are going to allow that in the foreseeable future, but this is another topic altogether.

For now, the Olympics seem to be safe, though several instances of vaious malware have been detected within the various networks in use.  The vendors and organizing committee are working dilligently to be sure that nothing more malicious is in play, but given the tensions between the Korea’s and general geopolitical tensions around the world, the Olympics being a target was more of a sure thing that any one athlete winning gold.

Super Friday at Onepath New England

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It’s the Friday before the Super Bowl, so of course it’s time for an office Super Bowl party!  We’ve closed our other New England offices and brought the entire New England team together in our North Andover hub for a fun day of collaboration.

Everyone wore their favorite Patriot’s gear and we decorated and had lots of fun game day foods.  Doreen worked her magic once again and several people brought in food items to share.

 

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The office door made it quite clear what would be found on the other side 🙂

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Lots of Patriots jerseys of past and present greats.

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All the screens looped Super Bowl LI highlights to set the mood.

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Balloons and decorations are everywhere.

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Ken brought in his Super Bowl Champion hats from the first five, hoping to add a sixth.

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The kitchen was appropriately decorated for the day.

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Doreen worked her magic under Trin’s watchful (or distracted) eye.

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Little doubt who we are rooting for!

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Doreen’s Stadium.

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Doreen’s Super Bowl Masterpiece!

The Blitz for Six will hopefully be complete this Sunday.  Go Pats!

 

 

Cloud Computing Won the Preakness!

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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 😉

Ski Technology at its Finest

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While I would love to be talking about the technology in my 2017 K2 Pinnacles, that’s not what this post is about.  However, it you are looking for an incredible all-mountain ski that performs above expectations on both east coast mountains and the Rockies, this is the ski for you…but I digress.

I spent a week skiing in Colorado with a good friend and my son.  The skiing was fantastic, as expected.  What I was pleasantly surprised with was the use of technology on the mountain to make the experience even more pleasant.

We mostly skied at Vail Resort mountains.  Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone.  We also skied a day at one of my all-time favorites, Steamboat.  The ticketing systems at both mountains leverage RFID technology to make the experience simple and efficient.

Here is a picture of the RFID card issued at each mountain.

EpicDayCard_LIThe EpicDay card is Vail Resorts card.  You can go online and purchase single or multiple day lift tickets and just pick up this card on your first visit to any of the mountains.  Once you have the card, it just needs to be on your person, somewhere on its own, so the mountain RFID readers can scan and validate your card as you ski.

When at the base lifts on the mountain, lift staff carries a Symbol/Zebra RFID reader and will wave the device in front of you to pick up and validate your ticket.  Once you are up the mountain, there is no longer a need to read the ticket, as you wouldn’t be able to get there without riding a base lift first.  However, every lift still has RFID readers and they are used for a couple of purposes.  Namely, they keep track of the lifts you ride and they are used to calculate the wait time in the lift line.  Vail Resorts has a mobile app called EpicMix which will track all of this for you.  There are even photographers on the mountain and they too will use RFID to track your photo opps.  If you hold a season ticket, these photos will automatically post to your Facebook account if you allow that.

At Steamboat, their technology is called QuickTrax and SteamboatCard.jpgworks similarly.  You register the card and it’s good for 3 years.  You don’t have to visit a ticket window again during this time.  You may simply go online, purchase your ticket or tickets and load them to your card so you can walk right to the lift and get to the slopes.

One thing to keep in mind with RFID technology is that you don’t want to have interference issues.  If you have both of these two cards in the same pocket, only one will read and you might have issues getting on the lift if the card that reads is not the mountain you are at.  Credit cards and cell phones may also interfere, so just be sure to have the card in an outside pocket on its own and you should be fine.

 

Vacation Notice

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Beginning Friday evening, February 24th through Monday morning, March 6th, I will be on vacation.  I do not anticipate posting during this time.  Thanks for your follows and readership.  Looking forward to getting back to blogging in early March.

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Top Technology Trends for 2017

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This article appeared in Seacoast Sunday and Fosters Daily Democrat on Sunday, February 5, 2017.

The Computing Technology Industry Association released its annual technology industry trends report for the current year. The industry remains bullish about opportunities this year, though concerns remain, especially in the area of workforce.2017-trends

The IT industry remains one of the tightest job markets worldwide. If you have tried to hire an IT professional in the past few years, you’ve surely experienced this yourself.

In terms of workforce trends in 2017, the skills gap continues to grow. There are more open requisitions for technical staff than ever in the history of the industry. Companies in and outside the IT industry are getting very creative in their hiring and their approaches to meeting their skills needs. CompTIA, as the industry trade association, continues to focus resources on driving the opportunities of careers in the IT industry, especially at the high school level, where it is critical to capture students’ enthusiasm for technology as a career choice. This is by no means a quick fix, so most companies continue to balance their internal staffs with either staff augmentation, bringing in contract labor or outsourcing to firms that specialize in working as outsourced technology companies.

While the market shows no sign of easing this tight labor market, there are other impacts that come to bear as well. As companies continue to bring younger generations into the workforce, pressure to allow those users to bring in their own computing and mobile technology requires new thinking, especially with regard to protecting intellectual property and cyber security. The use of personal technology in the business environment requires considerable planning to ensure that company data remains under the control of the company.

When talking about cyber security, it’s also important to note the difference between cyber security and IT security. IT security is primarily defensive and physical in nature. This is where most conversation focuses on firewalls, routing and port restrictions, anti-spam, anti-malware and similar technologies. This puts up the necessary roadblocks, but it is not cyber security in its entirety. Cyber security is more about educating your workforce to be aware of threats like phishing attacks, rogue web sites and other social engineering types of threats that seek to trick a user to exposing company data and network resources.

The most effective cyber security revolves around ongoing education and testing, to understand the level of risk and identify weak points that need attention. It’s a comprehensive approach. Workforce issues will continue to dominate the technology landscape for the foreseeable future.

In terms of specific technology trends, several seem poised to dominate 2017. Among those identified by CompTIA are the Internet of Things (IoT), the continued break down of traditional barriers between business units and IT, the emergence of a new class of tools to manage computing resources in the Cloud and of course, security, security, security.

In terms of IoT, more and more devices connect to the network and the Internet. As these non-traditional computing devices come online, the need to understand their impact to the network becomes increasingly more important. The need to manage these devices has become critical, as some recent events have clearly shown. IoT devices have become an attack target for enterprising hackers as was evidenced by the widely publicized Denial of Service attack on Manchester, New Hampshire’s Dyn.

As technology has become completely indispensable in the workplace and as the Cloud has brought more capability down to the individual worker, business units are driving technology decisions that have historically been the domain of the IT professionals. This is a good thing, as it helps to ensure that technology investments are meeting the needs of the business. IT’s role is evolving into more of a quarterback role, in making sure that their entire corporate team works in a planned and integrated system that allows them to meet and exceed their goals. Yes, that was a Super Bowl reference. Impossible to avoid in a column on Super Bowl Sunday.

As more and more workloads are moved to the Cloud, the one missing link has been the toolset to manage these dispersed systems in a single pain of glass. It’s not efficient, nor is it reasonable to expect that Cloud systems can be effectively managed as individual services. Tools to manage them in one centralized management system are more important now than ever.

Security will remain a serious consideration. CompTIA’s research contends things are likely to get worse before they get better. Unfortunately, I agree. While some companies take security seriously, too many do not and work off the assumption that they are too small or not an attractive enough target. This is naïve. Most experts agree it’s not about whether or not you are a target. The conventional wisdom remains that it’s a question of when, not if.

2017 will be another exciting year for technology and I’m looking forward to continue to report on it and here and on my blog. Not to go unsaid, “Go Pats!”

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