Client Area

This section can be repurposed a number of ways.

Author: Mathew Mendel

Terrifying technology

As well-seasoned technology professionals with over 60 years of combined technical experience, there’s not much our staff hasn’t seen and even less that’ll terrify us 🧛‍♂️ 🦇  

With full, unfettered access to an organization’s computer infrastructure, data, and back-end systems, we’re like the health inspector in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant careful to document what we see without causing panic in the dining room.
And, like a doctor beholden to the strictest patient confidentiality rules, we’re always careful to never divulge what we observe. Until now…
In the spirit of Halloween, we’ve compiled a few of the most terrifying encounters with systems that will make the wire on your non-wireless keyboard stand up in terror! 

☠️ Proceed with caution!  You’ve been warned!! ☠️

1) Door-to-door terror
An “unafraid” outside salesmen in 2014, I was always up for canvasing an office park–knocking on a few doors and seeing who might need help with their IT. While I was witness to many sketchy setups, the image that will forever stick in my head is the office manager convincing himself that their setup was “fine” as he literally struggled to talk over the intense buzz of assorted IT equipment stacked haphazardly in a closet of their 700 sq. ft. office located on the second floor of an old office building in Paramus, NJ. 
The machines were “being kept cool” by a dust covered box-fan that hung precariously by a worn-out rope, tied-off to a small hook – halfway leaning out of a wall and obviously straining under the weight of the swaying fan. What kept that setup together, and their entire system from melting under the heat of that stuffy office I have no clue. 
I was never able to close them on a new technology system. I truly believe my job isn’t to convince someone to change, only to help those that understand they need to. I wonder whatever happened to that company…  
2) A Data Disaster
For an architect starting a business in 2008, technology mostly meant external hard-drives and an iMac Pro.  
If you were fortunate enough to grow, IT solutions should grow at your pace but you could of course duck those upgrades and get away with expensive machines and cheap storage – the problem with that is that all machines (even the expensive one’s) stop working. And all data (even the cheep kind) needs to be backed up. When that lesson takes ten or 12 years to learn, the experience is terrifying
As the account manager, I was brought in post-sale to deal with a disaster of old machines and a hodgepodge of data sticks and external hard drives. The client, now a team of five full-timers, two interns and a part-time bookkeeper needed to get organized, and the project took years off my life! Sorting, sifting, looking, lifting – it was pure torture, but we got it done. 
What I learned: watching a creative run a business can be horrifying, especially when the business is successful – despite the owners (what seems) like best attempts to keep them a decade behind in technology.
3) The Mystery of the Ethernet 
“The computer in the back doesn’t have internet,” said the receptionist as I entered the office. Seemed simple enough; check the cables, unplug it, plug it back in – the usual steps for resolution stirred in my head. I found the sad and dirty little computer in a neglected corner of the service center.
Ethernet cord? Plugged in both on the computer and into an unlabeled jack haphazardly laying near the wall. The cable itself tested fine, but the jack was not providing internet. Ok, I try a different port, then another, and then yet another. I find a different set of possible ports and none could provide internet.
Where did these ethernet ports go? I tried using a tool to get an idea, but it wasn’t telling me anything. I ran my fingers along various filthy and tangled cables in a futile attempt to see where they might be going. Into the ceiling? Into the wall? It wasn’t at all clear. 
I made a few calls and was directed to an unassuming closet. I opened the door to pure IT horror: power strips plugged into other power strips, a rats nest of wires (and evidence of actual rats), random pieces of equipment plugged into one another with no real explanation of why, mystery stains, warped shelves, trash – and most importantly – no clear answer to how anything was getting internet in that entire office. 
It took an extra IT technician, an afternoon of finding/tracing/labeling, and lots of hand sanitizer to get to the bottom of it. Like an actual nightmare, it was hard to tell what was really happening and exactly what caused the issue to finally resolve itself, but without warning lights flashed green and, just like that, the “old computer in the back” had internet! 

 

It’s 2022, if your technology is your brand, what does your IT strategy and infrastructure say about you? 

 

You may not be as bad off as some of these folks, but is your setup fast? Is it secure? Is it easy for everyone to access? Is it highly available? Is it redundant? Why not? 

 

Drop your name and email below to learn more, or tag my calendar to setup a
conversation

 

Cloud Prisoner

Don’t become a prisoner of your computing infrastructure or private cloud. Understand who has custody of your data. 

The cloud simplifies remote access, business continuity, and disaster recovery. But what happens when you change IT service vendors? 

‍From basic services like email and Office365 to Infrastructure as a Service and complete virtual desktop, an organization can gain flexibility, redundancy, business continuity, security, and even competitive advantage by working in a Cloud environment. 

 

As reported on by HelpNet Security in late 2020, high-availability access, on-demand computing power, limitless storage, and enterprise grade security lifted the rate of Cloud adoption among small/mid-size businesses even before the pandemic, and hit ludicrous speed once the remote workforce took to their homes. 


Since most organizations will use a technology integrator or managed service provider for the migration, what happens when that vendor is no longer providing services? Even without a “long-term contract”, because of how some Cloud environments are designed, a business can get stuck in a scenario that makes it hard to change IT vendors. So, how can your business stay protected? Here’s what you need to know: 

1) When MSPs first began considering Cloud for their clients (almost a decade ago) public Cloud wasn’t what it is today, and most built their own.

2) Leveraging private data centers, these technology firms invested in massive infrastructure, and built highly proprietary “walled gardens
 
3) Offering clients a scalable environment with business continuity and integrated disaster recovery, a solution was born
 
4) Over the years, IT firms spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital expenses and upgrades to ensure performance, availability, and security. Changing their Cloud offering isn’t typically an option
 
5) Clients in these environments have only one choice when it comes to who can provide services/support. Migrating to a new platform is costly and time intensive

Technology firms that made the leap to offer public infrastructure do see thinner margins, but they also have access to the most cutting-edge technology, integrated cybersecurity tools, and tremendous flexibility for clients that understand data custody and have concerns about uprooting an entire virtual ecosystem if the need for a new technology partner arises.

So What Can You Do?

 

Understanding who has custody of your data (where data resides), how it’s accessed, and what’s involved when it comes time to sever a relationship is critical, and it’s up to you, the client, to figure it out. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Where exactly is your data stored? 
  • What virtualization tools/systems are used for access?
  • Is there anything proprietary about the infrastructure?
  • Is there anything proprietary about the access tools? 
  • What happens if the vendor is no longer providing service?
  • Is it a total “lift and shift” of your data, email and apps?
  • Is it simply changing the owner of record?
  • What’s involved in a typical migration?
  • If possible, speak with references and even former clients to discuss their migration experience

At the end of the day, no one of us want to think about ending a relationship before things even get started. But since change is one of the few constants, being prepared is critical and it’s always better to address these issues now when the relationship is healthy.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on Cloud adoption, or a story relating to Cloud on-boarding/off-boarding. Drop your info below, set a time on our calendar or shoot us an email.

Backup Testing

These days almost every business has a data back-up process.  But who’s testing the restore?

 

Last year, John Edwards, from Tech Target wrote that “creating and adopting a data backup plan is only the first step. To achieve complete data protection, you also need a backup testing strategy.” 

 

We agree and have republished his 10 Step Guide for Testing Backups below. 

1. Understand why backup testing is important and necessary

If files can’t be successfully restored from backup after a system failure or some other type of disaster, there’s a very strong risk that your organization will someday face business and financial catastrophe, including the possibility of fines and lawsuits.

 

Testing backups ensures that essential data is being fully and accurately preserved. If a test fails, the problem can be fixed before the data is lost forever. Testing backups also validates the effectiveness of the organization’s backup policies and schedules.

 

2. Create a documented backup testing plan

A documented testing plan ensures that employees have the guidance and rules necessary to successfully perform data recovery, providing confidence that essential files will be rapidly available and fully intact when needed in the event of a primary storage system failure.

 

The plan should designate the parties in charge of backup testing and how often tests should be conducted.

 

3. Make testing backups a routine task

To assure backup validity and integrity, it’s essential to carry out regular data restoration tests. Don’t assume that an absence of error messages indicates that backups are running successfully.

 

Test backups with a full restoration process every week or month — or even more frequently if critical data is involved — to ensure that a hardware or software issue isn’t compromising successful backups. Routine and comprehensive backup testing is necessary to highlight anomalies so that corrective action can be taken.

 

4. Take a holistic approach to backup testing

Every enterprise needs to understand its unique data layout and backup needs. A backup testing strategy that works well for one organization might be entirely insufficient for another.

 

Every organization has different backup objectives. Banking industry firms, for example, need accurate backups to meet compliance, audit and legal obligations. Healthcare organizations, meanwhile, are responsible for protecting patient data, so they must focus on security, retention and meeting various legal requirements.

 

Decide on your backup needs and begin planning from that point. To be thorough, all restore and recovery testing should include data, application and system state testing.

 

5. Test frequently in sync with a regular schedule

Ideally, a test should be conducted after every backup completes to ensure that data can be successfully accessed and recovered. In the real world, however, such a schedule is usually impractical due to a lack of available resources and/or time constraints.

 

A general rule of thumb is to commit to a regular schedule of weekly and/or monthly restores of systems, applications and individual files with checks to ensure that the data is valid and accessible as intended. Such an approach will also provide your organization with a realistic time frame for recovery in the event a storage system failure or disaster strikes.

 

It’s also important to remember that not all data is created equal — a fact that should affect the frequency of backup tests. Some types of data is more important than others. Government- or industry-imposed compliance data, for instance, might be considered more important than marketing data. Advance planning should be used to determine which types of data backups should be subject to more frequent tests.

Originally published at Tech Target, chart shows a backup test schedule for several different types of assets

6. Tap into the power of automation

Automation should play a key role in any backup testing strategy. Organizations should strive to automate as much of their backup testing as possible to ensure consistency and data validity, as well as to reduce the burden on staff charged with testing backups.


Automating the entire backup and testing process will save time and effort, enabling team members to focus on tasks that require their high-level skills and insights.


7. Ensure that the backup test covers all bases

If the backup test doesn’t actually test the entire workload being restored, it can’t be considered a real test. Simply restoring a handful of files from a random archive and declaring success is tempting fate.


Test effectively by restoring complete archives to databases, applications and virtual machines.


8. Make testing backups an integral part of internal app development and deployment

Backup testing should never be an afterthought. Testing should always be kept in mind when developing and introducing new applications to the organization.


The most successful enterprise data management strategies involve knowing how and when to perform backup validation tests before allowing data to move into a production workload.


9. Ensure backup accuracy

Whenever data is restored, storage and database administrators should perform an initial health check to ensure there are no abnormalities or omissions in the recovered files.


A cursory examination might not be sufficient, however. Data that appears accurate to an IT expert might actually contain subtle errors that only a trained eye can detect. The end users of specific business applications are often the individuals best positioned to determine if a set of restored data is accurate and consistent.


10. Create redundant backups

Although cloud backup services are generally reliable, you might want to use at least two services in the event one cloud provider is unavailable when a rapid full restore is necessary or a test reveals some form of data absence or corruption on the cloud provider’s end.


Inside the data center, never back up to only one tape or set of tapes. Maintain multiple backup media sets and test them all before storing the tapes in separate locations. Replace the cartridges every year or two, or even more frequently if signs of damage or wear are detected. The same holds true if hard drives are used for backups.


Published by John Edwards at Tech Target on October 11, 2021

Business Email Compromise –  When the criminal’s reading your email.

 

We’re all connected – the closer a hacker gets to your vendor, your client, your partner… the closer they are to you. Here’s the story of an advertising agency who thought they were communicating with their event venue.

Inc. estimates 60% of companies go out of business within six months of a cyber attack.

Haven’t we had enough attacks, hacks and breaches? The best offense is a strong defense – it’s time to start defending ourselves! 

 

Drop your name and email to learn more, or tag our calendar to setup a conversation.

VPN is dead

Today’s modern and mature business can’t function through the VPN or an antiquated remote desktop solution.

Remote access to corporate technology (email, data, infrastructure, financials, etc) isn’t new. Most organizations have had some sort of solution in place for at least the last decade, with stragglers getting a push from the pandemic. 

 

 

But as conversations like Zero Trust or UX (the user experience) become more common, our clients look to better position themselves and it’s no longer just about “accessing the network”. Cost, compliance, latency, security, productivity, collaboration – all of these are shaping the way IT teams and corporate leaders consider the future of their information technology and nothing can match a virtualized environment. 

 

Users want easy access to business applications, data, and email. Managers need productivity analytics and integrated collaboration tools that are easy to use. Regulatory and compliance requirements call for advanced cybersecurity. Finance wants a cost-effective solution with clear billing and no long-term obligations.

 

 

 

The solution is an integrated cloud computing model with a native user experience and services that include analytics, cybersecurity, computing, database, mobile, networking, storage, and web apps.

 

VPN is Dead
Fortunately, we’ve come to a place and time where all of this possible, at a cost that’s affordable and easy to understand.

Next-Gen Cloud from OWG is built on the Azure infrastructure and from safety to UX we’ve considered it all. For a closer look, check out our published live demo. From a higher level, our solutions let’s you and your team: 

Stay productive from home and outside the office. Sign on to any device and quickly launch office apps and securely access corporate data.

 

Protect IP and business-critical data. Give users freedom and easy access to their work from anywhere over a secure network.

 

Control access through the user profile. Conditional access controls determine user access based on user profile, geo- location, team, etc.

 

Simplified licensing and billing. Can be included with Offices 365 billing which you’re likely paying already.

 

• Leverage advanced cybersecurity features. Including integrated and enforceable multi-factor authentication, and auditing features for easy compliance and reporting.

 

Remain vendor agnostic. Don’t get hamstrung by your IT services vendor. Next-gen cloud allows you to select the vendor of your choice and makes it easy to leave when you decide.

 

To learn more, or have a conversation about how Next-Gen Cloud from OWG can benefit your business complete the request for info below, or just book a time on my calendar.  

Customer support experience

Small and midsize businesses deserve the best technology support and services at fair prices. 

 

Partners in business. Not just words.

 

These are stressful times, and our support staff understands that you never know what the person on the other end of the phone is going through. 

 

Providing world class service to the small and midsize business community, our help desk technicians realize they are the front-line for your business.  They bring their a-game every single day and we can’t say enough how much we appreciate all of their efforts! So we’ll let our partners speak for us with this handy animation —

 

Customer service

Our client satisfaction (C-SAT) rating in 2022 is over 98%. Not getting the experience promised from your IT services provider? We wrote about this recently in our blog on all-inclusive support, and talk about our (more than 100 five-star Google Reviews often.  Delivering on end-results is what OWG is all about. 

 

Book a time on my calendar and let’s talk about your concerns.

Client Support

For some businesses, an all-inclusive monthly support fee seems like a great option when engaging an IT services vendor.

While in principal we don’t disagree with the model, how does a business leader understand what they’re getting? 

 

What do you do when “the trip doesn’t match the brochure”? 

 

Managed IT services contracts generally follow a rigid set of one-size fits all services and support terms. While most issues are covered, many customers find themselves with unexpected monthly bills for issues that don’t fall within agreed to parameters.

 

So what can you do if you want a predictable billing model? What if that’s the only option the vendor is offering? Here are a few things to do…

1) Review the “fine print”. Discuss service exclusions, data retention fees, technology refreshes, and network updates. These “edge cases” (which many are led to believe will never happen) are in fact where IT vendors can profit the most.  

 

2) Ask about what’s not included. It’s not just about Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) and response times. Exclusions should also be clearly documented and easily explained. Most IT providers won’t cover things like printers, phones and 3rd party apps. But what if those are critical to your business?

 

3) Talk with your team.  Understand all your company’s specific technology needs. A more technically savvy staff with modern equipment could require less support, but things like remote access, collaboration tools, cybersecurity, and support for third-party apps should be considered.  

 

4) Don’t get locked in.  Critical is a solution where you aren’t locked into a single provider and can move business apps and data without a massive lift and shift operation. This is key to the client-vendor relationship and ensures transparent billing and the best service possible.

 

5) Check the MSP’s reviews! And not just two or three referrals…It’s 2022 and every service business on the planet is being reviewed by satisfied and not-so-satisfied clients. OWG has over 100 five-star reviews

It’s important to note that as systems have advanced, some service providers can now match all-inclusive offerings with specific, individualized client needs. 

 

However, this is more difficult than it sounds and requires a mature MSP with an empathetic approach, and an ability to problem solve. It also requires buy-in from both sides, and a true desire to for that trusted partner relationship. 

 

Success today stems directly from an organization’s flexibility and its ability to adapt. A trusted IT services partner/MSP is a must-have, and critical for any organization looking to build or even remain competitive. Take your time, chose your partner carefully, and reach out with any questions or concerns. We’re happy to be a resource!

Drop your name and email below to learn more, or tag our calendar and let’s have a conversation.

Incident Response Plan

It’s Monday Morning and your organization was just hit with a cyber-attack.  Your response to the incident in the next few moments is critical.

Do you know what to do next? Does your team? Is the process documented? What’s automated and how much manual intervention will be needed? 

 

Your company needs a published Incident Response Plan OWG can help you get organized.

NextGen Cloud

Our Cloud sets growth, efficiency, and security within your sights.

How do you manage IT operations, implement and control security policies, maintain a high-level technology strategy?

How is your business adjusting to the hybrid workforce and the stress it places on IT infrastructure, collaboration, and cybersecurity?

Next-Gen Cloud from OWG makes it easy

  • Business applications and company data securely reside on platform-independent technology
  • Data and applications are seamlessly delivered to any approved device
  • Workloads are secured with industry-leading tools and artificial intelligence
  • Access is protected in a Zero Trust framework with multi-factor authentication, single-sign-on (SSO), and AI-driven threat detection
  • Your business is free from weather related issues, power outages, fire, flood, theft, or other logistical constraints

To learn how our Next-Gen Cloud can help your business drop your name and email below, or tag our calendar and let’s have a conversation.

Shadow IT

Protect your company from Shadow IT.

Shadow IT may seem like a resourceful attempt to problem solve, but it actually can be quite harmful and introduces serious security risks through data leaks, compliance violations, unpatched software and more.

 

Protect against Shadow IT

Michael’s trying to share a file with a client, but’s having trouble… the file’s too large to send in an email. After a few unsuccessful attempts he’s getting frustrated.

Then he remembers a free file sharing app and tries downloading it to his company computer.
Within minutes he gets a notification from the IT Service Desk reminding him company policy prohibits “Shadow IT”, or the use of non-approved software. They also explain that he has Office 365 and can take advantage of its easy to use, secure file sharing abilities. 
Bonus! The client also uses Office 365. The process is seamless and the two can easily collaborate without dealing with multiple versions, emailing back and forth, and lost data. 

Drop your name and email below to learn more, or tag our calendar and let’s have a conversation.