Over the course of my 27 year IT career I have seen many trends and new technologies. I started out as a COBOL programmer on a “green-screen” 3270 terminal and now use my iPhone to do things that would have taken 9 different devices in 1989.
I rode the wave to the internet and saw some incredible applications that have become indispensable. If in 1996 you said “Google it” people would have thought you were nuts. Think about how many things we take for granted. The iPhone isn’t even 10 years old yet, and look at how smartphone technology has changed our lives. What’s next for IT? What other frontiers are left to be settled?
We hear a lot of buzz about “the cloud” but is it really much different than the mainframe? Yes, it’s functionally very different, but conceptually it’s similar. All your data and compute in a central location. Yes it's cool but life changing? Not really. What is catching some of my attention is the Internet of Things. "Machine generated data" is pretty boring, not really going to capture the crowd at the next Apple keynote.
But it really is very exciting from an IT perspective, really it is.
There are millions of devices on the internet, all generating data. The average Boeing 787 generates nearly 500GB of data per flight, your office HVAC system generates data, the smartphone in your pocket, the thermostat in your house, the car you drive, the elevator you rode in today, you get the picture. Lots of data but is there any real meaning beyond the intended function? Well that depends. The McKenzie Group referred to this data as digital exhaust, the byproduct of what create it during its intended function.
This is where “Big Data” really hits the ground running. Imagine if there were ways to utilize this data for the greater good; finding patterns of use to determine the most effective way to utilize resources. Imagine if data generated by GPS devices or software could open and close lanes to increase the flow of traffic to avoid traffic jams or to make way for emergency vehicles. What if we could use passenger utilization in public transportation to assign the right kinds and frequency of busses during peak and non-peak times instead of beholden to a 1950’s style bus schedule? What if there was correlation between the weather, the day of the week and use of certain public resources? What if we could build smart cities that automated or improved services it provided? While these situations may not sound exciting, think of the savings of taxpayer dollars and the impact on our environment.
Now take it to a smaller level such as the healthcare industry. Imagine if Big Data analytics could comb through all the healthcare records (with personal information redacted) to determine patterns of illnesses, and diagnoses? Imaging if this allowed healthcare professional to recognize illness earlier before they became more serious and more expensive to treat? What if we could use health tracker to scan against this same healthcare data to diagnose in real-time? Perhaps you’ve heard your doctor tell you that you need to exercise or you could be at risk for a heart attack? What if using healthcare data and a fitness tracker an analytics engine could alert you that you’re about to have a heart attack and prevent it before it happens? Yes this is a little out there, but the potential is there for so much to be gleaned from this digital exhaust. There’s a whole new frontier out there ready to be conquered. Are you up to the challenge?
~Stephen Clark, Director of Sales
,Let’s talk about security. We in the IT business have always been security conscious, but never more than at this point in history. We have massive amounts of data, which is readily available to anyone with a web browser. We also have deeply confidential data online as well, such as customer data, financial data, medical record, social media, etc. We need to be able to secure this data for our customers to protect their privacy and financial security.
Typically, this is done in a number of ways, both at the perimeter (the big wall approach) and internally, with web and spam filters, and many other components that are available in between. So, how are the hackers still getting in? It’s been said if you build a 10-foot wall, someone builds an 11-foot ladder, but even still it’s hard for ne’er-do-wells to get in due to other pieces of security inside. Yet we still see breaches. Let’s look a classic historical example for one possible answer; the Great Wall of China. One of the 7 Wonders of the World, it spans over 13,000 miles. I’ve stood on this wall and let me tell you first hand; great is an understatement when referring to its sheer mass.
During a six-decade campaign to invade China, the Mongols penetrated the Great Wall and besieged the capital of Yanjing (now Beijing) in 1215. Mongols were able to regularly find ways of going around sections or through the walls—often by bribing officials and guards.
Genghis Khan was alleged to have said, ‘The strength of a wall depends on the courage of those who defend it.”
So, if Genghis Khan is correct, we need to bolster the courage (and wisdom) of those who defend it. Human weaknesses are the biggest threat whether greed, vengeance, or a simple lack of common sense. Some people actually click on those strange links from foreign princes or from theme park offering free tickets. How do you defend against this? What can be done? First, you need to educate your users to be able to identify potential scams or phishing. This is usually done by setting the policies for Internet and email use, and putting proper penalties in place for misuse. So what about those who are willfully doing harm to you from the inside? Where is your potential "Bad Actor?"
Regan has started a partnership with a company called Dark Trace. This is a small (1U) appliance that monitors network traffic and, through an algorithm, determines what is “normal” behavior for your network. Then, it constantly looks for deviation from that normal. For instance:
We also work with another security partner, Sovereign Intelligence, who helps our customer determine if they’ve already been hacked and where that data might now reside. This is a powerful one-two punch that supplements your current security measures. Building a wall to protect your data isn’t a bad idea; it’s just not enough.
~Stephen Clark, Director of Sales
While I have no desire to see the latest Batman vs. Superman, I can’t help but see the parallels of their standoff in the real world. In the epic battle to save data, there’s the choice of having an Enterprise Immune System vs. Next Gen Firewall. According to all the commercials, reviews, and trailers we’ve seen, the two giants are constantly battling it out for supremacy.
But in an ideal world, wouldn’t they all be able to co-exist, passing data back and forth at the speed of light and managing each attacker with the strongest superhero toolset?
The Enterprise Immune System has Batman’s utility belt, as well as his motorcycle, bat mobile, bat plane/wing/jet/gyro and Alfred’s ability to process big data. Using the bat tools and logic to ingest metadata, social media, public records, redacted private records, as well as using predictive behavior makes the world (your data) safer.
The Next Gen Firewall has the strength of Superman. Keeping the bad guys out is the mission here. Firewalls are built on strong policies and guidelines intended to keep the enemy from infiltrating the network, much like Superman’s cape. Firewalls have x-ray vision to scan incoming data for threats and malware.
So why does it have to be one or the other? Fighting amongst people on the same sides, aligned to the same corporate goals, is clearly not in anyone's best interest. What will you do when your own company starts arguing about sharing information or resources? How will you protect not just the castle walls, but handle the infection once it is detected? Instead of finger pointing and blaming after the attack, maybe, just maybe one day, you can immunize yourself and be protected before you are even compromised.
So while we look at the metaphors being presented by the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel, let us understand that we usually collapse from within, not from the outside in. Sometimes our inability to work together is our greatest weakness. If we form our own Justice League of superheroes, each with their own ability, we can keep our world safe.
Call me – I’d love to talk to you further to discuss your organizations needs and our ability to overlay some of our great new offerings.
-Chris Regan, CEO
I drink my coffee out of a mug that says “Marketing Genius”. It’s not self proclaiming, just a promotional gift. It used to make smile but these days, I feel I am not worthy of the mug. It’s not easy being a channel marketer. I struggle with the best way to get our message out. Just getting someone to listen to your message for a just a minute is difficult, never mind getting them out to an event.
I’ve tried all the gimmicks of the day, so to speak. We’ve done all the chotchkis. Pens, memory sticks, clothing of all varieties, even juggling balls – you name it, we’ve done it. We’ve done the expensive events – boat races, steak dinners, wine tastings and even a full technology symposium. All in an effort to get our name out there and to get someone’s attention.
But we still struggle. These days, we simply don’t have a big marketing budget so we can’t afford an outsourced firm. So how do we get ourselves noticed out of a sea of resellers and manufacturers on a shoestring budget? Yes, we’ve jumped on the social media bandwagon and have this brand new website. We have ongoing calling campaigns. We’ve done small campaigns from the manufacturers with some co-op funds. But in the end, ultimately, it’s difficult to get anyone to pick up that phone or read an email.
Putting myself in the shoes of our potential customers, I ask “why should you notice us?” We’re just a reseller, right? Wrong. We don’t just resell hardware. I know you’ve heard it before “we provide personalized services and solutions”, yada, yada, yada. But it’s the truth. We do provide a personalized level of service that you won’t get from the large manufacturers. They will sell you a single form of technology while we can provide several that work together to make a solution. And let’s be honest, the manufacturing world is in a state of constant change. Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, Dell is buying EMC, HP split into HPE and HP, Inc. The big guys are busy eating each other up and reorganizing. But we’ve been here for nearly 20 years and we haven’t been bought by anyone. We’re a constant and stable presence.
And we’re also not a big commodity reseller. If you want to buy 100 desktops at the lowest price, they are a better choice. But if you want us to look at why you need 100 desktops and if there is perhaps another solution that may better fit your needs, then you should talk to us. We’re not about quantity, we’re about quality.
So what do I want? I just want someone to listen. We have a compelling story and just want to talk. We don’t want do a sales pitch. We want an honest conversation. So please don’t ignore that phone call from us or delete that email. Look at our new website, read our blog, comment on it – make suggestions. Trust me, we are listening. I don’t need to be called a “Marketing Genius”, I would settle for “Happy Marketer”.
~Donna Regan, Marketing
As of today, I’ve been doing stand up at work for a month. And no, I have not completely annoyed my co-workers (well at least not by standing up.) On February 2nd I started an experiment utilizing a standing desk in my office. You may ask why and it’s a good question with a lot of really good answers. Let me start by sharing some data I read that really made me contemplate the posture I’ve used for the last 26 years in nearly every job I have worked.
Up until last month, like nearly everyone else, I went from my bed, to sitting down to drink coffee, to sitting in my car for commuting, and then to my desk where I sat most of the day. So what’s wrong with sitting? Let take a look at the data that was provided to me.
The data points below are from juststand.org
So that’s the data from our partner Ergotron, but what about real empirical data? Well, that’s what I’m going to chat about briefly. After a month of standing at work I’ve learned a lot. First, you need to have all the right equipment. I started very simple; I put the coffee table from our lobby onto my desk, and move my computer, phone and lamp onto that table. It was a good height for me, as I’m about 5’11”. I soon realized that if you’re going to stand, you need a decent cushion for your feet. I purchased a very inexpensive cushioned mat from a larger home improvement center for less that $20.
Week one was the hardest week, I felt very fatigued, which indicates I was expending more energy, and I had sore legs and a sore back. Nothing debilitating, just a soreness, that foot mat really helped with this. After a week my body grew accustomed to the new format. Then I noticed that the coffee table, while convenient, was not helpful when co-workers came in my office and sat while I stood; it was just a little awkward. Enter our partner, Erogtron. They sent me one of their “WorkFit” desks. This desk is a solid accessory that sits right on top of your existing desk, it’s roughly 24x40 inches and can be raised and lowered to suit your height, and your business needs. I can now lower my desk to a sitting position when I have visitors.
I used a FitBit to track my activity before and after and here’s what I’ve learned; although my average steps per day and average calories burned daily have not changed drastically, I feel great. I have more energy and during the last month I have purposely not done regular exercise. While I will now return to my exercise regimen I do feel that I was able to keep a similar activity level without exercising because I was standing.
Regan Technologies has built a strategic partnership with Ergotron. We can offer Ergotron’s entire portfolio of products from sit-stand desks for work and schools, as well as equipment for the healthcare industry such as medical carts. Please reach out to me for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d highly recommend you consider doing “stand up” at work.
~Stephen Clark, Director of Sales
That’s a scary headline. You can read the whole article here. Thankfully, Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital can now access its electronic medical health records and return to its mission of treating patients. But make no mistake, this headline will appear again as hackers develop new tools to access information and will target businesses and institutions. The ransom demands will escalate and private information, potentially your private information, will be at risk. Whether or not you are in the IT industry this event should make you cringe….maybe even have a panic attack.
As a former CTO of a healthcare institution this situation is a nightmare scenario for the IT department. How do you even start to explain how this happened? The board and and your patients will be asking: Why you didn’t have everything in place to stop it? How did you not know it was happening until it was too late? What information was compromised? How much is it going to cost outside of the ransom to repair? The answers may be uncomfortable to say and even harder to hear.
So, it begs the question: Should the hospital have paid the ransom or not? What would you have done if you were in their shoes? It’s a tough discussion to have when you don’t know what that organization had in place to protect themselves. Maybe they had all the right things…good firewall, USB mass storage device lockdown, up to date endpoint signatures, no administrative level access to local computers in the organization. But think about your own systems and your own environment. You may think you have the all the right defenses but what if you don’t? If you get hacked and they hold the keys, what do you do? Remember, time is of the essence if someone else has the keys to your kingdom.
This discussion isn’t limited to healthcare. This is just an example that could happen to any industry or business. The very same thing happened to a police department. Are you prepared to be honest regarding your company’s weaknesses and take a new approach? What will it take for your company to realize that this is the new reality. Cyber-ransom is only going to grow.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Focusing on all levels of cybersecurity protection, workforce training, and risk analysis and management will enable businesses to better withstand attacks and reduce vulnerabilities. Stay vigilant. Look at new technologies. Read the news. Learn from others mistakes. Don’t be the next headline.
~Andy Trogden, CTO