It doesn’t have to be that way…

I get the opportunity to visit many organizations and learn about their business models, their particular approach to the market place and gain insights into how they tick. Often, technology is seen as a necessary component to making it all work, but is viewed as a back office function that is demoted to a cost center (and an expensive one at that). The constant need to upgrade hardware, keep team members trained on the latest versions of software and renewing maintenance contracts are a necessary evil to keep it all going. To top it off, technology is often challenged to keep up with the speed of business, can be inflexible and is positioned to be more reactive than proactive.

I’ve found this to be particularly true in the non-profit sector. Now this is a sweeping statement, but from my experience, the typical environment has elements of multiple platforms merged together to meet the organizations overall needs. The average age of the equipment is older than that found in the typical enterprise and, due to budget limitations, purchasing new hardware and carrying out the necessary upgrades is impractical. This all has the unfortunate result of creating higher operational costs to keep it all going and puts the team responsible for IT decisions in a more reactive role than a proactive one.  Throw in challenges and concerns for compliance with regulations from HIPAA to PCI and the overall protection and security of their organizations data.  This IT predicament can impact organizational performance, responsiveness, expenses and ultimately, the organizations ability to deliver on their mission.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Through outsourcing the IT function, or certain routine operational elements and functions such as email, backups and monitoring, the headaches can be removed and the organization can be assured of a stable platform backed by service level agreements —  at an overall lower total cost of ownership.

By outsourcing these types of functions, instead of spending 80 percent of the management time in a firefighting mode, that time can be spend on furthering the mission. Whether that is rolling out tracking and reporting functionality to help donors better understand how their dollars are being spent or moving forward with initiatives like game changing mobile fundraising approaches.

There is a new way to build and manage the infrastructure for these non-profits enterprises that can take IT from a necessary cost center to a transformational advantage.

@ddbrown

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What is the cloud?

Did you know that you’re probably already using the cloud? If you use Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter, photo sharing sites or online tax and financial software you are already using services in “the cloud”. But, what exactly is the cloud and how can it be used for business?

Basically, the cloud is a platform that delivers IT resources to consumers in a fundamentally different way than ever before. Programs, services and infrastructure are provided on an as needed basis, allowing organizations to use and pay for technology when you need it, as you would for gas or electricity. One of the most frequent questions we hear is “Where is the cloud actually located, is it hovering somewhere?” Although this whole technological revolution is termed “the cloud”, the data itself resides and has to be processed in a physical location. Here at Datotel, our secure cloud platform is located in our data center, a 30,000 square foot monitored, highly reliable and accessible data center. According to Ameren UE, the power feeding our facility (located in the historic St. Louis Globe Democrat building), has not had an outage in over 17 years.

So now that you’re seeing the possibilities of paying for technology as you need it, how can you make this work for your business? To start, you won’t have to worry about your technology; industry experts can now manage that infrastructure for you 24/7/365. Second, you’ve lowered your risk exposure and finally, the big benefit; you’ve lowered your total cost of IT ownership. This shift to the cloud allows you to focus on your business vs. the operational elements of IT. Think about it like this, in the 1800s, factories had their own, individual power plants to produce power to run the plant. Then, in the late 1800’s, Edison opened a commercially available power plant and invented the national grid system. Gradually, factories moved away from their individual power sources and converted to the commercially available system. The cloud revolution is very similar to this scenario that took place over 200 years ago.

VMware statistics show that average physical server utilization is less than 6 percent, in other words, most companies are leaving the vast majority of their assets unused. Now add up the additional expense of maintenance, power usage, people and replacing out-of-date technology every 36 months; paying for only what you use starts to make a lot of sense. The pay as you go model allows you to have scalable expenses for technology that match your revenue and growth streams.

Consider wanting to add on 50 new employees. Do you have enough storage, processing power, installation and maintenance capabilities to do all this in house? You would if you were working in the cloud. In minutes you would be able to add the emails for the additional users. No waiting, scheduling, appointments or service time needed.

So you’re ready to move to a pay for what you need, cloud solution- likely your next question is about security of your data and information. You’re not alone; a 2011 LinkedIn survey showed that 56% of business owners had concerns about the security of the cloud. Common concerns about the cloud involve the concept of a third party storing your critical data. It’s important to remember that regardless of where it’s stored, it’s your data. At Datotel, we work hand-in-hand with our customers to make sure that the appropriate levels of security are in place. In fact, we have a team devoted to compliance, governance and security protocol. But you don’t just have to take our word for it; we are also continually audited and verified by 3rd parties and are governed by SSAE 16 and other compliance regulations.

Whether your goals are to free up resources, improve redundancy, lower risk, become more flexible or lower costs; the bottom line is that moving to the cloud is the next big thing and it’s already changing the way our customers do business.

Ready to move your company to the cloud? Request a one-to-one information session or schedule a tour of our Downtown St. Louis data center —we look forward to hearing from you.

Posted in Cloud Computing, Company Info, General, Industry, Security | Leave a comment

2011 Cyber Monday Roundup

Now that several days have passed, let’s recap what happened on Cyber Monday, both locally and nationally and examine emerging trends.

According to TechCrunch, this year’s Cyber Monday sales hit a record 1.25 Billion, up 20% over 2010 spending. Based on reports, 10 million people made online purchases that day and of those individuals, nearly 11% did so using a mobile device, a significant increase from the 3.9% in 2010. As mobile usage continues to rise at a rapid pace, the question becomes: will Cyber Monday be renamed Mobile Monday at some point?

Additionally, 50% of this year’s online purchases were made from work computers. Speaking of which, we spotted this infographic on the topic of Cyber Monday in the Workplace.

Locally, for the third year in a row, Datotel President David Brown gave several interviews on best practices for online safety and security:

• KSDK.com: Safety Tips for Deal Seekers on Cyber Monday, Part 1
• KSDK.com: Safety Tips for Deal Seekers on Cyber Monday, Part 2
• Fox2Now.com Cyber Monday Shopping
• Fox2Now.com: Cyber Monday Security
• St. Louis Business Journal: Cyber Monday: St. Louis web traffic spikes, especially over lunch

Lastly, since it’s still a *relatively* recent event, here’s a look back:
The History of Cyber Monday [Infographic]

Enjoy!
@datotel

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When Was The Last Time You Did a Restore?

-Thanks to our partners at Asigra for featuring this article in their November 2011 corporate newsletter –

Working in the backup, recovery and restore industry, I’ve come to the sad realization that many organizations, both big or small, feel adequately secure having any sort of backup solution on hand – then something happens and they try and restore their data.

In the last little while, I’ve come across several business owners who thought that they had a great backup and recovery process in place for their organization – that in the event of a data loss, they could easily and seamlessly restore their data. I use the word “thought” as they recently found out that although they did indeed have a backup process in place, the backups were either 1) failing 2) not providing sufficient protection for all their data or 3) they simply couldn’t restore the data they needed.

Despite what these owners thought, their backup and recovery process wasn’t protecting them. Unfortunately, they found out the hard way that it is not about the backup – it’s all about the recovery. Although painful, this did identify a need for a better data protection strategy and created an opportunity for Datotel to speak with them about a cloud backup and recovery solution with the proven ability to recover. This kind of data loss event didn’t happen again. They now realize that it isn’t about the backup…it’s about the ability to recover that’s vital!

One of the leading mistakes an organization makes is considering recovery as part of their backup plan. This type of thinking is backwards. Backup should actually be treated as part of a bigger disaster recovery plan.

The most granular way to describe data recovery is the process of retrieving lost data from damaged, failed, corrupted or inaccessible secondary storage media when, for some reason, it cannot be accessed in the conventional way. Fortunately, thanks to data recovery technology, in most instances, data loss can be recovered… with the right tools.

There are many technical solutions from tape to cloud-based backup with pros and cons to each; but any backup and recovery solution is no good if it isn’t adequately maintained or checked on a regular basis. Organizations change over time, and whether you’re conducting backup and recovery yourself, or relying on an outside resource, the backup and recovery process needs to adapt to meet those changing needs. Data backup is an insurance plan, and with any insurance plan, you are looking to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss. But it isn’t enough to just have an insurance plan; you need a recovery plan as well. Unfortunately, many people are not that concerned about the recovery plan until it is too late. The focus has always been on data backup instead of on the reason WHY to backup data – to recover and restore the data when needed.

Without ensuring you can successfully restore your data with your current backup solution, you are essentially ignoring the risks involved with data loss, instead of mitigating it. Organizations that play with fire eventually get burned. According to IDC, 6% of all PCs will suffer an episode of data loss in any given year. That translates to 4.6 million data loss episodes. Don’t be one of the ones that can’t recover. To ensure you can recover, ask yourself the following:

- Can you ensure data integrity by checking for corrupt data?
- Can you run a restore simulation to ensure data restorability?
- When was the last time you verified that all aspects of your data protection are in place and being met?

If it has been a while, maybe today would be a good day to try a restore, before you find yourself in a tight spot.

Thanks for reading,
David

@ddbrown

Posted in Asigra, Datavaulting, Security | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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