November 24, 2013

We're on the move!

Starting Monday, November 25th, this blog will be moving to our new streamlined main website you will find at The NEW!. To go directly to the blog and bypass the great information on our home page (wink, wink!), you can find it here - The SecurElement SMB TechConnect Technology Blog. I hope you like the new design, and I welcome your feedback on the content and anything else you'd like to share! Happy holidays!

November 18, 2013

Social Butterfly

While flitting across the social media landscape, it's important to remember to always be aware of perception. While you may be thinking that having all kinds of cool content will make you the belle of the ball, all it takes is one little misstep for your reputation to be tarnished, possibly irreparably.
Case in point, US Airways is fending off a firestorm of negative social media banter as a result of removing a blind man and his service dog from a flight from Philadelphia to Long Island recently (read more from here). They may have thought putting the story out on Twitter and Facebook was a good idea, but what actually happened was an outpouring of opinion from people on the flight and those with an axe to grind against the air travel giant. You may be thinking, "Sure, Bryan, but that's a big huge company. No one would go that crazy against my small business!" Remember this maxim; do a good job, and you'll have a happy customer who will tell a few friends. Do a bad job and they will tell EVERYONE they can. With social media, it is easier than ever to do just that. Be wary, be careful and strive to go above and beyond the call. You may just have the Yelpers of the world singing your praises and getting you more business than you can handle!

November 11, 2013

To Block or Not to Block

While many of those in my generation may bristle at the thought, there is no doubt that social media is here for the long haul. Tweeting, yelping, blogging, and microblogging are just a few social media activities we engage in on a daily basis. It's enough to make anyone's head spin.

The impact of social media on SMBs goes beyond what is said, posted or filmed. Aside from the obvious hit in staff productivity, the network itself can also be compromised. Let me provide an example to illustrate the point further. Let's say, for the sake of simplicity, you have a 1.5 megabyte T-1 and 20 employees. Of those 20 employees, 10 are loading HD videos that are approximately two minutes in length or around 14 MB. That translates into 140 MB of data being downloaded, which is counted against the bandwidth usage. If the average speed of the download is about 300 kilobytes per second, those 10 employees are chewing up 40% - 60% of your bandwidth! That is just one service, so you can imagine what your bandwidth usage would look like if you add in streaming music from Pandora, interactive games on Facebook, etc.

There are ways to work around this. Sometimes it starts with something as simple as a company-wide memo reminding everyone that personal Internet use is not allowed during business hours and that you have a "new appliance in place that tracks Internet usage." You'd be surprised just how fast you reclaim your network even if you haven't really installed a new appliance! If you really do want to nip it in the bud, you can implement policy rules on your organization's firewall to either limit or completely restrict certain sites you designate as unnecessary to access. You will likely have a revolt from marketing personnel, and probably rightly so as they often need to monitor and work with certain social media sites to promote the business. A good commercial firewall appliance will have the ability to be granular in control allowing certain users access while blocking others through the use of something called content filtering. Or you can take the step of one of my customers and allow unlimited personal Internet access between noon and 1 PM, but limit all access to only business-approved sites the rest of the time! That idea probably would not go over well, but it's one way of securing the usability of the bandwidth you pay so dearly for.

November 4, 2013

Social Media Shifts SMB Stance

Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Tumblr. YouTube. Pinterest. Foursquare. Disqus. Some of these social media sites may be quite familiar to you while others you have never heard of. Businesses of all sizes are realizing the importance of social media and the easy access to their customer base through information, incentives, and other messaging.

However, one thing most SMBs fail to consider is the impact social media has on their IT infrastructure. While social media is a marketer’s dream, the impact on the bottom line, when considering resources and productivity being utilized, can be devastating. This month we'll focus on the topic of social media and the correlation to network resources, and provide some valuable guidelines to keep your network performing optimally while taking on these additional challenges.


October 29, 2013

When Outsourcing is not Enough

During this Halloween week, terror abounds especially at the news of the data center crash, operated by Verizon Communication Inc's Terremark unit, which took down over the weekend. By Monday, the data center was restored and the site back online, but unfortunately the outage did little to quell the fears of the populace who have been dealing with the myriad of technical glitches since the site’s inception.
Like most enterprise-sized organizations, the federal government opted for outsourcing the data center and website hosting, but failed to plan for worst-case scenarios. Having redundant data centers and failover technologies is something that businesses around the world have been doing for years and is a standard component to the overall outsourcing implementation plan.
Regardless of business size, those of us in the private sector would surely face true terror at a sudden network failure especially if the organization’s primary business model revolves around a point of sale website. I stand by my mantra that outsourcing is incredibly beneficial for organizations of all sizes, but you must be prepared for an inevitable outage and that means having a full business readiness plan in place. We recently upgraded one of our SMB customer’s network (whose business relies solely on customers purchasing policies from their website) with full failover so that in the event that their network goes down, they will be fully restored within 45 seconds. 
The key to outsourcing, and staying up-and-running when things go wrong, is to work with a trusted technology partner who can talk you through not only your network assets but how to make them resilient and redundant to get as close to 100% uptime as is humanly possible. As I tout every day, keep your technology from managing you so you can manage your business!